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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Wishes from My Garden to Yours

 Yesterday we were blessed with perfect weather - sunny skies, gentle breeze, temperature in the 60's somewhere I think. Having been sick in bed all last weekend, I was eager to get out in the fresh air and get my hands dirty.

I thought about cleaning up the frost damaged plants in the front garden, but with nets of Christmas lights draped everywhere, there was a high risk of me cutting the wrong thing with the secateurs, so I concentrated in the back garden.

The "Tropi-Cannas" that I had in containers in the corner got frost-bitten, so I trimmed them back, taking care not to damage the new shoots that are already coming through, and relocated the containers further along the wall.

In their place, I picked up a couple of small "living Christmas trees" -- Chamaecyparis lawsoniana Elwoodii - False Cypress.  They were the last two left, they were pretty beat up and their pots were split, but they were only $4, so I snatched them up and took them home.

I repotted them and arranged them in front of the trellis where the cannas had been, along with some poinsettias I bought around Thanksgiving. It creates a nice little splash of color in an otherwise drab back garden.

Further along the back wall, the dwarf Burford Holly is getting in the Christmas spirit too, with bursts of bright red berries.

Finally getting started with the actual clean up, I turned to the Homestead Verbena. This was gifted to me in the spring by Ursula, who I have mentioned before -- I think I owe half of my garden to her generosity.  

I guess the keyword here is Location, Location, Location.  Ursula gave me two of these.  I planted one on the other side of the garden, where it withered and died.  This one... well you can see what this one did...

This started off in a 4 inch pot, now it's five feet across.  I had to hack it back, it was taking over the lawn! I can't wait till it blooms in the spring! I stuck some of the cuttings I had taken in to a flat with potting soil in it and put it in my mini greenhouse on the patio.  If they make it great, if they don't -- I have more!

Further along the same fence,  the Fennel that got eaten down to nubs by the swallowtail caterpillars has rebounded and looks lovely tucked in the back of the bed.  The recent freeze didn't faze it a bit, so hopefully it will still be around when the swallowtail butterflies show up in the spring.

Just in front of it, the Hot Trumpets salvia is still doing well and it's surrounded by babies, where it seeded freely this year.

I was tempted to "weed" this bed, but then decided just to pluck out the obvious bird seed sprouts and leave the rest till spring when I can pot up and relocate some of these babies.

I probably won't have a chance to blog again before Christmas, so in case I don't, I'll take this opportunity to wish you all a wonderful Christmas and Holiday season.  

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Going Round in Circles - Tree Circles, That Is...

The cheap plastic edging around the trees in our front garden has served us well in keeping the St. Augustine out of the flowerbed, but I wanted something more permanent and more visually appealing.

After sprucing up the bed around the pine tree in the back garden, I had in mind to use the same stone in the front. 

I started small, just working on one of the trees. We'll do the other tree next weekend and at some point over the winter, we'll work on the foundation bed, which will take a lot more stone than the little project we just finished.



(My mum was "supervising" - see top left of photo!)

As if to show their gratitude the pansies, that just a short while ago were being nibbled by "something," are now covered in beautiful blooms and hopefully will stay like that until March or April, like they did last winter.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Before and After

 What a difference a week makes. Just before Thanksgiving, I showed you this photo of the sweet potato vine which was growing rampantly in the flower bed beside the garage.

That same bed (as well as much of the rest of the garden) is looking quite sorry after the recent freeze.

This photo was taken the morning after the first freeze, as the damage was just beginning to show.  The bed is worse now, but I'm not home during daylight hours to witness it or take photos.

At least I don't have to decide what to do with the vine now, that decision has been taken out of my hands. (Gotta look on the bright side ;-)

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Monday, November 22, 2010

"Wild Life Gardening" Goes a Bit Too Far

As soon as I saw the pansies in flats at the local garden center, I knew I had to get some.

After all, the ones I had planted last year lasted from Thanksgiving until well into spring.

I purchased the same ones that did so well last year - Matrix Yellow Splotch and Matrix Purple - and spent a pleasant morning a few weekends ago putting them in the ground around the young live oak trees in the front garden, and also a couple in the border by the dining room window in the back garden.

I planted them, watered them in and left them to it.  (In my garden, if a plant can't make it on its own, it doesn't belong!)

Then I got busy, as always seems to happen and it was a couple of weeks before i looked at them again. When I did, what I saw saddened me.

A couple of the pansies had been pulled out of the ground and were dried up and dead or dying.

Those that were still in the ground had all the blooms neatly nibbled off.

Who could have done such a dastardly deed?

Um.. it could have been this guy...

... seen here in the vacant lot on the west side of our house.

Here's a longer view, showing our fence... perhaps we should take the Welcome sign off the gate...

Seriously though, I love having deer around and I hope the pansies come back and bloom through the winter and spring. After all, they managed it last year, and presumably we had deer then too. Hopefully in a few weeks, they'll all be looking like the one below, which is blooming, unmolested, in the back garden.

In other garden news...

The Toad Lily that hosted the family of Carolina Wrens this summer, is now blooming. I'm especially happy about this since it suffered some serious water deprevation in the heat of the summer when the nest was in place and I couldn't water it.

Here's another one -- thanks for these Ursula!

I'm rather taken with the way that the sweet potato vine, growing rampantly in the front bed by the garage, is now showing some seasonal color. 

I'm not sure if this can be left over the winter, or if I need to cut it back, pull it out or whatever.  I'm sure I'll do what I always do - leave it to fend for itself :-)

I hope readers in the U.S. have a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday this week.  For the rest of you, have a great week :-) See you on the flip side

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Weekend Out of Doors

I didn't have to work (much) this weekend, so Eric and I took the opportunity to take advantage of some lovely fall weather out of doors.

First, we went to the barn in Hockley, Texas, where I keep my horses.  the barn owner has just opened up some trails in the woods in the adjoining property, so I saddled up my almost-32 yr old ex-racehorse, Annapolis, and we went for a woodland stroll.

You might think a horse that old would be easy to keep up with on the trail (32 is about the equivalent of 90-something in horse years) ....

... but you haven't met Annapolis.... He's got personality and attitude and he just keeps going. He's been in my life for 22 yrs and I love him dearly, even when he's being a pill.

Back when Eric and I first went to Kleb Woods I thought how great it would be to ride through woods like that.  And now, I have access to wonderful woodland trails right next to the barn.

Life is good!

On Sunday, we headed out to Plantersville, to the Texas Renaissance Festival. Again we were blessed with perfect weather.
We saw lots of entertainment...

...  cheered on Phillipe, the French Knight in the jousting....

... and paid our respects to His and Her Royal Majesties...

But, since this is a gardening blog, I thought I'd show you something garden-related from this weekend.

There are several gardens on the grounds of the Texas Renaissance Festival, among them the Rose Garden Wedding Chapel.

The climbing roses and other vines were still quite lovely, even in November. Here are some photos...

Right across the way from the Rose Garden Wedding Chapel is the English Garden Wedding Chapel.

It features formal hedges, vine-covered trellises and statues.

You can see this bloom over the right shoulder of the statue in the photo above.  I have no idea what it is, but it was quite striking!

There were other gardens too, but there's so much to see and do at the Texas Renaissance Festival and by the time Eric had watched the belly dancers and we had listened to Tartanic, watched the jousting and strolled around watching people try to Drench a Wench and try their aim at Tomato Torture, tested out some wonderful wooden swings and eaten some Festival Fare, it was time to head home.

I hope everyone had as nice a weekend as we did :-)

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Weekend Meet-Up and Winged Visitor to the Garden

At our weekend meetup at Ursula's house, it was great to meet and chat with some of the Houston Grows garden bloggers. We had a wonderful time browsing around Ursula's garden, swapping plants and enjoying a nice lunch.  I was also blown away by the butterflies flocking around Ursula's Mexican sunflowers! I've never seen so many butterflies in one place!  Of course, you can bet I came away with some Mexican Sunflowers!

Back in my own garden, I have some orange too, in the form of this Indian Blanket/Blanket flower (not sure which, I apparently neglected to note this in my garden journal when I planted it)

I'm particularly taken by the chocolate brown speckles at the ends of the petals.

It's popular with butterflies too.  I didn't have the swarms that graced Ursula's garden, but this one allowed me to take photos.

That's it from me today. I was working till midnight on Sunday and was busy at work today too.  I need to catch up on some sleep!

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Omen - My Twist on a Halloween Post

I looked out back during the week and happened to see this guy lurking in one of the sick-lloking pine trees along the road... (seen through the relatively healthy green needles of the tree in our garden)

Hmmmm -- an omen, perhaps?

This is the same tree that I talked about my post, You Tarzan, Me Jayne. 

We had reported two sick-looking trees located on the easement behind our back wall to the developer of our subdivision and they had sent a crew out to look at them.  The crew pruned up some dead looking branches but they apparently didn't treat the underlying cause of the problem (an infestation of clearwing moth borers, according to the arborist we consulted).

As we saw the trees continue to deteriorate, with large patches of bark falling off, we were fearful for the health of our own tree, even though we had it treated, so we placed another call to the developer and asked them to come out and assess the situation again.

I was home from work today and was indoors around 10 this morning when I heard chain saws outside.  Without even looking, I knew what was happening and, sure enough, suddenly there was a loud crack and one of the trees crashed to the ground.

The work crew made quick work of the poor tree and then turned their attentions to its neighbor...

You can see in the photo how bad it was looking.

It was down in less than 10 minutes and then the crew spent the next hour chopping it up and loading it up into a large van to haul away.

When I drove out to the store at lunch time, there was no mess and only a couple of stumps to show there had been trees there.

It's rather sad to lose part of what we consider to be our personal forest. But we both feel happier now and more optimistic for the health of our own tree, knowing that the two infested ones are down.

There are still a couple of pine trees out there and we are going to keep after the developer to get them treated and take care of them.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Experimental Gardening & Problem Solving

Things have finally slowed down a bit, work-wise, so I took advantage this weekend and decided to tackle an area that has been bugging the heck out of me.

While I appreciate the privacy that the concrete block wall between our garden and the road behind our house gives us, let's face it -- it's ugly to look at!  It's an eyesore!

I've tried various tactics to hide it, with varying success.  Towards the east end of the wall, things are growing well.  The Rose of Sharon and Vitex trees took off like gangbusters and are now higher than the wall.  The Southern Wax Myrtle in the middle of the bed is doing well too and is about four feet tall and wide at this point. 

On the west end of the wall though, nothing can grow.  As I showed you back in August, I solved the problem in one spot by creating a little vignette with two containers and some iron trellis.

However, the area next to that, behind the big pine tree as we look at the border from the house, was still just a waste land of concrete block and mulch.

My enthusiam to get working on the area was tempered somewhat as I got my trowel out and started to examine the bed to see if there were any plantable areas. The answer to that question turned out to be a firm "no."  The problem?  Pine roots - lots of them, and under that, clay - ugh!

After scratching my head to stimulate my thinking cells, I remembered that last time I blogged about the area, someone suggested making a raised bed.  Since part of it is already planted, making a full raised bed didn't seem to be an option, so I went for a compromise which may or may not work.

I decided to plant on top of the existing soil and roots, building little "berms" of good garden soil around each plant and then filling in around them with mulch. The idea being that hopefully the new plants have a chance to establish a root system before the pine trees get the idea to extend their roots up in to the new soil.

I opted for simple plantings (read: "cheap"), probably not the most desirable plants, but since the experiement may not work I didn't want to spend $30 on something that I really wanted, only to have it fail.

These little Creeping Fig plants have a rather large blank canvas to fill.  I hope they are up to the task.  It will be lovely to see green growing up the wall for a change. I only got five of them -- if they look like they might take hold I'll splash out for some more!

I'd never heard of Cleyera, but it should make a decent sized shrub, if it wins the battle with the tree roots. In the front of the bed, I put three Liriope, just for a different color and shape.

Here's the finished bed.  It doesn't look too bad, now if those creeping figs would just start creeping and cover that wall!!

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fall Garden Tour

 I've been working such long hours recently, my brain is too fried to write very much, so I'll just show you some photos taken in the garden this week.

My potted Hamelia patens is still blooming, even though the hummingbirds seem to have moved on.  I was quite pleased with how this did in its container, so I'm not sure if I will plant in the ground in the spring, or keep it in the container.

In the front garden, by the garage door, the two sweet potato vines I put in have completely overtaken the little iron topiary -- in fact they have taken over the whole bed!  Since I took this photo, I've trimmed the milkweed back, they were falling over, blocking the door and covered in aphids - I mean just really icky looking.  I hope I left enough so that if we *do* get some more Monarchs coming through, there will be something here for them.

I've got two colors of sweet potato vine -- the chartreuse and this dark one, seen here with some flowers blooming.

Here's another milkweed, this one in the back garden.  I love this one, it's much better behaved than the ones in the front garden and it's not covered in aphids.

I managed to get a bit of gardening done last weekend, in the form of pruning and dead-heading mostly. The Buddleia has really grown tall, but the majority of the flowerheads are finished now, so I did some serious trimming.  Among the dried out blackness, there were still a couple of lovely fresh blooming stalks, much to the delight of the bees.

And of course, with all the pruning and dead-heading, I was able to add some bulk to the contents of our new compost bin. It felt good to do that, rather than bagging it up and cramming it all in to the trash.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.