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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunshine on my Shoulder

Last week, when I was planting the hollies in the front bed, I mentioned in my blog that I wanted to introduce some color into the bed by planting more daylilies and some perennials.

Since it was so lovely and sunny this weekend, I was eager to get out and plant a little sunshine of my own.

I've already got several daylilies in the bed. Unfortunately I have no idea which they are, having lost the piece of paper on which I had all the varieties marked out on paper.  I do know, however, they are mostly reds and yellows, so when selecting some varieties to plant this weekend, I opted for the sunny hues of El Desperado and Strawberry Fields Forever. 

The Little Path to Nowhere, that I put in that bed at the beginning of February, is working out even better than I could have hoped. It made it so much easier to have stepping stones that I could stand/kneal on while planting the bulbs.

When I was done planting, I turned my attention to the back yard, where I had noticed patches of green where there shouldn't be any...

Even as recently as last year, I would have gone after them with Round Up (in fact, I did).

But I'm making efforts to use less chemicals in the garden, and maintain a healthier environment.  So instead, I used a little hand tool that popped them right out.

And since I was on a roll, I looked around the back garden with a critical eye and decided it was time to relocate some plants.

When we planted the grape vine last year, my husband told me that one he had in his garden in California was a bush type.  Not knowing any better, we expected this one to be a bush type also, but it very quickly proved that wasn't the case and within a couple of months, it was crowding out the purple fountain grass.

Since I had already decided to remove the (apparently dead) oleander from its spot next to the utility boxes, today seemed as good a day as any to get that chore done and make a new spot for the fountain grass at the same time.

I hope it likes its new home and that it rewards me by putting up new growth in a month or so.

On the other side of the utility boxes, the other (dead) oleander posed more of a challenge to remove.  As you can see from the photo below, I apparently planted it right on top of the telephone cable last year!

I got it out using hand tools, cutting the roots one at a time, and lifting it carefully out of the ground.  I found the phone line too, so I was careful not to damage it. 

I think that area is now calling out for a large container with plants in -- I won't be planting in the ground there again!

All in all, a very productive weekend and, as always, my feathered friends were keeping me company.

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

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Working on the Weekend

Remember this image from a  couple of weeks ago?  I was laying the stepping stones in the foundation border at the front of the house and was lamenting the sad performance of the holly bushes up against the house.


I had been torn between seeing if they fared better if I tried improving the soil around them or just ripping them out and starting over.

Well -- I decided with the latter course of action and this morning headed out to pick up some dwarf Burford hollies to replace the unknown variety that were there, as well as organic compost and top soil to mix in with the existing soil.

As soon as I got the first holly out of the ground, I could see what had caused their demise...

 As soon as I pulled it out, I could see water sitting in the bottom of the hole and the bush had hardly spread any roots in the 18 months it has been in the ground.


And so, I spent a pleasant few hours, digging out the existing shrubs, enlarging the holes (hauling off a lot of clay in the process) and playing in the dirt, mixing and planting, making sure that the new bushes would have a better chance than the last ones did. I won't be up to doing this kind of heavy work in the heat of a Houston summer because the heat really gets to me, so I was really glad to get the chance to do it today.

As I worked, I was serenaded by a chorus of mockingbirds in the trees. It made me smile almost as much as when one was on the roof near the chimney, singing his heart out, and we could hear him clearly indoors because the flue was still open from the previous night's fire.

Et voila! All six planted and mulched in a few hours.

For lovers of color, fear not, I have plans for some more perennials to go in between the shrubs, along with the daylilies that are already there and coming up.

Today was a good day -- I'm tired, but I have a great sense of achievement.  And to top it off, my non-gardening husband took me out to dinner. It doesn't get much better :-)

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

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day and Foliage Follow-Up, February 2010

On the 15th of each month, Carol at May Dreams Gardens hosts Garden Blogger's Bloom Day. I wasn't going to post anything this month because the only things I have blooming are the same pansies and allysum that I had blooming in January

But the Matrix® Purple pansy is just looking so lovely I had to show it off, even if I'm a day late  :-)

Pansies really are the plants that keep on giving.  They've been blooming non-stop for weeks and our recent hard freezes haven't fazed them one bit. This is one of several I have around the live oak saplings in the front garden and I highly recommend them for winter color in the garden.

And in the back garden -- signs of life!  New buds on the Golden Euonymus,  Euonymus japonicus 'Aureo-marginatus', so this will be my official entry for Foliage Follow-Up, hosted by Pam at Digging.

I'm very pleased with how this little shrub is doing.  It's planted in the corner by the bird bath, along with a couple of others. it's still small, but it has to compete with the roots of the pine tree on the other side of the garden wall, as I noticed when I was planting it. 

That it's putting out healthy looking buds now gives me hope that it will win the battle with the pine roots :-)

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

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Great Backyard Bird Count 2010

It's hard to believe that I had never even heard of the Great Backyard Bird Count until I started blogging on HoustonGrows last year, even though I have been fascinated by birds for as long as I can remember.

Probably, lack of contact with like-minded individuals had a lot to do with it, which is why I've really enjoyed being part of the garden blogging community.

Anyway, this year I was able to participate for the first time.  I had some misgivings  that I might be misidentifying some birds, or not count accurately, or miss some, because I'm certainly not what you'd consider an expert.  But the Great Backyard Bird Count website seems to keep everything low key and has simple instructions for the first time participant. You even indicate your level of expertise and if you are reporting all, or only some of the birds you see as you submit your count.

Here are some photos of the birds that I took this morning.


I used to get American Goldfinches at my previous house, but this is the first time we've seen them here. We didn't get any at all last year. Now they've arrived en masse. They may eat me out of house and home!

 I found out today that a group of Chipping Sparrows is called a tournament of sparrows.  Perhaps this group are watching the jousting? 


In addition to the finches and sparrows, I also counted over 20 Mourning Doves, 4 Northern Cardinals, 2 Blue Jays, 2 American Crows and 1 Carolina Chickadee.



I really enjoyed my first Great Backyard Bird Count.  I may even do some more counting tomorrow when we go out to Hockley to see the horses.  We can stop by Kleb Woods on the way back!

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

Sending You Some Spring

I got this via email, and thought other gardeners might enjoy a touch of spring right about now.

Click on the link below.   You will get a black page. 

Click your mouse anywhere (& everywhere) on the page & see what happens!
Better yet, click (hold down) & drag your mouse over the black page... 


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Weekend Warrior

It was such a beautiful crisp, sunny day today, I just couldn't wait to get outside and DO SOMETHING. Ask me in August if I think gardening in Houston is a good idea and I'll probably mutter something about "only mad dogs and Englishmen" going out in the midday sun. (Being English, I can say things like that ;-) 

Today was, for me, a perfect day to be out gardening.

However, the first task I set myself for today was to organize the area of shelves in the garage that I use for my gardening "stuff" and birding supplies -- potting soil, gloves, trowels, bird seed, feeders etc.

Over the course of the winter it had got to be a mess.  There was seed all over the floor from pre-dawn feeder-filling mishaps and one of the shelves was starting to sag under the weight bird seed and peanuts. The empty planters had stuff piled on them and in them so I couldn't get to them and anytime I tried to get a shovel off the rack, several other things fell over and rattled to the floor.  The whole area was just bugging me.

I got another shelf at Lowe's and was relieved when it fit between the existing shelf and the saddle rack my husband (Mr. W) hung for me. The cat carriers went up into the attic, which left room for me to sit the green rubber container with the spare horse blanket to the right of the saddle rack. 

Well there's something you don't see in a garage everyday -- on the right of the photo above, an old Claymore that was a legacy from an old boyfriend who was into such things.  I never had the heart to get rid of it, our neighbor's 14 yr old daughter thinks it's neat and, who knows, perhaps Mr. W. will carry it when we go to the Texas Renaissance Festival in the fall?

Et voila! Much neater. A place for everything, and everything in it's place (well, that's the plan, let's see how long it stays neat and tidy). I can even get the shovel, etc. off the tool rack (just to the right of the area shown here) without everything clattering to the ground as I do so.  Even the Claymore!

And now... because this is supposed to be a garden blog... on to the depressing site that greeted me on the back patio...

Alas, pretty much everything is history.  The beautiful palm that was a gift and that I've had for 6 years is no more.  But I happened to notice, among the general brownness...

Since we're supposed to get another freeze in a few days, I think I'm going to put this fern, and another that also has some new fronds uncurling, into the garage when the temperatures dip again later this week.

After such a productive start this morning, I also planted a southern wax myrtle in the border at the back of the garden.  The camera batteries were low by then, so I didn't get a photo, but I think it's going to like it there.  I'll see if I can remember to take a photo of it in place tomorrow.

What a great day!  I have a very pleasant sense of achievment today.

It's a pity our weather can't be like this all year round....

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

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Little Path to Nowhere

When our new house was landscaped, one of the main features was a large foundation bed, containing a row of hollies, some African Lily, some Indian Hawthorne and some Dwarf Yaupon.

Since we moved in, I've noticed two things -- the row of holly closest to the house just isn't doing well at all and the bed is too wide to work in without trampling all over it.

I was in bed sick this weekend, but last weekend I was able to take advantage of some nice weather and get outside to work in that foundation bed.

It didn't cost much either.  A trip to Lowe's with a vague idea of what I wanted netted me some decently priced paving stones, and since I wasn't really building a path but some literal "stepping stones" to stand on while I weeded and mulched etc, I didn't have to buy many of them.

A short hour or so, leveling and laying, and I was done...

And while I was out there in the middle of the bed, I noticed that some of the daylilies are putting out new growth.

And that's not all - I spent a few minutes trimming back the garden mums  and discovered a crown of healthy green growth underneath last year's dead stalks.

Now I just have to figure out what to do about the holly up against the house. I'm debating whether to amend the soil around the existing, sickly, plants, or to rip the whole lot out, dig bigger holes and amend the soil in them before planting new, healthy, plants.

I suppose it depends how much energy I have once I get over my cold.

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