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Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Big Picture - How Far We've Come

I've realized that most of my blog posts show close up photos of individual plants. I don't often show photos showing the "Big Picture."  So I was out with the camera today and decided to take photos showing how the garden is coming along, as well as a couple of photos of how it looked when I moved in in the summer of 2008.

As always, if you tap on the photo, you can view a larger version.

Let's start with the "before" photos -- the garden as it was landscaped by the builder.  A blank canvas, I guess you could call it.

Here's the front garden, freshly landscaped.  Several plants, including holly bushes and the tree closest to the camera here, ended up having to be replaced because they drowned.  But in all, the framework works for me.  I like the shape of the foundation bed along the front of the house.  

 In the back garden --- a vast expanse of sod and a vast expanse of cinder block wall.  The utility boxes are barely hidden by the holly bushes planted by the builder.  Most of these died too.

In the other corner of the garden -- the whole reason we selected this particular lot -- the mature pine tree which casts dappled shade across the garden as the sun moves across the sky.  

So -- that's what it looked like in 2008.  

Below are some photos of how it looks today:

 I don't think I conciously chose plants with blooms in the yellow/orange/red range.  It was more of an unconcious choice.  Daylilies, lantana, chrysanthemums and achillea provide most of the color in the front. 

I've started laying landscape stones across the front, to match the circles around the trees, but have only got about half way across.  The rest may have to wait until fall.

In the bed by the garage, more daylilies, as well as sweet potato vine growing on a wrought iron obelisk.

Another view of the front.  The tree on the right is one of original two that the builder planted.  The one of the left is one we planted to replace the one that drowned.  We were very careful to make the hole big enough and to improve the drainage for it and it's rewarding us by growing robustly and even hosting a Mockingbird nest.

  Here's momma Mockingbird (or possibly papa, I really don't know!)

And here are the babies -- this photo was taken May 18... 

And this was taken on May 25...  my, how they have grown!

Moving around to the back garden, my plan originally was to get rid of the "wall to wall carpet" of lawn and I'm making headway on that slowly.  As you walk through the gate and into the back garden, this is the view that greets you.  I really like this view.

This is my view from the dining room or from the patio. The wall has been a challenge, especially in this area which is full of pine roots and therefore not suitable for planting.  For now I have some "Tropi-canna's" in containers but I'm probably going to build a raised section along the wall and get some vines growing.

This view looks toward the utility boxes, again from the patio.  Only two of the original holly bushes remain.  The white lattice fence I found a Lowe's does a great job of hiding the utility boxes.

The lawn isn't looking great here -- this is probably the worst area in the garden.  But I think eventually I will build an island bed here, connecting the two trees we added (a peach and a river birch) and maybe even linking up with the pine tree.  That way there would be a mowing path around the edge of the garden and the rest would be beds.

It's getting hot out there already -- supposed to be in the mid-90's all weekend, so I think I'll take up position in the dining room and watch the birds.  Such as this red-bellied woodpecker, facing off with a white winged dove over who gets the birdseed.  The woodpecker won, by the way!

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

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Daylily Delights

 In that past few weeks, I have showed just a couple of the vibrant daylilies that are blooming in the front garden.  

This week I thought I'd show you some more of the varieties I have:

 Unfortunately, they will have to remain nameless.  When I planted them, I carefully drew a plan of the border and noted which variety was planted where.  Alas, the diagram is nowhere to be found, and believe me I have torn my desk apart looking for it!

But that's okay -- name, or no name, the end result is the same -- beauty and vibrant color scattered among the green shrubs in the front border, to greet me when I get home from work.

True to their name, daylily blooms only last a day or so, but there are plenty of new buds waiting to open.

I've tried identifying these with the help of various internet sites, but there are so many varieties, many with subtle differences, I just gave up!

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

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May 2011

On the 15th of every month Carol of May Dreams Gardens invites garden bloggers around the world to show what's blooming in their gardens.

I often end up missing GBBD, but as I was browsing blogs this morning, I noticed all the posts, checked my calendar and -- hallelujah!  I haven't missed it!

So here's an overview of what is struggling through the drought here in my little patch of Texas.

The daylilies in the front garden are worth their weight in gold.  Nothing seems to faze them and, once again, they are delighting me with their vivid, hot colors under the hot summer sun.

Along the wall in the back garden, I have a grouping of containers containing Texas Star Hibiscus, not yet in bloom, Hamelia patens, also not yet in bloom and this lovely little Columbine, which I have never grown before.

I think I finally found a spot that this hydrangea enjoys.  It's on the back patio, which faces north, and it's on the east side of one of the columns so it's protected from the harsh afternoon sun that burned it in it's former location.  It's rewarding me with blooms :-)  This was a pass-along from fellow garden blogger, Ursula and I'm happy to be able to tell her I haven't killed it yet!

This hanging basket is a new acquisition, featuring a Calliope hybrid Geranium and Scaveola "Bombay White".  I think I'm probably going to move it from here.  It's very lush right now and where it's hanging, if there's the slightest breeze, it's going to get banged against the column.  I also don't think it's going to get enough sun here, although the spot does get afternoon sun.

The Vitex, the star of the summer garden, is blooming profusely and is being visited daily by lots of bees, as well as the hummingbirds.  I was happy to be able to snap this shot, even though it's not a great photo.

The butteflies are loving it too.

To wrap up today's post, some non-bloom-related photos:

As I was going through some photos, I realized that I had a better photo than one I had posted of the baby wrens that fledged last week, in the crepe myrtle tree.  I love his little punk rock hairdo of baby fuzz.

And lastly, this is not something you would normally see in a garden, but this is Texas!

What was he doing in our garden?  We assume he was after water. I had used the hose earlier in the day and although I had turned it off, I didn't empty it, so it was dripping a little.  In fact I think I must do that a lot because the ground around where the hose pipe is stays a bit damp.

This little guy and his sibling, came for the water, although one of them went on to dig up the flowerbed!

This drought is really affecting everything, not just our gardens but the wildlife too. These two visited two afternoons in a row and then we had a little rainstorm which added water to the local ditches.  We haven't seen them since.

I kind of miss them, although not the damage they were doing to the flowerbeds.  I appreciated the chanced to get up close and personal with these gentle creatures.

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

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Empty Nest

I've been keeping a close eye on the baby wrens in the nest on our covered patio and watching Momma Wren come and go tirelessly, finding insects around the garden, and the thicket next door to feed them.

I like to sit on the patio with my morning coffee on the weekends and I had got used to hearing a soft thump as she landed back on the rim of the container the nest is in. For the first time, I started hearing the babies peeping every time she came back to the nest, clamoring for attention.

I took a peek at them. There were four (I had previously thought there were three of them) and they all looked fully alert and were starting to stretch their wings.

So yesterday I had scheduled a day off work, to use up some vacation time, and was sitting with my morning coffee when I was startled by a whir and a thud behind me, over in the corner where the nest is.

I turned around to see what was happening and ... Lo and Behold... the first baby had ventured from the nest!

So of course I spent the next couple of hours crazily snapping pics and taking video till my camera batteries gave out!  

It was quite nerve wracking watching them trying out their wings. The nest is on the top shelf and of course, they all launched themselves into space and then fluttered to the ground.

But they gradually got the hang of it and fluttered back up again, one shelf at a time. 

 Throughout all this activity, the Momma Wren was giving encouragement, as well as nourishment. In fact, even when they were all out of the nest, she went back to it several times with a juicy insect, just to make sure no one was left behind.

After a couple of hours (maybe more, I'm not sure, I completely lost track of the time) one by one, they launched themselves across the lawn to the shrubs at the back of the garden.

That seemed to wear them out a bit and for a while two of them sat in the crepe myrtle and two sat in the butterfly bush, resting.  Momma Wren didn't like me poking around the shrubs trying to get a photo, so I went back to the patio and left them to it.  I could still hear them peeping though.

But eventually they moved on.  I went over to check on them one last time and they were nowhere to be seen or heard.  Momma Wren wasn't hanging about either, so I assume she took them over the fence to the thicket next door.

I wish them the best and hope to see them again.  Who knows, maybe one of them will choose to raise their own family on our patio.

But for now, I kind of feel like a mother whose kid has gone off to college.

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

Saturday, May 7, 2011

For the Birds...

A few weeks ago, I posted a photo of a nest that was little more than a few twigs that could have been blown away at the slightest breath of wind. And you know how windy it's been in Texas recently...

At the time, we assumed that it had been a trial run and that the bird had decided to nest elsewhere. However, we were wrong.  Each day the nest seemed to get more complete...

My husband, whose home office is at the front of the house, said he thought a Mockingbird might be nesting there because he kept seeing one go into the tree.

This morning, as I was out doing some gardening in the front garden, a Mockingbird flew out of the tree so I decided to see what was happening in the nest.  Using a stepladder I was able to peek in without touching or disturbing the nest.

I was thrilled at what I saw...

... four beautiful speckled eggs! 

So we're going to be "bird grandparents" again! 

It's funny how birds choose their nesting sites.  Our house sits between two vacant lots, both of which are completely natural, with trees, undergrowth and every thing else an expectant bird could want.

So where does she nest?

...In a small live oak sapling we planted a couple of years ago to replace the builder-planted one that had drowned due to lack of drainage. 

(If you look at the enlarged image, you can see the nest about half way up. Eye level to me when I'm standing on the ground)

Of course, that's no stranger than the wren nesting in a container on the back patio, five feet from where my husband and I sit and drink our wine on the weekends.

Speaking of the wren.... her babies have opened their eyes and are getting their plumage now.

I'm so glad we bought Cali, the stray cat, and her kittens indoors.  For the safety of all the birds in our garden!

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

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Old Grill Finds a New Life -- as a Planter!

 Last fall, as my husband cooked steaks on our grill, we realized that flame was coming out from underneath the grill - definitely not a good thing - and that it was time to retire that grill and get a new one.  

Once the new grill was on the patio and in use, we discussed what we could do with the old grill.  Among the suggestions was to take the guts out of it and somehow turn it into a planter.

Over the past couple of weeks, that's exactly what we did.

The gas tank had already been removed and traded in for a new one for the new grill, so Eric got right to work removing the old burner and everything else.  He told me that parts were rusted right through and we were lucky we didn't have an accident!

Once the innards were out, Eric cleaned up the grill and giving the interior a good coating of Rustoleum to protect against rust.

On the exterior, he used a spray paint which gives a stone effect. I really like it :-)

The new "planter" comes with built-in drainage holes, but of course, those had to be covered up somehow to keep the soil in.

I started by simply adding some shards of broken pottery over the holes.

And then added some coco matting in the bottom.

All that was left after that was to add soil and start planting!

I kept the plantings simple in shades of pink, with some vinca and petunias, as well as a dahlia. I added a couple of spiky dracena for texture.

The new planter is set on the side of the patio, next to the table and chairs. it's easily accessible, which is good. I have a feeling I'm going to have to monitor it carefully and make sure it doesn't dry out.  It's not very deep, especially the bottom tier, which is made from the lid of the original grill.

Still, I think it makes an attractive addition, and it's better than just tossing it out.

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