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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Homemade Tomato Cage by Jayne

Last year Eric and I were disappointed that the tomato cage we purchased disintegrated half way through the season.

We thought we had got a sturdier variety of cage this year, but it's already starting to come apart.

Looking around at the various designs available, we didn't really see anything that we felt would hold up under the weight of a healthy harvest of tomatoes.

I started getting an idea of how we could build our own cage, using half in PVC pipe and various connectors.

I have no idea where the idea came from, it just seemed to me that it would be a) inexpensive and b) sturdy, so I started playing around on paper and came up with some plans.  Perhaps I was an engineer in a former life?

It was easy enough to build -- I made it myself with just a measuring tape, a hacksaw and a rubber mallet.  I built it "in situ" around the tomato plant in the corner of the garden bed.  The original cage we bought is still there too - we'll have to cut the parts of it that haven't already come apart to get it out without damaging the plant.

The final design was a little bit different from the original plan, but that's usually what happens when I make something - it's gets "finessed" along the way :-)

The finished cage is 12" x 16" and about 3 feet tall.  It's legs are securely sunk into the ground under the raised garden bed.  It's not going anywhere!

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

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - April 2014

 On the 15th of each month, Carol of May Dreams Gardens, hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day where garden bloggers around the country (and around the world) share what's blooming in their garden on that day.

OK - I'll admit it, I usually miss it completely - either that or I have nothing in bloom to show off!

But today I remember, and today also, I have a pleasant number of blooms in the garden, in spite of the slow start we got this year, with our unusually cold winter for this area.

So, without further ado, let's take a tour of the back garden.

As you enter the back garden along the path at the side of the house, a lovely light pink fuschia hangs in a container, tucked in to the Star Jasmine. I just picked this up last weekend at Wally World. My mum (who lives in England) always has such lovely fuschias in the garden that when I saw this one, I couldn't resist it!

Here's a view of the aforementioned Star Jasmine (taken before I hung up the fuschia) and an invitation to garden visitors to make themselves at home (and useful!)

The Star Jasmine itself is covered in buds, but if you've been reading my blog for a while, you may remember that this is the amazing scentless Star Jasmine.  We have another right next to it which is only a 10th of the size of this one (and only a year younger) but it's scented enough for the two of them, so our garden will soon be filled with the delicious aroma :-)

In the back corner by the birdbath, this dianthus is blooming well. I thought it might not make it through winter, but it shrugged off the cold like it was nothing.

I've been threatening to rip the Lonicera sempevirens, Native honeysuckle "Major Wheeler" out of the ground because it just wasn't doing anything.  It's still very scrawny. but it does have a few blooms on it, much to the delight of our visiting hummingbird(s).  I still don't know if I will let it stay, but I'll see how it does this season.

On the other side of the garden, by the utility boxes, the Homestead verbena is growing and spreading like wildfire.  This is good, I can't get anything else to grow in this spot, so I'll be happy if this takes over this little area for the summer.

Next to the Homestead verbena, tucked in under the Vitex tree, this patch of Achillea millefolium was unfazed by the freezing winter.  Amazing really, when you look at how delicate and feathery this is.  

Five years ago when I moved in here, I planted one Achillea plant here - now look at it :-)

In the island bed,  this blanket flower has been blooming for a while.  I forget the name of this particular variety.

 It's got a lot more flowers on the way too.

The pansies I planted in the island bed at Thanksgiving are still blooming.  They probably will be finished in a month or so, but I certainly got my money's worth! I have purple, yellow and white ones and they have filled the garden with virtual sunshine, through even the most bitter cold days.

And finally, in the new island bed, around the new waterfall we installed, I planted some bluebonnets I found at H.E.B grocery store.  They are doing nicely too. I'm looking forward to collecting some seeds. I'd like to have bluebonnets in the front garden somewhere.

So that's about it for this Garden Blogger's Bloom day. All the action is in the back garden at the moment.

Overgrown shrubs in the front border don't leave much room for flowers there - something I will have to tackle.  But there *are* some tropical milkweeds coming up, and one is even blooming!

Don't forget to head over to visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens and see what else is going on for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

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

Saturday, April 5, 2014

First Hummingbird of the Year

Some other garden bloggers and Facebook friends in the Houston area reported having over-wintering Rufous hummingbirds in their gardens this past winter.

I wasn't that lucky, but my husband reported that he had seen a hummer in the garden last week when he was working on our new island bed. It was enjoying the blossoms on the new orange trees he had just planted.

I made up a batch of hummingbird nectar last night and put up two feeders and - lo and behold - we have a hummingbird!

The first one of the year appears to be a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird. 

I don't recall seeing them this early in the year before - in fact, as I look through my iPhoto catalog for last year, the first hummingbird photos weren't taken until May.

The red dome over the feeder is designed to protect the feeder from damaging UV rays as well as rain, and also protects the nectar so it stays fresh longer.  I'm thinking that a flying hummingbird could probably spot it from a mile off, so hopefully we will see lots of hummingbird action this year.

Now the garden just has to catch up and be ready for them!

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

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A New Island Bed with a Plus

At the end of my post last week I gave a little hint of what we are planning in the garden this spring - a new island bed!

While I was at work last week, my wonderful husband made a start on it and hauled a load of landscaping blocks and laid out the first layer  in more-or-less the shape we had drawn out with the soaker hose.  He had some extra so he started on the second layer too.

As with our other island bed, we didn't dig out the sod, but instead laid down sheets of brown paper and cardboard, soaking them and then layered soil on top.  It's still got a way to go -- we need more of the landscape blocks to finish the second layer and then more soil to plant in.  

So, what are we going to put in it?  First of all, my husband already planted a small mandarin orange tree and a navel orange tree to replace the two orange trees that had died. (We both LOVE the aroma of orange blossom!) Other than that, I also want to add some low evergreens to give it some substance even in winter. 

And of course, as with the other island bed, there will be lots of flowers to offer nectar to butterflies and hummingbirds, as well as for the birds - coneflower, zinnia, Mexican sunflower, columbine and whatever else I can fit in there :-)

There's something a little extra in the bed too.  For ages I have wanted a water feature in the garden but wasn't sure exactly what, or where.  When I saw this cute little waterfall in the store last year I decided we had to have one in our garden, but until we built this island bed, we really didn't have a place for it.

It looks a bit strange at the moment as it's just sitting there, with nothing around it, but I'm hopeful that as we plant some shrubs and flowers around it, the birds will come in and enjoy it as much as we enjoy listening to it from our patio.   

I took the short video clip below as I was sipping my morning coffee on Sunday. It struck me, as I sat listening to the birds singing and the waterfall gurgling that the garden was finally becoming the Green and Serene retreat for which I had named this blog when I started it in 2009.


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