Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Weeping Bottle Brush

When it comes to buying plants, I try to maintain a budget, add plants slowly, and propagate what I can to save money.  That being said, I went completely off the deep end last weekend and splurged on a beautiful weeping 'Hannah Ray' bottle brush .

I was at the Hill Country Water Gardens Nursery for their big gala sale.  For one hour in the morning, they offered a door buster buy 1 get 1 free deal that sounded really good.  Due to other scheduling demands, we chose to go later in the day, when they were offering buy 4 get 1 free.  Still a good deal.  I purchased quite a few 1 gallon sized plants, and a lot of 4 inch sized plants, which I like to pot up and grow out myself.  Patience saves big bucks.

My husband and I were shopping together when we simultaneously saw another customer leaving with the most fabulous looking bottle brush.  It was such a lovely specimen; covered with blooms.  We both ooh'd and ah'd over the plant, and reminisced about all the bottle brushes that we had killed over the years.  There was the original standard bottle brush, then the little John bottle brush, then the little John bottle brush take two.  All three were goners at our hands.  Had we learned enough in our failed attempts to maybe try again?

Yes, Yes, let's do it!  Let's try again!

After we selected a beautiful bottle brush of our own, Chip, one of Hill Country's helpful staff, was happy to give us hand.  Because we had a long way to go, Chip wrapped Hannah Ray with great care.  She looked like something out of an episode of the Sopranos laying in the truck bed.

The almost one hour trip from Hill Country Water Gardens to our house at speeds of 70 MPH did not phase our tightly wrapped and shapely girl.

Now, for the big unwrap and reveal.

Ta Da!  I don't remember any nursery ever wrapping a plant so nicely.  Thanks Hill Country.  She arrived in perfect condition.

Planting Hannah Ray was a big job.  Everything seemed to be in the way of her massive root ball.  First, I had to transplant a lamb's ear that was too close, and then, I had to dislodge the drip irrigation lines, which were stuck under layers of mulch and plants.

The picture of the hole doesn't seem all that big in the photo until you see how much dirt was displaced.  This wheelbarrow contains all the soil from the hole.  That's quite a bit of soil and it gives you a look at our wonderful, gravely sand.  That's sarcasm by the way, but who's ever happy with their soil? 

Moving and planting a tree of this size is hard work, but it's worth it for the immediate beauty it adds to the garden. In my opinion, the bottle brush has some of the most gorgeous and interesting flowers among flowering trees.

These butterflies think these flowers are pretty awesome too.  We hadn't had this plant in the ground for 5 minutes when the butterflies started showing up.  I guess it's true.  If you plant it, they will come.  

Happy Spring!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Bloom Day March 2013

Howdy from Texas!  It's Bloom Day!

In honor of the day, the shrimp plant are already partying.  Is it just me or are they laughing?  I guess it's a private joke.

Everyone is being goofy in the garden today.  I think these four nerve daisy have decided to trade in their foliage for something fuzzy.  Alright you two, take off that lamb's ear and get back in your own leaves.

Fireworks can happen in spring.  Look at this dill against a back drop of mustard greens.  Wow, who says vegetables aren't sexy?

I love the simplicity and easy cheerfulness of the blackfoot daisy.  She loves me...she love me not...

When I get old, I want to age as beautifully as this gaillardia.  This flower seems to have been blooming since January.  Perhaps, she just wants to see the spring before she bids adieu.

Euryops are fickle flowers in my garden.  All summer they languish and just when I've resolved to kick them to the curb, they go and do this.  Fine!  You're safe for now.

Spring is time to reacquaint yourself with old garden friends.  In my garden, there are not many older or prettier than this Gene Boerner rose.  She's been with me for close to 20 years.  I hope she lives forever.

The bumbles are out en masse today.  Apparently, they woke up starving and food is still a little scarce.  At first it seemed they thought I was competition for these red bud flowers, because they started dive bombing me left and right.  I later realized I was wearing a bright red shirt.  Could that be it? 

Hey Mr. Bumble, are you following me?  Yes, eat the white wisteria, and leave the tasty, red shirted Ally flower alone.

This purple cone flower isn't purple yet.  She's just a babe basking in sun; a hint of what's yet to come.  Enjoy your spring!  

For more beautiful Garden Blogger's Bloom Day flowers, please visit May Dreams Gardens.  
Happy Bloom Day!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Let Me Out!

Does winter leave you feeling a little penned up?  This gerber daisy is definitely feeling a little confined on this shelf in the greenhouse.

There, that's better, now this little gerber can stretch her petals.

The plants in the greenhouse are nearing the end of their winter incarceration.  Months of being crammed in tightly with dozens of their closest plant friends can lead to lack of air flow, inadequate light, shared diseases, and insect infestations.  Luckily, liberation is in sight, and the days of crowded shelves and crowed floors is almost over.

I'm tempted to put the lemon, lime and oranges trees outside, but I've been tricked before.  This year I'll wait until nighttime lows stabilize.  I don't want to risk chilling those precious blooms which are already setting fruit.

Some plants perform quite well in the greenhouse during the winters months. This 'Firesticks' pencil cactus, seems pretty happy with it's greenhouse digs even if the remnants of last year's bubble wrap is blocking the sky view.

This bougainvillea always seems to bloom best in the greenhouse in late winter and then, nothing for the rest of the summer.  This year I plan on trying Nutri Star fertilizer especially for bougainvillea to see if I can turn that trend around.  

Judging from the 7-day weather forecast, the freezing temperatures are behind us here in Central Texas.  I think this purple flowered Philippine violet is on it's way out to a spot in the garden, but this croton will have to wait a little longer for it's shady spot on the back deck.

Here's a lucky, little nigella seedling that has recently escaped from the greenhouse to the garden.  The other less fortunate gailardia's will have to bide their time on the shelf until next weekend.

Sorry to leave the rest of you plants with your noses pressed up against the glass.  Your time will come soon.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Diamonds and Stones

Some days are diamonds and some days are least that's what the song says. Gardening is kinda like that song.  Sometimes you're up, and sometimes, not so much. 

Lest ya'll think I have nothing but gardening successes, I'm going to share a gardening failure that is totally baffling to me. 

Look at these fabulous artichokes.  This picture was taken in January 2012.

This is the same bed this year.  What happened?  I wish I knew.  I have some theories, but what confuses me is that I have plants in other beds that look pretty good.  The happy looking plants have very similar growing conditions.  That's the confusing part.

Look at this poor little plant.  How sad.  I think I left a heavy weight row cover on the plants for too long.  When I finally removed the cover, the plants where covered in aphids and other bugs.

Another bed some distance away has artichoke plants that are looking good.  I covered this bed as well, but the wind whipped the cover off, so the plants got more air flow.  I'm thinking that extra air flow made the difference in the happy plants.

This is my best hope for artichokes this year.  I have 3 healthy looking plants, so all is not lost.

Gardening is iffy at best.  Some years you get diamonds,

Artichoke in Bloom, June 2012

and some years, you do your shopping at HEB.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Tomato Race

On your marks.  Get Ready.  It's time to plant those yummy, homegrown tomatoes.

Normally, I would wait until the last freeze date passes before I plant tomatoes.  If you want to plant before that date, you have to come up with a strategy for protecting these frost sensitive plants.  You can use special devices like the Wall O' Water, a garden cloche, or a portable cold frame to help you get a head start.

For many years, I have purchased my tomatoes as early as possible and potted them up in 1 gallon pots.  This allows the plants time to start building a bigger root system, while allowing me to control their climate by moving them in and out of the house as needed, or putting them in the greenhouse.  I like this method, but I thought this year I would try something different.

Last spring I saw an interesting planting technique using 5 gallon buckets at the Natural Gardener demonstration garden.  It's a clever idea that allows you to plant your tomatoes earlier than normal.  The main reason you might want to plant early is to lengthen your growing season and increase your chances of having a bumper crop. 

In the spring, it's important to get your tomatoes in the ground as soon as possible, so the plants have time to create good root systems and set fruit before temperatures get above 90 degrees.  The problem is that if you plant to soon and don't provide freeze protection, you may end up with dead plants, but if you wait too long, your plants will be small and won't set much fruit.

As a trial this year, I planted 4 tomato transplants on February 16th using the 5 gallon bucket method.  My remaining tomatoes will stay in the greenhouse.  The plants that I selected for the trial are:  JD's Special C-Tex, Early Girl, Better Boy, and Viva Italia.

The first step is to cut the bottom off of a 5 gallon bucket.  I had 4 buckets with cracked bottoms and elected to recycle those for this project.  You can also use large recycled nursery pots.

Dig a hole deep enough to sink the bucket into the ground (bottom end down).  Allow 2 inches of the top of the bucket to stay above the soil line.

Plant the tomato seedling in the bottom of the 5 gallon bucket.  As the tomato grows, pinch off the side shoots, and add soil.  This will give the tomato the opportunity to produce more roots.  When the tomato reaches above the top of the bucket, gently remove the bucket.

Since the plants are fully below ground level, they are easy to cover, and protect from the wind.  One of my plants is just brushing the top of the bucket, so I can probably leave the buckets for another two weeks. 

Be sure to keep heavy weight row cover handy.  Watch the weather.  If night time lows dip below 45 degrees, cover the tomatoes.

We are once again in a terrible drought here in Central Texas, but here's something to consider.  If it did rain heavily, these buckets could easily fill with water drowning the little transplants.  For that reason, be prepared with some plywood or something to cover the buckets to keep them from filling up with water in the event of a storm.  Sadly, I have not had the opportunity to try out this technique, but I'd sure like to.  

Here's hoping for some rain soon, so all of our spring gardens will grow.