Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hurry Up and Wait

Hurry up! Those wildflowers won't plant themselves. Huh? 

We're in prime wildflower planting season here in Central Texas. There's a very brief window for planting in the fall.  The optimal time is in the late part of October, but any time in October through mid-November will work.

Here's a little trick I like to use when broadcasting seeds by hand.  I mix the seed in a bucket with some compost and vermiculite (you could also use sand). The vermiculite or sand is a lighter color than the soil and will help you see where you have already spread seeds. Vermiculite has the added bonus of retaining water, which helps the seeds along. The compost adds bulk to the process, so I'm not tempted to spread the seeds to densely, and it helps lightly cover the seeds as well.

Early in October I had a idea. My poor hubby nearly ran screaming until I told him tractor work was involved. I didn't know it at the time, but he was secretly working on my birthday present out back when I asked him to use the box blade to cut me a wide, lazy S path right through the middle of the meadow. Bless his heart; he just rolled with the punches and helped me with my project. What a guy!

In the picture below, the path separates the meadow into 2 parts. In the space to the left of the path, I plan to grow clumping native grasses and wildflowers.  

To the right of the path, I constructed a low berm. The berm will allow me to grow cactus and other plants which require better drainage. To the right of the berm on the higher ground, I plan to grow small trees, native perennials, and more grasses.

Here is a close up of the berm.  It may not look like it, but I planted 30 - 1 gallon perennials and dozens of 4 inch plants in the berm and surrounding area.  The plants included various yucca, big red sage, wine cup, zexmenia, golden rod, and turk's cap among others.

I planted 6 trees on the high side of the path where the drainage is better; 3 Mexican buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa), a golden leadball (Leucaena retusa), a Mexican bird of paradise (Caesalpinia Mexicana), and the plant pictured below, the Texas olive (Cordia boissieri). 

The Texas olive, also called the Mexican olive, has beautiful white flowers that develop into a good sized fruit. Though not a true olive, the fruits are relished by birds and wildlife. 

While clearing the weeds from the wildflower planting area, I hit a snag. Yep, that's Bermuda. This area was never planted as a lawn, so I'm thinking the grass must have migrated to this spot from the nearby septic field.  

I started trying to remove the Bermuda by hand, but decided I probably didn't have enough wildflower seed to cover the whole space any way.  I think the Bermuda will have to be sprayed or solarized next summer.  It seems to be isolated to this one space, which I think may contain a seep spring that fed the grass over the years.

Mowing this area has made it tough to tell if any native species are still hanging in there, but I did find these three survivors. The first is a little bush with yellow flowers. This photo doesn't do it justice. It's really adorable. If you recognize it, please let me know.

The other two survivors can be seen in the picture below.  The grass on the left is a little bluestem and to it's right is an American beautyberry.  Both of these plants are native to this area, so I plan to encourage them along.

The wildflower seeds and all the plants were installed just in time for a little storm this past Monday.  Now all that's left to do is wait until spring.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bloom Day Stars

Not every plant can be a star, but carrion flower, Stapelia gigantea, comes close. I'm always excited to see this plant bloom and these flies seem pretty excited as well.

Falls rains are breathing new life into my garden and candlestick plant, Senna alata, is lighting the way. This plant has been an excellent performer for me this year and definitely deserves star status.

First blooms from new garden plants are always the most exciting. Sometimes you find some new star performers and sometimes the relationship is just not in the stars.
I planted this dwarf Barbados cherry, Malpighia glabra 'Nana', a couple of years ago and now I'm finally reaping the rewards.  The flowers will produce little fruits which are edible.  I've tasted them in another garden. They're okay, but they won't replace actually cherries anytime soon.

After waiting impatiently for my pass-a-long pond crinum, Crinum procerum, to bloom, I was finally rewarded. It was definitely worth the wait, but I wish the flowers lasted longer. I guess you could say this crinum is a shooting star. Thank goodness for cameras and generous gardening friends like Pam at Digging, who shared this pond crinum with me. 

Another first bloom for me this year is this Philippine violet, Barleria cristata.  Finding the right spot for this plant and keeping it watered was a little challenging.  But, voila, it all worked out! It's a little early to decide if this plant will be a future star in my garden, but it's definitely a great fall bloomer.

This impulse buy really panned out. Brazilian button flower, Centratherum punctatum, has been a star performer that has bloomed non-stop since I bought it in April. I have it in a large pot and couldn't be happier with it.  I'll take cuttings or try to overwinter it in the greenhouse, so I'll have it in the garden again next year.  

This is actually my second year with this cleome hybrid, Senorita Rosalita, but I think the Senorita and I will be parting ways. She just can't seem to hold up in our heat. I purchased 3 plants and the only one still hanging in there is the one in dappled shade. The lower part of the plant is completely denuded, but there's still a few flowers and leaves clinging to the very top.

Out with the old and in with the new. This Wendy's wish Salvia is a keeper and hopefully, a continuing star in my garden. It's cold tolerance is questionable for Zone 8, so I'll have to see if it comes back reliably in the spring. 

Behind the Wendy's wish salvia is cow pen daisy. I've grown this daisy before, but not on purpose. It volunteered in my garden one year and I was bowled over by it's non-stop performance even during the hottest, driest part of the summer. This plant is a star for sure and yellow to boot.

I've had pretty good luck with purple coneflower, but the white one is not cooperating. I thought I lost it, but it's struggling to make a come back. Coneflowers are so pretty. I think it's worth a little extra effort to help this little guy become a star some day.

I hope you found some new star performers for your garden this year.

Happy Bloom Day! Please join May Dreams for a list of other bloggers celebrating October 15th with gorgeous flowers from their gardens.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Plant Escapes

Some of my garden plants have escaped captivity and have run off to live on their own. The amazing thing is that they did it during the drought with no supplemental water or help from me. 

Out in the uncultivated areas of my property, I'm seeing some plants that have the capacity to survive and even flourish. Oxblood lilies are pictured below. I have no idea how they got here.  This little spot in the woods is quite a distance from where I actually planted oxblood lilies in my front garden. They look quite lovely in this natural setting.

These oxblood lilies are even further away from my cultivated gardens beneath layers of dead cedar trees. Isn't that amazing?

After the discovery of the oxblood lilies, I started looking around and identified several of my garden plants whose offspring had escaped back into the wild. This pigeonberry, Rivina humilis, seems to like this spot among the trees and weeds.  Ironically, the pigeonberry in my garden doesn't look half this good.

I have no trouble growing scarlet sage, Salvia coccinea, so I wasn't surprised to see it taking advantage of thinning tree canopies and dead bramble vines.

This rock rose, Pavonia lasiopetala, and prickly pear cactus look quite at home in this woodsy spot despite never having received an ounce of water or a bit of care from me. 

This lantana is a hopeful sight along the back fence.  Even though it's surrounded by dead trees and brush, it's huge and blooming beautifully. 

Inspiration comes from strange places and at unexpected moments. Right around the time I discovered these woodland survivors, I found a wonderful blog called the Plano Prairie Garden, and met with a representative from the Native American Seeds of Texas. These chance encounters gave me an idea. You might even say an epiphany.

I'm going to expand my wildflower meadow and create something more.  Here's the very first picture taken after Richard used the tractor to trace out the beginning of a path.  With wildflower seeds in hand and my mind brimming with ideas, I'm off to have some fun and create!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Wide Shots for October 2013

The wide shot is an angle that you don't see on many blogs, or at least you didn't until Xericstyle in San Antonio started encouraging bloggers to share their wide shots.

Why don't we bloggers publish wide shots? Well, for one thing it's hard to hide the garden hose and the dead plants we haven't cleared out yet. For another thing, it's difficult to tell what you're looking at. Green plants meld into one another and flowers look like little blobs of color from far away.

Still, the wide shot has it's merits. The wide shot gives you a better glimpse of the over all design, structure, and spacial relationships. The challenge of the wide shot is to do a thorough cleanup of the area, or forgive us readers, you shall have to see our dirty laundry.

Since I've never posted wide shots before, let's take the full tour. Driving down the street, it's pretty obvious that someone at this address likes to garden.  But where's the house?

Gates open.  Come on in.

The sunny garden to the right of the driveway is overgrown and out of control.  I love it!  It looks great from my kitchen window, but up close I can see a lot of work in my future pruning back all the annuals and woody perennials.

I know these are supposed to be wide shots, but I couldn't resist this one of the candlestick plant, Senna (Cassia) alata. The candlestick plant is one of the larval hosts to the cloudless sulphur butterfly. The plants were visited early in the season by the caterpillars.  They munched them pretty good, but you'd never know it now.

Looking to the left side of the driveway, you can glimpse the house.

Oh, there it is! I knew there was a house there somewhere. When I get home, I feel I've reached an oasis. The sounds are peaceful. The wild birds are abundant. Our bird feeders, which can be glimpsed in this photo, sit in the middle of a wide open space in front of my kitchen window. The reason for the feeders location is two-fold. First, I can see the feeders perfectly from inside the house and second, the wide open space means the squirrels can't perform aerial dive bombing maneuvers from the trees.

I think the reason most bloggers steer away from wide shots is all the stuff and clutter that is part of life.  My 4 gallon Ground to Ground buckets are drying on the cement driveway pad along with bricks staged for the completion of the garden wall.  Our little used basketball hoop and rain water collection tank round out the less than attractive photograph subjects.

Ah, this is a much better perspective.  Just a smidge to right and light on the zoom.

This wide shot is from the rear of the garden looking back at the house.  The fire pit can be seen on the left.  Way in the back, the storage shed, which looks over the vegetable garden, can barely be seen.

I hope you've enjoyed these wide shots and will visit Xericstyle for links to other bloggers who are posting their wide shots this month.