Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Rain!

The rain has returned!  I'm not sure how much we got in the past week, because I forgot to empty the rain gauge (and the rain gauge leaks when it gets full past a certain point, anyway).  We may not know the exact amount, but it was lots.

Yesterday, during a particularly heavy rainfall, the front yard looked like a pond, fed by a waterfall to one side of the front door...:

Heavy Rain - Early December 2016

Here's a close-up of the temporary water feature... ;o)

Heavy Rain - Early December 2016

And on the other side of the front door, a second stream of water plunged from the roof and into a boxwood:

Heavy Rain - Early December 2016

Out the back door, there was a view of the waterlogged back yard.  (That's the beginning of my new "septic field flower bed", though I must think of a more appealing name for it...)

Heavy Rain - Early December 2016

As usual during heavy downpours, parts of the gravel paths turned into shallow streams...

Heavy Rain - Early December 2016

But none of it lasted, fortunately.  The water soon flowed on its way downhill, and now everything's back to normal-- a little soggy, perhaps, but we wouldn't dare complain about that after such a long dry spell.

I hope to do some planting this week.  We're expecting cold weather (by our standards) by Thursday night.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Late-November Flowers

If someone were to ask me if there are many flowers blooming in my garden in late November, I'd probably answer that there aren't, but when I take the time to really look, there are a surprising number of plants still in flower, even at this late date.

Here are a few photos from this week (including a few "not-flowers").

Pink trumpet vine.
Still blooming a little; still creeping here, there, and everywhere.  Pink ruffles!

Pink Trumpet Vine

Osmanthus fragrans.
This tea olive is growing steadily, a little each year.  The flowers are tiny and unimpressive to look at, but they smell so sweet and fresh-- a floral-fruity, apricot-like fragrance.

Tea Olive

I was surprised to see that there was still at least one more Gulf fritillary caterpillar on the passion vine!

Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar

Madagascar periwinkle.
Simple, pretty, cheerful little flowers.

Madagascar Periwinkle

'Joseph's Coat' rose.
The 'Peggy Martin' rose is blooming, too, but there was only one small flower that I didn't bother to photograph.  Also, my photos of the tiny violet flowers of purple heart turned out too blurry to share.

'Joseph's Coat' Rose

Unknown pink rose.
The coverage of these shrub roses is a bit sparse, but the little flowers themselves are always pretty and charming.

Unknown Pink Rose

'Nearly Wild' rose.
I'm considering moving this rose, as it may perform better with a little more sun.  Most (if not all) my roses will get a heavy pruning, early next year.

The double red and double pink Knock Out roses and the "too-red" rose are also blooming, though none are positively covered in flowers, at the moment.

'Nearly Wild' Rose

Succulents.
I've moved most of the succulents into the garage window, along with some other cold-sensitive plants.  This big pot is still out in the garden, though.  If I remember, I'll try to move it into shelter before the next freeze.

Succulent

Gulf muhly grass.
This muhly grass turned tan very early in the autumn, this year.  I've noticed plants in town are still boasting clouds of pink, which makes me wonder why mine faded so fast.  Microclimate may have something to do with it... Or maybe this is a different variety.  I've tried and failed to find the plant tag that came with it.  If it fades this early next year, I'll probably move it somewhere else in the garden and try again with another plant.

Muhly Grass

Miscanthus 'Adagio'.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed for success with this ornamental grass...

Miscanthus 'Adagio'

Salvia 'Pizzazz Purple'.
Still blooming!  The Mexican bush sage is also technically still flowering, but it's looking more dried-up every day.  The forsythia sage is fading, but it's still in bloom.

'Pizzazz Purple' Salvia

Black-eyed Susan vine.
I'm surprised these vines are still hanging in there, but they are.  The occasional leaf has turned mauve, which adds some interesting contrast to the green leaves and golden flowers.

Black-Eyed Susan Vine

Wax myrtle.
The berries of the wax myrtle (a.k.a. bayberry) have a waxy coating that was used in the past (and maybe by some to this day) to make candles.  Apparently this tree has had many uses through the years, and I've heard that some in my own family once used branches of the fragrant leaves as a flea deterrent.

Wax Myrtle Berries

Yaupon holly.
Evidently, the berries of yaupon holly contain more caffeine by weight than both coffee beans and green tea.  I wouldn't recommend eating them, though; they were once used by Native Americans to induce vomiting.

Privet Berries

Yellow Knock Out rose.
These have a light, pleasant fragrance-- a nice bonus!  The insect is a spotted cucumber beetle-- a garden pest, unfortunately.  Too bad, because they're actually fairly attractive, for bugs.

Yellow KO Rose w/ Beetle

That concludes the Late-November Flower Tour.  ;o)

Drought and Autumn Leaves

Apart from a single "rain event" a few weeks back (that gave us either a quarter- or a half-inch, can't recall which), our drought has continued.  The lack of rain has put a huge damper on my enthusiasm for gardening, this autumn.  I've watered a few times, but it's a time-consuming process to water even just the main flower beds-- and I always worry about putting too much of a strain on our well and pump during dry spells, anyway... 

Fortunately, it looks like we may be starting to dig our way out of this drought, one shower at a time.  We had a very little rain last night, there's a chance for more tonight, and the local weather forecast offers hope for rain over the weekend.  The drought won't be erased in just a week or two (and the winter ahead will likely be dry, thanks to La NiƱa), but every fraction of an inch is a step in the right direction.

Because of the drought, I've been putting off planting the ornamental trees in my "pot ghetto".  (I may bite the bullet and start planting soon, though.)  I started gathering pine straw and blocking out new extensions of the flower beds, including places where those ornamental trees will eventually go.

I've also mulched a bed on the septic pad (field lines area).  I may expand it, at some point, but it's a start.  After mulching, I planted it with a variety of plants-- a few recently purchased, some transplanted from existing beds, and others started from cuttings this summer.  The new flower bed doesn't look like much, at the moment, but I'm confident that by the end of next summer, it can be full and flowering.

- - - - - - -

Let me close this blog post with some photos of autumn leaves (and related subjects) from around our garden...

I think most of the popcorn trees (invasive "trash trees", I know, but they do turn beautiful colors!) may be done for the year, around here, but some of the crepe myrtles are still holding onto some leaves.

Crepe Myrtle

Crepe Myrtle

Certain ones have nice autumn color, while the leaves of others just turn brown and fall to the ground, so if you're planting a crepe myrtle in the hopes of fall foliage, it's important to do some research.  I'd tell you the names of these in my photos if I knew them, but I'm not sure.  I can only tell you that all these are white-flowered varieties.

Crepe Myrtle

The papery-barked river birch's leaves turn yellow before falling.  It may not be a breath-taking show, but the speckles of yellow mixed with green are delicately pretty.  (Any color at all is notable, this far south.)

River Birch

...And the peeling bark itself is beautifully textural.

River Birch Bark

Our bald cypress has lost many of its rust-colored needles already, but there are still some left.  Though I am frustrated by its tendency to host nasty caterpillars (every single darn year), I do love this tree... It has a lot of character.

Bald Cypress

This ash tree is a golden torch, every autumn.  Unfortunately, I've been reading that ashes are at risk from the emerald ash borer.  I guess we'll just enjoy it while we can.  Maybe we'll be lucky...

Ash

Here's Luna playing with a frisbee while Trixie sniffs around for anything interesting.  (Crepe myrtles in the background.)

Luna and Trixie

Luna and Trixie

Luna


Luna

Luna

...crepe myrtles...

Crepe Myrtle

Crepe Myrtle


Happy late autumn!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Toad Lily

We have two types of toad lily (Tricyrtis).  Both are growing in pots on the covered patio, where I can more easily keep them shaded and watered.

My favorite of the two has variegated foliage and may be 'Autumn Glow'.  (It wasn't clearly labeled, so that's just a guess.)  It blooms earlier, in summer.  Here's a photo of a flower (and buds) from June:

Toad Lily Bloom

And here's a photo from March that shows the lovely variegation of the leaves...

Toad Lily Foliage

The second toad lily is solid green and not as much to look at until it blooms.  Its flowers come in late summer or early autumn.  It's blooming now, and I've been impressed by the number of flowers on just those few stems.

Toad Lily (Tricyrtis)

Each flower is very small (about the size of a quarter), but there's an amazing amount of detail packed into those tiny flowers!

Toad Lily (Tricyrtis)

I think they're gorgeous.

Toad Lily (Tricyrtis)

They look like itsy-bitsy orchids, but they're hardy enough to live outdoors year-round.  Give them humus-y soil, shade (in hot climates like ours, at least), and adequate water-- maybe a little fertilizer when you think about it-- and they're happy.

Toad Lily (Tricyrtis)

Toad Lily (Tricyrtis)

Unfortunately, most varieties of toad lily seem to be rather hard to come by.

They can be ordered online-- if you can find a source and are willing to make a gamble.  (In my brief search, I've seen enough negative reviews to make me a bit wary.  If you want a particular plant badly enough, it might be worth a try.  It may even be the only way you can get it!  They can be pricey, though, like so many plants...)

Apparently they're easy to grow from seed, but I have no idea how long it takes them to reach flowering size/age.  (It seems likely that some types-- the hybrids?-- can't be grown from seed.)

For now, I'll just be content to enjoy the two types already in our garden!

If you're interested in learning more about Tricyrtis, this article from Plant Delights Nursery, Inc. is a good place to start.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

So Long, Dry October; November, Please Send Rain!

We've just come out of an exceptionally dry October.  October is typically one of our driest months, but 2016 took things a little too far.  Many places in our area got zero rain for the entire month.  I can't recall if we had any rain nearer the beginning of the month, but if we did, it wasn't much.

I usually feel a little weird complaining about drought, because there are other places that have it worse, but this time I'm complaining anyway! ;o)  We need rain, but there's only the slimmest of prospects in the forecast.  At least the unusually high temperatures are expected to inch down this week.  Drought and highs consistently in the mid-to-upper 80s is just too much for what is supposed to be blissful autumn.

...That's what it comes down to, really-- Mother Nature's pulled a seasonal bait and switch!  I'm starting to feel cheated of autumn.  All summer, I look forward to October as a Golden Month, when the fever of summer has finally broken and cooler weather sets in.  This year, October didn't bring the anticipated level of relief.  The low humidity is nice, sure, but it doesn't feel truly autumnal, yet.

Oh well, I guess that's enough whining for one blog post.  I'll just add that I've delayed autumn planting, because I'm having enough trouble keeping the existing plantings watered and alive.  If my prayers are answered, November will bring rain, and then I'll be able to start planting things currently waiting (impatiently!) in the patio-nursery.

- - - - - - -

Autumn doesn't bring as much colorful foliage, this far south, but there are a few leaves that change color.  Crepe myrtles sometimes provide a show.  (I haven't noticed any yet, this year.  Not sure if that's typical or if the color change may be delayed by the warm weather.)  Though an invasive pest, the Chinese tallow tree (a.k.a. popcorn tree) can be beautiful in fall.

This morning, I noticed that there are some orange and gold highlights in the white-flowered loropetalum.

White Loropetalum - Autumn Foliage

- - - - - - -

I'd like to add more grasses to the garden, so I'm trying to find some that will do well in our climate (and be well-adapted to my garden's particular circumstances).

It's not as easy as I would've expected to find healthy-looking, interesting grasses locally-- and they can be pricey-- so I'm also looking specifically for some I might be able to start from seed.  (The downside to that plan is that those grasses might also tend to be aggressive self-sowers.)

One of the potted plants waiting out the drought is this grass-- Miscanthus sinesis 'Adagio'.  (No photo of the whole plant-- just some of the seedheads.)

Miscanthus 'Adagio'

I've been very pleased with the performance of the two Japanese sedges in the garden-- 'Evergold' (pictured below) and 'Everillo'.  It could be interesting to add another variety, but so far, all I ever see locally is 'Everillo'.  (Incidentally, 'Everillo' is by far the less interesting of the two I'm growing.  Its bright chartreuse color has darkened to a less interesting medium green.  Maybe it would lighten in a different intensity of sunlight.  'Evergold' has stayed strikingly variegated.)

Technically, Japanese sedge is not a grass, but to most of us, it looks like one and feels like one, and I think of it as an ornamental grass, even if it's not.  (So there, taxonomists!)

Carex oshimensis 'Evergold'

So far, I'm very pleased with the 'White Cloud' muhly grass.  It's still very small, but it should get to a better size in another year or two.

Muhly Grass 'White Cloud'

The pink muhly grass is of a decent size, now.  I'm not sure how long the inflorescence usually looks pink before it fades to tan, but this year, it seemed to fade very quickly.  Maybe it always does; maybe this was a result of the unseasonably hot, dry weather.

Pink Muhly Grass

(Most of what I've read online says that the color fades slowly in winter... I hope this early fading doesn't mean the plant is unhealthy.  Maybe I waited too long to water it, during this drought...)

Pink Muhly Grass

It's pretty even when it's tan, but I won't lie-- a longer-lasting pink would be even better.

Pink Muhly Grass

Well, time will tell... Maybe next year the color will last longer.

Pink Muhly Grass

- - - - - - -

No sign of life from the in-ground Japanese shrub mint.  It could still re-emerge in spring, but I'm not holding my breath.  The ones in pots on the patio are still okay, though (knock on wood)!  They're even blooming.

Japanese Shrub Mint 'Golden Angel'

Japanese Shrub Mint 'Golden Angel'

- - - - - - -

I'm not sure why fall is spiderweb season (apparently it has something to do with the timing of their life-cycles), but it definitely is.  There are webs all over the place, outside.  I don't mind them, so long as they're visible enough that I don't walk right into them.  Well, and so long as they aren't those BIG spiders.  I really don't want to walk into one of those.

Spider Web

I'm seeing the occasional banana spider, but more often "smiley face" spiders (a.k.a. crab spiders or jewel box spiders) and orchard orb-weavers, like the one below.

Orchard Orb-Weaver

There are only a handful of young leaves on the passionflower vines, but even so, Gulf fritillary caterpillars are still present!  (One of the Gulf fritillary butterflies landed on my hand-- and stayed a while-- as I was watering plants, this morning.)

Gulf Fritillary Caterpillars

- - - - - - -

Curcuma elata was turning yellow with drooping stalks, so I cut it back to the ground.  I can't recall exactly when it "died back", last year, but I'm hopeful that it's normal for it to go dormant in late October-- especially since it was such a dry month.  It looked healthy enough until right before it started fading and drooping.  Most of the elephant ears have already gone dormant or are well on their way.

Curcuma 'Scarlet Fever' is lasting longer into the year, which makes sense, I guess, since it is so much slower to emerge in spring.  Even so, I don't think it will be long before it's ready to cut back, too.

Curcuma 'Scarlet Fever'

The Mexican bush sage is a little leggy-looking, but I can't bring myself to cut it back.  I doubt it would have time to grow enough to reflower before frost (?), and what's left of the flowers is still pretty (even if the "legs" aren't).  Besides, butterflies don't care if a plant gets leggy.

Mexican Bush Sage

The banana fuscata looks healthy and happy at the moment.  Most of the branches are lined with velvety little buds.

Banana Fuscata

I think I'll move the forsythia sage (Salvia madrensis) next year, assuming it comes back in spring.   I don't think it's getting enough sun where it is, because it's flopped to the point that it's lying on the ground... Well, the flowers are still pretty!

Forsythia Sage

Last year was better for the Salvia purpurea.  I'm not sure why.  Could be any number of reasons.  What blooms we have are the same beautiful magenta.  There just aren't as many of them (yet, at least), and the plants as a whole look kind of pathetic (which is why I'm only showing the flowers (g)).

Salvia Purpurea

- - - - - - -

I have come to the conclusion that I am only a middling grower of succulents.  Part of the blame may go to this (usually) damp climate, but I probably bear a lot of it myself.  A few of the succulents are doing fairly well, at least.  I'll try to keep these few good ones going, but I don't think I'll bother adding any more to the garden (unless they're free or unbelievably cheap).

Succulents

My favorite succulents are the rosette types.

Succulents

They seem to do better for me, which is part of the appeal, but I also like the fact that they look like flowers.

Succulents

The too-red rose has been blooming a fair bit, lately.  That plant knows how to perform under stress.

"NOID" Red Rose

There are also a smattering of blooms on the 'Joseph's Coat' rose.  By and large, though, I'm not encouraged by its appearance.  Lots of the canes look sickly.  I'll have to read more.  I know you're ideally not supposed to prune a climbing rose too severely for its first few years, but if it seems to be dying anyway, it might be worth cutting it back hard, anyway.

If it can't improve, I'll be taking it out and replacing it with something else.  While the flowers are lovely, there are easier-care plants that would look better for more of the year.

'Joseph's Coat' Rose

Below, a jumble.  Double pink Knock Out rose, Salvia purpurea, and volunteer cypress vine.  It looks a mess (ugh, must deadhead the roses), but I like the purple, pink, and red.

Autumn Pinks and Purples

- - - - - - -

Black-eyed susan vine (Thunbergia elata) took its sweet time climbing anything, this summer, but it's finally done what I'd planned-- climbed up the two vertical supports I'd provided for it in a couple of places in the garden.

Black-Eyed Susan Vine

Black-Eyed Susan Vine

I'm not sure why the "eyes" of these two flowers are white instead of the usual black/dark purple.  I've noticed white-centered flowers before, but I'm unable to tell if they're all on the same vine, because they're growing in such a tangle.

Black-Eyed Susan Vine

Too bad the vines won't grow tall earlier in the summer.  It would make them more appealing, if they had a summer-long show.  Maybe they can, under different circumstances.

Black-Eyed Susan Vine


Black-Eyed Susan Vine

KO Rose and Black-Eyed Susan Vine


Double red Knock Out rose:

Double Red KO Rose

- - - - - - -

The pincushion ginger (Hedychium thyrsiforme) bloomed for the first time, this year!

They're kind of strange-looking flowers.  Exotic, but not as showy as the pass-along butterfly ginger lily, really-- or at least, not as visible over a distance, since the flowers are smaller.  I think they don't smell nearly as much as the butterfly ginger, either.  The leaves are interesting, though, with a corrugated texture.

This is what the inflorescence looks like when the flowers have only partially opened:

Pincushion Ginger

In the background, you can see a pinecone-like inflorescence that has yet to begin blooming.

Pincushion Ginger

...And here's one that has been blooming longer, with the older spent flowers hanging from the bottom of the "cone".  (It may look a little messy, but that's just Nature's way. (g) At least, when the gardener's not willing to go pick off every brown part of a plant, that's what she tells herself.)

Pincushion Ginger

An interesting flower.  

Pincushion Ginger

Incidentally, the other ginger lily I was expecting to see bloom for the first time this year-- Hedychium 'Elizabeth'-- did bloom, a while back.  There were two "flower cones", and I did get a peek at the color.  However, the flowers were such pathetic things!  Embarrassingly puny.

This is another plant that I think needs more sun, so I plan to transplant it when it comes back in spring (apparently better for gingers than transplanting in autumn).  If I recall correctly, it might have been raining right when it started to flower, too, which I'm sure didn't help.

In any case, the flowers didn't look great, so I didn't bother taking photos.  Maybe next year they'll bloom better (unless they need another year to settle in after being moved around).  Rather than be disappointed by a sub-par show this year, I'm trying to see it as something to look forward to, since it's yet to bloom as it really ought to bloom.