Sunday, August 30, 2015

Mulling Things Over + a Few Weekend Photos

Last week, we had a few "almost autumn" days.  It was cool enough at night (and the humidity was low enough) to allow us to to sleep with open windows-- for the first time since I'm not sure when.  Months.  So nice!  Of course, it was a brief respite, and we're back again to more typical late-summer weather.

We're on the threshold of September, so over the next couple of months, we'll observe the gradual morphing of late summer into early autumn-- but the emphasis is solidly on "gradual".  Still, the end of summer heat/humidity is in sight (thank goodness).

As the season winds down, I'm trying to think more about what the next steps in the garden's development should be.  Which plants should be divided and/or moved-- and where to?  Where should I expand the garden and by how much?  Which new plants do I want to add this autumn or next spring?  There are many more I'd like to try than I actually will, for a couple of reasons-- one being the cost of plants; another is the wish to avoid biting off more than I can chew.

There are so many possibilities to consider and so many circumstances to juggle and weigh and keep always "in mind"!  Limitations of space (or the amount of space I'm willing to maintain).  Quirks of the soil (sand in one area, clay in another).  The strictures set by the location of the septic pad (and the limited types of plants that can/should be planted on it).  Sunlight and water requirements.  Shifting areas of shade and sun as trees and shrubs grow taller and wider.  The uncertainty of a particular plant's eventual size.  Etc.

When we play board games, Donald sometimes jokes that I'm suffering from "analysis paralysis"-- weighing options and pondering possible outcomes to the point that I have trouble making a decision in a timely fashion.

I'm afraid this is something that affects me in many areas of life-- gardening included.  After all that effort of trying to identify the Perfect Solution, I usually end up doing what feels like simply going with my gut.  (I say it "feels" like making a gut decision, but I also wonder if all the time spent thinking hasn't informed my decision in some way, after all.  Is it a different gut decision than the one I'd have made without all the analyzing?)

Thinking before acting is usually wise, of course.  (There are still plenty of times when I haven't thought things through and end up having to go back and re-do something-- sometimes with a time-consuming or labor-intensive result.)  But there is definitely also a point at which I'm better off just making a decision already and dealing with whatever consequences may follow.  The trick is finding a comfortable, effective balance.

- - - - - - -

Let's take a break from the analysis paralysis with few photos from this weekend. ;o)



'Joseph's Coat'.

'Joseph's Coat' Climbing Rose

This volunteer crepe myrtle has begun to bloom in a color unlike any of my existing crepe myrtles (which are all either white or some shade of red).  The nearest crepe myrtle is 'Victor' (dwarf, "dark red" flowers).  I'm not sure where this one will end up, but I'll find somewhere for it to go.  I can't bring myself to throw it away, now that I know it's this pinkish lavender...

New Volunteer Crepe Myrtle

Mina lobata continues blooming.

Mina Lobata

Mina Lobata

Mina Lobata

Mina Lobata

Flower Garden

This is part of the front yard/garden-- a part in need of attention.  I've let it go, most of the summer, and weeds have taken over.  (Ugh.  If it weren't for those infernal weeds!)

In this area:  leatherleaf mahonia, crepe myrtle (maybe 'Tonto'?), sago palm, some sort of creeping juniper?, variegated pittosporum (I think), and an ash tree.  Further in the back, there are pine trees, wax myrtles, anything that has managed to escape the mower (maybe beautyberry), and whatever else is growing beyond the fence in the woods.  

Part of the Front Yard

Banana shrub, loropetalum, rose of sharon (with mina lobata growing through it), pines.

Small Trees / Large Shrubs

Trixie on her way to offer Eskie greetings.


Before she could make it all the way over, Luna caught up with her.

Luna and Trixie

The 'Little Gem' magnolias are revealing their beautiful, bright red seeds.

'Little Gem' Magnolia

Moss rose.

Portulaca - Moss Rose

Gaillardia (Indian blanket).
I'm not sure I love the pairing of the red KO rose (right next to these, but not in the photo) with the truer red and bright yellow of the blanket flower.  I might try transplanting the blanket flowers elsewhere in the garden...

They're supposed to be drought tolerant, so maybe some of the other sandier areas would be good candidates.  Even if I move them I suspect some new plants might come up where these are now, since they're supposed to be prolific reseeders.

Indian Blanket (Gaillardia)

Speaking of the red KO rose, here it is in the next photo.
See how it's more of a "very dark pink" red instead of the more orange-y red of the blanket flower?  I'm not too picky about flower colors in a garden, but maybe I should be a little more particular...

Up to this point, harmonious color combinations took a backseat to the humbler goal of just getting something "real" (i.e. not weeds) to fill in the flower beds.  Now may be the time to start making adjustments toward more pleasing juxtapositions.

Double Red KO Rose

...Something else to trigger the ol' analysis paralysis, eh?  ;o)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Casual Garden Update

The mina lobata is blooming more and more, but since this is the first time I've grown it, I'm not sure what to expect-- how long it might continue blooming, what "peak bloom" will look like, etc.

Mina Lobata

The flowers are pretty-- especially when they catch the light against a darker backdrop.  Based on what I've read, maybe we can expect at least another month of flowers-- possibly with flower production picking up as the weather cools slightly.

At their current level of bloom, I don't think they're quite as eye-catching as morning glories-- but on the plus side, they don't wilt in the heat of the day, and the flowers seem to last at least a few days.  (I haven't really kept track, but they definitely don't last only half a day, like morning glories.)

Mina Lobata

Mine may not bloom as much as is sometimes possible, because of where I've placed them.  They don't get full, direct sun.  Assuming I am able to collect seed, I'll try to plant some next year in a sunnier spot to see how that affects them.

Mina Lobata

Some of the leaves have begun to wither and fade, this month, but there are still plenty left, and for most of the summer, the foliage was lush and very healthy.  I still think the foliage is attractive enough on its own to make the vine interesting, but of course, if it doesn't bloom, there won't be seeds, which means you'd have to buy some year after year.  (And it sounds like mina lobata seed is not as widely available as that of many other annuals, so in some places, it may require shopping around or ordering online.)

Mina Lobata

It's an unusual plant and one I'd like to keep growing, so I'll have to remember to collect seeds.  I haven't found much about harvesting these particular seeds, but it sounds pretty simple.  All I know is that you should let the seed pods (the spent flowers) dry on the vine before attempting to harvest them, but that seems to be recommended for just about all seeds.

Mina Lobata

Other "vine updates":
The 'Grandpa Ott's' morning glories are still going, but they're showing some signs of getting tired.  The foliage is much less impressive (and thick) as the mina lobata.

There's an unknown morning glory that's suddenly taken off, in the past few weeks.  It found the newly-built arbor and has already staked a claim.  No blooms, yet.  It's possible that this is one of the 'Heavenly Blue' type, because the only time we grew them with success, they didn't flower until very late in the season.

We have four flowering moonflower vines.  Back porch trellis, ivy trellis, white rose of Sharon, north fence.  The heaviest bloomers are the back porch trellis and the north fence.  The moonflower vines seems more substantial than the morning glories-- thicker vines, healthier foliage.

- - - - - - -

The purple rose of Sharon still blooms, though probably less than before.  I saw one or two small blooms on the white one, too, this morning.

Rose of Sharon

Two of the clematis have given us a single bloom each, in the past several days.  One I failed to photograph.  It was one of the two more recently from Mom, pale purple/pink with white (or yellow?) anthers.  Then there's this one that we bought this year.  It's called 'Pink Climador', but the few times I've seen it blooming, so far, it looks more lavender than pink, to me.  I love those dark-tipped anthers.

Clematis 'Pink Climador'

I've been reading a little about 'Golden Goddess' bamboo, as I'm contemplating moving our clump, this autumn/winter/early spring.  I could try to divide it, but first I need to figure out the layout for that area of the garden.  Do we really need two clumps, or would it be better to keep this single one as large as possible?

'Golden Goddess' Bamboo

Curcuma elata looks nice and cool in its shady spot.

Everything looked nice and cool, this morning.  We're enjoying a so-called "cold front".  Don't get too excited, now.  We'll still be up in at least the low 90s every day, I'm sure, but decreased humidity is a big help, and we're supposed to see lows in the low 60s for at least a couple of days.

Curcuma Elata

A few (i.e. I have no idea how many, exactly) years ago, I went with Mom to a plant sale at the local trade school.  I brought home four crepe myrtles.  One was a 'Natchez'-- white blooms, interesting bark coloration, can get pretty tall in time.  (That one's outside the fence, near the pump house.)

Another was the dwarf-form 'Victor', which I've mentioned and shown earlier this summer.

The last two were the same type, but I don't remember the name!  (I wasn't very good about keeping track of those things, back then.)  I'm almost positive they were one of the cultivars with "tribal" names.  'Tonto', maybe?

Unfortunately, I don't remember the name of the "watermelon-red" crepe myrtles we planted many more years ago, either.  But apparently it's not the same as whatever the newer two dark pink/red ones are, because they're blooming later in the year and have a decidedly more fuchsia/red-violet pink/red than the watermelon-red of the older ones.

Crepe Myrtle

I'm not sure of the IDs of the white crepe myrtles Mom and I planted many years ago, either.  I've found websites (such as this one) that could be useful for identifying them, but so far I'm just getting confused. (g)

Maybe I'll try to narrow it down, someday, but in the meantime, it's not really necessary to know which cultivars we have.  The only reason it would matter would be if we were trying to buy more to match/contrast with what we already have, and I don't think we'll want to buy more crepe myrtles in the near future.  There are only so many places where I can plant them. ;o)

Crepe Myrtle

They are pretty, though, and I think the disgusting "Reign of Terror Rain of Honeydew" is over for the year.  I haven't noticed honeydew for quite some time, as a matter of fact.  (It may have stopped even a month or more ago.)

Crepe Myrtle

The marigolds around the raised vegetable beds don't ask much of life.  Just a tiny little cubicle, and they're set.  These are all growing in the confines of cinder block holes filled with soil.



One was doing too well.  It was shading out the chives, so I had to pull it up, over the weekend.



The seed-grown blue bedder sage has been blooming.  At least, a couple of them have.  I'm still not sure if they'll come back next year, and even if they do, how they'll look/perform.  I don't think I'll mess with trying to grow them from seed again, in any case.  If they come back, I won't need more, probably, and if they don't come back, they're not worth the bother, imho.

Blue Bedder Sage

The pink climbing rose (which may be 'Lavender Lassie') has been blooming (very lightly) on and off throughout the summer.  This was its best summer in recent memory.  I think it would benefit from some sort of rough support system.  I'll have to see if I get around to that, on top of the other projects we want to tackle, this cool season.

Pink Climbing Rose

The flowers look a little past their prime, but I'm too happy to see (and smell) them to be picky.

Pink Climbing Rose

Pink Climbing Rose

The "too-red" rose has put on another flush of bloom.  I feel proud of the poor old thing, putting out such an effort after being so harshly treated.  It hasn't had an easy life, but it keeps on trying.

Red Rose

Red Rose

Red Mexican ruellia bloom is sparse, but present.
This is one that's supposed to be an excellent "cut and poke" plant-- great for taking easy cuttings.  I keep meaning to try some cuttings... This time of year may not be the best time for taking cuttings, but we'll see.

Red Mexican Ruellia

Hummingbird sage.
Some of the flowers look a little dusty (or... something), up close, but from a little more of a distance, they're nice.  I'm still hoping it populates the surrounding flowerbed area as well as some people have reported.

Hummingbird Sage

The seed-grown Gaillardia is doing well, too.
This one took a while to get started, but now it's performing very well.  It's supposed to be a perennial, so we'll see... I have more seed to scatter, next year, and I'll probably try to harvest some from these existing plants, too.


Nothing subtle about these colors...
However, I'm finding that the plants I have most success with generally aren't known for their subtlety.  That's ok; they're still beautiful, in their own outspoken ways.  Maybe they have to be a little brash and bold to compete with this climate.


'Mercury Rising' coreopsis is still blooming, though not very heavily.  This, despite a distinct lack of deadheading.  I want to divide this plant and move at least some of it to another part of the garden.  Where it is now, I can't see it very well (except from outside the fence), and it's too hard to get to it for easy deadheading.

The 'Nana' (dwarf) coreopsis hasn't bloomed for weeks, now.  I think 'Golden Sphere' may still be flowering, but it's slowed, and the flowers seem smaller or somehow less significant than earlier in the year.  However, both plants are very much alive, and the clumps look to have increased significantly in size.  I'd like to divide both of them, too.  (Spring, I guess?  I need to research.  Early spring or late autumn...)

'Mercury Rising' Coreopsis

That does it for this particular garden update!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

One Yard, Fourteen Years

While recently watching a video of Trixie catching frisbees as a puppy, we were struck by how much our little landscape has changed in the years since.  That got me thinking about how much it must have changed since we first began living here.  It seemed like a good time for a look back.

So I spent some time wading through files of digital photos, pulling a few from this year, a few from that year.  I didn't nearly look at them all, but I think there are enough to give some idea of how this plot of land has developed over the past fourteen years.

Before we get started, here are few things I noticed while flicking through all those photos:

--The quality of digital cameras has increased dramatically since 2001!  (g) Those first few photos are so tiny and grainy!

--There were periods where I took hardly any photos at all.  Photos from a distance, showing the whole landscape, seemed especially rare, some years.

--It took a while for the yard to show any serious improvement (as far as planting/landscaping/weeding goes), but pictures from the last two or three years show major strides.  This is probably mostly a reflection of an increased level of interest in gardening-- and the amount of time spent outside actually working on the tedious parts of up-keep.  However, I think I've learned a lot in the past few years, too.  There are things in some of the older photos that I know went right over my head, back then.

- - - - - - -

The land we live on was pasture (I believe) for a while. (I know that there was a fenced pasture on part of my grandparents' land, but I'm not sure if it extended all the way over here.) Then my maternal grandparents planted it in pine trees.  When my husband and I got engaged, my grandparents offered to deed us a plot of land to build and live on, from their acreage here.  From the area offered, we selected a section fairly far off the main road, but connected to it by an existing easement already in use by a neighbor.

My grandparents had many of the pines on our chosen plot cleared to make room for building.

Here's a photo soon after that clearing, in April 2001.
The wedding was in July of that year, and Donald--my husband-- wasn't in the photo, because he hadn't yet made the final move from Sweden.  (I think... Though I don't recall who took the photo...)  From left: my maternal grandparents, my mother, one of my aunts (in back), my youngest sister, and me, with one of my cousins in the front. 


We lived in a mobile home (which was older than I was!) for a couple of years, to give us time to plan and save up for a house.  In the second half of 2003, we were ready to build.  We'd had to bring in a lot of dirt to put in a septic system for the trailer, and now we had to bring in more for the house.


Here's another photo taken at the same time, from beside the trailer.  See that scrawny little tree there?  That's the bald cypress that's still growing in front of the garage and gravel parking area.


Here's one with the dirt smoothed out...


If you look at the boards, you can make out the location of the bay window (which is now fronted by old-fashioned pink shrub roses).  


The house-building went smoothly enough.  Here it is in June 2004.
It doesn't look like I did much landscaping, that first year.  Mom helped me plant foundation shrubs, though, and I remember that there was a lot of work to do just to smooth out the soil along the back of the house.


When I took this photo on September 7th, 2004, Hurricane Ivan was already a hurricane, but we had no way of knowing, yet, that it would come barreling through our area in a little more than a week.


Hurricane Ivan made landfall in the dark, wee hours of September 16th, 2004.

My parents and youngest sister (and the family dogs) came to our house to weather the storm that evening, because their own house at the time had a huge pecan tree in the backyard that could potentially fall through the roof. We passed a long, exhausting night-- and a few very tense moments.

When the sun rose and we got our first glimpses of the world outside, I couldn't believe the extent of the damage to my grandparents' pine trees.  Some sections came through well enough, but a wide strip extending to right behind our backyard had changed overnight from a dense pine forest to an eerie tangle of snapped tree trunks.

This was the view from our backyard:


A high wind was still whipping the trees around when we took these photos.


We could see the barn through the trees, now.  Before it had been completely hidden.


A look up the easement toward the road...
Fortunately, the neighbor who also uses the easement had a brother who was experienced with a chainsaw.  We pitched in, and before long, it was possible to drive out again.


A handful of pines snapped and blew into our front yard (and the side yard, too).  Fortunately, Grandpa had foreseen the dangers of falling trees, back when he was having the land cleared, and made sure there was plenty of room around the projected location of the house.  The trees didn't hit us.



That's me taking video of the broken trees:


If you've ever had to clean up after a hurricane, you probably know how exhausting it can be.  We were without electricity for a while, which was tiring in its own right-- and then there were all those fallen trees to clear.  With help from my family, we eventually got it done.  Fortunately, the house came through the storm without much damage-- just a few shingles had to be replaced.  Still, for a while, it's hard to believe that things will ever get back to normal again.

Here's the house in October 2004:


October 2004:


November 2004.
This is the part of the yard that has undergone the most significant changes, I think.  As you can see, at this point, we hadn't even put up a fence, yet.  I tried planting a few things on this north side of the house, but it wasn't much to look at-- by any set of standards! 


Somewhere between late 2004 and the next photos (from mid-2008), I'm sure we made some improvements in the yard... For one thing, we fenced the yard... We also built the shed, at some point.  (That's where the lawnmower "lives".)  I must've planted a few trees, if nothing else.  And yet, when I look at these photos, I stunned by how little things had improved in over three years.  I guess I was putting my focus on something other than the yard...

In August 2008, we collected the supplies to build the covered patio.


Here's an August 2008 photo of the back yard.  Grandpa had had the trees cleaned up as well as could be.  Young trees were just getting started, but you could still see across to the barn in the distance.  If you look in the background of some of my recent pictures, I think you'll be surprised by how much this area has filled in since this photo was taken.  It's amazing how quickly trees can grow!


There's the shed I was talking about before.  The three birch trees to the right of the shed have grown so much!


November 2008.
We were putting some serious effort into the covered patio, that year.


July 2009.
I guess we took a break, though, because the covered patio wasn't finished by summer of the next year-- though it was getting closer. 


...And you can see in this photo from August 2009 (with Trixie jumping after soap bubbles (g)) that the current flower garden area was nothing but overgrown grass.


October 2009.
By autumn, the covered patio was nearly done.  We were still trying to decide whether just one "wall" of lattice was good, or if the front should be partially latticed, too.





October 2009.
Here's a prospect familiar to anyone who's been following this blog-- but look how it's changed!  (That's Trixie in all these photos, by the way.  She looked a lot more like Luna, back then.  If you catch a glimpse of a black dog, that would be our cocker spaniel, Molly-- our first pet together.)


The crepe myrtle closer to the patio... I'm not sure what happened with that.  Maybe that's the one I tried to move closer to the corner of the house, only to have it die from stress. 


The gardenia right beside the front edge of the patio was just too close, so we moved it down to the shadier, wilder part of the yard-- the southwestern corner-- where it seems to be satisfied with its lot in life.


A lot of grass and very little else.  The clumps of Mexican petunia were just getting started.  


Don't look too closely at the rose bed in front of the bay window.  At this point, it was more a patch of weeds than a flower bed.

The post with the hanging bird feeder is in the same location it is now-- a handy reference point when comparing these old photos to the more recent ones.


By June 2011, we'd finally finished the patio area.

I can't believe how much that loropetalum has grown in the past four years!  Good grief!  Of course, I'm forgetting that it was already pretty big-- head-high or more?-- when we cut it back severely and moved it from its former location (outside the fence) to where it is now.  They love to grow.

(I guess I hadn't moved that gardenia, yet, because there it still was...)



July 2012.
We were about to have the garage built, so we took some "before" photos.

You can just barely see, on the left, that the circular bed (filled with stones, over the septic tank) was in place, by this time.  


We had to remove part of the fence to make way for the garage and were unable to close the fence back up until it was in place, so we temporarily kinda-sorta closed off the yard with the doghouse, dogloo, and a few other things from around the yard.






September 2012.
Here's the garage in the middle of construction:


 ...And completed. (Well, completed on the outside, at least.  We still had a lot to do inside, so that took a while to finish...)


April 2013.
Spring a couple of years ago.  The flower garden as we know it today was still not even a plan.  I can tell that we hadn't finished the inside of the garage, yet, either, because the floodlights hadn't been installed.


More photos from that same month:



June 2013.

I was working a little on this side of the flower garden, but it doesn't look like much...

April 2014.
Fast-forward another year.
The loropetalum was getting taller and taller...

We'd joined the patio and gate with a paved pathway-- one that proved to hold water in big rains, but at least an effort in the right direction...

I was putting in more plants with greater success, including a hydrangea I'd propagated myself (which may not sound like much now, but was a big deal to me at the time).


That same month, we put in the trellis for the passionflower vine and this combination trellis-planter for the English ivy.



The rose bed looks so much better in this photo!  I think it was during the previous year that I did some serious weeding and digging out of torpedo grass and montbretia.  I moved the rose bushes out from the house, too, because I'd originally planted them too close for comfort.  

April 2014.
The flower garden with gravel paths was officially in the planning stage by now.  Otherwise we wouldn't have bought those edging "stones" and been playing around with the layout.  


June 2014.
I'd begun to plant things in the flower garden area.  It doesn't look like much, but the path was more or less laid out, and some of the shrubs-- KO roses, viburnum-- were already in place. 


November 2014.
No arbor, yet, of course-- and the flower garden still looked awfully barren of plants, at the end of that growing season. 


April 2015.
Now we're almost up to the current time.  This spring, we set up the raised vegetable beds in their new (current) location-- and put in drip irrigation.


After a very rainy day in April 2015.



I think that concludes this long journey from 2001 to 2015.

For more up-to-date photos (though maybe nothing more recent from the angle above), see blog posts tagged "garden survey".