Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Playing Catch-Up

It's been a while!

Christmas was unseasonably warm, which never feels quite "right" to me, even if it may be more comfortable than the cold, so long as you can resist the urge to dress for "Christmas weather".  More recently, there has been some very chilly weather (by our standards).

Several more inches of rain have fallen, taking our area out of the drought.  I am truly thankful for the release from drought conditions, though I do wish certain parts of the yard would dry a bit more.  The waterlogged soil along two edges of the yard makes playtime with the dogs a trifle too squishy and squelchy for my tastes, and then there are muddy paws to clean...

Crepe Myrtle Seed Pods
{crepe myrtle seed pods}

Unfortunately, as always seems to happen, I haven't been spending nearly enough time outside, so far this (relatively) cool season!  I have a lengthy to-do list, but it's been difficult to feel motivated to get out there and work.  Either the weather's been unseasonably warm and humid-- or the mornings have been cold-- or the ground has soaked (not to mention the days when it's actually raining).  It's altogether too easy to find an excuse-- any excuse-- to put it off for another day or two.  I have done some more mulching, at least, and this week I'm trying to get back into the habit.  Yesterday, I gathered and spread pine straw mulch.  (There's a never-ending need for more!) This morning, I did a little more mulching, then began to clear away the garden detritus of last year.  This is proving to be a more time-consuming chore than I'd anticipated, but I'm making progress.  Once I'm out in the thick of it, I do enjoy (most of) the yard work.  And I love the feeling that I'm making things happen.  Turning a nebulous idea into a tangible reality is one of the best parts of gardening.

(You may have noticed that I'm continuing to mix random recent photos into these blog posts, even if they're unrelated to the subject matter at hand.  The photos in this post are all from the past couple of days.)

Crepe Myrtle Seed Pods
{crepe myrtle seed pods}

- - - - - - -

So, last time I was writing about the newest additions to the garden, but I never finished.

More recent(ish) new plants/bulbs:

Triteleia 'Queen Fabiola'.
A.k.a. Brodiaea or starflowers.  12"- 18".  Blooms very late spring or early summer.  Large, dark blue, up-facing bells in loose clusters.  American native.  Needs excellent drainage in full sun to part shade.  Some cite zones as 5-9, others as 7-10...

I planted these in the beds on the western side of the house, where the sandy soil should provide the proper drainage.  I'm a little uncertain of how well-suited it is to the Deep South, but I thought it was worth a try.

Frosted Umbrella Palm
{frosted umbrella palm :: nipped by recent freezes}

Oxalis tetraphylla 'Iron Cross'.
A.k.a. shamrock, wood sorrel, or good luck plant.

Short plants-- about six inches tall at most-- with dark rose flowers and decorative foliage.  Four leaves marked by a burgundy splotch or cross in the center.  Adaptable as regards moisture and sun, but may perform best with regular water and part sun.  Blooms early summer through early fall.  Can multiply rapidly.  Zones 7-10 (or maybe a lower range of 8a, depending on the source).

I put these in a pot to get them started, and they had already emerged with small leaves and even a few flowers, fooled by the warm winter we'd been having.  However, they were bitten back by the recent freeze, and now I'm a little worried over them.  I left the pot out on the covered patio with no sheet or other protection, because I mistakenly thought these oxalis would be very cold-hardy.  Now I see that some sources say they're only hardy to zone 8a.  I hope they weren't killed by the cold!  (Colder in a pot than in the ground, of course.)  Oh well... Fingers crossed. (I see anecdotal evidence that this plant can live in much colder zones, so I feel hopeful.)

Miscanthus 'Adagio'
{Miscanthus 'Adagio'}

Gladiolus carneus.
A.k.a. painted lady gladiolus, sword lily, South African gladiolus.  13"-18" tall.  Dry or average moisture, well-drained soil.  Full sun.  Blooms very variable, ranging from white to pale pink, often with a reddish blotch on the petals.  Zones 6-10.

These were significantly more costly (per corm) than the Gladiolus italicus (sold as Byzantine gladiolus) that I ordered at the same time, but I thought it would be fun to try a few of them.  (I believe I bought a five-pack, and the little corms were soooo tiny!)  They seem to be fairly uncommon (which accounts for the price), and I haven't read much about them, but I'm looking forward to seeing them bloom (which should happen in mid-spring).  They look beautiful in photos, at least.

The place I bought them listed the zones as 6-10, but I see another site suggesting they're more tender than that-- only zones 9-10.  I expect they're able to handle colder temperatures than that.  (Or else mine may never come up at all!)


A.k.a. amarcrinum or hardy amaryllis.  25"-30" tall.  Strap-like leaves.  Fragrant pink flowers (shaped like those of a crinum or amaryllis) in late summer and fall.  Full sun, average moisture.  Zones 7-10.  Likes rich, well-drained soil.

This plant is a cross between Amaryllis belladonna and Crinum moorei.  It's not the very cheapest bulb ($7.57 for one), but what I've read about the crinodonna has intrigued me.  It's supposed to be "wonderfully fragrant" and well-suited to hot and humid summers.  In zones 8 and warmer, it's described as evergreen, with "bold, dark green foliage".  The cut flowers are reportedly excellent.  I tend to prefer to leave my flowers outside, but if the weather threatens to ruin them, it's nice to have the option of taking them inside.

This seems to be a relatively uncommon plant-- not as widely grown as many other summer-blooming bulbs, at least.  I've seen it described as one of those plants that improves with age.  We'll see...

Muhly Grass Abstract
{muhly grass}

Dietes iridioides.
A.k.a. African iris, fortnight lily or Cape iris.  White flowers (marked with yellow and purple), spring through late fall.  Stiff, iris-like, evergreen foliage, 2-3' tall/3-4' wide.  Part to full sun (though I believe I read that a little shade is helpful in the Deep South).  Drought-tolerant, once established.  Zones 8-11.

I think this may be one of those plants that are now considered "over-used", but if a plant is "used" that often, there must be a reason for it.  This one can supposedly spread by seeds (as well as rhizomes), so some suggest deadheading.  I probably won't bother unless it ever starts getting out of hand.

Blanketflower Foliage
{blanketflower foliage}

Liriope muscari 'Aztec Grass'.
A.k.a. variegated monkey grass.  Green and silver variegated, evergreen foliage.  Tough and easy to grow.  Part sun; medium water.  Up to 15" tall and wide (though that sounds tall to me, and I'd be quite surprised if it got that big in my garden).  Zones 7-11.  

I think this is different from the variegated monkey grass I was already growing.  It looks more white/silver than that one, which has a more yellowish tint to the variegation-- but even if they turn out to be the same, it's nice to have more of it in the garden.  

Purple Coneflower Seedhead
{purple coneflower seedhead}

Liriope muscari 'Emerald Goddess'.
This is "just" another type of plain old green "monkey grass", but it's a named cultivar, whereas the green monkey grass I already have is unknown to me (beyond the belief that it must be Liriope muscari, based on its appearance and the fact that it doesn't spread like wildfire, the way that Liriope spicata apparently does).  My monkey grass was passed along to me as divisions from Mom's own supply (and maybe some of Granny L.'s-- at least one clump was, that I know of).  

It would be very interesting to me to know the exact heritage of my monkey grass, actually-- to trace it back from person to person and find out exactly how it finally reached my garden.  Did Mom get her first clump of monkey grass from Granny, and did Granny get her start from a family member (her own mother, perhaps), or a friend, or did she buy it from a store?  (I have a feeling that there weren't that many places to buy plants, locally, when Granny started her garden back at the house "in town".  Speaking of which, when they built their new home in the country, did she start over with new plants, or did she take some-- including monkey grass-- with her?)

In any case, my monkey grass is a valuable commodity, but I thought it might be interesting to try a named cultivar-- and to be completely honest, when I read about 'Emerald Goddess', I was under the impression that it might grow taller and more impressive-looking than my "regular" monkey grass.  I was expecting something along the lines of a monkey grass that looked more like a so-called ornamental grass.  Now I'm not so sure about the difference in height-- but at least it's supposed to be a good cultivar.  I'll probably keep it as an accent plant for a while, then maybe divide it and sprig it around a tree or something.  There's not enough of it to edge anything, and won't be for a while, even with diligent division.  

That brings me to another thought... One or two store-bought pots of monkey grass won't break the bank, but if you had to go out and buy enough of it to edge any but the most paltry of flower beds, you'd have to spend a fair amount!  

Carex 'Everillo'
{Carex 'Everillo' :: nibbled by rabbits! destined to go back in pots...}

Stipa tenuissima.
A.k.a. Nasella, Mexican feather grass.  Ornamental grass.  12"-24" tall.  Very low-maintenance once established.  Bright green foliage with feathery plumes in summer.  Well-drained soil in full sun or light shade.  Zones 7-10.

I wanted to add some more ornamental grasses to the garden, but there were slim pickings when I went shopping.  First of all, there weren't that many varieties to choose from, in any of the places I looked.  Second, some of the more attractive specimens were larger plants and rather expensive (by my standard, keeping in mind that I try to be fairly thrifty).  Third, many of the smaller pots looked awful.  I don't know if they were dead or merely gone dormant for the year, but they looked dead, and I wouldn't spend good money on any plant that with such a dry, faded appearance.  

...Anyway, this Mexican feather grass was one of the few small plants that still seemed to have some life left in it, so I decided to give it a try, even though it wasn't on my personal wishlist of ornamental grasses.  And so of course when I got home and researched it, I learned that it is considered extremely invasive, in some places.  However, what's invasive in California may not be quite such a problem here.  At least, that's what I'm hoping.  I planted it in the new bed over the field lines and we'll just see what happens.  It is an attractive plant, in many photos.  It has a very soft visual texture and looks like it would be gorgeous in a breeze.  

Strawberry Begonia
{strawberry begonia}

Strawberry Begonia
{strawberry begonia}

Miscanthus sinesis 'Adagio'.  
A.k.a. dwarf maiden grass.    Zones 5-9.  Part to full sun.  Water regularly.  5' tall, 3' wide.  Silvery-green foliage that changes color (orange, gold, burgundy) in fall.  Flower plumes bloom in late summer.

I've included a couple photos of this one and at least mentioned it on the blog, but I never went into details about it.  It's a fairly common cultivar, but again, I'm more concerned with how a plant performs than with how common or rare it may be.  Its popularity is only a sign that it tends to succeed and please people.  

I ended up planting this on the western side of the house, between the circle bed (over the septic tank) and the bay window.  

- - - - - - -

This morning, when I was heading into the garage to put away the loppers, I paused to look at some shriveled purple heart foliage that needs cutting back and was startled to find a tiny snake sunning itself right by the personnel door.

Little Snake

I'm not really a "snake person", but as snakes go, this is a pretty one.  Is it a corn snake or a rat snake?  I'm not sure how to tell them apart by sight.  All I really need to know is that it's non-venomous and therefore a good snake-- so long as it keeps out of the way of myself and my dogs!  However, if a good snake is out and about, that means a bad snake might be, too... Even in January, there can be snakes on the move (especially with all this warm weather), and it's wise to keep that in mind.