Monday, February 20, 2017

Spring All Around

If it hadn't already been abundantly clear that spring came early this year, this weekend would have been full of clues.

We spent some time sitting pleasantly in the shade of a live oak on a record-breaking Sunday afternoon.  (It was record-breaking in nearby cities, at least.  For us, it was probably somewhere in the low eighties-- but our thermometer is broken, so I'm not sure of the exact temperature.)  The low humidity makes all the difference!

The carpenter bees have been out and about for a week or two.  There are quite a few of them, and they seem to be ignoring the bee traps.  I'm not sure if this is because the traps are old and need fresh wood to attract the bees or if the bees simply aren't in nest-building mode, yet.  Maybe they need to mate before they start looking for nesting sites...

Unfortunately, the wasps were also out, this weekend, and there are numerous ant beds popping up here and there.  (I'll probably try to poison them right before the next rain.  I'd rather not use poisons in the yard, but if the alternative is having anthills everywhere... I've tried boiling water and turning the water hose on them, as some recommend as an alternative-- mainly when they've built in/near our vegetable patch, where I won't use ant poison.  Sometimes it seems to help-- sometimes not.)

On a more positive note, were were able to have the windows open last night-- not something you can always do comfortably in February.

And then there are the visible signs of spring...

I don't know if this bird's nest in the loropetalum is new or from last year, but it gave me a spring feeling.  If it's new, this bird chose a beautiful spot to build, in the rose-tinted light that filters through those bright pink fringe-flowers!

Bird's Nest

The first of the spring starflowers (Ipheion) have emerged!
I think these are 'Jessie', planted around the older tea olive beside the garage.


They were already a bit spotted, because they'd been out for a day or two and had been rained on-- but still quite a pretty color.  Each flower is small-- roughly the size of a quarter-- but Ipheion is supposed to multiply fairly quickly, so when they get established, there can be a carpet of blooms that lasts for weeks.

(Looking it up again, just now, I see that some sources suggest morning sun/afternoon shade.  My source said "full sun", so that's what I've given... If they seem to suffer from too much sun, I might have to move them, at some point.)


We don't have many daffodils, but here's one of the few...  (Wish I knew the variety.)


The roses are already getting started for the year, too!  (I really did wait too long to prune them, so most of them missed out.  Maybe December is a good time to do it, this year, just to be safe...)

Here's 'Sunny', the yellow KO rose:

Yellow KO Rose

The double pink KO rose is not far behind.  (Neither is the double red, not pictured.)

Pink KO Rose

On the arbor, 'Joseph's Coat' is on its third or fourth flower, already.  (All opening within the period of a week or so.)

'Joseph's Coat' Rose

On the other side of the arbor, 'Peggy Martin' has buds, but no open flowers, yet.  This rose has grown a lot since we planted it, but it hasn't yet bloomed magnificently.  Just a few flowers here and there.  I think this year might be better for flowers, since it's somewhat settled in.

'Peggy Martin' Rose

The forsythia sage has put up a number of stems, which is encouraging.  Last year, I think there might have been only one-- maybe two.

Forsythia Sage

The Japanese magnolias are still flowering, though the ground around this one is littered with fallen petals...

Japanese Magnolia

The same goes for the camellia...



This dianthus has lived well beyond what we expected.  I'm not sure how long it's been there... This has to be at least its third year, maybe fourth... I believe its sheltered location (just to the south of the garage, in full sun) has kept it alive through the winters-- plus maybe we haven't had the very coldest winters since it was planted... It's survived being the support system for multiple ant beds, too.  What a will to live!


Salvia purpurea, purple heart, dianthus:

Salvia, Purple Heart, and Dianthus

And in closing, a random photo of purple oxalis (just because it's pretty right now):

Purple Oxalis

Monday, February 13, 2017

More Signs of Spring

There are new signs of spring, every day.

The swamp sunflowers have started to colonize in earnest.  All these little rosettes have started popping up in a pretty wide arc around the parent plant.  I'll need to either pull some of these new plants or transplant them elsewhere in the garden.  This is definitely a plant that you have to stay on top of, if you don't want it taking over the whole flowerbed.  However, so far I haven't had difficulty removing it or restricting its spread by manually pulling it, unlike the worst spreaders.  (We'll see how it goes, this year.)

Swamp Sunflower

The newly-planted bulbs are sending up leaves all over the place!
This is a Spanish bluebell, which isn't supposed to bloom until late spring/early summer.

Spanish Bluebell Sprouting

Canna lilies (pictured below), elephant ears, and white butterfly ginger have all begun putting up their first green shoots.  (White butterfly ginger seems early, this year.  All the other gingers are taking longer to emerge-- but I seem to remember that the latest one didn't come up until around Mother's Day-- in mid-May-- last year.)

Emerging Canna Lily

More bulbs!
The thinner, grassier foliage is Ipheion (spring starflower).  The wider, taller blades are Gladiolus italicus.

Ipheion and Gladiolus italicus

This is Triteleia 'Queen Fabiola'.  Apparently some common names for this plant are "pretty face" and "fool's onion".  While I find the nickname amusing, I'm not sure why they'd be known as "fool's onion", because I've read that they actually can be eaten-- either raw or cooked.  I've also read that they tend to bloom when/after the leaves fade away, and the 'Queen Fabiola' variety has a fragrance.

These are wildflowers native to the Western U.S. (northern California, for instance), so they may not thrive here in the much more humid Southeast, but I guess they were worth a try.  They're planted in a sunny, sandy spot, so they're getting the best shot I can give them.

'Queen Fabiola' Triteleia

Most of the types of salvia I grow have already started sprouting new leaves.  On the left (below) is Salvia purpurea, which seems to have come through this mild winter with flying colors.  On the right is 'Blue Bedder' sage (Salvia farinacea).  (I think this will be the third year since I started it from seed, and it has been well worth that effort.  If these plants ever die out, I plan to start more.  They're reportedly short-lived, but I've been favorably impressed by them.)

Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) has silvery-green signs of new growth, bog sage (Salvia uliginosa) never lost its leaves this winter, and I've shown a photo of forsythia sage (Salvia madrensis).  Even the 'Victoria Blue' sage has leaves.  (I say "even" because it has been kind of a weakling plant for me, dwindling and never looking particularly happy or healthy.)

The only sage keeping me on pins and needles is 'Pizzazz Purple'.  It's still early.  I'd just hate to lose that plant, because I loved it so much last year!  I plan to take cuttings earlier in the season, this year, and get a few new plants going.

Salvia (purpurea and 'Blue Bedder')

A couple of lunaria (a.k.a. honesty, money plant, silver dollars) I grew from seed (from Nan Ondra's seed giveaway) have survived, even in their tiny little starter pots.  I'll find places for them in the garden, soon.  They should bloom this year, with luck.  This is one of those plants I've wanted to grow for a long time, so I'm curious to see how they'll do... Both plants are of the 'Corfu Blue' variety.


Lots of things are just now starting to leaf out.  I've spotted leaves on sky flower (Duranta erecta 'Sapphire Showers'), rose of Sharon, and (pictured below) butterfly vine (Mascagnia macroptera).

Butterfly Vine

Some of the new Black Diamond crepe myrtles are covered in tiny leaves, while others are a little slower to start.

Black Diamond Crepe Myrtle Leaves

Black Diamond Crepe Myrtle Leaves

And the tea olives have really begun to be fragrant, starting last week.  It's strange... They've had flowers for a while, but you could only smell them if you deliberately took a close sniff.  Then, like a light switching on, their fragrance began to carry.  Wonderful!

Tea Olive

The camellia is still in airy, delicate-looking bloom, too.



This afternoon, I spent an hour or two dealing with some plant clean-up.  There is much more to do, but it's still progress, and the sections I cleaned up look much tidier already-- though it's come to my attention that I'm nowhere near done mulching.  The early weeds are taking over!

The biggest visual impact was from the removal of an oddly placed branch of the large loropetalum (in the semi-shade garden).  I'd decided a while back that it ought to be removed, but it felt like a big move, because it was a sizable branch.  Now it's done, and I think it looks much nicer.  Having it out makes that one corner feel more open and "maintained", and I suspect nearby plants will look better for the extra room, come summer.  (No photos yet, sorry!)

Forest Floor

Japanese Magnolias

We have two Japanese magnolias.
The one in the front is the younger and smaller of the two, though neither have (yet) grown into real trees, as they sometimes do.  

The flowers of the one in the front are the darker of the two:

Japanese Magnolia

The one in the back has lighter flowers.  The inside of each petal is markedly lighter than the outside, too:

Japanese Magnolia

Japanese Magnolia

Japanese Magnolia

Japanese Magnolia

I've noticed, driving around, that often plants bloom a little later here in our garden than they do in gardens not that far away. Is that an indication that our yard has a slightly cooler microclimate (certainly doesn't feel cooler in the summertime!), or is it more a reflection of variations in soil/water/fertilizer/etc.?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

More Hints of Spring

The new oxalis (Oxalis tetraphylla 'Iron Cross') has put up new leaves, so I guess it was ok in the pot during those few cold nights.  (Phew!)  The plants are still very young and small, but the leaves are beautiful!

'Iron Cross' Oxalis

I don't think I ever managed to find a lucky four-leaf clover, as a child-- not enough patches of clover, not enough time, or not enough patience?-- but every single one of these has four leaves.  Do you think they're all lucky?  ;o)

'Iron Cross' Oxalis

Spring snowflakes continue to bloom.  That makes me feel lucky, too!

Spring Snowflake

Donald commented that some of the new daylily foliage looks like tulip leaves.  I haven't had much first-hand experience of tulips because they don't grow well here (it doesn't get cold enough to chill them properly), but I've seen photos and illustrations.  I think new tulip foliage is usually fleshier than this, but there is a resemblance.

(Is that chickweed?  I think so... There's quite a bit of it around the flowerbeds, right now.  If I'm not mistaken, it usually dies back once the weather heats up-- only to replaced by other types of weeds-- but it wouldn't hurt to get out there and pull some of it.  That is, it would hurt my knees and maybe my back, if I had to kneel too long to pull it, but, well, you know what I mean...)

Daylily Leaves

The remnants of the bog sage look skeletal and ghostly-grey in the early morning light...

Bog Sage Remnants

The tea olives (Osmanthus fragrans) are in bloom, but most days, lately, the fragrance just doesn't "carry" very far.  It's there if you take the time to stop and sniff, though.

Tea Olive

The new leaves of the "too-red" rose are probably the prettiest in the yard-- beautiful purplish burgundy.

Unknown ("Too-Red") Rose Foliage

I neglected to post these back when I took them-- January 20th.  There was a doe outside our fence that morning.  I sneaked a few photos through the window.  This is the first deer we've seen for a while.



One day, within the last week or so, we saw a handsome hawk perched (in broad daylight) on the new arbor (near the garage).  It's not the first time I've glimpsed a bird of prey either on the arbor or on our roof, but this time it sat still long enough for us to really see it.  There wasn't time to get the camera for a photo, unfortunately.

It's always a treat to see something wild like that, right in your own back yard.

Garden Survey - Late January 2017

It felt like time for another (not-quite-complete) garden survey. Things have changed quite a bit in a few spots, since the last one. In other parts of the garden, the only difference is that it looks so empty, with all the plants that have died back for the winter.  It will look emptier still if I ever finish cutting everything back to make way for spring!

Luna and Trixie helped with the tour, this time, so they're in several of the photos, fulfilling their plant-inspection duties.

We start with a familiar scene-- looking to the right after exiting the covered patio area.  As you can see, I haven't cut things back here, yet.

Garden Survey: Late January 2017

We have a few evergreens in this part of the garden.  The gardenias, for instance (though the new ones are not looking in tip-top condition, I'm afraid).  The 'Golden Goddess' bamboo (down at the end of the path, past the trellis) has also stayed beautifully green all winter.  Our Louisiana iris seems to die down very briefly every winter, but the cemetery iris is either evergreen or very nearly so.  (This year it was, for certain.)

Several of the daylilies here and elsewhere in the garden are either evergreen or semi-evergreen.  The umbrella palm hung in there for a long time before some especially chilly temperatures bit it back.  Likewise, the variegated flax lily and African iris were almost evergreen this year.  I'm a little worried for the flax lily... If it doesn't come back, I guess I won't bother with it again, which is disappointing, as it did so well until that cold spell.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, the snowflakes (spring snowflakes?) I transplanted last year are blooming, though I've read that sometimes they sulk after being moved.  They are among the very first flowers of the year in our garden-- tiny but charming.

Garden Survey: Late January 2017

Now we're looking back the other way down the Straight and Narrow Path.
It's a bit messy here... Did I mention that I've been lazy about clearing up last year's debris?  I think the night-blooming jasmine did die to the ground (as usual), so I need to cut that back, too.

Garden Survey: Late January 2017

Turning slightly to the left...
It's not looking its best, but what garden does, this early in the season?

I'm surprised that they bog sage (Salvia uliginosa) stayed so green over the winter!  It definitely needs pruning, but I'd expected it to turn brown long ago.  I'm still thinking of moving it somewhere sunnier, but I'll need to settle on where it's going (and probably wait until slightly warmer weather has settled in).

Seeing the lomandra ('Breeze') reminds me that it appears a rabbit has been nibbling it!  It's supposed to be rabbit-resistant, but I guess it didn't resist strongly enough!  I've already potted up the two clumps of Japanese sedge ('Everillo') I'd put in the ground, nearby.  Rabbits had feasted them down to a tattered shadow of their former selves.  Oh well, they'll just have to make do in pots, I guess...

But the lomandra!  I don't think I want to keep that in a pot!  Darn rabbits!  (Sometimes I wish Trixie and Luna were "outside dogs" who would make sure the rabbits minded their manners, but they don't really like staying outside for long unless The People are keeping them company.  No telling what fun things might be happening inside the house!)

Garden Survey: Late January 2017

Another slight turn to the left...
I've just finished weeding those pots of daylily seedlings.  I'll wait for warmer weather before putting them in the ground.  (Still not positive where they're headed, but there are plenty of places that could use more daylily "filler".)

Last year, I kept most of my succulents grouped around that little plant stand beside Luna.  I'm not sure if they'll go back there or not.  They'll have to find a spot somewhere... Succulents are still not my strong suit.  They need lots of sun, right?  But too much sun sometimes burns (some of) them-- though too little starves them or makes them leggy.  Then there's the issue of how much water they need... They have a reputation for being foolproof, but I'm never sure of myself when dealing with them.

Garden Survey: Late January 2017

Along the front of the house...
This area needs mulching.  The new azaleas seem to have made it through the winter alright.  The 'Little Lime' hydrangea hasn't shown signs of new leaves, but I think it took it a while to leaf out last year, too.  (I need to prune it before that happens, ideally.)  However, I'm feeling less optimistic about the 'Endless Summer' hydrangea (out of frame/not pictured).  It's just never taken off and barely looked alive by the end of last summer.  It might be time to replace it.  I have some options in mind, including yet another hydrangea that I rooted from one of our existing plants, last year.

Garden Survey: Late January 2017

Turning to look the opposite direction...
The banana shrub has been slowly growing-- and it's not the only thing.  You may not notice it, but the flower bed along the fence there has been creeping out to cover more ground.

Garden Survey: Late January 2017

There are also two small trees newly planted in this recently expanded bed-- an unknown rose of Sharon and a 'Red Hot' Black Diamond crepe myrtle.  I plan to eventually fill in the bed with a mix of workhorse perennials and possibly a small shrub or two.  Also, I'd like to edge them all with monkey grass, but that will take time, because I intend to do so "on the cheap", by dividing what I have every year or two.

Garden Survey: Late January 2017

...and I do have a lot of area to cover!

For the next photo, I've turned to the right.  This is what used to be the small, new island bed in the front yard.  I've connected it to an existing bed (the one containing, among other things, a sizable sago palm and an ash tree).  Now it's one really long island.  It looks fairly empty at the moment, but recent plantings include three 'Pure White' Black Diamond crepe myrtles and two gardenias rooted from the standard-size one in the back yard.

If you're not familiar with the Black Diamond line of crepe myrtles (and I wasn't, until last year), they have much darker (described as black!) foliage than the usual crepe.  They grow 10-12 feet tall by 8 feet wide and are available in a range of eight colors, at the moment.

Our color choices were largely based on what was available at a discount-- otherwise I probably would've opted for a pink or purple rather than red.  I like red flowers in some applications-- and I think both the red and and the white will be pretty-- but sometimes it seems that pinks blend with other colors better.  I'll be curious to see what this red looks like in person, because flower photos don't always tell the truth, as we all know.  Anyway, my garden is already such an informal crazy-quilt of colors that it should be okay.

Are there times I wish the garden were more strategically laid out-- more "orchestrated"?  Sure.  But I've come to realize that I'm just not that much of a planner in the garden.  I like to extend flowerbeds a little at a time, which makes having a master plan tricky (especially because I never know exactly where/when I'll be inspired to change something).

And when it comes to plants-- I know it's frowned upon by fancy gardeners, but I want a little bit of everything; I have neither the discipline nor the inclination to live within a restrained palette of plants or colors.  (You only live once, after all!)  So a mishmash it is!  Or to put a more positive spin on it, it's an exuberant, carefree, anything-goes Southern-style cottage garden.  I'm sure it looks like a disorganized mess to some people, but the beauty of living in the country is that I don't have to care what anyone else thinks about it.  No homeowners' associations to appease!  Not even a disagreeable right-next-door neighbor to look over the fence with a scowl or a sneer.

Garden Survey: Late January 2017

Well, back to the tour...
Facing the front of the house, with just the tip of the new Long Island Bed ;o) showing on the left-hand side...

Not much to see, here.  I'm leaving this area of lawn be for now.  I think the plan is to try to leave a path for a moving truck (or similar) to back up fairly close to the front door.  There's still some room to expand the growing area on the right, though, if desired.

Off to the right, that part of the yard has changed drastically in just the past couple of years.  The growth of the banana shrub and some new plants (especially the bamboo) have provided a pretty effective screen from the easement.  When someone drives down, they still have something of a view into the Straight and Narrow Path, but unless they're creeping along, really looking, it's a fairly private spot.  We don't get much traffic down the easement, anyway, but I do like a sense of privacy, when I'm enjoying the garden...

Garden Survey: Late January 2017

Slight turn to the left...

Garden Survey: Late January 2017

And one more turn to the left...
There's a lot of shade here in the morning.  Of course, this is early February, so it's more shade than at many other times of the year, but even in the summer, the tall pine trees cast a dappled shade here in the early hours.

Garden Survey: Late January 2017

Here you can see some of the island bed's plantings.  Very skimpy-looking, at the moment.

Garden Survey: Late January 2017

Eventually, the trees and shrubs will grow, and in the meantime, I'll try to fill in the bare spots with tough perennials and annuals.  Plants in the front yard can't expect as much tending and special care as those in the main garden beds.  I'll try to get them well-established in their first year, but beyond that...  It's just too much work to haul the long water hose up there!

Garden Survey: Late January 2017

Here's the grassy path between the front foundation planting and the Long Island Bed...

Garden Survey: Late January 2017

Have I ever photographed the new island bed on the septic pad?  I can't recall.  Here it is, now.

The winter/early-spring weeds have begun to green things up in this part of the yard, and because I didn't mulch the new bed very heavily (as suggested on that info-sheet from Clemson), the weeds are already encroaching on the new island, too.  I can do some weeding, but I may apply a bit more mulch, too.

I've actually changed the plantings slightly since this was taken.  I removed some of these orange daylilies (put them on the back of the back-patio trellis, where nothing else seemed to want to grow, except for weeds) and replaced them with a few other daylilies and Crososmia 'Lucifer' corms.  The bamboo stakes are marking where I've planted bulbs.  Already, there are many green shoots poking up-- spring starflower (Ipheion) and Gladiolus italicus.

It's not much to look at, right now...

Garden Survey: Late January 2017

But then again, neither are most of the other flower beds much to write home about, in late winter/early spring.  Most plants have either died to the ground or lost their leaves.  Even the ones that have kept their leaves tend to look shabby.

I'm in the process of cutting back the no-ID rose bushes.  I had intended to cut back nearly all the roses, but I wonder if I've waited too long.  The Knock Out roses have already put out new leaves.  I'm not sure if it's better to cut them back anyway or wait.  I feel so guilty cutting off new growth!

Garden Survey: Late January 2017

The new island bed from the other direction...
This one really needs a monkey grass border, pronto!

Garden Survey: Late January 2017

I'm going to do something with that circular bed, but I just can't settle on what... The gravel wasn't really ideal.  I had thought of planting it with purple heart.  It could look lovely in summer-- sort of a faux circular pool with a tall potted plant in the center acting as a "fountain"-- but then I was reminded that purple heart dies back completely in winter... I'm not sure what I'll do, yet.  Something...

Garden Survey: Late January 2017

Here's the final photo for this abbreviated tour.  I didn't take photos of the curvy path beds, because there's not much happening.  Roses are leafing out and some daylilies are re-emerging, but that's about it.  Oh, and there are tons of rosettes of swamp sunflower popping up like crazy.  I'll probably need to remove some of them to keep it from taking over too much...

Garden Survey: Late January 2017

Spring is right around the corner, if it's not already here.