Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Ghost Plant

Ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense).

Ghost Plant

(Also known as mother-of-pearl plant and Sedum weinbergii.)

This is one of those plants I grew up seeing in my mother's and grandmother's gardens-- and that's where I got my start of ghost plant, too-- a big pot full of these tough succulents that look like flowers carved from stone...

Ghost Plant

I haven't always had the best of luck with it, though it is a very tough, hardy plant.  (I guess I've just been a little too neglectful, from time to time.  Maybe I haven't cut it back and replanted it, as you need to do every so often when it gets too leggy...)

The fact that it's come back time and again from a rough patch demonstrates how resilient it is.

Ghost Plant

Around here, it can take the hottest of the summer sun (though partial shade in the afternoon might help preserve their best looks), yet it can also live outdoors through our winters.  (I've gotten into the habit of moving it into the garage when I'm shifting around the tender plants, but I've come to wonder if it might be better off left alone.  Maybe I'll leave the bigger pots out, next winter.)

Ghost Plant

It's easily propagated from a leaf broken off the stem-- and they do fall off quite easily when bumped!

Ghost Plant

This is without doubt the easiest succulent I've grown, so far, and because it reminds me of family gardens from the past, I'm glad to think that I'll probably always have at least one pot of it growing somewhere...

Ghost Plant

Random March Photos



Pots of caladium successfully weathered the winter in the garage (no water until spring):


'Peggy Martin' rose:

'Peggy Martin' Rose

'Blue Bedder' Salvia ready to bloom soon:

'Blue Bedder' Sage

'Blue Bedder' Sage

Sweet William surprised me (didn't know it was still alive):

Sweet William

Knock Out rose:

Double Red KO Rose

A few daylilies are already putting up scapes!:

Emerging Daylily Scapes

Ipheion uniflorum (spring starflower):

Spring Starflower

Here are some of the succulents recently released from the prison of the garage window.  The hypertufa planter is one I made last summer and just planted up.  I'd like to make more, but it takes an effort to get it all together and do it!


Daylily seedlings:

Daylily Seedlings
Nearing sunset:

Garden Sunset

Monday, March 20, 2017

TOM-a-Toes and Urbs

You may say toe-MAY-toe, and your friend may say toe-MAH-toe, but when I'm feeling silly, I like to call them TOM-a-toes.  ;o)

Tomato Plants

We planted some tomatoes and herbs, over the past couple of days.  This year, the tomatoes are 'Early Girl', 'Celebrity', 'Grape', 'Sweet 100', and 'Rapunzel'.  We tend to have better luck with smaller and/or early tomatoes, which ripen before the heat and pests are at their worst.

'Celebrity' Tomato

(It's a struggle to get tomatoes to live long in our miserable summers.  It is possible to put in a second round of plants, later in the year, for a late-season crop, but we haven't tried it, yet.  I took cuttings of our tomato plants, last summer, and they were doing pretty well until right near the time to plant them, when I discovered a tomato horn worm infestation too late to save them.)

'Rapunzel' Tomato

In addition to the tomatoes, we got one each of fernleaf dill and onion chives, which we're trying in terra-cotta pots near the back patio, where we can harvest it more easily.  I've also sown seeds (which may be too old to do much) of mammoth dill and new seeds of onion chives (the more chives the merrier), bunching onions, and dark opal basil.

Onion Chives
{onion chives}

Fernleaf Dill
{fernleaf dill}

It might be too late for some of the seeds, but oh well-- they were already purchased, so at least I'm giving them a try!  I'm a better flower gardener than vegetable gardener... I think it's partly that I just care more about the decorative plants. The fact that the vegetables are guaranteed to die in the heat of summer makes it harder for me to want to lavish attention on them.  Plus, vegetables attract so many disgusting bugs, which makes me want to stay away from them.  (I can come up with more reasons/excuses, if you'd like. (g))

Anyway, to get back to the dark opal basil, I've read conflicting reports on whether or not it will stay dark-foliaged in heat, but according to some Southern gardeners, it has significant ornamental appeal, as well as being edible-- and its natural oils may repel tomato hornworms, mites, and aphids.  If I have luck with the seeds, I'll try to put some by the tomatoes and some to fill in gaps in the perennials beds.  (I do love interesting foliage!)  It is fragrant, and if you let it go to flower (by not picking off the flower buds), they are a purply pink.  The flowers have some visual value, but most people growing basil for cooking remove the buds to prolong the life of the plant and to direct more energy into growing leaves.

Seed Trays
{basil seedtrays}

Apparently, cuttings root easily in water, which is good to know.  Even if I only get one or two plants from seed, I can propagate by cuttings.  (Making new plants from cuttings is one of the most fun/exciting/amazing things to do in the garden, imho.)

As for flavor, dark opal basil is described as "milder than sweet basil, with hints of cinnamon, anise, mint, and clove".  (I have a hard time imagining how that would taste.  I don't know that I've ever eaten much fresh basil... We usually just used dried.  Not exactly bon vivants, either of us. ;o))  It can be used to accent salads and other uncooked dishes.  (I'm no expert, but I can't see why you couldn't use it in cooked dishes, too.  Maybe the milder flavor would be more likely to get lost when it's cooked...)

At some point, I intend to plant some yellow crookneck squash-- probably the sooner the better-- but I don't know if we'll plant any other edibles, this spring.  We considered peppers, because they've done well for us in the past, but I'm the only one who'd be eating them, and I don't eat that many peppers, really...  Okra's the same story.  I haven't had the best luck in the past, but I think I can grow it; however, Donald doesn't eat it, and I don't want tons of it, myself.  If I can figure out when to plant them, there are cool-season vegetables that might be more worthwhile.  I'm sure I'll find more than enough outdoor projects to fill the summer, without the addition of more vegetables to keep alive.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Freeze Warning!

After an early beginning of spring, we had a freeze warning, earlier this week.  For the two coldest nights, I covered select plants (those I thought were most likely to suffer from the cold/plants I most wanted to protect from a set-back) with sheets and inverted plastic nursery pots.  The daylily seedlings and most of the succulents went into the garage overnight.  I'm not sure how cold it actually got (still no new external thermometer), but I suspect that it might not have reached freezing.

I'm hopeful that we won't have any more freezing temperatures, this season, now that the plants are getting further along in their spring wake-up.

The first evening that was supposed to be near freezing, I took a few photos of plants, just in case they were bitten back by the cold.  As it turns out, I don't think many things were damaged, but there's no reason not to post those photos now...

- - - - - - -

The 'Peggy Martin' rose is steadily opening more and more flowers.  The leaves are pretty spotty, unfortunately, but the flowers are pretty-- and from a distance, you don't see the spotted leaves so much...

'Peggy Martin' Rose

'Peggy Martin' Rose

The 'Joseph's Coat' rose on the other side of the arbor still isn't looking that healthy.  I'm tempted to cut it back, dig it up, move it elsewhere, and start over with something else, in this location-- but I'll probably give it another growing season to redeem itself.  (And it will give me time to think about what else would be good to grow here, if not that particular rose...)

'Joseph's Coat' Rose

'Joseph's Coat' Rose

I believe this must be the 'Fireflame' clematis, because though the color isn't as bright as it has been in the past, the stamens aren't the right color for it to be 'Pink Climador', which is the other clematis I planted on that side of the arbor...  Maybe the earliness of the bloom made it paler than usual.


The white clematis have been blooming-- not as prolifically as in some years.  Still beautiful, though.

NOID Clematis

NOID Clematis

NOID Clematis

NOID Clematis

The mountain laurel has buds...

Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel

Pineapple lilies (Eucomis comosa) are beginning to emerge.  This might be 'Twinkle Stars', based on the purple foliage.  I didn't realize that clump of daylilies was quite so close, when I planted the eucomis bulb, so I will probably go back and carefully dig up the daylilies, which can find a home elsewhere in the garden.  (Oh, and the purple foliage in the foreground is purple heart.)

Pineapple Lily

I've been surprised by how early the gingers have come up, this year.  This is variegated shell ginger (Alpina zerumbet 'Variegata').  Butterfly ginger has been up for a while, now, including the one named variety I have-- 'Elizabeth'.  My tiny bit of orange bottlebrush ginger lily (Hedychium aurantiacum) has also recently sent up its first shoot of the year.  It stayed in a pot over the winter, so I'll have to find a permanent home for it soon...

Variegated Shell Ginger

And here's some pincushion ginger (Hedychium thyrsiforme).  The only ones not yet showing signs of life are Curcuma elata and Curcuma 'Scarlet Fever'-- and if they were up in early March, I would be stunned.

Pincushion Ginger

The Confederate rose in the backyard has kept all its new spring leaves, but the tiny piece in the front lost them.  I think the one in the back is benefiting from the shelter of the shed to its north.  Of course, its location also comes with a potential problem-- restricted sunlight.

Confederate Rose

Confederate Rose

More and more of the spring starflowers are showing up, now.  'Jessie' was the first to emerge (see an earlier post).  Then came some that I think are 'Rolf Fiedler':

'Wisley Blue' Ipheion (?)

Next came the species, Ipheion uniflorum (in the photo below)-- and just today I noticed some that are closer to white that I think might be 'White Star' (not pictured).  I'll have to give them a closer look to decide if they're pure white or a paler iteration of the species, which can vary quite a bit.  (I'm pretty sure they're white, though.)

Ipheion uniflorum

I'll also have to get down on my knees and give them a sniff to see if I can detect the violet-like fragrance they're supposed to have.  I sniffed one of the very first ones and didn't notice much, but maybe I'll have better luck if I try again.

- - - - - - -

The threat of killing frost put a damper on my gardening mood, so I haven't done much outside in the past several days (beyond protecting plants), but now that the danger is past (or at least that particular cold snap is over), I'm getting more excited about gardening, again, and I hope to do more mulching and weeding in the coming week or two.  There are also things needing transplanting and bigger projects to work on-- and more seeds to start, when it's warm enough.  (When is it warm enough?)

Ah, and we bought some tomatoes and an herb or two to go in the vegetable beds, which we weeded (as best we could) last weekend.  Maybe we will get them in the ground before the end of this weekend!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

March Planting

Mulching has come to a halt-- soon to resume, I hope.  I also intend to take another set of "survey photos", sooner or later...

In the meantime, I've spent some time planting things.

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Not pictured, I planted a few teensy bits of anise hyssop-- Agastache foeniculum 'Golden Jubilee'.  Last year, I started it from seed (courtesy of Nan Ondra's seed giveaway), but I didn't get it in the ground before the height of summer, so I kept them in their starter pots in partial shade (to keep them from drying out too quickly).  They're just tiny things, but they have a better chance where they are than in those yogurt cups.  We'll see what happens!

- - - - - - -

Again not pictured, new Crocosmia 'George Davison' corms.  I planted 25 of them and am now waiting, waiting, waiting for the first sign of green.  'George Davison' blooms are a sunny yellow, and (if I remember correctly) it's somewhat shorter than the standard orange crocosmia I'm already growing.

This year, I've planted two new colors/varieties of crocosmia-- the yellow 'George Davison' and a smaller number of the red 'Lucifer' (which I have yet to see any signs of, though I planted them some weeks ago-- sometime in January).  The orange crocosmia is a bullying plant that I've banished (as far as possible) from most of my flowerbeds.  It's allowed to grow in its own little corners and patches, but I can't imagine setting it loose in a mixed perennial bed, after the trouble it's given me in the past.  I'm very curious to see how these named varieties will perform.  If they also turn out to be bullies, at least I haven't planted them where they can get in around the roots of shrubs or trees, so it should be easier-- easier, mind you-- to dig them up and exile them to the more remote districts of the yard.

I see mixed reports regarding the amount of sunlight 'George Davison' can take.  Some say that they want full sun; other suggest afternoon shade for hot climates.  Right now, they're in the Oval Bed, so they'll be full to the brim with mid-day and afternoon sun.  I guess I can always move them, if they seem to crave some shade.

(To be honest, though, I'm losing patience with plants that aren't satisfied with shade, and yet can't take the afternoon heat/humidity/sizzling sun of the Deep South.  I mean, I certainly can't take it, but I really need my plants to be stronger than that-- mainly because it's impossible to find that mythical perfect spot that has plenty of sun in the morning, but is delicately shaded and fanned by the fluttering wings of benevolent garden fairies in the hottest part of the day-- oh, and it has rich, evenly moist soil that is also well-drained-- and never becomes waterlogged in winter.  Yeah, good luck with that!)

- - - - - - -

Two more varieties of Louisiana irises have found a home in the beds flanking the Straight and Narrow Path.  My choice was dictated by what was available when I placed my order-- so 'Black Gamecock' (very dark purple-black with a narrow band of yellow) and 'Ann Chowning' (currant red with yellow signal) it is!  (We already have 'Jeri'-- dark grape purple-- and 'Sinfonietta'-- deep sky blue with yellow signal.)

They were sold in threes, and I was impressed by the looks of the rhizomes and roots.  Not bad at all for half price!  I did see a reviewer who complained a while back that he was sent the wrong variety... As long as it's not a variety I already had, I don't think I'll mind that.  Any new-to-me variety would be fine.  (One of the benefits of not following any particular color scheme!)

I will be very surprised if they bloom this year, but maybe next summer...

- - - - - - -

I finally planted the crossvine (Bignonia 'Shalimar Red') on the new arbor.  The poor thing was not happy about moving house.  It had put down a root along the space between patio paving stones, and had reached out to find supports among its fellow pot ghetto residents-- and then a big ole meanie came along and wrenched it right out of its cozy spot!  I hope it will perk up in time.

Bignonia 'Shalimar Red'

I've seen photos of this plant growing on supports similar to the arbor, but I'm not sure how well it will actually work... There's just not much for the plant to grab onto, until over six to seven feet up.  To give it a little help, I tied some loops of thin cotton string and guided the vine through.  If it simply can't get a grip after a while, I'll move it to another location.  (I have a spot already in mind, but it's a little on the small side.  The arbor would be better for the long term.)

Bignonia 'Shalimar Red'

- - - - - - -

This morning, I started planting a mix of corms of Gladiolus nanus (hardy gladiolus).  There is something so exciting about a new bag of bulbs or corms!  (And they smell so nice and earthy, too.)  With luck, they should return year after year.  They're shorter than the standard hybrid glads, with smaller flowers and a daintier appearance.  If grown in a sheltered position, they're not supposed to need staking.  So far, they've all gone in the Oval Bed.

Hardy Gladiolus
These foam pads are useful for cushioning knees-- especially when kneeling on sharp gravel!

I stopped planting because I found a hidden ant bed right where I'd been planning to put a few more of them.  That was my sign to go ahead and poison the ant hills around the yard.  (Well, that and the fact that it's supposed to rain tonight.)  I'll try to plant the rest of the corms in the next day or two.

- - - - - - -

And to finish, a selection of random tidbits...

There are several more plants waiting for placement in the garden-- for example, these young tiger lilies and rooted cuttings of ligustrum:

Tiger Lilies and Ligustrum 'Sunshine'

More daylily seedlings are popping up!

Daylily Seedlings

This is one of those things that nag me every so often... The pink of the newer 'Peggy Martin' rose just doesn't fit perfectly with the warmer colors of the 'Joseph's Coat' rose!  For all my talk about not having a color scheme, etc., etc., it does sometimes bother me when the "wrong" colors are in too close a juxtaposition.

I don't want to move either of these plants, so I'm just waiting it out, trying to convince myself that it's okay that they don't coordinate.  And the way the 'Joseph's Coat' is looking, lately, it might solve the problem for me by dwindling to the point that it has to be moved or replaced...

'Joseph's Coat' Rose

Well, after all, there are worse problems than clashing roses!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Sundown in Spring

I took the camera for a quick photo excursion outside, this early-evening.  (Whenever I grab the camera, Luna always jumps up and heads for the door.  She's learned all my routines!)

The first thing that caught my eye, this morning, was that the closed-up buds of the crossvine (Bignonia 'Shalimar Red') have started to open.  The flowers in the first photo have a dusting of... something.  I think it may be a shower of sawdust from where a carpenter bee is drilling into our patio cover.  (*sigh*)

'Shalimar Red' Crossvine

The outside of the flower is much prettier, I think, than the inside, which looks washed-out, by comparison.

I'm eager to get this planted, now that the cannas are out of the way...

'Shalimar Red' Crossvine

A golden-apricot rose on 'Joseph's Coat' was a warm spot in the last of the daylight.

(This was a cool, dry, windy day.  With such a mild winter and early spring, there's no knowing how many more "fresh" days we'll have before humidity settles in for the middle of the year.)

'Joseph's Coat' Rose

It was less noticeable today (atmospheric conditions), but yesterday, one half of the yard was perfumed with fragrant tea olive (heavenly!) and the other half with delectable banana shrub.  (Please ignore the signs of scale.  I now have some Neem oil concentrate and a non-herbicide sprayer, but I haven't yet read up on when I should try spraying...)

Banana Shrub

Here's the oldest and biggest of our tea olives-- the source of such a wonderful, sweet, fresh fragrance.  I really love this plant.  It's not the most beautiful thing to look at (not that it's ugly, either...), but the scent--!  I can't believe that I wasn't even aware of this plant until a couple of years ago.  I can't recommend it highly enough.

Tea Olive

I never did get around to pruning most of the roses.  The lack of a real winter tricked me.  I might try to do some pruning on the remaining roses (mainly the Knock Out roses), but I'm just not that confident in rose-pruning...

Sundown, Early March

I had planned to hack them all back fairly close to the ground-- the "factory reset" of the plant world.  (That's probably a no-no, but I've heard that some gardeners do it with good results.)  Maybe it sounds strange, but a more careful, measured pruning seems scarier-- like I have to actually know what I'm doing.

Sundown, Early March

Donald mowed the weeds on the pad this afternoon.  They'd been getting tall, though the grass in the rest of the lawn is still quite short.  (Stupid weedy septic pad!)  The weeds are also already encroaching on the new Oval Bed (or whatever I should call it).  I plan to nudge the edges back out with more mulch, eventually-- and maybe extend it a bit further toward the north (the side closest in the photo).

Oval Bed

I hauled several wheelbarrow loads of mulch today (trying to take advantage of the cooler weather.  It helped, but as always, there's much more to do!

As you can see, we still haven't repainted the patio cover.  Maybe-- maybe we'll manage it sometime this year.  A variety of "issues" have cropped up to prevent it, so far, and there's always the chance of more, but anything's possible.

I also need to decide what to do about that circular bed (which is over the septic tank).  I'm having trouble feeling excited about any of the options that come to mind, but grassy weeds are already starting to grow there, so it's time to make a decision and do something-- even if it ends up being a temporary solution.


The weather is supposed to be nice again tomorrow, so I'm hoping to get a good chunk of mulching done!