Gardening Challenges

Anyone who has dug a hole for plants and tended them with the anticipation of growing vegetables, flowers, trees, or just green bushes knows the frustrations of gardening.

There are basically two categories of challenges.  Things that are out of our control, like weather.  Then there problems that are of our own making.  Boy, do I know that one.

Warning:  The following pictures are depressing (at least, for me, since they’re from my yard.)

problems3Gardeners usually plant for the average rainfall that can be expected.  So here, where our annual average is 27 inches, drought tolerant plants are recommended.

But this was a most unusual year.  In May, it rained 14 inches.  That hasn’t happened since 1895.  So far, our rainfall has been just under 26 inches this year.

I’m definitely not complaining about rain.  It’s just that some  drought tolerant plants got root rot from too much rain in a short time.  Especially here in our clay and caliche soil.

The above picture is one of my favorite native plants succumbed to wet caliche – Texas Yellow Bells.

problems1It’s probably best to consider the most dominant weather factor in a particular area.  For us, that’s heat.  So drought tolerant plants must be our choice.  Even if that means losing some when we have extreme unusual conditions, like our rare rainfall this year.

This Almond Verbena couldn’t take the soggy ground.

problems7Soil is another big issue.  Clay and caliche just don’t cut it for gardening.  So the choices seem to be:  amend the soil or use raised beds.  We’ve tried a little of both.  The easiest solution is definitely raised beds.

problems8Then we have the heat.  August has brought blistering 103 temps.  Frequent watering just keeps everything from  burning up.   problems5Insect and critter pests are also problems for gardeners.   For several years, grasshoppers have been our plague.  They can defoliate a plant in a few hours.

They’re happily chomping on this Russian Sage.

problems6Here are the remaining stems.

Gardeners have to choose where to be totally organic or to tackle problems with pesticides.   Since we live in the country, we don’t spray for bugs because it would be useless.  We just hope plants will recover the next spring.

Other pests for us include armadillos and skunks digging in the yard, especially when the surrounding fields are so dry.

problems4In the rear right hand side of this photo is a tower trellis that has been lifted up and twisted by a climbing rose.

Landscape design has become a hot topic in the gardening world.  It’s one of my weakest skills.  Even though I’ve read the books and attended classes, I still tend to underestimate the mature size of bushes.    Plus, I use more varieties of plants than what is recommended.  My excuse is that I don’t know what will survive, so I try them out.

problems2Sometimes, we’re faced with a “What happened?” problem.  Detective work or seeking advice sometimes helps.  Other times, it just remains a mystery.

One day this native Redbud tree was healthy and the next, it looked pathetic.

problemsAnother what happened.  This Mexican Feather grass may be a casualty of water staying clay or of something else.

Gardening experts warn against planting imported plants that are invasive.  But my archenemy is our native Bermuda grass.  Its runners constantly invade flowerbeds and put down deep roots.  We also have an many assorted weeds.  Most of those are easier to pull than the grass.  Examples of these are in this pix.

If you click on the links, there are nicer pictures of the plants before they bit the dust.

Wherever one lives, gardening is not an easy hobby.  But the rewards are fantastic.  So a gardener’s motto is just keep on working and experimenting.

“Gardens are not made by singing “Oh, how beautiful,” and sitting in the shade.”  Rudyard Kipling

Lovely Autumn Days

There have been studies about the affect of weather on people’s moods.  High crimes rates have been linked to long periods of hot weather.  Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a syndrome noted for depression during winter months when there is less sunlight.  So why am I writing about weather and moods?  Because this autumn is so fantastic that everyone is talking about it.  “What a beautiful day.” is a common phrase now.  Just so thankful for this time of the year.

autumnblooms1These mild sunny days have brought flowers to my Rock Roses (Pavonia lasiopetala Scheele)  that have hardly ever bloomed.   They are also know as Rose pavonia or Rose Mallow.

autumnblooms2They have a woody stem and can grow in shallow soil on limestone.

autumnblooms3Also still blooming a little is Blue Curls (Phacelia congesta Hook).  Another popular name is Fiddleneck.  This year mine has grown to about four feet tall.

autumnbloomscThe buds are slow to open, so it’s hard to find a cluster of all flowers open at once.

autumnbloomsjThe Zinnas just keep on giving.  About six or seven years ago I planted one package of seeds.  Over the years, only pink and a few orange ones have survived by reseeding.

autumnbloomslThe bees continue to enjoy them, probably even more than I do.

autumnbloomsiAfter last year’s winter, I thought this Sweet Almond Verbena (Aloysia virgata) might not make it.  The Dirt Doctor calls this the most beneficial insect-attracting plant he has ever grown.  Not sure about that, but I do agree that the fragrance is wonderful.

autumnblooms9This year at the Garden Club plant sale, I bought an Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana).  I’ve always shied away from them because everyone warns how aggressive they are.  But those are the kind that do well for me, so I grabbed a couple.  And I love their look.

The Obedient name comes from the fact that the stems can be bent in any direction and remain there.  So that’s nice in floral arrangements.  Unfortunately, in the garden they don’t stay where they are put.

I hope this is a wonderful season for you.  Thank you for taking time to read my blog.

“Among the things you can give and still keep are your word, a smile, and a grateful heart.” Zig Ziglar

Summer White

Many years ago mothers in the south gave this advice to their daughters:  “Never wear white until Easter and never wear white after Labor Day.”  Who makes up these rules?

Anyway, kids today certainly don’t hear things like that.  In past times, It wasn’t even necessary to say to dress modestly.  That was understood.  Oops.  I’m talking about one of my pet peeves – parents not teaching their children to dress appropriately for the occasion.

almond2Back to wearing white.  This little bush of Almond Verbena (Aloysia virgata) is dressed with white blossoms.  It wears a sweet perfume, which the bees and other pollinators are drawn to.  Me, too.  I love its sweet almond vanilla aroma.

almondverbena2Almond Verbena loves the summer sun here but dies with the winter freezes.  The blooms resemble those of a butterfly bush or Buddleia.

They can grow up to 15 feet tall.  I’ve had this one three years, and it has only reached 3 feet.  Maybe it’s because it dies in the cold and grows slowly in the spring.

almond3It is a native of Argentina.  The branches tend to bend down, like a weeping willow.

It’s a pity that Almond Verbenas are not stocked in most nurseries.  I found this one in Austin.

whitehibiscusOne day recently as I was weeding, I walked behind the flowerbed that I normally see from my kitchen window.  On one Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) bush, all the flowers on the back side were stark white.  What in the world?  Don’t know why.  Maybe a soil deficiency?

whitebirdThis iron bird has lost most of it white paint.  Still cute.

whiteweedTwo years ago a friend gave me seeds for Clammy Weed (Polanisia dodecandra ssp. trachysperma).  Although I had never heard of it or seen it, Clammy Weed is a native wildflower found in many parts of Texas.

Clammy Weed gets this name because it is slightly sticky to the touch.  It is hardy, grows in full sun, and reseeds well.

angelbasketFor some reason, I can’t toss this poor little whitish grey angel in the trash, yet.

mexicantuberoseMexican Tuberoses (Polianthes tuberosa) are bulb plants that were domesticated by pre-Columbian Indians of Mexico, according to Dr. William C. Welch, horticulturist at Texas A & M.  It was one of the first plants taken back to Spain by the conquistadors.  It is still a much used garden plant there and in Mexico.

mexicantuberose2All I know is that they have a strong pleasing scent.  Mexican tuberoses flower on a tall stalk, like a daylily.  They look nice with another plant behind them to showcase them or with nothing behind them but a solid blue sky.  This is a Senna bush behind these two.

mexicantuberose3 Last year, I tried to divide a clump.  I wasn’t sure they would survive because a large bulb was covered in smaller bulbs, which I could not pull off.  So I cut through the bottom large bulb.  This picture shows one that came from a divided bulb.  There are also several other survivors, so I was relieved.

This tuberose is in front of an Acanthus.  Tuberose bulbs are also not easy to find.  I ordered mine from a grower in Michigan that specializes in heirloom bulbs.

White flowers can add a nice, clean look to a garden.

“Those who think it permissible to tell white lies soon grow colorblind.”  Unknown

Cold Snap

The weather this week has been all over the map.  The first two days had mild temperatures with 55 mph winds for hours on end.  These were followed with a relatively calm day with a high near 80 degrees.  That was a great day to work outside.  Like the snap of your fingers, a hard freeze this morning came and went quickly with a high temperature of 60 in the afternoon.icyclehollyI got outside before 7 am this morning to snap pictures of the icicles on plants.  There was no moisture last night –  just the sprinkler system that created these winter beauties.  This Yaupon Holly is dripping with ice crystals

icyclerose3A Knock Out Rose covered in ice.

icyclerose4An earth kind rose bush already leafed out.

icyclestree2The rising sun behind a Cherry Laurel Tree.

icyclestreeThe ice on this Cherry Laurel and every other plant melted so fast, there was no sound of dripping.

icepergolatwirlingbirdMakes me shiver.

icealmondThis Sweet Almond Bush has not been pruned back, yet.

icebirdbathIce on the grass, birdbath, and newly planted Redbud Tree.

Even though this was a fake winter wonderland and brief in existence, the sight was a treat to see it.

“It’s a strange world language in which skating on thin ice can get you into hot water.”   Franklin P. Jones