Thursday, June 30, 2011

Must Have More!

Every year there's a plant or two that grabs my attention.  Sometimes I just love it for what it is.  But sometimes I want more!  This is one of those plants:

Echinacea 'Fragrant Angel'
'Fragrant Angel' has been the best butterfly attractor in my garden.  There was a time period that I could not go outside without finding a butterfly (and most of the time more than one) on the blooms of this plant.  'Fragrant Angel' is obviously quite fragrant to butterflies!

'Fragrant Angel' is also the hardest working echinacea in my garden.  When the blooms became brown from the heat and drought stress, I cut most of them off.  'Fragrant Angel' reacted by sending up new blooms.  At about 3 ft. tall, it tends to leans a bit, but I think that just gives my garden a bit more character.

And I could use a little more white in my multi-color garden.

A repeat blooming, butterfly-attracting workhorse of a beauty!  Oh, yes, I want more!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies

There's been an update on my visions of sugarplums.  I'm still optimistic, but the sugarplum fairies are not just dancing around in my head - they're dancing around on the ground, too!

For some reason (which was explained to me, but so technical I blocked it out), the well had to be moved.

So, we are now drilling in the back.  This is directly below the walking garden, adjacent to the main rose bed:

Do you see that large area below the fence?  For several years, I have had plans for it to be a maze.  Wouldn't that be grand?  I've never actually done anything on this plan.  I haven't even measured the area.  It may not be quite big enough for a maze, so perhaps a knot garden will be the final plan.  Except a maze sounds like so much fun to me!  And even though work on the maze may not begin for many more years, I still consider it my 'maze area'.

But now it will have a well pump in the middle.

Well, well, well.  Hmmm.... no problem!  I'm flexible!  In fact, I'm already coming up with solutions.  A maze situated around a pump house that's tall like a clock tower, perhaps?  Or a maze surrounding a pump house with stairs on the outside to a roof top look out?

Or perhaps you can come up with a suggestion for me!  Of course, I'm not sure when I'll get around to deciding, or when these plans will actually come to fruition.

But for now the sugarplum fairies are dancing in the middle of my maze!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Visions of Sugarplums

It's Christmas at my house!  Yes, it is!!!

And my birthday and anniversary, too.  Probably for a couple of years.  But, that's o.k.  It's worth it!

You see, I have half a garden that looks like this:

The other half - well, not so pretty:

And in case you think that's just dirt, let me explain - that's my front lawn!

Right now, we are on a shared, shallow well.  In one of the worst droughts in history.  I can't water everything, but I try to water my ornamental plantings.  The vegetable garden - not so much.  The lawn - not at all.  Even my ornamentals don't get the water they want, just enough to keep them alive.

But - Christmas came today!

Soon we will have more water!  And that means - we will be able to water our lawn, our vegetable garden, perhaps even more garden areas!!!!  Oh, I can imagine it now!  Garden areas here and there - all well watered - and a green lawn instead of a brown one!!!!   My dreams can now come true!

Yes, Christmas is here at my house!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I Do Not Like It!

In the book "Green Eggs and Ham" by Dr. Seuss, there is a character that insists he does not like green eggs and ham - no matter where they are offered or how they are served.

I am reminded of this character every year.  You see, Polk Salad is a prolific weed around here.  And it always finds its way into my garden.  When my parents come to visit, they usually walk around and admire my garden.  They are always very polite and never mention my weeds - except for the polk salad.  They always point it out, and with excited recognition, exclaim "Oh, look!".

"Yes, I need to weed."

"That's Polk Salad, you know."  This is said like this is the answer to world hunger.  And that I have just announced I was going to eradicate every bit of it from the earth.  As if world hunger rests upon my shoulders, and I was choosing to ignore this gift to the world.

"But I don't like polk salad."  Here's where I start to feel like the character in Dr. Seuss' famous book.

"You don't like polk salad?"  Their voices raise at the end.  Like they had never given any consideration to the fact that someone might actually not like polk salad!  How shocking!

This question is posed to me every year.  How do they not know this?  I was raised by these people!  I have never like polk salad.  Not as a child, not as a teenager, not as an adult.  No matter how often it was prepared and presented to me.  I do not like it, Sam-I-Am!

"No, I don't like it."

"You don't like polk salad?"  They just can't get this into their minds.

"No, I don't like it."  I always start to smile at this point.  I can't help it.

"Oh."  Their shoulders slump.  World hunger will not be cured this year.  They turn away, disappointed.

I know they want to continue asking me if I could eat it on a horse, in a house, with a mouse, and all those other silly situations.  I want them to remember that I don't like it.  Not on a plane, not on a train, not in the air - not anywhere!

But every year it makes its way into the garden.  And every year I have to explain I did not plant it, I do not like it, I will not harvest it, I will not eat it.  To me, it is a weed!  I do not like it, Sam-I-Am!  I do not like it, Sam, you see!

Polk Salad, on right, hiding behind hydrangeas

PS:  Polk salad is poisonous when mature.  If you choose to prepare polk salad, be certain you know when to harvest it!  Here's a link to the Tennessee Polk Salad Association if you want more information.

Now, tell me, do you like polk salad? 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ring Around The Rosie

How fast can a flower be pollinated?  
Take a look!

This bee comes in for a landing:

Goes around to the right:

Then to the left:

And on to the next one:

Where he starts his routine all over again:

Obviously, he's an efficiency expert!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pretty in Pink

Sometimes there is a plant in the garden that grabs all the attention.  A plant that is so beautiful, so striking, so lovely, or so impressive that it's hard to look away.

I feel that way about my pink crape myrtle right now.  I see this crape myrtle from my kitchen.  Hanging over a bench, its shape is romantic.  Like frilly petticoats, the heavy blooms drape down, swaying in the breeze.

Right now, I'm in love.  And I'm not the only one.  The bees circle around, nuzzling into the blooms as if in a sweet caress.  

And when the petals fall, they carpet the ground with tiny pink confetti.  Again, very romantic.    

There are a variety of crape myrtles.  Some red, some pink, some white, some purple.  Some tall, some short.  Mine are left to grow tall.  This one has been planted for almost 10 years, and is around 15 ft. tall.  

Grown from seed, crape myrtles grow in zones 7 to 9b.  A southern classic.

Very pretty in pink.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Julius Caesar Would Be Proud

We did something new this week.  We went to the Farmers Market.  I had never been to one, but since our vegetable garden has not been producing as much as expected, we decided that locally grown produce was available - all we had to do was get out of bed, get in the car, and go!

There were not a lot of vendors.  I don't blame them.  I wouldn't stand around in this type of heat, hoping that someone would hand over $3 for something into which I had put in lots of hard work and sweat.  But there they were. Hopeful, happy farmers.  With beautiful, bountiful produce.

With our purchases in hand, we rode off into the sunset - to can our loot.  Canning with a pressure canner is a fairly new process for me.  If you've never done it, do it!  I was a bit scared of the words "pressure", the thought of something exploding, and the sound of a jiggling weight blowing off steam.

But - and this is VERY important - I read the directions!  Usually the last thing I do.  But fright does strange things to people, and it manifested itself in my wanting information on how to properly use the canner without bodily injury or property harm.

The best book of the several we purchased on home canning for recipes is "Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving" edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine.  With "400 delicious and creative recipes for today", this book had a recipe for everything I wanted to try.

Look at our results:

The carrots came from our garden!
Isn't that beautiful?  And we're not waiting for winter.  We're eating this right now!  It's delicious!

And another surprising, delicious find was a vendor at the Farmer's Market selling beef.  Beef raised the way my parents raised cattle when they did that sort of thing (which was not for very long, but long enough for me to remember).  I've had some of the meat already, and like the difference between a home grown tomato and a store bought tomato, the beef is much more flavorful than its store bought equivalent.  I don't know how, but it is!

So, this week I overcame my fears.  I ventured into the world of the Farmer's Market.  I used a pressure canner.  I ate non-store bought beef.

I came. I canned. I conquered.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lowered Expectations

I think all gardens are a source of joy and frustration.  There is sense of joy that comes with every bloom, every new leaf, every piece of produce picked.  Frustration comes from unmet expectations.  A slow growing plant, small blooms, and foraging wildlife can frustrate any gardener.  Joy and frustration go hand in hand in the garden.

So it shouldn't be a surprise that our vegetable garden has been a source of joy and frustration this year.  Deer and grasshoppers have done their share of damage.  So, too, has the excessive heat and drought.

We have learned not to expect too much out of the garden.  Lowered expectations has been good.  We now are happy with whatever we harvest, whether it's a lot or a little.  With lower expectations, there is no pressure for the garden to produce as much.  We are happy with whatever we harvest.  So we never expected to fill our harvesting basket with beautiful produce, but we did!

Melons.  They are sweet and juicy.  We've already eaten several this year.

Tomatoes.  We are surprised they are still producing in this heat, and haven't gone dormant.  We were expecting tons of tomatoes; now we are just happy with what we get.  Being heirlooms, our tomatoes are purple, yellow, and red.  Unlike the white cucumbers, these do not surprise me.

And carrots!  The deer had a great time chewing off the tops, so although they are not as big as we wanted, again, we are happy to get these.

What else is in the garden?  Well, we have already harvested some corn.  Unfortunately, the grasshoppers have eaten as much as we have.

But the potatoes are ready, and will be dug next week.  Since we aren't expecting much, it will be fun to see what's under the ground, waiting for us!

I'm linking up with Daphne for Harvest Monday.

Friday, June 17, 2011


Every day, I would walk down to the vegetable garden and take a look.  And one thing was worrisome to me.  I wondered what was wrong.  I'd never seen anything like it.

The cucumbers were growing on the vine.  The vine was full of them.  Growing, getting larger, but there was a problem.  They were white.  I had never seen a white cucumber.  Very odd.

And so, I wondered.  Were they getting plenty of sun?  Perhaps that was why they were light in color.  But, no, they were in full sun.  That couldn't be the explanation.  Were they just immature?  I know cucumbers start out green, and stay that way.  Again, that wasn't it.

Still I wondered.  Were they rotten?  No, I felt of them - their little white skins were firm.  No holes, no bugs.

It was baffling.

I didn't want to disappoint Mr. Holleygarden.  He has been so proud of his garden.  And yet - the cucumbers were white!

Then one day, he accused me of not paying attention.  "There are a lot of cucumbers out there - and they're growing too big!  Why haven't you started picking them?"

"Because they're white!  I don't know what's wrong with them!"

He rolled his eyes at me.  This is a bad habit most of my family members have.  And they seem to direct this malady in my direction most of the time.

In a totally disgusted voice, he said flatly.  "They're supposed to be white.  They're heirlooms.  They're called White Wonders."

Well, that explains a lot!

And now that I don't have to wonder any more, I am amazed at the cucumbers.  They are delicious.  And producing quite a bit.  They really are a white wonder!

Have you ever heard of White Wonders?  Have you ever grown a white cucumber?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fond of Ponds

I'm not sure what the allure of a pond is for me.  Perhaps it's the water.  I grew up near the Gulf coast, so I have a lot of fun memories of being in the water.  Maybe it's the sound.  Refreshing.  Could be the plants.  I especially love the lotus bloom.  Or, perhaps it's the fish.  Isn't it said that fish are calming?

Whatever the case, I've always been fond of ponds.  So much so, that when I started putting in gardens around the house, a water feature was the first priority on my agenda.

We didn't start with the concrete pond I have now.  The first water feature we had was a pondless water feature.  I went to an antique store and purchased a large pottery jug.  Mr. Holleygarden (my hero) drilled a hole in the bottom (we both held our breath during this procedure - we weren't sure it was going to work), placed the jug in a plastic tub I had dug a hole for, filled the tub with gravel, and put a water pump in the jug.  When filled with water, the water cascaded down the sides.  It was lovely.

But, I learned a few lessons from that jug.  It works best in shade.  The sunny spot we had it in caused water to evaporate rapidly, and algae grew on the sides.  As with any water feature, caution should always be taken if children are around.

Growing tired of the jug, we decided to expand upon the pond and purchased a black plastic form from a garden center.  That worked for a short while.  But I never really liked it.  The rocks I put around the edges never looked natural to me (although the black widows absolutely loved them!).

Deciding I needed an even bigger pond, and wanting a cement one, I dug deeper - and wider.

If you ever need seclusion, buy a cement mixer.  No one, and I mean no one, will stick around longer than the first day.  They will come up with the craziest excuses - or just not answer their phone until they are satisfied you are completely through with your project!  And, later, if you want to be left alone, all you have to do is state you're thinking about some project that involves said cement mixer and - voila! - you will have quite and solitude for a few days!

Anyway, I love my little pond.  I've grown to love it just as much for the water plants as for the fish.  Some people have a more natural pond with plants that grow in the bottom soil.  Which is best?  I think it all depends upon location.

I've recently read about a long, narrow water feature that was painted black on the bottom, but was only 1 inch deep.  No plants, no fish.  A reflecting pond.  You would still want to put it in the shade because of evaporation, and of course, always watch the children, but I think it might be a new project for me soon. Of course, I'm not going to mention the cement mixer!

All images were taken at the San Antonio Botanical Garden.

What about you?  Do you have a water feature?  Or do you have no desire for one?  Tell me, are you fond of ponds?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dusk, and a Dawning

Most of the blooms in my garden have now been deadheaded.  Roses, of course.  I deadhead those almost daily.  Asters, echinaceas, cannas, salvias, dianthus, yarrow, blanket flowers, and hydrangeas (just to name a few) have all had their blooms cut off.  With the drought turning everything brown around here, I was anxious to get any type of dead or dried bloom out of my sight.  So, I was curious to see what I could contribute to Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

I found a few things still blooming in my garden:

Lilies are still making a show.

So, too, are the roses.

Bouquets of them.  One reason I love roses so - their repeat bloom.

But the most beautiful bloom in my garden I chanced upon the other night.  I don't know why I had gone outside, but I was glad I did.  Otherwise, I might not have seen this beautiful sight:

A white crape myrtle shining against a dark sky.  It made me forget all about those spent blooms.

It made me love the present moment.  The moment of a newly emerging bloom.

I love the garden.  Just when you've almost given up, another beauty comes along.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Beautiful Beast

Every year I am thrilled to see the dragonflies at the goldfish pond.  This year is no exception.  And although I love seeing these creatures, I really didn't know much about them.  But just a little research about this fascinating flyer has given me a lot more respect for this beautiful beast.

Each eye sees at a 360 degree span.  My mother always said she had eyes in the back of her head.  The dragonfly actually does!  Its wings can operate independently, so the dragonfly can fly up, down, left, right, forward and even backwards.  Not many things can fly backwards, but the dragonfly can!

It moves its tail up or down, depending on whether it wants to warm up or cool down.  It can tell exactly where the sun's rays will hit, and positions its tail accordingly.

There are about 450 species of dragonflies in the United States.  Their legs form a basket to catch prey.  They will eat mosquitos, flies, gnats, mayflies, ants, termites, and sometimes butterflies or bees.  Most beekeepers don't appreciate the dragonfly being near, as it can eat enough equal to its own weight in about 30 minutes.

Dragonflies don't have stingers.  Their long abdomens are for mating and egg laying only.  They can, however, bite, and may try to bite you if you hold them down.  Most, however, could not break the skin, and they are not poisonous.  They don't actually have teeth, but strong jaws that chew their food, even though they belong to the Odonata class, which means tooth.

They like clean water, and are valued for their ability to find pure water.  After mating (see picture below), the female will lay the eggs in water.  The eggs hatch and the dragonfly first emerges as a nymph.  Unlike the butterfly, the dragonfly does not go through a pupal stage.  When the nymph is ready (this may take a year or more), it crawls above the water and hangs around the bank, waiting for its wings to dry, which takes several hours.  At this stage, called a teneral, it is very vulnerable.

Predators of dragonflies include birds, lizards, frogs, and fish.  It lives as a dragonfly from a few weeks to a few months.  A lot depends upon the weather, as they are very vulnerable to winds, rain, and cold.

I haven't been especially enjoying our hot, dry weather, but my friends the dragonflies are, and that makes me happy. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Antithesis of Monsoon Season


No, it still hasn't rained here.

I water the garden every day.  Every day.  And still, when I go to pick a weed, the soil seems dry.  The pine trees are suffering.  Their needles are starting to turn brown at the top, even though their roots go deep into the ground.  There is no amount of watering that can save a tree when the earth has dried out seemingly to its core.

My great-grandfather, A.L., made his living off the land.  He had an orchard, and cattle.  It's said that he had the largest herd of Red Poll cattle around this area.  Red Polls are red in color, naturally polled (without horns), known for easy calving, have a docile nature, and do well on poor soils.  The Red Poll is the oldest registered breed of cattle in the United States, coming here from England in 1873.

In order to raise cattle, you need water.  My great-grandfather dug a pond for these purposes.  Called a stock tank, the clay soil here naturally holds water well.  The pictures so far have been the pictures of our walk to that stock tank.  I walked there yesterday.

I was surprised to find this pond completely dry.  You can see hoses on the side of the pond.  In the past year, water had been added, trying keep the pond from drying out, until water became too precious to waste filling a declining pond.

In 2001, this pond (it is no longer used as a stock tank) was enlarged.  It is approximately 12 ft. deep in the middle.  It has never been completely dry since it was enlarged, and only rarely did it go dry prior to that.  The water line should be above the fallen branches, where the top green line starts (approx. 3/4 up the left side of the above photo).  In the photo below, the water line should be at the bottom of the trees on the far side, which is a steep slope.  (The circle of green water plants in the middle of the pond is irrelevant to the natural water line.)

Deer, coyotes, raccoons, and numerous species of wildlife have long come here for water.  Herons would occasionally visit for easy fishing.  No more.  We wonder where these animals are going to get something to drink.

I'm certain we will get rains eventually, and that this pond will again be full, and full of life.  But for now - we can do nothing but wait.
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