Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Belt

As a child, getting 'the belt' was not a good thing.  As an adult, when 'the belt' gets tight, I know I've had too much to eat.  As a gardener, living in 'the belt' is good thing.

The camellia belt, that is.

The camellia belt in the US is from the South-east to the West coast, zones 7 through 9.  If you live outside the belt, don't despair, there are camellias being introduced that will live outside of those zones.  But if you live in 'the belt', you MUST, yes, you MUST have camellias in your garden!  At least, I think you should give them a try.

Camellias are evergreen, but they are dormant when they are blooming, so that is the best time to plant them.  That means autumn for the U.S.  In other words - right now!  Aren't you excited?  Run out and get a camellia now!  Well, finish reading my post first.  Then, run out and get one!  (Or two.)

Where will you plant your camellia?  Well, look to the skies for your answer.  Or at least, to the trees, and you will have your answer.  Camellias love to grow in wooded areas.  They like to be planted under deciduous trees - shaded in summer, sun in winter.  If you don't have a lot of trees, look for other shade - from your house, for instance.  When I'm walking around my garden, trying to decide where to place a camellia, my rule of thumb is that if I would plant a hydrangea there, it will probably be a good spot for a camellia.  Look for protection from the west or southern sun.

And don't forget to look at the mature height/width when purchasing a camellia.  Some will stay small, while others grow to the height of a small tree.  Once you've planted a camellia, it's best not to move them (too much).  O.K., it's best not to move them at all, but I know from experience that they can be moved in their first year or two.

So, you're ready to plant your camellia.  Plant shallow.   Roses like to be planted deep, but camellias like their roots by the surface, so be certain you plant them right at the level of the soil in which they are growing when you get them, but no deeper.

When will you see its blooms?  Well, don't be too concerned if your camellia drops all its buds the first year it's planted.  It happens occasionally.  But, it generally means that you camellia is growing roots and can't be bothered with blooming.  It should bloom the following year.

Does your camellia bloom in fall or spring?  Check out my post HERE for some generalizations about the difference between sasanquas and japonicas.

How can you get your camellia to bloom well year after year?  Consistent watering during the summer is the most important thing for future camellia blooms.  Just remember, a little TLC in summer will reward you with camellia blooms later.

The belt (as far as camellias go) is a good place to be.  I have several camellias, but the little camellia shown here is in full bloom right now.  It is such a joy to see.  Unfortunately, I don't know its name.

So, are you ready to run out and try a camellia in your garden?  If you're in the belt, I hope you do!  Now, go!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Autumn's Bliss

I have always loved autumn.  There is one moment I always look forward to every autumn, and if I miss it, I miss it for an entire year.  That moment is when the wind seems to be the same temperature as everything else around me, not hotter, and not cooler.  Its kiss is so lightly brushed upon my face, that I wouldn't even notice its presence if I didn't realize that the leaves that were swirling up to dance with me.  It's a magical moment, and one that only comes around for a brief period of time before the weather begins to turn cool, and the wind starts to chill my skin.

Autumn is also supposed to be the best time to plant roses, shrubs, and trees in Texas.  In some areas, the winter is too harsh to plant some things now.  But here, the cooler weather allows the plants to establish themselves before the heat of summer rolls around again, and the fall rains help them get off to a good start.

Unfortunately, our autumn rains have not materialized this year.  This year, instead of the 9 inches of rain that we average during October and November, we have had less than 1.  That's less than one inch for October and November combined, so far.

So, I've been using the sprinkler system, just as I would in summer.  The difference is, it's not summer.  The system has to be restarted and then drained with every use, in anticipation of early morning freezes.   Plants located outside of the sprinkler system have to be watered by hand.

This trend is worrisome because the terrible drought we experienced the summer of 2011 actually began the fall before.  I hope this is not a trend signaling another long drought.  But, only time will tell.

For now, I wander around the garden, taking in the delights that are present.  Many plants are showing the effects of frosts and freezes, but there is still so many joys to be found.

If you live in Texas, plant now.  Plant shrubs.  Plant trees.  Plant roses!  Plant the garden of your dreams.  But watch for the rains, and if they don't come, be prepared to water new plants yourself.

And while you're out there, maybe, just maybe, you'll experience that magical moment when the wind brushes your face with an autumn kiss, while the leaves swirl up for one last dance.

Friday, November 23, 2012

And On and On It Goes, I Hope

I have to thank David of Tropical Texana for reminding me that it's time to harvest pecans.  I have been wanting some special pecans ever since my Dad told me the story of Grandma's pecan trees.

Grandma is no longer with us, but her pecan trees still live.  The local wildlife has always appreciated these trees, but they have become neglected by man.  Their story was almost lost.

A shed snake skin close by the trees gave me the shivers!

I was telling my father about George Washington planting pecan trees at Mount Vernon.  I was so impressed that George Washington had planted a pecan, and a tree had grown, and that it is still living today.  That's when he told me the story of these pecan trees.  Grandma had planted these pecan trees when she was very young, around 3 or 4 years of age.  Grandma was born in 1912, so that would make these trees not quite, but almost, 100 years old.  We have always referred to these trees as "Grandma's pecan trees", but I didn't realize why.  I always thought "Grandma's pecan trees" referred to them being on her land, or her being able to see them from the windows of her home.  I never knew that she herself had planted them.  No wonder she was so protective of these trees.

I never really paid much attention to these pecan trees before.

And that gave me an idea.

Yes, literally over the meadow and through the woods.

So, when David said it was time to gather pecans, off I went.  Literally, over the meadow and through the woods to Grandma's house I went.  Not to gather pecans for pies, but for something much more special.

One of Grandma's pecan trees

When my grandchildren come for Christmas, I want them to plant pecans that came from Grandma's trees.  Oh, I hope, I hope that these seeds will grow into trees.  And it's my fantasy that some day, one or more of my grandchildren's grandchildren will pick pecans from these trees so that their grandchildren can plant a tree, all passed down from Grandma's pecan trees.

Do you have any pecan planting tips for me?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Garden Book Reviews November 2012

Wow!  I've been so busy lately, I almost forgot the date!  With the holidays (almost) upon us, I have been busy in the house.  Frankly, I'd much rather be outside!

Last month, I promised you that I would suggest a Christmas gift for gardeners.  Last month's book was for dreaming.  This month's book is not about dreaming, it's about action.  This book is one that I used used continually when I first started making my own garden:

Step by Step Landscaping:
Planning, Planting, Building

by Better Homes and Gardens

I have the 1991 edition (there is also a 2007 edition).  This book would be very useful for anyone that is new to gardening, planning a new garden, or planning a new garden area.  It covers practical aspects of the garden such as assessing your sun, shade, slope, privacy, views, and maintenance.  It covers design aspects such as pathways, pools, and patios that you may wish to include in your landscape plans.  There are lists of recommended plants, lots of pictures for ideas, and clear and complete steps for do-it-yourself jobs.  

It covers everything from landscape plans, pathways, drainage problems, retaining walls, shade ideas, working with concrete, building steps, erecting a gazebo, storage units, kennels, irrigation, and even wiring.  And those are just a few of the subjects covered!  If you want it in your garden, it is probably covered in this book.

If you are ready to start turning your yard into an area you will use, I highly recommend this book.  If you are looking for a good Christmas gift for a new gardener, I highly recommend this book, too.  I guarantee it will be a well-used and much-loved book for anyone that is starting out and needs step-by-step guidance.


Now it's your turn!  You are invited to join us on the 20th of each month with your own garden book review.  Any book with a garden influence qualifies!

Thanks for joining in and be sure to visit the other participants, too!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Song for November's Bloom Day

Do you remember the song 'So Long, Farewell' from "The Sound of Music"?  If you do, feel free to sing along:

So long, farewell
Auf Wiedersehen, good night

I hate to go 
and leave this pretty sight.

The few freezes we have had damaged the cannas, the firebush (Hamelia patens), and the Chinese Indigo (Indigofera decora).   They will come back in the spring, but for now we must say goodbye.  :(

So long, farewell
Auf Wiedersehen, adieu

Adieu, adieu
To you and you and you

Not going to bed just yet, however, are the roses.  They get to stay out and play for just a while longer.  In fact, there is quite a lot blooming for this month's Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

Ilse Krohn Superior
Flower carpet 'Appleblossom'
Lion's Fairy Tale
Knock Out

I wonder which plants will say goodbye next month.  I can almost hear the garden starting to sing:

The sun has gone
To bed and so must I

So long, farewell
Auf Wiedersehen, goodbye


Monday, November 12, 2012

The Common Cold

For most gardeners, cold is a common occurrence in winter.  Each gardener's preparation for this common occurrence, however, is individual and specific to their own garden.

I am preparing for the freeze that is expected to hit tonight.  I've put the thick, fluffy comforter on my bed.  I have extra blankets just in case.  My wardrobe has changed.  Instead of short sleeved t-shirts, the turtlenecks have made an appearance, along with scarves, gloves, and winter jackets.  

Even if cold is common in winter, can you tell I don't like it?

I'd much rather stay warm by a cozy fire, drinking hot cocoa instead of being outside, with a red nose and numb toes.  Thankfully, in my garden, there is not too much preparation to be done. 

Some gardeners dig up their tender bulbs and tropical plants, storing them for winter.  Their gardens look amazing, but that is just not something I want to do.   

A couple of years ago we had a very hard winter.  So many gardeners in this area lost a number of plants.  Even I lost a few.  Lesson learned - if you want tropical plants in your garden, and you are not in a tropical area, you will have to do a lot more preparation for winter.  Being the lazy me that I am, I opted out of growing tropicals that won't live through our winters.

There are some tender plants, however, I have not planted out in the garden, but potted as annuals.  These will die in a freeze.  But that's o.k.  They were purchased with the expectation that they would only last through the summer.  I didn't spend much money and them, and I understood that this was money that was being spent for a short-lived decoration.  They were the equivalent of a pumpkin pie - sweet, but seasonal and temporary.

I do have an orange tree that was a gift, and I plan to bring it inside on freezing nights.  Since it was a gift, and since I think growing oranges would be fun, I give it special treatment.  Right now, it's small, so it's in a small pot, and no trouble to carry in and out of the house.

The only other plants I plan to baby in winter are the ones I have planted in the vegetable garden.  I have a long, heavy cloth that I use to cover the raised vegetable beds on the nights that call for it.  I hate the cold (have I told you that?), and but fresh food is worth it.  On those nights, I put on my coat, winter boots, heavy socks, warm gloves, and wool hat over my regular clothes in order to trudge outside and cover the vegetable bed.  

You're right - I don't really need all those layers.  But, did I mention how much I hate the cold?

How you prepare for a freeze may be completely different than how I prepare for one.  And even if you live in Texas, you may be thinking that all this talk about winter preparation and turtlenecks is a little overkill.  You'd be right.  The freeze will probably only last a few minutes.  In fact, it may not even actually freeze!

I just love Texas winters!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Little Green Men

Have you ever seen a UFO?  I have not, but I like to read about people who think they have had an experience with one.  Maybe I shouldn't have admitted that, but I think it's fascinating, even though I'm not quite convinced that Earth is being visited by space aliens.

However, I am beginning to wonder.

I haven't seen any UFOs around here, but something strange has been going on in my garden.  I'm beginning to suspect little green men.  After all, little green men would be appropriately camouflaged in the garden!

What makes me suspect these little green men have been experimenting in my garden?  Because they have left evidence behind.  They have made one of my rose bushes grow a bloom that has odd, extra growth in the middle of it.  It's as if the rose forgot that it had already made a bloom, and kept making more.  Must be radiation, right?


Well, I guess I'll let you know that in reality, this is called proliferation.

Usually it occurs in spring, or when the weather fluctuates.  It can happen to just one bloom, or to every bloom on a rose.  Some people love it, and find it interesting.  Some people hate it.

It's just one of the strange occurrences that can happen in a garden sometimes.  Or, it may be that the little green men have come calling!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

America the Semi-Beautiful?

I had such high hopes for America.  But, over the past several years, my hopes have turned into disappointment.  I'm beginning to doubt that America will ever grow to her full potential, and I wonder if I should hold on to my dreams, or just give up on her.


This is climbing America.  I love her bloom.  I love that her leaves have a bronze hue before they turn green.  I know that she can take my breath away with her beauty.

But as pretty as she is, in my garden, she's only America, the semi-beautiful.

She's quite lovely - in autumn.  And spring.  But in summer, she hates our weather.  She is never truly happy, and I'm not truly happy with her.  She grows in zones 4 through 9, so heat shouldn't be the problem.  But water (or the lack of it in summer) could be.  She grows from 10 to 15 feet high.  Mine is no where near that tall!  So, I'll just have to be patient and see what the future holds.  I'm hoping in time she'll grow into the thriving America I expect her to be.

New foliage is such a pretty color

The problem, really, is not with the rose.  It's with my expectations.  You see, I want the song 'America the Beautiful' to pop into my mind every time I see her, even in summer.  She has such a patriotic name, I want to be proud of her.  I want to show her off, and state her name proudly.  If she had a different name, I might feel differently about her.  But in my mind, a rose named for America should be great every day of the year.

Bush shot

Roses are interesting plants to grow.  Some will perform beautifully in your garden, some won't.  The problem may be that particular plant, that particular rose, your area, your garden, your soil, or - like America and me - even your expectations.

Tell me, do you grow this rose?  And if so, is your America beautiful?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

October Harvest

Yes, I had a harvest in October!  Very exciting, especially since the vegetable garden was mostly neglected.

But underneath all these vines, the sweet potatoes were growing.

Sweet potato vines

And yes, the sweet potato vines were blooming!  I had begun to wonder if these weren't wild morning glories invading my bed, but upon closer inspection, I realized that yes, these blooms were from the sweet potatoes.

It was fun digging under the soil to see what was there.  Some of the sweet potatoes were small, while some were huge!

Sweet potatoes!

It doesn't look like it, but I got four grocery store bags full of sweet potatoes.  I'm in the process of curing them now, then I will have to find a cool spot to store them.  It's not easy in Texas to find a place cool enough to store them for the winter, as I don't have a root cellar or basement, so I may end up canning them.  I am definitely going to give growing sweet potatoes a try next year!  It was like digging for buried treasure.  :)

But that's not all that I harvested from the vegetable garden in October.  I also harvested jalapeno peppers.  Over 400 jalapeno peppers!  Yes, four hundred!!!  No one needs four hundred jalapenos!

400 jalapenos from two plants!

I had been ignoring these two jalapeno pepper plants all summer.  I just wanted a few, and I gave some away, but for most of the summer I've been ignoring them.  I thought if I was patient enough, they would just quit producing.  Instead, all summer they have been making jalapenos, drying up, dropping off, then making more.   They became the plants that wouldn't quit!

Finally, I decided to pull up these plants so I could plant something different in their place.  I did feel a little guilty about pulling them up while they were doing so well.  I couldn't believe that so many jalapeno peppers were on two bushes that had been ignored all summer!  I decided to roast and freeze the 400 jalapeno peppers I got off the plants, instead of canning them, thanks to a post from The Blonde Gardener.

Baby Brussels sprouts!

The fall garden is now planted.  Mostly lettuces, but I'm also trying out Brussels sprouts (I love those!), and some green peas.  We'll see how successful I'll be in a few months!

I'm joining The Gardening Blog for Garden Bloggers Harvest Day.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Mastering the Art of Eating Locally

I ran to open the draperies.  It is always the first thing I do when checking into a hotel.  I want to see outside.

Sometimes the view is one of a rooftop of air conditioning systems.  :(  Sometimes I get to see trees.  :)  Sometimes it's the twinkling of lights in the city.  :)  Sometimes it's a brick wall.  :(  But I always look.

So, never knowing what I'm going to see, when I opened the drapes to look outside on this trip, I was pleasantly surprised.  We were overlooking the outdoor terrace area.  Our room was directly above the pool, giving me a lovely view of calm, blue water.  No one was swimming - it was too cool.  So I drank in the symmetry of the rectangular pool.  I noticed the cushioned chairs.  They looked quite comfortable, even though no one was sitting in them.  My eyes shifted to the left, to the rest of the terrace.  And my heart jumped for joy.

"Look!  It's a garden!  It's a rose garden!"  I was several floors above the terrace, and from my angle, I couldn't quite make out all the plants in the garden, but I could distinctly see some roses, and pathways.

A terrace garden!

"Oh, let's go see the garden!"  I'm certain my husband rolled his eyes, but I didn't see it, because my eyes were transfixed on the garden below.

In case you're wondering, I have been gone for the last couple of days on business.  Did you miss me?  ;)

Anyway, I knew that we were going to be there for business.  The days were scheduled, hour by hour.  There would be no free time to explore.  No time for garden tours.  No reason to take my camera.  I was amazed to be wrong!

And I was even more amazed when we rode the elevators down to the terrace level, opened the doors, and stepped outside.  This was no ordinary garden.


We were staying at the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Dallas, Texas.  The restaurant inside the hotel is called the Pyramid.  And this terrace garden supplies some of the herbs, vegetables, fruit, and honey used by the Pyramid restaurant.  It is a 3,000 sq. ft. garden.  Growing there were herbs like oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, and even a bay leaf tree.  There was a fig tree, strawberry plants, and salad greens.  Ready for harvesting were cantaloupe, swiss chard, eggplant, and numerous varieties of peppers.

They even had a small greenhouse and a rotating composter at one end of the garden.  The entire garden was unexpected, and I was thrilled with each new discovery.  It was especially exciting to see beehives!  Of course, it makes sense.  I doubt there are a lot of bees flying around high rises, looking for gardens.  So, they brought the bees to the garden.  And they collect and use the honey in the restaurant, as well as all the vegetables and herbs growing here in the terrace garden.


A restaurant in a large city that grows its own food.  Now, that is local - and oh, so fresh!  I was impressed.  In fact, I was so impressed, we decided to steal a few minutes out of our business schedule in order to splurge and eat at the Pyramid (in the restaurant, not in the actual garden - even though there's an option for that!).

We had a fun time discussing each bite, trying to decide which ingredients came from the terrace garden.  I have since learned that this chef is committed to serving local foods, going so far as to buy meat, cheeses, and even their olive oil, from Texas ranches.  Local and fresh.  You could taste the difference it made.  Our food was delicious.  No, it was much more than just delicious.  It was sublime.  I will dream about that meal for weeks.

Oh, and the roses?  Yes, there were some roses there.  But they were just a small part of the garden, not the main feature.  They must have been planted there just to lure me down!

The photos are from my own garden.  If you're interested in learning more about this terrace garden, click here.  And if you are patient enough to go through a slideshow of the hotel, click here, then click on the photos.  One of the slideshow photos is of the terrace garden.
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