Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Recurring Theme

February flew by, didn't it?

And as I began to take pictures for The Patient Gardener's End of Month View, I realized that there was a recurring theme going on in my garden.

Let's see if you can figure out the theme.

The winter garden looks nice enough.  And there are some small bloom in those beds outlined with boxwoods.  I've begun planting the camellias I've nursed all winter.  But I am not through planting.  Soon there will be other plants arriving by mail that will need to be put in this bed, too.

The front Knock Out roses have been cut down.  But all the trimmings are still waiting for me to discard them.

Some weeding in the East Bed has been done.  But there's a lot more weeding to do here!

The main rose garden is coming to life.  The irises are beginning to bloom here.  But, I haven't quite finished pruning my roses!

The walking bed looks fairly bare.  I've been thinning out the pavonia and transplanting the salvia.  Plus, there are numerous plants that have not yet emerged.  Still, I feel like I've made some progress here, even if there is still a big pile of trimmings and dead wood in the middle of the pathway that needs to be picked up.

Have you figured out the theme?  Do you think it's:


I could see where you might think that, especially as you see all the unfinished tasks.  But I think the theme is:


Because I've been out in the garden!  And garden work is fun work!

And if you look closely, there is still a lot of beauty to be found there.  How fun!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


"Hey, Mom!  Can we grow peonies in Texas?"


My family has learned.  Anytime I start a sentence with a drawn-out "Well...", well, they know it's going to be a long explanation before (if ever) the question gets answered.

So, basically, the answer to the question was:

"I don't know."

The explanation I gave before the answer of "I don't know" was this:

I've never seen peonies in Texas, so that's not a good sign.  However, I've heard that peonies can be grown in Texas - with a few provisions.  I was told that if the peony didn't go dormant, you might have to pull the leaves off of it in the fall.  And, of course, it also depends where in Texas you want to grow peonies.  Northern Texans will probably be successful, south Texans may not.  Texas just don't get the chill hours that a lot of plants need.  Plus, there are some varieties that are supposedly more successful here than others.  They take several years to bloom.  So, if you want to grow them for their foliage only, you might not be as disappointed than if you expect a lot of blooms.

That's why my answer was "I don't know".


I'm growing some in my garden right now, just to see.  And, so far, I didn't have to pull their leaves off!  That's a good sign.  They went dormant on their own.  And now, their beautiful red stems are reaching up, as if in a victory stance.

So, maybe!!!!

Shirley at Shirls Gardenwatch is hosting a Garden Blog Prequel, where she asks the question: How has your garden changed since you became a blogger?  And my answer would have to be: I'm experimenting more.

I see beautiful photos of so many plants in other blogger's gardens.  Some of these plants I never would have known about if I hadn't begun blogging.

I've ordered snowdrops, edgeworthia, cimicifuga (my first one died, so I'm trying again), witch hazel, hakone grass, mountain laurels, and Virginia bluebells to try out in my garden.  This is a list of plants I've ordered just this year!  That doesn't include all the other plants I'm already trying out in my garden.

I would have never added any of these plants to my garden if I had not started blogging.  My garden would have been full of plants that were easy - roses, boxwoods, and crape myrtles.  It would have been pretty, but not as much fun.

"I don't know."

Those words may scare off some gardeners.  But I love those I-don't-know type of plants.  They may not always be successful (like the lilacs I tried), but then again, they just might!

And some day I just may have peony blooms to show off because of it!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Blooming Snow!

Before I became a blogger, my family didn't mind if I checked my emails while visiting with them.  But since starting my blog, my family has a new rule:  If Mom comes to visit, don't let her get on the internet!  :)

While I was returning, I heard reports that West Texas was getting record amounts of snow.  Too much snow.  They were unprepared, and even major interstate freeways were closed.  Here in East Texas, we got the wind, but no moisture.

As I drove home, I wondered what changes I would find in my garden.  Sure enough, there were a few more blooms greeting me upon my return.  But, the loveliest blooms were coming from the snowflakes (leucojum).  They have never disappointed me.  But snowflakes are just one type of blooming "snow" for the garden.

Snowdrops (galanthus) are the most popular early spring blooming bulb.  These little bulbs are so popular, there is even a name for collectors: galanthophile.   Snowdrops can be grown in zones 2 through 9, but do best in zones 4 through 7.  I have ordered some (arriving soon!) to try out in my garden.  I am hoping that they will be happy here.  Snowdrops generally have longer petals on the outside, and shorter petals on the inside.


Then, there are snowflakes (leucojum).  Their petals are generally even all the way around the bloom.  I have had snowflakes in my garden for several years, and they are dependable, beautiful, and easy to grow.  They can be grown in zones 4 through 9.   There are two common types of snowflakes: spring snowflake, leucojum vernum, and summer snowflake, leucojum aestivum.   Snowflakes seem to be overlooked by collectors, but I'm not sure why.  Perhaps in the future there will be leucojumphiles.

Since my snowflakes bloom in February, I had always assumed mine were leucojum vernum, or spring snowflake.  But, now I think they are leucojum aestivum, or summer snowflakes, because even though they are blooming in February, I've read that spring snowflakes (leucojum vernum) usually bloom with one or two flowers per stem, while summer snowflakes (leucojum aestivum) have two to seven blooms per stem.  You can correct me if I'm wrong.

Either way, now that I'm adding snowdrops to my garden, I definitely need both spring and summer snowflakes in my garden, too.  After all, one can never have too much snow - if it's the blooming kind!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Garden Book Reviews February 2013

Each time I purchase a garden book, I expect to enjoy it.  Some I do.  Some, not so much.

And then, there are the few that I truly savor.  I drink in the enjoyment of reading each page.  I relish each and every photo.  I appreciate the way in which the topics are presented.  And I delight in the wisdom of words by experienced gardeners.

Gardens Private and Personal: 
A Garden Club of America Book 

by Nancy D'Oench, 
is a book that was meant to be savored, and I did.

This book accomplishes several things.

First, it educates one on garden design.  It starts where anyone starts in touring a garden: from the gates and garden entrances.  Just as if you were walking through a garden, the book moves you through a garden one chapter at a time.  As you enter the gates, you ponder the views, which is the next chapter, then pathways (again, the next chapter), then areas of rest, etc. until you have experienced an entire garden tour.  The catch?  You have just toured over 90 gardens!

There is not a lot of instruction on garden design in the book, but it will make you look at your garden through new eyes - as a visitor sees your garden.

Secondly, I loved the way in which the book was composed.  A short lesson at the beginning of each chapter is followed by photos of numerous gardens.  Each photograph has an informational description.  But most delightful is that also included are quotes from the gardener.  It is as if you are touring the garden with the gardener themselves.

For instance, under the chapter "Steps", Page 44 shows a garden with terraced steps and plantings on either side.

The description of the photo states:
"This was a steep, oval amphitheater until Virginia Israelit slid from the top to the bottom on a rainy Portland, Oregon, day.  Her husband suggested steps, and her landscape designer and friend, Michael Schultz designed the terracing you see here, edged with the glow of variegated Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'), a hosta collection, plumes from Rodgersia pinnata superba, and the upright foliage of Iris pseudacorus.  The broad stairs promise something grand at the top, and they deliver - a vista of mountains and the Willamette River."

See what I mean about the photo descriptions being informational?

Thirdly, it introduces you to the garden owner, and allows them to speak for themselves.  I really enjoyed being able to get a glimpse of the gardener through their quotes.  It brought a personal touch to each of the gardens.

Keeping to same example of the photograph on page 44, the garden owner's quote in conjunction to it states:
"I had heard about this word "perennials," so I said to Michael Schultz, a young landscape designer, "Let's plant a few of those."  That was in 1989; creating this one small area so I could have cut flowers for my office desk was like opening Pandora's box for me.  I was hooked.  Michael started introducing me to designers and nurserymen in the Northwest and ones who would travel to the area.  I liked to cook, and they loved to eat.  Dinner discussions were lively.  They insisted that I learn the correct botanical names before they would talk to me about new plants and where I could get them.  Many a night I would fall asleep with The Royal Horticulture Encyclopedia in bed with me.  My husband asked if I thought I could learn the nomenclature by osmosis if I slept with the book on top of me.
Recently, our whole family hauled sand in buckets to build the play area for our first grandchild.  Upon its completion, we all sat in the sandbox with champagne to toast a good day's work.  My son smiled and reminded me that not so many years ago I had yelled at him for knocking a croquet ball into my perennial border, but now thirty-six square feet of plants and shrubs could be decimated to make way for a one-year-old grandson's sandbox." - Virginia Israelit, Portland, Oregon 
This, to me, is what made this book so unique, and so charming.  Including the garden owner's own words was a bit magical.  It made the gardens personal, and gave the accomplishment of creating a beautiful garden seem achievable.

Each chapter has numerous photos, and while the chapter may cover a specific topic, the gardens in the book vary immensely.  From shady woodlands to sun-filled rose gardens, rustic to modern settings, and Japanese to Mediterranean styles, there is plenty of inspiration for everyone.

It is a book I have read slowly, taking my time, savoring each delightful quote, perusing each inspirational photograph, and digesting the advice in each chapter.

I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Now it's your turn!  You are invited to join us on the 20th of every month with your own garden book review.  Anyone can join in, and any book with a garden influence qualifies.  We would love to hear your opinion of any garden book, new or old.

If you have never joined a meme before, it's simple!  Write your own garden book review, then just click to enter, and follow the instructions.  I promise - it's easy!

Please visit the other participants, too.  You never know when you're going to find a book you just can't live without!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Pretty, Sad

My broccoli is so pretty!  Sadly, it's begun to flower.  :(

I never get those big, beautiful heads that I dream of.  My soil warms up too quickly in the spring, and the broccoli doesn't like it.  It thinks it's time to flower, go to seed, and reproduce.  Tiny little heads of broccoli are all I've ever been able to grow.

Of course, I will harvest the heads.  They won't be too bitter.  And I will keep a closer eye out on future heads so I can harvest them before they begin to flower.

No matter how small they are.

I guess I could pour ice on the soil to keep it cooler.  Or shade the broccoli from the warmth of the sun. Instead, I think I'll just give up on growing broccoli.  Sad, since I love it so.

These broccoli were grown from a packet of seed included in a giveaway Donna at Garden's Eye View had last year.  I was the lucky winner!  Now, I'm not the best vegetable gardener, but I did get a lot of tomatoes, some peppers, a few cucumbers, and am patiently waiting to harvest asparagus, just to name a few of the vegetables I grew from seed from the giveaway.

And, of course, broccoli.  Maybe not a lot of broccoli, but enough for a few meals.  She's giving away more seed this year - jump over there and sign up!  It's better odds than winning the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.  (I know, because I have tried to win that every year, but haven't yet.)

It's amazing how much can come from a few packets of seed.  Fun, anticipation, wonder, experience.  Sometimes confidence.  Sometimes joy.  And sometimes even a few meals!

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Yes, I'm aware that writing in all capital letters is supposedly the equivalent of yelling in the written word.  I meant to yell UNCLE!  Remember when you were a child, someone would twist your arm or hold you down until you yelled "UNCLE!"  It was the equivalent of yelling "I SURRENDER!"

Well, I think my arm has been twisted enough times that I'm on the verge of yelling "UNCLE!"  Twisted pulling weeds, that is!

I looked back at my blog posts using the search tool, and every February, March, August and September, I have posted on weeding.  Weeds seem to multiply faster than I can pull them.  I once read on some forum (can't remember where) that one gardener kept his beds weed free because he weeded every Friday.  Without fail, he weeded on Fridays.  Of course, if it was raining or freezing, he didn't.  But otherwise, he weeded on Friday.

I wondered if I could do that and have a weed free garden, too.  So, I gave it a try.

Last Friday, I realized the flaw in this plan.  My garden is too big, and my weeds too numerous for me to weed them all out in one day.  At least in February, March, August, and September, I need to weed almost every day!

And so, I'm beginning to wonder if I should yell "UNCLE!" to a select number of weeds.  Could there really be that much harm?

Henbit is one of the prettiest weeds in my garden.  I love its sweet little flowers - probably because they're purple.  Their lace collars give them a dainty air.

And I love how they will grow in every crack and crevice.

But I know better than to let this weed spread.  It would take over the entire garden if left to its own devices, so I try to pull it whenever it invades the flower beds.  (The lawn we never weed - a weed-free lawn is not important to us.)  So, as much as I like it (and it's edible, too!), I know I must weed it out of my flower beds.  I must not surrender.

The false garlic, however, I absolutely hate to see in my garden beds.  It pops up everywhere!  It's not an easy weed to get rid of, either.  Its bulbs are deep, requiring digging instead of pulling.  I am tired of my arm being twisted from digging each and every little wild garlic bulb.  Plus, they seemingly multiply when my back's turned.  I'm considering yelling "UNCLE!" and letting it have its way.

Oxalis is another invasive that I have tried to eradicate from my garden for years.  This one I'm still fighting, but as I find more and more, instead of less and less, of this weed in my garden, I'm wondering just how bad it would be if I were to let it run free.

When I first started gardening, I let one weed take over an area in the back.  I thought it was pretty, and wondered what harm could come from my letting it take over.  Well, I soon learned why this weed was considered a weed.  While it had a pretty enough flower, it also had thorns!  Ouch!  After realizing the error of my ways, I went into full-force battle mode and have almost eradicated it from my garden.  So, I know that there is a reason that common weeds are commonly considered weeds.

So, what do you think?  Should I let the false garlic stay?  How about the oxalis?  Have you ever yelled "UNCLE!" to any weed?  Did you regret it later?

Friday, February 15, 2013

This and That for Bloom Day

In our household, we use the phrase "a little bit of this, a little bit of that" to describe a host of situations.  It's most effective when used with a slight shrug of the shoulders and a couldn't-care-less attitude.

"What are we having for dinner?"
          "A little bit of this, a little bit of that."

"What are you doing today?"
          "A little bit of this, a little bit of that."

"Did you buy anything when you went shopping?"
          "A little bit of this, a little bit of that."

You see, that little phrase comes in quite handy!  

Obviously, my garden has picked up on the habit, because for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, it has what some may consider winter blooms, and other blooms that are considered spring blooms.  In Texas, they all run together - a little bit of this, and a little bit of that.  See for yourself:

Spring Snowflake (Leucojum vernum)



Hardy Cyclamen


Daffodil (Narcissus)

Iris (Iris albicans)

Phlox (Phlox subulata)

Grape hyacinth (Muscari)

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Chinese Fringe Flower (Loropetalum)


 Pincushion flower (Scabiosa columbaria)

Candytuft (Iberis)

I rarely show every bloom in my garden, but I felt like they were all working so hard to bloom in February, that they deserved the recognition.

It may just be a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, but there's no shrugging going on here!  There's no couldn't-care-less attitude, either.  These blooms are telling me:

"The garden is waking up!  Come on out and play!"  

And that's just what I'm going to do today!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

I love Valentine's day.  That's because in my area, it's time to prune the roses!

Before I began growing roses, I knew Valentine's day as the day to plant potatoes (and some other vegetables).  My father and grandfather would come in late from the fields, having planted all day long.  It didn't matter if the day was warm or cold, they planted on Valentine's day.

I'm adding some new vegetable beds to my garden, so I'm going to be a little late planting my vegetables.  But I've taken advantage of some of the warm days we've had lately to get a head start on pruning the roses.  It's satisfying to study each individual rose and their structure.  I feel I get to know my roses better every year because of it.  Of course, some of my roses don't get pruned at all, some get pruned only lightly, and some I prune heavily.  It depends upon the rose.

Since I know that the roses will start blooming approximately six weeks or so after pruning, Valentine's day indicates to me that it won't be long before my garden is full of blooms again!  (The photos above were, of course, taken last year.)

Happy planting and pruning day!   When is it time to prune the roses in your area?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Geometry is Involved

It's raining, and I'm dreaming.  Day dreaming.  Dreaming of new garden areas, even though the ones I've already started are not finished.  I just can't seem to help myself!  I've printed out a copy of my house from Google maps, and putting it under a clear plastic sleeve, am drawing new garden areas.

I've always loved math.  I guess that's why I've always been drawn to the geometry of formal gardens.  Some may think that formal garden design is boring, but to me it's soothing, calming, and relaxing.  The lines, the balance, and the patterns bring a sense of order that my mind craves.

Of course, plants know nothing about geometry.  I've read that true formal garden design is very difficult to achieve in gardens.  The reason is simple.  Plant two plants, and one will usually grow taller, fuller, or bloom more than its next door neighbor.  Varying degrees of sunlight and soil differences can make a lot of difference, especially when you add in the factor of time.

In my own garden, I prefer formal structure with exuberant plantings.  It gives my mind the order it craves, and the abundance of blooms that the gardener inside of me loves.  Of course, it's also easier to hide mistakes that way, too.  If one plant in a truly formal garden dies, it can spell disaster, especially if the plant is very large.





Drawing new garden plans is always thrilling to me.  And day dreaming can be dangerous when you have access to the internet and a credit card!

My head is full of math - and dreams!  No better way to spend a rainy day afternoon than in a little gardening geometry!

What about you?  Do you like math, too?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

An Innocent Infatuation

I walk outside to see the little blooms that are emerging here and there.  An early iris.

A hellebore bloom.

Tiny cyclamen with petals that reach up toward the sky.  A few muscari.  Daffodils that are not quite blooming, but soon.

I have to look closely for these blooms.  None of them are blooming in big enough swatches to make much of an impact, except on my anxious heart.  Anxious for spring, I take pleasure in each of their tiny displays of longer days, warmer weather, and the approach of spring.

Professor Charles Sargent camellia

But I have one plant that is not shy at all.  He proudly proclaims his entrance into the coming spring.  Waving from afar, his bright red blooms become the center of attention.  "Forget those little blooms", he says.  "I am the one you've been waiting for." 

Like a Prince Charming that rides in on a horse, this plant has swept me off my feet.  I almost swoon at the sight of his multi-petaled blooms.  His arms are heavy from the weight of all the flowers he bears.  Smaller blooms are easily forgotten as I adoringly look his way.

He is bold.  His bright red blooms can be seen from across the garden.

He is shy.  His boutonniere turns away from me, and blooms turn toward each other, or hide in his leaves.

He normally is a solid, tall, handsome evergreen.  He seems content to live in the background of the garden, lost in the shadows.  But as winter begins to fade, he morphs into a tender and passionate aficionado of spring.  He will arrive to the spring celebration dressed to the nines.  Oh, how I love a well-dressed gentleman!

I am infatuated.  So infatuated by his captivating charm, I couldn't resist showing him off before his full display of blooms open.  I can't wait until he opens up completely to me.

Let me introduce you.  This is 'Professor Charles Sargent'.  Named for an American botanist, Professor Charles Sargent is a japonica camellia that blooms in late winter or early spring.  He will grow to the size of a small tree - around 20 ft, in zones 8 through 10.  Like most camellias, he loves to grow in partial shade.  But watch out - he will steal your heart!

Which plant infatuates you in spring?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Is Common Easier?

Is it easier to grow common plants?  You would think so.  At least, I always thought so.  That is, until I tried to grow azaleas.

The common azalea - someone else's azaleas

Here, azaleas are everywhere.  There is even an annual Azalea Festival that showcases these beautiful plants.  Every year around the time of the festival, the garden centers here have their azaleas on sale.  Every year, I buy some.  This year, I'm going to quit doing that.  For some reason, every azalea I try to grow, dies.

I have no idea why I can't grow an azalea.  They obviously like this climate.  It's obvious to me that everyone else can grow them.  I have put them in almost every bed in my garden.  Lots of sun, lots of shade, and everything in between.  I was lamenting the fact that my azaleas always die to another gardener, and he said it was my soil.

I thought about that for a while.  No, it can't be.  Although some areas where I have had azaleas planted have less than perfect soil, others areas have had beautiful, dark, fertile soil.  It doesn't seem to matter where I plant them - they die.

Nor does it matter how much water they seem to get here.  Some have been planted in dry areas, some in wet areas, and some in areas that are neither wet nor dry.  It makes no difference.

It also doesn't seem to matter what kind of azalea it is, either.  I have tried big ones, little ones, even native deciduous ones.  They all croak on me.

Again - these are not my azaleas

Different sun, water, type, and soil.  I've tried it all.  Nothing seems to make a difference.  No one understands why my azaleas die.  I don't either.  Plants do grow here.  Plants are happy here!  Well, at least, most of them.  And the plants that have died, I generally have an idea why.  But not azaleas.  They are not happy, and I have no clue why they aren't.

So, this year I will quit.  I will quit trying to figure it out.  I will quit planting more azaleas in the hope that I will figure it out.  I will quit buying azaleas.  Even the ones on sale.  I will quit pinning my hopes on eventually having large bushes bursting with blooms every spring.

It's just not going to happen.

These aren't mine, either

Common implies easier.  But sometimes, it just isn't.

Instead of azaleas, maybe I'll try something exotic instead.

(The photos were taken last March.  If you want to see more azalea photos like these, click HERE and HERE.)

Do you grow azaleas?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Not Just Lettuce Anymore!

I am used to my garden giving me little surprises.  A new bloom here, an emerging bulb there.  In the garden, I am never sure what will be different, but I do know that things will be different.

My vegetable bed, however, has never surprised me much.  In December, I harvested lettuce.  In January, I harvested lettuce.  It's now February, and guess what?  I'm harvesting lettuce!


I've had so much lettuce, it even grows in the cracks along with the weeds!

So, I wasn't surprised about the lettuce.  But the vegetable bed did decide to surprise me this month!

Not quite ready to harvest, but growing nicely, are some broccoli.  I don't have many plants planted, but the ones that are there have decided that it's time to get to work.  With temperatures over 70 degrees (21C), they need to hurry up or they will be bolting soon!

Also growing nicely are the Brussels sprouts.  Mmm mmm, how I love Brussels sprouts!  They, too, are not quite ready to harvest - but soon!

I have read to cut the leaves off below the sprouts so the energy will go into making the sprouts instead of into the leaves, and I do plan on doing this.  I want my sprouts to be successful - I'm already licking my lips just thinking about how delicious they will be!

The green peas have also decided to give me a surprise.  They were planted last autumn.  They bloomed, and then were frozen by a December cold front.  Although they didn't die, I thought they would be a failure.

But these little sweeties are persistent.  They have decided to bloom again!  Maybe green peas will be in my future after all!

Yum, yum!  I'm looking forward to harvesting something next month besides lettuce!

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

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...