Monday, February 28, 2011

The Visit

Spring is such a wonderful time of year, even the trees rejoice by blooming!  We stopped by for a short visit at my daughter's house.  In her foyer, she had the most beautiful arrangement of plum stems in bloom:

The stems were from her two plum trees.  Aren't they gorgeous?  I'm pretty sure these are Prunus cerasifera, which have distinctive purple leaves in summer.  A great tree to use for contrasting color in the garden.  Prunus cerasifera, or Cherry Plum, or Purple Leaf Plum, is a deciduous tree grown in Zones 4 though 9, and can grow to 30 ft. or more.

From her living room window, there was a perfect view of her two trees.  Planted close together, these two trees looked as though they were conversing to each other.  I could almost hear the sound of sweet laughter springing from their blossoms.  Their arms were stretched out to each other, and occasionally the breeze softly stroked the gentle branches where birds were perched.  To and fro, the trees swayed in perfect synchronization of the wind's easy push.

As I was leaving, I noticed the wind bend the taller tree closer to the smaller one, as if in a warm embrace.

It was a good visit.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Beautiful Tulip Tree

Although I don't have a purple tulip tree, or Magnolia x soulangeana, there are several nearby, so I never miss the fabulous spring show.  A deciduous tree, it bursts forth with large amethyst and lavender colored, tulip-shaped blossoms in early spring, before the tree begins to leaf out.   This purple beauty is also known as the saucer magnolia, or Japanese magnolia.

I love seeing the tulip tree in bloom.  A majestic symbol of spring's arrival, it would be accused of shouting that winter's grip is gone, except it is obviously too refined and graceful to ever be accused of shouting.  Wearing the color of royalty, it reigns as possibly the largest and the showiest specimen in early spring's procession of beauty to signal the coming of warmer weather.  The sight of seeing an entire tree flowering is breathtaking, especially after enduring months of unexciting evergreens.

The stately tulip tree is especially pretty paired with the lowly daffodil, which blooms at the same time.  The complimentary pairing of purple and yellow is a sight not soon forgotten.  Even by itself, it is a real show stopper in early spring, and puts a song in the heart of any gardener weary of winter.  Grown in zones 4 through 9, this tree will grow to 30 ft, so give it plenty of room.

And though they go by similar names, don't confuse the elegant, purple M. soulangeana with the yellow tulip tree, Liriodendrum tulipifera, or Tulip Poplar.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Rainy Day

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the moldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

 - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Itty Bitty Blooms

When I am not in the garden, a lot of the time I am looking at the garden through the windows.  Today, while waiting for some eggs to boil, I again found myself staring out the window.  Suddenly, I saw them.  Tiny little blooms.  Blooms that were not there the day before, or at least, I had not noticed.

The blooms on the boxwood were what caught my attention.  Although the blooms were miniature, they were quite numerous.

Pulmanarias are also blooming.  These are part of last fall's mail order.  I had no idea if they would live.  They did!  And now they are blooming!  Will wonders never cease!

This sweet little bloom is from some groundcover from the same fall mail order.  It's beginning to impress me.  I may have to take the time to look up its name.

And lastly, my violets are beginning to bloom.  The foliage was damaged in the last freeze, but it decided to celebrate spring anyway.

If you put them all together in a bouquet, you would need a thimble for a vase.  Funny how such itty bitty blooms can bring such an immense amount of joy.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Don't Try This At Home!

Asian Jasmine used as groundcover
Asian Jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum) is one of those plants that gardeners have a love/hate relationship with.  On the one hand, this plant is a much-used groundcover in the South (zones 7 to 9) which will grow so thick weeds do not have a chance.  And isn't that the purpose of a groundcover?  Evergreen, this plant will grow to 6 to 12 inches above the ground in a solid mass.  Not particular, it thrives in either sun or shade.  It sounds like the perfect groundcover, right?  Read on!

Asian Jasmine neatly trimmed

Do you want to know the truth about this plant?  Asian Jasmine is horribly invasive.  It sends out runners that will cover everything.  And I mean everything!  I have seen this plant take over entire bushes, walls, benches, trees, parts of houses, - you name it - if left untended.  It will eat the entire garden if left to its own devices, and I've heard lots of horror stories.  I believe every one of them.  Told by flashlight around a circle, those tales can be downright scary.  In broad daylight, the horrifying sight of a neglected garden completely devoured by this beast is worse than any tale of a bogeyman, and will bring a gardener to their knees.

Asian Jasmine escaping

So, if you plan on using Asian Jasmine for a groundcover, be forewarned that you will need to treat it like a toddler: you can't leave it alone, or the outcome will probably be a diasaster.

And still more escaping

I was well aware of this plant's tendencies toward invasiveness, so I planted mine with hesitation.  And I surrounded it with concrete.  And still I must trim it.  Not just once, not twice, but several times a year. (Weekly would be better, and probably required as it matures.)  So, while it is very good at what it does, it is not easy care.  Definitely not a good choice for the lazy gardener.

And even more.....escaping

So, try this at home - if you dare.  But if you don't want your garden to be eaten by a green monster, be prepared for quite a bit of maintenance.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Sound of Spring

The fish pond has been one of my favorite garden features.  Sweet little fish that come swimming up, mouths open, eager, and always thrilled to be fed, are some of the simplest joys in the garden.  During the winter months, all that ceases.  Sometimes encased under a layer of ice, they lay motionless on the bottom of the pond, silent, still, as though even time itself has slowed.

The fish pond last year
The pond's pump is unplugged during winter so it won't freeze.  Yesterday, though, all that changed.  The water in the fish pond finally warmed enough for the fish to come back to life.  They remember the cue I have for their feedings:  a swift sequence of knocks on the side.  Back to swimming up with their little mouths open, it brought a smile to my face.  Then, Mr. Holleygarden did something wonderful.  Magical.  Almost spectacular.  He started the pump.

Suddenly I realized how much I had missed the sound of the water splashing in the fountain.  This, to me, is the ultimate sound of spring, though there are many.

Birds, of course, are quite vocal in the coming of spring.  The individual sounds of mating, building nests, and their calls of warning, are all fascinating.  The quacking of geese in their wiggly, irregular V as they fly north on their long journey is a welcome sound to any southern garden.  So, too, is the buzzing of the bees.  The clicking of the hummingbirds as they fight over abundant nectar is humorous.  But the funniest thing about the hummingbirds is how they know where that nectar comes from.  When low, they will fly close enough to peer in the windows as if to say "Hey, you in there! Come fill up the feeders!  You're falling down on the job!".  In their mind, we are obviously their servants.

There is a creek below the house.  We will sometimes walk to it as quietly and silently as possible.  We do this in order to hear the hundreds - possibly thousands - of frogs that carry on their numerous conversations until we are detected.  At that moment, they all fall silent.  It is humorous to us and we wonder what kind of conversations we are missing.

One last sound of spring could be the hissing of snakes coming out of their hibernation.  Usually not heard by me, but obviously identified immediately by the cats, because we had the gift of a silenced snake on the doormat this morning.  So sweet, I suppose, in cat language.  I'm just thankful their gift was already dead!

I hadn't thought of the silence of winter until the sounds of spring began to register.  What sound signifies the coming of spring to you?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

 Do you remember Junior High gym class?  Our gym coach would choose two team leaders, and they would then proceed to pick the classmates they wanted on their team.  Not being very athletic, I was always a little delighted and surprised when I was chosen.  That's the way I felt when I was chosen by PlantPostings and A Rose is a Rose... for the Stylish Blogger Award.

Thank you, Beth and Masha.  I am honored.

In receiving this award, I must choose to follow the rules, which are:
1) Link back to the person who gave me the award.
2) Share seven random things about myself
3) Award 5 to 15 new or recently discovered bloggers and notify them.

#1 - I've linked above (and here) to PlantPostings and A Rose is A Rose... blogs.  They are both great blogs and I know you will enjoy reading them, if you haven't found them already.

#2 : about me
1) My favorite movie is "Ferris Bueller's Day Off".  It always puts me in a good mood.
2) My closet is always in a horrible state of disarray.
3) I rarely spend money on anything, except the garden.
4) I can not resist ice cream if it is in the freezer.  I will eat it until it is all gone.
5) Plants in the ground outside are pampered; plants inside are barely kept alive; plants in outdoor containers are always forgotten.  I'm going to try to work on that this year.  But I say that every year.
6) Midnight, the cat, exercises with me.  I exercise to DVDs; she stretches.  When I start the DVD, she always comes running.
7) I'm growing my hair out, but don't know what length I want it to be.

I've been thinking about this award.  Since no one seems to know how it got started (I checked wikipedia), I was wondering about its merits.  I feel like this was probably started for a couple of reasons.  First, so other bloggers could find out a little bit more about the new bloggers.  And second, and most importantly for the new bloggers, to have new bloggers reach out to other bloggers, in a sense of community.  And help expedite their success.  I hope the bloggers I award this to will accept this award and appreciate its merits.

And now, without further ado,
#3:  The envelope please.

In no particular order, I am awarding the following 10 blogs The Stylish Blogger Award.

 Edible Landscape
 My Garden Diary by Kelli Boyles
 Handlebar Gardens
 Sunray Gardening
 Stupid Garden Plants
 It's Not Work, It's Gardening!
 The Garden State
 Juggling and Jellies
 Lincoln County Garden Girl


Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Fight

It seems like the fighting never ends, though there are breaks now and then.

And now, it's started again.  On go the gloves.  Back goes the hair.  I'm ready.

Round 1
So many weeds!  Mother Nature!  It's only February!  Pow!
Mother Nature - 1, Holleygarden - 0

Round 2
These weeds are coming up pretty easily.  So glad I've got soil that I've amended for years.  Kaboom!
Mother Nature - 1, Holleygarden - 1

Round 3
Hey!  That's not fair!  You're taking half my soil with the weed roots!  Bam!
Mother Nature - 2, Holleygarden - 1

Round 4
Mother Nature!  How can that be?  These weeds are flowering already!  Is that legal?  Whack!
Mother Nature - 3, Holleygarden - 1

Round 5
I've weeded this bed so many times it's almost weed free!  Bop!
Mother Nature - 3, Holleygarden - 2

Round 6
How can you get these weeds in the ground cover like that?  And under the tree roots?  And - not fair! - right on top of the bulbs I'm not supposed to disturb!  Blewy!
Mother Nature - 4, Holleygarden - 2

Round 7 
What kind of weed is this?  It itches!  I'm itching all over!  My arms are turning red!  Oh, wait - that's sunburn! Pow!
Mother Nature - 5, Holleygarden - 2

I'm tired, coach.  Thanks for the water.  Can I just sit here for a minute?  OK, OK, I'll go back in.  I'll go back in for all the gardeners.

Round 8 
I'm mad now, Mother Nature!  I'm determined!  I'm getting these stinking weeds out of here! Take that! Whack!
Mother Nature - 5, Holleygarden - 3

Round 9 
What a long root!  Oh, you almost won that one - but I got it!  I got it all! Bam!
Mother Nature - 5, Holleygarden - 4

Round 10
Hey, Mother Nature!  Again I call foul!  Fire ants!  Aagggghhhh!
                  1-2-3 OUT!

Knockout!  Mother Nature wins the match.  But the fight will go on.  Tomorrow's fight might get bloody, though.  Mother Nature has put briers in the rose bushes.

I'm tired, I'm sunburned, I'm itching, I've got fire ant bites.  I'm going to the showers.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Enthusiasm Found!

The weather has not been what was forecasted.  The forecast was for bright, sunny, beautiful, warm days.  Instead, the last few days have been misty, cloudy, very windy, and just generally yucky, to be technical.

So, my attention has turned once again to an inside project I've been working on for months.  Making curtains.  Which should have only taken a couple of days.  But I've drug it out because I have no enthusiasm for it.  I want to be outside.

However, today was "The Day".  The day Mr. Holleygarden said he would help me hang them - if I finished sewing those dratted curtains.  So, I did.  And he did.  And I had an epiphany.

Stay with me.

My back room is a hodge-podge of colors - red, yellow, green, brown, a touch of pink.  So, I decided my curtains needed to have all those colors in them.  And I didn't realize until they were hung that they were perfect.  Perfect!

Perfect because of all those colors.  You see, those windows look out to the back walking garden.  The back walking garden that has the colors red, yellow, green, and a bit of pink.  Essentially, unconsciously, I brought the outside in.  And when the flowers bloom, the entire room is going to come to life.  As if I wasn't before, now I'm really anxious for spring to come and the flowers to bloom!

Colors in my back walking garden:

Colors in my curtain material:

Isn't it funny the many ways our gardens influence us, even when we don't realize it?  And now that the curtains are finally finished, I can devote all my time to the garden!  Well, weather permitting.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Riddle Me This!

Many years ago, during a marketing class I was taking at the time, a professor asked us this question:

What product:
Has been around for centuries
Needs no advertising
Has had no noticeable improvement for decades
Yet everyone needs this product
And the average household has seven!

We could not think of the answer.  Can you?  It's scissors!

How valuable scissors are in the garden!  Pruners, loppers, shears and even just lowly, plain scissors are very much needed and appreciated by the gardener.  I remember reading that HRH The Prince of Wales' gardeners (not being English, I hope I titled that correctly!) go around cutting grass edges with scissors.  Not grass shears.  Regular scissors.

Working each area around my garden, plants are not safe from my cutting tools.  I trim the dwarf indian hawthornes that encroach onto the path.  Ivy is cut back.  So, too is the asian jasmine.  Hedges are given a good trimming.  Roses are pruned.  Even trees are not safe!

In this picture of a relaxing area in my garden, there are holly hedges, boxwood hedges, roses and trees that have all been subjected to one type of scissor or another.  Like a good haircut that enhances the face, this garden would be completely different if not for the annual trimming it receives.

This week I am busy in the garden using all the different types of gardening scissors.  I enjoy this chore.  I know when I start giving the garden its haircut, summer's beauty is not far away.

"The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet."                            - James Openheim

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Feb 2011 Bloom Day

A couple of years ago I began to contemplate the idea of a garden with blooms all year.  Could it be done here?  Certainly in California it is possible.  In the north, probably not.  It would be hard to find blooms under the piles of snow.

Here, however, our climate is a little of this, a little of that.  A little bit of freezing, with a sprinkling of some snow some years.  Still,  I wondered if I could get some plants to bloom during the coldest months of the year.  So, I began to plan and to plant.

Then, digging around on different garden blogs,  I found a fun monthly group of participants engaging in a garden game of sorts.  Called Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, I realized this would be a test of my garden, and of my skill as a gardener.  I did have a bloom in January.  So, I was optimistic, but still a bit worried about February, especially after the unusually long freezing temperatures we sustained.

Well, I'm tickled and pleased to present my first addition to Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.  A camellia bud just beginning to open:

Camellia japonica 'Professor Charles Sargent'

If it had opened earlier, it would have frozen.  But it held off, even though I begged and pleaded with it to hurry and bloom.  (Thank goodness it didn't take my advice!)  It is now opening slowly, but surely (I've been watching it every day), and even though it's in bud stage and not technically a bloom, I'll take it.  Of course, as every gardener knows, each year is different, and I may not always have a bloom, or even a bud, to share.  But I've always loved a challenge.

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Valentine's Day Present

Valentine's Day has always had special meaning to me.  No, it's not the candy and roses, nor the endless commercials about teddy grams and hoodie-footies.  You see, Valentine's Day is the end of winter.  At least for me mentally.  We may have more cold days, but the winter's hold has been relinquished.

In this area, Valentine's Day has traditionally been the day to prune roses and plant potatoes.  Before Valentine's Day is planning.  But come Valentine's Day, the planning turns into action.  Dreaming turns into anticipation.  Wishing turns into expectation.  Yes, Valentine's Day is a day to love and cherish.

So what's my present?  It's supposed to be almost 70 degrees F today!  A beautiful, splendid day to get out in the garden.  A wonderful day of work.

But not just any work.  Spring work!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lilac Lamentations

I met a woman at the garden center the other day.  She was from Michigan, and a long time gardener.  She stated that the one plant she missed the most she could not grow here.  That plant was the lovely lilac.

Texas is not lilac country, at least not East Texas.  Lilacs grow in zones 3-7, and here we are a zone 8.  A hot, humid zone 8.  No lilacs here, even though my new gardening friend from Michigan had tried, in vain.

Many years ago I tried to grow lilacs, too.  I wanted lilacs because I have always heard how beautiful they are, how sweet they smell, and how loved they are.  But --- sit down while reading this --- I have never seen a lilac bloom, nor smelled its sweet scent.  Gasp!

So while my new gardening friend was reminiscing about the lilacs in her former garden, I could only wonder what I have been missing.  But will never know, at least not in my garden.  Perhaps one day I will venture to a garden father north than mine at just the perfect time when the lilacs are in bloom.

But I'm not sure I want to.  I don't think I want to wish for something I can't grow.  I don't want lilac lamentations.

A crab apple bloom, since I have no lilac pictures.

How about you?  What common plant have you never actually seen?  Do you grieve over a plant you can't grow?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cinnamon Treat!

Most people only look at crape myrtle trees in the summer, when they are in their glory blooming.  And that is a fine time to stop and stare at the beautiful adornment of their delicate yet numerous flowers.  But if that is the only time you look at Lagerstroemia x fauriei 'Natchez', you are missing out on one of its most spectacular qualities.  You see, 'Natchez' is an eye-catcher whether in summer bloom (its blooms are white) or its naked winter splendor.  

Look a little closer and you will see it's beautiful, cinnamon colored bark:

Starting out gray, the bark peels like a snake that has outgrown its skin:

Some people wonder if the tree has a disease.  And I admit, the shed bark does look a little odd until it is blown away by the wind:

But when it has completed its peel, the smooth branches are as beautiful as a butterfly that has emerged from its cocoon:

I have six of these trees.  Here are three of these glorious beauties:

'Natchez' is the only crape myrtle with this unusual feature.  The rest of the crapes, as far as I know, have regular gray tree bark that does not peel.  They must be so jealous.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Try This at Home!

Ilex crenata 'Helleri':

This is one of the most versatile hollies, probably because of its diminutive size.  Helleri holly stays quite small, and grows slowly, so it can be used in several ways in the garden.  It can be used successfully as a foundation plant, as an accent plant, or even as a low hedge.

Mine have been in my garden for several years.  They are still under 2 ft. tall, and I have never pruned them.  The one shown above is squeezed into a small area between the fence and a gate (about 2 ft.).  As you can see, they stay quite rounded even without shaping.  However, if you like the look of a ball, Helleri holly is easily sheared to this shape.

If your garden is small, or have a small spot in your garden to fill, these are excellent evergreen plants that won't take up too much room.  They don't have berries in the winter, but they are adorable just the same.  I love that the leaves are so tiny.  A great foliage contrast to so many other plants.

Helleri holly grows in zones 5 to 8, and are not fussy at all.  Give them full sun.  Since they grow so slowly and stay in their rounded form naturally, they are a must for the lazy gardener!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I'm Already Behind!

I think part of what makes gardeners so anxious in late winter is the knowledge of what they will need to get accomplished in spring, and the looming doubt that all will be completed in a timely manner.  I have been reluctant to make an actual list of what needs to get done this spring - it would be too overwhelming.  Besides, a portion of it depends upon Mr. Holleygarden's help, and I am not in charge of his schedule.

In addition to regular maintenance of the garden - spreading compost, pruning (trees, roses), weeding, mulching, trimming hedges, determining what needs to be replaced or moved, planting new bulbs and plants purchased, and attending to the vegetable garden - whew! - there are several projects which I want to accomplish this year.  Regular maintenance, however, will take hours upon hours to complete.  That is generally why I don't get around to new projects until July.  And July in Texas is unbearably hot.

See?  If I want to do all that I would like to do in the garden this year, I need to have already started!  The problem is - winter is still here.  Frozen ground is not conducive to gardening.  Neither is soil mucky with melting snow and ice.  And I'm a wimp when it comes to cold weather.

So, I sit by the fire and make more plans.  More plans that will take even more time.  Even more hours in the garden.  And I am already behind.

I know many gardeners finally stop adding new areas when they are unable to maintain the gardens they already have.  I am not ready to stop just yet.  I just wish that spring would hurry, that the unbearable heat will hold off, and that I didn't have this nagging thought in my mind that I'm already behind.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bargain Buy

Bought this cute gardening bucket/tool keeper yesterday:

Doesn't it look like it will be a great help in the garden?  Here it is filled up with garden tools and such:

This is going to be a great help to me in the garden.  It will cut down on the number of steps I will have to take, and I can imagine it will cut down on lost/left out tools, too.  I am extremely excited!

I've tried the tool belt.  I kept dropping tools while bending over, or stabbing myself in the stomach.  Plus it didn't hold many tools, so it really wasn't all that practical.  This seems so much more useful.

Best of all?  I bought it at Hobby Lobby for 50% off - I only paid $6.50! (plus tax, of course)  (US dollars)  Less than I paid for lunch!

What do you use to carry things around the garden?
What is your best garden bargain buy?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Visit to the Eye Doctor

How many people like going to the eye doctor?  Not many, probably.  But it's better than going to the dentist!

Anyway, I needed an appointment with the eye doctor.  Not really for my eye sight.  For frames.

You see, the last time I got glasses I went stylish.  Got some modern, sleek, trendy frames.  And I received lots of compliments.  Still, I absolutely hated them.  What?!?  Why, you say?

Because I couldn't garden with them!  They kept falling off my face while weeding.

So, I went back to the eye doctor to get some frames that function for me.  And when I tried on my new frames, I really tried them out!  I bent completely over as if I was weeding.  The girls in the office were giggling.  Mr. Holleygarden's eyes and mouth flew open.  But I wasn't self-conscious.  Gardening is what I DO.  (FYI, I had on pants!)

I love my new glasses.  They are great gardening tools.  I can see aphids.  They protect my eyes from thorny rose stems.  And now, they stay on my face, even when weeding!  Wahoo!

The rose picture has nothing to do with it, but I thought you'd enjoy looking at something pretty.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Weather Report

Finally the ice is melting.  Our cat, Mystery, sinks the ice in the pond:

Need to go on a diet, Mystery?

We had over 100 hours (4 days) of consecutive freezing temperatures.  Not usually something in which we have to contend.  The high of 20 F for Feb. 2 was a record in Dallas.  The cold front affected most of the U.S., but the weather here has been national news because of the Super Bowl being held in Dallas this year.  And the reports are right - we are hopelessly ill-prepared for this type of weather.

The good part?  It's over.  For now.  Hopefully the next cold front won't be as cold.  The insulating snow, I believe, helped my plants weather through this one.  I was mostly concerned about the China rose 'Mutabilis', but she looks fine.  Here is 'Mutabilis' from last year:

The only plant that really looks dead from the cold is an oleander (except the expected tropicals, of course).  Supposedly oleanders are really tough and will come back from the roots.

In fact, the only damage I can attribute to the big snow storm that came through is to the dog house.  The winds blew the dog house completely over, shattering a portion of the side.  Don't worry - the dog was residing comfortably in the garage.

February is a strange weather month for us Texans.  Some days are hot, some days are freezing.  I'm ready for some good old 'work out in the garden' weather.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Sign of Spring

There are certain signs of spring in the garden.  For most, it is the crocus.  That's not it for my garden.  I planted crocus bulbs for the first time in my garden this past fall.

For others, the tulip blooms are the first start of spring.  No tulip bulbs in my garden.  They don't get the cold they need, and I am too lazy to dig them up every year just to put them in the refrigerator and replant them again.

So, what plant tells me spring is here?  What plant do I stare at for a sign of spring approaching?

The humble crossvine:

Crossvine - Bignonia capreolata

The crossvine is the first to bloom in my garden.  The story goes that the crossvine blooms so early in order to feed migrating hummingbirds on their way back north.  Isn't that a comforting thought?  It's true that when the crossvine blooms I start to see hummingbirds.  The blooms are my cue to begin putting out hummingbird feeders.  What a welcoming sight those blooms must be for the hungry hummingbirds.

If you want to grow crossvine, here are some things you might want to know:

1)  The crossvine won't bloom until it reaches the top of what it's growing upon.  Honestly, I don't know if this myth is true, but it was for me.  I have mine growing up the garage, and it took almost 3 years to finally bloom!  I'm not generally patient, and I almost pulled it up.  I'm glad I didn't.  It was worth the wait.

Don't know where you'd put a crossvine?  I've seen pictures of crossvines growing up trees, and I am seriously thinking of planting some this way.  Can you imagine an entire tree bejeweled in orange?  And hummingbirds?  :)

2)  A native to southern U.S., crossvine can grow in a number of soil, moisture, and temperature conditions. I don't coddle mine at all.  They are not easily found at gardening centers, so if you see one and you want it, grab it!  Or you may have to order it by mail.  Grows in zones 6 to 9.

3)  A woody stemmed vine, I think this is the perfect substitute for wisteria.  I seriously covet the beautiful sight of wisteria, but I've seen it taking over entire forests and refuse to grow it here.  Yes, I know there's different types.  Still, I'll stick with crossvine.

February is usually the time I begin to stare at the crossvine.  When I see the first blooms, that for me is the start of spring.  I'll let you know when that happens!

What plant's bloom says "Spring is Here" in your garden?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Pushing the Zone

If you're a gardener, you already know what zone pushing means.  If not, well, let me explain.  We all have our own garden zones, depending on where you live.  I am in zone 8.  If I buy a plant that is cold hardy only to zone 9 (about 10 degrees hotter), that is a gamble known as pushing the zone.

It seemed like a safe bet.  With all the hot weather and mild winters we were having, and all the talk about global warming, my gamble paid off.  Until last year:

Last year we got snow.  And lots of it.  So long, tropical beauties.

And so, I decided that I would not push the zone any more.  And I (almost) stuck to that plan.  Except I bought the most amazing firecracker grass plants, and an Allamanda vine. Both zone 9 plants.

They just weren't labeled, and so I didn't know!  That's my excuse.  Really, I should have researched them before purchasing.  But that's just not as much fun.  Probably more fun than having dead plants, though, because this is what happened this year:

More snow.  See how Mr. Froggy's frowning?

And now the weather forecasters are predicting cold and snowy winters for the next 30 years.  Which I'll take with a grain of salt.  They can't get next week's forecast right.  I'm certainly not going to believe they know the forecast for the next 30 years!

But, no more zone pushing for me!  I'm a zone 8.  I'm a zone 8.  I'm a zone 8.  I must remember that when I see some amazing plant offered that's really for zone 9.

You can click here to find your USA hardiness zone if you don't already know it.  (Or if you want a reminder, if you too have been Pushing the Zone.)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Look-y! Look-y!

Thrill upon thrill - the seeds are sprouting!

Doesn't that just make your skin goose-bumpy?

Mr. Holleygarden wanted you to know that those are *his* cabbage seeds sprouting.  I have cabbage seeds sprouting, too, along with brussels sprouts and broccoli.  No tomatoes - yet.  Just give them a couple of days.

Growing vegetables has been a delight, not just for eating, but also for having something to do in the winter when the roses are sleeping.

If you're considering growing vegetables, you can!  I'm using the little Jiffy pellets that are in all the garden centers.  So easy.  Just add water.  The pellets expand to about three times their original height.  Then you just put the seeds in.  The kit has its own dome to act like a miniature terrarium, then you pop the dome off after the seeds sprout.  If you have never started seeds before, try the Jiffy seed starter kit.  Simple and not at all intimidating.  You can Try This at Home!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Honest! I don't how they got in the cart!

Like most people, we went shopping before the big snow storm hit.  Anytime we go shopping, I consider it not just an opportunity to buy bread and milk.  It's a garden buying opportunity, too!  And anyone that knows me knows I go to the garden center first!

Look at all the goodies I got!!!

Clematis - 'Henryi' (white, early blooming) and 'Warsaw Nike' (red, mid blooming).  I have so many places they could go, but probably they'll be planted on the arbor going into the walking garden.

Asparagus - for the vegetable garden, and eventually eating.  I was very excited to find these!

Siberian Iris - these grow great around here and I needed more!  Probably will just throw them in the walking garden.  The walking garden is where I usually plant things I pick up compulsively.  I'm about to run out of room to squeeze things in there.  I'm planning a new garden area so I'll have a new place to plop things!

Bearded Iris - these don't do so great here, but this blue one was just too enticing, and I was weak.  Probably I'll put these in the main rose garden.  The blue will be beautiful there.

Cinnamon ferns - to fill in where the azaleas were dug up by the armadillos.  Ditto the Mammoth Elephant Ear bulb.  Have you ever seen one of these bulbs?  Quite intriguing.  I've never seen a bulb so large!

Peonies - a 'Sarah Bernhardt' because it is supposedly one of the few peonies that can take our heat, and a 'Festiva Maxima' because it was such a pretty white.  These would never fit in the walking garden, so in the main rose garden they will go.  Wow, I really do need that new garden area - soon!

These also jumped into my cart:

Just to bring a bit of warmth into my home while it's so unbearably cold outside.

All in all, a very successful milk-and-bread run.  Interesting to note:  while there were long lines of people stocking up on groceries, I was the only customer in the garden center.  And I would have bought more, but they had very, very few actual plants.  Don't they know gardeners shop year round?  Even with the approaching threat of a major winter storm?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Today is the day everyone is in anticipation.  Will the groundhog see his shadow?  Will we have six more weeks of winter?

In the garden, spring is already being anticipated by the early bloomers:

Will either I or my garden be able to wait six weeks?  Famous Phil says spring will come early this year. I hope he is right.

"One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides." -  W. E. Johns, The Passing Show

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"One Misty Moisty Morning,

When Cloudy was the Weather,"

So starts the Mother Goose nursery rhyme.  I feel like I'm in the nursery rhyme each morning when I open the shade.  And we're supposed to get freezing temperatures for several days in a row!  Just when I thought spring was coming soon!  February is always the cruelest month for us Texas gardeners.

Oh, February, February, please go away.
I want the sun to come out and stay.

Oh, February, February, please go soon.
I have seeds to be sown.

Spring will come when you are gone.
Though the shortest month, you are so long.

Butterflies need to come out and play.
Vines on poles long to sway.

Bees are waiting for you to go.
Roses want to bloom, and so...

Hurry by, cold February haze,
And on to spring and garden days.

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