Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dill is easy to grow - right?

Dill is easy to grow. Even new gardeners know that. Look it up and you'll learn that all it needs is full sun and well drained soil and watering when dry.

So why do I have so much trouble with it?

I'm on my third attempt to grow dill. The first time around, it grew, but did not thrive. The second time, it turned brown and died. This time, as you can see by the photo, it's turning brown around the edges. Again.

I've read that dill does not like to be transplanted. Maybe that's it. I don't see any signs of pests.
Is there something I'm missing?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Tulips in bloom!

Although this isn't a good photo, you can at least see that the tulips I planted now are starting to bloom. I scattered them around the annual bed, so it's hard to get a photo showing more than one. Next time, I will plant them in mass for more impact. Yes, there will be a next time. I've decided the payoff is worth the investment.

When I first saw the tulips fully open, I thought, boy, that was short-lived, That afternoon, the petals folded up and the next morning, they opened again. I'm anxious to see how long the blooms last before finally fading.

Ah...the joys of gardening. Each day is a new discovery.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Carnations (Dianthus Caryophyllus)

These are the pink carnations I picked up last week. They are companions to the pot of African daisies and the pair bring a nice spot of color to the gray of the weathered deck and the blue/gray siding of our house. I've never grown carnations before and thought I'd try them in a pot and see if they appeal to me the way other dianthus do. They are not florists carnations. These small carnations as the wild ancestor of the garden carnation. They are herbaceous perennials that produce sweet-scented blooms. Give your carnations at least 6 hours of full sun. Deadhead to produce more blooms.

An interesting note: One Christian legend says carnations first appeared when the Virgin Mary shed tears as she watched Jesus carry the cross to his crucifixion. The carnation has come to symbolize a mother's love, helped along when Anna Jarvis chose it as the official flower of Mother's Day.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

African daisies

I found these pretty African Daisies at Home Depot this week and thought the shades of violet/pink would make a nice contrast to a yellow pot that needed a new plant. As a companion, I bought pink carnations (coreopsis) for the second pot. They add color to the gray deck near the side door.

If you Google African daisies you'll find lots of references to the annual Dimorphotheca. These African Daisies I bought are osteospermum. According to Osteospermums.com, the name comes from the Greek osteon (= bone) and Latin spermum (= seed). This member of the daisy family sometimes is called South African Daisy, Cape Daisy or Blue-eyed Daisy. The label on the plant might say annual, but they are half-hardy perennials, which means they won't survive multiple frosts but will survive if protected.

Give your African Daisies plenty of sun, water frequently and feed weekly with a general fertilizer of your choice. Be sure to deadhead to prolong flowering. If you need to prune for tidiness, go ahead. They will send up new shoots.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tulips from Amsterdam

These are the tulips Stephanie brought back from Amsterdam. She also brought back a box of pink ones for herself. She waited a week or so before planting hers, so we are anxiously awaiting their appearance. They should be lovely.

If you plant tulips in Southeast Texas, understand that they are annuals here, even though they are bulbs. Instead of digging them up, storing and replanting next year, as you can in cold climates, you might as well toss them after blooming.

Tulips are classified by their bloom time: early spring, early to mid-spring, mid-spring and late spring. The ones Stephanie brought back are late-blooming, since in Southeast Texas, the usual time to plant tulips is late December or early January. By mixing bulbs of different bloom times, you can enjoy the beautiful blooms longer.

For her birthday each February 10, I gave Stephanie a vase of purple irises and yellow tulips for several years. They make a striking combination, with the yellow tulips bringing out the yellow in the irises' throats. If you're looking for an elegant arrangement, try it I like them simple, with no added greenery, in a tall, cobalt blue vase. The tulips droop gently, creating a wreath around the tall iris stems.

Planting tulips

I've always loved tulips but never planted any. Why? I'm not sure. I guess it's because they are a one-shot thing. You plant them, they come up, then die and never are heard from again. Also, they are kind of expensive when compared to annuals.

When my daughter, Stephanie, came back from a business trip to Amsterdam, she brought me a box of tulip bulbs. It wasn't easy, since she had to get tulips certified to be disease and pest free and had to get them stamped, so I was doubly grateful for the gift.

They already had been pre-chilled and needed to go in the ground right away, so I got busy and added them to my annual bed. Within a week or so, the first tiny green tips poked through the soil and now, they show promise of being nice-sized tulips. I'm really excited to see them in bloom.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Gloxinia Revenge

If you ever doubt the inexplicable ways of plants, consider this.

After I blogged about a gloxinia having one beautiful bloom season and being too difficult to get to bloom again, I went to water my gloxinia and found an ENTIRE new set of leaves coming from beneath all the droopy, damaged and dying leaves and brown buds

Sure, it said. Diss me and I'll show you!

Time will tell if that new growth will sustain blooms. Until I find out, I'm treating it with the respect it evidently demands.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Shamrock

Happy St. Pat's Day! Did you know that the shamrock - an Irish Christian symbol of the Holy Trinity and the registered trademark of the Government of Ireland - is the old, three-leaved white clover? Yes, indeed - and that means I have little patches of my ancestral home in my back yard! Legend says the shamrock was a sacred plant to the Druids of Ireland because it has three leaves - and three is a mystical number in the Celtic religion. If you want the true Irish shamrock, the botanical name is Trifolium repens, a bulb that can bloom (white flowers) around St. Patrick's Day. Keep your shamrock plant healthy by cutting it back a couple of times a year and storing it in a cool, dark place to allow it to reset. Shamrocks are dormant in Ireland during the winter.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Loropetalum 'Burgundy'

Joel and I bought this Loropetalum (chinese var. rubrum 'Burgundy') a number of years back from a clearance sale at the garden shop Rhette Browning used to have on Calder in Old Town. It was on clearance because it was root bound and leggy.
We planted it in one of the first beds we built in an "L" alcove of the house. I didn't prune it much because I liked the tree shape, rather than the squat form. It obviously loves the spot, since it's now 10 feet tall or more. I prune it only when two branches rub or it encroaches too far into the yard to make mowing easy.

It rewards us with the most amazing, neon fuschia blooms, like these. Click on the photo and look at the dark branch at the lower left. It's the true color. As long as our tree is happy, I'm letting it have its way.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Old chinaberry tree finds new life

The really old chinaberry tree on the south side of our house has taken some serious hits in the last 25 years. It went from a sturdy trunk with a wide, airy canopy to a storm-damaged stick of a tree. As it aged, it began rotting on the inside, yet the outer ring of wood continued to send up new limbs each year that provided dappled shade for the bed beneath. When it became too unsteady, I finally agreed with my husband that it should come down. Oh, I hated that. I always loved the fringed leaves, pretty lilac blooms that covered the yard like elegant confetti each spring - and didn't even mind the berries. When we chopped it down, I dug into the center cavity and found decomposing organic matter. Joel and I both had the same idea: why not turn it into a planter? I mixed some potting soil and expanded shale to help retain moisture and filled the cavity with Louisiana blue phlox and a lovely purple verbena. The stump is now a bright spot in a bed that was turned ugly by the freeze this winter and has become a focal point for what will be coming up around it.

Photos, photos, photos

My camera is back! They shipped it to my husband's office since we have a P.O. Box so I won't have it until late this afternoon, but the moment is back in my hands, I'll be outside taking lots of photos of the latest changes in the garden. The past week has been a whirlwind of activity around here. We pulled out an old chain link fence that was an eyesore (and full of mature poison ivy vines), finally got the iron wall of ginger dug up (it took a chain hooked up to a truck to dislodge it, despite all the recent rain!), trimmed back the climbing rose over the arbor, made a small bed for roses now that the area is clear, and planted lots of herbs.

I was reminded of the importance of taking photos of your garden as I looked back through old ones that showed how different our yard is now. I have photos of the big bed in front of the game room when we first built it. It was a neat bed with a few small plants and a small water garden. The water garden now is gone, the small African irises now are huge stands and we have a narrow walkway of flagstone that leads to the fountain we put in a couple of years ago. It's so nice to have all the changes documented. This photo is an old one of the climbing rose in overblown glory. Later, fellow gardeners...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Gloxinias - one time glory

I believe that part of being a gardener is knowing which plants to give up on - and when. For me, an obvious example is the gloxinia. It's such a beautiful plant, but trying to keep one alive and getting it to bloom again once it's lost its florist glow is futile - for me, at least. I recently spoke to a group about my book, "Grace, Gratitude & Generosity" and as a thank you, they gave me a beautiful gloxinia in full bloom with lots of buds. It touched me because the gloxinia was one of my grandmother's favorite flowers, but she never had one. Now I know why. They are next to impossible for all but the most dedicated gloxinia fans to propagate, grow and get to re-bloom. I wanted to make mine last, so I researched what it takes. The answer? More than I'm willing to do. Time is a gardener's best friend - and enemy. As with most things in life, you have to choose were to place your priorities. If you have so many hours a day to garden, which would you rather do - spend lots of hours on one or two plants that likely won't survive, or spend those hours on plants you also love and know will produce with much less care. Obviously, there are exceptions. Many people prefer to specialize in tough, demanding plants. They are successful in their pursuit and enjoy the challenge. But for the average novice gardener, coaxing a lovely bed of blooms is reward enough. What do you think?

Monday, March 8, 2010

March birth flower - the Daffodil

March is a wonderful month for gardeners, and special to me for several reasons. In March, the first bulbs already have made an appearance in Southeast Texas. The paperwhite narcissus have bloomed and gone, but the March Birth Flower is bringing vivid color to yards and pastures. The cheery yellow trumpet and petals of the daffodil announce that spring truly is here. Daffodils symbolize hope, modesty and faithfulness. At least six of my family members have birthdays in March, beginning with my sister Billie, then my sister Anita, followed by my nieces Lisa, Tracy and Katie, then my mother. My grandmother always had daffodils in her yard, and they still faithfully return each year to my dad's homestead, despite his absence.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Cameras in the garden

If you've noticed a slowdown in posts with photos, there's a reason. My camera has been acting up for a while. I did some online searching and found it was a known flaw in a component that should be able to be replaced. So I shipped it off and have been camera-less since. It's been miserable. Here we are when buds are forming, cold-hardy annuals are re-blooming and everywhere I look I see potential shots. I am anxiously awaiting news of my camera's return. Until then, I'm inviting any gardeners who have photos to share to post them or email them to me with a brief description, your first name and city. Photos are an integral part of this blog and I like to use original photos. Send yours in. Even when I get my camera back, I'd still love to see your photos.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Beekeeping Seminar in Orange

This is the flyer for the Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center beekeeping semiar on March 9. For more details, visit www.shangrilagardens.org

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Have a Gardening Question?

If you've got gardening questions, Master Gardeners have the answers. Master Gardener interns take an intensive course on everything from integrated pest management to lawn care and landscape design. After a year of volunteering in the community, they earn their Master Gardener Certification. Since the main focus of the MG program is education for the community through volunteers who assist county AgriLife agents, what better way than to answer questions from area gardeners? While a Master Gardener might not have the answer, he or she knows where to find it, with extensive training and research materials.

You can ask a Master Gardener your question every Sunday through March 21 from 2-4 p.m. at Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center in Orange. Certified Master Gardeners, Interns or Trainees from around the State of Texas will be available. The event is free to the public (does not include garden tour). Tours are available for regular fees. If the Master Gardeners don’t have an answer readily available, you can fill out a question card and they'll get back to you with the answer. Shangri La is at 2111 West Park Avenue in Orange and is open Tuesday through Sunday. For more information call 409.670.9113 or visit shangrilagardens.org.