Thursday, April 30, 2015

End of Month View - April 2015

The look of the garden has changed quite a bit since last month.  In the last week or so, the garden went from a spring-garden look to an early summer look.  Spring blooms have come and gone and there is a bit of a lull in my garden blooms until the summer plants start budding out.

Veggie Beds

The spring planted veggies have really taken off.  After this picture was taken, I even had to prune up the indeterminate tomatoes a bit since they were a bit overgrown and putting too much energy into their leaves versus producing fruit.  The eggplant and peppers are also doing well - I harvest my first three peppers of the season and the eggplant have started to flower.  Some of the fall/winter greens (chard, spinach, lettuce) that were left in the spring garden have gone to seed, so it is time to pull them up and plant some other summer veggies in their place.

Shade Tree

The shade tree bed has started to fill out after mostly going dormant through the winter.  The turk's caps and American beautyberries have really leafed out.  I've added a few new plants as well - some holly ferns and some inland sea oats for some different textures to the shade bed.  I even have some volunteer sunflowers from wayward birdseed.  The sunflowers started growing before the trees filled out with their spring growth.  It will be interesting to see if they will still blossom now that they are primarily in shade.


The back deck garden doesn't look too drastically different from last month, other than the parsley, dill and cilantro that I had to remove which started to topple over, I think because some pests (grubs? snails?) were gnawing at the roots and base of the plant.  I've replanted the plants from seeds in other areas of the garden.  Thankfully, I have some fennel up in containers of the deck to keep the swallowtail caterpillars happy in the meantime.

Center Beds

The bluebonnets have gone to seed, so the center beds don't have much color at the moment other than from some snap peas, larkspur and poppies.  Most of the red oriental poppies have started to topple over, so I'll pull out a bunch of them to make rooms for some summertime annuals, but I'll leave enough that will hopefully reseed for next season.


The lighting on this one isn't great, but the garnet sash pomegranate tree has finally started to put on growth.  I was worried that it might be dead, or maybe didn't get enough chill hours.  The pomegranate was purchased from the Natural Gardener, so I figured they wouldn't be selling me any varieties that aren't well suited for our area.  In this bed, the orange canna lilies have started to unfurl. I did a lot of dividing and transplanting of them last year, so I'm interested to see how much they flower this year.

Neighbor Fenceline

There isn't much to see here.  The rose bushes will send out a bud every once and awhile, but being their first year in this bed, I'm not expecting any big shows from them this year.  The neighbor's bushes are a different story though.  They are covered in fragrant white flowers that are attracting swarms of red admiral butterflies, so I'm glad I'm getting to enjoy some benefit from their yard.

Bulb Bed

The spring bulbs of daffodils and irises have stopped blooming and I'm in a lull of bulb blooms until the gladiolas and daylilies put on their show later this summer.  I should really try to find some other perennials to fill in a few of my holes that would have some nice color for late spring.  Any suggestions?

Front Fenceline

All the plants in this bed that were planted a year ago are really starting to fill out.  The black-foot daisies are going strong and the coral honeysuckle is looking healthy after looking a bit questionable last year.  My purple feathergrass plants died (due to freezing temps), so I've replaced it with a pampas grass plant.  I was originally looking for a dwarf pampas grass but could only find the regular size.  The normal sized one might end up being too big for the space I want it to fill.  If so, I'll just move the plant to another area of the front yard later.


The courtyard has gotten some much-needed TLC this spring.  Besides planting our new Chinese Pistache shade tree, we removed the Chinese wisteria from the tall trellis (which would grow like crazy but never flower), and replaced it with an evergreen and sweet smelling star jasmine.  The fragrance can now greet our guests as they come through the threshold of our home.  Also recently added to a corner was the Japanese Aralia, which was selected for its lush evergreen and shade-loving foliage.

Front of House

In the front, the yellow oleander that flanks our gate entrance is in bloom.  The salvias and guara are also in bloom.  My bi-colored iris are blooming for the first time this year and the lantana are starting to sprawl and getting ready for their heat-loving blooms.

I tried planting a gopher plant and sedum in my very front bed, and while claiming to be deer-resistant, it seems the deer still thought these plants were a delectable treat, so I'll need to plant these in a fenced space in the yard in the future.

Thanks, as always, to Helen of The Patient Gardener for hosting this monthly meme where we can look at the transformation of our gardens every month.

Monday, April 20, 2015

In a Vase on Monday: Trash and Treasure

Today's vase is brought to you by deep magenta roses and black-foot daisies.

The rose bush is of an unknown variety, gifted to me as a pass-along plant during the winter months last year from dear friend and garden blogger, Melissa of Dirt and Wine.

Melissa had too many crowded roses at her new house.  I was more than happy to help her out and take a rose bush off her hands.

One gardener's trash is certainly another gardener's treasure.  I had no idea what rose I was going to be getting.  And while I still don't know the name, I know that she is an absolute beauty!  I couldn't be happier with what a wonderful surprise the color, structure, and fragrance of the rose turned out to be.

To compliment the formal structure of the rose, I paired it with another profuse bloomer in the garden right now, and the more informal look of the black-foot daisy.

These flowers do so well in our hot and arid Texas, thriving on neglect and continuing to remain bright and cheerful through the most gruesome days.

Lovely in my flower basket.

Treasures, indeed.

This is definitely my favorite vase yet.

Thanks to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting the In a Vase on Monday meme.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

New Courtyard Tree - Chinese Pistache

Around this time last year, we lost our beloved courtyard tree.

It was a sad, sad day.  One of the key reasons we purchased our home was because of the many outdoor living spaces it contained.  The courtyard, complete with tree (type:  unknown), was the real winner of outdoor living spaces.  We were told, about a year and a half ago, that the base was starting to rot out and it would need to be removed.  After a strong wind blew through last spring, the tree finally toppled over onto the house (thankfully there was no damage).

It broke our hearts that we lost the tree.  But we moved on.  My husband did the gruesome tree removal process, complete with stump-grinding.  We waited about a year before planting another tree, just to make sure the previous tree roots decomposed a bit, as well as to give us enough time to consider what new tree to add.  And after much debate, we finally decided on our new courtyard tree, a Chinese Pistache (pistacia chinensis).

With a name incorporating "Chinese" in the title, I'm sure it comes as no surprise that this tree is not a Texas native.  I'll admit, this was a bit of a dilemma for me.  I know the importance of planting Texas natives to our ecosystem and was considering the Texas Ash for some time and almost purchased one.  Then, a landscaping friend mentioned how an ash would create a lot more debris and require a lot more clean-up in the courtyard.  That fact, mixed with the facts that the ash is susceptible to the emerald ash borer, and that my husband much preferred the small-leaf foliage and bright orange and red coloring the tree will have in the fall, resulted in the pistache winning out over the ash.

Since I wasn't planting a native, I wanted to make sure that the tree at least wasn't considered invasive.  The USDA put out a report stating that the tree had a "60 percent probability of being a minor invader and a 35 percent probability of being a non-invader."  Their low to non-invasive status is helped by the fact that female trees do not produce large quantities of seeds until they are established in a landscape for 15 to 20 years.  I do not yet know if a have a male or female tree.  Additionally, because the Chinese Pistache is listed as a Texas Superstar by the Texas Agriculture Extension Service, it put my mind at ease about purchasing a non-native.

Some of the advantages of this tree, as listed by the Texas Agriculture Extension Service include:
  • Regarded by many knowledgeable horticulturists as one of the most beautiful, pest free and easily maintained shade trees for the Southwest and Gulf Coast regions.
  • Winter hardy to central Kansas, the pistache forms a spreading, umbrella-like canopy which at maturity is 40-50 feet high with a width of 30 feet. This is an ideal size to provide shade, enframement and background for single-story homes.
  • Medium to fine textured foliage (an asset in smaller landscapes) that creates a light-textured shade pattern.
  • Foliage that remains an attractive, deep green color during the growing season, even in the rocky, highly alkaline, horribly abused soils common to many new home sites across Texas.
  • Spectacular fall color in shades of orange, red-orange and even crimson, often rivaling the show of sugar maples in the Northeast. In addition to its brilliance, this tree is also one of the most dependable sources of fall color in the lower South.
  • Very acceptable growth rate for such a long-lived species, with 2-3 feet of growth possible each year with good management.
  • The first shade tree to receive the coveted "Earth-Kind" designation from the Texas Agricultural Extension Service for its high levels of genetic resistance to insect and disease problems.
  • Extremely hard, durable wood, which is also very decay resistant, helps protect tree from wind, ice and vandal injury .
  • Superior drought, heat and wind tolerance once tree is established (that is, after 2 or 3 growing seasons).
  • Outstanding adaptability, with beautiful specimens growing form Amarillo to El Paso to Houston. The pistache is superbly adapted to all areas of Texas except the Rio Grande Valley.
  • An extremely tough, durable and adaptable medium-size tree which is tolerant of both urban and rural conditions.
  • Fruit set, only on female trees, consisting of clusters of small, round green berries which turn red to reddish-purple in the fall. These fruit clusters make excellent table decorations. And while inedible for humans, the fruit is relished by birds.

Some stats on my Chinese Pistache:
  • 10 feet tall, 5 feet tall trunk to first branches
  • Trunk is 3 inches in diameter, 8 1/4 inches in circumfrance
  • There are 3 main branches off the trunk
  • Leaflets are 11 inches long, 5 inches wide, with 12-18 leaves that are about 2 1/2 inches long
  • Purchased from Countryside Nursery in Austin, TX
  • Planted on April 16, 2015

I look forward to watching this tree grow in the coming years and plan to post periodic updates on it as part of Lucy's Tree Following meme.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - April 2015

There is so much to share for this month's bloom day - where do I even begin?

I guess I'll start with some of my favorite blooms in the garden.

First, the bearded irises have been providing non-stop color in the garden.  All of my irises were pass along plants from neighbors last year.  I've been very pleasantly surprised with variety and color I received.

The oriental poppies always make me think of the Wizard of Oz.

Their lush greens filled the garden all winter long.  Now, their papery petals flit in the breeze.

Such perfection.

Next on my list of favorites are the roses.  Belinda's Dream, Mrs. B. R. Cant, Heritage and a couple mysterious varieties (the magenta climber that came with the house and the ruby red pass along rose from gardening friend, Melissa) are blooming like crazy right now and I'm loving the show.

I've highlighted them in their own post, but our Texas state flower, the bluebonnet, is still going strong in the garden.  I've notice some of the rosettes are starting to fill out with seed pods. Yay for even more bluebonnets next year!

The ranunculus plants fill the beds with a burst of color.  I've tried these bulb/rhizome plants several times in the past in containers without any luck.  However, they seem to love living in the garden beds and are providing me with great cut flowers.

The Texas Gold columbine is putting on it's first display of flowers for me since being planted late last spring.  You have to love this Texas Superstar plant that puts on such a show while living in deep shade and loving drought conditions.

 Such peculiar looking flowers.

Other blooms in the garden include the coral honeysuckle - one of the hummingbirds' favorite treats!

Then there are the sweet peas...

Blackfoot daisies...



Including Lady Janes, which do especially well here in the South.

Even the edibles are flowering, including the culinary sage...


And even blackberries and strawberries!

That rounds out my blooms for April.  For more garden blooms, check out May Dreams Gardens where Carole hosts Garden Blogger's Bloom Day on the 15th of every month.