Thursday, July 16, 2015

Random Thoughts in the July Garden

I have not spent much time in the garden since I prepared it for a tour at the end of April. Looking around, it is hard to believe that people paid to see my garden. Constant rain in May and June kept me from starting any new projects this spring. All of the rain caused the plants to grow excessively. Now that the rain has stopped, it is too hot and humid to spend much time in the garden and the mosquitoes threaten to suck you dry of blood. I think I may have even lost some of my motivation to garden.

All of the rain caused the horsetail reed to grow like it was in its natural boggy habitat instead of a stock tank. When the rain stopped and the soil started to dry, the roots could not support the top growth and it started to brown. I cut off the tops about three weeks ago and I am still waiting for regrowth. Evidently the horsetail reed is in a dormant state right now. When I cut it back in February or March each year, new reeds sprout quickly.

I started removing a few plants from the main part of the front garden. I don't have a good plan yet. I just want to get rid of some of the plants that have a short bloom period and look a little too wild when they are not blooming. The open area to the right of the yucca was filled with pitcher sage. I also cut some gayfeather to the ground. It should resprout and bloom on shorter stems a few weeks after the uncut gayfeather.

Possumhaw holly is my favorite small tree. My only complaint about the plant is that is suckers around the base and where you trim limbs. Prior to taking this picture, I removed several long suckers around the base. Usually, pruning once a year is all that is necessary. While I was removing plants, I removed several coralberry plants to the left of the possumhaw. Coralberry has a tendency to develop powdery mildew on the leaves and these had it non-stop for the last couple of years. The berries are interesting, but the birds don't eat them, so out they came.

This year, something interesting happened to the possumhaw. Last year's red berries are still on the plant in July along with this year's new green berries. For some reason, the cedar waxwings stripped all of the berries from my other possumhaws this spring, but skipped this one. This possumhaw grew from a root sucker from a plant at my previous house. I potted the sucker and brought it with me when I moved. The possumhaw at my previous house had green and red berries at the same time about 15 years ago.  

The cactus coreid bugs are back. They suck the juices from the pads, leaving them marked and disfigured. The light patch in the bottom right corner is probably damage from last year. The adult bugs lay eggs on the cactus. When the eggs hatch, the young bugs usually stay close together. When I notice them, I squash them with a gloved finger. Some bugs get away by dropping to the ground, so it is necessary to go on patrol on a regular basis.

Mama mallard is missing. There was a bad egg broken open near the nest and this one still in the nest. I assume she abandoned the nest because the eggs were bad. I hope that is what happened. I found some brown feathers nearby.

This plant is popping up all over the garden this year. I think it must have come in with a load of decomposed granite because that is where I find it growing. I think it may be a bluet, perhaps Houstonia longifolia. I am pulling most of them out because I am concerned that they may be a bit prolific (invasive). As far as I can tell, they serve no major benefit to wildlife. 

I thought this combination of rock penstemon rose and little bluestem was nice. (I originally typed rock rose. I knew better. It was late and I did not proofread. Thanks for the catch Misti.)

Heading to the backyard, the decomposed granite in the side yard is overrun with Mexican feather grass and flowering tobacco. It all started with one of each plant that went to seed. Time to start pulling little plants.

This is the first year I had fruit on one of my toothache trees. It takes a male tree and a female tree to make fruit. The fruit is supposed to be good food for wildlife. 

When I planted my bottle bush, I was concerned that the rebar stems would move around once the soil started to dry and shrink. Well, that is what happened. Some of the stems and bottles are now touching. The soil is too dry to make any changes now, so I will reposition some of the stems after a good rain.

I have another piece of garden art. This spinner was a gift from the Plano Garden Club in appreciation for allowing my garden to be on their tour. I am still trying to decide where it will go. For now, it will remain here. It has spikes that stick in the ground and the ground is too hard to try to move it around.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

What was I thinking?

There are times when I question whether I made the right decision when I removed my lawn and replaced it with a variety of native wildflowers, perennials, and succulents. All of the rain this spring made plants grow like crazy. If I still had a lawn, it would be lush and green right now without having any supplemental water. Instead, I have a garden full of waist high drought tolerant plants that are beginning to flop over. 

Here at the end of June, many of the plants are as tall and thick as they would be at the end of the growing season. I was afraid I might turn myself in to the city code enforcement officer due to high weeds so I spent a good part of last weekend cutting back and thinning plants. All of the pictures in this post are "before" and not "after" because I am not finished hacking at plants.

This shot does not look too bad because there are some open areas and structural plants.

Turning a little to the right, however, there is a tall mess of plants. The tallest plants are Pitcher Sage and Liatris. I know my plant collector tendencies are to blame and I have been thinking of ways to make the garden look better. Perhaps removing the Pitcher Sage and Liatris will help? The Liatris looks great for a couple of weeks in the fall, but not so great for the rest of the year. I am pretty sure the Winecups will go or be thinned. Their long stems crawl over the other plants giving the garden a messy look.

The rain garden is full of quickly spreading Heartleaf Skullcap, Aromatic Aster, and more Liatris.

At the opposite end of the yard it is time to cut back the Gulf Coast Penstemon before all of the seed pods dry and shatter. It is a good idea to let a few seeds sprout each year because the older plants get weak and woody after a few years. 10,000 new plants is not a good idea.

I removed all of the aging Bluebonnet plants in the parkway during a break in the rain a couple of weeks ago. I am not sure what the tall plant is to the left of the Pine Muhly grass. I could be a weed that blew in as a seed or a wildflower from a seed that I collected and threw out. I was going to keep it around until it bloomed or something, but I think it is time for it to go too.

People ask me why I do not grow more plants in the parkway. The main reasons are to give an open and orderly feel to the front of the garden and to keep passage on the sidewalk from feeling too enclosed. I think I need to give the main part of the garden a more open and orderly feel too. 

I have been neglecting my duties of keeping the neighbor's grass off of the edging and pathways at the property line. 

Plants are growing into the pathway that cuts across the garden too.

Little pecan and oak trees are everywhere in the garden. I was about 50% successful pulling them out with pliers.  I will need to dig them out with a shovel when they resprout.

The rain's effects on the Horsetail Reed were interesting. While it was raining during the spring, the plants grew taller than I have ever seen them. When we had a two week break in the rain, the tips of the reeds started to dry and turn brown. This did not happen in previous dry years. I suppose they grew higher this year than their roots could pump moisture once the endless supply of rain stopped. I plan on taking the hedge trimmer to the reeds and cutting them back like I do every February.

This is a "during" picture. I was pulling Winecup vines away from the Rattlesnake Master when something startled me in the Liatris to the right.

Hiding among the tall plants was a mallard duck sitting on her nest. I was thinking about creating wildlife habitat when I planted a garden of native plants. I was thinking about birds. I was not thinking about ducks. 

Evidently, I did not disturb her too much because she was still sitting on her nest today. I will need to wait a little longer before I continue reshaping this section of the garden.