Thursday, February 20, 2014

Untold Stories of 2013: Unexpected Spikiness

While we wait for spring, here is another untold story from 2013.

Last summer I collected photos of several spiky plants in and around my neighborhood. Some of these spiky plants were unexpected finds in Plano, Texas. If anyone can make an educated guess at the varieties of these plants, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

The first spiky plant I photographed was this blooming agave. This agave is in the neighborhood just to the south of mine and I pass it every day on my way to work. I have had my eye on this agave since the terrible winter of 2009-2010 when all but one of my agaves turned to mush. I thought if I ever saw any pups on this agave, I might stop and ask the owner if they would mind sharing one with me. I never saw any pups, but I did have to stop one day and take a few pictures because this was my first time to see an agave blooming in person.

The flowers were incredible and filled with bees.

The flower stalk was probably around 15 feet tall. By the time I took my pictures, the lower flowers had already started turning brown.

A little higher up the stalk, the flowers were in full bloom.

And a little higher, the flowers were just starting to open.

At ground level, the leaves of the agave were already starting to die. I assumed that the owners would take down the plant once it finished blooming. I was wrong. It is still standing today. The owners even decorated the flower stalk with a string of red chili pepper lights.

There are a couple more agaves left in this bed. This one looks like a different variety than the one that bloomed.

Also in the bed with the agaves was this spiny plant that I assume is some type of euphorbia.

This large yucca grows in the center of a cul de sac across the street from the agaves. The long leaves are stiff and sharp.

On the way home, I stopped at an estate sale in my neighborhood. I frequently stop at neighborhood estate sales so I can check out the condition of the other houses in the neighborhood. Afterwards, I cut through an alley and saw these yuccas towering over a 6 foot privacy fence. It is not often that you see yuccas this size around here. Palm trees, yes. Yuccas, no.

A few weeks later, I was out roaming the alleys of my neighborhood again and spotted these yuccas growing high above this 6 foot tall Asian jasmine covered fence.

In another neighborhood just south of mine, the homeowners replaced their front lawn with gravel and planted a yucca that has sprouted several pups over the years.

This landscape style might be what comes to mind when some people hear the word "xeriscape" or mispronounce as "zeroscape". I suppose this lower maintenance landscape allows the homeowners to focus their gardening attention on their tightly pruned yaupon hollies.

A little farther from my neighborhood, I often turn my head when I drive by this clump of yuccas. I finally decided to stop and get a closer look. They are about two feet tall and have hairs along the edges of the leaves. I suspect this is Yucca filamentosa. The juniper in the background is interesting too.

Back at the homefront, I am adding structure to my prairie garden with more spiky plants. I found this variegated Yucca gloriosa on clearance at the end of 2012. I debated whether I wanted to add a variegated plant to my garden and where I would plant it. Several months later, I finally decided to plant it near my pale-leaf yucca, Yucca pallida.

I do not usually plant variegated leafed plants, but I think this one will blend in well with my garden. I like the way the leaves turns pink in the winter.

To add additional structure to the front garden, I moved a spineless prickly pear from the back garden to the front garden and planted a Yucca filamentosa 'Hairy' nearby. Hairy is camera shy and not pictured.

Still waiting to be planted are a Santa Rita Prickly Pear cactus that Tamara gave me 3-4 years ago when it was just a single pad. I am sure it would like to get out of that four inch pot. I also have a Hesperaloe parvifola 'Perpa' Brakelights that I bought in a moment of weakness. This variety has bright red flowers, rather than the usual coral color. I think this is the first Monrovia plant I ever bought. I usually ignore them because they are overpriced. I picked this pot because it had several plants that I should be able to divide.

As the years go by, the garden is becoming more desert and less prairie. Partly because many of my Little Bluestem grasses died out and partly because I needed some color and structure during the hottest months of the year. I am not really a huge fan of spiky plants. I am actually kind of afraid of them and prefer to admire them from a distance. Being a little klutzy and accident prone, I envision myself being skewered at some point.  

With all of these spiky plants, it may not be appropriate to call this blog Plano Prairie Garden any longer. I wonder what I could change the name to? Plano Pointy Garden? Mikey's Spiky Garden? The Garden of Pain? I need to think about this a little more.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Misty Sunday Morning

This morning the weather was a little misty ahead of another cold front that could bring some more frozen precipitation this week.

The moisture always brings out the colors of the Little Bluestem grass. (A setting on my camera brings them out even more.)

Pine Muhly in the foreground. 

Our sudden, early December ice storm did some damage to my spineless prickly pear cactus. The "branches" are slowly drooping closer to the ground and a few of them broke off. I will have more on this tragedy in a future post. I think it will survive, but it may be too early to know for sure.

Possumhaw Holly or Deciduous Yaupon is one of my favorites. The red berry covered branches are upright again after being bent to the ground under the weight of the ice in December.

It has been quite a while since there has been any rain water standing in the rain garden.

Bushy Bluestem grows in the rain garden.

A close up of Bushy Bluestem.

I do a little garden maintenance when we have warm weekends. I may trim a perennial here and there to tidy up the garden a little, but I leave many of them until mid-February because the seedheads add interest to the winter garden and provide food for birds. This is Rudbeckia above.

Salvia greggii.


Skeleton-leaf Goldeneye.

Eryngo. Most of the seeds have fallen to the ground...

and sprouted. These plants will not bloom until late summer.

Bluebonnet seedlings. These will be in full bloom in a couple more months.

The Buffalo Currant sent out a few early flowers. There should be many more over the next month.

Four-Nerve Daisy continues to bloom throughout the winter months.

In the vegetable garden, I planted a couple of varieties of onions in January.

Shallots and garlic were planted in October. The garlic will be ready for harvest at about the same time as the onions. This is my first time to grow shallots, so there will be some guessing as to when to harvest them. Inside the cattle panel cage, the roots of asparagus are preparing to send up new shoots. I cut back last year's ferny growth in January.

This is also my first time to grow Brussels sprouts. I have a purple one and a green one. The purple one is quite attractive in the garden.

I also have four broccoli plants. I harvested florets from two of the plants over the winter. Maybe there will be more to come. I covered my vegetable plants for the December ice storm, but I have not covered them since. They have been exposed to temperatures in the mid teens and it does not seem to have harmed them. When the plants are cold, they look like they melted to the ground, but then they perk up again when the weather warms. They are in mid perk in the pictures above because we had about three consecutive days where the temperature did not get above freezing. 

And then there is my poor red oak tree. It is not perking up. It suffered several broken limbs after the ice storm. There is more damage than can be seen in this photo. As much as I would rather do it myself, I think I need to call in a professional for this job. 

I am ready for spring.