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.

19 comments:

  1. And I thought I had a lot to cut back after our copious spring rain! Carry on!

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    1. Carry on, indeed. That was just the front yard. It is much the same in the back.

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  2. It's been an amazing year for plants but a lot more work for gardeners. Just three years ago I couldn't imagine cutting or pulling plants before they seeded out now I do it all the time. I joined a group that holds a plant/sale swap at their monthly meetings which helps.

    The duck is so sweet, I hope she finds a pond that doesn't require crossing the busy road.

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    1. Shirley, I organized a neighborhood plant swap earlier this year. It was a small, but enthusiastic, group. We are planning another for the fall. It is a great way to get rid of the excess and improve the look of the neighborhood at the same time.

      I am concerned about the future of the ducklings. There are cats and an occasional coyote that roam the neighborhood and the nearest creeks are across busy streets.

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  3. The Mallard Duck may be as close as you get to "Mission Accomplished" from Mother Nature.

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    1. You are probably right, Cary. Until now, rabbits were the largest creature to make my garden home. Thanks for leaving a comment.

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  4. Ducks and ducklings are beyond cute. You'll enjoy the rest of the summer. If they all get uses to you, they'll probably follow you into your house! Have fun! Your garden is doing its job... David/:0)

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    1. Hello David! We shall see what happens. I may have to lead the duckies to water in a few weeks, dodging traffic along the way.

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  5. A thoughtful post! I like your idea on creating a more orderly feel in the main part, and cannot wait to see how you do that...some interesting options come to mind.

    In fact, on my Marfa trip, I met a Dallas woman who did the opposite...she had an area like yours (the same size, actually) on her huge lot, and just carved it our of the native grama grasses there. very pretty, but not as interesting as your prairie given your cact - so your final might be even better.

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    1. David, please share if you have some interesting options coming to your mind because not much is coming to mine. I thought about additional pathways or hardscapes, but I think the easiest and most effective change is to remove or thin out the taller herbaceous plants like the Liatris and pitcher sage. I hate to remove the Liatris because they look so good for a couple of weeks in the fall and they bloom at the right time for the monarchs, yet I think they detract from the look the rest of the year.

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    2. Hi, I've been swamped at work, but I actually saved one of the entire front images, so hopefully I can sketch something on it. My guess is the solution lies in something massed to unify the space, then some negative space.

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    3. Ha, I knew you would say negative space. Don't go through too much trouble. General suggestions were all I was looking for. I would not want to take advantage of your professional skills.

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  6. I'm fond of the liatris, but I'm just a viewer, not the person putting it up with on a daily basis.

    I'm glad the duck found use of the habitat...I guess we take what we can get sometimes? Though, I'd rather not have the deer thinking I'm providing them fodder!

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    1. Well, there probably will not be any ducklings roaming the garden. Mama duck was not on the nest for the first time that I noticed in the the last couple of weeks so I went to take a peek. There was one egg in the next and one cracked open next to the nest. It looks like the eggs were bad. I am glad I don't have deer. They eat too much.

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  7. A mallard, huh? That's not what I would expect to find either. I know what you mean about a jungly garden, as mine is the same. I've been whacking on it a few hours here, a few hours there. I see in your comment to David that you're considering creating some openness by adding paving. Have you thought of something like the spiral seating in a DG field that I photographed at Rollingwood City Hall? I think that would fit nicely into your garden. http://www.penick.net/digging/?p=32759

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  8. I remember that spiral seating . I would not mind it in the backyard, but I am not sure it would work in the front yard. I think it would be too exposed since the property slopes to the street and the majority of the plants are low. I am still thinking of options. Whatever I do, I don't think I have any major renovations in my future. Time to simplify.

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  9. I feel your pain. My swamp liatris are 6 feet tall! Sweet Joe Pye is 8' tall! tree seedlings out the rear....I started using a crowbar toe remove the seedlings, works great!

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    1. Yikes! 6 and 8 feet tall! A crowbar is a good idea. I guess you can get some leverage with the curved end,

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  10. Looks wonderful. I read in the other post that the mallard duck is missing. I hope she is ok. So sweet!

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