Thursday, January 29, 2015

Is it Spring Yet?

My Buffalo Currant, Ribes aureum, seems to think it is spring. It is still January and the Buffalo Currant already has a few yellow flowers on the branches. 

Yesterday's high temperature was 80. With such a warm temperature in January, it is easy to get a little confused about the seasons. 

Mid-March is the usual peak bloom period for Buffalo Currant in my garden. Until then, it is nice to have an occasional warm day and and see a few spring flowers.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Blue Bottle Bush

There is something new on the horizon in my backyard garden.
It is tall. It is metal. It is glass.

I have been thinking about adding one of these in my garden for quite a while and finally got around to building one.

Bottle trees have been popular in gardens in recent years. Click here for some historical background. Instead of a bottle tree, I call my creation a bottle bush. 

Fans of Pam Penick's blog, Digging, (and who isn't a fan of Digging) may think my bottle bush has some similarities to her ocotillo bottle tree. I swear I did not steal her idea. My bottle bush idea has been bouncing around in my head for several years. I had the rebar and I had some bottles, but I never had or made the time to make one until last month on the day after Christmas.

My bottle bush was made from the three rebar tepees that I removed from the garden last year. Looking back on this photo from June 2012, I wonder why I removed them.

I took my 15 pieces of 5/8 inch rebar of varying lengths and bent them with a pipe bender. You insert the pipe or rebar into the curved end of the pipe bender and use leverage against a hard surface (a sidewalk in my case) to bend the pipe. It takes a little muscle and an eye for plant growth habits to bring a lifelike shape to a straight piece of metal.

As I was bending the rebar, I stuck it in the ground to create the shape of my bush. I wish I had numbered the branches of my bush so I could recreate this shape. I actually prefer it to the current shape. As for the bottles, I had been collecting them from anybody that would donate to my cause, but I only had six blue bottles after four or five years. I did not have enough bottles of one color to complete the bush, so I thought I could use green bottles on the lower branches to represent the leaves of my bush and the taller branches would have blue bottles to represent flowers.

Since I drink grape juice and not wine, my alternate idea was to use frozen concentrate grape juice containers instead of wine bottles on my bush. The only problem with this idea is that the containers would probably blow off with a strong wind. In the end, I decided all blue wine bottles would work best. I found some bottles for sale online, but shipping would cost as much as the bottles. My internet searches finally lead me to a local beer making store that had blue hock bottles in cases of 12 for about $20. I bought two cases.

I thought of a couple of ideas to minimize contact between glass and metal. The first was to dip the ends of the rebar in Plasti Dip Multi-Purpose Rubber Coating. Plasti Dip comes in a can and is typically used to add a rubber coating to the ends of hand tools, such as pliers. Two dips seemed to be enough for a good coating.

While I was waiting for the Plasti Dip to dry, I stuck the rebar in the ground in a random linear pattern. I kind of like the look. This might look good in front of a fence, hedge, or maybe used as a see through screen.

To keep the neck of the bottle from rubbing against the rebar and to give it a snug fit, I cut a one inch length of 5/8 inside diameter vinyl tubing, ran it up the rebar and inserted the tubing into the bottle. You can barely see the tubing in the neck of the bottle.

I pushed the rebar branches into the ground as far as I could. There is up to 8 feet of rebar above ground and maybe one foot underground. I am not sure how this will hold up long term. Wet soil, dry soil, and wind could loosen the rebar and cause it to fall over. Concrete will be a last resort because I want to be able to move or adjust the branches of the bush if I get the urge. 

It is raining right now and is supposed to rain all day tomorrow. I hope the branches stay upright and I do not have to pick up pieces of broken bottles this weekend.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Winter Blues

I have winter blues because I have not been able to spend any time in the garden lately. It has been cold and/or wet for the last several weeks and  when there is a nice day, it is usually during the week and not on the weekend. 
I don't get to see much of the garden other than what I can see out this window before work.

I can see a little more if I lean to the right look to the left.

And a little more if I lean to the left and look to the right. The good news is that the sun will come out tomorrow and the temperature will warm into the 60s by the weekend. I have more plans for the weekend than I have hours, but it will be nice to get outside for a while.

Do you have winter blues too?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Warmth on a Cold Morning

This possumhaw holly caught my eye on a cold, wet morning earlier this week. I took these pictures later in the day after the rain stopped and the clouds started to clear. 
Normally, possumhaws drop all of their leaves by now leaving only the red berries on the branches.  

This one made an attempt at fall color and held on to some of its now yellow-green leaves for a while.

These pictures don't really capture the color and warmth that I saw and felt on cold, dreary morning.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

We are starting out this new year with a little freezing rain. The temperature is hovering around freezing, so we are not expecting a major ice storm like the one from December 2013. Click the link for more info on that icy event.

A few little icicles like the ones on this possumhaw holly are enough for me.

Retrospects on the previous year are common as we enter a new year. I have done those on this blog before, but I have not had the time lately. You may have noticed that I have only had holiday posts since November.

For those that like retrospects, Google automatically created a Year In Photos using my garden photos from 2014. It is 45 seconds of photos that I added to Google in the last year. And it is set to music! Google did not make sharing easy. When you click the play button, the movie may open in this window. If it does, you will need to click the back button on your browser to return here. (After much tinkering, I think I got the link to open in a new window.)

I am not sure how they chose those photos. Maybe they were the most viewed? The one of flea beetles eating coreopsis reminded me that I need to put out some beneficial nematodes to try to control some of the pests as they overwinter in the soil and mulch. Up until the last couple of years, I did not have any problems with insect pests on my ornamental and vegetable plants, but it looks like they have added my garden as a favorite destination in their fine dining guide. I hope 2015 brings some balance to their populations and a lot less destruction.

Although I am not doing a full blown retrospect of 2014, I could not resist a few pictures from the front garden on a sunny afternoon last week. As far as I am concerned, the dried stems and seeds, backlit by the late afternoon sun, are just as attractive as the garden when it is in full bloom in the spring or the fall.

The copper stems of little bluestem with the fuzzy silver seeds stand out in the garden.

Normally, I remove the gayfeather seed stalks as soon as the flowers fade to curb excessive reseeding. 

 the moment I am glad I did not remove them. I may be regretting that decision in a few months if I am plucking out thousands of little gayfeather seedlings. 

Pine muhly and gayfeather surround a spineless prickly pear.

Here is a wider view.

And a close up of the many dried seeds on a gayfeather flower stalk. This stalk branched out as it grew, rather than growing as a single stalk.

More little bluestem with a few coneflower seed heads.

Variegated Yucca gloriosa in the background and Yucca pallida in the foreground. The second photo in the Google Year In Pictures shows the Yucca gloriosa from last January. I was surprised at how much it had grown and how much healthier it looks now. 

This last picture is of bushy bluestem and more gayfeather. 

Coming up for 2015, the Plano Garden Club asked if my garden could be on their tour this year. I agreed, but did not find out until later that it is a two day tour. I have lots of preparation work for this one since there is a paid admission. I just gulped hard because I realized that the tour date is less than four months away. Yikes! I have a week of vacation time scheduled for mid-March so I can prepare for the late April tour. I hope the weather cooperates that week and for the tour.