Monday, March 31, 2014

Prairie Plant Profile # 7 - Golden Groundsel

My Golden Groundsel, Packera obovata, is in full bloom right now. Its bright yellow flowers cheer up the garden in early spring when many other plants are still coming out of dormancy.

The clusters of flowers rise on a single stalk 18 inches above the loose rosettes of green leaves. The plants will bloom over a couple of weeks. When the flowers mature and dry they look like little dandelions. I tidy up the plant by removing the flower stalks after the flowers go to seed.

I have never noticed Golden Groundsel to spread by seed. It primarily spreads by underground runners. When not in bloom, it is easy to overlook Golden Groundsel because the rosettes of leaves are just a few inches tall.

Golden Groundsel is drought tolerant and is said to perform well in the shade. I initially planted one under my red oak tree where it did well and spread for a few years. As the tree grew and produced more shade, the Golden Groundsel began to decline.

I moved a few rosettes to the front garden and planted them in nearly full sun where they have thrived. They are growing next to a Possumhaw Holly that will eventually provide some shade.

On warm days, the flowers are buzzing with bees 

and butterflies.

This last picture shows a Golden Groundsel that I transplanted last year. The main plant is on the left and there are smaller plant growing from the roots at a diagonal to the lower left corner of the photo. Also notice how the leaves on the flower stalk change from round to an elongated shape with deep incisions. 

Golden Groundsel is one of those plants you may have to hunt down. I have never seen Golden Groundsel available in nurseries, but it is occasionally sold at native plant sales

Thursday, March 20, 2014

First Day of Spring and Native Plant Sales

Spring begins today. Tennyson wrote, "In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love." Maybe because I am not so young any more, my fancy is turning to thoughts of gardening instead. This quote from Margaret Atwood seems more appropriate, "In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt." And that is exactly what I intend to do for the next couple of days. I am going to smell like dirt, if not a little more. 

People often ask me where I get my plants. In addition to a few local, independent nurseries, the majority of my plants, especially the hard to find varieties, come from native plant sales. There are several sales coming up this spring, so take advantage of your chance to add some native plants to your garden and smell like dirt at the end of the day.

I normally compile a list of native plant sales in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, but this year I found a statewide listing on Sheryl Smith-Rodgers' blog, Window on a Texas Wildscape and she directed me to the source of the information on the Native Plant Society of Texas website. Click the links for the full lists. I will summarize the DFW sales below. 

Since it is the first day of spring, I wanted to take post some pictures of the spring flowers in my garden, but there are not many. We had ice and temperatures in the teens just a couple of weeks ago and that did some damage to the tender flowers that were starting to form. I do have a few patches of Four Nerve Daisies blooming like the one above and the flowers on the Golden Groundsel are just beginning to show a little yellow. Otherwise, most of the plants are slow to break dormancy. The native plants know not to rush into spring because you never know when it will turn cold again.

This is how the front garden looks today. If we get a little rain and do not have any more freezing temperatures, the spring flowers should burst into bloom in another couple of weeks. For fun, I looked back at my photos of the garden at this at this time of year and at this approximate angle over the last seven years to see the changes and the effects a cold vs. mild winter has on when the flowers start to bloom.

April 4, 2013. This is a couple of weeks ahead on the calendar. I don't think I will have this many Bluebonnets blooming on April 4 of this year. The plants are just now beginning to grow out of the rosette stage.

March 24, 2012. The winter of 2011-2012 was extremely mild. The Four Nerve Daisies bloomed all winter long. It was strange that many of the Four Nerve Daisy plants died during the summer of 2012.

March 19, 2011. A few Four Nerve Daisies are blooming. The Possumhaw Holly in the background has more leaves than it does today.

March 21, 2010. This was the winter that killed most of my agaves. Just a few days before this picture was taken, I removed the mushy agaves and planted the spineless prickly pear and Yucca pallida. I thought winter was over. This is the reason native plants are sometimes slow to come out of dormancy. 

March 23, 2009. This is a little bit of a different angle. The focus of this photo was my new decomposed granite pathway that I just installed. In 2008, I removed the grass from the front yard and began planting to the left of the pathway in the fall. Everything looks so fresh with the new pathway and fresh mulch. 

I don't have a photo for March of 2008. Later that year became the lawn's Season of Destruction and the garden's Season of Construction. I am sure some neighbors still wonder when the lawn's Seasons of Destruction will end.

April 1, 2007. Lawn, lawn everywhere, but I did have a nice big flowerbed next to the house and in part of the parkway. It is amazing how the garden has changed through the years and how the winter weather affects when spring really begins in the garden.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Getting Trashed

Every time a cold front blows through, like one did last night, I get trashed. Well, not me personally. My garden gets trashed and I take it personally. You see, I am one street off of a major thoroughfare that runs through Plano and across that road is a high school where the kids can't seem to find the trashcans in their parking lot. So, when the winds blow from the north, all of the garbage that kids leave in the high school parking lot or drivers throw out their windows ends up in my yard. Allow me to show you some new plant varieties in the garden.

Here we see the ubiquitous Cuppus mcdonaldoides.

Near this yucca is a companion to Cuppus mcdonaldoides, Cuppus lidus.

Oh, look. The rare Penstemon couponus. This one is the dollar fifty off variety.

This is Yucca papernapkinum.

Hesperaloe papernapkinum.

Another Hesperaloe. This one is Hesperaloe plasticfolia.

Not far from Cuppus mcdonaldoides is Bagus mcdonaldoides.

I am quickly losing my creativity. Look, trash in the Hesperaloe!

Oh, more trash! Half of a foam cup snagged in my Agave. Let's face it, I have a bunch of garbage in my garden and it all blew in overnight. It kind of makes sense that so much of the garbage is fast food related. If people don't care enough about the garbage they put in their bodies, then why should they care about the garbage they toss into the environment?

Usually there is a plastic bag or two that blows in with the trash. At least it helps with the collection of the trash.

And the most ironic piece of trash award goes to this mow and blow advertisement. "We Know It's Not Easy Being Green..." That's for sure.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Let Me Off This Ride

Maybe it is just me, but it seems like the temperatures this winter have been more of a roller coaster ride of highs and lows than in the past. For the latest example, the high temperatures on Friday and Saturday were in the low to mid 80s. A cold front blew through early Sunday morning bringing falling temperatures and sleet. The low temperature on Monday morning is expected to be around 14 with a wind chill near zero. 

On weekends when the temperatures climb into comfortable levels, I get out and do a little work around the garden.

Spring is just around the corner, so it is time to clean up the front garden. I "mowed" the dead growth on the grasses and perennials with hedge trimmers. I hope some of those tree leaves will blow away now that there are not as places for them to get snagged.

I am getting the urge to move the stock tank again. It was not an easy task when I moved it last year and I swore "never again". I like it where it is, but I think the possumhaw holly next to it may be too close. So "never" may come this spring.

The "bones" of the garden a visible now. Rocks, cactus, yucca, possumhaw, pathways, and a roving stock tank all add structure to the garden.

Scattered clumps of narcissus, one of my few non-natives, add a little sunshine on cloudy days. This photo was taken a few days ago.

Today, the temperature roller coaster came crashing down and the narcissus are bowing closer to the ground.

It is almost as if they are staring in disbelief at the sleet on the ground. It was so warm yesterday.

Frozen broccoli and frozen asparagus are on the menu tonight.

The asparagus started popping up in the last week. There are about six spears that are visible. I snapped off the tall one and another one that was about the same size. Some of the others that are coming up are much thicker. 

I did not pick this Romanesco broccoli. I think it will grow more, provided it does not succumb to the freeze. Just yesterday a cabbage white butterfly was laying eggs on the broccoli and today it is frozen solid and covered in ice. I hope the cold kills the eggs. The caterpillars taste bitter.

After tomorrow, the temperatures will begin to climb again. I am sure there will be a few more dips before the steady climb into summer. Maybe this will be the last big dive for the season.