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.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Dallas Water-Wise Landscape Tour Part 1

The Dallas Water-Wise Landscape Tour was this past weekend. It was also the first full weekend we have had in some time when it was not raining, so garden tours were low on my priority list. I have a garden at home that has been neglected for the last month because of the rain and needs some attention. Even so, I could not resist hitting a few of the closer gardens.

The first stop was the North Tour Headquarters at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research & Extension Center on Coit Road in far north Dallas. There used to be an interesting collection of native plants in the parking lots and around the buildings near Coit Road. I believe those plants have a connection to plantsman and co-founder of the Texas Native Plant Society, Benny Simpson. Unfortunately, those plant were removed over the last few years.

On this day, visitors were directed to two new demonstration "houses" that are landscaped with water-wise plants. The goal is to introduce visitors to different ways to save water, both inside and out. Of course, one way to save water is the use of native and adapted plants in the landscape. 

A carpet of lawn is the prominent feature in the front yard. I did not recognize the variety of grass. Maybe something A&M is experimenting with. Near the house are several native shrubs and perennials.

The left side of the front yard features a dry creek bed, yuccas and other native plants.

A pathway leads visitors into the backyard.

There are a couple of of flagstone patio areas with a small lawn beyond.

A bench invites visitors to take a seat on this small flagstone patio. It looks like a concrete bench seat was placed on concrete pavers set in a spiral.

A dry creek bed cuts through the backyard.  

Looking back in the opposite direction. Those are large (unused?) greenhouses on the opposite side of the fence.

A large cistern collects rainwater from the roof on this side of the house. Dottie Woodson was inside the house sharing water-wise information about the house and gardens. She commented that the fence at the back has space between the slats for wind flow which will have a cooling effect when it blows across the plant. Why? Because plants release moisture into the atmosphere through a process called transpiration. When the wind blows across the plants, it causes the moisture to evaporate and evaporation is a cooling process.

This is the front of the second house. It also has a lawn. I did not pay attention to these rectangular gravel beds until looking at the photos. There seems to be a row of them. Maybe they are intended to serve as a pathway? 
The back side of the house has a swale with wildflowers, succulents, and grasses on the edge.  

This photo was taken from the other backyard. 

This rain (and perhaps dew) collection system was connected to a drip irrigation system. I think the people in the background were heading to the turf grass test fields for info about various grasses being tested.

This is the view looking back toward the backyard and vegetable garden from the front side of the house. That is snakeherb in the left foreground. It loves to spread, but has nice purple blooms in the spring and fall and endures the summer with little to no water.

I was interested in these Growtainers. Unfortunately, they did not appear to be open to visitors. According to their website, Growtainers are the portable farms of the future. They are a highly engineered modular and mobile vertical production environment:  a specially designed and constructed 40’ insulated shipping container that has been modified to provide the optimum controlled vertical environment for growing a wide range of horticultural and agricultural products in all environments and climates. 

That's all for now. I will try to post some highlights from the rest of the Dallas Water-Wise tour soon. I also have a few pictures from the Plano Water-Wise tour.