Digging In

Insight into garden design, photography and growing life.

December 13, 2010

holiday shopping for the gardener

I found this poem in a recent email sent to me by the Antique Rose Emporium, one of my fave online nurseries, and found it very relatable. Let me share with you:

A Christmas Poem for Gardeners
~ Author Unknown

T'was the weekend before Christmas, and all through the yard,
Not a gift was being given, not even a card.
The tools were all hung, in the garage with care,
With hopes that St. Nicholas soon would repair.
The shovel with blade all rusty and cracked,
The pitchfork still shiny, but handle it lacked.
When out on my lawn, (it's brown and abused)
I could see poor old Santa, looking confused.
No list had been left for Santa to see,
No gardening gifts were under the tree.
But wait there's still time, it's not Christmas yet,
And gardening gifts are the quickest to get.
You can forget the silk tie, the fluffy new sweater,
Give something to make the garden grow better.
If she wants a gift shiny, then don't be a fool,
It's not a dumb diamond, but a sparkling new tool.
If fragrance is listed you can forget French perfume,
It's a pile of manure that'll make gardeners swoon.
Give night crawlers, not nightgowns, a hose that sprays water.
(Anything for the kitchen is not worth the bother.)
Give a great gift that can dig in the dirt,
It's better than any designer-brand shirt.
Now look quick at Santa, this guy's not so dumb,
Under his glove, he hides a green thumb.
His knees are so dirty, his back how it aches,
His boots stomp on slugs, (he gives them no breaks).
The guy works only winter, you can surely see why,
For the rest of the year it's as easy as pie.
He has elves plant through spring, pull weeds in the summer,
In fall they all harvest, but winter's a bummer
And so Christmas gives Santa a part-time employment,
'Till spring when the blooms are his real enjoyment.
So ask the big guy for garden gifts this year,
Seeds, plants and tools, Santa holds them all dear.
You see, malls may be crowded, vendors hawking their wares,
But visit a nursery, stress-free shopping is there.
Now Santa's flown off, to the nursery he goes,
And his voice fills the night with loud Hoe! Hoe! Hoe!

October 30, 2010

Happy Zucchini

A few pics of our big o' zucchini vine. The fruit is edible from bloom throughout any size, but the smaller ones are better. My only compliant about this rambunctious vine is its fruit is not a firm as those in the stores. Not so good for grating.

September 22, 2010

harvest time

Just in time to celebrate the autumnal equinox, we are happily harvesting our zucchini squash. A couple of days ago, we picked our first at about 8" long and weighed in at 12 lbs., 6 oz. But I guess you shouldn't let them get too big - the smaller the more tender. So yesterday we picked another, smaller this time. Now I hope to find time to make some yummy zucchini bread.

September 11, 2010

Bucketfulls o' rain

Tropical storm Hermine dumped lots and lots of rain on Texas and the south this past week. Thankfully we didn't see anything too severe, like San Antonio and Georgetown did, but we got a whole lotta rain. Almost 12" in 24 hours. Such events are unusual but not uncommon. So DH and I are seriously talking about adding French drains and an ejection (sump) pump to the back garden. While I'm happy to report I didn't have standing water long after all that crazy rain, I would prefer the excess to leave the yard, instead of creating mud puddles perfect for dogs to wade in - and I'm always concerned about the health/drainage of my plants in this heavy clay.

Sounds like a lot of work. But I know I will have to address the drain lines from the downspouts and the sprinkler heads before I tackle renovating the kitchen garden. As usual, so much of the work in the landscape is stuff you never see. But I guess that's the point. Watching the next storm wash away carefully-constructed stone pathways and plants wouldn't be too fun.

August 11, 2010

What's blooming, August

I hope dragonflies (and damselflies) are good luck. It's been hot - of course, it is August in Texas. We got a good rain last week, but I'm hoping for more in the future. Keeping up with the watering gets old. But I am pleased to report the horticultural oil I sprayed on my trees had a greatly reduced my pests (scale, aphids & spider mites). I may have to do another application on two of my crepe myrtles, but the pest load was likely reduced by 90 percent.

Damsel fly resting on crepe myrtle 'Nachez.'

The dwarf wax myrtles have really taken off. A happy surprise.

Bloom on crepe myrtle 'Nachez.' These trees were slow to set flower, but it's still their first summer.

Pink 'Knock Out' rose. Still doesn't look like much, yet.

Butterfly bush 'White Profusion.' Starting to get big and fill up the empty fence line. Good.

'Caldwell Pink' rose. This is a compact and very tough little rose. I actually got this plant as a freebie when ordering climbers for my last garden. It had been living a very stressed life in a pot until last fall, until I finally got it in the ground. If a plant could have danced for joy, this would be the one. It's been blooming and healthy, despite the pest plagues around it.

The 'Teddy Bear' magnolias are still looking pretty decent, even when not in flower. The glossy effect of the horticultural oil made the leaves look very nice. Another benefit of spraying I never considered.

The grasses, 'Adagio' maiden grass, are starting to put out their plumes.

I'm loving this recent acquisition, humming bird mint 'Cana.' And I actually saw a little humming bird at it one afternoon last week! The leaves have a very lovely scent. A great, tough plant.

One of the many blue dragonflies. The frequent the back garden regularly, buzzing up and down the pathway. The boulder is a nice warm landing pad.

July 27, 2010

death of a good shovel, RIP

This spading fork worked hard. Very hard. It allowed me to bust and turn clay into lovely amended raised beds and dig out plants no matter how much it rained. It worked so much better than a spade in my black clay. I could not have built my new garden without this tool. But it could not last. It lost its head to too much labor.
Rest in peace, good shovel.

beginning the dog days

It has been hot for a while. That's fine. It's summer in Texas, wouldn't expect different. I keep reminding myself this is the first summer for ALL of the plants I planted. Of course every gardener fights an ongoing battle for perfection/plant health. Hot & dry means higher water bills and now spider mites (I'm pretty sure) and leaf miners (possibly).

What I've been doing now:
1. Watering, new soaker hoses and a slow-dripping hose
2. Fertilizing (not recommended during the dead of summer but better late the never)
3. Adding Super-Thrive in w/my liquid fertilizer, hoping this helps perk up the very sad redbud and lessens the stress on the newly planted

What I've learned:
1. Grass REALLY does like fertilizer. If I keep this up, I might have a lawn my husband will be proud of - but he doesn't realize this just means more mowing.
2. I need to maintain my yard tools & lawn equipment better. The combo of inaccurate drop spreader and way more hurricane rain than anticipated completely negated the first lawn fertilization application. Application rates make a HUGE difference, very visible after a quick test.
3. I've got a lot of plants. Imagining each one as a baby demands a lot of attention. I shouldn't get any more. But a birthday coupon from the nursery is burning a hole in my pocket. It's too hot to plant. I should buy compost instead. The lawn, thus the hubby, will be happier.

FYI: still no design commitment for the "kitchen garden" area. But my current yield of three tiny orange cherry tomatoes (pot-raised and ignored, cannot believe they are still alive) were quite yummy. Two larger red tomatoes succumbed to grasshoppers and heat.

Seriously, I only wanted a veggie garden to relive the childhood memories of sun-warmed, home-grown tomatoes. Turns out Texas isn't the easiest place to raise 'em. A challenge. Great.

July 10, 2010

Fence is done!

My long-awaited fence is finally done. While I'm very happy with the construction, I'm more than happy I was able to micro-manage the details and overall construction. If you are spending a good chunk of money and want a very specific design, it pays to be present on-site. Of course, as in any project, a few tweaks had to be made for various reasons. But the overall all look is very close to my original sketch.

before, existing fence w/east exposure

scalloped picket fence to replace existing fence

matching the sketch perfectly, so relieved

new fence elevation, 20' in front of previous fence line

we ended up with more few more details than the sketch, looks even better than I hoped!

Japanese Maple

Long ago I promised to post a shot of my new Japanese maple, the last tree added to the garden. Unfortunately, it's getting a little burnt with the summer sun. But it's not too bad yet.

before, double-dug bed

after, centered as best as possible

note the pretty "coral bark" and limey green leaves, very spring, huh?

Word a Day

My new gardening word today, wending. Learned it in this recent and insightful post from Saxon Holt via Gardening Gone Wild.

Wend: to go in a specific direction slowly or through an indirect route, to wind. From Old English wendan, of Germanic origin.

My gardening dilemma of the last few weeks (since my fence project has now been completed), how much shall the flow of my garden wend from the new entry (new gate) to the existing path? I am unsure if the chi (energy) at the new entry can be slowed, especially with two gates & matching arbors directing it toward the path. Probably shouldn't fight it.

May 14, 2010

Garden tour

May has been an intensive month for gardening and garden touring, and we're only half-way through! I figured I'd better post my images from the Denton County Master Gardeners' tour (held every Mothers' Day weekend) before I hit the Garden Conservancy's Dallas tour tomorrow.

Many learning opportunities can be found on garden tours - how other gardeners create solutions to common problems, what plants are doing well or have become (too?) popular, etc. The Denton County Master Gardeners went the extra step to supply literature, experts and demonstration stations at each garden stop. My faves were square foot veggie garden (hello, raised beds) and the values of soil amendments, specifically compost and expanded shale. I use both of these products liberally when double-digging my new beds. Love 'em.

Here are a few more good ideas . . . .

Want a green roof without climbing a ladder and freaking out your spouse? Try birdhouse first!

Happy water lilies.

We all loved this huge white clematis, which we believe is Clematis 'Henryi.'

Another fave was this rose, 'Mermaid' I think it was. It was quite large, in shade and had super clean foliage and flowers. But the best scent of the day came from Rosa 'Veilchenblau' (not pictured).

Want an herb/veggie garden? Get a horse trough and plant away. Not everything has to be difficult. Really. I heard a lot of positive responses from touring gardeners about raised veggie beds constructed out of cinder blocks. Not the prettiest, but practical and economic. Not permanent either.

A lot of really lovely gardens have one thing in common, great vignettes. Makes for great pictures, especially if you keep it simple.

Happy koi.

Glad these bunnies haven't found my veggie starts yet. I'm sure this gardener and her grandchildren love their tea parties.

From the same beautiful garden as above. This lady has whimsy down pat.

And she probably hosts great parties. I know a few other gardeners who give Martha a run for her money. Of course I love going to their gatherings. One day (when the boy is older) I'll be a super hostess again.

Nothing says happy like a bed full of daisies!

May 10, 2010

Georgetown stroll

Since I get to visit central Texas regularly, I often visit the historic square in Georgetown. There are several interesting old buildings and some good antique shops. Check out the details on these old metal stair risers.

On a recent walk, I discovered this beautiful little church, which was relocated near the square. The simple, geometric detailing on the windows and gate intrigued me (especially since I've been planning my new fence and gate).

I'm happy to announce my new fence and gate are on order. Yeah! I've been looking forward to extending the side yard to create an enclosure for my portager. The contractor, Cisco Fencing, has been selected and the start date is in early June. Cannot wait. There are lots of details planned, including a beautiful scrolled iron window cutout in the gate so nosey neighbors (like me) can get a peek into the garden.

Actually, two fences are being built. First is the facade with the main gate - the garden's main entrance. Second is the sweeping reverse-arch picket fence with an arbor over the half gate. Of course this fence is being constructed to support the Red Cascade roses (which I bought this past weekend). But it will also be the dividing structure between the portager garden and the garden pathway. And it will also keep the dog and children out of the tender veggie plots, in theory.

Puddle jumping and chasing rainbows

The boy and I enjoyed our post-rain adventure last week. It's always good to have puddle-splashing boots on-hand, and a fireman raincoat and helmet (just in case).

May 05, 2010

Trying to beat the heat

The garden is really starting to take shape as the plants are all awake and are starting to feel at home. Today I started my morning by springing out of bed to plant my new coral bark Japanese maple outside my dining room window (before the heat arrived and the boy awoke). A very nice gentleman from Shades of Green nursery delivered it in the rain on Monday evening. Now it's in the ground (which wasn't too difficult since I double-dug and prepped the bed over the weekend), and I no longer have to worry about this pretty little tree taking a walk to someone else's yard.

I hope to have pictures of the new tree and my adventures with Andrew playing in puddles and chasing rainbows uploaded soon.

On the horizon: selecting a fence company to start the boundaries for my highly anticipated (by just me) kitchen garden. Happened to find this article, which fits in nicely with my imagined plans.

April 16, 2010

Little boy in blue(bonnets)

Luckily I was able to make a few bluebonnet pictures before the boy's bedtime a couple of nights ago, especially since it has been raining non-stop since then. At least it's green and cool now.

You can see more pics from this mini photo session on my other blog, Inside Olivia Photo, here.