Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Picture This Photo Contest – October 2011

Picture This Photo Contest -- October 2011

Yes, it has been too long since my last post.  That admission aside, I found a little inspiration in a photo contest thanks to Gardening Gone Wild.  Click the link above to see other entries for this month.

Our summer in Central Texas did not benefit at all from the rare scattered storms that our neighbors to the north and far south experienced. We finally did receive several inches this month, and I have renewed hope that this too shall pass.

To celebrate that hope, I have decided to enter my photograph of my favorite perinnial flower, the Aster.

Asters--Taken October 2011
This Aster was planted by Pat in our bulb garden over 10 years ago. He moved it when he made the rose garden a couple years ago. Every year it never ceases to amaze me. It blooms on time. This year was different. I truly did not expect it to bloom at all. However, in its current location, it does benefit from an occasional watering from the yard sprinklers.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's a Dry Heat

Such a dry heat that the air hits my face like an oven door opening.  The temperature guage is set at a constant 100 plus degrees day in and day out.  We are at 27 days in a row with 100+ temperatures, not counting the days we had in late May and early June.  The last record for the searing heat wave was 1980 with 42 days of solid 100° weather.

East Texas is getting a little relief from gulf moisture surrounding the high pressure ridge, but it isn't strong enough to make Mr. H go away for a while.  Today's weather report showed a tropical depression at the bottom of the gulf with hopes of moving toward Texas.  Time will tell.  In the meantime, watering the lawn is a waste of water and money.  The trees are stressing badly.  The bees are at their hives because there are few flowering plants from which to feed.  Birds stay near the ground and are appreciative of the daily supply of water in the birdbaths and sunflower seeds. 

All I can say is I'm holding out hope for the August prediction of rainfall.  Something has to give!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A New Vision!

Pat moves the rock border back
to make it easier to get to the

Prior to visiting Zilker Botanical Gardens on Thursday, Pat and I had started a project near our driveway.  Previously, the rock border was about a foot farther out.  When I pulled my car into the carport, I often had to run over the border just to get back out again.  Pat had removed a tree and several saplings which made moving the wall back much easier. 

After our inspirational visit to Zilker, we see new potential in this area of the yard.  One of the plants that caught my eye was the Cast Iron plants at Zilker.  They look a lot like Cannas, but they have purple-brown blooms in the spring.  They love drought and are hardy to zone 6 (-10°)--yippee!!  They are shade tolerant and mix well with irises, hostas and other perennials.  We purchased our Cast Iron plants at Green 'n Growing Garden Center in Pflugerville.  This is a fantastic little nursery offering all sorts of native Texas plants, pottery, and yard art!

Other plants purchased at Green 'n Growing were Flame Acanthus, Sapphire Showers, and Mexican Oregano. I also bought a lovely green pot which you'll see in another post.

Our last staycation stop was at Bonnies Greenhouse today.  I bought some plants for my new pot, Mexican Honeysuckle, Mexican Sage, and a patio tomato plant to replace one of our spent tomato plant.  I just love buying new plants for the yard.  We don't quite know where we'll put all the new additions, but we'll have a blast trying to figure it out!!

Welcome home sweet plants!!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Zilker Botanical Garden Tour

View of the Butler's Window and rose garden.
Their roses are looking a lot like ours--needed
some rain!!
For our "staycation" this year, Pat and I decided to trek down to Austin to tour Zilker Botanical Gardens and to pop in on a few garden centers in the area.  We had a wonderful time touring the gardens as the photos suggest!  For anyone living or visiting the Central Texas area, a trip to Zilker is worth it.  The majority of the plants in the 31 acre garden are either native or well-suited for our Texas climate and drought-prone seasons. 

We had several surprises on this tour.  During this rain-stressed season in Texas, Pat and I were amazed how well the gardens were thriving.  Also, I was surprised by how shady the gardens are and the variety of plants doing so well in the shade.  Our yard is full of hot spots as well as dappled shady spots.  We noticed they had planted Turks cap just about everywhere.  This confirmed what Pat decided to do this spring--spread the Turk's Cap wealth in our own gardens.  While there, I snapped pictures of landscape designs ideas we'd like to incorporate into our own garden. 

Butler's Window from an historic home in Austin
This window was on an upper story!!

Beautiful Texas Sedge
I'd love to use our brick to form a nice feature like this in our garden!

I'm not sure what these flowers are, but they would look nice
falling over the rock border Pat has by our back driveway.

Gorgeous Caladiums...how I wish they multiplied!!

Water Lily in the Japanese Gardens

So beautiful!

My sister would love this one!

Cactus Garden

Pat outside a pioneer cabin.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Repotting 101--Asparagus Fern

Asparagus fern about to be rescued by yours truly!

Pat and his mom have the same mantra:  Ferns love to be root bound.  That may be true, but root-bound plants get on my nerves!! I have been asking Pat to repot several of our ferns that Mom B gave us years ago!  To me they look like they are struggling.  However, if one is patient and picks the right time to re-pot--ferns can easily multiply! 

The asparagus fern that is about to do a multiplying act is actually sitting on the table without it's pot.  Yes folks, talk about root bound--I could probably leave the plant like it is for several months, water it, and it'd still be green and good to go!!  However, that might be border-line plant cruelty--so repotting, here we come!

Asparagus Fern

Before we get to the repotting portion of this post, a little bit about asparagus ferns.  In my brief research on this plant I learned quickly that it is not part of the asparagus family, nor a fern.  The foliage looks like asparagus plants, and the way the plant falls over the pot looks like a fern.  However, this plant is a part of the lily family because it flowers and produces berries.  Asparagus fern loves sun and drought!  That is a boost for this family's yard!  Allowing the plant to dry thoroughly between watering is highly recommended.  While it does like sun--in this Texas heat we're having the foliage will turn yellow if there is too much sun, so part shade is recommended.  We have ours in dappled shade, and I will be looking for other areas in the yard to give my newly repotted plants a little more sun so they can flourish.  The ferns can be planted in the soil and will die back due to freezing, but will rebound in the spring after the dead foliage is cut back.  I have not noticed asparagus fern in the ground in our area (8a/b), but apparently folks in Louisiana plant the fern in the ground all over the place. 

Prior to sawing, it's important to part the "hair." 
Okay, I was just messing around here!!

Repotting the root-bound fern

I must warn you the pictures your are about to see may shock and amaze you, but if repotting an asparagus fern is in your near future...reach for a hack-saw.  Yes, a saw.  After Pat had pulled one out and all the plants had been repotted, I actually read about it online.  These hearty plants can withstand it, and I promise--it's next to impossible to break the plant apart without a saw!

Here he goes!!  After the sawing, we had 4 plants to be potted!

This process will produce a lot of casualties, but the huge root system on this old plant (we can't remember how long we've had it, but we decided that it is at least 13 years old) will produce more foliage in no time at all.

Here's a shot of the root system--
This plant is here to stay!

I used my trusty wheelbarrow to mix the potting soil.  I used a mix of good potting soil and Lady Bug compost, plus just a little vermiculite to help with drainage.  I lightly wet the soil.  I wanted to be able to keep the soil loose around the roots in the new pots so the roots can quickly find their way to the nutrients and become root-bound in less than a year! (Just kidding about the root-bound part.)

Have fun repotting ferns---they are so lovely around the landscape and super easy to grow!!

The final product!!  Here are 3 of the 4 pots I was able to propagate.  Actually, I could have
split the plant in half--I didn't have large enough pots, and the pot the plant
was in originally was plastic and was not usable.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

June Forecast Prediction 2011!! Update!!

June in a nutshell--dry as a bone and hotter than a firecracker!

Sunflower at dusk.
As long as we water, everything's good.  Just got the water bill yesterday--it was only $123.00.  We're on a septic system and pay for garbage pick up separately, so that bill is purely for water.  Pat and I definitely be investing in a cistern--as soon as we can afford it.  We may not get a very large one, but something is better than nothing.  In previous blogposts, I reported how Pat and I  captured rainwater with 3 and 5 gallon buckets.  Without a steady amount of rainfall at the right time to switch out buckets, our catch has not been very much at all. 

I cannot say that we didn't get any rain in June.  We got about 1/2", but that was all.  On my last update, I reported that the Farmer's Almanac predicted a wet June for our area.  Now I don't feel so bad about my own predictions!

Now that I've seen how this "January" prediction thing works...I'd say that if I had paid closer attention, I would have known that we were in for a very hot and dry spring and summer.  I think next year's predictions will be a little more accurate.  Now for the results!

Even the sunflowers are begging for moisture!
My Prediction for June 2011--

It seems we will have a cool June. The high was only 8° above normal, but the low was 7° below normal. The sky did not hold much promise for rain today, so we will need to get our rain in the springtime as we usually do. The next few day's posts should be interesting as a cold front is moving in. We're expecting frigid temps and highs well below normal. Maybe we'll save on the electricity bill this summer!! Stay tuned!!

Actual June 2011 Weather

Notice the highlights in the prediction.  That is what I will pay close attention to in January 2012.  I was right about needing to get good rainfall in the springtime--but it didn't happen.  My area as well as most of Texas is now in a severe to extreme drought.  This has been the driest spell--going all the way back to October 2010.  In reviewing my prediction for July and August...we won't see rain until August.  I hope and pray we only have one more month of dry weather.

According to the Waco Tribune-Hearld, June was a record breaking month.  June 2011 is tied with 1934 as the second hottest on record.  June 22nd was the coolest day at only 90°.  June 12 began 8 straight days of 100°+ temperatures with the hottest day at 106° on June 18th.  In all, we had 17 days of 100°+ weather this month---which is about 8° above normal.  Hmmmm. 

Low:  67° to 80°
High: 90° to 106°
Winds: 0 to 43 mph with gusts from 17 to 52 mph
Precipitation: .88 at Waco airport


I was right about the rain, but not so much about the temperatures--I'm 50/50 for June!!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Broiling Hot! Garden Update

I cannot believe I have not posted regularly this month--but I suppose when it's nothing but 100+ outside, the tough stay inside!!  Actually, our gardening activities have come to only watering, picking veggies and mowing so there really isn't a lot to report.  Even with the high temperatures and the Extreme drought stage we're in right now, I'm so proud that Pat has been able to keep everything growing.  We've harvested lovely tomatoes over the past several weeks--enough for us to eat. We have squash and zucchini, and Pat made a lovely black-eyed pea salad...but I dumped it on the floor (an accident)!  Oh, well...the veggie crop is starting to play out--I'll post more about that later.  On to a few photos and part 1 of my summer garden update.

Now I know what my mother-in-law did all the
time in her yard--she tamed the forest along
the fence!!

Pat and I spent this weekend at my in-laws house cleaning up the yard.  It's on the market and the backyard was a mess for sure!  Pat is chopping weeds and overgrowth from the flower bed my mother-in-law had there.  We're hoping the grass will fill in quickly since we've started watering again.

The dead plants are gone--I'm sure that was
killing the curb appeal!!

I raked out flower beds, trimmed vines and mowed.  When we finished we had to piles of brush, a full trash can and countless lawn bags full of leaves, sticks and vines!

Mom's potting benches spruce up our
back porch!

As a reward for our hard work--we brought home Mom's potting bench.  It needed to be hauled off anyway.  It's rotting away, but still has a few good years left.  It's perfect on the back porch!

Since we needed to pick up some sunflower seeds for the birds, I couldn't resist buying another plant.  Pat reminded me of the drought, but I had gardening goals in mind.  I searched through the plants and all I found were plants I already had, or dying annuals.  I was about to give up until I saw this lovely portulaca wanting a new home!!  It's from Brazil, so it isn't cold hardy--but in my lovely shell planter, it'll look nice inside during the wintertime.  I also plucked a few baby hen-n-chicks.  I've heard all you do is pick them off and put them in dirt.  We'll see!! If that's the case, I'll have hundreds of those before too long!!  Here's another container planting for my gardening goals checked off!

In my gardening goals, I commented how I was determined to find something to grow in this little flowerbed by the house.  I'm still working on it, but earlier this spring I had planted some cold-hardy/shade tolerant Hostas.  I quickly discovered why nothing grows in this bed.  The water hose is right by the bed, so it stays pretty moist.  As soon as I'd planted the Hostas...here came the dogs to cool themselves.  The photo below shows how we've remidied this problem.  I've lost one of my Hosta plants...but two are hanging on.  If we're lucky enough to get a couple more rains this summer, they may take off!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

May Forecast Prediction -- 2011 Follow Up!


The month of May did have a few flowers to see.  This year the Daylilies have rebounded due to a little care and attention!  The garden is growing despite lack of rainfall.  And our only week of hopeful rain netted us about 5 buckets of rain, and some of those were from drizzle.  Thank goodness for a large roof and drizzle!  As I noted in April's follow up post--May 1st brought chances of rain.  Unfortunately, most of that blew eastward and wound up as killer storms.  My heart goes out to the folks in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Joplin, Missouri. 

Our June 1st forecast is hot, hot, hot.  Only the Farmer's Almanac predicts any rain for our June month.  We'll see what happens next!  On to the prediction results!

Prediction for May 2011--January 5th

This is tricky. The clouds early in the morning looked like they were holding rain for a while. Then the clouds got a little heavier during the day, only to lighten up again. So, I'll say we will have some showers in May, but probably only normal precipitation for the month. We'll also have gorgeous springtime days with warm temperatures. Our high today was about 10° higher than normal. The wind will be mostly calm as wind gusts were up to 20 mph, but during the day, it wasn't windy at all. So folks, I think we're in for a pretty normal May 2011!!

May 2011 Actual:

Low: 43° to 77°
High: 56° to 100°
Winds: 0 to 46 mph with gusts up to 56 mph---yes it has been a windy month!
Precipitation: 2.14" (Waco, Texas) -- although I can't say we got that much at our place

I should have paid close attention to the 10° warmer than usual statement!  May has been a very warm month, but probably no warmer than previous years.  I remember when the boys were young, going to baseball games in 100° heat.  My prediction for May is proved only because I got it mostly right! 

Monday, May 30, 2011

They’re Baaaaacccckkkk!!

One of my earliest posts was about how Pat plants Sunflowers in the most random spots around the yard.  In my quest for photos this weekend, I found that the Sunflowers are making a comeback.  They literally are blooming overnight—second by second!  The following photos were taken Saturday and today.  Enjoy!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Photography Lesson #1

I've included this picture to remind myself and to
show the challenges I have phtographing my yard.
The electric meter and the a/c unit constantly get in
the way.  Not to mention one ball-chasing,
loving dog!!

I've signed up for on-line lessons in photography!  Although they are free--and free sometimes means you get what you pay for, these seem to be good.  So far the lessons and challenges are right on my level.  Not too techy, not too easy.  This week's lesson was the contrast between foreground and background and the various ways you can focus the subjects.  Within the lesson, there is a challenge  to take a black and white photograph 10 minutes away from your home.  You must drive or walk 10 minutes away and take a picture of whatever is there.  While I haven't worked on that challenge yet, the pictures on this post are my "dress rehearsal" for black and white beauties using the tips from the lesson.  Enjoy!

Tomatoes & Lawn

Birdfeeder and twinkle lights in the background. 
As I was practicing this lesson, I was also playing around with the features on my camera.  Apparently, if you know nothing
about f-stops, you can still create some of the effects
professionals can!  I actually chose the number of lights
I wanted to twinkle!

Duck Sculpture & Cedar Tree

I think this one is probably the neatest one because Pat's
moon came from a barbecue pit.  The pit in the background
belonged to his father.  I wonder what yard art he'll
create with that one??

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bird & Plant Shopping

Yesterday, Pat and I headed out to Homestead Heritage for the last time this spring. The seminar was on drip irrigation. We love the idea of watering our plants efficiently and consistently given the fact that we have had an excellent chance for rain for 3 days now and have barely registered a quarter inch. While there, we picked up a suet hanger and 4 suet bricks. If you’re ever at the General Store at the Homestead, buy your suet from them. They were only $1 each and the hanger was $2.75. That gives you an idea of how inexpensive these feeders can be.

Trap-perch bird feeder!
 After that, we headed into town to Wild Birds Unlimited. It is one of my favorite stores. Although I can often find feeders elsewhere cheaper, their bird feeders tend to be higher quality, and some of them come with warranties or lifetime guarantees. We purchased this steel-trap birdfeeder while there. I just love this style. I bought a similar feeder for mother for her birthday a few years back. She said Uncle Billy had one like this and it was quite squirrel proof. The perch is weighted so that if a bird lands on it, nothing happens.  When a squirrel lands, the perch clamps tight keeping the squirrel from the seed.  We’ll see. We have some mighty fat squirrels on our property---cunning ones, too!

Hummingbird feeder from Poteet, Texas

We also purchased a tiny hummingbird feeder brush to clean the feeder portals. That cost a whopping forty-nine cents, and well worth the price. WBU also has a card with Hummingbird Nectar Solution and care for feeders. I like to mix up nectar in 2 cup batches. That way I’m not wasting a lot of nectar between batches. They recommend cleaning the feeder every 2 to 4 days, especially in the hot summertime, and changing the nectar regularly. Other websites warn not to use red food coloring as that can cause fermentation. (That made Mr. Pat a little upset…he likes the red color.)  Below are the recipe and cleaning recommendations.

Hummingbird Nectar Solution

1 part sugar to 4 parts water (example: ½ sugar to 2 cups water)
  1. Heat half of water
  2. Dissolve all of sugar in hot water
  3. Add second half of water as ice water
Cleaning Feeders & Birdbaths: 1 part bleach to 10 parts water

Caladium in birdbath

We finished the "shopping" part of the day at Lowes.  We bought bird feed there because it's much cheaper than at WBU.  We also bought 3 shade tolerant Hostas and 2 Caladiums.  I planned to put the Hostas and Caladiums in the bed that is next to the house.  It is a gardening goal of mine to find something that will grow well there besides Mondo Grass.  Well, Mr. Pat loves Caladiums, and he snatched one of them to put in a special spot.  I don't mind...it looks quite lovely there.  Plus, it gives me an excuse to buy another plus 10 more plants for him to take care of!  I've planted the Hostas, but I am waiting to snap pictures until we finish cleaning the bed out completely.  I also need to watch the sun patterns, because I think part of that bed does get some sunshine.

Finally, other weekend chorse included: 
  • praying for rain (none so far),
  • turning the compost bed--I think it's getting close to being finished!!
  • planting new plants
  • salivating over a tomato that is ripening
  • bird watching

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thursday Thrills

There is a lot to be thankful for this Thursday. 
  1. It may rain a ton tomorrow
  2. There are new flowers blooming and almost blooming every day
  3. We picked our first squash
  4. The "squash beetles" are confused
  5. The Hydrangea may bloom soon
  6. There are more tomatoes on the tomato plants
  7. Life is good!
Here are the pictures...enjoy!!

Daylily.  Our Daylilies look a little on the spent side, but this is the first year in a long time that
we actually fertilized.  Looks like we need to research how to care for them, and they'll probably

This Daisy mound has been in the circle garden since the boys were in High School--
2001 or 2002 at the earliest.  It is still going, although the blooms
are a little smaller than when they first were planted. 
Nevertheless, we must be doing something right...because they just keep
coming back!
This Hydrangea bush was given to me by Abigail last year for Mother's Day.
Look---it's going to bloom!!!

Well, I declare...you never know what nature has in store for you.  Here is our
Spineless putting on a spring show!!

Here is a beautiful cactus bloom---
but what's inside?  Pat thinks they are
squash beetles---could they be confused???

Finally, my favorite picture today--more tomatoes are growing on our bushes!!