Saturday, September 8, 2007

How Does Our Garden Grow?

Lacking the willpower for any major projects this weekend, I decided that "documentation" was a key and productive component of home renovation and accordingly dedicated myself to taking pretty pictures.

This batch is all garden pix--I've also got a few indoor pix that I'll post in a later entry.

The Rose Bed and the Croquet Lawn

We've added a U-shaped bed that encloses the Croquet Lawn (Matt says I can't call it that. But Matt's in the study, right now, probably watching old episodes of The Office online. So I'll call it a Croquet Lawn if I want--so there. We've got a Croquet Lawn, and it's located just north of the Orangery and the Oubliette.) It's mostly a hedge of roses with a few other odds and ends tossed in. This is the area we worked so hard to hoe, poison, weed-barrier, mulch, and edge. As we just added the eastern leg of the U, there's plenty more to do in the way of edging and weed-fighting.

Front of house, with Croquet Lawn and rose bed on right.

One of the plants in the rose bed is this stylish number, the 'Fruit Cocktail' shrimp plant. We discovered it in San Diego, and it's still extremely rare in Texas. Its darling cherry pink-and-apple-green flowers are just so now. After some initial sulks, they've really begun to pick up and bloom perkily.

'Fruit Cocktail' shrimp plant

Here's another member of the rose bed, the very antique antique rose, Autumn Damask. Rumor would have it that this rose grew in the gardens of Pompeii. I don't know about all that, but I think it's true that it's pretty darn old. The fragrance is heavenly.

'Autumn Damask'

Anchoring the new eastern leg of the rose bed is this rose, allegedly 'Duchesse de Brabant.' So far both the color and shape of the flower are weird for 'Duchesse,' which is usually a deeper pink with a cupped, loosely cabbagy petal arrangement, but I'm hoping it's just the stress of being transplanted, and that it will shape up in time.

'Duchesse de Brabant' or vile perpetrator of identity theft?

And here's the purported 'Duchesse' in her new bed, along with David Austin's 'Graham Thomas' and some wildly overgrown and chaotic tomatoes.

New east leg of the U
Matt finished bringing over the flagstone for our little eating area by the kitchen (in between the Orangery and the Oubliette.) We can't seem to figure out what to call it--the name "patio" is already taken by the thing at the front of the house, and while it will serve a deckish purpose, I think a deck has to be made of wood. It's sort of like a terrace, only it isn't, you know, actually terraced. So for now it's "that flagstone thingy by the kitchen." We need to put down crushed granite and install one of those disappearing fountains and build a pergola over it, so this project is pretty much in the fetal state and likely to remain that way for a while.

New flagstone thingy

Abelia Hedge
The plants on this property have the oddest way of knowing when they aren't wanted and obligingly dying off. We purported plant-people have witnessed the deaths of:
1 chinaberry
1 oleander
1 ash
and now a whole hedge of abelia.

They aren't dead yet, but there's just the thinnest veneer of leaves floating above their emaciated, skeletal forms. S'okay. We were planning to replace them with a hedge of roses anyway (yeah, we rather like roses. We did first meet at the Antique Rose Emporium, y'know.) But still, watching a whole hedge of very mature and hitherto hearty abelia suddenly just waste away does give a person pause.

Mysteriously moribund abelia. WTF?

Here's one of the replacement roses--we don't know what it is, but it's very free-blooming, smells nice and peppery, has that lovely old rose look, and forms a nice, healthy shrub. I suspect a modern crossed with an antique, maybe a David Austin. It's just a terrific little fella, even if we haven't a clue what it is.

Fabulous mystery rose

And on the subject of death...

The Oddly Ailing Trees of Chez M

A troubled lacey oak

Although I gloried in all the rain this year, it's just possible that the plants got fed up long before I did. The oaks, in particular, look like hell, and not just in our yard. There's a monster Q. macrocarpa a few blocks away whose leaves are entirely rusty--from the road, it looks like there's something coating the surface of the leaves. One of our lacey oaks has burned leaf margins; another has tiny angular chlorotic dots on its leaves. Our white oak has the same tiny yellow spots, and our red oak has brown leaves.

Whiny ginkgo

Our mature pecan is aborting all its fruit and has clusters of dead leaves randomly interspersed in its canopy. Our pear keeps dropping its leaves, and our ginkgo--which has never looked happy since we took it out of its pot--is yellow, burnt, and droopy.

We've tried a range of approaches, from coddling with compost and mulch to benign neglect. Results were all uniformly discouraging. I'm hoping that this is something that the winter dormant period will cure.

At the same time, one of the roses that's meant to replace the sickly abelia has developed some horrible vascular disease that kills stems simultaneously from the tip and base, blackening both and leaving the middle (briefly) green. It was free, and we weren't deeply attached to it, but still, inexplicable plant death just doesn't feel good. One of our Will Fleming yaupons is exhibiting similar symptoms. Oy veh.

As an interesting bit of lagniappe, below is the remaining half of a chinaberry. That weird gash is where the tree had grown into the roof of the now dismantled shed. Matt's planning to chop the thing down when the weather cools off a little. I'm wondering if a good hard shove wouldn't solve our problem just as well.

Half a chinaberry with a roof indentation

Nice Things
To give credit where it's due, our garden has also had some quite nice surprises for us lately.

For example, our red-leafed crinum (C. amabile), which is about to bloom for the 3rd time this summer, put out a couple of pollinated fruit. With a little luck, we may be able to turn them into baby crinums. Plus they're just fascinating and pretty in they're own right.

Crinum amabile fruit

Matt's curcuma (AKA "hidden lily"--so well hidden that I didn't even know it existed till a couple of days ago) has put out a lovely pink flower.


And, best of all, we discovered that our yard has several Oxblood lily bulbs (Rhodophiala bifida) scattered around. Oxblood lilies are these really cool antique amaryllids (related to the amaryllis you buy as an indoor blooming plant) that are both very hardy and very difficult to find commercially. They persist forever in spite of neglect, and they're the prettiest shade of dark red. They've long been a favorite of ours, so we were totally thrilled to find some growing on our property.
Oxblood lilies (Rhodophiala bifida)


Here are the remains of the shed Matt tore down. He'll be using the L-shaped cement pad for a couple of greenhouses--one for his business, and one for our fun stuff (that's the Orangery). The trapdoor under the ladder in the pic leads to our horrible, insect-seething, stagnant-water-collecting Oubliette.

Future site of greenhouses plus entry to horrible Oubliette

When we moved in, we had a modest "water feature" in the backyard--a disfunctional little fountain and pond with pretty little waterlilies blooming inside. Since then, it's rained, and the ligustrum behind the pond was apparently motivated to new heights--it's eaten the poor little pond. We'll do something about this... eventually.

Can you kinda see some shiny green things at the base of the ligustrum? Those are our water lilies.
Finally, we used the Lowe's gift certificate Mom & Dad gave us as an anniversary present to buy the makings for the first of four projected trellises. Matt (so industrious) knocked it out this afternoon, and tomorrow we're going to sink it. It'll be home to a 'Red Cascade' climbing rose, which has been flopping about bonelessly, like an octopus out of water, waiting for us to install some kind of support.

Front of house with new trellis (not yet installed--just propped in place)

1 comment:

matt said...

Croquet lawn my foot! That's where the hedgehog races will be held. At the very least, we can have toad races. Mark Twain would be so proud. It will be known as the Hedgehog Lawn.

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