Friday, April 25, 2008

More Roses and Dr Jekyll & Mr Po

A Few More Roses

Here's 'New Dawn,' a climber that will eventually be trellised to enclose the Croquet Lawn. I don't have a lot of experience with the cultivar, but so far, it seems most impressive as a bush rather than as an individual flower. The flowers are kind of sloppy looking up close, but from a little distance you just see dark green foliage and copious, good-sized pale pink flowers.

Meanwhile, I've got a tentative ID on our mystery stripy rose: ''Ferdinand Pichard.' If the internet is at all a reliable gauge (and I'm not sure that it is) there are actually relatively few striped roses. Bicolors, yes. Stripes, not so much. And of all the stripes only FP looked at all close. In most pictures, it's a bit pinker than ours (most people describe it as red on pink rather than red on white), but I've noticed that the younger our flowers are, the pinker they are. (See below--older flower left, younger flower right) And I found this picture by this French photographer on pbase that's really a dead ringer for our rose.

And here's our rose bed--much remains to be done, especially in terms of adding small trees and trellises, but I'm pleased with the progress the bushes have made thus far. I'm on the fence about whether or not to risk a bay laurel and/or a 'Forest Pansy' redbud this late in the season. Probably best to wait till September, but it'd be nice to get a little screening in place now that baseball season has started and our neighbors are coaching again. Sometimes I step out the kitchen door and feel like I'm on stage. If I'm in my PJs and bare feet, this is especially disconcerting. I need the enrobing action of a nice, stout evergreen like bay laurel.

I've got a better picture of our unknown crinum, more fully in bloom than before. I think the flowers are a bit too small and pale to be 'Ellen Bosanquet,' but based on the pictures I was able to find, I couldn't really say for sure. Other possible candidates include 'Elizabeth Traub' and 'Eagle Rock.' It has an pretty large umbel of flowers--I count 14 buds in a single inflorescence.

Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Cats of War
And finally, the kitty. Yikes. We sleep with our bedroom door locked.

Actually, although he looks like a vampire fiend from Hell in this picture, he was just yawning. He was bored by me taking pictures, but not especially annoyed or inclined to lunge for my throat. A second later, he looked like this. Good kitty.

A Meteorological Note
The sky is really flinging the rain down on us by the bucketfuls. They threatened hail--I hope it skirts our (newish) magnolia. But our recently re-transplanted ginkgo and 'Reine des Violettes' rose will appreciate the moisture.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Patio, & More Flower Pictures

On Golden Pond
After a rather rough summer last year (it turns out, you can kill equisetum, if you have a special talent for it), our equisetum is coming back and looking all jewel-like and glowy in the evening sun.

It reminds me that Matt & I should try to get that pond operational sometime soon so that we can get a little enjoyment out of it before the annual 4 months of Summer Misery set in. Now that the ligustrum has been civilized, the pond actually looks kind of inviting, in a stagnant, overgrown, dysfunctional way.

Pretty equisetum (carefully contained by trained professionals in a pot inside a molded plastic pond--kids: don't try this at home)

Progress on the Patio
Our shade patio is currently in beta-testing. We laid out our assortment of miscellaneous pavers to see how they would all fit together and what sort of a space we'd be creating. The answer to the first question is "haphazardly," but we'll compensate with sand and mortar, and I think it will look very nice in the end. And even as is, it has a kind of blocky, irregular, sort of Mayan-looking appeal. Minus the funky little rain dudes with big noses.*

Matt laying the final band of pavers around the edge of the beta release of our patio

The next step is to surround the whole thing with metal edging, and then take up all our painstakingly placed pavers. Then put down sand and level the thing, then re-lay the pavers, then pour in mortar, and then--hey presto!--new patio. Look for it in 2010.

More in the "Things Are Different out Here" Category
I'm on our local freecycle, which services Elgin, Manor, McDade, Taylor, Lexington, and Coupland, all eastside Austin outliers. Before now, there have been requests for goats and offers of chunks of concrete and hay bales along with the more usual used clothes and miscellaneous furniture. But this one, which appeared in my inbox this morning, really takes the biscuit:

"If you have worms on your catalpa or catawba tree that you dont want let me know, I want them. lexington area"


Worms that you don't want. Because obviously, you're not going to give away any unsightly parasites that you do want. But why does anyone want these worms? Perhaps catalpa worms make silk? Or maybe chickens really like them or something? I do hope that implicit in this request is an offer to assist with the harvesting of said catalpa worms. Either way, 10 points to Mr/Ms Catalpa-Worm for brightening my morning with with a healthy dollop of eccentricity.

Flower Pictures
It's still spring, and things are still blooming, so bring on the flower pictures.

First is the crinum I mentioned last week. It might be 'Ellen Bosanquet,' which was the subject of my senior-year thesis back at A&M. ("Micropropagation of Crinum 'Ellen Bosanquet' by Tri-Scales," was the irresistibly sexy title. It was a rather cool project actually--all of that translates to "Tissue-culturing a Bulb I Really Like.") Anyway, thanks to the Project (now a good 11 years past), I still have a fair number of EB kicking around. But Matt also has a hearty respect for crinum, and when free/cheap crinum have been in the offing at his various gardening gigs, he's always said, "Please sir, can I have some more?" So this could be EB, or it could be some other pink-flowering crinum. Will do a little more research once flowers open to see if I can make a more positive ID.

Possible 'Ellen Bosanquet' crinum

And a great big "¡Bienvenidos a nuestra hacienda!" to this rose--all doubts have been removed--it is 'Duchesse de Brabant.' This blossom is slightly past its peak, but it's got the soft pink color, the loosly held petals, and the low, soup-bowl-shaped blossom that's classic DdeB. Isn't it a lovely thing?

'Duchesse de Brabant,' finally looking like 'Duchesse de Brabant'

In a similar category, we think we've got a fix on the rose-formerly-known-as-Mystery-Bourbon-and-prior-to-that-as-Mystery-Hybrid-Perpetual. We visited a nursery in Bastrop today, and I said to Matt, gesturing towards a cabbagey pinky-red rose, "Hey, do you think this could be our mystery rose? What is this thing, anyway?" And then I flipped the tag over and we both had a headslap moment. It was "Maggie," a really popular, bourbony, highly fragrant, deep cerise-colored rose. "Maggie" (ha! life is funny sometimes) is also a mystery rose. It's one of the Antique Rose Emporium's "found roses," and they were never (so far as I know) able to positively identify it. Until they do, it's called "Maggie" with double quote marks. Since ours is a strong hunch rather than a positive ID, we should probably call it '"Maggie"' in triple quotes. "Maggie" is also one of ARE's most popular cultivars, and as former ARE employees, we really should have thought of it as soon as we saw our mystery blooms. Eh, well. We're busy. We've got distractions and stuff.

Here's a nice thing. Our bur oak (planted last spring) has these nifty bronze tips on its new leaves.

Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) with new, bronzy growth

And I've finally captured our mystery stripy rose on film. You'll note that, contrary to my optimistic predictions, it doesn't play particularly well with 'Burgundy Iceberg.' One is bright lipstick red, and the other is wine-colored. They tend to bicker a bit. Fortunately, mystery stripy's flowers are so short-lived (in spite of being a modern), that they have a limited window of opportunity for clashing. This, like Wild Blue Yonder, is a very difficult color for my camera (and, I think, for most cameras. Check out the gross fraud perpetrated by the Weeks site with the help of Photoshop. For heaven's sake, how gullible do I look? Someone online had some better luck: this is a reasonably good representation of the color.)

Mystery stripy rose and 'Burgundy Iceberg'--in real life, the latter is substantially more purply

And here's a closeup. Finally.

Mystery stripy rose blossom

And here is another stab at capturing 'Wild Blue Yonder' (which totally kicked that virus's pasty little ASS). Like 'Burgundy Iceberg,' WBY is really hard to capture on... pixels. (Go to the Google images search page for this rose, and you'll see that I'm not the only one who's struggling.) It's deeper and plummier than the picture below would suggest. I'll keep trying. Maybe a change in lighting will help.

Another unsatisfactory picture of 'Wild Blue Yonder'

On the other hand, here's a pretty darn cool picture of a freak siamese-twin 'Belinda's Dream' blossom. That's weirder than a double-yoked egg, a thing which has always given me the heebie-jeebies, although I acknowledge that this is utterly irrational of me. Still. 1 egg + 2 yolks = WRONG.

Freaky 'Belinda's Dream' blossom

* Pinched from here: And oh, all right, he's not a rain god, he's "Itzamná - Maya god of creation, drawing from Dresden Codex, 1500 A.D. (Post-classic Period)." Now you know.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

More Lovely Flowers

The bloomfest continues. Man, I love flowers. I especially love rugged old favorites that surprise you with their generosity of bloom and lack of fuss. And I love mystery/legacy plants that startle you with their sterling qualities out of the blue.

The Bulb Report
Such as, for example, this thriving hardy red amaryllis (Hippeastrum × johnsonii). It was here when we moved in, planted in the shade garden by the study--not really the best place for most amaryllis. We didn't recognize it, either--I think we both assumed it was a spider lily. Instead, it's this incredibly robust amaryllis (and spider lilies are nice, but I'd prefer an amaryllis any day), looking gorgeous and vibrant. And the hardy red is an heirloom bulb, so we're particularly pleased to have it.

Because Elgin is a small town, where change happens more slowly, there are still scads of hardy reds in gardens all over town, which delights me. It's a terrific spring-flowering bulb for zones 8+, but it isn't terribly common at garden centers, and it's often correspondingly pricey. These folks, for example, (who incidentally have pretty much the exact job I would have wanted, if I'd stayed in horticulture. Except that the poor sods have to live somewhere up by Dallas. Ew. But otherwise it seems like an enviable existence) want $23 per bulb.

Hardy Red Amaryllis (Hippeastrum × johnsonii)

And speaking of heirloom bulbs, I think I've finally got a lock on those so-lovely narcissus that bloomed earlier this spring: Chinese Sacred Lilies. Also a traditional southern bulb. There's something so endearingly tidy about their trim little flowers with bright yellow cups and orange anthers.

Now that I know what they are, I can drizzle the yard with them come fall so we can have cheery little surprises all over the place next spring.

In other bulb-related news, my super-nifty 'Charisma' is blooming. The standard Dutch amaryllis don't excite me as much as the new cybisters ('Appleblossom'? YAWN), but there are some color combinations that are pretty darn captivating. 'Charisma,' for example, has that coral-red piping around the edges of the petals along with a flush of red in the center. Neat. It looks like a picnic-on-a-stem.

Hippeastrum 'Charisma'

And to wrap up the bulb report, one of our many mystery crinums (sheesh, don't we label anything?!) is about to bloom. I'm fond of crinum buds, especially these--they're all snaky and sinister, but in an appealing way--they would bite you if they could, but it wouldn't kill you; it would just make you all trippy and possibly a little nauseated for a while.

An unknown crinum, in bud

And on to the Roses

Here's a new blossom on our one remaining 'Belinda's Dream.' (We lost its sister rose to the Great Fungus.) 'Belinda's Dream' is one of the modern exceptions at the Antique Rose Emporium. It was bred locally in College Station by an A&M professor who crossed the hybrid tea 'Tiffany' with 'Jersey Beauty,' an antique from 1899. 'Tiffany' is one of the better hybrid teas for our hot, humid, and fungus-ridden environment--it's straight limbed, vase-shaped (when properly pruned) and disease resistant. So 'BD' has a fairly stout nature from both its parents, along with the more fulsome bloom type of a hybrid tea. The picture turned out well, no?

Modern shrub rose 'Belinda's Dream'

Also, one of the buds on the mystery stripy rose, one of our legacy plants, is just about to bloom. In case I miss it in bloom, here it is as a bud. It's a modern (or so I believe), with all the awkwardness of form of a hybrid tea, but I do love stripy flowers. If you've ever seen/read The Winter's Tale, you know that the heroine, a pure and high-born castaway, delivers a little screed against hybridized plants, with particular disdain for multi-colored flowers. With the best will in the world, I cannot get behind her on this one. Her little phillipic is below (all the ellipses are the places where Polixenes, the king, stands up for gillyflowers and other pied bastards. Go Polixenes!)
...the fairest flowers o' the season
Are our carnations and streak'd gillyvors,
Which some call nature's bastards: of that kind
Our rustic garden's barren; and I care not
To get slips of them...
For I have heard it said
There is an art which, in their piedness, shares
With great creating nature.
...I'll not put
The dibble in earth to set one slip of them...
One can only imagine how she'd feel about genetically modified produce. But as I'm not a princess in exile and have no reputation for purity to maintain, I'm free to relish nature's bastards, precisely for their freakish and eccentric perversity.

This is definitely too many quotations--I apologize--but I particularly love this poem, and I think it represents an enlightened perspective that is especially relevant to our age of machine-straight lines and smooth surfaces and homogenized components. Take that, Perdita.

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough; 5
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: 10
Praise him.

One of nature's bastards--came with the house, but we're happy to claim it

And here is the especially mysterious mystery rose I mentioned in my last post:

Mystery hybrid perpetual bourbon rose

I thought it was a hybrid perpetual, but Matt is quite certain that it smells and looks like a bourbon. I yield to his superior knowledge in this area--henceforth, it's our mystery bourbon. It does smell fantastic, though not quite as ravishing as our 'Autumn Damask,' also just now starting to bloom.

And here is a true hybrid perpetual, 'Reine des Violettes.' I love big, cabbagey, quartered blooms like this one. Sorry it came out a bit blurry. Sometimes my camera and I disagree on what's important in a picture. In this case, it chose the leaves. I'd a have preferred the flower.

'Reine des Violettes' hybrid perpetual

Last rose: the china, 'Comtesse du Cayla.' It has loose, careless flowers with a pretty flush of peachy gold near the center. I'm not always nuts about the disheveled look in roses (Oh no, I hear you say. Not another anti-'Knockout' rant... Oh, all right then.), but I think 'Comtesse' pulls it off nicely, partly because the color combination is so pretty. And then, too, as far as I'm concerned, you can't beat a china rose. There are other roses I particularly love (the tea rose 'Madame Joseph Schwartz,' the bourbon 'Souvenir de la Malmaison,' the hybrid musk 'Buff Beauty') but if I had to choose one class of roses to survive some plague/asteroid striking the earth/alien invasion/nuclear holocaust, it would definitely be the chinas. Of course, they would probably survive anyway without any help from me, which is precisely one of the things I love about them. Rugged, pretty, informal, free-blooming, natural and bush-like in form--they're just a superb class of plants.

The china rose 'Comtesse du Cayla'

The next two pictures are for record-keeping, not because they're terrific pictures of particularly nice specimens (they're neither). But hang in there--the third picture down is kind of neat. Top left is our little snippet of an Eve's Necklace (Sophora affinis). Someday, it'll look like the picture on the right. Limestone bluff and all. If we don't kill it first (we left in its pot a little too long, unfortunately.)

Eve's Necklace (Sophora affinis)

And here is our pistache--I think it's chinensis, not texensis. Pistaches look charmingly like popsicles on sticks sometimes, though it's hard to imagine that will be the fate our scruffy little twig. But on the whole I like pistaches, so I'll forgive it its imperfections if it's willing to overlook our negligence.

Pistacia chinensis (I think)

And finally, the nifty bit: we just planted a Purple Robe Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) by the pond. Matt has promised me a tree-full of deep plum-colored wisteria blossoms next spring. I adore-- passionately--wisteria blossoms, so let's hope we can see this fellow through the summer to the safety of next autumn.

Purple Robe Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)

Next time: update on the shade patio

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


I tend to forget just how pleasurable spring is. We've got blooms all over the place, leaves are budding out, skies are blue, the "lawn" (i.e. our carpet of clover, sand burs, and wild bermudagrass) is giving a convincing imitation of being green and lush... It's particularly heartening to see the roses doing their thing, after the traumas of last year--first the shock of being transplanted, then the constant rain, and finally a nasty fungal invasion.

There have been some fungus outbreaks this spring (notably on 'Wild Blue Yonder' and 'Ducher'), but in most cases the plants seem to have successfully shut those infections down on their own, a happy state of affairs that I attribute to healthier root systems making them generally more robust.

Here's the best of the latest crop of pictures. It's a stout-hearted modern miniature called "Green Ice"--unassuming, dainty, yet vigorous and free-blooming. The tiny, creamy-white, green-eyed flowers recall the popular antique rose 'Madame Plantier' (picture and ARE profile). We have three, and this one, the most successful, grows by our kitchen door.

Darling little miniature 'Green Ice'

The roses in the front of the house have also rallied, to my relief. They really get more shade than they like, and by the end of last year they were peaky, sparse, and stalled out. But old favorite 'Cramoisi Superieur' is blooming nicely, and

Old favorite china 'Cramoisi Superieur'

the climber on (or, to be more accurate, currently under) our trellis, 'Red Cascade,' has finally put on a growth spurt, and the chipper polyantha 'Mrs RM Finch' has a couple of sprightly pink blooms. Like Barkiss, 'Mrs RM' is willin', which is one of the things I like about her. She doesn't fuss, but just chugs away, blooming freely and generously. (Was that Barkiss reference too obscure? David Copperfield. A working man of few words, but great goodness of heart. Like 'Mrs RM.')

Polyantha 'Mrs RM Finch'

I hadn't realized that 'Mrs RM's buds had such a classic sweetheart rose shape.

'Mrs RM Finch' bud

And here's one of our 2 'Mutabilis' roses. We need to plant 3 more quite soon, or our proposed hedge at the head of our driveway will be lopsided. The two we planted last year are already bigger and putting on a generous dressing of multi-colored flowers. 'Mutabilis' has an insouciant, informal prettiness that seems to me to match Austin's own personality very well. And, indeed, it's very popular rose there--you see 6- and 7-foot specimens in yards all over town, especially the older districts, like Hyde Park and Shoal Creek.

'Mutabilis'--if it were a person, it would be barefoot and probably bra-less

...And another mystery rose. I remember where most of our mystery roses come from--unlabeled cast-offs from one or another of Matt's jobs, usually. But I have no notion whatsoever of when this one joined our collection. It very slow to bloom--it's been sulking in bud stage like a teenager who refuses to leave his room. It looks so far rather like a hybrid perpetual in general shape and leaf type, and in those fat, round buds. Which is odd--hybrid perps aren't as popular down here as teas, chinas, noisettes, and shrub roses. They have rather spectacular flowers--ruffled, cabbagey, and large--but they're prone to blackspot and gangliness. But we're not overly fastidious, I think. It's welcome to our garden, whatever it is, so long as it doesn't whine too much.

Mystery rose #6--a possible hybrid perpetual from who-knows-where

You may be wondering, "Just how many mystery roses do you have, anyway?" The answer is 6. Longtime followers of this blog may remember the particularly lovely red cabbage rose, lost to that pernicious fungus, but then miraculously snatched from the jaws of death via some cuttings. There is also our nameless tea-cum-hybrid perpetual, by the study door, and also a ducky little thing with tiny, loose, globe-shaped dark pink flowers in the gazebo bed. In addition, we've got a neat stripy modern that came with the house and was bred to look like an antique (no pix--it goes from bud to shattered stage really quickly, and I've never managed to snap one in bloom), and another legacy, a semi-double bright red pillar rose, which we recently transplanted from under the bananas to the front of the gazebo. It's blooming away gamely--you'd never know it was a recent transplant that had experienced a particularly rough year last year. Because it's rangy, but not terribly tall, we're growing it on one of the low side walls of the gazebo, against which its bright red flowers will be especially vivid.

Legacy of previous owners--attractive mystery pillar rose

And then the surprise of the seaon, another castoff that's turned out really quite well. This is a Weeks rose, the Floribunda 'Burgundy Iceberg.' (Though the name's a bit stupid--under what horrific set of circumstances would an iceberg be burgundy, for goodness' sakes?) The flowers are a lovely deep wine color, which should coordinate happily (if utterly accidentally) with the mystery stripy rose next to it. And look at all those flowers! Such a striking color (without the tawdriness of so many moderns) on such a healthy plant. And I've always liked roses that bloom in clusters rather than on long individual stems (I'm not a florist, so I see no point putting up with the awkward, angular lankiness of long-stemmed roses in the garden).

Modern Floribunda 'Burgundy Iceberg'

And here's our 'Duchesse de Brabant,' finally starting to look like herself. Last year her blooms were few, stunted, and misshapen. This one, though, is starting to look more like herself, which is a relief. It's not quite as cup-like as the most archetypal Duchesse/Madame Jo flowers (Duchesse is the pink sport of 'Mme Joseph Schwartz'), but flower shape tends to be variable in antique roses, and it's at least moving in the right direction.

Delightful and free-blooming tea rose 'Duchesse de Brabant'

My amaryllis have also been popping into bloom. I unfortunately didn't get my papilio before the flowers faded, but here is a nameless white hybrid along with a miniature named 'Pamela.'

White amaryllis and miniature 'Pamela'

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

New Valences

Check it out! Chuck and Ladonna came up last weekend for a visit, and Ladonna did a day-long sewing stint to make two new valences for us. Kind Ladonna! Skilled Ladonna! Here she is, cutting out the fabric for our guest bedroom valence.

Ladonna, seamstressing

And here are the results. This is the pièce de résistance , the valence for the master bath. It's silk. Embroidered silk at that, from the charming boutique fabric store in Austin, Silk Road. And it has a tassel! It makes the room look so much more finished and together now that you can't see the fact that the shutters don't actually reach to the top of the windows. I think she did a lovely job.

Master bathroom valence

And then upstairs we installed this uber-minimalist panel in brown peau de soie (doublespeak for "polyester") with desaturated aqua flowers. I really like the simplicity and cleanness here.

Guest bedroom valence

At the moment, the window is partially covered by a piece of crepe paper, but one of these days (or possibly one of those days--those days in the far-off and vaguely perceived distance), we'll buy some cellular shades like the ones in our bedroom to go behind the valence. Note, please, that the crepe paper matches the flowers in the valence. These things don't come about by accident, my friends. It's all part of living to the manner born. (Product placement: I've been buying my blinds from far they've been fairly inexpensive, fast, and of good quality. Very happy about that. [To the corporate headquarters at JustBlinds: will cheerfully accept small consideration in exchange for this endorsement at any time. Don't be shy.])

And a bit of Lagniappe
Photoshop has a new, free online photo editing application called Photoshop Express. I mention this because (1) it's Photoshop (sort of), yet free, and there are those among my acquaintances who might find that compelling, and (2) it has this cool feature called "color pop" that I expect you'll be seeing more of in entries to come. Ooo, trendy!

Our pink mystery rose with "color pop" filter applied. We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

Note, however, that it turned all my freckles grey. Ew. Not all images are well-suited to color pop.
Related Posts with Thumbnails