Saturday, May 31, 2008


"I do love a good tree."
-- Alan Quartermain (H. Rider Haggard)

Matt's dad, Chuck, just found a bunch of trees on sale, and he very sweetly gave us two baldcypresses (you may remember that our landscape plan includes 2 baldcypresses, the state tree of Louisiana and also a great favorite of mine on its own merits). The timing for planting trees is a bit risky--I think we're going to have to water every day or every other day until October--but it'll be awesome to get a good start on a shade tree on the southwest (currently very exposed) corner of the house. The second one is back by the pond, where its destiny is to ultimately replace the nasty old sugar hackberry under which it is currently planted.

In other plant news, I want to record 3 more tree decisions before we forget them. (1) we're going to phase out the rotten ligustrum on the southeast corner of the house with a Cordia, which is a dark-green-leaved tree with striking white flowers. (2) The pagoda tree that Matt & I grew from seeds gathered from a tree in the French Quarter (growing up at the top of the stairs by Cafe du Monde, if that's familiar to anyone) is going to go on the back southwest corner of the yard to replace the stupid adolescent chinaberry that was growing through the old hurricane fence. (3) We're going to replace the other (oddly lanky) ligustrum by the cactus house with a Eucalyptus robusta. Not anytime soon, of course. But eventually.

Monday, May 26, 2008

On Crinums

We just got back from my brother's wedding in Houston, which was lovely. There was much eating and inter-family socializing (involving some particularly admirable veal cutlets and surprisingly tender cabbage rolls--my new sister-in-law is Romanian), but we did find time for some horticultural/house-related pursuits. We went to Mercer Arboretum (where I interned some 12 years ago) to research our mystery crinums and also a very lovely apricot daylily that I brought home from MA these many years ago (and which Mom has no intention of ever relinquishing to me for love or money).

Didn't have any luck tracking down the daylily, but we did find a strong contender for our crinum. Sadly, it was unlabeled**. Happily, we at least know what our crinum isn't. It isn't 'Ellen Bosanquet' (too dark and plump), 'Alamo Village' (too pale and strappy petaled), or 'Eagle Rock' (not enough flowers per inflorescence). So that's a start. Here's the one that did match:

Note the narrow petals, pale pink color, and numerous flowers per inflorescence

And here's our bulb:

Many flowers, narrow petals, pale pink

We also found a really lovely white crinum, labeled (erroneously) as Crinum anoemum. I'm pretty sure it's actually C. jagus var. scillafolia. It has huge, fat, yellowy-white buds and thin, upright foliage. I very much want to find a source for this one and grow it in our shade garden.

Probable C. jagus var. scillifolia

The trip has also given me a healthy respect for my own penetration and sagacity in choosing 'Ellen Bosanquet' for propagation back at A&M. I had never seen it bloom till this summer--the ones I gave Mom & Dad never bloomed when I was around, and the ones I've grown in pots have been too sad and starved all this time to bloom. I've got three in the ground and two more in pots that I need to plants, so perhaps by next year I'll finally have some blossoms of my own. Because they really are stunning. The ones in Mom & Dad's yard are a deep, rich, pink, with rounded, bell-shaped flowers on tall scapes. Just lovely.

The trip has also reawakened in me other crinum ambitions, long deferred. I'd really like to grow a wide variety of crinums, but the one I want to start with is this:

Crinum delagoense/stuhlmannii from Jardin! l'Encyclopedie

How is that for extravagant gorgeousness? It's originally from Zimbabwe, but I did find a domestic source, fortunately: the good folks at Telos Rare Bulbs, who have a really terrific catalog of, well, rare bulbs. (Can't vouch for their service or quality yet, having only window-shopped thus far).

And speaking of nurseries... When you're looking for crinum suppliers, there aren't as many options as one would like. Other than Telos, there's Marcelle Shepard, east Texas bulb expert, breeder, and grower, who collaborates with Mercer Arboretum, Plant Delights Nurseries, Easy to Grow Bulbs, Kelly's Plant World, and the fledgling Southern Bulb Company. No doubt there are some I'm missing (come to think of it, Yuccado sells some crinums), but on the whole, nothing like the kind of availability for narcissus or tulips or amaryllis. Prices are commensurately high, unfortunately--crinums aren't terribly fast to propagate.

And so the desperate bulb fancier may be driven to TyTy Nurseries out of Georgia. I'll get on to more substantive reasons why you should avoid this company later, but for now, let's focus on Photoshop skills. Below are some things you should never, ever, ever do with Photoshop:

(1) Paste a subtropical bulb into an Alpine meadow

(2) Ask Thumbelina to strip down and pose topless by your brobdignagian crinum blossoms

(3) Depict improper use of crinums in an industrial setting (is it just me, or are the crinum's leaves outstretched in horror at its sudden abduction by an inexplicably sultry but apparently deranged factory worker?)

(4) Deface a house of worship

(5) Recreate the embarrassingly effusive annual patriot fervor of crinum lilies as they drink too much Pabst, eat hot dogs, and sing "Born in the USA" on the 4th of July.

(5) Cross a Magritte with a Windows 98 desktop (nothing says "nature" like PCs and surrealism!)

Nothing on their website would lead a person to believe that this is anything other than a sincere effort at enhancing the attractiveness and marketability of their product. There's not a trace of irony in the accompanying text. They seem to have decided that, since sexpots and beautiful landscapes (and flying businessmen) invariably boost the sales of plants, they should harness the power of Photoshop to create high-class images that bring together sexpots, landscapes, businessmen and crinums in an elegant and tasteful fashion.

But now you may be thinking, "Hey, these guys are kind of funny. Maybe I should buy from them to say thanks for giving me a guffaw."

Don't do it.

Last time I googled the company, I stumbled on to pages and pages and pages of complaints about their company on Dave's Garden. Garden Web has similar threads on the subject. The common themes are these: (1) material doesn't arrive or arrives late (2) material isn't the cultivar ordered (3) material is dead or dying (4) company refuses to reimburse customer, is rude, denies all allegations regarding the condition/identification of the plants. Any company is going to get some disgruntled customers, but this one has scores of them, and virtually no positive reviews. And their response to customer complaints is actually more damning than the complaints themselves, in my opinion. But the most sinister aspect is that they do business under host of aliases. Here's a list from the GW message board:

The Nursery at TyTy also does business as:
Blackberry Plant Nursery
African Amaryllis Bulb Nursery
Apple Tree Nursery
Bunch and Seedless Grape Vine Nursery
Pecan Tree Nursery
Tree Nursery
Aaron’s Farm
Aaron's Bulb Farm(part & parcel of TyTy) also does business as:
Aaron's Amaryllis & Canna Bulb Farm Nursery
Arron's Flower, Tree, and Shrub Nursery
Arron's Nursery with other listings
Aaron's Bamboo Nursery
Aaron's Daffodil Nursery
Aaron's Leucojum, Tuberose, and Eucomis Nursery
Aaron's Allium Nursery
Aaron's Clivia Nursery
Aaron's Agapanthus Nursery
Aaron's Elephant Ear Nursery
Aaron's Ariod Nursery
Aaron's Iris Nursery
Aaron's Ginger Lily Nursery
Aaron's Hymenocallis Nursery
Aaron's Crinum Lily Nursery
Aaron's Banana Tree Nursery
Aaron's Perennial Nursery
Arron's Fruit Nursery
Apple Tree Nursery
Blackberry Nursery
Blueberry Nursery
Fig Tree Nursery
Grape Vine Nursery
Pecan Tree Nursery
Peach Tree Nursery
Persimmon Tree Nursery
Plum Tree Nursery
Citrus Tree Nursery
Pear Tree Nursery

They used to be listed in Garden Watchdog. There were hundreds of negs and maybe a handful of positives. Ty Ty protested and made Dave remove them from Garden Watchdog.

It's really easy to identify a TyTy website, though--they use the same interface and the same bizarre marketing tactics. So if you see a man in a scuba suit sniffing a tulip or a lightning bolt striking a crinum, odds are you've stumbled onto a stealth TyTy site.

All of which is to say, I'll be expanding my crinum collection soon (but not with materials from those yahoos).

** Since posting, I've done some more digging, and I think I may have identified our mystery crinum: it looks like Crinum x powellii, the pink form. See, for example, this picture from the International Bulb Society.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Visual Updates

Ug. The complications.

So I bought a wee little external card reader drive that I can use to get my pix from my memory card to my computer. So I don't need to buy a new camera--hurrah!

But now I'm adrift in a sea of other troubles. My software is being a pain--I no longer have Photoshop, so I have to do my editing in two different lame-ola apps that come with Vista, then upload via (gack!) Internet Explorer, between whom and myself there is Very Bad Blood. (Long story short: bastardly program allowed Matt to get a particularly nasty trojan horse that operated through some back door in IE--and Windows wouldn't let me uninstall IE in order to thwart the trojan horse. Had to call in professional help. Still pissed about that.) For some reason, the new Firefox 3 won't let me upload or publish in either Blogger or Picasa--not sure if it's a settings problem or some unholy interaction between my firewall/AVG/Windows Defender (whatever the hell that is)/Firefox3. So the uploading of the pix has been slow and laborious.

'Nuff whining. On to the pix.
Our cottonwood is beginning to bloom. Not (so far) as much fluff as last year, but then the season is just starting. Last spring, the air was thick with cottonwood fluff.

Cottonwood cotton

Here's the rose garden, doing its thing:
Rose garden

We really need to start planting tall things along that big wall, don't we? Looks all bare and blank. I just learned about a short, skinny, columnar baldcypress called 'Peve Minaret' (why "Peve"? What kind of word is that? Answer comes there none.) That might work, and I'm very, very fond of baldcypresses. Or maybe a 'Forest Pansy' redbud or a Bauhinia.

Our Sprekelia formossisima, which had been in Mom's custodianship in Houston since my undergrad days, popped into bloom. They have the most extravagant, implausible, gorgeous flowers, and look very much like a fleur de lys.

Sprekelia formissisima (which has the bizarre common name--common among whom I wonder?--of "Jackobean Lily"). It's tilted at a goofy angle, for some reason.

Our last unphotographed mystery rose finally obliged, as well. It has these pretty deep pink globes for flowers--very unusual. The buds are so round, you'd assume it was densely petaled, but it's actually only semi-double. I don't even have an educated guess to make about this one. It's obviously not a hybrid musk (which are huge, woody, sprawly beasts) or a Noisette (they're usually climbers), but beyond that, I'm stumped. Anyway, it's a dear of a shrub, and I'm delighted to see its ducky little flowers again.

Charming mystery rose with pink globe-shaped flowers

And 'Graham Thomas', our David Austin rose, finally bloomed, but unfortunately, I only thought to snap it after applying seaweed extract, so it's got brown droplets all over it, which is none too appealing.

David Austin rose 'Graham Thomas'

Also, in celebration of family coming into town, Matt tore down more of the hurricane fencing--this on the west side of the yard. It was in front of our neighbor's privacy fence, so it formed a haven for unsightly outlaws and carpetbaggers. Now it's gone, we're edging ever nearer to gentility.

That greyish streak in the lawn is the defunct hurricane fence.

We've also got some citruses just starting to fruit.

A striped pink Meyer lemon (it will be pink on the inside. Assuming it reaches maturity.)

A tiny baby grapefruit

In addition, our last amaryllis of the season (unless 'Spotty' puts in a very belated cameo), 'Liberty,' has finally bloomed.

'Liberty' Amaryllis (Hippeastrum)

We had a lovely visit with Mom, Dad, Aunt Pauline, Big David, and Granny Babe last week. I was very tickled to be able to show off the house, and they were gratifyingly detail-oriented in their appreciation (Aunt Pauline took the time to admire our glass cabinet pulls in the bathroom, for example.) We didn't have the pond running for them, but we had at least caulked the cracks, so it was holding water properly. Granny brought barbecue, and this time we had enough matching glasses for everyone. Still not enough chairs, but we're working on it. My everyday flatware wasn't entirely clean, and it's missing some pieces, so we ate our barbecue with the fancy silver, which made an interesting change from the usual BBQ accoutrements of plasticware and paper plates.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Tidying the Garden

NOTE: got a card reader (a weency little disk drive), and am now able to extract my photos--have added some to this entry--25 May 08
No pix for now.
So annoying--my old laptop developed (again) that electrical problem that caused such havoc a few years ago (when it was under warranty)--they replaced the power brick, the battery, the motherboard (three times!) and finally the hard drive. Now it's out of warranty, and at the august age of 4-1/2 years, it's too obsolete to be worth repairing. Ug. So I got a replacement (and it's bright green!), but now my camera won't talk to my computer because my camera's too old and my computer's too new. It isn't a driver problem; Canon says I'm just SOL.

Ultimately, the solution is a new camera (fortunately, they've come down in price quite a bit), but for now, I think I have to take my memory card into some photo place somewhere and have them extract my pix for me. So that's tiresome. Until I get around to that, we'll be doing a text-only blog around here. I'll try to be really descriptive to compensate.

Meanwhile, Aunt Pauline, Big David, and Granny Babe are coming up to visit the house while they're in Texas for my brother's wedding. I'm really pleased to be showing the house off to the Fuldas, as they've been such an enthusiastic and supportive audience for this house endeavor--I'm tickled they'll finally get the chance to see it in person. So we're trying to get everything all tidy and genteel before they get here.

Update on the Tile Doc
It worked! Instead of being gooey and disgusting for months on end, it dried nicely within about 8 hours, let me apply three separate coats, and is now bone dry and functional. You can see the brush strokes, so you're likely to walk in my bathroom and think "Hey, they did something to that tile!" But what you WON'T think is "Hey, is there a hideous shade of grey under that creamy-white epoxy?" Because you can't see the hideous shade of grey! And that's really the main thing we were going for.
This is the backsplash after 2 coats of Tile Doc. We added a 3rd, so now it's pretty solidly white.
Garden-intensive day
We picked up the three Mutabilis roses we needed to complete the hedge at the head of the driveway, as well as a bunch of mulch and some more edging. (So are you finally done with the edging? I hear you ask. Not on your oliphant. Just another installment in our long-term metal edging payment plan, thank you very much. We're on the 30-year edging installment schedule.) For some time, we've had 2 Mutabilis roses separated by a wide swath of weedbarrier. Since the weed barrier wasn't mulched, the weeds don't really seem to have felt too terribly inhibited. When I cut Xs in the barrier to plant the roses, masses of bright green weeds erupted from the holes. So learn your lesson, plant people. Weed barrier without mulch is not merely unsightly, it's also barely functional.

Masses of weeds, bursting through the slashes cut in the weed barrier

And we mulched the bed by the sun patio (a bit bare right now--just a Clerodendrum ugandense, a variegated hibiscus, a jasmine, a plumbago--and lots of empty patches). This bed's moment hasn't yet come for edging. I also put liquid seaweed on all the roses and a favored few other plants. I'm not familiar with the product--we'll see what it does.

And I put a little fungicide on 'Wild Blue Yonder,' 'Reine des Violettes' (which violently resented being transplanted), and 'Graham Thomas' (a modern, and therefore somewhat whiny). Oh, and also 'Autumn Damask'--it has this really screwy grunge on its leaves. Not black spot, not powdery mildew, but brownish, angular necrotic patches. I think the angularity may indicate a virus, but I'm hoping that I've mis-remembered my plant pathology (I got a B in that class, darnit.) It bloomed like mad this spring, so perhaps this problem isn't too serious, whatever it may be.

And finally, I potted up some plants for the patio--our tall, bamboo-green pot got some purple sweet potato vine, and the cute little angular succulent I got at Yuccado (name has slipped mind) went in a lavender pot. So we look stylish and funky, I hope.

Interesting Aside
The family across the street haven't parked in our yard in well over a week; possibly longer. I don't know how to interpret this--is this intended as an olive branch, or is it just a coincidence? Whatever it is, I'm grateful for it, so I'm declaring a cessation of hostilities (said hostilities consisting pretty much entirely of griping about them in this blog). No more unkind epithets or disgruntled speculations. Perhaps we, collectively, are turning over a new leaf.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Fountain, Edging, Plant News--Peckerwood

It's been a slowish month, but we (Matt) did get the pond in the backyard operational yesterday. The pond is a mound of rocks--no idea what kind, I'm afraid: Mattchew? Dad? any ideas?--that trickles water over a rock lip and into the liner. Matt pulled the pump out of the oubliette (it has to be pumped out periodically) and hooked it up to the pond tubing--et voila! The peaceful and bucolic sound of running water. As ever, one project bred two more: there is also tubing for a spitting frog (an elegant and graceful accoutrement for any garden), which we'd rather like to also get running. In addition, the pond leaks something awful, so we need to decide whether to repair, replace, or augment the current molded liner. Still, even in its current state, it makes for a nice bit of interest in the garden. And the equisetum is looking terrific.

Mystery Rose Update

You'll recollect that we were heartbroken to lose a lovely red cabbagy mystery rose last year, and that just before it completely succumbed to that terrible fungus, we snipped off a few healthy cuttings. Well, I'm tickled to announce that out of ~10 cuttings, we have 3 surviving propagules, all doing well, putting on leaves, and gaining in height. We may ultimately have more wonderful mystery rose than we quite know what to do with.

We installed the edging bought with Mom & Dad's anniversary present--finished off the pole bed and began the shade patio. The pole bed, which is on the corner of the property facing 2 streets (and surrounds a telephone pole) has been half-edged and half mulched for months now. Little bit trashy. Very pleased to be able to finish it off. It has a couple of 'Duchers' a faintly lemony-white china rose, and a feather palm that will probably never flourish but also refuses to die.

In lieu of working on the house today, we took a day trip to Hempstead to visit Peckerwood Garden, this 20-acre garden created by an architecture professor from A&M who takes regular trips to Mexico and South America to collect rare and unusual plants. The garden looks terrific, much as it cheeses me off when a non-horticulturist turns out to be good at plant design. (It's like they're horning in on our turf, sort of). They've done a really excellent job layering colors and textures and finding very interesting, very sculptural looking plants. My favorites were an agave with very round leaves that never pups--ovatifolia, perhaps? Also a low, spreading oak from Mexico (name unknown), a Japanese white oak, the silver Mexican Sabal, and the clumps of curcuma. There was also a fantastic red crinum called 'Queen Emma' that looks a lot like our red crinum. They claim that it will get to be 7' tall! I'm not sure how I feel about that. They've done a really great job with this garden--it's definitely something plant lovers should see (but it's only open a few weekends out of the year, as it's this guy's private garden). It's not quite a viewy and showy as the lovely Chandor Gardens in Weatherford, which is another (formerly) private garden on ~20 acres, but it's more botanically interesting.

Afterwards, we visited Yuccado gardens next door, a nursery that used to be affiliated with Peckerwood, but is now independent. (I think it's a little like the Dan's and Fran's burger chains in Austin--the owners of the two used to be a couple and shared both businesses, but then split up and spawned two separate entities. Do you know Dan's/Fran's? They're these classic Old Austin burger dives where you see a different--blue-collar, pre-yuppie--incarnation of Austin. Burgers are tasty too--not virtuosic, but tasty; also excellent breakfast tacos.) Yuccado has some rare bulbs (boophane, brodaea, and a few others I didn't know) and a LOT of yuccas and agaves (perhaps the name is a clue?). It's also only open to the public a few times a year, or by appt. We enjoyed Peckerwood a bit more--there was a little more there, though YD does have some interesting materials, including a variegated Agave perryi, a funny fleshy-leaved plant with a spike of fat, ball-shaped flowers that looks like it was designed by Willy Wonka, and a pink spiny yucca-like plant that erupts from its pot like a cluster of many-pointed stars.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Those Who Cannot Remember the Past...

For some reason, I've been dallying with TileDoc again, the maddening epoxy product that is, apparently, designed to cover one's bathroom surfaces in a perpetual layer of foul-smelling sticky white goo. You may remember my many struggles to re-finish our guest pedestal tub (for the full, harrowing account, see previous entries "In Which I Inhale a LOT of Epoxy," "Tub, Shelves, Groundcloth, &c. &c.," and "Success! At Last!").

The problems with TileDoc are 2-fold: 1) it goes on best when aerosolized, which is difficult to accomplish without a power sprayer and air compressor, and 2) it only actually dries when it's applied during a full moon when Uranus is in the House of Leo and the solar winds are unusually high. Or something. The not-drying problem is, itself, 2-fold: a) you must measure the two components very, very, very accurately (I recommend filling a pyrex measuring cup with 1/4c of water, pouring the water into the intended epoxy receptacle--such as an old salsa jar--and marking the water level with a sharpie. Repeat with a 2nd quarter-cup of water so that you have 2 sets of markings on your jar. Then pour the clear, sticky stuff first to the first line and the white, opaque stuff to the second line. but given my success rate, you may not particularly care to take my advice.) And b) you must coat the surface with the faintest possible sheen of the stuff. This latter can be extraordinarily difficult to do. I have no advice for you on this subject, other than Be strong!

Anyway, I've embarked on this dubious endeavor because I just can't stand the stupid grey tile backsplash above our sink one second longer. We got the bathroom looking more or less genteel and tamed--at least if you squint--and the anomalous backsplash really wrecks our groove.

Note the pointlessness of the grey backsplash

Also, we have guests coming at the end of May, and I'd like to hide our tessellated shame. We haven't the resources (cojones?) to do anything about the much larger expanse of hideous grey tile (and its repulsant sidekick, Moldy Old Caulking) in the shower surround, but we DO have an opaque shower curtain, so that problem's handled. It was time, however, to take care of business where the backsplash was concerned.

So I painted the stuff on with a brush about 4 hours ago. It's still tacky (in both senses--it will need at least 2 coats to adequately hide the grey), which strikes me as a bad sign. On the other hand, it's drier than it was before, so perhaps there's hope?

Oddly enough, the corrosive, chemical odor of the epoxy made me feel strangely nostalgic. The human subconscious--or at any rate, my subconscious--works in very, very peculiar ways.

New TV
...And on to things that do work. Mom & Dad just got the New Hotness in terms of TVs, and they kindly gave us their old TV, the Old Hotness, which, by Matt's & my standards, is an utter leviathan and a fancy one at that (back off, would-be thieves--it's about 15 years old and weighs more than Mount Rushmore. You've never be able to get it out of the house. Plus it's not digital-compatible.) They also gave us an entertainment center to put it in (nice parents!), which is also no featherweight. Many people, including hired help, a benevolent neighbor, and my brother, combined their efforts to extract the units and get them into and out of our Jeep and trailer.

In any event, it's now reposing in electronic glory in the den, plugged in, re-programmed, and ready to go. Thanks to its superior antenna, we now get two PBSes, two CBSes, and (¡que suerte!) four Spanish channels. We watched a DVD on it last night, and everything was all crisp and lovely and, you know, big. No more squinting to read subtitles.

The funny thing is that we haven't figured out what to do about the old TV, so we are now not merely a four-TV family, but we have a two-TV living room. And in case you wanted a quick headcount, the residents here are (1) me, (2) Matt. In our defense, 1 TV is halfway dysfunctional and lives in the garage, 1 is our wee little kitchen TV, and 1 is the usurpee, probably fated to take up residence in the crawlspace under the stairs. Still. 4 TVs. 2 people. Livin' the Costco lifestyle, my friends.

For a truly immersive multimedia experience

Other Long-Term Projects

But what, you may be wondering, happened to the porch swing (meant to be our Valentine's Day present) How about those antique doors and knobs? The shade patio? The hedge of mutabilis roses to replace those scraggy abelia? The other hedge to hide Mr. Ugly Car and his opprobrious cohabitants? Quick summary:

(1) The bolts that I bought for reconstructing the porch glider are too short for the thicker pipes (part of the dismembered hurricane fencing from the back yard) that we're using to replace the rusty original supports. So I need to trek out to Austin Bolt Company, whom I utterly adore but whose hours of operation are problematically short, and exchange them. But the frame is rustoleumed and ready to go, and the new red oak slats are stained and varnished with 3 coats of spar urethane for protection.

(2) "Greg," the last of our new (old) doors is at Elgin Furniture Refinishers getting stripped. Next time we're in town during their operating hours (probably next Sat), we'll pick him up. We need to get in touch with Javier (the dude who built our lovely shelf/drawer unit in the study) to get his estimate for sizing and hanging them. I suspect that he's been hesitant to call us because it'll be a fair pfennig. Ouch.

(3) Re the shade patio (for latest pix, see "The Patio, & More Flower Pictures"), Mom & Dad very nicely gave us some ooftish for our 5th Anniversary (yesterday--Happy Anniversary to us!), which we will take to Lowe's to convert into metal edging. We'll install it around the current configuration of pavers, lift up the stones, and put down some sand. We may have enough from the old sandbox on the property, or we may have to buy a few bags. Then we'll reinstall the pavers and cap them off with a little cement.

(4) Re the mutabilis hedge (meant to stand at the head of the driveway and give our back yard a little privacy), well, the two roses we planted last year are doing nicely. But there's a huge gap in between them where we need to plant 3 more, so we'd be flattering it if we even described it as "spotty." The four abelias remain in their original locations for the time being. It would probably be foolish to move them this late in the year. We're going to plop them around the shade patio, but if a few croak, there are plenty of nicer shrubs we can substitute in (especially oak-leaf hydrangea and American beautyberry). Even so, I'd feel kind of slummy about killing all four. So the abelia relocation is postponed. But I'm willing to plant mutabilis as late as June of this year (it's that rugged), so we may at least get that part going soonish.

(5) Mr. Ugly Car's hedge--Matt was given some second-hand primrose jasmine (Jasminum mesneyi), so we've planted a line of them inside our property line. They're puny now, but we plan to water and fertilize the bejeezus out of them, so hopefully they'll be quite sizable next year. Primrose jasmine makes a rather massive fountain of light-colored evergreen foliage. I don't actually think they are the absolute best choice in landscape design terms--they look too much like the grass below and the ash above in color and even leaf shape, and they don't have a lot of definition--but they smell delicious and they'll accomplish our primary goal. And they were free, which is one of my favorite adjectives ever.
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