Sunday, June 8, 2008

Demonstrating Progress & Decline

It was another mulch-intensive weekend. The pole bed had an inadequate layer of mulch (and some very chintzy weed barrier--more of a minor weed stumbling block than a barrier--if you use weed barrier, don't get the thin stretchy plastic kind--it works as badly as common sense suggests it would) and had been colonized by bermudagrass. That stuff is inexorable.

The stripy rose bed was the last major existing bed to have no mulch whatsoever, so we fixed that, too.

Also, many of our trees were mulchless and needed little dirt levees built around them to hold water. The 'Purple Robe' black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), the 'Tuskarora' crape myrtle, and the two baldcypresses were of particular concern.

Here's why. This is the better of the two baldcypresses when freshly planted.

Slightly traumatized baldcypress by SW corner of the house

And here it is a few days ago.

Deeply traumatized baldcypress by SW corner of the house

Not good. We've been watering it every other day (sometimes more often), and when we water, we water deep. But the tree is miserable. It does still have some green leaves, and the stems are green under the bark, but overall, it's in a parlous state.

So I took down its old levees and rebuilt them farther out with a compost-dirt mixture (so it will hold more water and leach yummy nutrients into the root zone), and Matt mulched. We may stretch a shadecloth tent over it, too. This will look silly, but we do what we must.

The other cypress looked kinda sad from the outset, but it seems to be stabilizing. We planted it under the sugar hackberry that it will ultimately replace, and I think that protection from the sun has made all the difference. Still looks twiggy and emaciated, but I think it's going to live.

Scruffy but stable baldcypress under objectionable sugar hackberry--by pond

On the other hand, our oaks from last year are doing great. The picture below was meant to demonstrate how much more genteel our yard looks now that Matt has pulled down the hurricane fence and is able to edge along the fenceline. However, you can also see that our red oak (according to an arborist, it's Quercus buckleyi [AKA Q. texana], not Q. shumardii) has lots of nice, healthy green leaves.

Quercus buckleyi & gentrified back fence

We didn't mollycoddle those oaks at all last year--no little dirt levees, no mulch, no mini-beds to protect them from the depredations of the lawn--and they're all flourishing. The bur oak is covered in big, healthy leaves. The white oak (actually Q. polymorpha, not Q. alba) in our front yard has put on a second big flush of leaves this spring. This is the fruit of last summer's crazy nonstop rain. At the time, a mixed blessing--roses died, the abelia wasted, and these same trees got a whole panoply of leaf diseases--but those that survived it seem to have really robust root systems taking them into this (so far hot and dry) summer.

Our cottonwood is still blowing fluff all over the place. You can see how thick they are on the ground. Isn't it neat how the burst hulls look like little stars?

Cottonwood fluff in the crape myrtle bed

Other Follow-ups
I bought some Crinum macowannii seeds from a seller called bulbsnmore on e-bay. Click the link to see a picture of the flowers--pretty fabulous, no? Check out these crazy seeds, though. They're huge. And I can't tell which end is up. One end has a slightly pointy spot that is blackish, but I can't tell if that's for roots or shoots. I got 15 seeds, so I planted them in all different orientations, in the hopes that some of them will work out.

And at this point, two of the three surviving red cabbagey mystery rose cuttings have bloomed. The color is a bit off--it's much lighter than its parent. But that's probably just because it's young. And the main point is, The red cabbagey mystery rose lives!

Red cabbagey mystery rose cutting in bloom

And some of last year's shrimp plants are thriving--look at all those nifty apple green and pink flowers. (That's super-chic--and rather rare--cultivar 'Fruit Cocktail.') The ones in the rose bed aren't doing so hot. Three or four of them didn't come back after last winter, and those that have returned are much smaller and unbloomy than the ones pictured below, which never did die back, despite our many and hard freezes last winter.

Justicia 'Fruit Cocktail'

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hate to hear about the bald cypress. Hope it will make it. Need fish poop? We've got plenty!!!!


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