Friday, March 20, 2009

Coming Alive

The garden on the whole is still in that frowsy, twiggy, in-between state prior to completely embracing spring. However, there are individual signs of spring all over.

Let's start with the best news: the baldcypress lives! This comes as a pleasant surprise. Chuck, my father-in-law, liberated it from an atrocious tree-butcher outside of Hempstead who had hacked off most of the cypress's roots and crammed it into a little bitty plastic pot. Then we planted it. In June. ("You mean the June at the beginning of what has been called the worst drought in Texas since the catastrophic drought of 1956?" Yes. That June.) The baldcypress didn't care for our La Niña weather pattern at all. It dropped most of its leaves and then, most disturbingly, it sort of crumpled. It had been nice and straight, but now it's bent and sad, as though its insides dried out so cataclysmically that they sucked the bole crooked. All winter, we've been scraping back bits of bark, trying to spot green (to see if it's "wick," as Dickon explains to Mary in The Secret Garden.)

And now look!
Baldcypress buds

See those tiny dots on the stems? They weren't there a week ago. They're leaf buds! He's moving a bit slowly compared to most everything else in the yard. But a brain-damaged baldcypress is better than no baldcypress at all. Maybe with time he'll straighten up, leaf out, and make us all proud.

Speaking of the Robinia ('Purple Robe' black locust), check it out--it's got flower buds. In a week or so, it should be covered in wine-colored racemes, very much like wisteria, but plummier.

Robinia pseudoacacia buds

In other tree news, the red oak (Quercus buckleyi) is living up to its name and is covered in red baby leaves. Here's a funny thing: when the leaves first appear, they are sharply angled down, looking like severely reflexed flowers. As the leaves mature, they float upright. In their baby stage, they remind me of the flowers in the Fantasia version of the Dance of the Mirlitons from the Nutcracker. In the picture below, the leaves are out of the infant stage and are toddling about, drooling on things.

New leaves on the Texas red oak Quercus buckleyi)

I'm also on the cusp of discovering just what I've got in Japanese maples. I got them very, very cheap, but down side is that I had no way to tell if they are green, red, or purple. Naturally, I'm hoping for at least one red or purple, but I keep reminding myself that even green would be cheap at the price I paid. Thus far, the new leaves look red, but then so do baby leaves on Q. buckleyi.

A new Japanese maple leaf. Is it really purple, or is this just a phase?

And these little fellows are gathered around the feet of the maple above. They're native columbines, which, with their tightly vertical spurs, make me think of flaming meteorites.

Blooming native columbine (Aquilegia something-or-other)

..And enough of these lesser plants. On to the roses!

The mutabilis, as is their wont, are kicking butt.

Mutabilis flower

I'm especially pleased with how 'Ducher' is turning out, particularly given that I didn't give a toss about this cultivar when Matt brought one home. I chunked it in the pole bed and wished it well and barely gave it another thought. Now look at it. Lots of buds, dark green foliage, and fat lemony flowers that glow in the low light on the east side of the house.

Ducher. It's actuall a little more lemony rather than creamy, as it appears in the pic.

Meanwhile, after a disappointing first year, Duchesse de Brabant is finally living up to its potential--lots of bowl-shaped pink flowers on a good-sized shrub. Unfortunately, as they face west, they can be difficult to photograph.

Nice, big bloom on Ducher

At the same time, rookie Souvenir de la Malmaison --still quite a small plant, having been purchased in October--has several large, heavy, cabbagey flowers in varying states of bloom.
Fully open Souvenir de la Malmaison

Younger S. de la Malmaision bloom
S. de la Malmaison bud

And, once more, the unknown-tea-that-might-be-Monsieur-Tillier puts on one of its large, many-petaled flowers.

M. Tillier? Who knows?

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