Thursday, November 15, 2012

Two Plant Sales

'Dawn Star' rose by Dr. Griffith Buck, plus a bonus 'Green Rose' bloom in front
I've been really, really awol.  No idea why, really--somehow, I just wasn't in the mood to blog anymore. For  about 5 months.

However, everything is so very nice out that failing to document feels vaguely criminal. Plus: two plant sales!

One of the nice things: a rose we got for free and never cared about, but that has been a real trooper.  And those wine-colored petals with white reverse are really outstanding. 'Burgundy Iceberg.' (I still think it's a stoopid name, though.)
The first was a series of releases by a propagator of rare and antique roses called Vintage Gardens in CA. They (if memory serves) collaborate with both the Huntington Garden and the rose garden in Sacramento. They have a huge inventory of source plants, but they rotate actual propagules in and out--it being too expensive to keep every variety in stock all the time.  Anyway, they had--I think--4 big releases this year at which they sold both rare old garden roses and a bunch of nifty found roses from the west coast.  My rose-growing experience has been very Texas- and ARE-centric, so I had never heard of many of these.

Unfortunately, they don't share my love of Chinas or Bourbons (too cool and moist in their area?), but they do have an extensive inventory of Teas. (And Centifolias and Gallicas, for those with the climate for it.)

To Matt's dismay, I ended up with 7 "bands" (which are extra-deep 4-inch pots, a common way to sell rose propagules):

Miraculously, I found room for 5 of them; the other two will have to wait till we finish prepping the Great Wall bed between ourselves and our neighbor's property.

My next desires (but where will we put them?!?) are 'Oneto Home Saffron' and 'Korbel Canyon Red'.  Here's hoping for an early spring release.

Then it was time for the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center's fall sale.  Somehow, the theme of this sale (for me) ended up being Mistflowers. We've been trying to enhance the wildlife-friendliness of our yard, and a friend of Matt's calls mistflower "butterfly crack," so it was an obvious choice.  The only difficulty was that it turns out there are (at least) 3 different species of bluey-periwinklish mistflowers: Conoclinium greggii, C. betonicifolium, and C. coelestinum. I hate making decisions of this kind, so I bought them all.

The greggii was the only one I knew beforehand, but I think it is actually going to be my least favorite--it's a bit gangly, and the blue is comparatively washy. Meh.  The betony-leaf mistflower and the "blue" mistflower (coelestinum) appear much more satisfactory.  So far (after about 2 weeks in the ground!) they are very similar in color and habit--pleasantly moundy compared to the greggii.  And a lovely, deep glowy blue that really stands out toward dusk.  I haven't actually seen any butterflies around, but then the plants are just babies and it isn't really peak butterfly season anymore.  Am very much looking forward to next summer, though.

I also got:

  • Whiteleaf mountainmint (Pycnanthemum albescens)
  • Southern wood fern  (Thelypteris kunthii)
  • Fall aster (Symphotrichum oblongifolium)
  • Agave havardiana

Other than unchecked plant greed on my part, the principle news from the garden is that a number of this year's earlier plantings are doing quite well.

'White Cloud' is finally in bloom, and it is even more luminous than I remembered. The traditional pink Gulf Coast Muhly is all very well and good, but to my mind, 'White Cloud' is on a whole other level of numinous beauty.  The picture below sucks, but it's all I have on hand.

Pennisetum 'Black Moudry' in front; Muhlenbergia capillaris 'White Cloud' in back; Bouteloua 'Blonde Ambition' on right - colors a bit muted by dew
'Black Moudry' Pennisetum was a bit of a wild card for me--I had no idea what to expect, and it turned out to be a rather remarkable grass.  The habit is low, very symmetrical, and squatty, with bright leaves, so that it looks rather like a very green pincushion.  Or a doughnut.  Out of this doughnut bristle long, fat, stiff spikes in the most difficult-to-describe combination of colors--sort of like black mixed with purple and brown and aluminum.  Because that's the odd part--to me, the color looks curiously industrial, almost metallic (but not as shiny as the word "metallic" would suggest).  We'll need to move it--like pretty much everything else in the grass bed--but it really is dramatic and eye-catching.  Landscape architects must love it--that weirdly artificial and symmetrical form, those fascinatingly peculiar flower spikes.  It would be perfect in one of those industrial-chic gardens with containers made out of pipes and lots of rectangles and steel and concrete.  It doesn't really match the mood of the grass-n-roses bed, which is more naturalistic and nativey, but it's much too interesting to replace.

This isn't a picture of 'Cream Falls," but it does grow  in the same bed as 'Cream Falls' - unknown miniature yellow climber
'Cream Falls' Pennisetum--I really had no idea how interesting pennisetums have become these days.  'Cream Falls' is wide, fine-leaved, and amorphous, with very large, very fuzzy fat cream-colored caterpillar-shaped spikes, which it bears in heavy profusion.  It's a great grass to anchor a bed or to draw attention from far away, which is how I plan to use it in the G-n-R bed 2.0.  Right smack in the middle, where it can dominate and also breathe a bit.

You can sort of see Pennisetum 'Cream Falls' blooms in this picture--but mostly you're seeing 'Caldwell Pink' and an unknown climbing yellow miniature
Chandler's craglily (Echeandia chandleri)--I bought this interesting native lily at last year's LBJ sale, and it's put on a lot of growth in one year.  It has low-growing rosettes of stiff, pointed foliage and great, tall 3+-foot flower spikes of airy yellow flowers, vaguely reminiscent of gaura, only much taller, a pleasant gold color, and a slightly greater density of blooms.  It's blooming away cheerfully now (its 3rd week of blooms?), so it adds some interest at the end of the season, which is nice.

On the negative side, we yanked Mme Alfred Carriere.  I really hated her habit, which was to grow straight up, 4 or 5 feet above the roof of the gazebo, in a collection of stiff, off-center spikes that gave the gazebo the look of a 1980s haircut.
I gather these things are actually back in style now.  Sigh.
And she was a most reluctant bloomer, and was shading the dear little Ambridge Rose.  So she's gone to the great roserie in the sky.

Also negative: I'm reassessing 'Hot Cocoa'--when it blooms heavily (as it's doing now), I love the color, but the shape of the shrub has become too gangly and rigid for the G-n-R bed.  And Matt hates it relentlessly.  So we're going to transplant it to the spot where Ferdinand Pichard bit it.  If it lives, great; if not, well, I'll be sad, anyway.

Last bit of news: I just learned about two rose institutions here in Texas: the Chambersville Rose Garden, 5 acres of mostly antiques north of Dallas (planning for up to 22 acres in the future).  Tours are by appointment, but they also have an annual festival:

Also north of Dallas, the town of Farmer's Branch has an annual rose festival: had Bill Welch, Gregg Lowry (of Vintage Gardens) and Greg Grant for speakers.

This year, the two festivals were Oct 20-21; we'll have to make a weekend pilgrimage next year.

Interestingly, this makes 3 centers of rose activity (that I know of) in Texas: Tyler (home to Chamblee's roses, the TX branch of David Austin, and a very large municipal rose garden), north Dallas, home to the two festivals above, and Independence/Texas A&M (home of the Antique Rose Emporium and the TAMU rose breeding program--including Ralph Moore's collection).  I wonder what others I don't know about?

'Dawn Star' rose in background; 'Green Rose' in front

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Red Cascade

This spring's rains have been phenomenal for the garden--look how fat and lush and green everything is!

In particular, 'Red Cascade' has finally come into its own.  It bloomed a little bit after Peak Rose but wow, it was loaded.

Here's to you, 'Red Cascade'!

It takes a few years to establish in a semi-shady spot like this one, but in the end, it comes up beautifully.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Horticultourism: Festival Hill, Round Top

Two weekends ago, we visited one of my favorite gardens in Texas--Festival Hill at Round Top.

Cloister garden at Festival Hill, Round Top

I had been before, but years ago, before my Horticultural Awakening, and only had vague memories of strange and whimsical stonework. Then, late last year, Matt & I were in the area, and I said, "Hey, what about that Festival Hill?"

And it turned out to be wonderful.

Steps leading from the Cloister Garden to the Mediterranean Garden. This sort of lovely, idiosyncratic detail--differing levels, an arch, a column, a gratuitous curve--is totally characteristic of the structures at Festival Hill

Festival Hill is a music camp and (classical) concert venue occupying a number of large, antique buildings surrounded by woods.  The grounds are defined by local stonemason Jack Finke's stonework, which charmingly combines the refined and the rough-hewn and looks like what you might get if a poorer civilization constructed itself out of the wreckage of an older, wealthier civilization.  I love it--decadent, quirky, and very well suited to its location.  Mr Finke, sadly, passed away in 2010--his truncated blog notes that his children took over his role as groundskeeper at FH as he took on more stone work.  I hope they or someone else is able to carry on in his tradition there.

A nifty stairwell with a funky balcony sort-of-a-thing

And then the plants, the result of the combined efforts of Madalene Hill, the famous herb gardener, Lynn Lowrey, the eminent plant collector and promoter, and current garden director Henry Flowers, are so neat!  An unusual passionflower, a rare willow, a myrtle I'd never seen before, a citrus-scented cypress, a whole panoply of named lavender cultivars...

Lemon Cypress - Cupressus macrocarpa 'Golden Crest'
I got more inspiration and enlightenment from the small "Cloister Garden"--about 1,000 sqft, I guess--than from the entire rainforest pyramid in Galveston the week prior to that (I had a very nice visit with friends, but horticulturally, the pyramid was a bit of a shrug).

Cloister Garden at Festival Hill - a small homage to 'Souvenir de la Malmaison', it contains S de la M as well as its sports, 'Kronprinzessin Viktoria' and 'Souvenir de St Anne'.

Whereas look at this niftiness--you want it, don't you?  Someday, it shall be MINE.  It's a super-curly willow, possibly  Salix alba 'Curly Locks'.

Salix alba 'Curly Locks'?

Similarly, look at this beautifully robust lavender, Lavandula stoechas, possibly 'Otto Quast'? I've never had much luck with lavender, but look how sturdy and attractive this is.

Lavandula stoechas, possibly 'Otto Quast'
It was growing in a whole bed dedicated to myriad cultivars of lavender, oregano and other silver-leafed herbs.

Mediterranean Garden--Madalene Hill ascribed this garden's success to excellent drainage and a thick mulch of gravel.

In addition, the grounds include a "pharmacy garden," with all kinds of obscure medicinal plants from around the world. It's fortunate that photographs don't capture temperature--our first visit was at the height of the drought last fall, and the garden was blistering, dessicated, and muggy. 

Pharmacy Garden--looks pretty good for the worst drought in living memory.
But they still contained many blooming plants.  The grounds outside of the garden were in more dire shape.  Look at this lovely bridge--over empty air and crispy weeds.

I bet this bridge looks really lovely when you can't see its Sac-rete foundations...

The pond is really quite big, but as you can see, the entire thing had evaporated.  And the woods were full of dead trees.

The salty crust at the bottom of what was once a pond

The map below shows you the extent of the pond--and the grounds as a whole, for that matter.  I added some purple smudges where the gardens (that I know about) are.  Our most recent visit was impromptu, and I was wearing utterly inappropriate dress sandals, so we didn't get to explore much to check back in.

Festival Hill gardens map
We need to go back soon to see how the pharmacy garden looks when it gets moisture, whether any water has collected in the pond, and how the woods are doing.

Another of the delightful details that characterize this place--why build just another bridge when you could build a spitting god's head bridge?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Peak Rose, Baby!

On trellis: 'Fourth of July'; to the right of that: 'Cramoisi Superieur'; around the corner: 'Comtesse du Cayla'

It's officially Peak Rose!  Very nearly every rose in the garden is blooming like mad.  Yay!

'Fourth of July' is making a splashy showing on the big trellis, and the ox-eye daisies we planted in the middle of last summer's drought are blooming and providing filler (those that survived, that is.)

Left front: 'Kaiserin Friedrich'; at its base: 'Ferdinand Pichard'; magenta scraggly thing: 'Wild Blue Yonder'; peach in corner: 'Comtesse du Cayla'; shrub by trellis: 'Cramoisi Superiuer'; on trellis: 'Fourth of July'

The daisies and society garlic make a nice matrix to kind of glue this bed together.  It's a bit untidy, but we just call that "cottagey" and hope no one looks too closely.  We haven't really been able to keep on top of the weeds lately, either--they're delirious with rain.

At corner of house: 'Duchesse de Brabant'; speck of yellow next to that: 'Graham Thomas'; first big pink rangy thing: mystery cabbagey rose; rangy pink thing in front of trellis: possible "Maggie"; white behind the daisies: 'Souvenir de la Malmaison'; pink to the right of the daisies: 'Reine des Violettes'
The gazebo is half-smothered by roses, and the AC bed, which received many of the fruits of our trip to Tyler last year, is blooming up, starting with the indefatigable 'Belinda's Dream' and a baby 'Spice' that replaces one we lost back in 2007 to the Horrid Fungus.

By the pond, little 'Clothilde Soupert' has surprised and delighted us with the lavishness of her blooms.  She's had some balling, but she's got so many flowers that a little browning and balling here and there doesn't much matter.  CS reminds me of a bubble bath.

L to R: last of the 'Golden Dawn' narcissus, which had a surprisingly long bloom period, 'Clothilde Soupert', and 'Victoria Blue' salvia.
'Cramoisi Superieur' has always been one of my favorite roses, but for some reason, I have the devil of a time photographing it.  My camera just cannot cope with that particular shade of dark magenta-red. Still, I thought these blossoms were unusually and enjoyably prim in shape.  But the color just is not right.

And this is the first bloom (that I've captured) of 'Marchesa Boccella', which I received a year ago as a rooted cutting via the exchange on Helpmefind.  That pretty purple weed is clambering all over MB--I need to yank it out, but it actually looks quite attractive with the light pink of this blossom.

'Marchesa Boccella' with a rampant viney purple weed--a legume of some kind, I think.
And finally, Peak Rose coincides with Peak Poppy this year.  We've got an absolute forest of them in our Grass-n-Roses bed, some double,some single, some wildly fringed, but all the exact same shade of pink.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Peak Rose?

I think we may be approaching Peak Rose. Things are popping into bloom all over the place. The rose garden by the kitchen door is coming along nicely--the society garlic and oxeye daisies are filling in between the roses and are starting to bloom.

'Fourth of July' is starting to flower up with its summery blossoms splattered with cherry red.

'Sombreuil' is covered in buds and has interestingly peachy-greeny tones before it opens.

The 'Tinka' cluisiana tulip is showing its butter-yellow interior.

The poppy buds have started opening.

And the weather is heating up--it was in the 80s over last weekend.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring! Spring! Spring!

It's not yet Peak Rose, but all sorts of things are booming and sprouting and leafing out.

For example, 'Hot Cocoa' is putting on this season's first flowers.  Believe it or not, this is actually an accurate depiction of the color.  Matt hates it, but I find it strange and entrancing.  Even more than most roses, HC's color varies with the weather--cooler temperatures bring out the browny-silvery-lilacy tones that lurk under the orangey-red.

A lovely 'Hot Cocoa' bloom

'Green Rose' was one of our first roses to pop into bloom, and it's kept it up admirably.  Interesting, as the "flowers" fade, they turn kind of straw-colored, which is the only time they're terribly visible. 

'Green Rose'--what can I say? We like floral oddities.

Meanwhile, Tulipa clusiana 'Tinka' materialized almost overnight. I had no idea they had even sprouted, when suddenly, they were in full bloom.  Unlike many T. clusianas, this cultivar has warm golden yellow accents.

T. clusiana 'Tinka'

The Iris virginiana slip that I bought 2-3 years ago from Madrone Nursery has finally bloomed.  It's a long, leggy thing, with a bright blue bloom.

Iris virginiana--purportedly, an unusually salt-tolerant variety, which will come in handy when the sea levels rise, but not much before

Poppies!  Last year we sowed whole heap of Papaver somniferum from my Aunt P. I think we maybe got one small, sad bloom? Not a good year for the wildflowers--beastly drought.  But this year, all of last year's frustrated seeds went nuts, and we have an impenetrable thicket of poppies. I've been checking on them (almost) daily, but one managed to bloom without my seeing it. Nevermind--there are about 50 more buds in on the way.

A blue-green forest of poppies, heavy with buds

'Mlle Franziska Kruger'--I'm not actually nuts about the quilled, wadded look that Mlle FK specializes in, but the colors are so very pretty--she's almost as changeable as Mutabilis.

One of Mlle Franziska Kruger's scrunched up flowers

And I caught 'Isabella Sprunt' about 30 seconds too late.  Her flowers spend a long time as slender, elegant, very Tea-ish buds, then open into quite elegant and formal blooms... for about 5 minutes.  After which they turn into this rather untidy thing, and by the next day, half the petals will have dropped.  Still, that pale butter color is nice.  But if you have to choose between them, don't hesitate: go with 'Ducher.'

The mayfly-like flowers of 'Isabella Sprunt'

It seems like every spring, a different rose delights and surprises me.  This year, it's 'Kaiserin Friedrich.'  As a climber, she goes straight up--long, straight, limbs that withstand bending and weaving better than the average rose (I hate it when you're trying to thread a rose through a trellis and you have to bend... bend... bend--and at the last minute, it snaps).  But her upward tendencies mean the blooms are a bit thin around her knees--she has (so far--we're in her 2nd year) few lateral branches to break into bloom.  However.  She has a decent load of blooms at the top, and I think she's starting to do a little more branching, so hopefully the trellis will fill in.  But above all, how nifty are these flowers?  Check out the ruffled margins on the petals of these buds.

The precisely fluted petals of two 'Kaiserin Friedrich' rose buds

They'd be fussy if it weren't for the obvious toughness and vitality of the plant itself.  And look at the lovely range of colors: cream to soft yellow to peach to pink with darker pink margins.  And that complex array of petals!  It brings a real touch of sophistication to our otherwise rough-and-tumble DIY sort of a garden.

A fully open 'Kaiserin Friedrich' blossom

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pre-filter, New Doors

So our awesome new powerful pond pump has been pureeing fish and then getting clogged by their sad, lacerated corpses.


We've lost both Thor and Jupiter, veterans whom one would have thought had the age and wisdom to... not swim into a sucking vortex of doom.

So I decided to make a crude "pre-filter," as they're called in the pond biz.  I got a cheap black bucket and drilled holes in it using a small keyhole drill bit.  You want to make enough holes to give the pump unimpeded water flow, but not so many that the thing loses all structural integrity.

Ultimately, I'm planning to fill it with very coarse lava rocks to keep out the little fish; but as it is, it will at least keep the big fish, who are larger than these holes, from Vita-mixing themselves.

So far, it seems to be working fine.

Meanwhile, our favorite carpenter, Javier, made us a pair of swinging doors for the living room. We needed to be able to keep the cats in the living room with us without losing air circulation. Matt and I were stumped for years--we though of turning wooden screens into doors, but that's expensive and it's hard to find a design that would harmonize with the house and have small enough holes to keep the cats in. Then one day Matt spotted some decorative aluminum panels at our local hardware store and had a brainwave.

I'll be painting the woodwork and trim, but I think we'll leave the metal as is.  The paint would only flake off, anyway.

The cats are mayhem-prone, so we don't like to let them into the front of the house unsupervised.  But of course, they often run off to the kitchen to counter-surf while we're watching tv, the little hellions. Hence the doors. Now they can't escape bonding with us! Yay!

Thanks to Chuck and Ladonna, whose Christmas present funded these doors.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Holy Cumulostratus!

This season's first bloom on 'Hot Cocoa,' showing its funky browny-orange-red coloring quite nicely.  When it heats up, the bush will keep blooming, but in a less iconoclastic camaro red.


Last year, Elgin received approximately 15.3 inches the entire year.

Now it's only Feb 19, and we've received over half that amount already.

'Buff Beauty's' unusually pallid first bloom (trying to make a cultivar possessive is SUCH a pain.  You either end up with apostrophe congestion, which is the route I've chosen, or you have to lose the cultivar's single quotes altogether.  Dammit.)

Since the climate scientists who study La Niña are still, oddly, predicting a dry winter (what's left of it), this is probably a good thing; though, perversely, the persistent wetness has actually begun to freak me out a little.  I had buried memories of the Horrid Fungus that carried off so many of our roses back in 2007, but now that the ground seems to be permanently soggy, I'm remembering how aggressive and lethal that strain of canker/dieback/whatever-it-was could be.

My first jonquils ever (Narcissus jonquilla) are in bloom!  Hooray for these plucky little specks of yellow!  Now each bulb needs to replicate itself about 10 times, and we'll actually have a decent-sized stand.

Still, everybody looks healthy so far, and there's no rain forecast for the next several days, so hopefully what we're getting here is a nice quenching, not a drowning.

Chinese sacred lilies (Narcissus tazetta v. chinensis), a cheerful and reliable bloomer for us here in Elgin.

And in the interim, we've got a lot of blooming and greening. Our "lawn" (mostly clover at present, but what the hell; I'm sure the soil could use the nitrogen fixation) is lush and bright, our little grape hyacinths are blooming, the cemetery irises and Chinese sacred lilies are just finishing up their bloom cycles, and the snowflakes and jonquils are just getting started.

Dear little grape hyacinth (Muscari neglectum).  These are very cute, but are also rather thin on the ground at the moment.  Here's hoping they spread.

'Georgetown Tea,' 'Ducher,' 'Climbing Old Blush,' and especially 'Archduke Charles' and 'Mutabilis' are all in flower, to varying degrees. It's bright and springy and balmy.

Two of "Georgetown Tea's" fat, nodding blossoms

'Ducher'--one of our more bloomful roses right now.  'Ducher' is such a nice intermediate between formality and casual rusticity.

One of my better pictures of 'Cramoisi Superieur.'  You've no idea how much trouble I've had with that shade of red.  It's still not right, but at least it's in the neighborhood.
 Since we're apparently committed to spring now, Matt & I bought 8 (EIGHT!) cubic yards of compost and spread it all over the place.  Between that and the rain, I'm expecting to see joyous, exuberant plant growth all over the damn place.  (Note that we've cut back the grasses since snapping the pic below.)

OMG--so much compost.

Good winter.  Nice winter.  More like this, please!

Another not-bad pic of 'Cramoisi Superieur'--it's a little darker with stronger purply undertones, but still--it's sort of like this.
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