New Year’s Eve at the Arboretum

12/31/2010 Winter Arboretum (1) 12/31/2010 Winter Arboretum (2) 12/31/2010 Winter Arboretum (3) 12/31/2010 Winter Arboretum (4) 12/31/2010 Winter Arboretum (5) 12/31/2010 Winter Arboretum (6) 12/31/2010 Winter Arboretum (7) 12/31/2010 Winter Arboretum (8) 12/31/2010 Winter Arboretum (9)

An affection for…

…my Tropical Breeze verbena. The cold snaps have finally forced it to halt blooming, but its foliage still remains green. I am impressed with this plant and hope to get some offspring from cuttings. According to its hybridizer, Ecke, this verbena is considered an annual, but I am thinking the warmer Texas climate might induce it to behave as a perennial. I look forward to the spring to see how well it survived winter in an above-ground planter exposed to full sun. 

…my dianthus chinensis. Even in the frigid December weather they are perhaps one of a handful of plants still blooming. The courtyard flower bed will hopefully fill out with the red and white dianthus bordering it. Meanwhile in the purple garden, some specimens of dianthus chinensis that survived the sweltering heat are now exposed (after I had cut back the overgrown gaura and salvia). Specimens of dianthus that were planted in the blue garden (picotee varieties) died off. An observation: they tend to bloom less and grow leafy in shady conditions.

…my foxtail ferns. These have been the most durable ferns in the garden so far. While the Japanese painted and Autumn ferns have died back continuously into the ground during the summer, these foxtails have continued growing and spreading. Now if I can only coax it to grow upright instead of toppling over when a new plume shoots out. Well, I suppose a comparison to traditional ferns is unfair, since these foxtails aren’t true ferns…are they?

…my violas. After their spectacular January-to-June performance last year, I’ve invested in 3 more trays of them for planting in the late fall. This season, I decided to go with the blues in the Sorbet series (purchased from Christina’s): Black Duet, Coconut Swirl, and Blue Heaven. Most of them are inhabiting the gardenia bed in the front yard and in the blue garden bed in the courtyard. I also invested in a half-dozen Penny series violas (from Strong’s Nursery), red and white, though I’m unsure if they will jump back after a week of neglect nearly killed them off.

It’s amazing what you’ll see if you stand in the garden long enough. This damp December morning I spotted an olive green bird, sparrow-sized, hopping about in the trees. My research determined it to be a pine warbler, female due to the dull coloring. While I didn’t hear any songs, it busied itself in the bare-branched myrtles, most likely foraging for seeds and/or bugs. Pretty!

One month later

The winter garden is finally shuttering up the show. The annual holdouts such as the angelonia and the ornamental peppers have given up their last seasonal colors. The man and I had done some diligent pruning and clean up of the front beds, such as shearing back the gaura, removing dead coleus and cutting back the salvias, including the Victoria Blues. I had planted some violas and ornamental cabbages/kale in the gardenia bed, which have been blanketed by fall debris. Too bad we didn’t have a way to compost all the autumn leaves; that’s a project for next year, hopefully. 

The purple garden has been cleaned of the dried out ornamental peppers. I’ve also removed as much of the bicolor salvia as I could. Here’s to hoping that my reseeding efforts will bear fruit in the spring. I’ve sprinkled as much of the seeds closer to the side of the house, where it’s been a challenge to grow anything. The only plant that’s managed to endure in the damp ground that killed off a lavender and a rosemary is the citronella plantĀ  (Orange Fizz) which has soared to a whopping 3 feet high. Time will tell if it can survive the frost. Future plans: rearrange lorapetalum and purple salvias in a straight line, plant Picasso and Devils Wine callas.

I’ve gone ahead and planted the blueberry dianthus in the blue bed, after uprooting and repotting the plumbago and applying a generous layer of mulch. I’ve also taken some rooted bits of Wood’s Blue aster and replanted them. I finished off the bed with plantings of violas. It is perhaps the only color left…the oxalis top growth are turning an unflattering shade of brown.

I am happy to see that the herb garden is thriving, thanks to departure of the basil plants. The rosemary is enjoying good circulation, full sun and perhaps has grown more in the last few weeks than it has all summer. The oreganos, thyme and pineapple mint are sprawling happily…too happily in fact, since I’ve had to shear back the mint. I am hoping to clone the Hot & Spicy Oregano in the opposite corner of the bed, so that I can have a second specimen. The man and I have decided on two priorities for this herb garden in 2011: 1) plant only basil in this bed, and 2) purchase some fencing to keep the pups out. We might just pot up the pepper plants or set them up in a separate bed.

I’ve removed some of the Flame Callas from the courtyard flower bed. The bed is looking rather bare, especially with the annual azaleas dying off. I plan on moving the daylilies in this bed as well as transplanting the rest of the callas out. I hope to get some more red and white dianthus to completely border the bed. Some more of those chocolate ajuga might produce a red, white, and blue border in the spring. The question is: what shrubbery to plant for next year?

Shade garden: more ferns, caladiums and nandinas perhaps. I definitely want to look into variegated liriope as an option. I hope the hakonechloa come back.

Speaking of which, those dwarf mondo grasses bordering our gravel extension are doing quite well. I hope they will grow hardy in time for next summer’s drought and heat.