Romancing the black

The black plant in the garden always makes a statement. I purchased 5 bareroot Ophiopogon niger (black mondo grass) from Brent and Becky’s last year…and while they aren’t as robust as I’d like, they are still eyecatching. That black mondo grass incidentally has gone up in price at B&B, and I’ve since lost 2 of those plants.

Today I’m taking a very close look at sedums and ajuga. Of the sedums, the dark purple-leaved cultivars are particularly attractive. Both Black Jack and Postman’s Pride are border plant/specimen contenders for the S1 bed where their dark foliage will contrast nicely against the white/blue theme setting. Of the ajuga (bugleweed) I’m studying the Black Scallop and the Braunherz, 2 glossy-leaved groundcovers that may see use in the back beds.

Now another “colorful” plant that I’ve used, with some disappointng results two years ago, is the heuchera. The Texas heat proved too much for the Heuchera caramels that I trialed. But the S1 bed has a more controlled water schedule (and some shade protection) which may allow the heuchera to thrive. Some cultivars that drew my attention: Black Beauty, Midnight Rose, Obsidian, Plum Pudding, and the americana Chocolate Veil. The Sooner Plant Farm based in Oklahoma looks like a great place to purchase these plants.

But before I close, let’s not forget the fringe flower, or loropetalum. I’m thinking of filling the hole vacated by a dead nandina in S1 with a short, dark-leaf cultivar…the shortest I’ve found is a “dwarf” called Daruma, which still grows 3-4 feet high. My only concern are its bright pink blooms which might clash with the white and blue theme of S1.

Hostas in Texas? Maybe caladiums instead…

Is it possible that hostas can survive the harsh Texas climate of my backyard? The following report seems to suggest so. I’m thinking of experimenting with hostas in the S1 bed. The white-variegated hostas have particularly caught my eye. From the report, I’m looking at Francee, Albo-Marginata and Patriot…though it seems the Patriot has declined over the 2+ years of the trial. Patriot’s sport, Minuteman, might fare better. Based on the report, So Sweet is looking like a contender…if only it were a more verdant shade of green.

But then again, maybe caladiums are the safer, more reliable option. There are dozens of white-variegated cultivars, Jackie Suthers, White Wing, and Candidum for example, and because of its tropical background (like cannas and callas), stand a better chance of survival in the Texas heat.

The bug 2008

Once again the seed and plant catalogs are piling high in the mailbox. I’m inevitably reminded by the mild weather and the bare flower beds that it will soon be time for spring sowing and gardening. I plan to take off a week from work either in February or March to devote to the yards. I’m trying to look up weather reports to help me with planning this week off. I did check out the Texas Almanac website to learn about the last freeze dates. Average last freeze dates for Dallas/Collin counties is March 16. I’ve also scanned the site to retrieve average monthly temperatures for my area.

Edging ideas

I’m thinking about installing aluminum edging in the back yard. Shopping online, I found reasonably priced aluminum lawn edging at I’d like to start with the side yard, and hopefully move on to the rear flower beds. Plans are to use asian jasmine ground cover for most of the area currently covered with a weed mat, while the side yard will feature variegated liriope as border/edging plants.

Winter cleanup and filling holes

With the mild weather this past Sunday, DH and I did some pruning and clearing of the front yards. DH took some shears and proceeded to prune the dead branches off our two myrtles. He also removed the unsightly canna leaves that frost had killed. I pulled and uprooted grass that had infiltrated and overwhelmed both front yard beds, and I’m happy to see that I will be transplanting some nandina and salvia volunteers to the rear yard this year.  The fringeflower bushes next to the front door have doubled in height since they first arrived and are in desperate need of shearing, which will happen hopefully in early spring. I wonder if my mango calla lilies survived the winter and will put a showing this year? The muscari sprouts promise to bring some color the front yard when spring arrives. And while the Crimson Pirate daylily leaves have finally succumbed to the cold, I have no doubt they will return with warm weather. Now if only I can get hubby to apply some serious weed killer to the lawn.

I also hopped over to Home Depot to purchase 10 bags of topsoil to fill some holes dug up in the yard. I suspect Dash has attempted to burrow underneath the crepe myrtle in the side yard, exposing the root ball. It was a surprisingly huge hole, and I’m saddened to think of the irises that were lost. I’m also upset to find the remains of my zebra iris, Doe Z Doe, scattered in the side yard. The nandinas I planted and replanted in the middle back bed showed signs of damage (one was completely chewed/ripped apart). And if it weren’t for the planter loops I erected, I suppose the new salvia I planted may have perished. Did any of the zebras survive? I’m almost heartbroken thinking about it. Such is the plight of the gardener who shares their yards with dogs.

But the daffodils are pushing up through the ground and it looks like it will be a lovely show early in the year.