Early April blooms! Tulipa clusiana Tubergen’s Gem makes a surprise reappearance. Look at those crazy columbines! Evidence of the Dahlberg daisies amongst the verbena. The Emerald Snow lorapetalum is drenched in white. The begonias in the sidewalk bed are also making a comeback. The Mardi Gras abelia is making some vertical leaps. And my new Hort Couture Lion Fish coleus and Sunset Velvet Oxalis from Calloways are getting comfortable in their new home.
Slaving away in the high 90s…it might as well have been 100 degrees in the shade. This was a searingly long hot day to be working in the garden, but worked (and sweated aplenty) I did. I managed to plant many that had been waiting quite a while for their new homes: both Dixie Chip ajuga, variegated geranium, 3 more Origami Red columbines, all 6 of the red spider lily bulbs, 8 Lanai Purple Star verbena, 2 Calico ornamental peppers. I also transplanted a few of the Navona lily bulbs closer to the back wall, relocated the 2 Charmed Wine oxalis, tore out 3 of the under-performing azaleas (Delaware, Macrantha and Crimson), and cleaned out much of the dead/dying pansies. I also gave the red and white dianthus in the lily bed a good haircut, while pulling out as much of the weeds as I could. After intermittent breaks and drives to the local Home Depots, I also picked up another bag of compost and MiracleGro garden soil, and 3 bags of cedar mulch. The cedar went to the lily bed and part of the purple bed, including my delicate geranium. I hope to use some of it to protect the hostas in front.
Of course, some of the gardening had to be interrupted by some unwelcome guests. Wooly aphids and nest-building wasps caused me a great deal of stress–especially after I came close to smashing into the wasp nest while moving the lilies. Of course, I just had to take the soap to the wooly critters–but the wasps did send me running after I tried (and failed) to jar both nest and wasps in one fell swoop. Luckily, my man fetched a wasp killer from the grocery store–thereby ending the rampage.
It seems that both of the dianthus specimens I moved to the lily bed are Super Parfait Raspberry. I suspect that the remaining dianthus still struggling in the purple bed is also a Super Parfait Raspberry (it comes with a marker with the name Raspberry). It appears that these Super Parfaits are intolerant of heat and the harsh Texas climate. The picoteed dianthus sitting in the corner of the purple bed has escaped identification. I am uncertain about labeling it a Telstar purple picotee since I only planted it last year. It stands to reason that it is a more recent cultivar, probably a Floral Lace dianthus. However, the foliage tends toward the lighter green of chinensis, rather than the barbatus blue and this particular specimen seems to trudge uncomfortably through our hot Texas summer. However I decided to take a cutting. With luck and some rooting hormone, I hope to duplicate it.
My hopes of the bicolor salvia coccinea returning are fulfilled. The purple bed is dotted by dozens of seedlings. Some of them even made it into my planter boxes. I potted a few seedlings with the intention of filling some holes in the front yard beds. I can’t wait to see them bloom. Meanwhile, the first Victoria Blue salvia bloom in the front yard bed grabbed our attention. There are 3 specimens growing back from rootstock, surprising given the extreme winter weather we experienced. The Seabreeze salvia farinacea that I’m growing from seed seem less vigorous however. They are now being overshadowed by the Lady in Red coccinea plants. I suspect the Ladies will be ready for hardening in a week, while the Seabreezes continue to struggle. Perhaps I should have gone with the traditional Mealy Cup Sage seeds, which tend to have finer foliage, lower habit and vigorous nature than the Victorias or Seabreezes.
I was thrilled to find a seedling start of last year’s ornamental pepper, Purple Flash, growing next to the purple bed border. I am awaiting for it to get some height and strength before relocating it into position. My other ornamental pepper starts have begun to look livelier. In comparison to the Purple Flash, Calico seems a little weaker, less vigorous. The Calicos also appear less variegated in this stage, though here and there, they are flecked with white. Also timid from the start are the Jupiter sweet bell peppers. While the Thai chili peppers have grown fuller with their transfer outside, the bells have been flagging, attacked by unknown predators. I’ve planted the Red Rubin basil among them in hopes of deterring insects, but I feel I may have to resort to an insecticidal soon. Maybe I should replant the oregano and/or thyme in the bed to offer the peppers extra protection.
The peppers aren’t the only plants under siege. The hostas again have become prime targets in the front yard shade bed. I’ve dusted the ground underneath them with Bayer Advanced multi-pest killer, but I think I had better results with Ortho’s EcoSense insecticidal spray Unfortunately, I believe the line has been discontinued, so I’m trying their Elementals line. I’ve been wishing for a companion planting of heucheras or scented geraniums that will protect the hostas, but it may already be too late since the damage is extensive. I should have begun sooner with a systemic solution.
If the scented geranium didn’t grow so tall, I would be more likely to plant them into the shade bed. But my last specimen grew up to 4 feet tall, and seem likely candidates for back of the garden planting. I’m thinking common sage might also provide some benefits, though I determined that the Tricolor I purchased last week has already displayed some damage. I’ve taken a couple of cuttings along with a Pesto Basil cutting to root and propagate under grow lights.
I’ve returned the garlic chives back indoors, and made additional sowings in all 6 of my current pots. I’ve also begun a pot of common chives. It seems the chives respond well to regulated temperatures, and keeping them under clear plastic covers has encouraged more seed starts. I’ve also laid down a thin layer of soilless mix, and they responded even better. Taking a cue from this, I spread more of the mix on top of the marigold seeds. Even though they are said to be vigorous, I’d estimate only 25-30% of the unprotected starts germinated.
The petunias respond extremely well to being uncovered for a few weeks. They struggled under the humidity dome for so long, and now they have quadrupled in size. I’m more conservative with the iceplants after losing the first batch of starts. Now that half of the crop are at least half an inch in size, I’ve put them out into the regular tray while keeping the weakest under cover.
All the seedings responded well to a lower grow light positioning. The impatiens in particular has shown remarkable growth. I’m debating on hardening them outside soon, with planting in the shade bed when they’ve grown strong. I wish the columbines were just as vigorous. It seems the red columbines tend to be more hearty than the blues; all of the reds germinated in this second run of columbines, where only half of the blues sprouted. In the garden setting, it seems that I am down to 4 of the remaining six columbines that survived the hardening period. I suspect that these are all reds as well.
For future reference, annual phlox don’t respond well to indoor lighting. Even the specimen I brought indoors struggled under growlights, losing much of its foliage, but not its bloom power. I plan on replanting it into the blue garden, that is, if the yarrows don’t take over. The yarrows have begun to bloom; they are twice the size they were last year, and show no signs of stopping.
Alas I lost a variegated felicia, perhaps due to lack of sun. The side of the blue bed it was located in hardly received any light, though I imagine that will change with summer. I’ve been on the lookout regularly at the home improvement stores for more specimens of felicia and verbena in hopes of finding my faves again. Meanwhile, I’ve planted out one of three Blue Knoll Chrysanthemums in the blue bed. I am trying to determine space within the lines of violas to plant the other two.
The Dallas Arboretum was packed this weekend, so much so that we had to circle the place looking for parking. But it was definitely the place to see tulips and azalea during the warm spring weather.
We headed out to Home Depot, Lowes and Strongs as well to pick up some variegated society garlic, 2 Palace Purple heuchera, 2 Wide Brim hostas, 2 Charmed Wine oxalis and several bags of mulch, compost, humus and soil. The honey finally got his rose planted in time to see its first bloom. However we have concerns with the leaf yellowing on the lower extremities of the rose bush.
We got about 6 bags of pine bark mulch in the salvia bed, after I had toiled last weekend putting weed block fabric down. The 2cf bags of pine bark gave enough coverage on the bed, much less bags used compared to shredded mulch. However, I am concerned that 2 of my red salvias are ailing–in fact, looking like they are dying. I suspect they may have received lethal doses of weed killer in previous weeks. I am crossing my fingers that they will survive (they survived sitting in a pot for almost 2 years). Luckily, I have volunteer cuttings ready to replace them should the need arise. I also need to work on getting the Crimson Pirates into this bed…they’ve been sitting on the kitchen table too long.
It’s been exciting to observe the changes happening in all the beds. The blue bed is perhaps the showiest at this time. The yarrows form a verdant mounding backdrop to all the color coming in. The purple oxalis are beautifully robust (and flowering), the violas in full bloom, and the scabiosa gangly and flowering as well. I should remember to deadhead and collect scabiosa seed if possible. I’ve placed the 2nd sinaloa sage into the bed, along with the two variegated felicia. While working the bed, I discovered 2 phlox starts growing up against the rocks–one had a distinctive, pale blue flower that I remembered. I dug them up to grow them indoors, in hopes of that the weed killer wouldn’t affect them. Now I am just waiting to put Sea Breeze salvia seedlings into the bed.
Speaking of seedlings, nearly all but the columbines that I seeded last weekend, have sprouted. Speediest out of the gate were the marigolds. Everything else has followed suit, save for the columbines–which take a few days more than usual. Those petunias and ice plants are particularly tiny! I will need to remember to keep them under the dome a little longer than the others. I’m also happy to report that planting the garlic chives thickly and keeping them covered with a humidity dome has produced favorable results. Now I just need to sow more garlic chives. Since I emptied out our bathroom nursery, I have a little more counter space to work with. But first I have to work on getting the previous wave of seedlings potted and placed outside. The basil seedlings also need hardening off; with the warm weather, it’s time to put them outside. I should sow more of the Red Rubin basil since they will look good in the purple bed. I forgot that I had some Lime Basil seeds to sow as well.
While I’m on the subject of herbs…the herb garden sits still unfinished. I’ve only planted the lime thyme and the golden oregano in the cinder block border. I have yet to move the other oregano, thymes, and pineapple mint. Those herbs planted from last year are now cozy neighbors, jutting up against each other in the corners of the bed. I’m reluctant to move them now since they look so good together, but it’s only a matter of time before the pineapple mint takes over. The rosemary suffered some frost burn this past winter, but there is evidence of a lot of new growth on all of its branches–so I imagine it is doing quite well, unlike our rosemary topiary. I am considering installing the lavender in the herb garden’s back row.
The shade garden in front gathered the most newcomers this weekend. I added one specimen of the Gold Standard hosta, the 2 Wide Brims, and the 2 Purple Palace heuchera. I’m also excited to see that both of the foxtails have prominent plume shoots above ground, and the japanese painted fern in back has also sent out several fronds. The golden hakone grass are back this spring, showing off vibrant citrine yellow blades of grass–really brightening the area. The honey put down several bags of black mulch, which is punching up the color of the new additions. I am hoping the tiger lilies give us a show this summer; in the mean time, I am still debating on what border plants to add to the bed, aside from impatiens.
The front flower bed was the messiest to begin with; overgrown with weeds and in dire need of cleaning and shearing. Most of the vinca remains have been removed, the coreopsis and salvia have been trimmed back and general maintenance performed. The centerpiece loropetalum is stealing the show, drenched in countless white fringe flowers. I am thinking that the nandina flanking it need to be pruned into a rounder shape sometime in the future. The Victoria blue salvia that I’ve left in the bed are sprouting at the roots; so I’m glad to have left them in this bed so they can come back. The compact white ballerina gaura has grown back in force, nearly a foot high after I cleaned it. However, the pink gaura (Cherry Brandy and Passionate Blush) aren’t as vigorous, only still crowning at this time. I took some cuttings of Passionate Blush in hopes of propagating it. Sadly, neither the hakone grass nor the kangaroo paw have made a reappearance in this bed and are most likely victims of our vicious winter. I’m still crossing my fingers that the kangaroo paw may come back.
The only decorative bed in front is the gardenia bed, bordered by kale and viola. Sadly, this winter may have taken a toll on the gardenia; much of its leaves are pale, dry and look ready to drop. We have to take care not to overwater it, but I’m not sure if it’s going to survive another year. It is truly ghastly.
This weekend I filled up the 2nd tray of Jiffy 7 coir pellets (Professional Greenhouse 72), 72 seeds in all. For the harder-to-grow seeds, I attempted to triple and quadruple some of the seeds in hopes that stronger seedlings result.
The list? Easy Wave (The Flag) Petunias, Seabreeze salvia farinacea, Lady in Red salvia coccinea, Impatiens Xtreme Hot! Mix, Origami Blue and Red Columbines, Stardust Delosperma, Durango Outback Mix marigolds.
On our trip to NHG this past Saturday, we bought a Midnight Blue rose (with several closed buds already on it) and a Lime-scented thyme. For some reason I did not find good specimens of Coconut thyme at NHG…so I will most likely pick them up elsewhere, maybe Calloway’s. I also bought two packets of seeds: garlic chives and lime basil. Too late I discovered that a couple of chives are just now sprouting in the same pot as the Iona Blue pansy. Based on a pot of chives I saw at NHG, I sowed 6-7 seeds of the used packet of chives that I had left over in 2 3″ pots. Perhaps growing them thick is the key.
I brought out the tray of vinca seedlings into the light. With counter space at a premium, I’ve had to do some fancy rearranging in our bathroom greenhouse. I decided to put out all the pepper plants, including the ornamentals, out in the yard to make room. I’ve also set out the tallest of the hosta plants. I imagine I also be putting out the 2 cupheas sitting in the bathtub…they haven’t done anything since I put them in there, so I believe they would prefer a stronger light source.
I noticed that through neglect one of the Oriental Limelight artemisias nearly died back into the pot. Luckily, a little water restored it, though some stalks were lost in the process. I’m still trying to decide if I should turn them loose in the landscape or just keep them potted.
By the way, I found this free online planner that meets most of my criteria for designing a garden bed: http://www.smallblueprinter.com/garden/planner.html
The following sights currently on view in the garden: plumes of foxtail ferns shooting up, a healthy crown of leaf buds on Prairie Sky Hosta, blue flowering Chocolate Chip ajuga, sword like fan of leaves on the hardy amaryllis, daffodil buds peeking through the ground, white loropetalum in full bloom, violas and scabiosa also blooming heartily, purple oxalis looking spectacular.
Also this weekend, finally accomplished setting down weed mat on the salvia wall. Next mission: gravel or mulch, not sure yet. In the herb garden, transplanted one of the golden oreganos and the lime thyme. I’ll need more soil/compost to finish transplanting the rest of the herbs in the cinderblock wall.