March Blooms and New Plantings

A quick peek in the seed starting room shows first use of the new heat mat I recently purchased from Burpee. I’m hoping the additional bottom heat will help the heat-loving seedlings like peppers thrive. Of course, I can’t seem to have much success with starting oregano from cuttings. It seems I will have to continue to draw variegated oregano from root stock, at the risk of losing the original parent–because these herbs tend to be very sensitive to root disturbance.

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However, despite the dual grow lights my hunny recently installed, I’m not having the miraculous response that I expected. The peppers are still having a difficult time thriving due to the moisture. I need to find my bottle of hydrogen peroxide and spray down the soil to kill any fungus. I’ve also had to re-sow some seeds due to some non-responsive seeds.

The loropetalums are bursting into bloom. First up is the purple fringeflower. We also took some time to flank our newly pruned Midnight Blue rose with 2 small lavender flowered lantana. Hopefully these are the dwarf kind and will form a nice carpet underneath the rose. We also planted our Home Depot petunias (blue, purple and pink) in the border. With any luck, these will thrive and spread, forming a nice lush colorful border during summer.

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The blue bed is also seeing action. This is one of the most floriferous years I’ve seen Mariposa Skies iris in bloom. By my account there were at least nine buds on one plant. The irises must love this site. I dropped a couple of the creeping phloxes (Emerald Blue?) into this bed. Hopefully these perennial types will last much longer than the annual types I tried last time.

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The diascia “Romeo Red” I picked up from North Haven Gardens will fill in the void in the lily bed (I should drop the name since the lilies really aren’t thriving in this bed) while my dianthus cuttings catch up. I find that it’s easier to propagate the red dianthus rather than the white, probably due to the particular cultivar. I’ve also transplanted one of last year’s Chocolate Chip ajuga cuttings I had in a planter back into this bed which will hopefully continue to spread and fill in the border.

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The Oriental Limelight artemisia are bursting back into good health. I found that this particular pot had rooted into the ground, which I immediately moved to another location. The artemisia wilted but I have no doubt it bounce back. I was disappointed with the performance of the Charmed Wine oxalis and the one green shamrock (oxalis triangularis?) in this bed. Both the purple shamrocks have remained woefully stunted (perhaps due to lack of water) while the green barely clung to life. It particularly got buried when I weeded out the bed, dusted the area with Preen and layered with cypress mulch. It remains to be seen if the green will bounce back. But I am happy to report that my Origami red columbine from seed are still hanging in there. Three specimens are still living in the bed, though I have to take particular care to see that do better this year. Maybe some fertilizer?

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Snapdragons are cool! Literally, they are cold-weather plants and love this chilly early spring air. I think I will have to remember to plant them in boxes again next year so that I can look forward to late winter color. I believe these are the Montego Sunset snaps that I purchased from Stokes last year. They sat unmolested and heavily mulched in the blue bed after I had given up on them late in the year, only to have dug them back up late fall early winter and placed into a box, thinking they were a salvia sport. Joke’s on me. It’s been a real joy to watch these colors progress from rose pink to sunset orange.

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Much work went into the new veggie garden. I planted spinach, eggplant (Bride), arugula, gai lan, cilantro. I also transplanted some of the silver lemon thyme (which had reverted back to solid green), dropped some catgrass, Alaska nasturtium and common chive seeds in the cinderblock holes. Did I mention the leek cuttings also went into their new home? Next week I plan on adding the asparagus to the bed, after I decide on where to place them!

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Wishlist plant: Emerald and gold mint or variegated mint.

Enduring the heat 2011

Ten consecutive days of 100+ degree weather in the Dallas area. This is already the third hottest June on record here. It is also taking a toll on the garden. I can’t imagine what our water and electric bill will look like in the coming months.

Still, there are still a few plants still making a show…the scabiosa continue to bloom their heads off. The vinca and lantana truly enjoy this heat. I’m still waiting to see the marigold and salvia tree ring come to life; I’ve been catching sporadic blooms of the Durango marigolds, but have yet to observe the whole ring explode into color. The Dallas Star daylilies in the front beds still have a handful of buds waiting to burst open. And the Emerald Snow loropetalum in the front flower bed has surprised me with a smattering of white fringe flowers.

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There were a few losses of course. The ornamental kale have reached the end of their life. I’m amazed they survived this long but they couldn’t take more of this weather, so I pulled them up. An old white dianthus mound gave up the ghost this weekend, which left an empty hole to fill in the lily bed. It also appears I will lose the raspberry salvia greggii in the salvia wall. The tricolor sage cutting appears to have lost the fight (I could try to rescue it by repotting it). And I’m down to the last Seabreeze salvia seedling.  Those young plants that need the most protection (i.e. common chives), I’ve put into the ground or in the planters. Very few plants are surviving in pots, like the callas, petunias and sweet potato vines. Even the lobelia which I thought would endure are looking very dried and shriveled.

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Observations and propagations

4/22/2011 Super Parfait Raspberry Dianthus first bloom of the yearIt 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.

4/22/2011 Victoria Blue salvia first bloom of the yearMy 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.

4/22/2011 Purple Flash Ornamental Pepper in the wildI 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.

4/22/2011 Scented Geranium Prince RupertThe 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.

4/22/2011 Compact White Ballerina Gaura first wave of bloomsI’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.

4/22/2011 Oertel's Rose Yarrow first bloom of the yearFor 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.