The front yard embedded in winter ice

Two serious wintry blasts defined February; uncommon in Texas and burying much of the landscape in ice and snow.

It’s good to know that the gardenia is hanging on, still in good shape despite its tender tropical nature. The azaleas look somewhat bare this time of year, though the low-growing cultivars look fuller than the taller shrubs.

The Emerald Snow loropetalums are clothed in dark, very dark leaves. What damage they may have endured remains to be seen.

The nandina cultivars seem rather unaffected by the harsh weather; though the broadleaf types tend to show a little more leaf burn with their winter color.

The Hot Lips salvia definitely took a beating; I’m unsure at this point if it will recover. Where other salvia strains are putting up a good fight, this particular hybrid is sensitive to the ice and snow and all of its top growth appears dead. I made the mistake of leaving out my cuttings during the storm; I am hoping they will bounce back after bringing them indoors.

The foxtail ferns which had remained bright green up until this point finally displayed some winter burn. The spiky spears changed to yellow and brown…I am wondering if I will need to prune them back for spring.

Buried in leaves, most of the kale and violas appear to have been unharmed. I can’t say the same for the gaura plantings in the front bed. I’m even worried about the kangaroo paw returning in the spring. As for the hakonechloa, I reckon I will be moving them soon under the direct shade of the crape myrtle bed. After struggling most of last year, t his type of grass probably looks best in the cool spring months under full shade.

[svgallery name=”20110211″]

Summer rains bring summer blooms

Last week’s storms brought a flush of color to this week’s garden. Particularly the salvia greggii and the Desperado sage are looking colorful; nearly every specimen along the neighbor wall is in bloom (the whites have started to bud). I am concerned however with a Purple Pastel that has suffered from what looks like overwatering, perhaps due to poor drainage. The Hot Lips (salvia microphylla), while not in bloom, grows like a weed. All three specimens, front yard and courtyard, have tripled their original size.

The crape myrtles are still in bloom, though not crowned as heavily as they were before the rains. The daylilies in front are still blooming; along with the coreopsis, white coneflowers, the white gauras, vincas, kangaroo paw, Victoria salvias, and the Dahlberg daisies. Those daisies, incidentally, have also doubled in size since we first planted them…I can’t remember a day that I have NOT seen them covered with tiny yellow flowers.

The last of the Picasso calla blooms is receding, and I am unhappy that the Flames nor the Devil’s Wine have produced any blooms. The spotted foliage however towers over most of the plantings in the courtyard flower bed…perhaps due to less light. I plan to dig up the bulbs come winter and replant them in a better spot.

Other bloomers: catmint, oxalis, Imperial dark blue plumbago, angelonia, dianthus, verbena, ageratum, Prairie Sky Hosta, bicolor sage. Even the coleus are flowering (which need to be sheared off).

Casualty list: several of the purple/violet dianthus specimens have died off, most likely due to the extreme heat. Not such a great loss, since they were mostly considered annuals. However, I’m not pleased to see them so perishable after past successes with dianthus. Most of the viola are also gone, fried by the heat. The empty border they abandoned by the front door bed needs to be repopulated…I’m thinking of installing some variegated liriope (silver dragons or aztec grass).

On death’s door: my Tuscan Blue rosemary is down to half of its trunks…it doesn’t appear that it will hang on any longer. I need to transplant it immediately and amend the bed further to permit a larger specimen. Also included on this list is the aforementioned Purple pastel salvia.

On the rebound: the chocolate chip ajuga which long suffered in its planter box is now thriving in its part/full shade location in the courtyard bed. I also believe the japanese painted ferns are coming back, after causing a worry when they dropped all their old fronds. They have new fragile leaves on display. The purple loropetalum is also still putting out new branches and leaves, but I am concerned that it is not gaining as much bulk as I expect.

High maintenance

6/3/2010 Gardenia in Bloom

The Frostproof Gardenia has demonstrated to be a very sensitive lady. If it weren’t for the intoxicating fragrance perfuming our front doorstep, I would have voted this plant off the frontyard and into a more sheltered spot, perhaps even indoors. What appeared to be transplant shock or overwatering (yellowing leaves) shows evidence of slowing down to a halt. Perhaps the shrub has dropped all the leaves it plans to drop. We did begin watering every other day and the regular black mulch was replaced by pine bark mulch. However, the aftereffects of its displeasure still lingers…the gardenia has a host of blooms but more than 50% are yellowed or browned upon opening. As I suspected, most recommendations point the finger at overhead watering. Also, much has been published about the need for acidity in the water and soil, so acidifiers are always cited as an amendment (corn meal anyone?).

With temperatures hitting 100 degrees this weekend, we will need to keep a close eye on the gardenia to make sure it doesn’t dry out.

Worthwhile watching in the garden: the last Navona lilies are blooming, the first calla (a Picasso) put out a bloom, the only Fanal astilbe appears to put out sporadic blooms (though one Fanal I put into a pot, leafed out in the shade), the pruned yarrows are showing new buds, multiple coleus are also budding (need deadheading), the Dallas Stars daylilies are putting out their first buds, our lone Kangaroo Paw has put out some new “paws”.

Of concern: the Japanese painted ferns do not appear happy…something has changed their dispositions to where they are displaying some leaf curling/browning. They should be receiving a healthy amount of watering, but it may be that they dislike the Bayer systemic insecticide that was applied to them. The seedling dianthus may also be succumbing to excessive heat and sun. I am considering moving them to the corner garden for some part shade. The Hakonechloa in the front beds are showing some burning, which is likely to continue as the summer heats up.

Casualties: One lemon balm (potted), one dianthus. Both located in the patio garden.

The salvia bed has been planted. It’s just a matter of leveling the ground and perhaps getting them mulch (if/when funds permit). All cosmos seeds have been sown in the front yard tree ring. I need to get some vegetable and herb seeds started indoors asap!