Sorely stumped

Since we experienced lovely weather this weekend, the man and I undertook the task of tree stump removal. We hadn’t really touched the beast since the end of January, when we took a chainsaw to it and cut off most of the top growth.

It was sore, sweaty work. The weed tree flanking the photinia came out easily after some digging and chopping. The man had started digging around it last week and I completed the job on Saturday.

The photinia presented an enormous challenge. Barely 30 minutes into the digging, we hit a hidden sprinkler line, which suspended our work. We made an emergency run to Home Depot for a repair kit and to buy new tools: another shovel and a 1.5lb hand axe. With most of the daylight gone, we resumed on Sunday and labored to excavate most of its rootball. We found many roots that had grown into the sidewalk and under the fence and concrete divider. We also encountered more hidden cables which was deeply entangled in the roots. About 3.5 hours of hard digging and hatcheting later, it was clear that the photinia stump was not coming out. A mass of roots held the stump suspended over the hole we dug around and underneath it, and those arterial roots grew horizontally behind the chain link fence into parts unknown. It had also deeply entangled another weed tree in its roots, right next to the fence.

Thoroughly exhausted, we wait on tomorrow to ultimately decide its fate: industrial chainsaw or professional stump removal.

2/25/2012 Stumped in February (1) 2/25/2012 Stumped in February (2) 2/25/2012 Stumped in February (3) 2/25/2012 Stumped in February (4) 2/25/2012 Stumped in February (5) 2/25/2012 Stumped in February (6) 2/25/2012 Stumped in February (7) 2/25/2012 Stumped in February (8) 2/25/2012 Stumped in February (9) 2/25/2012 Stumped in February (10) 2/25/2012 Stumped in February (11)

Meanwhile, behold the come-again yellow pansy and white fringeflower (Emerald Snow loropetalum) blooms.

2/25/2012 February Bloomers (1) 2/25/2012 February Bloomers (2)

Winter Yard Works

Larkspur, flax, and viola seeds have been planted. We had plenty of mulching,  raking and chainsawing to do this weekend. I also accomplished cleaning out the tree ring bed, scattering some marigold seeds in the process. Elsewhere, the mild weather is enticing bulbs and flowers to put out color and growth. Coral Nymph salvia managed to bloom in a protected spot, while the variegated lemon thyme shows off some pink color. The loropetalum in the purple bed is about to burst into fuschia flowers, while the dusty miller grows taller in the pansy bed. I hope to purchase more seeds soon!

1/30/2012 Winter Yard Works (1) 1/30/2012 Winter Yard Works (2) 1/30/2012 Winter Yard Works (3) 1/30/2012 Winter Yard Works (4) 1/30/2012 Winter Yard Works (5) 1/30/2012 Winter Yard Works (6) 1/30/2012 Winter Yard Works (7) 1/30/2012 Winter Yard Works (8) 1/30/2012 Winter Yard Works (9) 1/30/2012 Winter Yard Works (10) 1/30/2012 Winter Yard Works (11) 1/30/2012 Winter Yard Works (12) 1/30/2012 Winter Yard Works (13) 1/30/2012 Winter Yard Works (14) 1/30/2012 Winter Yard Works (15) 1/30/2012 Winter Yard Works (16)

Sights and places

October proves to be a stellar month to return to the garden. Here in Texas, it’s particularly welcome after watching so many new plantings succumb to the heat this year. Only the vigorous annuals like vinca, lantana, cosmos, and marigolds have remained colorful despite the vicious summer we experienced. Now that temperatures have become more reasonable and what little rainfall we received so far has refreshed the garden, I found that not everything was lost. What a relief!

It’s like a second spring out here. Notice that I finally got the last of the pansy flats planted into the lily bed. They’ll provide a nice rich colorful border come spring. The mums I carefully selected this season are finally in full bloom. They look so much bigger since I first planted them. I am cautious about their survival, planting them late in the year when they haven’t had much time to establish themselves before winter. I plan on mulching them heavily before frost hits. Also note the yarrow cutting behind them, along with that irrepressible dichondra/kidneyweed I mentioned in an earlier post.

10/24/2011 Pansies and mums in the lily bed (1) 10/24/2011 Pansies and mums in the lily bed (2) 10/24/2011 Doogie inspecting the lily bed 10/24/2011 A pretty clear red pansy

In the (not-so) blue bed, the yarrow has produced several more bloom clusters. The Valentine dianthus has another flower to show off, with the promise of yet another in bud.

10/24/2011 Oertel's Rose Yarrow in fall bloom 10/24/2011 Valentine dianthus in fall bloom

The Ping Tung Chinese eggplant fruit is coming along nicely. I have kept it potted throughout the year but it persists in growing out of the bottom of the pot in the herb garden. I’ve refrained from moving it while this little beauty puts on weight.

10/24/2011 Two inch fruit on chinese eggplant

We interrupt the refreshing sights currently offered by the garden to inspect the empty spaces. Yes, those garden markers are all that remain of yet another disappointing effort to foster heucheras. Both the Purple Palace and the Amber Waves just couldn’t make it this year, which incidentally was the banner year for losing new plantings. But I’ve had terrible luck with heucheras here in Texas, which has been altogether too expensive an experiment to continue. I’ve blogged about the Caramels, the Obsidian, the Purple Palaces and the Amber Waves, the latter both dying this year. These plants just cannot take a dry heat and are too much maintenance to keep looking lush and beautiful like those in Terra Nova’s catalog.

10/24/2011 Empty (heuchera) places (1) 10/24/2011 Empty (heuchera) places (2) 10/24/2011 Empty (heuchera) places (3)

However, some of the best comeback stories are to be discovered in this dry shade bed. We had a good rainstorm Saturday night and here is the amazing result: a Japanese painted fern resurrection. This is one of two plantings in the shade bed; this particular section gets a little more light and warmth under the crape myrtle canopy. So while it is the first to go dormant when summer hits, it is also the first to revive when weather becomes amenable. I’d love to find a way to keep these two ferns happy since they always make such an effort to put out a frond or two when I least suspect it.

10/24/2011 Surprise Japanese painted fern behind ornamental kale 10/24/2011 Surprise Japanese painted fern

Other sights and places of note: the front flower bed with the Hot Lips salvia and ever-blooming vinca show (which happens to be winding down), the planter boxes and beds filled with these tiny salvia coccinea seedlings, and the bowl which is home to a White Delight caladium and the hardy Easy Wave petunias.

10/24/2011 Hot Lips Salvia showing off 10/24/2011 Reseeded vinca still blooming crazy 10/24/2011 Salvia coccinea seedlings 10/24/2011 White Delight Caladium and Easy Wave Petunias

Seed my Valentine

The Burpee order arrived yesterday bringing a packet each of the Lady in Red Salvia and Dianthus Valentine. I proceeded to put out 6 Valentine seeds into the growing system. I believe I will sow the Lady in Red Salvia in 3″ pots, given the vigor of these “Texas” or Scarlet sages. Now, all that are left to arrive are the columbines, petunias and ice plant seeds from Swallowtail Gardens.

I thinned some pepper and Thai basil seedlings that I discovered that had doubled up, including the ones I intentionally increased, namely the Thai chili peppers. I am testing the hardiness of two by putting them outside the growing system into a 3″ pot. Technically, I should leave the seedling cells uncovered now, since most of them are putting out their 2nd set of leaves

Meanwhile, I was investigating the dinner trays and thinning some of the impatiens seeds. The impatiens flat needs a vent hole in the dome. Last year’s seeding venture has taught me to expect some sprouting within 7-10 days, if conditions are right. Unlike the fast-growing annuals: one of the alyssum trays is already showing 2 sprouters the 3rd day after sowing. If I had to guess, I would think the white alyssum were the first, being more vigorous than colored alyssum.

However, the biggest surprise was to find a pansy seedling. It’s been 15 days since sowing and I had seen nary a root until this morning. One of the cells hid a sprout, which I discovered while trying to home a chili seedling. So there is hope yet.

More sowing to come!