Freeze alert

After deceptively mild weather for the Thanksgiving, it was evident that we were experiencing our last patches of warm weather before the cold front hit this weekend. My holiday shopping weekend was cut short by sudden drops in temperature, and I knew I would have to bring in my plants for the last time this year.

11/29/2011 Freeze Alert (1) 11/29/2011 Freeze Alert (2)

I missed the opportunity to bring in the eggplant yesterday, so I had to rush it into the bathroom greenhouse to see if it could be rescued. I’m not sure if the fruit will make it. It’s pretty short for what I’m used to in Chinese eggplants.

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Outdoors, the damage from the overnight frosts has manifested into dead/wilted potato and basil plants. The traditional large leaf basils like Red Rubin and Genovese experienced the most damage. The lime, Pesto Perpetuo and Thai basil display browning less so. One of the Thai basil specimens appears to be laughing off the cold; but sooner or later, all the basils will be done.

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The succulent planter seems to be hanging on. Whereas the petunia/caladium planter bowl shows signs of receding.

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I found a surprise greeting me at one of the asters in the blue bed. A few blooms hid at the base of the plant, near the mulch line. I believe this one was Aster novi-belgii Believer.

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Pansies, violas, ornamental kale, petunias, miscellaneous herbs, foxtail ferns, loropetalum, are all still hanging in there. The dusty millers must be enjoying their new location and this cool weather; they have doubled in size since I moved them from the front flower bed. I guess they prefer the protection. I expected the lemon verbena to die back down since it’s considered an annual, but it seems to enduring in the mixed planter box along with the chives, golden oregano, and aster cuttings. (Those are the remaining vincas hanging over from a neighboring planter. And a Red Rubin basil hiding out as well!)

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Scenes before a cold front

Another day, another eggplant flower. The fruit is looking pretty good, despite some skin damage.

11/02/2011 November Scenes (1) 11/02/2011 November Scenes (2)

Purple pastel salvia greggii behind a red salvia greggii cutting in bloom.

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In the same bed, you can see the hack job I performed on the Oertel’s Rose yarrow, which was once three times its current size. That doesn’t stop it from budding and blooming. But the smaller footprint allowed some room for the irises; here, Mariposa Skies is putting out new foliage. A neighboring iris, Immortality, also displays new leaves.

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In the lily bed, the white mums are aging gracefully into blush pink senescence. Now, if I hadn’t stuck markers where those strap leaves were emerging, I’d have forgotten the spider lily bulbs I planted in the bed sometime back in June of this year.

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The tree ring out front is  still non-stop a-bloomin’! Of course, it’s looking somewhat bedraggled these days–apparently, a hare or a family of them has been using it for daytime cover. So it looks well-trampled in some parts. I can’t bring myself to yank out all the marigolds and salvia. It’s always fascinating to watch how long they will keep blooming their heads off.

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I also managed to catch a lone loropetalum bloom. And a nice arrangement of Hot Lips salvia triplets.

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Here is something I haven’t observed; fall foliage color on the potted lantana. Is this normal?

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And the rest of today’s photos: caladiums, vincas, potato vines, Thai basil, miscellaneous herbs. And let’s not forget the many rose buds on the Midnight Blue.

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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.

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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

October Wonders

I wonder where I’ll be siting this Snow-n-Summer Asiatic Jasmine. I’ve been thinking about planting it in the shade bed, along with the hostas, but methinks it may get too much exposure there under the canopy of 2 crape myrtles. Currently, it sits next to the camellia planting in the front door bed. However, I am skeptical that this bed will get any more moisture than the shade bed during the warm summer months. And, I want to be sure to that it maintains its dainty pastel coloration during all the seasons.

 10/19/2011 October Wonders (1)

I wonder about the Pesto Perpetuo basil blooms. I read that this particular variety does not produce flowers, but here I have 2 specimens in my garden putting forth buds. I wonder if the seeds will be viable. Notice that the top half of this basil has reverted to solid green leaves during our summer heat wave. I am waiting out to see if it will produce variegated foliage with our cooler weather, or if I will have to snip off the solid-colored leaves.

10/19/2011 October Wonders (2)

I wonder about these Pacifica vincas still blooming their heads off in the planter box next to our backyard door. Neither heat nor drought has slowed them down. And while the vinca seedlings in the front yard bed are displaying some yellowing due to extra watering, these particular vinca have remained verdant and boldly colored. Next year, I’d like to plant some “true red” vincas.

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I don’t have to wonder much about the Coral Nymph salvias. They continue their reseeding and blooming cycle three seasons long. I have them planted in the tree ring bed in the front yard, in the purple bed (next to the purple salvia greggiis, the Midnight Blue rose, and the loropetalum) and in the rosemary bed (in a dry zone behind the rosemary topiary). There isn’t a zone that has daunted the growth of the salvia coccinea. Next, I’ll be trying them into a full shade bed just to see how vigorous they are!

10/19/2011 October Wonders (4)

Rise of the coral nymphs

5/31/2011 Coral Nymph Salvia seedlings in the purple bedThe coral nymph salvia began blooming this Sunday past. These are the bicolor pink and white salvia coccinea that I started from a single specimen a year ago. It’s not a perennial, but here in Texas, it is a crazy self-seeder, as evidenced by the dozens of seedlings I discovered in pots, planters and across the flower beds in our tiny courtyard. As soon as temperatures warmed into the 80s and 90s about mid-April, the seedlings began to appear. And flourish. And multiplied.

5/31/2011 Coral Nymph Salvia seedlings pottedI’ve plucked and transplanted what I can. These things are durable…as tiny rooted seedlings pulled from the beds, I just press them into the soil where I want them to grow. Add water, and they’re back to looking healthy…as if nothing ever happened to them. Easy to kill, but hard to eradicate…they come back with a vengeance. I am eying some particular specimens for removal even now and hope they don’t come back.

5/31/2011 White Nymph salvia planterMeanwhile, I increased my planter footprint nearly five-fold this weekend. I’ve created my miniature gardens with the leftover plastic planters and new bags of soil and compost. Everything from the sweet potato vine to the newly purchased vinca are in new homes. One oversight I made, however, is neglecting to drill holes in my ceramic pots, so some of my summer color might either drown or bake this season. Because they’re already filled, it’s most likely too late. I will have to keep careful watch on the plants and see how they fare in their new homes.

5/31/2011 Petunias and Dusty MillerPetunias, dusty millers, Lanai purple star verbena, red-eyed vincas and one Calico ornamental pepper are featured prominently in pots. I still have an Aztec red trailing verbena, a red-white vinca, and a dusty miller needing a new home. Luckily, friend Kathy gave me a spare ceramic pot from her collection.

5/31/2011 Petunias, Vinca, Ornamental Pepper and Dusty MillerWhat’s killing my peppers? I’ve added soil to see if it will stop the wilt. But I suspect poor soil drainage is the culprit, and adding more water may kill them. This morning, three were afflicted: a hot banana, a thai chili and a Jupiter bell. This afternoon, I came home to discover another ailing Jupiter bell. Oh the cruelty!

A friend that I gifted some pepper and basil seedlings to mentioned that when he stopped watering everyday, the seedlings took off. So I’m following his practice and going to alternate day irrigation to see if the peppers can bounce back.

5/31/2011 Hot Banana Pepper wilting 5/31/2011 Thai Chili Pepper wilting 5/31/2011 Jupiter Bell Pepper wilting

The same could be applied to the basil seedlings I transplanted to their new homes. I have 2 plastic pots planted with Thai, Genovese, Pesto, and Lime basils. I’m hoping they will grow and prosper fast…I’ve been craving fresh basil in my lunch and dinner recipes.