Sunday, February 24, 2013

More signs of spring!

I was going to post something about my new project, my idea for edging, or my battle against the burmuda grass, but instead I noticed something I wanted to document: The first of the almond blossoms are open!
This is an 'All-in-One' Almond tree
 I guess it's a little small to be properly called a "tree", but it has quite a few buds already:
It was planted when the backyard was redone
Sunset says that Almond trees are good in zones 8-10 and 12-16, but there are several almond groves nearby, so they do alright here in zone 11. They only need moderate water, which is better than most other fruit trees.
Almonds are closely related to peaches and nectarines, which are planted to either side of the almond tree on my slope. Those buds aren't open yet, but they are swelling up. If we get a late frost, that would not be good, which is part of the reason these don't do as well in zone 11 as they do in other zones.
This is 'Elberta' peach

buds are almost open!
 These are pretty enough to grow just for the blossoms. I noticed today that some of the first ornamental cherry trees in town are starting to bloom! Every day we get closer to spring.

I also found a new "helper" in the garden today - this cat has shown up before, but normally it runs away if it sees me. Today, it seemed very interested in my digging up weeds - maybe it wants to help?
I think it belongs to one of my neighbors, although it doesn't have a tag...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Challenge Reward!

Even though I'm still working up to my whole post-four-days-a-week thing, I did want to share what I did as a "reward" for actually taking a picture every single day and posting it here in January.

Several of the pictures I took of my house plant (like this one) were all taken in the same place - this weird ledge-think I have in my house, by the stairs. It actually doesn't get much natural light, but with some of the other lights on, it made a good spot for taking pictures at night. So for my reward, I decided to make it nicer - hang some pictures, some paint, and, of course, more plants. Here is what the area looked like while I was trying to pick a paint color:
Green, dark blue and light blue were the options - this area is very open to the rest of house, so it had to match...
 Since I already had the paint, the only things I bought for this area were the two new plants and containers to go with them. I ended up using the light blue paint:
Here you can see the odd shape this ledge has.
 And here it is all finished with pictures and plants:
It's not too cluttered, which is good. always room for more plants.
The plant at the far end is the fake plant that was up there already. The one in the middle is a very bright Dracena - hopefully it will be ok with the lack of light. If not, I'll switch it out with something else.

Here are the pictures that are on one side of the wall. The fun part is that these are all pictures I took during the January challenge! I just printed them on 8x10 photo paper, and framed them. I think I will add matting to them at some point in the future (when I make/find some).
The new plant + pictures on one side
 This plant is a Sanseveria "Moonlight". Loree recommended a Sanseveria for this low light area, and this one is really pretty. Of course, now I have to look at different colored ones every time I go somewhere, and I'll probably end up with more of them, assuming I don't kill this one.

The little succulents in pots that show up in these pictures are also pretty fun - they're not real plants, but wall-stickers that I got at IKEA of all places a while ago! They come six in one pack, and they just stick to the wall, but can come off if needed. I added them to the area to add some more color and interest. Plus now it looks like there's even more plants.

The other side of the wall has this grouping of pictures. The one in the middle is one a local artist made of an airplane. The others are more pictures from the challenge:
The picture arrangement makes sense with the sharply-sloping ceiling at this point
The best thing about this reward is that this is now the view from my favorite spot in the living room:
sorry for the blurry cellphone picture!
Pictures and plants! Much nicer to look at than the white walls and not-much-else that was there before. And now, if I do this challenge again, and need to take pictures indoors at night, I'll have a slightly more interesting background for them! And I'll have the pictures up on the wall to remind me of the challenge - and the fact that I actually did it.

Now if only I could get on that 4-day-a-week posting schedule...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

hope springs eternal...

Remember this aloe from the February Foliage post:

It is a pup from my parents' plant - one of about seven that I got about three years ago. A lot of them have died, mostly from being too close to my neighbor's lawn, and getting too much water in too cold weather. Some of them got squashed when the new block wall got put up too. There are only three left, and they're all sad. The combination of the north side of the house, and the way the drainage worked, meant they spent each winter trying not to die, and didn't grow much over the summer. So, this weekend, I dug them all up, and put them in a temporary container:

I also got rid of all the clay still hanging on their roots
 There were actually four - three decent sized ones, of which only one is still green, and a tiny pup, which has some green in the crown still.

Here they are all potted up in well-draining potting mix, with leaves trimmed:
Intensive care for Aloes
I think the bottom two in the picture might be too far gone, but they've looked that bad before and not died. My plan now is to keep them in this container until about late March/early April, when the night are warm again. I'm actually going to move them indoors at night while they're in the container. Then, I'll plant them in one of the pipes, as part of a bit of a redo on the pipe garden. They should like it there - better draining soil, less water, and more sun.

The part of the front garden these came out of will be one of my projects this spring - I want to turn it into a gravel garden. I've been doing a lot of research (These old posts from Allison and Loree have been helpful!) and I think I'm almost ready. The most fun part will be finding plants - but I'm trying really hard to not buy any yet, since we've still got another month or two of winter...

Which makes me wonder how this new plant showed up, first in my car, and then in my garden:
yup, i fell for the big garden center trick...
It's a Hardenbergia violacea 'Happy Wanderer', and according to sunset it's good for sunset zones 8 through 24, and according to most sources, it's fairly drought tolerant too. Getting it might have had something to do with being at the Getty last weekend, and seeing this specimen:

Getty Sculpture garden, by the tram
It will be a few more weeks before this one gets planted though - I'll keep it in the garage at night until we're out of frost danger.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Foliage Follow Up - February

After GBBD on the 15th, comes Foliage Follow up, hosted by Pam at Digging. Go see more Foliage in her comments section!

For this month, I tried to stick to a theme of "new" foliage - all the spring plants that are finally waking up.

Starting the back garden, the first picture has nothing to do with new foliage:
but the Whale's Tongue Agave is so pretty!

Optuna is very purple now. I'm hoping it makes flowers again this year.

The  xMangave 'Macho Mocha' has made it through the winter with no problem... that means I get to buy more!
 The False Red Yuccas, of which there are a lot in the back garden, have acquired different colors, some are red now (I assume from the cold).
They all have lots of the little white curls on the leaf edges
 Finally! some actual emerging foliage - in this case the rhubarb!
But only one out of the two is making leaves - I'm waiting for the other one to catch up!
 There's actually a lot of dafodills poking their heads out of the soil in the back garden, but I didn't take any pictures of those. It will be a few more weeks before they bloom.

In the front garden, the mexican feather grasses look nice from some angles:
But as you can see in the last picture - that clump needs to be replaced with something else.
 This poor Aloe is adding some green to a corner of the front garden, but it's going to get moved soon...
And will probably end up in one of the tubes in the rear garden later.
 This should be a neat plant combo in a few weeks: Agave Schidigera plus daffodils. And another plant with the white curls on the leaves.
This is my fault - I didn't count on the daffodils growing there.
 More daffodils are growing under the Clematis trellis - doesn't it look like there's something missing there? I think I need another plant...
Is it spring yet?
 Speaking of the clematis, it's growing new foliage too - on the sad, burned, dead-looking stem from last year. Is that normal?
I was expecting it to regrow from the ground... We'll see what happens!
 Going back to the back garden, I noticed the pups under this (what I thought was) Agave horrida - which doesn't offset. So now I'm confused. The parent plant has some tip damage from the cold temperatures, so no picture of it.

If not A.horrida, then what? More research needed...
Spring is almost here! The weather has been nice, and trying to lure me into planting new plants... but we're expecting another cold front early next week. So instead, I'll be content admiring everyone else's gardens and their foliage!

Friday, February 15, 2013

February Bloom Day

My Internet is working again - in time to post for February Bloom day! To see what's blooming in gardens around the world, check out all the posts at May Dreams Gardens with Carol. She pointed out that this is the start of the 7th year for GBBD!

On this bright day in February, I only have 2 plants blooming outside, my Senna artemisioides and Camilla Japonica:
Quite a few of the flower stalks were damaged by the cold nights in January

But these ones were ok - and are making cool shadows on the walls

The bright red blooms add a pop of color near the front door.

Although it hasn't had as many open flowers at a time like last year.
Indoors, my Aeschynanthus radicans, or lipstick plant, which is a funny name, decided to make some blooms. I have not yet figured out what causes this plant to do that, other than randomly:
These flowers almost look fuzzy
Back outside, I had to include a picture of the bloomed out flower on my stone cactus... Even in our very cold winter, which went down to 19 degrees F (?!) this little guy made another flower - orange this year. I don't get this plant either, but it always makes me smile.
maybe because it gets hidden under the feather grass? Or its just really well situated?
Now, to get back to my four-day-a-week posting schedule!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

technical difficulties

Blah! The day after my last post, my internet at home went down... And its still not back. So I'm not ignoring my goals already, and hope to be back to my new 4 times a week posting soon.

And in the meanwhile, I'm having fun in the garden. And taking pictures...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

january challege summary

Yesterday, I spend much of the day outside, weeding, cleaning, mulching, and in general, getting the garden ready for spring. It was a wonderful day - and I didn't take a single picture! I did want to summarize what I learned from this month-long challenge I gave myself: take a picture and write a blog post per day for all of January. I actually finished the challenge, and have decided there are 5 main things I learned, with specific applications for each, one near term and one longer term... (why yes, I am being a nerd about this)

1) I don't see the sun enough. I know this is partially caused by it being January - every year at this time, I get into the trend of it being dark when I leave to go to work, and dark when I come back. On some days, this made taking pictures of the garden difficult. This will get easier later in the year, but there are still two applications for me:
  • Near Term: Appreciate my houseplants - I never realized how much I depended on my houseplants to see "green" during the winter. Taking care of the ones I have, and doing things like forcing paperwhites make the dark days more fun.
  • Longer Term: I also want to find ways to enjoy the garden after it's dark (and cold) - maybe lights, a firepit, and some actual outdoor furniture that's comfortable for curling up in.
One of the many houseplants I photographed for the challenge
2) Always be ready to take a picture. I already talked about this one - with the fog I mentioned in this post. Having my camera, and my phone with me at all times, and actually using them, means I can capture those cool moments. To apply this lesson:
  • I'm going to continue bringing my camera when I travel, and my phone.
  • But I also want to keep giving myself permission to just be somewhere, and not worry about pictures (like Sunday!)
Having my phone be able to take (decent) pictures made this challenge much easier
3) Posting every single day is hard, but knowing I had to post about something was good, because made me go look for things, like hikes, gardens while on travel, or plants in airports
  • I'm going to keep going out and looking for new things, and revisiting places I've been. Being me, I've made a list :)
  • I'm going to set a goal to post four times a week going forward - that should keep me "in the swing of things" without going overboard. And it will force me to stop and pay attention to the garden, even if work/life get hectic
I want to keep finding places to see plants - there is such a variety out there
4) It can be hard to get a good picture, but playing with photo editing (like this, or that) can make it better! Sometimes, I was able to take a not-so-good phone picture, and make it a lot more interesting with a few edits. I especially liked the different frames around the picture.
  • I want to keep using some of the photo editing programs I used during the challenge, and maybe find some new ones
  • But I also want to get better at taking good pictures, even if it's just with my trusty point-and-shoot

That means more pictures like this one - or hopefully better
5) Finally, this challenge was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work! I'm happy I was able to stick with it, even if there were a few days (like this one), where I actually had to get out of bed to go take a picture and post it!
  • I want to do this again - later in the year (like summer/fall). That's going on the list!
  • I wanted to reward myself for completing the challenge - so I came up with a little project that I just finished. Hopefully it will help in the future challenge also... Post to come soon!
My reward is not this awesome sculpture...I wish!
Last -  a big THANK YOU! to everyone who commented during my challenge! I love all of your blogs, so to see you comment on my little ramblings is awesome...

winter in the fort worth botanic garden

Here is another picture-heavy post of pictures I took during my January challenge. In this case, I visited this garden specifically to take a daily picture, and I'm so glad I did. I'll be back soon with my lessons learned from this challenge.

Earlier in January, I spent some time in Fort Worth, Texas, and a combination of an earlier flight plus a good hotel location meant I got to see the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. This 109-acre garden is the oldest botanical garden in Texas, having been established in 1934. The garden has several parts, I started in the Conservatory, mostly because it was this beacon of green and warmth. On the inside, views like this greeted me:

Green and water vapor - two things I haven't seen a lot of
 There were all kinds of great-looking foliage and flowers growing, all very lush and topical.
Just some of the plants
 The lighting was pretty amazing - the combination late afternoon sun, humidity, glass and plants make even my photographs look pretty without any filters/editing:
back lit leaves

sunlight through a variegated palm leaf

water drops sparkling on big tropical leaves (technical term, I know)
 There was a waterfall near the front of the conservatory, which made for some pretty cool pictures, as I looked through it to the plants on the other side:
flowering Bougainvillea through water

Cyrtostachys lakka (I think) through the water
This picture was one of my favorites: Roxburgh Fig (Ficus auriculata), growing into the canopy of the conservatory.

Those leaves!
After getting  my tropical fill in the conservatory, I went back outside and walked though the Texas Native Forest Boardwalk to get to the rest of the gardens.  Most all the trees outside were bare of leaves, looking very structural:
The branches on these trees were so intricate!
Here and there, an evergreen tree stood out:
I couldn't find a tag to tell me about this tree - that board was about animals
The boardwalk leads to the rest of the gardens, which are a combination of natural and formal gardens. Visiting in the winter meant there was a lot of the structure (natural and man-made) on display:
Trees, bark and the formal rose gardens
There is also a Japanese garden, but I didn't visit it on this visit - maybe next time!
Japanese garden entrance
The formal gardens at the other end of the garden had several water features and a strong axis to draw you down to the ponds at the end:
Note to self: retake this picture in a few months!
Heading back to the car, this clump of grass was being lit by the now almost-setting sun:
And along the boardwalk, I noticed this tree I missed during the way out - I'm sure those plants growing on it isn't great for the tree, but it makes a pretty picture:
I wonder what made it form that U shape at the top?
The last thing I noticed before heading back to the car was this great looking pine-tree (again no tags). I love the way it looks against the blue sky - and the tiny Texas flags in the background. Visiting this garden was a great idea - I can't wait to go back later in the year. If you happen to be in Fort Worth and have a few hours, I'd definitely recommend going here!
I wonder if it will stand out as much when the rest of the garden is in full leaf?