That's poison ivy, strong competitor for top place as my very least favorite gardening hazard. Now that the temperatures have dropped from the upper nineties to the mid-eighties, I'm prepared to roll up my sleeves and get to work. Actually, I should say "roll down" my sleeves. For areas like ours, where mosquitoes, fire ants, and poison oak and ivy run rampant, long sleeves are advisable. You can still be bitten, obviously, but every bit of defense helps.
I was happy, thrilled, really, to work in my garden over the weekend. I pretty much boycott it in August. It has to fend for itself. But this past Sunday, I had a blast! I spent the afternoon weeding, deadheading, trimming. I need to plant seeds, but I ran out of daylight. I have decided to have food growing all over the backyard this fall and winter. I will give the raised beds another chance even though they receive only partial sun. I've also created lots of empty spots in the beds and hedgerow by pulling half-dead or obnoxious annuals (and even some irritating perennials.) I added organic fertilizer to all the beds and intend to sow vegetable seeds.
To my surprise, a lot of people who live in areas of year-round gardening don't realize they can grow vegetables year-round. I've met many gardeners here in Texas who sadly declare they're going to give up gardening because their, oh, cilantro failed in summer. Cilantro is a cool season herb! But the fact is that lots of vegetables that grow in mild summer climates are also well-suited for mild winter climates. It would be wrong to say "mild is mild" in this case; some seeds or vegetables need specific temperatures to grow and thrive. But there's a lot of elbow room.
I'm going to try to grow radishes again, of course. They are the easiest of all vegetables to grow, a great intro to vegetable gardening for children. But I haven't had any luck with them in my current garden. I don't know if it was due to a lack of nutrients, sunlight, or both. But I love to eat them, my favorite being the French Breakfast radishes. I also have a packet for a pretty radish called "Miso".
As for the rest, I am really excited to try growing leeks, another favorite thing for the kitchen. I also have lettuces, kale, chard, spinach, fava beans. . . My biggest worry right now is that, since I'm going to sow them in the flower beds, the lawn guys might flatten them. I'm not sure how to prevent that catastrophe.
In the meantime, the roses are gearing up for a beautiful Autumn.
While some native plants do excite lots of attention, I've never heard anyone brag about Rose Mallow, otherwise known as Rock Rose, Latin Name Pavonia Lasiopetala. I am here to do so. It belongs to the Mallow family, Malvaceae, and in fact the flowers look like tiny hibiscus. It's a wonderful plant, flowering from Spring through Fall. It might even bloom through winter if it's in a protected spot or the weather is mild. It grows quickly and branches out generously. It's not aggressive; it is exuberant. It has a high heat tolerance, accepts full sun or part shade, and it's not fussy about soil or water. What's not to love?
The only thing a gardener needs to consider is the amount of space available, as the plant does tend to branch out. According to the Texas Native Plants Database, it grows from 1.5 to 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. If you aren't gardening in Texas, don't worry! There are plenty of pavonia species out there. Many are known as swamp mallows. They are all named after the late Spanish botanist Jose Antonio Pavon Jiminez, just in case you're curious.
If you have a space that could use some pretty, easy-going little flowers, try Rock Rose.
Hooray! Do you see it? Do you see the flower at the tippy top of our yucca gloriosa?
It's our third summer in our current house and the plant has never flowered before. So exciting! It's supposed to flower every year, but our area was suffering drought conditions; it was probably using all of its energy to survive. This spring, we installed a sprinkler system and it's also rained a lot. Yuccas don't need lots of water, but they need some. Now, our yucca is ready to roll.
Yucca gloriosa, also known as Spanish Dagger because of its sharp, pointy leaves, is native to the coastal regions and islands of southeastern North America. It is a member of the genus asparagaceae, along with agava and, to my surprise, asparagus. Also to my surprise is that after flowering, this yucca produces edible fruit. From what I've read, it's supposed to be quite tasty, but since I didn't plant the plant myself and it's all news to me, I'm not really to eager to try. We'll see what happens if fruits ever do really appear. I know it makes sense, the fruit following flowers. I guess I'll feel more comfortable when I know what I'm dealing with.
In the meantime, I'll just enjoy the spectacular bloom.
July is drawing to a close. Living in southeast Texas for much of my life, I've never really been overly-fond of August. It's our hottest month, and that's saying something. But for some reason, this year I am feeling rather benevolent towards it. Part of the credit can surely go to the garden. Lots of plants are pushing through quite happily in the heat.
It's always a pleasure to amble through a thriving green space. August also brings us one month closer to Autumn. It's a wonderful time to work on the fall garden plan, to (literally) plant the seeds, and to dream.
Isn't that the most ridiculous thing you've ever seen? Doesn't the plant above appear to be getting enough sun? It's facing south, after all. That large, gangly, overgrown shrub is a Butterfly Clerodendrum. It's supposed to be covered in lovely, blue, butterfly-shaped flowers and I, for one, cannot understand what the problem is. But that's the thing with gardens. It takes time to get to know them.
Our front yard is small and home to four mature (not ancient) oak trees. Most of the garden receives dappled sunlight most of the time. However, on long, hot, summer days, part of it receives at least a few solid hours of "strong, afternoon sun". I've taken photos. I've logged the hours of full sun. In certain spots, flowers should be blooming, but they're not. I must begin again.
I know that at least a some of my neighbors have no idea what's in their front yards. They told me so when I congratulated them on winning "Yard of the Month". Either the original builder or their landscape crew planted the shrubs, etc. They just want their yards to be neat and low-maintenance. At the opposite end is me, crawling around in the beds, adding soil, spreading compost, adding and removing plants, and trying very hard to have a welcoming cottage garden by my front door. With all of my master gardening classes and years of experimenting, gardening, and garden blogging behind me, not only will I not garner "the prize". I will most likely receive a reprimand. "E for Effort" is not in the HOA's manual!
I don't really care, of course. I garden because I love it. Frustrating as reinventing a garden can be, I have been enjoying the challenge. While I will definitely be switching out some plants this fall, I might have discovered a few keepers. The pentas, pentas lanceolata, also known as "Egyptian Star Cluster," are blooming away in the shade. They bloom just as happily in full sun, too, and butterflies love them.
Capsicum Chinense "Scotch Bonnet"
It's a sweet name for a very hot pepper, isn't it? Named for its resemblance to the old Scottish bonnet or tam o'shanter, the Scotch bonnet is actually the Caribbean chile pepper of choice. Most sources reference its Scoville Heat Units (SHU) between 100,000- 350,000, although I've seen a few higher. That makes it way hotter than the average jalapeno and also as hot or hotter than its cousin, the habanero. Personally, I don't think it's terribly hot when its green, but it does deliver heat as it ripens. I like it for its heat and its fruity nuance. Most of all, I like it for its name. :)
A Poem by Robert Burns
O my Luve's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June;
O my Luve's like the melodie,
That's sweetly played in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.
Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.
And fare-thee-weel, my only Luve!
And fare-thee-weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho' twere ten thousand mile!
For years, my husband and I worked at creating a series of gardens on our four-acre lot in a rural, Texas subdivision west of Houston. I have to say, it was a fantastic experience. Now, I have a pocket garden on a golf course! It took me a while to adjust, but guess what: I love it! While every garden is different, they all offer challenges, pleasures, time with nature. Much like people, they have their good days and bad days, high seasons and low; and they can all be fun and beautiful if you love them enough.