Can you see it, the monster poised to munch my Scorpion pepper plant to nothing? It is manduca sexta, the tobacco hornworm. I can never decide if hornworms look scary or cute. This one didn’t seem so bad. We didn’t even toss it on its pointy little horn. Joseph, my husband, simply cut the branch and moved it to another part of the garden. Now, however, I’m on the lookout not only for the same caterpillar but others as well.
There is also a tomato hornworm, manduca quinquematulaca, which resembles it closely and also defoliates plants of the nightshade family (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants) of vegetables.
Both turn into large moths. I do like and enjoy the moths these fat green blobs turn into. They become Sphinx moths, also known as hawk or hummingbird moths. I’ve seen these moths in most of my gardens over the years. They look very much like hummingbirds, hovering over nectar plants, and they are good pollinators. But do I like them enough to willingly allow the caterpillars to defoliate what’s left of my summer garden? Probably not, but life in the garden is wonderfully varied and interesting.
Pensée, French for a “thought.” It could be a romantic thought and pansies are small, sweet flowers for a meaningful bouquet. Happy Valentine’s Day in advance!
Until recently, I’ve never been much of a fan. I’m more partial to the smaller violas or Johnny Jump-ups, as they are commonly called.
Pansies, violas, wild violets all belong to the plant family Violaceae and the genus viola. They are varying degrees of fragrant and they are edible plants. Just be sure of the source.
Personally, I find pansies and violas to be cheerful, useful garden plants. I especially like the ones sometimes found in nurseries, those in hard-to-find, “designer” colors. But I don’t have a local, specialized nursery nearby and, anyway, I rarely skip the opportunity to look at plants, even those in the large, home improvement centers. That’s how I came to acquire a rather large amount of common pansies. We had a rare freeze in our area and it seems that the folks at the home improvement center didn’t think the pansies would make it. I stumbled upon bedding plants being sold at an outrageously low price and shopped accordingly.
As a result, we have pansies everywhere, not to mention violas. I’m growing fond of them. They don’t exactly cover my winter sticks, but they provide color where it’s severely lacking. It doesn't even matter that they're not an extraordinary shade of apricot. They’ve been tolerating our crazy weather without complaint. In my garden, pansies usually last through mid-summer despite their aversion to heat. It’s for that reason that I sometimes hesitate to plant them. They won’t give up and easily wither away. It makes me think that being called a pansy should be a compliment instead of an insult.
Be tough! Be a pansy!
This fall has proven a hectic time in our lives and our garden. But oh, what a difference some loving care makes.
It was no-kidding-disgraceful. The jasmine around our Mary arbor had gone wild, obscuring the statue. My husband cut it almost down to the quick.
Our roses, crowded by self-seeded sages (say that ten times fast) that had grown all out of proportion, are celebrating now. We pulled those impertinent plants out by their roots! Yes, they are beautiful, native, and beneficial to wildlife. But they don’t have to be allowed to take over. Now, other plants can breathe. I also have room to plant pretty, cool weather annuals.
Speaking of planting, our cleared and ant-free, raised vegetable boxes still await sowing. We should receive seed packets in the mail any day now. It’s been a few weeks since we cleaned out the one disastrous box and so far only a few nutsedge have returned.
I don’t doubt that the worst offenders – Bermuda grass, nutsedge, fire ants, are lurking below the surface and beyond. But I’m hoping that with vigilance and a healthy crop of lettuces or greens, we can keep the weeds to a minimum. In any case, the weather is nice, the bugs are less, and I'm looking forward to some lovely months of gardening.
Eeek! I know I have only myself to blame, myself and the weather. The weather really does bear responsibility. None of it matters, of course. It is what is is.
It's well-known that I boycott my garden during the worst of summer's heat. By the second part of July throught August, I'm off-duty. This year was no exception, but September and October were unusual. Hurricane Harvey swept through our area in September, while my husband and I were on a long weekend trip that extended to a week. By the time we got home, there was so much to do that I couldn't go out in the garden. We were leaving again within a few weeks. Before October was upon us, we were off again, to be gone for three weeks. Our garden wasn't forgotten, but it was neglected. As a good friend told me, "You're a smart one!" Ha!
Have you ever seen anything so disgraceful? In all my years of gardening and with a much, much larger piece of property, I have NEVER had a planting bed look like that in the photo above. Gulp. The weeds are a tight bunch of the worst sort -- Bermuda grass, nutsedge, and crabgrass (least worrisome of the three). They could not have been completely avoided because our backyard is on the golf course - Bermuda grass heaven - nor can they be completely eradicated. But it never has to get to this outlandish level. Removal was one tiresome task.
Was -- did you catch that? My husband and I toiled at the bed for over an hour, removing as much as we could. We had to stop just short of finishing, which is why I'm not posting a before and after just yet. Did I mention fire ants? There was a huge bed of fire ants in the bed. My husband doused it repeatedly with boiling water. The one corner of the bed looked like a brownish-red sea of dead ants.
The whole garden is in a similar state. Tomorrow, I should be able to finish weeding the raised garden bed. That purging should hold for a few days and give me time to move onto other areas of my poor, woebegone garden. I'll post before and after shots until the worst of the weeds and overgrowth have been tamed. If anyone has any before and afters to share or any advice, welcome!
Really, I'm excited about the opportunity to spend more time out there. When I mentioned to our kids that it seemed impossible for such a small garden to get so out of control, they corrected me.
"You don't have a small garden, Mom," our son objected. "You might have a small yard, but you have a large garden."
I like that.
I’ve been so enjoying our garden this spring. The weather has been cool to warm and back again, just generally pleasant, and the plants have been loving it. Everything has awakened from dormancy, volunteers are showing up all over the place. The summer garden begins to take shape.
I am especially pleased with our herbs and the number of volunteer plants popping up. I pulled quite a few at the beginning of spring, but more still show up. I’ve decided to let the plants fight a little for space. I long for a full, blooming garden. I shall only pull those plants taking over where I do not wish them to.
Our first vegetable box is looking good. Our tomato plants are large, vigorous, and already bearing fruit. They have a long, hot summer ahead, as do we all. We have yet to know how we’ll all hold up. Hot peppers and herbs are also growing happily. A new box, also eight feet in diameter, is built and awaiting first soil, then cucumber seeds, amongst other things.
Best of all, it's pretty out there. Happy Gardening!
I had begun to despair that I could never have healthy roses in this garden. I even yanked a few, an unusual action to be sure since I usually must travel a good distance to find them, pay for them, and then go through the trouble of planting them. Two convictions fed my decision. One was an old one that is particularly applicable to small gardens: if it doesn’t work, get rid of it. There are plenty of plants that will! The other concerns a long-held commitment to native plants and wildlife. I just love roses so much that I've always exempted them, especially since they aren’t invasive and I usually have plenty of natives around. But at some recent gardening lecture I attended, the speaker mentioned that non-natives are no better than plastic plants. That’s a little harsh, but the combination of looking pitiful and not even growing well enough to provide a decent habitat encouraged me to pull them. Some roses had even died before I could pull them. Those, I had ordered but from a reliable source, so there’s no telling what went wrong. I’ve raised roses a long time. Antiques don’t insist on splendid soil, but of course they like it well enough. All of the roses in our garden enjoy rich soil, lots of sun, and sufficient water. Anyway, I felt rather guilty for pulling those few, but they’ve been replaced by useful natives. As for the roses that made the cut, they are showing off brilliantly and it’s only the first day of Spring!
Wishing all a beautiful, fragrant Spring!
I cannot yet report that all of my bulbs survived the lawn guys’ assault, but some seem to be popping up. I wonder if the garden is confused as to the season? Our winter has continued to be milder than mild.
Spring bulbs – snowflakes, narcisuss, daffodils -- are waking from their long naps. Larger plants that go dormant in winter are beginning to bud or return from the roots. We had a nice surprise. Previous owners had planted a row of kordyline, the Hawaiian Ti plant, in one of the front beds. After our two nights of winter, those exotics appeared quite dead.
I was already replacing them on paper, but my husband had more faith in their hardiness than I did. He was right. This morning we found signs that they will be back!
Do you see the green or, rather, the pink? Hooray!
Many, many of our garden plants go dormant in winter, leaving a rather pitiful landscape. I can – and usually do – cover the gaps with cool-season annuals, but I’ve noticed that in this garden, they seem to linger halfway into summer. I guess it’s the shade. They don’t look their best, however, and I’m always waiting for the other shoe to fall. It’s hard for me to yank flowering plants. I’d rather not have to and so I’ve been considering mixing in some evergreens.
An excellent example of this are the raised beds running along the side of the house, which I can see from the kitchen windows. This past summer, we accepted that it really doesn’t get enough sun to make vegetables happy. In their place, I planted pentas and Turk’s cap and enjoyed butterflies and hummingbirds for months. When the freeze hit, those plants went dormant and the boxes were attractive to no one.
The Turk's Cap is already returning and the pentas will, too, but it was a pitiful show from the window the past several weeks. It shows a problem with my planning or design. If I had some early flowering bulbs or a few small, evergreen shrubs mixed in, at least I wouldn’t be looking at empty beds or stick plants all winter. Another option would be shade-tolerant herbs, but there surely wouldn’t be very many. The freezes, however few, along with the shade and my desire to reduce the number of annuals I plant, make for a very limited selection. We only need so much cilantro.
All of which means I have much to look forward to in the way of planning and implementing, dreaming and planting.
What did Audrey Hepburn say? To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.
Wishing everyone hope and happiness.
A few days ago, I enjoyed a full, blissful day of gardening. I was so happy. I planted over 100 bulbs and still have a few more to go. I pruned roses and pulled dead plants. The weather was cool, sunny, breezy. It was great.
The next day, I got so upset that I had to lay down. It was almost funny, really, except that it wasn’t funny at all. I caught one of the lawn service guys spraying herbicide onto my flower beds! WHAT? We’re ORGANIC! I’ve told them before! How long have they been doing this? Is that why the hedge suddenly died? Poison? What do you do when you’re beside yourself?
Yet we are going to give them one more chance. Does that sound crazy? Yes, of course it does! We have not had good luck with lawn services. I don’t think I’m particularly difficult, either, although for sure I am firm and involved. What right do they have to spray chemicals on my beds? How hard is it to just NOT do that? I had just spent an investment of time, money, and love planting bulbs. I can only hope that the spray did not kill them. I asked in person and via text what the name of the poison was, but the only answer I got was “to kill the weeds.”
The last lawn guys did not presume to use herbicide in our garden, but they took out so many plants through sheer carelessness that it was as if we were paying them one and a half times their asking price. The guys before them, the first we had for this house, lasted a day. They topped my crape myrtle even though I told them not to touch anything but the ligustrum hedge. I only have one crape myrtle and they lopped off the top. I was soooo aggravated.
The answer, of course, is to tend to the yard ourselves. That way, our garden might stand a chance. In the past, we took good care of a much, much larger property ourselves. Our life is busier here in our new house, however, and as far as edging, hedging, and timeliness go, the current guys are good. They’re human, too, and therefore no more fallible or infallible than the rest of us. So, here’s to another chance.
In the meantime, we have a watchman. He perched on that branch, albeit coming and going, for most of the day. Perhaps he likes golf?
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.