Monday, April 29, 2013

When Time is Not of the Essence

I suppose we all have those periods of time when we simply cannot get out to our gardens.  For the past week and a half, the weather and I have been at odds.  When it's been clear and sunny, I've been occupied elsewhere and on those days when I have had some wonderful gardening time set aside for myself, the sky gave in.  Even more startling were those days when the weather was stormy and I was too busy to even check on my garden's welfare.  Here in southeast Texas, we haven't had the flooding the Midwest has been hit with, but we've had lots of rain and severe thunderstorms.  On our property, that means fallen branches and lots of mess.  At the same time, it also means rainwater -- a lot but not overmuch -- for which we are very grateful.

So today, between cloudbursts, I zipped outside to take a peek at the garden.  To my horror, a huge
branch from a pecan tree had fallen onto my small vegetable patch.  A closer inspection showed that only a tomato cage was slightly damaged.  What a relief!  Everything still looks intact.

Moving along around the perimeter of the house, I noticed that lots and lots of weeds have popped up in the flower beds, the grass on the front lawn is getting tall, and our field is filling with wildflowers once again. On a more positive note, the two-acre-long trenches my husband dug on each side of the house, near the fencelines, are working just fine.  Water has been moving with surprising rapidity into the drainage ditches at the front of the property.  I am proud of those trenches, which were created by my lone husband's strength and determination.

But most of all, I noticed that nothing has gotten out of hand quite yet.  It's still too early in the year.  Thank you, gentle Spring.  A few plants do look a little water-stressed, but that condition won't last. For the most part, the garden looks fresh and green; it's showing promise.  It's a good reminder for me that in more ways than one, while I might have my uses, the world could carry on without me.  It's also nice to see what a thoughtful sowing and nurturing can set into motion.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sweet Dreams

"Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities.   Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning."   Gloria Steinem

There is nothing like a grey, drizzly day and disrupted gardening bliss to set a gardener pondering -- at least, this gardener!  I looked out the windows thinking of all of the work that I wasn't accomplishing and fretting over areas that need improving.  I suddenly decided that my gardening education needed expanding immediately!

I have been enjoying a wonderful book recommended by Helen, The Patient Gardener (  It's called "Succession Planting for Year-Round Pleasure", by Christopher Lloyd.  Featuring his gardens at Great Dixter in Sussex, it's a book with wonderful, informative, enthusiastic text and gorgeous photos. 

I started thinking about the many famous English gardens and then about various gardening styles and then onto famous landscape architects and finally the history of gardening.  It seemed rather a lot to learn in one afternoon.   I googled frantically, noting articles that went as far back as ancient Persia, China, Japan, Egypt. . . .  Somewhere  I saw something about the "forest garden" of primitive man and concluded that it did not suit my purpose to go that far back.  But certainly my own garden would benefit if I knew a little more.

I zipped around the internet and virtual globe as I pleased, concentrating mostly on gardens in England, France, and Italy.  I looked at gardens and grounds designed by William Kent, Capability Brown, LeNotre, and Niccolo Tribolo, amongst many others.  I made what was for me a wonderful discovery, a selection of videos by Monty Don.  Why had no one ever mentioned him to me before?  His series "Around the World in 80 Gardens" is great -- so interesting and fun! 

I came to another conclusion.  While I admire the formal gardens of Italy and France with their  sculptured hedges, fountains, grottos, and perfect symmetry, I still really love the various English gardening styles.  Considering that I had spent a few hours drooling over the gardens of palaces, castles, and public parks, I would have to whittle my expectations down a bit.  Blenheim Palace, Sissinghurst Castle, and Rousham are all amazing, but, well, ha, whittle, whittle.  Then I virtually visited Gertrude Jekyll's garden at the Manor House, Upton Grey.  The garden is just over four acres, the size of our whole property, but that's a lot closer in size than the others!  I would only want to work on certain elements. . . .

So, can I turn this:
or this:
into this? 
File:Jekyll Manor House Border.jpg
 (photo by Aquilineyes at Wikimedia Commons)
No one is expected to answer that question!  But the above is similar to some of those beautiful beds at Christopher Lloyd's Great Dixter.   I now know what I want:  English borders!
I shall certainly leave my new, baby hedgerow in peace for now.  But there is that whole other side, that whole other length of fence that could really use a hedge or, dare I say, a modest "herbaceous border'.  I don't know if I really have enough space, but I shall investigate my options.  I cannot say for sure that anything towards my goal shall be accomplished before summer comes and goes.  Of course, I can't say for sure that it won't, either.  Let's be reasonable.  But I shall continue to study and, of course, to garden.  I will share a litte of what I learn, too, and hope you will pardon me if it's old news to you.  It's all just so wonderful and fascinating.
Here is a link to a nice website about the garden at the Manor House, Upton Grey:
I hope that we all enjoy clear skies this coming weekend!  I have weeds to pull, spent blooms to nip, and plants to plant!  In the meantime, I am not quite finished with Monty.   :)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Work or Play?


I think there's little that gardeners look forward to more than spending a free day or afternoon in their gardens.   Today, I anticipate just such an afternoon and I couldn't be happier.  The weather seems to be going out of its way today to encourage me (so far).  This morning, when I have other things to take care of, it's windy and the sun keeps ducking behind clouds.  So I don't feel so bad that I'm not out there just yet.  But the clouds are passing and the afternoon's forecast is sunny -- perfect timing.  There is so much that I want to do!

I have a few -- just a few -- new plants to plant, one being a favorite rose.  A dear friend brought me a Souvenir de la Malmaison for Easter.

There are plenty of roses to tend to. 


 I could easily spend a few hours removing spent buds from all around the garden, but I will only concentrate on a couple of areas as there other things I want to do.  For one thing, dianthus everywhere needs deadheading.  For another, my portulaca must be moved as it is miserable.

The geraniums are all looking tacky.
And what's that on the bottlebrush?


I really hate to take out Virginia creeper -- the birds love it so -- but I cannot allow it to take over a flower bed.
I also really need to separate my radishes, the last of the season.  Our summers are way too hot to grow those lovely little edibles.
I will probably spend some time with my small, very small, vegetable patch.  So far we have a few tomato and bell pepper plants, a variety of hot peppers, the last cool season crops of radishes and arugula, and a row of chickpeas for snacking.  I also planted my basil in the vegetable patch this year as it took up an entire section of my round bed last year.  I loved it -- it was so abundant and convenient -- but it was way too much for a semi-formal bed.  I would really like another vegetable row before mid-summer.  I want to try growing pumpkins!  But anyway, tidying up my little patch by the fence is a very peaceful prospect.
If I have any time left, I need to pot some mint.  We have it somewhat under control in a bed (the mint would laugh at the very idea), but it's not happy there in full sun.  I would like to have a pot on the patio where we can enoy the fragrance and the convenience.  I also have a packet of zinnias I'd like to sow on the west-facing side of a rose hedge.
Are these chores or is it play?  These tasks must be done if the flowers are to thrive and for the gardens to look nice.  But what fun it will be.   It makes me think of that wise saying, "Do what you love and love what you do."  I would wish everyone such a blessing.



Wednesday, April 3, 2013

In Need of Instruction

Spring has Sprung!  Our Easter celebration was joyful as I hope was everyone's.   Our sons helped us with our garden the day before and the garden responded to so much loving care.  It did its best to show off.

Yet I am very disgruntled, yes, disgruntled.  After so many years of gardening, I still haven't acquired a good sense of -- I don't know -- layering my beds.  I am always afraid of crowding the roses and lately have developed an absolute phobia of plants that grow humongous.  I suppose I need to read more about division.  Knowledge is light, after all, while ignorance is scary darkness.  But some of my beds are looking ridiculous right now.

One problem, for sure, is that I did not plant all the same rose variety in most of the beds.  I didn't have that many beds at first and I wanted one of everything!  This year, we moved a few roses around so that the sizes might turn out more even, but the plants are still a little in shock and will take time growing in their hopefully permanent new homes.  So let's pretend we don't notice that part, unless there is a help for the awkward look it gives?  Is there one?  But please, I need suggestions for companion plants for my roses -- what kind of plants and how to arrange them and, if that's too much trouble, suggestions for books or links. 

Fellow gardeners, have mercy!