Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ready, Set. . . .

Summer's nigh upon us!  Here in our subtropical climate, many flowers are already well in bloom.  But some take a little longer than others, like this Lily of the Nile. 

And the daisies are getting ready to explode.

For me, Spring has been sprinting!  Life has been a lovely round of celebrations:  baby showers, bridal showers, graduations, First Communion.  It occurs to me that all of these occasions are laden with anticipation, much like Spring.  But even as we look forward to the good that's yet to come, it's nice to take time to enjoy today, rather like this little fellow.



Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Going to the Birds

I love barn swallows.  I love to watch them gracefully swooping, dipping, diving as they catch their daily sustenance.  I enjoy their company on our patio every summer; they are not in the least bit skittish. 

My husband has always been less enthusiastic about them than I.  They are messy.  But I've always protested that they are beautiful and a blessing, a sign of summer, and he has generously tolerated them for my sake.  This year, however, we have a new situation:  a second set of swallows are trying to build a nest.  Much as I love birds, even I don't think it's a great idea.  This is our patio, after all, not a bridge or barn.  The problem is neither the birds nor the nests.  I will spare you the actual images, but I'm not sure if you can imagine the amount, the piles of droppings we are suddenly dealing with.  We're giving the hatchlings a few days while we debate about allowing a second brood.  In the meantime, my husband has declared war on the newcomers. 

So far, they've begun nests in three different corners.  Every time he blocks them, they begin in a new place.

Does anyone have experience in dealing with this or a similar bird problem?  We would appreciate suggestions, especially nature-friendly ones.  Help!  Our patio is going to the birds.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Earth-Kind Perles

I love roses, especially antique or old garden roses.  They are tough, vigorous, rewarding shrubs that require very little attention.   A few years ago, in my search for a peach or apricot-colored, antique rose that would make a good hedge, I discovered Perle d'Or, an Earth-Kind rose.   It has grown spectacularly in less than three years and that is why I would like to offer a brief post about the Earth-Kind rose designation.

According to the Earth-Kind website of Texas A&M, it is a "special designation given to select cultivars by the  Texas AgriLife Extension Service".  For approximately eight years, the roses are exposed to various soil types and tested for heat and drought tolerance in US Zones 7 through 9.  They are treated with no pesticides, whether chemical or organic, and with no commercial fertilizer.  They are not deadheaded.  If they not only survive but thrive under what is almost neglect and in harsh conditions, they are considered for the designation.  It seems that other universities have jumped on the bandwagon as well, so that there shall be Earth-Kind roses tested for colder climates and different challenges.

Earth-Kind landscaping is what it suggests, environmentally-conscious landscape practices that limit chemicals and promote water conservation.

I realize that not everyone gardens in subtropical conditions, but these roses did not originate in Texas.  More to the point, there's lots to be appreciated about roses that thrive in one's locale with very little attention.  We are loving our Perle d'Or hedge.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Very Worst Gardening Conditions in the World?

Have you ever spent the better part of a day weeding?  That's what I did this past Saturday.  I felt alternately sorry for myself and glad that I had the time.  For much of the day, I struggled with a recurring inner dialogue/argument.  Surely here in Texas we have the worst weed problem and scariest gardening conditions in the world, with plenty of poisonous snakes and fire ants and meningitis-carrying mosquitos.  Even more certain is that my very own garden has the most challenging situation of all because of the pecan trees.  I pulled at least 100 of the little shoots from one flower bed alone, a low number in our books.
But at least the pecans can be pulled up fairly easily and mostly grow in beds near the trees.  Bermuda grass and nutsedge are among our worst offenders.  Bermuda grass sends shoots above and several inches below the surface.   If it infests a shrub, it's often easier to simply remove the shrub, especially if one's garden is organic.  Nutsedge is just annoying in its persistent abundance.  Then we have seasonal grasses, of course, and thistle and buttercups, but for me, the most scary is poison ivy, toxicodendron radicans.
I have an unreasonable fear of it, considering that I have never had a bad experience with it. But such a little plant as that above will find my gloved hands and arms covered in plastic trash bags as I gingerly pull it up.  The birds plant it on our property regularly; as long as we are diligent, it doesn't become a problem.  This weekend it wasn't so bad; I probably pulled about 15 little plants.   The most aggravating time for me was when I failed to notice that fire ants were all over my gloves and stinging their way up my arms. 
I always find myself surprised and rather amused at the notion of "sexy" gardeners, scantily clad, working in the shrubbery.  Here, one might go in looking nice, but come out looking warty!
But as the birds sang and a cool breeze blew and the flower beds looked neater and neater, I thought of the wonderful variety we enjoy and told myself that gardeners in other places would be quite indignant at the idea that maintaining their gardens is a piece of cake, that nature is tamer in their land than mine.  I know it's not so and I realize that, in all cases, it's all worth it.  Would I give up my time outdoors, with the flowers and herbs, birds and butterflies, to hide inside, afraid of my world?  No, I would not.  I shall be smart and pay attention and thereby not notice only the fire ants and poison ivy, but ladybugs, dragonflies, rosebuds and beansprouts.   And I will be grateful.