Saturday, July 25, 2009

Saying Goodbye to a Tree

Last Sunday started out like many Sunday mornings around here, but it did not end like a typical Sunday night. Around 3:00pm, we had a terrible storm--one of those pop up kind that sneak up on you. About the time I thought it was over, the wind starting whipping around violently. That whipping became "wind shears" or "micro burst" that came through our backyard and sliced right through our Bradford Pear. About 1/3 to 1/2 of the tree fell over and landed on our roof.

I knew when I looked out, that even though some of the tree was still standing, my greatest fear for the yard was now upon us--the tree would need to be removed. An arborist came out the next morning, and confirmed what we already knew. The tree would have to be cut down. Most of you know that this Bradford was the focal point of my backyard. I knew it had to be done, but I was just devastated.
The tree was cut down, and the branches placed on the driveway until they could be removed.
And I say "back
yard," but really it's more of a side yard. We are a corner house on a cul-de-sac, there is no alley between us and the house behind us, so the yard is really the size of a side yard. Plus, we live in a hilly neighborhood, so the house behind us is also higher than our house. That wonderful old tree gave us privacy; provided shade from the west sun that shines in back; and was home to many little bird friends of mine. Walking into this little space was like walking into a secret garden for me. It was where I spent most of my time--it was where I did most of my gardening. We knew Bradford Pears were not recommended trees anymore, but they were when we planted this one 25 years ago. I felt like I had lost a good friend, and I guess I had. I could not even walk out in the backyard this past week. I knew it would not be the same yard I knew and loved. I couldn't sit in the swing and read under the shade of my good friend anymore. I couldn't watch the birds feed every morning and evening from the feeders hanging from the branches. I was heartbroken.
So this is what we are left with. A tiny yard that need something to guard and protect it. I finally walked outside Friday evening after the sun went down. I love that time of day--somewhere between dusk and dark. My sweet husband, bless his heart, had been watering like crazy trying to keep my flowers from dying. And you know, under the circumstances, everything looked pretty good. I picked up one little pot-it was one of Mother's forget-me-nots that I knew would be dead, and under all the dried out leaves, I saw a tiny bloom! My heart was so warmed by that one flower and my husbands efforts on trying to keep the garden alive-I decided I must move on.
We will get another tree--it will not be too big, but perhaps will help block the hot west sun a little. I will lose quite a few plants due to the sun, but I will use the opportunity to find new plants I have not been able to grow before. I am sad beyond words, but I am trying to create a new plan in my mind and explore new possibilities for this small space. Gardening will be more challenging now, as I will not be able to "play outside" in the late afternoons after work. I have tried to think of good things that will come out of this...and like I told hubby..I'll plant pansies in the fall. They like the sun...they will take me into winter and a new year.
"Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest, but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another." John Muir

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Can anything survive in the heat??

Summer's are always hot in Texas, but this year the heat hit us really early. We reached 100+ degrees in June-usually it's August before it gets that hot. I feel like all I do is water (and watch out for a snake-no, we have not found it yet!).
It is so discouraging for a gardener to try their best to keep flowers going in heat. I decided to walk around and take note of what flowers still looked happy despite the heat. The first thing I noticed was this Ruellia. I watered it only a few hours before I took this picture. This is all the sun it gets, I know it's not thirsty, but look how the heat of the day makes it look. Luckily by evening it recovers.
The Hot Lips Salvia has a few yellow leaves, but is ok-it just stopped blooming. Last year it stopped blooming when the heat of summer hit, and started back with blooms in fall.
I am so worried about my precious little maiden hair fern. This was a pass-along gift from a dear friend. It gets enough water, it's the heat that is making it look like this.
The candy tuff is just about dead. I will miss it in winter and spring, but maybe I will plant more.
For some reason, my coreopsis is looking like this..and it is not blooming. I thought coreopsis liked heat. The cream brulee in front is doing ok though. That one only gets morning sun, but this one doesn't get much more.

This is only one of several blackfoot daisies I have. This one is doing ok. The others not so good. Note: this one is in a container, the others are planted in the ground. Not sure why that would matter though.
Begonias, believe it or not, are one of the best plants I have found to survive the heat we have. I probably need to use them more than I do.
This bed is primarily shade. I try to keep it watered really good, and I think my efforts have paid off. The hostas and coral bells look pretty good as does the artemisia, juniper and turk's cap.
This little geranium is doing great, but it's because it's close to the back door and I baby it. However, if you keep geraniums in the shade and keep them watered during the hot summer months, they will survive and bloom again when fall arrives.
The window boxes have been a little more of a challenge this year. They are very shallow, so I really have to water them quite a bit. Easy watering though.
The wheel-
barrow with coleus and sweet potato vine looks great I think. It is in shade, maybe gets a tiny bit of sun, and I keep it watered although it does not need water every day.
Impatients? Well, I took this picture when they were looking happy. They are a struggle. I have to constantly water them. They are in the shade of the Bradford Pear Tree which is good, but the Bradford is greedy and takes all the moisture for itself leaving nothing for these flowers.
So far, the crepe myrtles have been very pretty this year. They don't seem to require much attention.
The coneflowers have been a slight disappoint-ment. This white swan usually does great, and there is one pretty bloom here, but they are not putting on the show I usually see.
The purple coneflowers were beautiful, but not now. The color looks faded and the foliage looks terrible. I don't water them a lot, but I think it's enough. Not sure if it's the heat or something else.
The profusion zinnias that I fell in love with last year do seem to thrive in hot weather. The plants I put in this year do not seem to be as healthy as last year, but I didn't buy them at the same nursery which I am going to remember next year.
Cosmos are fine. They come and go not noticing the heat or lack of water. Such fun flowers!
After observing many flowers and plants, if I had to choose a winner of who can survive this heat the would be the Rudbeckia. They are the stars of summer in my book.
Mine seem to bloom later for some reason, but once they start, they are beautiful.
I have them all along the side of the house, in the back, and some scattered out in front. They never complain that it is too hot or that they are thirsty.
I have lived in Texas all my life, so I am use to the heat. In fact, when I was younger I yearned for the hot summer time. As I age, summers are somewhat harder to tolerate, and as our climate seems to change, summers tend to bring us a longer time period of these hot days. But, I read a post from Cindy at My Corner of Katy that seemed to say it best, ".. we who garden here in Texas know that summer is the price we pay for being able to garden our way through the winter months." The more I thought about that, I know how very true that statement is. In Texas you can garden your way through most of the year. We have mild winters and early springs. Mary Engelbreit has a great saying, "Bloom where you are planted." I have always loved that quote. A few years ago I found a wonderful little stitchery picture that sums up my feelings about summers in Texas.
It says.. "I Bloom Here."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I am SO mad!!!

I am so sick of snakes!! We have lived in this house 25 years and have always had snakes in spring. They are diamond back water snakes. According to the Internet, they are not poisonous, but are mean. This year we had 5 really long (3 feet!) snakes and several babies (may they all rest in peace!). I live knowing this, and I have learned not to freak out when I see a snake--it's part of gardening. However.....yesterday I did quite a bit of watering with my bubbler (they are a great way to water by the way). I went out to move it to another spot when something slithered in front of me. Darn..another snake I thought. I saw it slither again and noticed it did not look like the snakes we usually find--it was black. That is not a good sign. Cottonmouth water moccasins are black. I decide to not venture out the rest of the afternoon. When hubby got home, I told him my story. He took a stick and went through all the plants and as he drug the stick through ground cover--out came a very fast moving snake into the pond. And, yep-it was a moccasin!! Hubby tried and tried to force it out of the water. He later tried looking for it under rocks, under plants and again in the ground covers, but he could not find it. I am on vacation this week and look forward to my early mornings in the garden, but not today.
Not knowing that a moccasin could be hiding in here...
..or in here. Or anywhere! I can handle lots of critters visiting my yard, even little garter snakes that I just ignore, but not something dangerous like a cottonmouth. So, today I run errands. Tonight we are snake hunting!
Makes me so mad!!!

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Major Cut!

For years now I have had wood fern planted behind the pond. It has always been really pretty, but it has spread so much, it was making it harder for us to get to the submersible pump in the pond. We just dealt with this problem until two weeks ago.

I thought the fern looked really bad and decided it was the heat and maybe lack of water. But when I looked closer, I saw these black larvae all over the leaves. Can you see it, right in the middle of the picture.
We started finding these fuzzy black caterpillars everywhere By doing a little research on the Internet I think I have identified these as the caterpillar for a Leopard Moth. (I could be wrong, but the caterpillars did have the red bands between the bristles.)
I love to feed everything, but the caterpillars had just about eaten the ferns up, and since the ferns were causing a real problem with us getting to the pump, I decided to cut them all the way back to the ground.
Of course, they are not gone,they just received a major cut, but we are thinking we may dig them up this fall and do something else in this little raised bed. I have some ferns along the fence that I see are also being eaten, but I will leave them for the caterpillars to enjoy. The fern actually hid part of this tiny backyard and although I miss the airy foliage, I have enjoyed opening up the yard a bit. I don't know what options to consider in this bed. It does get some sun as you can see, but only for a few hours. Plus, I don't want to add something that will again create a problem for hubby who is the one that usually cleans the pump in the pond. I think it would be pretty if the ground ivy that grows around the pond took over in this bed-and, I have always wanted an old wash tub (you know the kind on a stand); that might look good nestled in the corner of the house. Then again, we might just let the fern grow back and try to contain it. For now, we will just leave it. It's way too hot to plant anything new, and way too hot to worry about!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rocky Mountain High...

...but not in Colorado. Not this year. We were not able to take the time to do our annual camping trip to Colorado this summer, so to satisfy our need to be in the mountains, we decided to take a short trip to Red River, New Mexico. We were only there 2 days, but we managed to fill those 2 days to the brim! Come with me and I'll show you what we did...
We drove the "Enchanted Circle" which was a beautiful drive that took us to Taos. Loved the old buildings..
and really loved the neat shopping that was there!
Right outside Red River, we took a 10 mile (round trip) hike up to Lost Lake (yep, it was really 10 miles!)
There was even a little bridge to help us cross the creek. It was a great hike, but boy were we tired when we got back to the car!
We did a little
though only 1 of us was lucky enough to catch a fish!
And of course, I found lots of flowers !
Flowers always grow so well in the cool mountain air.
These flowers were in town..
And these were only 2 of the many flowers we passed on our hike.
It was the perfect get-a-way! If I can't be digging in the dirt, being 11,000 feet up in the mountains really puts in smile on my face!
Our daughter and future SIL are in town this weekend for wedding planning so I will be away from blogging for a few days. I hope everyone is having a good summer, and if you live in an area (like ours) that is experiencing terrible heat, be careful out in the garden!

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees." John Muir

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July!!

Happy 4th of July everyone!!

God Bless America!!