Saturday, August 29, 2009

Moving On...

Thanks everyone for your sweet comments about the arrival of our first grandchild. He is a cutie! Mom and baby are doing great and I am so proud of the job my son is doing. Adam sure has wonderful parents!
So now we are moving on... The baby is here, my daughter's wedding plans are coming along, the new tree has arrived, and we are trying to get our backyard back to "normal."

This is a Chinese Pistache (or Pistachio). According to two Arborist, two tree farms, the stump grinder, and horticultural experts at Texas A&M (sorry my UT kids!)-this is the best tree for our small yard. Here are some things the experts say about this tree:

Extremely hard, durable wood, which is also very decay resistant, helps protect tree from wind, ice and vandal injury .
Superior drought, heat and wind tolerance once tree is established .
An extremely tough, durable and adaptable medium-size tree which is tolerant of both urban and rural conditions
Spectacular fall color in shades of orange, red-orange and even crimson, often rivaling the show of sugar maples in the Northeast
Pest free and easily maintained
The first shade tree to receive the coveted "Earth-Kind" designation from the Texas Agricultural Extension Service for its high levels of genetic resistance to insect and disease problems.

Sounds pretty good, huh? The down side to all of this is that these trees go through an "ugly ducking" stage for a while. where this tree is now. Hopefully, it will mature and grow and become beautiful.
Hubby had to re-do the brick around the bed the tree is in, and I think he did a wonderful job!
I still don't have a definite plan in my mind for next year, but I think I will plant bluebonnets around the tree for now. Surely over the winter I will come up with something.
It's the end of a hot, dry and eventful summer. I have had disappoint-
ments and joys. As I look out at the flowers blooming I am reminded of my favorite Lady Bird Johnson quote:

"Where flowers does hope."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Guess what we've got???'s not a new tree

And it's not a new flower....

It's a new baby-- our first grandchild! Our oldest son and his wife are the proud parents of a brand new baby boy.

Grammy Lin and Papa Bert would like to introduce you to Adam Thomas. Say hello to everyone Adam!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Tree update, fuzzy caterpillars and worms

We worked every evening last week to scoop out remains from the Bradford Pear stump and roots..and look what a wonderful pile of rich mulch we have. We piled it high in the small veggie garden area for later use.

Then, yesterday and today our youngest son came over and helped hubby dig a BIG hole. That was not an easy task, as they ran into still more roots that had to be chopped out. Plus, working in the hot afternoon sun is just a killer. But, now we have a place for a new tree. It comes next week. I am excited, but a little nervous too. Keep your fingers crossed for us! :)
Now on to other gardening issues--caterpillars! These fuzzy white caterpillars are feasting on every plant I have! Well... almost. Does anyone know what they are? They were mainly on the pond plants, but now I am finding them on everything! And, can they eat!
This is--rather WAS--the Lizard's Tail in the pond. The caterpillars have destroyed it. I cut this plant back once this year due to these pest, and now they are back. I even found one on the ivy I stuck outside to water.

Worms!! I didn't take a picture, but my four o'clocks have little green worms eating them. I looked on the Internet to see if four o'clocks are host plants for butterflies, but did not see that they were.

I don't mind sharing my plants with the birds and butterflies--even the bunny, but enough is enough.
I think I'm ready for fall!!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Update on the Backyard

A crew took the Bradford down, but left the stump. And it was a BIG stump. And there were BIG roots everywhere We could not find a stump grinder that had a machine that would fit through our gate, so last Saturday hubby hired 2 workers to help him try and axe the stump out.
They all worked about 5 hours--and didn't make a dent. After many phone calls, we found a company that had the perfect grinder for our stump and our unique yard. Someone came out that afternoon to look at the situation and scheduled us for this Tuesday. The grinder fit through one of our gates, did not really harm any of the plants along the way (I moved everything I could), and ground that stump and roots completely down to nothing but mulch. I would have loved to watched, but unfortunately I was at work.
This is what is left--a huge pile of our Texas clay mixed in with Bradford Pear mulch. It is really rich, and looks really good for use in flower beds. That's the good news.
The bad news is that we cannot use it for about 10-14 days as there is too much acid in it..and we have a new tree coming in 7 guess what we are doing for the next several nights? Yep, we are moving all the great mulchy dirt from this area into our little vegetable garden area. Thank goodness the temperature is below 100 this week, but that backyard is still extremely hot late in the afternoon with the sun streaming down.
I cannot tell you how dis-
couraging it is to try and find joy in gardening right now. This special little place is not very enjoyable anymore. I do have a few happy things to look at though. My blackfoot daisies just love the extra sun. They have been blooming up a storm. I have a few in flower beds.
And I have this one in an old bucket on the flagstone patio. I am trying to find some good things to see in all of this..but it certainly is a challenge. I feel like someone took my paradise away--and I want it back please! But I am trying to work on a plan for spring. I am trying to think "sun" when I think of seeds to buy. Hubby just knows I will again have a beautiful little garden area in back. Wish I shared his optimism! (Have I mentioned I am married to the most wonderful man in the world??) :)

"Ones best success comes after their greatest disappointments"
Henry Ward Beecher

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Good Plant

Our little backyard has become quite a challenge after losing the Bradford Pear. The sun hits the back around noon, and doesn't leave until it sets in the western sky. Knowing some plants just cannot survive the intense heat of that west sun, we are just trying to keep as many things alive as we can. (I could not do this without the help, understanding, and compassion of the most wonderful husband in the world!)
One plant that has not suffered from all of these changes is Angelonia, Serena Purple. It has tolerated dry conditions, wet conditions, and now additional sun. I bought 2 of these plants in spring. This one is planted in the east bed that runs along the fence. It is under a wax myrtle. It gets good sun, but is somewhat protected from the hot west sun.
This Angelonia is planted in the bed that runs beside the flagstone walkway. It gets sun almost all day. This bed goes from dry, to wet, back to dry. And the Angelonia not only survives, but thrives. According to the Internet:
"The Angelonia 'Purple' provides masses of 3/4-inch blooms that open along plentiful long, elegant stems all summer long. A fine plant for hot, dry, humid, and even wet garden spots. This super-easy sun-lover is grown like Salvia and just as beautiful! 10 to 12 inches high, 12 to 14 inches wide."
And to top it off--you do not need to deadhead!
Fresh flowering stems simply arise to replace the old ones! Not only is it heat tolerant, it is humidity tolerant as well. The Serena series of Angelonia comes in this purple color, plus pink and white. I cannot recommend this Angelonia enough. If we can grow it this well in our conditions, it is a keeper!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Snake Repellent ???

This past week has given us somewhat cooler temps and quite a bit of rain. Very unusual for the Dallas area deep in the summer. We will make up for up next week though as the temps are expected back in the 100's.
Usually rainy weather brings us very unwelcome slithering visitors. We never found the cottonmouth. We are thinking all the activity in our yard with the tree falling and crew coming to take it down made the snake decide to head on down the road. My snake story circulating around my office, and one of my programming friends (who had a visitor herself) found a product at Tractor Supply for us to try. (Thanks Karen!!) really is called "Snake Repellent!" I have seen products at Home Depot before, but they contained lots of warnings. This product is organic! It will not harm lawns, gardens or flowerbeds. It is safe to use around pets and children. This blend of cedar oil, cinnamon oil, clove oil and sulfur trigger an escape/avoidance behavior in snakes. Snakes actually taste the air around them via a receptor organ known as the Jacobson's organ. (who knew??) This product provides a potent scent/taste repellent that snakes find unpleasant. It triggers a natural reaction to escape and avoid. According to the label, "Bonide Snake Stopper Snake Repellent does not harm snakes, it drives them away naturally." Perfect for me to use. Now, you cannot add it to water, so I couldn't put it in the pond, but instead I would use it to create a barrier around the pond. It is a powder and is easy to shake out. You would need to re-apply after rain as it would wash away.
(To be fair, I must also tell you there is a note that says this product is exempt from registration with the EPA because of its ingredients. I have not checked this out yet. ) Most repellents have such a terrible odor, and this one..well it smells of cinnamon and cloves-what more can I say? : )
I am really optimistic this will send the snakes away. I will certainly keep you informed of what happens next.