Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Peeking in September behind the Garden Gate

Well hello there!  All is well with the world here and I think its high time to give you an update and pick my blogging back up.  It is late September and finally things are cooling off and it is lovely just being alive outside.

When I lived in the North East at this time of year, while crisp and lovely there too, it always had the specter of those gray biting winter days nipping at the edges.  Here, it's a totally different view point.  It sounds something like (in local speak) "Thank God winter is coming."  While it doesn't beat March and April here from a gardening standpoint, late September through early December is Heaven on Earth here weather-wise.  Nearly every day is a glorious day.

The garden has perked back to life a bit.  Most of the flower colors are faded and Octobery looking, with exception to the roses, most of which will flush out several times between now and December.  The little patio pot rose, Marie Pavie, is much more fragrant in the fall, easily discernible from 10 feet away.  This is the second year in a row this has occurred to me, and I have no idea why that might be.  And the greenery is all sighing in pleasure at the retreat of the summer sun.

Knockout Roses 

Out of control potato vine
Fuzzy leaf "Wandering Jew" and Holly Ferns
Elephant Ears, Impatiens and Hydrangeas

Pot Garden w/Marie Pavie
Backdoor with murderous Garden Hose who has tried to kill me on multiple occasions
It is soon to be planting time.  I have a new rose coming "Climbing Pinkie" to join my Bermuda Kathleen and Confederate Jasmine on the fence.  The jasmine btw has been insane this summer.  It was to the point where I had to trim it back twice a week.  Anyhow, back to planting time: I have learned the hard way to try and get this planting done now, first because it give plants a really good headstart in Spring, but mainly because I can still see the plants that are there currently and won't accidentally dig up and kill any of them.  I did that this year to one of my favorite coneflowers (Merlot) and I still haven't forgiven myself.

There is also a lot of work to do on the parking garden which is still in it's infant stages. Some work this fall might mean that next year I could even be able to take a picture of it without cringing.

Happy Fall!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Random Acts of Selfish Kindness

The house next door to me, which shares my driveway, is vacant.  It is leased, so I'm assuming the new tenants will be in any day now, but as of last weekend, VACANT.  After several years of looking at what is a 3 foot by 12 ft strip of dirt, which has sat empty and forlorn, except for the random bits of detritus that rental tenants tend to leave behind, or park in the blank space (old cooler for instance), I am doing some flash mob gardening. Sure its only me, but one second awful dirt strip, next second, beginnings of a planting bed.

So yes, my good deed for the day is definitely done.  I have improved my neighbors property, which surely will make the tenants appreciate it that much more.  Not only that, but I paid for dirt and a few plants to go in there!

Why yes, I am that nice... okay, truthfully, this is all about me.  I wanted it to stop looking like hell, and start looking like something I want to look at every day when I walk out of my garden gate.

So, now that we have my ethical and moral values squared, there is another good question.   I obviously don't want to spend a lot of time on this bed, (I have my own to worry about), so what does one plant in this situation?  I can tell you, something pretty, not water needy, not picky about frying in the sun.  A weed, basically.  And we here in SC have just the thing: Mexican Petunia (ruellia brittoniana).  It is invasive, and in this instance we are talking PERFECT.  Fill in, multiply, have at it.   I actually have it growing up these tiny strips along the driveway between the houses now, and it works perfectly. And basic maintenance equals go out there once a year in January and chop them back.  Period. Thats it.

Oh the things you can accomplish when nobody's looking! Now, lets let mother Time take over and within a year I'm thinking there will be a bounteous cascade of purple blooming tall grass in the wind.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Moon Flowers at Large

Despite no rain, and then copious amounts coming in at 40mph, the moonvine (single) has flourished up some exterior piping I have growing beside the brick drive.  It honestly has like 5 inches of space to grow in.  This week saw about 6-8 of the large blooms knocked off before their time, but still each night there are a few ready to bust out.  I actually have trouble remembering to look for them because they aren't in the garden proper! Anyhow, I will consider this seed propagation attempt an unadulterated success.  I think I'm going to try growing another elsewhere in the every evening 'viewing area'.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Summer Hate

*I Hate Summer*

Per the usual, this time of year I have nothing to say but those words above.  I spend 10 whole minutes a day outside in the garden trying to rescue things from frying to death in our porous soil, and its a total sweatbath.  The heat just sucks up everything in my brain.

I shall be back once I unfry and find myself creative again.  :) Hope you all are well.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

All The News Thats Fit To Print

In USA Today style, today's wrap up snippets of totally unrelated garden-y stuff:

1)I'd like to start out this post to let all of you know that I'm precisely 100.  2.4 or so years ago I started this blog and I have finally made it to my 100th post, c'est incroyable! Slow but steady wins the race they say.

2)The lilies are out and all is right with the world.  I had a business trip earlier this week and this is what I came home to.  Welcome indeed.  The second shot I call "flower and eyes." I also came home to no scorched to death flowers which is pretty fantastic for late May here.

3)The gardenias and the oleander are outdoing themselves this year.  Its amazing what not having a horrible drought does for the hoi polloi plantage.

4)Plumbago on my way to work.  I get to walk to work each day, the act of which I find absolutely improves my life.

5)Mystery rose, I need help.  I was on previously mentioned business trip in Northern Virginia this week and found this growing in the middle of town.  What is this?

6)I love these vitex trees, to me they look like a lilac bred with a brillo pad.

7)And just a reminder of why I hate squirrels.  I mean seriously? Wasn't the first 20 times enough to convince you that is ISN'T THERE!?

8)Our cemeteries are better than yours :) When I die I get to be surrounded by flowers planted beside me.  AND I don't even have to be in the back yard to do it! And if I want a pyramid to rest in, I can do that too.

9) Look whose back... two years ago I dug you up and moved you to my Mom's house.  Then you laid low and worked on a root system so you wouldn't flop and I wouldn't hate you so much.  And it worked...you are much better this go around. Good job, appleblossom yarrow.

10)Gratuitous salvia picture.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Still Life With Cat And Oleander

Mad cat lovin' graffiti artist strikes again in downtown Charleston!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Fragrant Garden: My Top 10

The longer I do this gardening thing, the more I realize that as far as my aspirations to my "perfect garden," the smell of my garden is right up there with what it looks like.  I truly am trying to achieve a garden where you would recognize exactly where you were by scent alone if you were blindfolded, bound and gagged and brought to my house by kidnappers.  Of course, I would call the police if I wasn't kidnapped myself (or unless I had lost my mind and was the perpetrator!), but you, thanks to the smell, would be able to tell them exactly where they were hiding us once you wriggled one hand free enough to dial 911 on your cell.

But seriously, I want it to be year 'round.  I want my nose to sing with "verdant and alive" wafting through the air.

Now I have found that you need to time "layer" the scent makers, because many only bloom once a year.  Here's what I've found so far to be the most magnificent in the megawatt smell per square inch of plant, as well as the bloom time in my garden (z9a).  I'm talking wafting knock your socks off scent when you step out in the humid dusky air:

10) Oriental Lilies (May-June): These are common, we've all seen them, but I'm eagerly awaiting this guy pictured below to bloom none the less...will be any day now.

9) Pittosporum (March): A nice, almost non-descript large dense bush or small tree, it is often used for hedges.  Once a year in March usually, all of the sudden it is literally covered head to toe in tiny fragrant blooms which may be my favorite scent of the lot here.  They are called mock-orange, and though its sort of similar, it's really not.  They have a to-die-for fragrance.  Unfortunately, at least here, some years a heat wave will come in an make the blooms very short lived.  Even at their best they don't last more the 2-3 weeks.  But when they are out...

8) Wisteria (Late Feb-early March): I don't grow this myself, but it has practically eaten the south, so its everywhere.  It's what we hide our broken down vehicles and dilapidated roadside houses with.  It is the earliest seriously scented bloomer on the scene.

7) Honeysuckle (May-Sept): The scent of my childhood.  The dirt road our house was on was literally lined with these tangled in the bushes and its just such a sweet wonderful smell.  I know its invasive in some climates (like probably where I grew up come to think about it), but here it stays pretty much in check, at least compared to some of our other invasives.

6) Ligustrum (April): The bush we love to hate, it does have a redeeming quality and that it is a profuse bloomer with knock your socks off scent for nearly a month during the year.  It blooms here at the same time as another super fragrant flower too, so the month of April in my garden is almost overwhelming day and night.

5) Gardenia (May): I take it back on the pittosporum, the gardenia scent is probably my absolute favorite.  They don't waft quite as much though which takes it down a few notches, however still enough to smell it as you approach a bush without leaning down.

4) Brugmansia (June-Sept): This potentially deadly small tree is one of those that tries to attract pollinators at night, so it nearly bowls you over should you step outside after dark.  Its a cloying heady smell, very pleasant to me, but I have caught myself thinking that its the kind of scent that reminds you of an evil temptress.

3) Moon Vine (June-Sept): A true night bloomer, and a relative of the morning glory, I have smelled them in others gardens but this will be its first year in mine.

2) Confederate Jasmine (Late March-April): Until I planted #1, this was by far and away the most megawatt smelling dude in my garden.  I often hear people say that jasmine smells like gardenia and I honestly can't see how or why they would think that?  Jasmine to me has a peppery heavy sweetness, whereas gardenia is lighter and fruiter...well just not in the same nasal ballpark.  Anyhow, this variety is a ever-green vining plant which looks great in or out of bloom.  Non-invasive, which is a plus though they can grow extremely large, as mine has in 2.5 years.

1) Night Blooming Jasmine (May-Aug): This thing is ridiculous.  You need to plant it at least 30 feet from your house to be able to not get drunk on the scent.  It blooms on and off through the summer, and you can smell it down the block. I'm not kidding. Its nothing much to look at, a loose medium sized sprawly bush, but thats not the point.

There are so many others that can come tripping off my tongue that don't readily grow here so I didn't include them: Lilacs, Lavender, Hyacinths to name but a few.  Another one of my favorite of all garden smells comes from leaves, not flowers: the English Boxwood.  It just smells so, boxwoody to me.  I love it and it reminds me, every time I smell it, of the boxwood maze behind the old library in the small town where I grew up.

Also, there are all kinds of jasmine out there that can fight amongst themselves for the most fragrant plant ever.  I am considering getting the pink kind (Winter Jasmine), because it blooms in early March, before the others, but it is on the invasive list, and so far every time I've planted something invasive in this climate, it has, um, invaded.

You notice I didn't include the roses!  While many do have a lovely fragrance, they are not massive wafters on the whole.  Not a single rose I have compares with any of the above as far as megatwattage of scent making capacity, though I do obviously prefer those roses that smell.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Maddening Gardenia

I know a lot of gardeners have trouble growing gardenias.  People try all kinds of advice to get those things to hold their blooms, grow, or even flower.  Or even just: not die!

Now, I never tried to grow a gardenia before I moved here so I'm not positive, but I truly truly believe the trouble is that despite what those evil lying plant tags say, they (gardenias) actually have a very limited growing climate.  If I had to guess I'd say they like:  humid as you can make it, zones 8a-10a, warm nights, part shade, crappy sandy soil that drains faster than a pasta strainer.  Thats what they like.  And even the part shade isn't that important, but the other things are.

Now why do I believe this?  Namely:

Yes, thats right, this is growing in the 'hell strip' outside of my next door neighbors house, beside the cement.  There's another one in a similar hell strip situation around the corner,  in half day sun living it up too.  Nobody waters these.  Nobody fertilizes, trims, or cares for them in any way.  I suspect the garbage collectors regularly smack em up with the bins.  And they look just as good as the two I actually throw some water on every so often in my garden.  Around the block a lady has them in patio pots in full sun and those suckers bloom themselves silly.

So here is my advice... if these plants grow literally like weeds in places they like (they compete with the oleanders and crape myrtles for the hell strip spaces) and you are struggling like crazy: it is not meant to be.   These plants, I suspect, have a narrower band of adaptability in reality that plant sellers would have you believe. For me, because of these same climatic conditions I can not grow most spring bulbs, I can't grow lilacs (or I can they just won't flower...sound familiar?), I probably can't grow half of the things that are in commercial garden existence.  So sure, try them out, but trust me, if they aren't working: its not you, its them.  They honestly don't care how nice you are to them, they are extremely picky about things you can't control.

I am coming to some of these same conclusions myself over what is just not meant to be.. it isn't worth wasting my time with in my Charleston climate.  Because no matter what zone you are in, there is SOOOO much that will grow!