Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Roses That Stand Up to Heat

I love roses and have been working them into our landscape wherever I can find an opening. Like every Texas gardener seduced by roses, I'm trying to collect really tough plants.

Here are a few I can recommend and one I'd like to add.

 In my own garden I continue to have good luck with the lovely Gideon Lincecum.

 The flowers are pure white, open form and topped by large puffs of bright yellow stamens that the bees love. The leaves are a dark and leathery green. I have four of these plants in different locations, and they have each proven to be tough as well as beautiful.

Plus, to top it off, this rose produces big, gorgeous orange hips!

The Gideon Lincecum is one of the pioneer roses introduced by the Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham, Texas.  It was named for an exceptional early Texas settler, Dr. Gideon Lincecum (1793-1874), a physician, naturalist, historian and author.

At the end of August I returned to the rose test gardens in Farmers Branch to see which of the 100 varieties planted back in 2008 were looking their best after a long hot summer.

 There were several white roses that looked particularly good, with lots of healthy leaves and flowers.

This is Cole's Settlement, another pioneer rose. After seven years it's about 4'x3', and looking full and healthy.

Here is my Cole's Settlement when it was first planted. This has been a good rose for me, too. It's similar to Gideon Lincecum, but in my garden it doesn't produce quite as many flowers, and the leaves are not that very deep green that sets off the Lincecum blossoms so nicely.

I think both of them are prettier than Iceberg. This is my Iceberg rose. 
It looks best from a distance. I've seen it used as a hedge to great effect.

Also looking good in the trial gardens was Lion's Fairy Tale.
 Kordes introduced this rose in 2002, and it was the rose of the year in England in 2006. It's a tall and bushy floribunda with creamy, blush white flowers.  Even after day after day of temperatures topping 100 it was covered in new growth. I'm putting this one on my wish list.

Back home, Fourth of July has put on a great show all summer.

It's a wild and crazy climber, with lots of thorns. Fortunately it's in a corner away from any walking paths! I love the random white stripes.

These are the delicate pink blossoms of the Swamp Rose.

Planted just this spring, the bush is already a good sized 3'x3'.

Something stung me, right through my garden glove, as I was pruning a Knockout rose.
I dashed inside and put nail polish remover on it (yes, it helps, I don't know why).
It wasn't until the next day that I saw this wasp's nest right in the middle of the plant!
Nasty little critters!

Fall is coming and the pleasure of gardening in cooler days!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Guest Room and Garden

My most popular post continues to be the first one I wrote detailing how I made a quilted throw from a collection of vintage hankies (more than 17,000 hits to date!). I never would have guessed so many other people were as taken with these bright, graphic squares.  
Looking back I realized I had not shown any photos of where I use those throws. So for the other vintage hankie aficionados out there, here are a couple of photos of one of our guest rooms.

This is where I use the red and blue hankie throw.

The room has a vintage Texas feel, and the little quilt seems to fit right in.

There's a bit of red outside the guest house, too. The Turk's Cap is still in flower.

This is a perennial that dies back to the ground in cold weather, but comes back larger every year.
It is thriving in this dry and shady spot.

Also in bloom and attracting an amazing number of bumble bees are the blue flowering caryeopteris (left) and the Russian sage (right).

Giant swallowtail butterflies (Papilio cresphontes) love the vinca and the lantana.

So do the Gulf Fritillary butterflies.
Before they got their wings, they stripped the passion flower vines of every leaf.  I've never seen so many caterpillars. They were ravenous!

Two weeks later the vines had completely recovered - although I've yet to see a flower, much less a fruit, on these passion flowers.  But I planted them for the butterflies, so it's just as it should be.

The baby bearded iris that I ordered last spring arrived.
Blues and purples - I can't wait to see the flowers.

This is my mystery plant.  It popped up as a volunteer in a dry spot and has been thriving on its own.  It has pale blue/lavender flowers on ever lengthening wands. Does anybody know what this is?

It's almost October. The mornings are a touch cooler. 
We will be so happy to see the afternoons drop out of the 90's.
Come on Autumn!

Happy gardening!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

How to Build a Solar Powered Armadillo Fence

As I discussed in my last post, armadillos are hard to discourage!
And their bumbling hunt for grubs and worms can really cause significant garden damage. 
Our local armadillos were not slowed down by repellent sprays or heavy sprinklings of cayenne pepper, and we did not want to take up a new hobby learning to trap and release them.

So, we followed the example set by most of our neighbors and put in an electric armadillo fence.

We had really hoped to avoid outlining our entire yard in wire and bright yellow support posts, but it's that or dead plants! 
 Here is is a small tour of the new defenses...

Above is the front bed which runs the length of the property between the retaining wall and the street.
My husband carefully followed the curve of the garden edging rather than placing the supports out in the lawn. As long as the plants are reasonably well trimmed they will not hinder the current.

These yellow supports for the two wires are held in place by three foot lengths of 3/8 inch re-bar. 

Walking west, we come to the end of the wall and the swale which drains towards the lake.

A different type of wire support is used along the wall.

And again along the wrought iron fence.

At the end of the property, catching full sunlight off the lake, is the small solar panel which powers the armadillo fence (output: .07 joules for up to 3 miles of fencing).

The white lines on the face of the solar panel depict the shape of our fence. It's open across the back where the property is bordered by the lake.

Nearby, the current is grounded by three copper rods, each eight foot in length, and sunk deep in the earth.

Above is a photo of one of the buried copper rods.
Now going back to the front garden and walking toward the driveway, we come to the spring coil.

There is a simple hook at each end of the driveway coil. Unhooking the coil breaks the circuit.

On the other side of the driveway the armadillo fencing continues, following the property line back down to the lake again on the east side of our lot.

As long as humans are wearing shoes, they are grounded and cannot feel anything if they touch the wire when the circuit is running.

Our dog, Kye, is not able to come in contact with the wires at all in our back yard because they are mounted on the outside of our fence. Gates prevent him from getting into the front gardens unless we are with him.

Kye did touch his nose to a neighbors fence once - he jumped about a foot, and then avoided it.

We hook the fence up only at night or when we are away from the lake.
 Armadillos seem to forage from dusk till dawn. We have never spotted one during the day.
So, fingers crossed that we've solved that problem!

The crepe myrtles are blooming, so I think I'll end the fence story with bright pink blossoms!
Happy gardening out there!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Armadillo Blues

Our yard is under armadillo attack.
These funny looking little dinosaurs have grubbed around a bit during the past few years, but they didn't do too much damage, so we were willing to share our plot of land. There's a nice southwestern weirdness about them, and it's always fun to see the local wildlife.
But now things have gotten out of hand.

It's not just that they throw dirt all over the place, and toss stones about, and destroy my twig edgings.

They dig deep holes around the plants, tearing up the roots.

That leaves the poor plants exposed for five or more days until we can leave the city and return to the lake.  In this heat the plants die pretty quickly with their roots uncovered.

This little evergreen and the camellia behind it are deeply distressed.
I tucked the ajuga back in and most of them look like they will make it, but all the annuals died.

Here is a lovely patch of purple mazus before...

...and here is the same spot after an armadillo had lunch on what ever grubs and worms were living underneath the plants.

Apparently armadillos were once much larger (yikes!). 
The small version is trouble enough.

They ignore being shouted at, and are not afraid of the dog.
They do have a strong aversion to being sprayed with the hose and can run pretty fast!
But we are going to put up an armadillo fence - more on that project later.

I did finish planting prostrate rosemary along the front curve of the driveway garden. 

The Black Diamond crepe myrtle continue to be excellent performers!

The millettia reticulata is in bloom for the first time. This is it's third summer. Sometimes called evergreen wisteria, it is not related to real wisteria (Wisteria senensis).

And the desert willow trees are in bloom with their lovely orchid-like flowers.

Here is one of the passion flower vines looking just as it should - completely devoured!
Brilliant orange caterpillars are still foraging on it, while the butterflies have moved on to the butterfly bush nearby.

Happy gardening, friends!