Yard and Garden

Tree farm: summer migration

According to our resident green thumb guy, Bryan, the office redbuds were finally big enough to be transplanted into bigger pots a couple of weeks ago. The only thing was, though lush and luxuriant, they were also pitiably weak and floppy from spending their whole lives indoors, protected from wind and temperature spikes and enjoying thrice-weekly watering.

 Lush beauties

There they are to the right, sharing the window and the beautiful Dumpster view with another coworker's large-scale jade propagation experiment. 


Lush beauties

To compare: I planted these from seed from the same tree the same week as the giants up above, but they've been outside on the back patio this whole time. They've endured frost, heat, neglect, and not-terribly-regular watering. As a result, they are tiny but tough--the stems are rigid and the leaves are like leather. 

Bryan gave me some metro shelves and recommended I take the floppy indoor guys home to my patio for a few weeks so they'd harden off a bit before transplanting. They do indeed seem to have a little more backbone than before. 


Lush beauties

(I have better pictures of the shelf setup, but I really wanted to show off the 1.75 inches of rain we got yesterday afternoon. The temperature dropped from 100 to 75 in about 20 minutes after the sky opened up. It was great.) 


Lush beauties

Bryan had become so dedicated to the cause he even came over to the house yesterday to transplant the seedlings into gallon pots so they'll have more soil and therefore moisture to grow in. In exchange we let him hang out with √úter.

Eric and I also cooked him Tandoori chicken and homemade naan on my new gas grill, which I am sure you will read all about in due time; I am deeply in love with it.

Gallon repot

So now we just water, and wait. As soon as it cools off this fall it'll be time to put them in the ground. 

IMG_2034

In the meantime, I just put some Texas mountain laurel seeds in some pots in the front office, and I notice the redbud seeds from this spring are also about ready to pick and plant. Maybe I'll just keep doing this every year until my entire yard is choked with redbuds and becomes a vast cloud of pink for two weeks every March. 


Buckle up, everyone--it's time for a redbud update!

IMG_0600

I know! It's so exciting!

We now have a total of six redbud plants growing in the front office.

IMG_0602

Since the last update, several more seeds sprouted, grew a little, and then failed to thrive, but these dudes seem pretty stable. I have several growing in little pots at home, too--those probably sprouted later because they are outside and subject to the whims of our winterless weather.

Anyway, another couple inches and then it's time to put them in bigger pots. I'll probably keep them on my back porch at home until they're ready to plant next winter. There's a nice blend of shade and sun back there, and I won't forget to water them if they're in a spot I walk past several times a day. 

The end about redbuds. For now. 


Now let's look at pretty flowers!

IMG_0543

Bluebonnets! Last year there was a huge smashed-down dent right in the middle of our display where someone presumably plopped their kid down for pictures, the cornballs. So far, though, this season our patch has remained unmolested. The firewheels are starting to poke their orange heads up and will gradually eclipse the bluebonnets over the next several weeks.

IMG_0535

Our neighbor's trumpet vine is going bananas right now. It seems unfair that the display is so much more robust on our side of the fence, but we aren't going to complain.

IMG_0539

These aren't flowers, but holy crap, look at the rosemary. Here's the same bed about six years ago, for comparison. Also there appears to be a handsome man sprouting from the prickly pear. Not sure what his story is.

IMG_0577

I don't remember what these are called, but they really are that color in real life. If anything, the blue-violet is even more intense when you lay eyes on it. I need to figure out what they are so I can buy more and put them everywhere--does anyone know?

IMG_0560

I got a packet of Indian paintbrush seeds and planted them last fall. Exactly one has bloomed.

The link assures me that a sparse paintbrush year is normal during a bluebonnet bumper crop year, though, which makes me feel a little better, not least because those seeds are really expensive! Maybe they're just waiting for the right time.

Not pictured: lantana, four-nerve daisy, and fragrant lime and lemon blossoms. Our yard is exuberant with blooms, butterflies, and bees this month. Sometimes hard work does pay off.

IMG_0587

Please indulge me by looking at one more picture of the bluebonnets, plus some salvia and bulbines, as seen looking up the hill yesterday afternoon. Happy spring, y'all!


Ugly flowers

After almost a whole week of rain, the sun came out and the world is blooming. I have a lot of really beautiful flowering plants around the yard I'd like to show you, but first, let's visit some of the, uh, less conventionally attractive ones.

IMG_0550

The arugula flower is almost aggressively homely: four sparse petals with dark veins. I'll be seeing a lot of these as they bolt and go to seed. I plan to collect all the veggies' seeds this year. I mean, they come free with the plant, so why not try to save a few bucks next year?

IMG_0546

Sometimes I stick the root ends of used green onions around the edges of pots to get another round or two out of them--they grow back pretty well. I accidentally let these get really big, and now they are flowering. The flowers are tiny and unremarkable, although it's been fun to watch them burst out of their papery pods. I guess they will produce seeds too. Probably a lot of them, judging by the looks of these things. Anyone want to plant onions this spring?

IMG_0547

I didn't know paddle plants flowered! But this year they did, sending up big, cream-colored stalks. This particular pot of them served as our wedding table centerpiece, so I am particularly fond of it. I don't know if they produce viable seeds--they seem to propagate just fine on their own. We've got paddle plants all over the damn place here.

IMG_0575

Anyway, the flowers themselves are small, crowded, and kind of weird looking, but that's okay. This bee sure doesn't seem to mind.

Next time: Pretty flowers!


Redbud buddy

I was puttering around the front yard this afternoon when I noticed the profusion of seed pods hanging from the leafless redbud tree. I'd had moderate luck in getting mountain laurel* seeds to grow and stunning success in planting the red yucca**, *** seeds my coworker Sarah gave me. So hell, let's plant some redbuds!

According the the Wildflower Center, you can conduct a test to see which seeds are capable of sprouting.

As in a witch trial, the ones that sink are good and the ones that float are bad.

IMG_7945

"And this isn't my nose; it's a false one!"

Unlike in witch trials, the good ones were then carefully pulled out of the water and roughed up with a piece of sandpaper.

I have them in the freezer now and will wallop them with boiling water and a long soak before I go to bed.

I really hope these sprout. I want to plant a bunch of these so I can have pretty little redbud trees all over the yard, and I want to give some away, and I just might plant some more on a neglected strip of dirt here and there.

420045023_ef6d94acb9_z

Photo by Marcia Cirillo, Creative Commons

They are great little trees for Austin--drought tolerant and attractive. They like a range of light conditions, and of course their hazy pink blooms light up the city for about two weeks every spring. The blooms and the immature seed pods are edible too, although I haven't tried that beyond popping an exploratory flower into my mouth last spring. I don't remember it tasting like much, maybe a little fruity and a little perfume-y.

*AKA the grape Kool-Aid tree, for its fragrant spring blossoms that just smell...purple.

**Not really a yucca, I just learned.

***I should really give the Wildflower Center some scratch one of these days. Their plant database is indispensable. 


T minus one

I am ready for it to be tomorrow. We're smoking a bird and having a few people over to eat it, which is one of the best things in life. The weather is supposed to be shitty, which is too bad, because I love hanging out in the backyard while the smoker runs, working in the garden and playing with the dogs and maybe doing a little day drinking. But that's okay. We can move the smoker under the patio cover and watch the rain instead.

I think I'm going to liveblog the bird smoking tomorrow, too, just because that sounds kind of fun. So I'll stop writing now; I'd hate to wear my typing fingers out.


Passion!

Passionflower
Photo credit: Len Burgess

Today I planted the passionflower vine my friend Phyllis* gave me the other week. It was tricky, since I was planting it in sloping clay soil, and it took a lot of effort to dig a big level hole in that sticky dirt. Also there was apparently a little city of mosquitoes living in the pot it came in, so even though I had coated myself in DEET I had a tiny cloud of observers hovering a few inches from my efforts.

No problem; I got it in. I hope it likes its new home.

Ambivalent flower

I put it next to the deck in hopes that it will twine up the railings. The plant itself is not nearly as dramatic as its Seussian flower, is it?

It didn't seem that thrilled about being moved to begin with, and the caterpillars were feasting on it heartily, so it looks a little sickly. But if this is a good spot for it, I'm sure it will do fine.

Caterpillar

This caterpillar tried to hitch a ride on my gardening glove. Nice try, buddy.

Gulf f

Photo credit: Vicki DeLoach

My friend and coworker Larry told me these guys will eventually become Gulf fritillary butterflies, and I'm really looking forward to having them around. I noticed a few of the caterpillars strayed from the plant when I was driving it home--I peeled one off the gear shift the next morning--so maybe I'll have butterflies in the cabin of my car, too.

*Yep, there's Phyllis again. Some people have this way about them that you spend one evening with them and they influence you for weeks, or sometimes years.


A few things I liked today:

Shiny
Ooh, shiny!

Ok, this first one is boring because it's just the weather. But oh, wow, today. Cool air, yellow sun, blue skies, green everything else from the rain. Days like this are a Texan's reward for putting up with August.

 

The next thing I liked is a little boring too. Ok, boring's not fair at all; it was slow and contemplative, as is only fitting about a documentary about a topiary gardener.

I think A Man Named Pearl is only available on DVD right now, but it was worth waiting for. A really sweet movie, with lots of greenery to enjoy if you like that kind of thing. Many thanks to Phyllis for recommending it.

Bow wow

(I don't have a picture of Phyllis at the moment, so here's a picture of her dog Bow Wow instead.)

The last thing I liked today, or at least liked enough to write about it, is this blog. It looks like it hasn't been updated in a while, but it's written by Mad Mike, a man who spends his days walking around Austin looking for, and often finding, drugs on the ground. His lengthy account of the week he spent in jail is excellent. This Vice interview gives a quick background of the guy if you're curious.

Now, sadly, I must stop looking at things I like and go to bed. I hope your day was full of things you like too.


Seed bombs and a resolution

It finally cooled off a little and started raining in Central Texas, which means it's time to plant wildflower seeds for next spring. We had a lot of firewheel seeds left over from this spring's bloom--like a gallon container's worth--so we decided to make some seed bombs and spread the wealth around.

The idea is that you encase your seeds in some clay and some compost so they can easily be tossed wherever you want seeds to grow. The compost gives the seedlings a little boost, and the clay holds it all together and provides a planting medium, but only when conditions are right and it rains enough.

Our backyard is mostly clay, so that was easy to find. I dug a bucket of that up and mixed in a few trowels of compost from the bin. Which I hadn't finished very well, so there are eggshells and dryer lint and maybe a couple of banana stickers mixed in with the seeds. I doubt the seeds care, so I went with it. 

Once all the supplies were arranged, the rest was pretty simple. 

IMG_6857

You take a handful of clay mixture and make a little indentation in there.

IMG_6859

Sprinkle some seeds into the middle.

IMG_6863 (1)

Add a little water to help it bond.

IMG_6868

Squish it into a ball.

IMG_6870

Add it to your growing pile.

(Many thanks to my seed bomb stylist and hand model, Mr. Krotpong.) 

We have a few places in mind for these, but we're on the lookout for more, so suggestions are welcome. Wherever we toss them needs to get at least some sun and is preferably not mowed very often. That shouldn't be too hard to find around here. 

I have some extra bluebonnet seeds that I might use later, but I gotta think about that a little more. Bluebonnets are a little more finicky about sunlight and drainage than firewheels, which grow and spread like, well, wildfire. Anyway, here's hoping we can get a few blooms to brighten up the neighborhood a little, maybe give the butterflies and bees a snack while we're at it.

Oh, and a weird garden update. Remember the agave that poked me in the eye? Eric and I were having a hard time figuring out what to do with it. It's too big to move but too dangerous to stay. Really I was just putting off cutting it down, in part because removing it was going to be a sweaty, scrapy, stabby massacre, and in part because even though it's a jerk, I really loved that plant.

IMG_6871

Well, it decided for us by rotting out right from the center and collapsing. 

I've learned a lot from this plant: Picking the right site is very important. Adequate drainage is a must for desert plants.

And despite what anyone tells you, if you wait long enough, your problems will just solve themselves.