Saturday, November 26, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

...and it's meager beginnings. Generally on the Saturday following Thanksgiving my Christmas decorations are complete, both inside and outside. I'm getting off to a much slower start this year for some reason. So far I've only managed to take down the fall and Thanksgiving decorations and pull together the dining room tablescape.


Fall really is my favorite time of year and I was completely smitten the first time I found acorns and autumn leaves incorporated into Christmas decorations. I love the white acorns I found to add to my table centerpiece.



After finishing the table I ran out of energy and have little desire to even get the tree down from the attic. Hopefully my next post will be of my tree and mantle both decked out for the holidays.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Care and Maintence: Grandiflora Rose Variety

In 1954, in honor of Queen Elizabeth, Grandiflora roses were created by crossing hybrid tea roses and floribundas. They are a tall and vigorous hybrid with large flowers and long stems that grow in clusters. They are popular but ironically, in England aren't even recognized as a distinct variety. There are several varieties and newer strains tend to be shorter and more compact than the older varieties. The care for grandifloras is similar to that of hybrid tea roses. Compared to most roses, they need a bit more attention including watering, fertilizing and in some cases, fungicide.

Proper pruning of these roses can result in a healthier bush with more abundant blooms. Prune rather severely in January or February.
  1. Prune most aggressively in late winter, when the plant is dormant--all the leaves have dropped off, and there are no visible signs of growth. At this time you should remove all dead or diseased wood. Keep in mind to cut canes above a bud slanting away from the bud.
  2. Remove any canes that are touching or crossing each other, and prune out twigs and branches from the center of the bush to allow light and air to circulate.
  3. Cut canes back to a height of 18 to 24 inches. From new canes, prune off only one third. If the bush is very dense with canes, thin them out, using pruning shears remove all but 5-8 of the oldest canes, leave more on vigorous shrubs. If the canes are thick, use lopping shears or a pruning saw.
  4. Prune gently during blooming and growing season. Shape the plant by cutting back depending on what you want the bush to do. Look at the leaflet clusters. Rose leaves usually cluster in groups of 5 and 7. Each type of cluster results in a somewhat different growth patterns.
  5. Cut for new blooms. Dead head flowers down to the next leaf with 5 leaflets. If you want to stimulate blooms, cut the rose branch at a 5-leaflet cluster. Prune about ¼-inch above where the leaf stem meets the branch--the new bud is tucked in there. The resulting branch will be shorter and bloom sooner.
  6. Cut for new branches. If you want to stimulate new branch growth (which will result in new blooms at the end, but it will take longer) cut the rose branch at the 7-leaflet cluster. Prune about a ¼-inch above where the leaf stem meets the branch--the new bud is set in there.
  7. Keep an eye out for die back ( when branches turn yellow or black, and then die) or diseased wood. This can happen throughout the season and should be removed in a timely manner.
  8. Clean up all debris and dispose of properly to avoid pests and disease gathering on the trimmings.
Pruning Tips:
  1. When pruning, always prune at an angle to prevent saturation on the open wound of the branch. This helps it seal more quickly.
  2. Seal the open cuts on shrubs and bushes to minimize infection. Consider using water-based Elmer’s glue.
  3. Don't spray water on the bush immediately after pruning; you may increase the risk of infection on the cut because it literally is open. Give the wound a few hours to seal over.
Appearance and Description
  1. Grandiflora roses tend to be taller bushes, often growing up to 6 feet, and are usually characterized by clusters of large flowers on long stems.
  2. With proper care, they bloom almost continuously from late spring to autumn.
  3. The aromas and scents from them can be described as “sweet tea”
  4. Petals per bloom: 30
  5. Bloom size: 5"
Location
  1. Zones 5-10
  2. Plant in fertile, well-drained soil
  3. Roses prefer a neutral to slightly acidic soil
  4. Plant where roses receive sun for 6 hours or more
  5. Air circulation is important
  6. Space 3-5 feet apart
  7. Eastern exposure is beneficial
Watering
Roses require more frequent watering than most other landscape plants.
  1. During the cool winter months, water roses once a week or when needed.
  2. In spring and fall, loam soils are usually irrigated two to three times per week.
  3. During the summer heat you will probably need to water three or four times per week (3-4 gal./plant). You may have to water every day, depending on soil and weather conditions. (Clay soil retains more moisture than sandy soil. Loam soil is between clay and sand.)
  4. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings, but don’t allow the plant to become stressed.
Fertilizing
Roses need frequent applications of a slow-release fertilizer
  1. The first application of slow-release fertilizer should be applied after the roses have been pruned in January or February and repeated every six weeks until June.
  2. Roses can be given a break during the hot summer months with no fertilizer applications. Then start the slow-release fertilizer again in September, with the last application around mid-October.
Planting roses
  1. Follow planting guide from the providing nursery
  2. Be sure the bud (graft) union is just below soil level
  3. Select healthy plants, if packaged or bare root plants are dry, immerse in water for a few hours.
  4. Container roses can be planted year-round.
Preventative Care and Maintenance
  1. Deep water to a depth of 2 feet throughout the growing season.
  2. Hose off roses regularly with water. Spray in the early morning before the sun gets hot to decrease chances of leaf burn. Spray the underside of the leaf. This will keep the roses clean, increase the surrounding humidity, and will help to control insects before they can cause any damage.
  3. Use a forceful water spray to eliminate aphids and spider mites.
  4. Roses slow down during hot months and produce smaller and fewer blooms. Remove spent blooms by cutting back to the first five-leaflet set. Leave as much foliage as possible, which will help to shade the bush.
  5. Shade the trunks of tree roses during hot summers to prevent sunburn. Painting the trunk with white tree paint or covering the trunk with cardboard or shade cloth will also help.
  6. Watch for sucker growth on grafted roses. These are canes that come from below the bud union. They appear different from the other canes. Cut them off below the bud (graft) union.
  7. Seal all pruning cuts with a good wood glue to prevent cane borers from entering. The borer larva eats the stem center and the infested cane grows poorly or dies. Cut back the injured cane an inch at a time until you find healthy wood.
  8. Learn to recognize Lady Beetles, Lace Wings and other beneficial insects in all stages of their lives (egg, pupa, adult).
  9. Check roses on a regular basis to identify potential problems.
  10. At the end of the growing season, slow down the plant growth and allow the plant to harden off by leaving the rose hips on the bush after the last blooming cycle.

Diseases
Grandifloras are resistant to powdery mildew.
Diseases and pests to look for include

Aphids
  1. Suck on new growth and buds starting early spring
  2. Control with forceful spray of water or spray with soapy water, repeat daily to control population if necessary
  3. Beneficials: lady beetles and green lacewings
Spider mites
  1. Small, on leaves
  2. Sometimes webbing
  3. Hot, dry weather
  4. Often increase in numbers if a broad spectrum pesticide killed beneficials
  5. Damage to buds cosmetic
  6. Strong stream of (soapy) water
Thrips
  1. Damage on petals
  2. Thrips in new buds
  3. Damage mostly cosmetic
Cane borer
  1. Tunnels into canes soon after winter pruning -- seal prune wound with Elmer's Glue immediately after pruning
  2. If a hole is present in prune wound, cut back until cane is healthy
  3. Use wood glue to seal wound if desired
Leaf cutter bees
  1. Circular leaf cuts
  2. Damage only cosmetic
Crown gall
  1. Caused by Agrobacterium tumefaciens
  2. Infects through wounds
  3. Plant gradually declines as gall develops at base of plant
  4. Remove and destroy infected plants
  5. Don’t replant roses in this soil
Rose mosaic virus
  1. Spreads only through infected stock
  2. Not transmitted through pruners or shovels
  3. Weakens plant over many years
  4. No cure
Salinity
  1. If soil salinity is too high, excess salts cause leaf injury and dieback.
  2. Remedy by leaching with sufficient irrigation water to push salts below the root zone.
Nutrient deficiencies
  1. Optimum pH for roses is 6.0 - 6.5
  2. Iron deficiency – leaves yellow between the green veins, apply chelated iron
  3. Nitrogen deficiency – old leaves yellow first, spindly growth, small and few flowers, fertilize according to package instructions
  4. Magnesium deficiency – Edges of old leaves turn yellow, apply magnesium sulfate (epsom salt) to rose bushes  

    The Arizona

1975 AARS Rating: 5.8
Classification: Grandiflora
Fragrance: strong tea
Flower description: orange blend, double blooms, 30-35 petals
Foliage color and growth habits: bronze green, semi-glossy, 4'-6'

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Purple Haze

Saturday morning began with a lot of dew and a foggy purple haze. Autumn is in the air.

 
Is there anything more beautiful than heavy droplets of dew glistening in morning light?

Flower-Gathering

I left you in the morning,
And in the morning glow,
You walked a way beside me
To make me sad to go.


....Robert Frost

The meager autumn plantings are coming in nicely.


After a recent rain shower the purple sage burst into bloom.

The showers also encouraged a mass of blooms from the Montezuma rose.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Could it be?

Is it really, finally, autumn in North Texas? We are beginning to see cooler temps and shorter days.

I love this change of season, maybe even a little more than the transition from winter to spring. Shorter days are welcome and remind me that there is less to do now, time to slow down. At the same time, cooler temps jump start my energy level and suddenly there's a new found interest in the depleted gardens.

I was so excited to find chrysanthemums and pansies on sale at Calloways yesterday. I had the perfect planter at home waiting for them, another recent steal of a deal that I got for 75% off.

I added a yellow chrysanthemum, a sprig of the already established lime green sweet potato vine, and a wisp of deep purple wandering Jew.

A few pansies added even more color, and a Spanish dagger provided texture.

Weather permitting, the plants will fill in a little and add a nice splash of color to welcome the new season.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fertilizer! Magic Potion or toxic formula?

A few years ago, during an online search for something garden related I came across some very helpful information published by Mike McGroarty. At that time I signed up to receive his newsletter by email. Since then, for two reasons I've read each and every newsletter sent by Mike. The first reason is because they are manageable, arriving once a month or so if that often. And second, the information he provides is relevant and usable. Lately, as I've been mentally preparing for the change in seasons and with a lot of new plants in the ground this year, I've had doubts and uncertainty about fertilizing during the fall season. I was glad to see Mike's newsletter on Fertilizer arrive in my inbox just a few days ago:

Fertilizer!  Magic Potion or toxic formula?

I just came in from sitting on the front porch and I was admiring the large bed of Impatiens that Pam and I planted under and around the willow tree.  What a blast of color!

Then I thought about what I feed them.

But first, let's do the fertilizer crash course.  On a bag of fertilizer you will see three numbers like 12-12-12 or 18-6-4 or 5-36-5.  Here's what the numbers mean and  what they mean to you as a gardener.

The first number is the percentage of nitrogen in that particular bag of fertilizer.  Plants need and love nitrogen, but like banana splits, too much of a good thing is not a good thing.  So you have to make sure you are not putting too much nitrogen on any particular plant.

By the way, I like Banana Splits.  Can you tell?

The second or middle number on a bag of fertilizer is phosphorous.  Phosphorous is like an under the hood tune up for plants.  Phosphorous plays an important role by helping the plant absorb and use the nitrogen and other nutrients that a plant needs from the soil in order to be healthy and happy. 

Phosphorous really aids in the photosynthesis process and essentially makes and keeps the plant healthy.  Which means the plant will produce more flowers and fruit.  So basically, it takes the correct amount of phosphorous for plants to flower beautifully.

The third or last number on the bag of fertilizer is the percentage of Potassium in the fertilizer.  Also called potash.  Potassium gives plants stamina because it helps plants absorb and use water.  Usually there is plenty of potassium in the soil, but much of it is not in a form that plants can absorb.  The potassium in a bag of fertilizer is water soluble and easily absorbed by plants. Potassium helps plants survive drought conditions because
it helps the plant use water more efficiently.

So what does all that mean?  That means that you have to use the correct fertilizer for the particular plant you are fertilizing.  However, the fertilizer companies have made this easy for us because a lawn fertilizer has a very high amount of nitrogen because your grass grows a lot more than typical plants and grass needs and will use more nitrogen.

A garden fertilizer might have a formulation of 12-12-12 or 14-14-14.  You can use either one, don't get too caught up in the details.  But a garden fertilizer is meant to be applied to your garden before you plant and it releases those elements very quickly upon  application. It's good for a bare garden, but not so good for established plants in your landscape.  Unless used very sparingly.

Fertilizer companies make fertilizers for things like hanging baskets that are really high in phosphorous to help the plants make lots and lots of flowers.

What I use on the flowers in my beds is a product called Osmocote.  Osmocote has a lot of different formulations but what I often use is the 14-14-14.

But!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Don't confuse Osmocote 14-14-14 with a garden fertilizer that says 14-14-14 on the label. 

Osmocote is a coated fertilizer that is engineered to release it's formula very slowly over a period of months. Unlike a garden fertilizer that releases fully in a matter of days.  Some Osmocote releases over 3-4 months. Some of the formulations take as long as 8 or 9 months to release.

I like the Osmocote 14-14-14 that releases over 3 to 4 months for my flower beds because is just sprinkle it over the bed after I plant my flowers and let it slowly feed the flowers all summer long.

What about things like Miracle-Gro, do they work? 

Yes, Miracle-Gro is a good product.  The liquid formula releases very, very quickly but is safe when used as recommended.  It's a quick release, but safer form of nitrogen.  So even if you have fertilized your flowers with Osmocote slow release granular fertilizer, you won't hurt a thing by giving them a little Miracle-Gro along the way.

Another brand name that I've used successfully on my flowers is Jack's Classic Plant Food, formerly known as Peters liquid fertilizer.

Okay!  That's a lot but I hope you find it informative and useful.
 Here's Mike in 2000 on the cover of Mother Earth News:

Here's the link to sign up for Mike's newsletters: http://www.freeplants.com/signup.htm

Friday, August 26, 2011

Endless Summer

I've never been so ready to wrap up the summer season. This one has been incredibly hot and dry, leaving the area under water restrictions, buckling streets and sidewalks, and dying vegetation. According the the ten day forecast there's no end in sight, yet. Fortunately some trees and plants seem to fare better under extreme conditions. In fact, my hosta has bloomed for the second time this year. That's never happened before. Her leaves are beginning to yellow and curl as they should in late August, and evidence of blooms from two months earlier still stand tall behind the recent purple cascade.


Lantana keeps on looking beautiful regardless the heat and drought.


It was a bold move to plant maple saplings in July but at 75% off I couldn't pass up the opportunity. After two months of TLC, I think they very well may survive.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fallen Fledgling Robin

A baby robin has fallen from its nest onto the front lawn. Poor thing I believe is a fledgling, but I'm not certain. The feathers on its wings appear to be rather full but the mother is still coming down to feed it. I don't believe it is hurt, or if hurt, not badly. There are no cats in the neighborhood, thankfully but you never know what else is lurking about. I spotted several dark birds in the top of the tree where the nest is. They could have been trying to make a meal of the babies. If the mother hasn't coaxed it into the shrubs, or if it's unable to move to a safer area in a couple of hours I'll put it under the holly bushes next to the house.

I took this first picture through the screen so it is not very clear. The baby is next to the mother robin (circled in red).


After the mother flew back up into the tree, I went out to make sure the baby was not badly hurt. It seems okay and not in distress.


Mother is fearfully watching from within the branches overhead. The leaves are too thick to even see the nest which is most likely high up in the tree.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mesmerizing Moon

It isn't often I'm able to get a decent photo of the moon, but the sky was very bright last evening as the moon rose over the neighbor's rooftop. I can't help but be mesmerized when the moon is full.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

New Sapling brings a New Visitor

In hopes of enjoying some shade and some bold, vivid colors in autumn, I recently planted two new saplings in the backyard. One is a Silver Maple which in this area, I believe turns yellow in fall. The other is an October Glory Maple which should turn bright red for autumn.

This morning I discovered a visitor has latched onto the trunk of the October Glory. This jar fly, or as some may know it, a cicada has been in this same position for hours.


I wonder if it's molting. The colors are bright and vibrant which gives me doubts that it is about to shed an old skin but I'm surprised that it isn't moving from this spot.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Montezuma

I purchased the watermelon colored Montezuma rose a little late in the season this year and with only one tiny bud in sight. I've never had good luck growing roses but have decided to give it another try. My first rose purchase in years was made in April when I became mesmerized by the luscious Arizona Grandiflora. She has showed true beauty and grit throughout the record breaking heat we've been experiencing in North Texas.

With much fuss and even a lot more careful watering, the Montezuma is doing well also. The blooms are a bit stunted, by the heat I'm sure, but the color is rich and vibrant and I've managed to get a couple of interesting pictures.

I like this one with sunlight shining through the leaves so they almost appear translucent.




I've read this particular variety of tea rose is highly susceptible to disease. So far it is doing well with morning to mid-day sun and normal to moist, loamy clay soil.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Textures

I love evening, the way the slanting sun sifts through trees and casts dappled shadows upon the ground, the last of the day's light squeezes between weathered, sun-bleached slats to plunge full force into the backyard. This is when colors seem to come alive, flowers glow, leaves dance in evening haze. What is seemingly one color by day, is much different in the evening light.



Saturday, May 28, 2011

Eggs Gone Astray

A few weeks ago I thought it would be fun to place a little resin bird-in-nest figurine at the base of one of my large holly trees. The hand shaped hollow at the base of the holly seemed the perfect resting place for the nest. Within the nest I placed three wooden eggs painted blue, almost the same color as the nest and bird.

Two days ago I found one of the eggs laying outside the nest. I was pretty sure it had been moved by a squirrel. I placed the egg back in the nest.

This morning I found only one egg in the nest and the other two were no where in sight.



I walked around the yard a bit, not really expecting to find the missing eggs, not really looking for them, but there on the ground at the base of a tree lay one of the strays. Upon one end I found incriminating teeth marks. Of course they were left by some crazy squirrel who must have been quite surprised to learn this was no ordinary nut.



I placed this one, teethmarks and all, back in the nest. Finding this little stray gave me hope I might also find the third. There I was, the last weekend in May hunting eggs on the front lawn. I did a thorough examination of the front lawn and the raised bed surrounding the holly tree but there was no sign of the third missing egg. My guess is that the squirrel either carried it out of the yard or buried it. I may never know. I expect eventually, and probably much sooner than later, they will all disappear, buried or carried into another yard. It will be fun to see how long it takes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

In All Her Glory

As per my usual routine when getting home from work each day, today I took Phoebe out into the backyard for a stroll. She scampered playfully in the grass, darting this way and that, while I had my eye on something else, something I'd been impatiently awaiting for several days. After last night's wind and hail storm I wasn't sure in what shape I'd find the fragile buds of the Arizona Grandiflora. I was delighted, and more than a bit surprised, to find the once tender buds now blossoming into tangerine, melon, yellow, and pink. There she stood, in all her glory glistening in the tapering sunlight.


The hail damage is slight and only noticeable along the delicate edges of the first layer of petals. I suppose the house and eave above shielded her from the brunt of the storm.

This one, a tiny bud just beginning to open.


Rich yellow tones are tucked away between petals, hidden near the flower's center.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Arizona Grandiflora Rose

The newly planted tea rose on the northeast corner of the house arrived exactly four weeks ago sporting a single peach colored bloom. Although it was evident the color was rich and vibrant, there were no other buds in sight. After buckets of rainfall, literally buckets since I planted her near the downspout, the lovely Arizona is now heavy laden with a profusion of enormous buds.


It will be incredible when the five of these bloom but there are more. On lower branches, buds half the size of these await their turn to shine.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Saucer of Beer

The two year old hosta put on quite a show this spring. She's a beauty, if I do say so myself.


But there is definitely a snail or slug problem. The damage, for the most part, is concentrated to one general area on upper and outward facing leaves.

I have small dogs and refuse to use pesticides in this area of the yard so I'm trying a few alternatives before I resort to actually going on a snail hunt. Last night I placed a saucer of beer under the affected area.


They took the bait, er beer, but not really. There was nary a snail or slug found in the saucer but there were 5 other bugs.


I'm open for pup-friendly suggestions on how to get rid of these pests.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Morning Dew

Morning sun filters through heavy cracks in the tired, weathered gray fence. Morning dewdrops dance like brilliant jewels in the bright sunlight weighing heavily on tender, spring leaves. Tiny droplets roll downward, nervously darting this way and that, bumping and drifting into other droplets, forming thick beaded strands until eventually they roll off and disappear into the thirsty red mulch.



Thursday, April 14, 2011

From Whence I Came

A couple of entries back I introduced myself as a transplant to the Dallas area. To add a little to the story, I suppose I should share from whence I came. As a girl my roots were first planted in the hills of North Arkansas (which we'll visit sometime as well). After marriage, schooling, work and so forth, I settled in Central Arkansas just outside of Little Rock in a charming cottage I lovingly dubbed Lil' Haven.


With many reservations and concerns about caring for the place on my own, I bought the house after a divorce. Having no idea what to expect initially, it turned out that within a couple of years I transformed the place into a lovely little retreat.



The area is just outside of farming country, river bottoms is what they called it. A nearby farm provided a fall harvest that remains unsurpassed by any I've ever seen. Schaefer's Farm provided a spectacular fare of pumpkins, straw bales, corn stalks and a plethora of exotic gourds and squash for autumn decorating.


But after years of solitude and bliss, that restless desire to move on, to begin a new adventure, took hold. Lil' Haven and I parted ways and I headed west into the sunset.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spring Came Quickly

Spring came as quickly as the last snowfall melted in Dallas, Texas. From spindly, feeble branches, and winter ravaged foliage, plumes of fuchsia and pink covered nearly every trace of the haggard Azalea. Spent leaves, pockmarked and yellow from shards of sleet and bitter cold, fall to the ground beneath her.


Carolina jasmine crept over the north fence to bathe in a pool of golden sunlight. Warmth was scarce on the north side where her roots lay. Brilliant and buttery she fell just short of glowing as cascades of yellow trailed down the weathered gray fence.


Heavy, blue poms overtake the small frame of a newly planted hydrangea. Struggling to stay upright she sways and dips as a gust of spring wind whips round the red brick corner of the north facing wall.


And last of all, crisp white blossoms surround the delicate pout of crimson centered hearts. Masculine, woody stems and oak like leaves provide an unexpected backdrop for the delicate flower of the bleeding heart. In full bloom, there's no longer a trace of the unmistakable heart-shaped flower that first appeared.


.....see you in the garden.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Introduction

Good Afternoon,

I'm a transplant in the Dallas, Texas area. Almost three years ago I moved here with my new husband. Since then my now 22 year old daughter, who was in Florida working for Walt Disney, has moved back in then moved out again and we've added two dogs to the family. The dogs are Toby, a yorkie, and Phoebe, a silky terrier. I'll mention them a lot--the dogs, not the daughter or husband.

Although there is much more to learn, I've learned a few things about the climate in this area:

1. It's hot!
2. It's dry!
3. There's very little dirt and lots of clay.

There isn't much else a person needs to know until those three obstacles are overcome. So far I've learned how to shade garden. I have a nice little collection going on the north side of the house. Other than that I've done very little or what I have done isn't worth mentioning. I want to change that.

Other than doing a little gardening, I'm a full-time student working on my master's degree in Library Science. I work part-time at a corporate library. I love HGTV and when/if I have any free time, I spend it trying to learn how to tear out and replace the back-splash in the kitchen and the tile surround on the fireplace. My motivation isn't completely about earning the degree. It isn't so much about turning a part-time job into a full-time job, nor to buy a car, or the money, or anything like that. It is to have enough time to tear down some really ugly tile and put up something that's pleasing to my chi.

There's always a project to look forward to. I never finish one project before I have several new possibilities in the back of my mind.