Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Walk In The Woods

Enjoying their lovely summer weather, everyone in the garden blogosphere (particularly those in New England and real England) keeps posting about their wonderful jaunts into the woods, and all the ferns, and ladyslippers and cute flowers they keep encountering on the way. I can imagine the temperate air with the breeze in my face, and I can smell the damp leaves and hear the brook in the background.

But here, I can't.  I drag out my air machete to chop through the air so humid it now has atomic weight, the high pitched buzz of mosquitos sings in my ears and the sweat is dripping down my...everything.  The air is completely still, and let me check, oh hey not bad, 97 degrees.

But still, for the blog, I too must go for my walk in the woods.  I don my alligator repellent tshirt, and head out in my trusty black car (I bought this car before I became a card carrying member of the South, OBVIOUSLY), and I zip over a bridge.  (Click all pictures to enlarge to pretend you are here with me - trust me it makes a difference.)

(Hey, I'm serious! do it!)

Ah, the woods!

Marguerite (my post inspiration) commented last post that its easy to forget how different each of our climates are, because as things are all relative, we all complain about the cold when its cold to us, the hot when its hot to us.  I also stubbornly plant a garden thats not really all that indicative of what a lot of people grow around here.   Ick canna, be gone!

Anyhow, the woods here are beautiful in their own way, sort of a vampire way, its true, but still very beautiful and they are filled with cool stuff too.  Not hills, dales or valleys mind you (the highest point around here for 500 miles was that bridge we crossed to get to these here woods, at a whole 30 feet)... but we do have ruins!

As hard as it is to believe, vestiges of the civil war still exist around here and this one, at least, has taken on a roman ruin quality.

Okay, moving along, lest the mosquitos give us some fell disease, what else do we have... oh, swamps!  The word sounds awful, and we are now supposed to use the politically correct 'marsh' (which doesn't sounds any more appealing to me than swamp, and like the swamp cares what we call it), BUT they are also truly very pretty.  And more filled with wildlife than anyplace else I've ever been, this side of East Africa.

Our swamps are filled with cypress and tupelo and the water is stained black because of it.  Not that you would want to go swimming in it anyway... there is no such thing as fresh water swimming around here, unless its lined with blue plastic.  All freshwater is inhabited by alligators and really mean turtles.  I'm not kidding.  Those cute little things can kill! They have dinosaur claws too.  There's also these fish that jump backwards out of the water, called mullets, and well, they probably can't hurt you, but you know what they say.. you are definitely a little backwards if you're caught sporting a mullet. So for life, limb and social acceptance, its just best to steer clear of the fresh water altogether.

So, there you have it.  My little walk for today is complete.  I hope you enjoyed it, cause I don't plan on going without AC for this long again until late September when it gets back to being a great place to live around here!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Beyond the Picket Fence

With a few exceptions, which can only be completed when it cools down, and of course some tinkering, the garden in the white picket fence is chock full.  For now, I can do no more.  I still have to replace the hedge screen hiding the hideous and huge furnace, which also requires replacing the fencing there, but that will be done when I can be outside without risk of heat stroke, severe dehydration and possible death.  It involves digging up privets, digging a bunch of post holes and doing this amongst a front row of roses which I don't want to dig up if I don't have to.  So, yes, definitely putting that off.  Its funny, I almost never take pictures of that view, because despite how pretty the roses are, the rest of it is such an eyesore I pretend it doesn't exist.  But the dang photos don't seem to have my brains ability to edit out all the stuff you don't want to see.

So anyhow, instead of doing this, I'm moving on to the next garden at Chez Children of the Corm, what will be hereafter forever known as 'the parking garden.'  Here is the inaugural 'before' shot.   What lies here now is a very large pecan tree, some runaway lirope, and while now underground, a seriously beautiful amount of Summer Snowflake (Leucojum Aestivum).  These have populated this area en masse pre-Jess, and bloom in February, one of the very first things out of the ground.   The rest of the space, and even under those weeds, all around the tree is gravel.   I've mentioned that this house used to be a college rental and there are still many vestiges of these days, like encasing a tree in said gravel.

My plan, which is ill-formed at best is this: plant things that are extremely drought resistant.   My second plan is try not to do too much damage to all the summer snowflake bulbs hidden there.  My third plan is that I need to get that gravel up, and it is a doozy of a job.  However one that can happen 30 minutes at a time each morning.  Because of the compacted gravel it cannot be shoveled, and even the hand trowel doesn't get too far. Its all about the hand cultivator and the hand.

Final plan is I got my mom to donate a host of drought tolerant daylilies when she divided them. Woohoo, and I accepted delivery a few days ago.  This area gets only morning sun, so we'll see how that goes, but I can envision a swath of daylilies here next year, can't you?  Isn't my Mom cute with her little labels, knowing how I can't stand not knowing what things are? She's made them waterproof for me so I can just stick the stick in right beside the plant when done.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Famous, at last!

Well, as of a few hours ago, and without my knowledge until my blog statistics went through the roof, my statue became famous because it showed up on the front page of Apartment Therapy.  Yes thats right, this picture was snagged and if you check right this second, you'll see its still on the front page if you scroll down.  (here's the direct link)

As a longtime reader (and former NYC resident) who has been reading that blog since infancy, I am smiling like a cheshire cat.  And for those of you who followed the statue selection saga you know how I agonized for a year about trying to find a statue that would be tasteful.... well this article is about just that, tasteful garden statues!   Pshew... I fell in the right category.

Yay.   Here's the winning pic again:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

10 Shade Tolerant Roses

Standard rose lingo has most of us believing that to grow a rose you need 6 plus hours of sunlight.  We'll I'm here to tell you it just isn't so!  Many many roses will do totally fine with less than 6, and some frankly with less than 4 hours of sunlight.   One of the unusual benefits to growing these shade tolerant types is that they tend to also be disease resistant types as well.  This is a huge benefit because one of the disease proliferating agents to roses is too much shade, so its all for the good, and make sense that if the shade isn't stressing the plant, it won't contract the diseases.

Sharifa Asma
I actually grow quite a few roses at my house which out back gets ZERO direct sunlight from Nov-Feb.  March and Oct, the shoulder months, moves from 2-4 hours, and then the late spring, summer and early fall months I get varying amounts of sun (from 4 to 8) depending on month and garden position.   Living in the city, my garden deals with shadows from buildings, mature trees and fence lines.  Anything that wants to live here also has to contend with fierce root competition.   And yet, my roses really, for the most part, have no issues. And it is a total wives tale that roses need sun in the winter too.  They are DORMANT then. Yep, totally no activity, so no, they don't need sun.  Ask anyone who lives up north where the roses either die back to the ground, or they live close enough to the poles to be getting less than 4 hours of dim light a day, and they can tell you... roses grow just fine when the sun returns.

Here are some shady rose rules:

Rule number one, is pick the right roses, and they aren't hybrid teas.  Period.  Sorry.
Rule number two is that once blooming roses tend to need less sun as a whole than remontant (reblooming) or perpetual roses.  Having one of these in your garden is generally worth it, because the once a year show tends to be beyond spectacular.
Rule number three is hybrid musk roses, as a class, are more shade tolerant than others.
And Rule number four, they have knockout roses growing in the medians of the highway for a reason.

Okay without further ado, here is the list of roses I know you can grow successfully in under 6 hours of sun, because I do!  A * marks a rose I know can make it perfectly fine in even 3-4 hours of sun, as I have them growing in such conditions.
Ballerina - probably my favorite

1)Ballerina, Hybrid Musk* (seen blooming like mad in less than 3 hours of direct sun)
2)Any of the Knockout Roses, Modern* (seen blooming in almost no direct sunlight!)
3)Marie Pavie, Polyantha
4)Madame Alfred Carriere, Noisette (Climber)
5)Carefree Beauty, Modern* (mine lives directly beneath a large pecan tree, still covered in blooms)
Carefree Delight
6)Sharifa Asma, English Rose (this rose is new to me, but seems to be doing best SO FAR in part sun vs full sun.. the blooms and leaves do fry easily)
7)New Dawn (Climber) (this does fine in 4-6 hours, but definitely doesn't bloom to potential with less than that)
New Dawn
8)Carefree Delight, Modern
9)Eden Climber, Modern(Climber)
10)Lady Banks Lutea, Species

Carefree Beauty - super drought tolerant too.

Marie Pavie

 Considerations about my garden:  There is no spot in my yard which is dense shade, or even medium shade.   Even zero directly light is pretty bright out there (light shade), because I live in the southern US.  This makes a difference to some degree.  No rose will bloom in deep shade.  Some roses, on the margin will get blackspot in the shade more frequently than it would in the sun.   I do not have major blackspot issues in my garden, and I 100% attribute that to smart rose choices, because my climate is primo ideal for it, and I have had other plants with blackspot like fungal diseases.   I do get powdery mildew badly during the summer on non resistant plants (phlox and beebalm primarily), but my roses so far have been immune.   However, all of my roses are on a drip irrigation system or are in containers where the water situation is heavily managed.  Obviously, some of these are warm zone only roses, but not all of them.
Madame Alfred Carriere Climber - Z8+
Something I cannot comment on, though maybe others can, I don't have a big bug problem on the coast here (the mosquitos are only after us I'm afraid, and the palmetto bugs aren't after anybody they are just gross), so I have no idea how likely these are to have major bug infestations.  I've never seen a thrip or a spidermite in my garden, for which I am eternally grateful.  Outrageous humidity all year 'round does have its privileges.  Okay, so yeah, thats the only one... so far no Japanese beetles either.  Just too much concrete for them in the urban zone, is my guess.  I do have a perpetual slug problem, but none of the above roses are affected.  I think there is just too much else that tastes better out there.

Do any of you have some good suggestions for the not only 'shade tolerant', but 'shade is swell' rose bush varieties that you have tested with your own eyes?
Lady Banks

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Coneflowers In The Heat

I think those of us in the South can officially say that Summer, full blown, is upon us.  It hasn't rained in two weeks, the steady breeze (WIND!) we have 6 months of the year has disappeared entirely, the sun is shining with nary a cloud, the dew point is in the 80s and the temperature is in the 90s.   Nothing quite like those first few days of waking up at 7am to sullen 85 degree temps and climbing to put a shock to the system.  After a lovely Feb-May, my garden is now soon to be entering the "just hang on to life until September" portion of the year.   This is payback time.

Though I can't totally enjoy them like I do the flowers that bloom in the spring (its been too hot + humid, even in the shade, to sit outside the past few days), my coneflowers are stars of this time of year, and really through til October.  They are amazing flowers.
Merlot Coneflowers At Twilight (from last year)

Some in Charleston say that echinacea purpurea is more like an annual here, but that hasn't been my experience, and I'm not sure why that would be the case?  We certainly have fast draining soil!

I have three varieties in my yard.  The first up and currently most bountiful is Kim's Kneehigh, which is about waist high.   Seeing as I put it up front in my garden, idiotically following the plant tag,  I'm probably going to have to move this at some point.  The stems are a bright green and the flower petals are an almost fluorescent pink.   They are highly reflexed within the first two days of opening.

Kim's Knee High Coneflowers In Profusion Outside Now

Coming up next for me, and showing its first several blooms are the Merlot.  I have two of these, but one of them I accidently weeded the first leaves.  Oops.  It is definitely a noticeable setback, but it still lives!  These flower petals are more of the traditional coneflower pink, but the stems are nearly black looking and the eyes are blackish too.  The large flowers don't reflex all that much and remain primarily straight daisy shapes.
First Flower Of The Season For A Merlot Varietal

My final variety, Prairie Splendor isn't blooming yet.  The leaves came out about a month later than the other two varieties, and is just now starting to bud.  From memory I believe this to be the totally traditional coneflower.  The nice thing about this is that it created a baby!  Now the baby is right in the middle of the beebalm (haha take that beebalm, beating you at your own game!), so I'm not sure how well thats going to work, but we shall see.

Merlot, From Last Year, Flower Faces Up Close

Aside from human weeding damage, the only other issue I've had with them is that the slugs get them.  I have a bad problem with slugs here and certain plants they love.  One of the plants had a seriously slow start thanks to being mowed down by the slugs, and the others all have some tattered looking leaves to show for them.  Not sure what I'm going to do about these slugs.  I've killed hundreds of them and there seems to be no end in sight.

Waaay Taller Than Knee-High (see Salvia at right for knee-high plants)