Thursday, December 29, 2011

How To Root Stuff Every Time

I suspect every gardener has their thing... something that seems to come easier than to most people.  Just like real life, I guess.  You can't be good at everything, but every so often you realize that you indeed do know how to do some stuff.

As most of you know, I have just entered my 3rd year as a real gardener.  You know, with dirt and all, and I have made a lot of mistakes.  There is only so much you can learn from books and advice... eventually you just have to plant a plant, see it die and realize that it just isn't the right plant for the space!

Now in this short amount of time I have noticed that indeed I have a knack for something.  To the tune of 100% success at doing this with absolutely no failures.  I suspect, like much of 'skill' it comes down to a little bit of skill and having the natural circumstances be ripe for the doing.

I can root things.  Any things.  I hear and read about so many people having trouble rooting things such as roses or camellias and I just can't imagine why because, like I said, no matter what I try and root, it roots.  Always.  I know there are lots of competing opinions on how to do this, but I'll just add in here how I do it and why I think I'm so successful at it.

What you will need:
-small clear plastic container
-sphagnum moss
-gallon baggie

First I start with the clear (see-through) container in which to root... something small that will easily fit in a gallon baggy.  I like to take the bottom of the either small milk containers or 16 ounce soda bottles... cut either about 3 inches deep and put a few drainage holes in the bottom.  Nothing fancy and bigger is not better.  Either for the cutting, or the container.  Take it and run in through the dishwasher.  The reason we want clear is because we want to see when the roots get established without the guesswork.

Second, after the plastic container has come out of the dishwasher, fill it to half an inch of the top with straight sphagnum moss.  Not a mix, not with a little compost, not dirt.  The reason for this is we are about to create a permanently extremely humid moist environment and we need a 100% sterile environment.  For rooting purposes, the little plants do not need nutrients.  I know that there is a lot of debate on the web about this, but let me repeat, I have 100% success this way, so I know this won't be the limiting factor.

Okay, water your container thoroughly, and leave it for a minute or two in the sink to drain a bit.   Now, go find a pencil and stick a hole in the middle of the container about 3/4 of the way down.

Next, pick up your root cutting, which should be sitting in water at this point.  Make a little diagonal cut at the bottom.  The cutting doesn't need to be more than about 5-6 inches tall.  Remove all the leaves but two.  Dip the just cut tip into roottone and immediately stick in the pencil hole and snug up the opening if there is space.  I have never not used roottone so I don't know how much help this gives, but hey, its cheap, and if it ain't broke....

Final step:  Place the entire thing in a gallon zip lock baggie, and leaving as much airspace as possible, zip it up.  Thats it.  You will not unzip it until it is a rooted plant.  Period.  Not once.  Don't do it.  I'm serious.  Leave it alone.

Pretty easy right?  The other piece of the puzzle is where to put it.  And it needs to be in a bright spot with absolutely no direct sun.  Not even for 2 minutes, or you have created an oven.  Mine all grow in my kitchen window which stays in moderate temperatures between 68-78 degrees throughout the year, and is opposite a wall that gets good sunlight, but almost all light coming through the window is reflected off of that building.  It works great.   If you grow orchids successfully, you'll realize that this is the same quality of light.  The holy grail of "rooting stuff" light.

Most things root in between 2 and 5 weeks.  Once I see roots in the container, I give it a few more days to grow a bit more, then I take it carefully out of the bag.  Often, you'll also be clued in from the new growth on top.  Water it and let it drain thoroughly, and then place it back, bagless, in the same spot for the next few days.  Check the dirt moisture every day and make sure it stays moist.   After these 2 or 3 days to acclimatize to the reduced humidity it is time to plant your new little plant in a bigger container.  I usually move up to the standard small nursery pot (5 inches) and fill with regular dirt, around the sphagnum and 'rootball' of the new plant.  I leave it in its place in the winter, or move it out into the outdoor shade during the rest of the year.  After a few weeks out in the shade, and keeping it extremely well watered, I move it to part sun, and then a few weeks later to where I think I want to plant it.  And voila. I usually keep mine in successive containers until about 6 months old, but I'm not really sure that it matters that much.  I have a Zepherine Drouhin out there that I planted while still in twig status and it's done just fine.

I guess a final note is that the cutting should happen when it best suits your climate, and clearly the plant that the cutting was taken from can't be in a dormant stage.  For some of you, thats most of the year, others, only small periods of time.  I have taken cuttings from pieces ending in a flower, one that had just finished blooming, and right before blooming.  I have had a mophead hydrangea root from the flowerhead and stem alone!  I see no difference at all in the end result, so I suspect all those rules are made up to explain away why this or that cutting didn't take.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I hope all of you have a wonderful Christmas, and eat lots of bad-for-you stuff.  I hope for no cats in the trees, a warm fire in the hearth, and snow in places that can handle a white Christmas without causing city services to shut down for a week (like, not here please).

I wish for a perfect weather year for all of us for 2012, and wonderful perfect flowers, with well behaved bugs and a massive reduction in the squirrel population at my house through divine intervention.  I hope for rain for Texas and less rain for NJ, and a new year with no hurricanes, tornadoes, nuclear power plant melt downs, floods, or earthquakes.  I wish for peace.

No matter how many times I take this picture she looks like an evil dictator..
But Merry Christmas anyway.

So Merry Christmas to you!  And may all your dreams come true.  (unless your dreams involve squirrel proliferation).  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Last Call

Its the December garden saying goodbye til February, giving this gardener a little break from watering and weeding and clipping, and some time to daydream and plan and get the ol' garden fantasy juices flowing so I'm totally jumping the gun come Spring, and primed for another season.

Most have died, save a few roses and the evergreens.   We are 'supposed' to have a 40ish degree night here about a week from now, so all the begonias are heading indoors for another harrowing indoor season with the cat.  The last of the roses, have set their very last buds till spring too.

Bermuda's Kathleen, Last Gasps

Who'd ya think? Unstoppable, in full shade

Marie Pavie with the Star Jasmine

Marie Pavie, the most floriferous for late Fall, beating even Knockout

Sharifa Asma, being huge as only fall can create here.

I am gorgeous, and I smell good

Sharifa Asma, barely opened one.  Baseball sized blooms in the perfect weather.

Friday, November 25, 2011

When Good Yards Go Bad

I'm loving this "bad" theme here lately, so I think I'm going to start a sporadic series focusing on something I think a good deal about while shaking my head.   Bad yard taste.   And let me stop the hate mail here... I'm all for personal expression: garden gnome check, flamingo or two, check, wild garden for lawn check.  But there are some things, I believe, that happen out there to yards, that we can all agree is just.. well, there's no nice way to say this: an abomination.

So here is my first entry to the "When Good Yards Go Bad" series, its worth clicking on to get the full effect:

Replacing all grass in front yard with Yaupon...hell yeah, all of it!

I give you not two, not three, but 4 rows of yaupon holly (and a short 5th if you look close), with rows three and four having no space between each other or between row 2.   And even the two rows originally meant to flank the front walk are close to growing together.  And lets not forget there was money changing hands for someone to turn this entire front yard into meatballs.   I kid you not folks, these people, in a highly affluent neighborhood, have decided to fill their entire front yard with meatballs.   I couldn't even get the other half of them in the same picture.  They have another double row leading down the path to the back yard.   I only wish I could get the whole effect on camera like you can if you happen to come across this place in town.

I love hedge, yes I do.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Easy Plant Spotlight

I get no pleasure out of gardening being hard.  None whatever.  I know there are a few of you out there who really do buy plants that require tons of work just because they require tons of work, but the most of us end up getting these pain in the butt plants because they are different and pretty and not something you see growing in everyone else's garden.

So, after a few years of hanging out in the garden blogosphere, I have come to notice that one of my killer, "so super easy its silly" plants that I inherited from my Mother the very first month I started gardening, NEVER gets mentioned.  I mean, at all.  Like my mother and I are two of the handful of people who are growing it on Earth.  So, for some of you, do I have a treat for you: a plant that is a piece of cake, super 6+ month blooming flower bonanza that requires no care, grows in pots, or in the ground, or inside, along with other things, or by themselves, and comes in various colors... oh, and likes shade.   
Courtesy of Grumpy Gardner

And its actually a rhizome/tubery thing that you can practically just throw anywhere and shove some dirt over.   Have you guessed yet?

Its called achemines.  (ah-kem'-ma-nees).  Mine are the non hybridized originals that come with dark green leaves and dark purple flowers, but now they come in light pink, and medium pink, and every sort of purple, yellow and white.  And I saw one on the web that was white and purple.   

Mine started out as one small pot of them, hanging out in the shade.  The next year I thought, hey, lets plant some of these as dress shoes around another plant, and after another winter when the annual partner died...then there were two pots.   I upgraded the original pot to a large pot, which completely filled itself with them in a few months and bloomed all summer and most of fall.   Apparently I must have left a few of the tubers (they are small), in the original pot, and now I've got yet another pot on the rise.  

The Original

I let mine die back in the winter as I can leave them outside.  I think anyone north of here would have to pick up their pots and bring them inside (just out of the hard freezing), but that would be the extent of your work for the year on them.   As I understand it, you can even just bring them into the house and keep them a bit watered and they'll bloom all year long.   My house plants have said I suck at house plants so I don't even try.

So obviously, if you live in zone 9a and higher I wouldn't plant them in the ground as naturalizing would probably be an understatement, but otherwise I can't think of a more charming, profuse, AND DIFFERENT, shade loving plant.   Makes great hanging baskets because it's habit is about 1-1.5 feet but also the edges tend to sprawl over too as they get heavier, in a small pot this works well, and I have a circle stake in the middle of the big pot to help keep things rounded in the center.

Name: Achemines
Hardy: Zone 9a/8b
Type: Rhizome
Setting: Bright shade. Does not like direct sun, will scorch leaves
Blooming: Late spring til mid fall.
Watering: average, to slightly below average
Multiplies quickly

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bad Things (Part II)

Well, it has been a research paper that has held me up,  my anxious garden friends, not jail.  Though post graduate education is sort of like jail, come to think of it.  It seems to take forever to get out, and once you are out, you're not quite sure you can integrate into the real world.

So just a quick recap, for those of you whom I can't induce to read the first part (hint), Bad Things, Part I, exhausted from staying up the night before, due to the arsonist, and returning home with a fresh new pair of pruners,  the protagonist of this tale turned down the path of (mild)evil and decided to liberate two cuttings from their bushy homes in front of a non-abandoned church mid service..........

Before I continue, just so you can get a clearer picture of the circumstance, you need to know that I too am one of those people WHO NEVER DO STUFF LIKE THIS, not because I'm afraid of jail (that never even crossed my mind, you people really are a wee anxious, I must say!), but because I am a rule follower by nature and fall apart if I get caught doing anything.  I don't even tell white lies well.   So when I tell you my heart was pounding because so far all signs had pointed to this being a bad idea, I'm not kidding: it was pounding.

I looked to the left, I looked to the right, and saw nobody looking at the miniature parking lot with one extra administrative space, noticed nobody that looked like church personnel, then slowly, stealthily snuck into the spot.  Finally, I was committed.... or was I?  I had this herky jerky feeling as I put the car in park.. this was WRONG!  Now, not only was I about to borrow rose cuttings, but I was also PARKING ILLEGALLY!  This crime was growing exponentially!  Its like lying, you cannot just tell one lie! Now I understand how people become career criminals... it can happen in mere seconds.  Rose Rustling the gateway crime.

And, what if the m.i.a. church person came? I'd be trapped, potentially by a man of God, and then be forced to lie on top of stealing and trespassing and illegal parking!  Caught up in this moral quagmire induced anxiety, I put the car back into reverse and started to leave.  I really did, but just as quickly I reversed positions and said out loud to myself "Jess, people park in other peoples spaces all of the time.. nobody ever died of this, what is wrong with you!? Just get the (badword) roses already, you could have walked here 3 times over in this amount of time!" and then pulled once more into the space and turned the car running lights off.  Good grief, already.

Now, let me tell you something, having a Prius has more advantages than gas mileage for those sneak-thief oriented individuals.  It is totally silent if you are going under 10 mph or so.  Meaning I could hide the black car in the dimly lit space, totally on, but not looking or sounding like it, and then run out pruners aloft, get the rose cuttings, run back in, throw it in reverse, and peel out silently in seconds flat.  Its probably the best getaway car ever made, come to think of it, so at least I had that going for me.  I looked up and down the street for a car that looked suspiciously like a church mobile, and seeing none I gave myself 30 seconds, and I was off at a trot, like a pro, clicking back the pruner safety as I ran.

The bushes, which are about 7-8 feet tall were encased in shadow, and looked nothing like their daytime counterparts. I couldn't see one stem from another.   "Ah, this is finally going well, ya big wussy" I though to myself as I reached for the large bush to position the pruners. Snip.  One fell into my hand.  I reached in again, feet poised for the getaway, grabbed the bush and .... OOOOOWWWWWWWWHHHH!  I looked at my bloodied thumb.  The bush had meted its justice.  I had a mega gash in my thumb from what could only have been the worlds largest and sharpest ultra-thorn.   This by far was the worst gardening injury I have sustained thus far in life.  I am totally not exaggerating when I say it could have killed me. Yes I am, but I want drama. And holy crap: now I had left DNA on the scene! All those years of watching CSI were for naught...I am the worst criminal ever!

Run away, run away! I took my one cutting, thumb in mouth, and ran back to the Prius, and peeled (silently) out of the parking lot.  I didn't look back until I had reached the corner, the cutting tossed on the passenger seat not even in the carefully retained water.

I would love to tell you that somehow I lost my pruners in this attempt because it would be both fitting and a wonderful story ender, but sadly it wasn't the case.  I made it home, 45 seconds later, no fuzz on my tail.  Safe.

But there is a lesson in here somewhere, a real moral to the story, and just in case you haven't figured it out, this entire tale is to let you all know so you don't make the same mistake I did:

Do not pick roses in the dark.

okay okay, just kidding... and I know, I know.  I did a bad thing.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bad Things

So, I did a bad thing.  No I didn't litter or hurt anyone or any animal, but I did permanently borrow something.  Without asking.  Yes, it has taken me a while to work up to the deed.  I pass by the tempting place frequently enough and just keep on walking.  Sometimes I pause, but nothing more.  But something happened this evening when I was driving home from Lowe's after purchasing ANOTHER set of hand pruners, having, I assume, thrown yet another pair out with the yard waste.  I keep doing this.  Trim trim trim, bag up for city compost, can't find pruners two days later.  But as I was saying...

You see, I couldn't stop thinking about them, having seen them resplendent a few days ago on one of my walks.  Outside a church that will remain nameless.  Two of them, encroaching on the sidewalk, as they were.  Taunting me.

And there I was driving home, in the dark, with sharp new pruners in the passenger seat, and a half filled bottle of water I stopped drinking abruptly when the bad deed crossed my mind.  And just like that, I decided: I was going to do it.  I was going to steal two cuttings off of the most magnificent rose bushes in all of downtown Charleston, under cover of darkness.  Super double sneaky style.

And there's were things started to go not as planned...

It all started with this whole cover of darkness premise.  Because the time had changed just 2 days previous I had this false sense of lateness.  Also I hadn't slept well that night because there's a mad arsonist in town burning houses down in the middle of the night for kicks and having so far burnt 82 houses in the past 8 years without our top notch PD even having a clue, Monday at 4am another house was alight not two blocks from me.  But lets not get me started on the arsonist here.  Talk about bad things grrrr.   So anyhow,  I was driving the extra few blocks to the target flora, and as I approached the street (urban, buildings on both sides), I realized there were people all over the (badword) place.  I checked the clock.  It was precisely 6:22.  (badword)! Now fortunately there was still a lot of darkness, because Charleston is just one of those places that tries to keep every block just light enough to film a Vampire movie.  So my nerve held.

And then problem #2 became apparent.  The Church WAS FULL of people too!  On a Tuesday. Argh.

And then I realized the most troublesome fact thus far... because it was after 6, but not very far after 6, the evening parking restrictions were lifted and there wasn't a spot to be seen.  I mentally backtracked.  (another badword)!  I hadn't seen any parking spots for many many blocks. Argh.  Plus there were  4 unsuspecting cars stacked patiently up behind me, as Southerners inexplicably have the power to do,  as I crawled past the church bushes casing them.  I turned around looking at my options.   My mental picture of rolling up to the church pruners reaching out of the car and lop lop was withering.  But I also knew my puritanical other identity which usually rules when not exhausted and carrying pruners would never let this opportunity happen again.  I knew it was now or never.  My heart rate ratcheted up as I saw someplace to park... right between the two church buildings in one of the 5 spots labeled "xxx Church Staff Only.  Violators will be Towed.

{to be continued}

Saturday, October 29, 2011

No Longer In Zone Denial!

You know when most people say that, it means that one winter finally came and got them and now they realize why it is that they are indeed in Zone xx.  Well, haha! I was right and NOT in zone denial. The Zoning authorities were.  Since I moved here I have thought again and again that despite my Zone 8b official rating, I am in Zone 9a.  Not so much by what freezes here in the winter, but what WILL NOT UNDER ANY circumstance grow here through the summer.  You of temperate zones might not notice, but many many many garden plants end their 'hot' zone at 8.  Now technically Plant zones really are more about the freeze, but still, I have been extremely suspicious.

And now, all I can say is: I could have told you this three years ago.  The peninsula of downtown Charleston is in zone 9A.  The new area plant zoning map:

Sure, its the world's smallest zone area ever, but I KNEW IT!  Plus, in 3 years, including one of the top 10 'coldest' on record for the area, my yard never got below 26 degrees.  Last year the lowest was 32. Only for 2 days.  SO there!  We are regularly 5-10 degrees warmer at night in both winter (yay) and summer (ugh horrible), than 5 miles in any direction from home.

Now I have go tell all the lemon trees and brugmansia trees around town the news so they stop having to justify their existence. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Plant Combination Idea

I'm sitting here inside today, waiting for the (thankfully only) outer bands of Irene to whip my little garden to a smushed up mess.  All the potted plants are inside though, and my statue is tipped over to the ground so it won't come out of this looking like the Venus de Milo or Winged Victory.  I have potted roses inside, so the house smells quite lovely.  However, Siggy went absolutely bonkers last night which resulted in the Garfield-ification of several plants.  (sigh)

What goes on when you are upstairs sleeping....

Anyhow, back to the point, while I was moving in my pots yesterday I was looking around at what was fried to death and what was really working, and it dawned on me that I had a really good plant combination going on out there:

Rose bushes and 4'oclocks.  They both love the full sun, and just as the bottoms of the roses get a little blackspotty and lose leaves, those 4 o'clocks are growing taller and filling in every available space underneath.  Plus they tend to sprawl outwards a little underneath, which is nicely hidden by the sturdy rose stems.    Of course right at the moment I can't take a picture so you'll just have to trust me, but here's one from about 2 months ago where you can barely see a white one coming in under the roses.  Sorry that's the best I've got from inside here.

I have spent the past 2.5 years slowly trying to select only the dark pink 4 o'clocks out of original seed packets I put down and its slowly starting to work out.  I still have some whites too, which are nice at night, but I've eradicated the yellows.  I also steal seeds from the sidewalk 4 o'clocks that I see that are the fuchsia pink color.  It is a near 100% match for the 'red' version of the knockout rose and, well, I'm telling ya! Its a good combo for the late summer garden.   Mine reseed easily and they require no care, but don't also seem to mind the extra water they get by being with the roses.

One thing I will say though, they really do need full sun.  I have some planted in part sun and its just not the same. I'm thinking 6+ hours minimum.  And for those of you who haven't been near them before, they have a distinct smell at night which I love.

I hope everyone in the path of this storm has a nice safe weekend.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Just give me something to talk about...

Hi Everyone,

Just a quick stop by to say I'm still here and will pick up my regular blogging shortly.  Its mega summer here and just like last year, July and August produce next to nothing to talk about (as all I do is try to keep things alive and try to stay indoors as much as possible!)

Anyhow, September is coming and I'm starting to imagine good things.  Talk to you all very soon!

Image Courtesy of
Love ya, Jess

Friday, July 8, 2011

You Know What I Hate?

I have a problem in my garden.  Last year, it was a little problem, something was cutting round and oval holes in fleshy new rose leaves on my Madame Alfred Carriere rose climber.   I did a little research because the evidence is pretty specific... I mean really? How many bugs cut perfectly round and perfect little oval holes in your plants?

There is just one and I can tell you who does it: Leaf cutter bees.  They use it to create nests to grow more leaf cutter bees.

This year, in March, when all the new leaves were leafed out, they did it again, and much worse this time, decimating 100% of the new growth on the MAC rose, and also completely decimating all the new growth on the Carefree Wonder rose.   But, I sighed, they are good for the garden otherwise, and its just the first flush of leaves so I'm going to let it go.   Well, ahhemmm!  Those little bastards DO IT EVERY 2 months on the dot.   This is the single thing that does the most destruction to any plant in my garden.  And it has to stop NOW.

It actually is rather aggravating as I'm going around looking for solutions to this problem and every website keeps saying, "aw but the little things are great pollinators, aw, be THANKFUL they are in your garden."  I feel like smacking those authors.   And frankly, IT IS COMPLETELY A LIE that chemical insecticides won't kill these little creeps, because they will, and frankly, its one of the reasons that they think the bee population might be going down.  Though I think this might be gross speculation (experts will tell you they are stumped as to what is actually causing this, as bee's lived quite fine through years of DDT), I'm personally not a fan of killing off bee's myself, and I'm pretty sure insecticides in any form for any reason isn't the greatest of ideas.

But people who should know better need to stop talking out of both sides of their mouths.  And lying about it saying, 'oh, they don't eat the leaves, they use them as nesting, so insecticides won't do any good' is an insult to my intelligence.  And frankly it can backfire too, when lets say someone thinks that they are going to use insecticides to get rid of some other garden pest and then it wipes out the bee population.   No insect needs to eat a pesticide for it to be effective, they nearly all work on contact.   Its why they highly recommend you wearing gloves when handling the stuff - they're pretty sure you aren't going to drink the stuff, but its dangerous to get it on you.

And when is the last time you received a rose from the nursery with 100s of little round holes cut out of the leaves? Right, never huh?  So there IS a solution, and it isn't live and let live!

Anyhow, this madness has got to end, because my carefree wonder shrub, in a half a day has lost 50% of its leaves.  We have a long growing season here, and the bees reproduce every 60 days, so we cannot live in peace, because they obviously don't understand when enough is enough.  And no, I'm sorry, if any bug or disease was completely defoliating your plant you would not think warm and fuzzy thoughts about these cute little creatures.   The balance of rose leaves vs leafcutter bees in my garden is not sustainable, as they are going to kill the damn roses.

So does anyone have a good effective suggestion before I go and actually pesticide the hell out of these two roses?  I really would prefer not to pesticide even two plants, but I need this to stop.  The Mac rose is a climber and it isn't reasonable to 'cover' it.    And searching out 'rotted' wood and removing it is laughable too, I live in Charleston, land of faded grandeur and glorious decrepitude.  Everything is rotting, constantly.  I'd have to pull out the neighborhood.

Oh, I'm young and angry today.

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)