Monday, February 27, 2012

Growing Moon Vines

One of my additions to the garden this year will be the hot weather loving night bloomer: the moonvine.  It is notoriously difficult to germinate, and while I might have good luck rooting woody plants, my seed sowing successes have been limited to those who are fine with a fling onto the ground method.

I have visions of it growing up my two story columns on the corner of my front porch.   The area that it will be planted will be completely surrounded by driveway, sidewalk or house, so though a member of the locally invasive ipomoea (morning glory) family, I am not too worried.  If its up in my attic next year I might change my story though. In its planned spot it will only get morning sun, then a brief one hour burst of evening sun, but given the intensity around here, I'm also feeling it will fair pretty well.

A week ago, when I went home for a brief visit to my childhood home, it snowed nearly a foot!  Which was awesome for this southern girl to see, since it melted before I needed to be anywhere seriously, and I looked at the weather at home as a security blanket on the internet and it was 68 degrees.   Anyhow, along the Blue Ridge parkway where I grew up Spring is nowhere near at hand, and coupled with a roaring woodstove, coffee and nothing much to do, my Mom and I flipped through seed catalogs and talked about the gardens.  She then admitted that she had never been able to grow these things.  Therefore, I am bound and determined to grow not one, BUT two so I can give her one all potted up when she visits in late spring.

So here we go.  I think I am going to try several methodologies at the same time.  First the soak method, and if that doesn't work, I'm going to use the nick method.

This involves a couple of seeds, some water, a paper towel, and a baggie.  Combine and you get this:

I will check it every day for the next several and once (or if) I see the shell split I'm going to plant it in my handy dandy see through milk carton and peat moss and gallon baggie combo that I am partial too.

P.S.  3 days later:

2 of the 4 seeds have sprouted, so I'm going with this soak plus warm window method.  Into the sphagnum they go!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Red Solo Cup

That's right ya'll... It's time to PARTY!

After three years of reconfiguring and plotting and despairing, I finally talked someone into helping me move the large chunks of flagstone, and bring me a pickup trucks worth of dirt to begin operation "Hide My Neighbors Ugly Chickenwire Fence" and operation "Plant Something, ANYTHING, In the front portion of the Parking Garden."

Let me explain why exactly things have gotten to this point.  The house next to me, with the 2 story garage...yes that one...2 feet from my property line wasn't always as big as it is today.  In the mid 90s someone got the great idea to nearly double the house size and include monster garage.  First it goes against every historic preservation rule the City has, and likely got done with a little under the table dealing, but SECOND it created an enormous draining issue onto my property, specifically in the parking garden.  Those of you who have witnessed a coastal southern downpour know how violent and copiously wet these storms can be, and massive massive amounts of water come cascading both through the downspouts and directly off the roof during these squalls.  This has left erosion issues like I've never seen in a backyard.  All of the dirt is gone, and most of the tree roots are exposed 3 feet below grade in a 10ft by 5 ft area.  At some point in the intervening years, probably to stop further damage, and maintain several trees in an upright position, someone got the wise idea of coating the area in huge fieldstone slabs.  And, I have to say, it worked.  But after even more intervening years, some additional erosion, and new owners on both sides, the area looks somewhat like an ancient crypt which has been broken into on multiple occasions and vampires and other creepy crawlies are running around back there.  Really gross 4-8 legged creepies.

This entire winter my neighbors have been redoing their house (ripping out rotting wood etc), with some disastrous effects to that side of my garden, resulting in the most hideous and (probably also not city legal) long and thick PVC piping running along the house, of course on my side, so I have to look at it (grrrr).  There is going to be a LOT of hiding of that wall going on this spring.  But, back to the point: the drainage issue has been mitigated.  Not completely solved, but solved enough to really dig into the parking garden, after I paid for enough dirt to actually dig in, of course!

So, I sort of forgot the befores...but here's stage 1 afters of the front parking garden bed.  Sure, sure, I know its a stretch to call a bed of dirt a garden, but if you had seen the befores you'd be raising your red solo cup to me.. that is 2400 pounds of dirt.

And just look at the stack of slate pieces previously used to ameliorate the original problem. And of course, yesterday in anticipation I had to go on a massive plant buying spree.  3 azaleas, 1 camellia, 1 autumn fern, 1 star jasmine, 1 gardenia and a holly.  Six pack of beer.  Lots of the big stuff, the bones.

And here is a very not to scale drawing of my back yard, so people can get an idea of where I'm talking about when I'm talking about the gardens outside the white picket fence.  The area that is technical my land alone is the white picket fence garden, left narrow drive bed, front garden, lirope hedge, left parking garden, front parking garden, main parking garden (all three the 'parking garden').  I co-own the back border.  The side border, the 'little bed' and the right narrow drive bed are not owned by me but mine for the planting should I ever get around to it.  So as you can see, for a city garden I really can make myself a paradise, and I have years of work to go still.  I mean just look at that 'after'... years.

Azaleas Hino Crimson are already is the jasmine vine to start covering the chickenwire.  I am sooooo tempted to put some ivy on there....

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

State Of The Blog Address

Before I really dig down into the garden this year, I thought it would be fun to do a little state of blog post.  I think it's always fun to see the numbers and comings and goings behind things and blogs are no different. Statistics and trends can be fascinating I think, and I'm often surprised at what turns out popular and what does not.

The majority of my site traffic comes from Google.  No shock there. Because Charleston is a tourist town I get a decent amount of traffic from that word alone.  Charleston, Charleston, Charleston.  Just adding it a few more times for the Googlebot!  It works too.  Many times I've seen visitors come by looking for "Charleston Gardens" and stay long enough to check out half the pages on my site.  These types of visits are very obvious to the blogger and make us feel so good!

So starting with the basics, Children of the Corm, on an average non-post day gets about 50 visits, if you don't count the mad bombing hits from Pakistan and the like.  On a post day, and the day after, it can vary dramatically from 100-250 visits.  Nothing stupendous, but not terrible either, considering my very first month of blogging Jan 2010, I had an entire 9 visits. Also I only post 2-3 times a month on average.  I have noticed that if I post 4-6 times a month my traffic increases dramatically, about 3 fold.  But realistically, I'm really not capable of keeping that up on an every month basis.   The very best day on my blog statistically speaking was the day it was linked in Apartment Therapy, also not surprisingly.  I was famous for a day!

Besides from not posting on a Friday, I have given up trying to figure out when 'best' to post a blog to maximize readership.  Because it is a garden blog it can be extremely weather dependent.  If the weather is clement in the USA, UK, Australia, and Canada its going to be crickets on the blog, particularly on a weekend.  If the weather is crappy over most of those land masses, its going to be a high traffic Saturday and Sunday.  I have also noticed that posting the day before a holiday or the holiday itself will ensure light visits, however, the day after a holiday seems to be a high traffic day.  I guess all that turkey in the belly is keeping people on the couch 'surfing.'

I don't mind people downloading my photos, and as I have yet to have someone hijack my blog content, at this point I take it as a sort of compliment.  That said it is very surprising what people really are interested in saving. Despite that this picture was posted in reference to its ugly side, this is the #1 currently downloaded picture, and #2 overall:

In 2012 alone, 21 people have decided they needed to keep
 a permanent copy!
The current #2 (and #1 overall):

Followed closely by another from the same post:

Next up are a pair of my cat, Siggy:

So it basically takes til pictures #s 6 and 7 to get to something mildly garden related, also both from the same post:

And just a quick jump back to Geography, about 50% of my visitors come from the USA, 10% from the UK, 5% each from Australia, Canada, and Germany, and the other 25% from everywhere else in the world.  Except for China.  I have only had one lone visit from non-Hong Kong China. Apparently I must be blacklisted over there. In the USA state-wise, Texas leads the way with a whopping 11%, followed by North Carolina at 8%, South Carolina at 7%, Georgia at 4% and with New York at 3% rounding out the top 5.  Come on home State!  Texas is beating you!

My top 5 posts are:
1)"You Might Be A Weed If..."
2)"10 Shade Tolerant Roses"
3)"Brugmania Mania" 
4)"How To Age A Brand New Cement Statue"
5)"When Wildlife Won't Stay Put"

My least popular post was my very first one :( which I thought pretty good.  Check it out sometime if you want to make me feel better about it :)!
For The Love Of 4 O'clock

My top Google search terms are: "shade tolerant roses", "how to build a trellis", "white garden", "brugmansia" "Charleston gardens" and the persistent "ballerina rose" coming in at #1.

On the live and learn column, one thing I wish I hadn't done was put the word naked in a post along with lady in the same post, as well as children in the name of the blog.  Some of these searches that I get are amusing, i.e. "Naked neighbor lady in my garden", but others are downright sicko. I don't want those people even looking at my blog!  I'll just say that there are bad people out there.

I am very fortunate to average about 15 individual comments on each of my posts, and I am very very grateful for them.  I have quite a few frequent commenters, Grace, Masha, Holley, Kyna, Deb, Marguerite, Casa M, Phillip, Clare, Catmint, Ursula, Donna, Gina, Daracia, Carolyn, Jim, Heidi, Christine, Jean, and I'm sure more, plus I've had some new commenters recently that I hope will continue to stop by! Thank you all very much.

Also, in the thanks giving, my top referrers are:
"The Idiot Gardener"
"Charleston Daily Photo"
"Compost In My Shoe"

...but I get so many referrals from so many of you, so again, thanks so much.

Well, that about sums it up! One housekeeping issue: I finally got around to creating myself a blog facebook page, so for those that prefer to follow on facebook, you now can.  There's a link in the sidebar.

Cheers to another year of fun blogging, blog reading, and gardening adventures (with plenty of mishaps by you all because those make amusing post!)  I have made it into the beginning of my 3rd year, so maybe I'll be a long-timer after all!


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Camellia "Pink Perfection"

For a Charlestonian I have a shocking disregard of the local popular plants.  I hate canna's, I don't grow meyer lemon trees or tea olives (yet), I dug up all the lantana kicking and screaming, and I own only one straggly camellia, a sasanqua, that while beautiful as can be, has scale so bad that I cannot get rid of it...after trying for three years.  I even broke down and used the evil stuff after the soakings in neem had no effect.  No dice there either... scale can get to such proportions that it can never be eradicated.  Sasanqua's are known for it.
Sasanqua off of the front porch in December.... lots of bloom almost no leaves!
Sorry for crappy quality...apparently I couldn't be bothered to open screened door.
The camellia, unfortunately, is going to die from this, and I think this is the year I'm going to put it out of its misery.  I already have 2 cuttings going so that I can keep the mystery cultivar though, because it is a very early bloomer (October) and blooms the same time the roses do in the fall, which is fantastic.   I actually prefer sasanquas in form, truth be told.

Even my scale has scale on the few remaining leaves
But, now that I'm working on the parking garden, which has a combination of half-day sun, and full light shade areas I have a space in which to add a few large bushes where they will have room to grow.   I've already placed 10 or so daylilies up near the front where the sun will shine, as well as a Carefree Beauty rose bush.  On the left side, by the white picket fence (you honestly can't get away from white picket fence-lines on my property) I've finally landed a few azaleas too.  What the area really needs are some large shrubs to hide the other neighbors hideous blank wall and the cars, and that is indeed the topic of this post, should I every decide to get to the point here.

Now, you might be wondering how it is that my one house can be surrounded by so many other houses, and you'd be right to wonder!  In Charleston, because it was built when we used to cook over open flames, the kitchens were often housed in their own building, as were carriages, and even the in-laws, if at all fiscally possible. This means most of the properties have dependencies, and most have long since been split into separate residences for us hoi palloi.  So anyhow, this explains it.  Both my house, and the one next to me, with the massive garage on the shady side of my garden, each are part of old urbans 'estates' that have dependencies.  Between me and my neighbors original properties there are six total houses, on very deep lots.  The lots here, tend to be very narrow and have no front yards (zero lot lines), but are about 3 times as deep as you'd expect.  One of these days, I'll have to draw it out for you, particularly as I start gardening on some of the 'shared' spaces.  (i.e. they are getting all my pink knockout roses that I want to replace with something else).  This also explains why there is such an abundance of fencing.  Good fences, as they say....

Now, to the point, finally: camellias.  As a rose lover you'd think I'd be all over these things, and I am, just they are expensive and I am slow to dig big holes.  But I have been planning on lots of camellias eventually, once I get around to some good shady spots.  Plus, they really are 25 to the block in every single color imaginable so I honestly can look out my living room windows and see some without having to plant anything.  Who was it that said something about incorporating the 'borrowed' views?

I brought my first camellia home today though, and its a beaut!  The local nursery's around here are chock a block with varieties because the bushes are so popular, so it was actually difficult to choose just one, but recently coming to peace with myself over the "buy large plant and wait 6 months to plant because dread digging the hole which takes hours" syndrome, I have decided that I can only buy one at a time.  If I plant it, I can go and get another.   Seeing as I'm not one of these people who wants another of the same kind, this really has no downside.

This is camellia "Pink Perfection", a japonica with nearly perfect flower form.  The buds are huge and heavy, the leaves larger than average, and the hole digging is going to be a doozy (its in a 7 gallon pot).    This is a relatively easy to get cultivar, supposedly a prolific bloomer, but very susceptible to root rot, so I hear, so not a good choice for clay soils.  My sand for soil on the other hand... will still need sphagnum to keep the thing from frying, I'm sure.

Here's what I hope mine looks like in years to come.

But for today, it still looks pretty good.  Though, its hole is not dug yet!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Throwing In The Towel and Lifting The Spade

As the sun wains on today, it is 76 degrees outside.  Mild with a light breeze.  A top 10 day of the year, weatherwise, and on a Sunday to boot.

This morning with my coffee, I was sitting outside and taking a look at the roses, which I hadn't pruned at all, and...they were all breaking dormancy!  Those that went into dormancy, that is.  Marie Pavie has been blooming throughout the winter, in total shade.  So, I threw in the towel and pick up the trowel and decided that today was first real garden day of the year.   I probably worked for 5 straight hours out there!

The remains of the blooms from Marie Pavie

I planted the bulbs that have been hanging in the refrigerator (southern solution to no frost), hard pruned the roses, raked up the leaf cover, put several bags of compost and mulch all around, and potted up the stolen rose cutting which is now on its way to bush-dom.
Rosa "Church Heist"
And finally, after sitting out there in their nursery pots all winter (I don't know how it is I don't kill more stuff doing this), I planted the Encore Azaleas out in the parking garden.  That process is an hour in itself, because it involves digging through the gravel, then sawing out the roots of various trees both dead and alive to make some room.  Then of course importing some decent soil mixed with sphagnum so that some water is retained.  Then, planting time.  I often wonder what it must be like gardening someplace that hasn't been an urban center for hundreds of years and doesn't have mature 70 foot trees all over the place? Are there places with fertile workable soil?  Really?  Anyhow, the parking garden is a big work in progress.  Mostly still the work part, with a lot of the progress forthcoming.  One thing that is looking pretty good is the 'hedge' of liriope outside the garden gate leading to the parking garden.  It gives me hope that 2 years from now the parking garden will be looking as established, and not, well, like this second picture.

"Evergreen Giant" Liriope along the driveway... looking good even in winter
New Azaleas looking very small in their new home

My garden, still mostly sleepy, has turned a big corner in the past week... the no going back corner.  Our average 'last frost' date here on the peninsula is Feb 11, but things are way ahead, and if we get a freezing night this year I'm hoping its not til next December.   I think the latest ever is March 8, and thats a full month from now, so fingers are crossed.  It is hard to imagine though, as the entire winter has been in the 60s and 70s minus a handful of days.  Snowflakes are up, muscari nearly there, and even the tropical brugmansia has unfurled a few leaves.