Sunday, June 14, 2009

To trellis, perhaps to climb?

When I read that the Picture This photo contest for Gardening Gone Wild would center around roses for the month of June, I was crestfallen.

Reading the list of suggestions on how to impress the judge, Debra Lee Baldwin, my heart sank further.
– ID the rose (give its cultivar name, such as ‘Perfect Moment’) if possible. Include the name on your blog or website when you post the photo.

– Effectively show a rose bush in a garden setting. This demonstrates skill on your part because overall shots are more challenging than tight shots.

– Get creative. Present your subject in a delightful and surprising way.

– Idealize the subject, as though it were in Eden. Try not to allow anything unsightly, like a marred petal, detract from it.


If ever there were a contest that I should not consider entering, this my friends, would sure enough be that.

We have two examples of what I consider "real" rose bushes. One red and one pink floribunda. We don't fuss over them and after a year of drought and a week of triple digit temperatures they look it. There goes the whole not letting a petal "mar" the shot idea.

The red floribunda is in an area we recognized last week had a broken sprinkler fixture. This explained the rapid conversion of that spot to a look that could best be described as "early Death Valley". The fixture has been repaired but the rose bush is still considering her options. Live on to return to thriving? Hang on coughing to tragically but slowly die? The jury is still out.

The other rose bush, the pink floribunda, was a gift given us some 18 or so years ago from a grateful patient of my husband's. We have transplanted it probably three times now to try and find a spot with the right amount of sun. We moved it again two years ago to where it is now - in a planter in our triangular bed that is "mulched" with a freestyle broken ceramic mosaic.Under ideal circumstances this would seem a fabulous set up for that whole "effectively show a bush in a garden setting" ploy. Except. Earlier this year we killed the St Augustine lawn around that triangular bed to convert it to garden beds. Right now those pink roses are blooming in the midst of a sea of dead grass sparsely populated by this year's crop of pepper plants. Additionally, the wildflowers in the beds just beyond the path it borders are rapidly going to seed.

None of this makes for what anybody would consider a Kodak moment, I assure you. Rather than Eden, this looks a lot more like some special level of Hell, perhaps reserved for people who were (caff!) careless with the roses entrusted to their stewardship.

As if there were any more straws needed the final one just might be that If I ever did know the name of the cultivar, that information has long since settled into some dusty irretrievable corner of my mind.

So. Here I sit reading the criteria for a June Picture This photo contest that is asking for precisely what I can not provide.

All that said, I despise excuses. I also try not to decide in advance for others what the outcome of any enterprise will be. I am grateful not to be the judge of this contest. Debra Lee Baldwin is. I am nothing if not stubborn and competitive so I decided to enter the contest anyway.

I will put our best face forward, toss a few shots of our pink floribunda into the fray, and see what falls out.
June Picture This Entry #1 Pink Floribunda
After spending more time than I am comfortable admitting to you searching through online photo identification sites for roses, I think this rose most looks like the cultivar Cecile Bruner. CB is typically a climber however and we have never even attempted to let this rose climb. Yet.

Now that I have spent the time trying to hunt down the identity of our blushing blooms out back I am halfway tempted to attempt to justify that by throwing a trellis up and inviting the rose to show me what's it got. If it is indeed a Cecile and has been languishing all these years just waiting for a chance to express its truest nature, well then better late than never.
June Picture This Entry#2 Pink Floribundas backed by wildflowers
Right? If I help this rose find its inner climber, then I think I've already won this contest.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Oh Yes I Can

UPDATE: Thanks to a clever suggestion from LawSchoolGirl, who is home for the summer, the CanMan (who she maintains looks more like a can monkey - so be it) needed a couple of details. Voila. CanMonkeyGirl! Now, back to the original post:My impulse to keep taking photos of the morning glory vine babies to chronicle their progress has birthed a new saying here at Gardenista: "As boring as watching the vines grow".

Which for me, means not boring at all. For everybody else around here? Meh!

OK - truth be told it is not my taking the photos that is so much the problem as my irritating insistence that others view the photos and express what would apparently be faked enthusiasm for their progress.

Scene: Urban home office. Two adults seated at their desks, backs to each other, facing their computer monitors.
Adult 1: Hey honey! Look at how much the morning glories have grown since yesterday!
Adult 2: (not looking) Ummm hmmmmm.
Adult 1: Seriously honey, take a look at these two photos! Look how much progress they've made! Isn't it something?
Adult 2: (still not looking) That's great.
Adult 1: SWEETHEART. LOOK.
Adult 2: (barely glancing) Yeah. Great. Did you read that Dartmouth study on the lack of association between spending more on health care and getting better results?

And so it goes.

It is a good thing we "decided" to create a wildlife friendly space in our yard. The deer have taken to using the vinca major as a drop in day care for their babies.Please know this is not a result of anything new we are doing, deer of all ages and stages have been hanging around in there whenever it suited them all along.This is simply the first time I've been able to capture evidence since my car has been temporarily displaced from its spot in the garage while some 75 year old church pews are in there awaiting their eventual transformation into benches for various family abodes.

The deer are totally adorable when babies and I am charmed by the idea of sharing our space with them. Once they are weaned off mother's milk and become mindless grazing machines however, their negative impact on our landscaping efforts and their persistent attraction to certain flower heads I would like to feature in the front yard mean we are destined to clash.

Simultaneous with the morning glory vine success, I had reasonable luck getting some zinnia babies started. I have them in a pot out front. I really appreciate the deep hues of zinnia blooms and tried having them out front before only to have Bambi and company show up to delicately raze all the blooms off the tops of the stalks.

When I grow zinnias I am all about the blooms. Not so much interested in a pot full of zinnia stalks. So this go round I was ready to take certain steps to protect my flower babies.

Enter the Can Man. I keep reading that if browsing deer bump into something that clanks and/or moves around they will startle and move on. So I have fashioned a Can Man - very clanky - moves with even a gentle breeze - and have deployed him to assume Zinnia Protective Maneuvers.As is typical for my efforts I am smitten with the results. We shall see if anybody else finds my ScareDeer charming or if they rather feel he is a bit, well, junky looking.

I made him with a bit of a tongue out attitude, so he's ready for potential critics.I get that some folks are attracted by formal gardens and well kept borders. I am clearly not one of those people.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Vine in Time

Certain easy to grow plants are so encouraging I wonder why it is I ever mess with anything else.

Take these Seeds of Change Granpa Ott's Morning Glory seeds for instance. I snagged a packet of them at Wheatsville on a whim Saturday. I put them into pots on Sunday and today, Wednesday, I already have plant babies poking their heads up into the sun.My Hub was slightly less than surprised. He maintains if you watch a morning glory vine for about 10 minutes you might actually see it grow.

He may be right but I continue to be totally delighted and won over whenever seeds do what they are supposed to do, and especially whenever they do it so durned promptly.

I may take a running series of photos of these plants just for fun to chronicle their rapid rate of growth. Yes, that is the kind of garden geek I am. I'll own that.

To balance the unanticipated Instant Gratification of the morning glories there is my other frustrated quest to get a good photo of the two kinds of finches routinely feeding in our yard.

We have lesser and American goldfinches both, and they are not only thrilled with the thistle in a designated bird feeder we hung but they are also busy working the seed heads of the various wild flowers growing in the back.

They are very camera shy apparently and tend to manage to stay about three feet further away from me than I need to grab clear shots. Especially taking into consideration their darting tendencies.

Here's a typical sequence....

I spot a flash of yellow diving towards the ground. It is finches, feeding on the flowers! My heart leaps. I already have the camera in my hand.

Ooof. The bird is behind the flowers from me.
I inch stealthily forward....
Did somebody hear something click?
Fly away!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Last Gasp Before Summer?

Here in Central Texas the squirrels, like the humans, seem to have developed a noted preference for heirloom tomatoes. In blog after blog there are reports of heirloom purple cherokee tomato stealing squirrels.

Not surprisingly, reader comments reacting to squirrel theft issues run the gamut from folks advising peaceful co-existence, reminding us squirrels were around since well before any gardeners arrived, to folks who state they too love their squirrels, right next to their mashed potatoes.

I got my tomato plants in late this year (thank you pesky oak allergies!) All my heirloom tomatoes are currently coming from the store like these beauties.My tomato plants haven't successfully produced enough fruit to attract anybody's attention. Yet. So far the squirrels in our area are mostly content to try and outmaneuver the weight sensitive bar on our bird feeder. When they give up (only temporarily) they hang out. No offense intended but this photo of a young male on the feeder pretty much offers a visual definition of the terms "balls out", don't you think?The Beauty Berries are blooming in preparation for setting a record number of berries later in the year. I haven't ever seen squirrels eating the vibrant purple fruit clusters but the birds, especially mockingbirds, really love them. They should be happy campers if these flowers are any indicator.

We had such a mild winter the queen's wreath vine never really died back. That means we have flowers earlier than usual this year and the bees have been a near constant presence. Getting a great shot of the rapidly moving bees is always tricky, but these all black bees are particularly fast workers. I don't know if they have a different way to collect pollen or nectar or if that is not what they are up to but they zip around so quickly I can't imagine they get much at a time. Anybody know what type of bees these are and why they seem in such constant motion?Finally, while I don't have tomato theft issues so far this year I am fighting a losing battle with rollie-pollies and the strawberries. Whenever I spot a strawberry that looks nearly ready to eat I carefully set it up off the ground on another stem or leaf. Somehow more often than not they end up back on the ground and by the time I get back to pick the berry it has been attacked and partially devoured. The bugs are there full time while I am a sporadic visitor, so they definitely have the opportunistic advantage on me.This is our first year to try these plants at all and now I see the philosophy behind the eponymous terra cotta planters. On my To Do list for next year is to buy more plants and their designated planters both, to see if we can manage to get sufficient berries at a time for a batch of jam or failing that, enough to feature in a salad or atop shortcake for two.

After several discussions about potentially starting queen's wreath vines in a couple of other locations, I decided to try some old fashioned Grandpa Ott's Morning Glory vines instead. One of the new features of gardening for me this year has been to stop pretending I don't care much about results.

I have, any number of times, thrown seed carelessly on soil hoping for vines without much to show for it. Yet, every time I see an old fashioned morning glory plant in bloom they stop me in my tracks. This time I decided, late in the year or not, I would try planting the seeds in pots, at the recommended depth, giving them good sun and keeping the soil evenly moist while germination is in progress. I will transplant the baby vines into the ground where I hope they will take off on their own and am determined to give them extra water until they are well established.

Yeah I know. Following directions to get more predictable results. What a concept! I am optimistic I will be back here later in the year with some nice shots of glorious blooms. If following the planting directions does not yield spectacular results then I predict more surly seed tossing with a return to previous "I don't care anyway!" posturing.

Finally here is one more shot (oh hush - don't look if you don't want to!) of our bottle tree.We have continued to do general work clearing out pesky hackberry trees and persistent trumpet and grapevines recurrent to the area. I am very enamored of the beauty this cleared-for-the-moment little cove reveals.

Whenever we see a bottle tree constructed out of a post and/or metal my husband tends to comment "that's not a bottle tree it is a bottle post!" and on cue I say "that's right!". It is a harmless enough conceit.

The highs in our area are predicted to climb to 98 degrees Monday and Tuesday. That trend in combination with a Do It Ourselves approach here makes it unlikely any large projects (or small ones either!) will begin outdoors in the foreseeable future. As previously mentioned, I do have a list started for next year. Included on there is a note to myself that I want to develop an area suitable for growing cucumbers. I'll do some reading up on them. I think I'd like to get some sort of vertical vine support fashioned so I'll be keeping my eye out in the blogosphere for ideas. I haven't read about squirrels stealing cucumbers off vines but that may be only a matter of time. Squirrels certainly seem to know a good thing to eat when they see it. As do rollie pollie bugs. The plan will be to have enough on hand to share.

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Rollingwood, Central Texas
Family historian by default. Oldest surviving matriarch on my branch of the Family Tree. Story teller, photo taker, gardener, cook, blabbermouth.