March 19, 2008
From the Producer: 3/8
What a seesaw trip the last week of February! First a record high, then reports that we could dip below 30°. I said “darn” (at least for this newsletter). I grabbed the rowcover pieces and stakes that I’d lazily stored on the front porch. I covered the new agaves and the one I’d just moved, against ALL my advice to you about the danger of moving an agave too early. When I follow my own advice, I’ll let you know.
The next morning they were fine, wondering what the fuss was about when I removed their “blankies.” I didn’t dare leave them on, since the cats never miss a chance for a rowcover nap. No sense in early death by squishing.
Another news of the weird for you: You may have read about the guy in Austin who was electrocuted (but lived) when stealing copper wire from an electric plant. Greg said that copper theft has become a real problem. Air conditioners are even a target. Greg saw one business with barbed wire around their massive units—not around the building, just the air conditioners. And, copper junkies even steal units from homes, cutting off their “pipes” and hauling them off! I wouldn’t lose any sleep over this, but now I’ve got another reason to celebrate clearing out photinia-ville!
Last week, butterflies and bees covered everything in bloom. Structural and/or colorful foliage is a great thing to have, but flowers, seeds, and berries in all seasons are essential for a well-balanced insect/wildlife garden. I’ve even seen several ladybugs at work. The anoles that live in their condo shutters at the front room window were also out in the sun picking up lunch. Cat Sam Jr. watched them from inside on the window’s low bookcase. After he’d twitched himself to exhaustion, he decided to get first dibs on the bookcase basket (originally intended for mail) for a nap.
As tempting as it was to mulch in front last weekend, I held true to my vow to wait. So, I dug up some nandinas and ruellia, fertilized the front tree, and congratulated the newly moved aster on its rebound, delighted to be back in the sunshine.
In back, I added some columbines to the crape bed, but mainly, I fertilized and mulched. Once things are topped off with new mulch, it looks so pretty. In the cat cove, I refreshed the crushed granite path. Now the oxalis, calylophus, winecup, oregano, Spanish lavender, and self-seeded penstemons stand out nicely. I mulched the sides with cedar. Here, I have a line of pavonias (rock rose) on either side, with a bay laurel, Barbados cherry, and inland sea oats banking the storage shed.
The entrance arbor roses (Buff Beauty and New Dawn) are working as fast as they can to leaf. At the back, framing it all, the Lady Banks rose has burst into bloom. Bunches of spiderworts underneath promise to join it soon. The Clematis armandii cloaking the back fence behind them is sending out new shoots, and thinking about buds.
I dug up a few leucojam bulbs that sprung up in the yard (probably unearthed during irrigation) and put them at the cat cove’s entrance. I plan to divide more later this spring. Since the pink skullcaps gave up the ghost, I’m going to line the entrance with Mexican heather in a month or so. This is one cuphea that does well for me. Next year, when it’s dormant, the leucojams will take over until it comes back.
At the front storage side, the spiraea should open this weekend, and the climbing Cecile Brunner on the shed in a few weeks. On either side of the beds extending beyond the cove, flame acanthus and purple trailing lantana are fluffing out to stand up to lush daylilies, hemerocallis, and spuria iris. Lycoris and oxblood lily foliage are fueling up for fall’s flowers.
Along the back fence, we got our first blooms on one of the mountain laurels we seeded years ago! At one time, it was a row of ligustrums. I chopped them down and scattered seeds from the mountain laurel in the front yard, definitely an exercise in patience.
Turks cap, pavonia, Salvia lyrata, butter and eggs (invasive, but so pretty), along with the lantana, are coming out. The wedelia groundcover is already in bloom here and there. The crossvine, which has never done well for me—I’m not sure why, since it’s such a great plant—is still there, determined to bloom this week. Passionvine is coming up everywhere. This is always a concern since it wants to hang around the mountain laurels. When I spray them with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) to fend off the armyworms, I have to be careful not to get it on the passionvine, since I don’t want to kill the Gulf fritillary larvae that end up on it.
More on the back next week, and hope you’re having fun! Linda