From the producer: January 2, 2009

The goldfinches certainly made things merry and bright for us this holiday season.  Here are more pictures from Greg behind the camera.

When I got them another bag of nyjer seed for Christmas, I knew they wouldn’t exchange or return it!

Here’s one I took from inside the den window.  I also got them another sock to replace the one I taped when a squirrel snagged it.

To make it easier to fill the feeders, I use a big funnel from the auto store to pour the bag into a cat litter jug (or an old gallon water container).

The birds love their Christmas birdbath, too.

I swear, we get lots of birds in there at one time, but as soon as I quietly move the camera onto the patio, off they go.  Will keep trying, but National Geographic I am not.

To start the new year right, I turned the compost pile.  A few years ago I bought a pitchfork and was good about putting it to use every Sunday. This year I got lax, but as you know, compost happens whether you tend to it or not; it just takes longer. Still, I dug in and loaded a wheelbarrow to fill in Harvey’s playpen double digging this fall. I accidentally deleted his burrow pictures, but here’s one of them filled in with the compost, so we wouldn’t break a leg walking into it.

As the weather changed in October, he decided to burrow, much to our fascination as new bunny parents.  Ever practical, we put him to work by moving his playpen to spots that needed aeration. Since December, he hasn’t burrowed; perhaps he didn’t like the pay. In any case, I can’t wait to see the result of bunny double dig (fertilized along the way) and compost.

This is a good thing to do, even if you don’t have a bunny, to improve those trampled or low drainage areas in your lawn or gardens. Even aerating with a garden fork really helps. Top with compost, and if you’re in the mood, include dried molasses to supercharge it. Or crumble leaves into the spot. Or dig a trench and fill with your vegetable scraps and coffee grounds and cover with the soil.

As we turn the calendar over, I love this season of new birth.  Despite no rain, my new Liliums ‘Linda’ greeted the new year.

The Arum italicums are coming up. Gardening is like getting presents every day!

A special gift is the passalong pink poppy seeds from Joan Hilbig. I sowed them a few months ago among the emerging spuria irises. I’m glad they like their new address.

And, the leeks I planted from the cut-off grocery store roots are all going strong!

As I wondered and wandered, and did a lot of grubby labor, too, I noted my new stars of 2008.

Dicliptera suberecta
Their tops got nipped, but they handle freeze as well as drought.  Their repetitious flowers fed so many, including hummingbirds.  I like their velvety foliage any time.  Especially, I like that they fill my part sun/shade areas.  Swiss chard fills the gaps that cosmos held this summer.

This has been the new wonder plant for me in part shade. In their first year, they didn’t whimper over drought and freeze. Here one is against a Dicliptera and ‘Powis Castle’ artemesia.

Salvia sinaloensis (Bicolor sage)
I’ll admit:  with my clay soil, I was wary about this one.  But with raves from CTG viewers, I went for it.  They haven’t bloomed all that much, but the foliar color and low-growing form was just what I wanted in the morning sun den bed. I plan to add some to the muted sun area in the crepe bed. They’re a bit freeze-worn, but not to the ground.

‘Huntington Carpet’ rosemary
Last winter I replaced the overgrown prostrates from the beds lining the front porch sidewalk. Constantly I was pruning them to expedite travel to the front door.  Also, they had become woody with frills on top.  Fortunately, I found these mini versions grown by local Gabriel Valley Farms.  The tag says they get to about 18″ high and 30″ wide. They’ve grown so well that by next year should frame the walk nicely. Might be a good choice for folks with “hell curbs.”  (Oh, the plastic tube is Greg’s sidewalk Christmas lighting).

Berlandiera lyrata (chocolate flower)
Beyond them, I planted this experiment. I never ever thought this native would last in my soil.  It gets morning shade and afternoon sun, but its intense blazes are brief and then tempered by the trees. You can see a bit of its old flower stalks.  And yes, the yellow flowers do smell like chocolate!  The scent would be more powerful with clusters of them, so I may add another two this year.

Foxtail fern
I’d admired this one in several gardens, but figured it would never live in mine.  Last year, though, I stuck one in a pot in the shady rental-side bed. It’s done so well that I may venture into the ground this year. The freeze didn’t hamper its fluffy performance a bit.

Shrimp plant
Actually, this one’s a long-term resident in sun/shade, but winter’s clutch simply enriched the bracts that held on after the freeze.

This week, CTG returns!  And if you miss segments, I put them online-check under Video.

Since blackberries and fruit trees are finding homes in more gardens every year, this week Texas AgriLife fruit specialist Jim Kamas gives us tips using organic techniques. In Resources and with This Week, you’ll find Jim’s list from this program.

Also check Resources for Drew Demler’s and Jim’s fruit tree lists and cultivation info.

By the way, this is the time of year to apply a dormant or horticultural oil to fruit trees to kill overwintering insects.

Meet Jim in person and find out more at a free seminar at 10 a.m. on January 10 at The Natural Gardener.

Until next week, Linda