Saturday, May 16, 2015

Happy (belated) Garden Bloggers Bloom Day!

Swallowtail on pink verbena
Corsican Violets
I didn't know until this morning that yesterday, May 15th, was Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. I follow several garden blogs, mostly to ogle the gorgeous photos and to hunt for ideas. Two of my favorites are Rock Rose and Digging. I started my garden this spring from scratch. I mean there was absolutely nothing but native grasses, kidneywood and sumac, a few gorgeous old liveoak trees, a handful of redbuds, cedar, (ashe juniper) and rocks. Did I mention the cedar and the rocks? I've always gardened by the seat of my pants. Sort of the way I do everything, raising my kids, writing, cooking ... a pinch of this and a tablespoon of that, then stand back and see the result. Modify when necessary.

Monarda & Agastache
With this garden endeavor, though, I did try to apply a few things I've learned the hard way. I cleared out most of what I didn't want--the rocks, cedar, and other assorted misplaced greenery--and added hardscaping, first. David (my son and cohort in gardening crimes) used some of the cedar and some of the rock to build fencing, arbors, pergolas and walls, laying in the bones, at least as many of them as I've envisioned to date. Due to the slope of the land, the foundation for my garden shed had to be really high in front, 3 feet. I studied that for many months before finally deciding to dry stack stone walls and backfill them, essentially raising the garden beds to hide the slab. I've wondered since if I would have been just as happy leaving the beds ground level but that's gardening water under the bridge. Anyway, once the hardscaping was in place, and a few trees were planted down what I call the hell strip, which is basically a wide strip of land left bare by construction, David and I went shopping for plants. Austin has some fantastic nurseries. Hill Country Water Gardens, The Natural Gardener, Backbone Valley Nursery, and Barton Springs Nursery are a few. I'm not sure how many trips we made to each nursery or how many red wagons we filled. A lot! I could never have planted up the beds and the hell strip so quickly without David's help. He dug the holes and then helped me pop in the plants along with healthy doses of micorrhizal fungi and an organic, molasses-based fertilizer that we got at Hill Country Water Gardens.

David Austin - old rose: Munstead Wood
Natives & various succulents
Previously, I gardened in Zone 9A and dealt with hot humid summer days when the air lay on the garden like a damp blanket. Winters were often wet and mild but temps could plunge. Here in my Zone 8B garden, although it's not so far away, the climate is really different. I'm in the country so it seems there's always a breeze, everything from lightly ruffling to gale force. Although summer days are hot, the air is dryer. So far, I haven't lost plants due to fungus infestations the way I did in my Zone 9 garden. David knows nearly everything there is to know about building soil, so I'm sure his schedule of amendments, a couple of different fungal teas he brews, are part of why the roses, clematis, oak leaf hydrangeas, daylilies, phlox, bearded irises--essentially the fussier things I've planted in my raised beds--seem to be flourishing. Everything planted down the hell strip, all the drought tolerant toughies: assorted salvias, penstemons, rudbeckia, various sedums, agaves, assorted cacti, native daisies, betony, lavendar, rosemary and agastache looks good so far, too. Between the stones David laid to mark a wide path down the hell strip, I've put in a mix of smaller toughies: delospermas, assorted succulents including a favorite of my mother's, hens and chickens, tiny ground-hugging thymes, wooly veronicas, erodiums, dianthus and lilac flowered germander.

Dianthus & bearded iris
There are still bare spots everywhere, where things will have to grow some to fill in. The arbors and pergolas are naked, waiting for their respective dresses of passion vine, pink jasmine, sweet autumn clematis and climbing roses to cover them, and some perennials haven't exactly taken off like the verbascum and the strawberry foxglove. I've been warned those, along with my mophead hydrangeas I brought from my old garden and the lilac my sister shared with me, won't do here. Every time I hear that, though, I get my stubborn on and plant it anyway. I have to try. I do have a rule: if I kill it three times, I'm done. And sometimes I even follow it!

I'm cautiously optimistic, so far. Of course, it's only May. I'm waiting for August. How will it look then? Burned up? Gone to the grasshoppers? Who knows! I'll post as things progress.