Monday, January 30, 2012

Diggin' in the Dirt Newsletter - Spring 2012

The signature of God is written in flowers

Diggin’ in the Dirt  
Late Winter/Spring 2012 Newsletter 

(tips for a Zone 7/8 garden)

Click here

Happy Gardening,

Toni :-)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Of Moss and Men


my mind wanders and I imagine a cool, damp garden 
draped in an emerald carpet. 

I am fascinated by moss.  Maybe it is because I don't have much of it in my garden, except on some rocks by my pond.

When we were in Georgia on vacation this summer, I visited Callaway Gardens.  The moss growing along the sides of the paths caught my attention.  This would be a rare sight during a Texas summer.


At our vacation cabin (which was on 8 acres surrounded by a river on 3 sides of the property) I saw lots of beautiful moss.


I took these mossy pictures as I went exploring the property. 

Note to self:  
Do not go exploring in the Georgia mountains again 
without putting on chigger repellent!!!

Don't these pictures make you just want to reach out and pet the moss :-)

I came across a wonderful website recently when I was on Blotanical looking for new blogs to visit.

David Spain and Ken Gergle are landscapers in the Piedmont region of North Carolina.  According to their website, they operate the only moss nursery in the United States.   They have the cutest little product called Moss Rocks!   Check out their website and blog to learn some interesting information about moss and see the beautiful moss gardens they have designed.

(Note:  I have no affiliation with this company or these men; I just was so impressed with their website and landscape designs in moss that I just wanted to share their site with you.)

I corresponded with David through email recently; and he assures me that I can, indeed, grow moss in Texas.

I am on a mission to grow moss; but I fear that come August, that cool, damp, emerald-carpeted garden of my imagination will be just that -- my imagination.

Cool, mossy dreams to you....

Toni :-)

P. S. Also, visit Deb at Deb's Garden to read a very informational post on how she has grown beautiful moss paths in her woodland garden.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Blooms Among the Foliage

I've been a little distracted the last few days with planning a little DIY project for my backyard (more on that later), so I missed Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th and Foliage Follow-Up on the 16th.  I did manage to take a few pictures of what's blooming among some fabulous foliage, so I thought I'd share them with you...just a little late.

As I showed you in my Bare Bones post, there's not a lot blooming in my perennial or shrub beds, but I use containers for adding color in the winter.

A pot of cyclamen, oxalis, ivy, and sedum sits by my back door which is a shady spot where pansies would not do well, and it's close by in case I need to give it a little extra protection on the chance our temps dip into the low 20s or teens.

 Pansies and kale are really foolproof 
and can take just about anything our Texas winters dish out.  

Pansies are not pansies!

Here's a grouping in a side planting topiary.

I also mix curly parsley in with pansies for added texture 
and bright green color.

A new pansy companion in my containers is bok choy.   I am not sure how it would do if it got down into the low 20s or teens, but in the high 20s and low 30s, it has done great.  I hope to use more of this next year.

Oh, no!  It looks like I've got a worm on my bok choy!  

 I got this cute little rock caterpillar for Christmas :-)

In the veggie garden I've got some cabbage that is beautiful, but it is extremely slow growing.

And here's my broccoli.  I am so proud of this broccoli.  I know it is small, but this is the first time I have actually been able to grow broccoli that is even remotely respectable.   I tend to grow mini veggies.   In fact, my grandson was at a salad bar one time, and they had some of that baby corn (you know the corn you see in Asian food?), and he said, "Hey, it's Mimi corn!" 

Here are a few little side broccoli shoots.  
Once I cut the main head off, I expect these little side shoots will grow too.

And one new perennial in my backyard shade bed caught my attention this month.   This is Heuchera 'Southern Comfort.'   I just love the coppery shades of the leaves.  I have not had huge success with heucheras in the past, but I couldn't resist this one at the nursery last spring.  But, hey, it survived our brutal summer last year, so in my book, it's already a winner!

 I hope you've enjoyed my January blooms and foliage.

If you're running a little behind this month, too, and haven't had a chance to check out Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, click here.  And for some other great gardens of foliage, click here.

As I mentioned at the start, I can't wait to show you the DIY project I've been working on (planning and dreaming, planning and dreaming).   I got some inspiration online, drew out a plan, took all the measurements (10 times!), got the lumber cut today, we've got all the screws, and the drill is charging as we speak.  Tomorrow, Lord willing, is the day.     If this thing turns out like the one I've got pictured in my mind, I will be so excited!     I can't wait to show you.

Stay tuned...

Toni :-)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Urn Runneth Over

I am overflowing with excitement over the latest addition to my front garden!

Now you see it.

Now you don't.

This past October I had a large crape myrtle removed from my front entryway garden.   I love crape myrtles, but this particular variety, 'Country Red,'  had grown so large that it was basically obliterating the architectural details of the front of the house; and falling blooms and leaves created a constant mess in the gutters and on the sidewalk.

After the tree was removed, I felt like the area needed a little "something."   I debated....maybe a smaller tree, like a redbud, or possibly a Japanese maple (if there was enough shade).  I also thought about adding a large container for annual color.  Or possibly a fountain, but I didn't want a lot of maintenance involved.

Just the other day, I stopped by a local nursery in search of a small concrete bench for my backyard.  When I walked in the nursery, the first thing I saw was not a bench, but a beautiful fountain.   Right then, I knew this is just what my entry garden needed.   I choked on the price for a minute, but then I found out that the nursery was having a 30% sale on all fountains.   Sold!  

Here is the area in January 2011

And here is the area now, January 2012 

It took a little digging, measuring, leveling, and man -- er woman-handling to get the fountain set up, but I am quite pleased with the results :-)    I am even more excited to see it this spring and summer when it is surrounded by blooms of Daffodils, Columbine, Oxalis, Summer Phlox, and Rudbeckia.  

I love the soft trickling sound of the water as it bubbles up and flows down the sides of the urn.   The entryway feels more open and welcoming now with the subtraction of the crape myrtle and the addition of the fountain.

Now, where was I?  Oh yes, I was looking for a garden bench for the backyard.   Wonder what else I will find :-)

Toni :-)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Bare Bones

Bare bones:   
"the basic elements or the essential structure of something"

I just did some winter clean-up of my garden to tidy things up a bit after recent freezes.   I cut most of the perennials to the ground, but left some for winter interest.   Basically my rule of thumb is, if it looks bad, I cut it to the ground.   If it still looks good (such as the ornamental grasses) or maybe has some benefit for wildlife (such as seed heads for the birds), I leave them until mid-February.

I leave some fallen leaves in the shrub/flower beds, but rake or blow any excess leaves onto the lawn and they are mulched with the mower and added to the compost pile.   

In my pond, anything that has turned to mush and has fallen down into the water is cut back and cleaned out of the pond.   The parrots feather that has grown out into the middle of the pond is raked back toward the sides to keep the water flow through the middle wide open.

And what is left behind after all of my trimming, raking, and mulching?  
The bare bones.  

For the most part, the only blooms in I have in my garden right now are the pansies and violas in containers.  But I'm okay with that.  I think the garden (and the gardener) deserves a rest now and then :-)   I love this time of year to re-evaluate the bones of my garden to see where it needs tweaking.  Thankfully it just needs a little toe bone added here and there and it isn't in need of hip replacement or spine surgery :-)

Here is my garden all cleaned up...
                                            ...and down to the bare bones 

The backyard:



The front yard:

Here are a few specifics on my clean-up list:

Perennials cut to the ground:

Mealy Cup Sage/'Henry Duelberg' Salvia (Salvia farinacea)
Mexican Bush Sage (tender perennial -- mulch well)
Summer Phlox
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
Katie's Ruellia
Mexican Mint Marigold
Turk's Cap
Salvia madrensis (Forsythia Sage)
Purple Heart
Wood Fern and Japanese Painted Fern
Tropical Giant Spider Lily

Just gave these a "haircut":

Salvia greggii

Pond Plants:

Umbrella grass, Lizzard Tail - cut down to water level
Pickerel Rush, Water Lily - pulled out mushy stems, but left roots down in water
Iris - cut or pulled browned leaves

Left these alone (for winter interest)
(will prune in February, if necessary):

Ornamental grasses
Daylilies (I will pull dried foliage in the spring)
Leopard Plant (Ligularia/Farfugium)
May Night Salvia
Russian Sage
4-nerve Daisy
'Powis Castle' Artemisia
American Beautyberry

Pulled up annuals:

Melampodium (saved seeds)
Holy Basil (saved seeds)
African Blue Basil
Salvia coccinea (scattered seeds back in garden)
Dragonwing Begonias
Blue Daze
Sweet Potato Vine

You can also check out my Fall "Diggin' in the Dirt" Newsletter for tips on how to care for specific perennials after a freeze.

For a fun look at garden bones, visit Casa Mariposa 
and find out how bony your garden is :-)

Toni :-)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Photo Finish and Prayerful Start

Inspired by a post from Pam @ Digging and Les @ A Tidewater Gardener, I took a look back over my photos from last year and decided to post some of my favorite photos from 2011.

I realize these photos are far from professional, but this is just meant to be a review of my garden as seen through my eyes and the lens of my simple Canon PowerShot camera.  Aside from maybe a little cropping here and there, the photos are just as they came out of the camera.  (I have no clue how to use Photoshop!)  

As we begin the new year, I hope you enjoy this 2011 photo review.

A January Sky

 February's white in snow and bloom

  March blooms and foliage

April's poppy and pond

May's blooms and bees


June's color in sky and earth

July's container color

August's daytime reality and nighttime beauty


September's butterfly and bloom

October's blue and bright

November's friend

December's cabbage and color

A New Year's Prayer

Happy Gardening in 2012!

Toni :-)