Sunday, August 28, 2011

GARDEN IMPRESSIONISM: WET & COOL & GREEN

"Green Monet"

"Lightning Roots"

"Window into Another World"

Where I'm Finding These



Happy Macro Monday!
To visit more, visit Lisa at http://lisaschaos.com/


Saturday, August 27, 2011

DANCES WITH DEATH AND WATER RATIONING

Today we hit 109F...that's 42.7 Celsius...a new all time record high.NOTE: I have lived in Texas all my life. I remember the summer of 1980. I was at the airport when it reached 108. The airport A/C went out and they had all the doors open. I had lived in Seattle that entire summer and the contrast was overpowering.  And now I ask myself, "I garden here?"


Our normal high for today is 95 degrees.
From the Houston National Weather Service DISCUSSION...

ALL TIME RECORD HIGH OF 109 HAS BEEN TIED AT IAH (PREVIOUSLY SET
ON 9/4/2000) @ 244 PM. TEMP SPIKED THEN WENT BACK DOWN. STILL HAVE
A FEW HOURS TO BREAK THAT. SADLY...DON`T SEE MUCH OF A CHANGE
TOMORROW WITH A REALLY DRY AIRMASS REMAINING IN PLACE. WRF/NAM12
SHOW ABOUT THE SAME READINGS AS TODAY. (GLS MIGHT SEE A SLIGHTLY
EARLIER START W/ SOUTH WINDS THEREFORE LOWER TEMPS). A LIGHT S/SE
FLOW RESUMES AREAWIDE MONDAY ALLOWING TEMPS TO PLUMMET BACK DOWN
TO 100-106.

GOOD NEWS: You can garden even in this drought. Dry gravel beds in my front garden are worry free even with extreme heat and dry conditions.

I always liked the names in the movie Dances With Wolves. So I've decided to give myself the name "Dances With Death" while I water my drought stricken garden. It sure feels appropros.
Guess what? Since the mayor has gone to a LEVEL 2 water rationing scenario, the water usage for the city has gone....UP!
Of course it has. It's called the hoarding effect. In general, when people think a commodity will grow scarce they will immediately start to use their share.  Suddenly, EVERYONE starts watering on their day....even non-gardeners.  You can also watch the hoarding effect when a hurricane MIGHT hit Texas. Suddenly, there's no more bottled water on the shelf in all the stores.
The most severe casualities are the trees in our city parks

I REALLY do not like how long this drought has dragged on and I'm now trying to decide what lives and what to let go. I really can't afford a higher water bill than what I used last month...a new record..I'm trying to keep trees alive at this point. I don't feel bad about my number because one of my friends who powerwashed her sidewalks and house for hours used 40,000 gallons in one month! That included topping off her swimming pool daily!
My normal usage for a family of 4 is around 7,000 gallons.
Agaves, Yuccas, and Aloes do fine in arid conditions


BASED ON HAVING NO RAIN FOR THE MONTH (we've had .09" in August), here are my numbers for just keeping things alive. I'll do this twice a week to keep us from going to LEVEL 3 and NO outside watering:
DRY ROCK BEDS (three areas with many plants)..........60 gallons
WESTSIDE AGAVE AREA & SEGO PALM.............. 50 gallons
SMALL LAWN ............................................................60 gallons (lawn looks stressed)
WOODLAND GARDEN (large area) .......................... 80 gallons
ENTRY GARDEN with GRAVEL ................................40 gallons
TOTAL FOR FRONT YARD.....................................290 GALLONS X 2 = ~ 600 GALLONS/WK
                                                                                     
Basically Tucson Arizona gets more rain on average than the amount we've received during this drought in Houston.

Tucson, Arizona (average rainfall) Feb-August = 6.82"
Houston (2011 drought) Feb-August= 5.90"

THE GOOD NEWS~ TEMPERATURES ARE FINALLY GOING DOWN after today and tomorrow!
According to the latest NWS weather report (just out this morning), we will go from the extreme temps of 108 today to a steady progression downward EACH DAY and end the week with a high of only 93 degrees and a 40% chance of rain by next Friday!

 THESE GREEN SEDGES OFFER HOPE FOR A NEW LAWN
I've been studying these native sedges for over a year now and have let them take over the gravel garden. I have about 60 now and plan to transplant these to form new colonies in the front yard.
So far, they transplant well, take half the water of St. Augustine grass (Pam at Digging also confirms this on her post) and can take temperatures up to 105 109 with no damage.
It's a new look that takes some getting used to. But it's much better on my conscience.
I think it is the species Carex retroflexa, but that's not certain without some more research.

All for now. Hang in there garden and Texas gardeners!
David/ Tropical Texana :-)


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

HOT ENOUGH FOR YA? FUNNY DIARY OF A NEWCOMER TO TEXAS

With our new record for most consecutive 100+ days in Houston (we made National news), it only seems appropriate to share this sadly funny Diary from a newcomer to Texas. This was sent to me by a friend and I took out some of the more 'colorful' language to make things a bit milder. :-) David

(Not my Garden)
Ahhh, Home Sweet Home!
from a friend in Seattle,Washington about their move to Texas

Dear Diary,

Just moved to Texas! Now this is a state that knows how to live!! Beautiful sunny days and warm balmy evenings. It is beautiful. I've finally found my home. I love it here.

June 14th:
Really heating up. Got to 100 today. Not a problem. Live in an air-conditioned home, drive an air-conditioned car. What a pleasure to see the sun everyday like this. I'm turning into a sun worshiper.

June 30th:
Had the backyard landscaped with western plants today. Lots of cactus and rocks. What a breeze to maintain. No more mowing the lawn for me. Another scorcher today, but I love it here.


July 10th:
The temperature hasn't been below 100 all week. How do people get used to this kind of heat? At least, it's kind of windy though. But getting used to the heat is taking longer than I expected. Forgot and walked barefoot on a sidewalk today. The blisters will be OK by tomorrow, I think.

July 15th:
Fell asleep by the community pool. Got 3rd degree burns over 60% of my body. Missed 3 days of work. What a dumb thing to do. I learned my lesson though. Got to respect the ol' sun in a climate like this.


July 20th:
I missed Lomita (my cat) sneaking into the car when I left this morning. By the time I got to the hot car at noon, Lomita had died and swollen up to the size of a shopping bag, then popped like a water balloon. The car now smells like dead Kibbles and Bits. I learned my lesson though. No more pets in this heat. Good ol' Mr. Sun strikes again.

July 25th:
The wind sucks. It feels like a giant freaking blow dryer!! And it's hot as h**l. The home air-conditioner is on the fritz and the AC repairman charged $200 just to drive by and tell me he needed to order parts. The locusts in the trees never shut up.

July 30th:
Been sleeping outside on the patio for 3 nights now, $225,000 house and I can't even go inside. Lomita is the lucky one. Why did I ever come here? A buzzing locust landed on me in the middle of the night and I peed in my pants.

Aug. 4th:
Its 115 degrees. Finally got the air-conditioner fixed today. It cost $500 and gets the temperature down to 85. I hate this stupid state.


Aug. 6th: Opened the closet and looked at my sweater and coat. Why? Why? Why did I even bring this stuff? Got Fall Fashion catalog in the mail today with pictures of beautiful sweaters. Threw the catalog out the window. Bought more tank tops in different colors.

Aug. 8th:
If another wise guy cracks, 'Hot enough for you today?' I'm going to strangle him. Dang heat. By the time I get to work, the radiator is boiling over, my clothes are soaking wet, and I smell like baked cat!!

Aug. 9th:
Tried to run some errands after work. Wore shorts, and when I sat on the seats in the car, I thought my rear was on fire. My legs accidentally touched the leather and melted to the seat. I lost 2 layers of flesh and all the hair on the back of my legs and rear end . . . Now my car smells like burnt hair and baked cat.

Aug 10th:
The weather report might as well be a dang recording. Hot and sunny. Hot and sunny. Hot and sunny. It's been too hot to do anything but sit by a fan for 2 darn months and the weatherman says it might really warm up next week. Doesn't it ever rain in this state? Water rationing will be next, so my $1700 worth of cactus will just dry up and blow over. Even the cactus can't live here.


Aug. 14th:
Welcome to HADES! Temperature got to 115 today. Cactus are dead. Forgot to crack the window and blew the darn windshield out of the car. The installer came to fix it and guess what he asked me??? "Hot enough for you today?" My sister had to spend $1,500 to bail me out of jail. Freaking Texas. What kind of a sick demented idiot would want to live in this state ?? Will write later to let you know how the trial goes.

Love,

Sunny :-)
























Monday, August 22, 2011

GARDEN SURPRISE: I CAUGHT A WILD DOVE TODAY

Today was my first day back at school. Usually after a long day at work, I'm eager to get home and see the garden. But this drought wears on endlessly and there's nothing pretty to look at except the birds. So how did I catch this wild dove? Scroll down to find out.


Here's the little guy in my enclosed hen house waiting for me to arrive home!
It wasn't upset, just a bit confused....sorta like the song Welcome to the Hotel California..."you can enter but you can never leave".

After I went inside the chicken run, the dove flew to the ground and the hens started chasing the doves and I started chasing the hens.
I'm sure to a bystander it was quite amusing.
The dove is now free, but here's the question: will I find the same dove in the hen house tomorrow?

I put bird seed out for doves, but apparently the chicken feed is better tasting.
David/ Tropical Texana/ :-)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

HEN HAPPENINGS: Secret Roosters and Happy Hens

I'm learning a lot about the world of chickens. For instance, sexing chicks (by the way..not a good choice for google keywords, but this IS the term farmers use in the industry) is not an exact science. Feed stores have two categories to choose from: pullets and straight run. Pullets are guaranteed 90% hens. Straight run is 50/50 and you could do better playing the Lottery. Sadly, I bought 6 pullets and 2 turned out to be roosters! So today we said good-bye to....
BELLA our Buff Orpington. She's going back to the store.
BELLA..or should we say BILL?

The secret to taming roosters...feed them wheat bread while you sit with them! It's an irresistible treat.

Personality: Though sold as a hen, Bella never acted like one. The charming, docile, even loveable personality that Buff Orpington hens are famous for never materialized. Instead, she was distrusting of people, wary, keen on hunting for food, and a loner. And now I know why...she (he) was always a rooster. You see, you can't really tell hens and roosters apart until the age of 4 months. Then dramatic changes occur in the roosters while the hens stay docile and even enjoy being picked up and petted.
Bella starting crowing this week, got her (his) feathers ruffled a lot, and got pretty bold about taking first place in the pecking order. I wish I could keep roosters, but our neighborhood and my wife don't appreciate Mother Nature's Alarm Clock.
Roosters are beautiful, but not too practical for city folks.
(image source: wikipedia)

So, who's left? Time for some fun hen humor.
THE 4 HENS

Today I put some mysterious items in their hen house. As you can see, they studied these carefully and are now deep in thought as to what they could possibly mean. Come on girls, you can figure this out. :-)

By next month we should get our first eggs from Hoot (brown), Zeebee & Phoebe (zebra stripes), and Gwen  (black).

I'll post the first egg sometime in the future.

HAPPY HENS EXTRA:  MY 5 MOST POPULAR CHICKEN TREATS to feed to your hens:
1. wheat breat
2. watermelon rinds
3. corn on the cob leftover cobs
4. pulled up St. Augustine grass (they eat the entire leaf & stems!)
5. popcorn

Thanks for stopping by.
David/ :-)






Thursday, August 18, 2011

NEW EASY TO READ GARDEN ZONE MAP FOR NORTH AMERICA

As you can see, the drought is getting to me psychologically.
The red x's mark the weather stations I keep up with in hopes of seeing a cooling trend.
I'm not letting any cool weather sneak up on me. I'll be ready and smiling.
#1 Alert,Canada
#2 Resolute, Canada
#3 Eureka, Canada
#4 Baker Lake, Canada
#5 Leaf Rapids, Manitoba, Canada
#6 Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (2,000 miles north of Houston)
#7 Omaha, Nebraska (1,000 miles north of Houston)
#8 Houston

Someday it will be cooler! Today it was 104 degrees here in the Bayou City.

 PLANTS THAT YOU CAN GROW IN HOUSTON TEXAS

Dead Grass

CLOUDY DAY IN HOUSTON TEXAS

We get excited when we see clouds. It's that bad.

All for now. Thanks for stopping by. David/

Sunday, August 14, 2011

GBBD MEETS MACRO MONDAY: PURPLE,BLUE,VIOLET & PINK AT TROPICAL TEXANA

Agaves with Blue Daze (Evolvulus nuttallianus) and Pink skullcap (Scutellaria suffrutescens)
Since this is the only time Macro Monday and GBBD both fall on a Monday, I thought it fitting to do a lot of close-up shots.
Purple, blue, and violet/pink are my color mainstays. I mix a few yellows for a nice balance.
Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens & Lisa at Lisa's Chaos for hosting. Both are on my 44 Fabulous Flora Fanatics Blog Roll. Go visit when you get the chance!
Melochia tomentosa (in the chocolate family)

Setcreasea pallida with green leaf & purple edge.

Young Crepe Myrtle shoot blooms in front of Arkansas yucca. When you cut through a Crepe Myrtle root, the damaged root sends up shoots that are the same mature age as the parent. They can bloom as a one foot sprig! These are a beautiful nusance.


Kaempferia pulchra, also known as Peacock Ginger blooms all summer here.

Lantana trifolia 'Fruity Pebbles'

The unusual Oxalis triangularis grows wild in my zone 9 woodland garden. It needs a dormant period, then suddenly pops up again.

Ruellia nudiflora. I'm convinced there are two wild varieties ~ both a light and dark purple type. Or maybe we have two species growing side by side along the highways.

A new flower (Oxypetalum caeruleum) I'm trying with soft fuzzy leaves and these heavenly blue flowers. It sprawls all over the other plants. A drought tolerant member of the milkweed family.

A bromeliad called Neoregellia 'Midnight'.

Probably native Ruellia humilis (groundcover with hairy leaves and stems)

More purple leaves of Tradescantia.

Angelonia reminds me of tiny orchids. I love this plant!

Wisteria is blooming for a third time this year.

Here's one of the yellows I talked about. This is Mussaenda luteola.
My Blue Agave garden. I want to mention that Houston is now on mandatory lawn watering restrictions(twice weekly). Good-bye green grass. Though small, I have one of the last green lawns on our street. I will still water the flower beds. The 2011 drought is breaking all known records and has now surpassed the drought of 1917 by 5 fewer inches of rainfall at this point in the calendar. 
Normal yearly rainfall: 48 inches. So far this year: 10.83 inches. 

AND FINALLY......
"The Secret Rooster?"

This week, we've heard a muffled 'ur-ur-ur-ur-errrrrrrrrrrrrr'  first thing in the morning and suspect that our Nina is really a NED!
We'll have to give Ned back if those feathers turn into rooster feathers. That leaves us 5 hens...as long as there are no more surprises!

David/ :-)
Houston, Texas

Friday, August 12, 2011

FROM THE BOTANY BOOKSHELF: THREE GARDEN BOOKS FOR A TEXAS NATURAL STYLE

Texas gardens seldom make their way into mainstream landscaping books. However, here are 3 books that give you a glimpse at what I would call an emerging Texas garden style. Only a portion of the first two books contain Texas gardens. The third is an older book containing Texas gardens.
My own Texas garden ~ a blend of many textures with an ever increasing shift to the west
This is my favorite. I don't own it yet, so I check it out from the public library. Every page is filled with landscaping that resonates with my own views of natural garden design.
284 pages/ over 300 color photos/ over 30 plant lists!/ Timber Press 2008
by Scott Ogden & Lauren Springer Ogden
Additional comments: I remember the first time I got this book I turned each page and smiled in delight at the landscaping. I really could not imagine a more beautiful set of photos. The Ogdens garden in Austin and in Colorado.

Pam at Digging introduced us to this book and I am so thankful she did. I tracked it down at a local bookstore and sat mesmorized for the next 30 minutes. Have you ever lost yourself in a book before?
It's a small book, but packs over 295 fantastic illustrations into 234 pages, some of which are from Texas gardens. The text and topics are excellent. I'm definitely getting this book!
by Stephen Orr
 Rodale Press 2011

This is probably where it all began and the title tells all. This book has stood the test of time and was published in 1997. It's still in print! That's saying a lot for a landscaping book. I must warn you that these are not gardens with over-the-top flower scenes. The gardens pictured are filled with the subtle beauty of native plants. Many of the flowers are smaller and at first you think the gardens need more. But the point of the book is this: you CAN have an all native flower and foliage garden. Most of us have opted for a blended garden, but it's nice to see where the native path will take you.
by Sally & Andy Wasowski
188 pages/ 274 illustrations/ Taylor Trade Publishing 1997/ reprinted and now in paperback

That's it! Happy Gardening.
David/ :-)






Wednesday, August 10, 2011

WORDLESS WEDNESDAY ~ MY FANTASY FORECAST MAP FOR THIS REGION

My Fantasy Forecast for August.... A rare cold front pushing in from Canada collides with Tropical Storm "Flora" in the Gulf of Mexico.  A second Pacific low pressure system moves in from Mexico  and dumps even more rain on the area. There's a 100% chance of rain for the next two weeks. Temperatures will struggle to reach 80 each day. Happy Dreaming. :-) David
map courtesy of Wikipedia
Note: We've had only 10.82" of our normal 50" for the year.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

IF YOU LIVE IN TEXAS, YOU MAY WANT TO BUY AGAVES & SUCCULENTS & NATIVE GRASSES

I think brown is my least favorite color right now. I guess those of us in Houston, Corpus Christi, and Brownsville should at least be thankful for the green stripes.

For Lancashire Rose:
 UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS LONGHORN VERSION OF MAP:

BURNT ORANGE AREA NEAR AUSTIN
:-)


Sunday, August 7, 2011

THE GREAT WESTWARD SHIFT: REPLACING THE DROUGHT PRONE LAWN AREA

 
Summer Project #1 ~ Japanese Garden Design

I finished the front lawn conversion this weekend. Instead of plants within the landscape I've decided to put them around the landscape. It has such a nice Japanese Garden feel to it that I need to leave the pattern intact. I might add plants next year. I LOVE Japanese Gardens like the famous Roanji Zen garden.

BACKGROUND: I don't normally use plastic in my landscapes, but since this was a slope I wanted to stop any washouts into the street.

PROBLEMS: I had to go back and lower the surface by a couple of inches so that the rocks would not roll onto the street. Nothing is wasted at Tropical Texana; all the soil will be put in a storage bin for use in pots.

Here's the finished project. The semi-circle echoes the larger circle of pavers seen in front of the house.
That silver plant is licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare)  and it's very drought tolerant. I'm going to try and propagate it and use it around the agaves. It's made it through one hard freeze and two dry summers. I give it a 5 STAR rating!

FINAL TOUCHES:  I pushed the gravel aside and designed a 'sand stream' to give the piece some movement. I like to think of this as art more than lawn. I can put new patterns in the sand for people walking in the neighborhood.

BENEFITS: No mowing, no watering and it's enjoyable to view. 
Hope this gives you some ideas on what to do with drought stricken portions of your lawn. Thanks for stopping by.
David/ :-)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

SAY 'SEDGE SLEUTH' FIVE TIMES FAST: I HOPE THIS NATIVE SEDGE HAS A COOL NAME

The reeds used for ancient Egyptian writing are also in this family
(image from Wikipedia)

All I wanted to do was find out the name of this wonderful little sedge in my front yard. Uh, here's what I know so far; sedges are confusing.

First, let's see if this link to my alma mater works. Someone up there at Stephen F. Austin State University in East Texas has developed a fantastic online photo atlas of our native plants with hundreds if not thousands of images. Here's the SEDGE page:


http://src.sfasu.edu/~jvk/PineywoodsPlants/Monocotyledons/Cyperaceae/Cyperaceae.html

If you look at this sedge page, you can see what I'm up against. But how can I let this wonderful little sedge live in my garden without a name?

I've narrowed it down to 5 species, but it could easily be none of these. It's funny, but I'm one of those odd people that love plant taxonomy and the challenge of working through a 'plant key' that contains words like 'hispid'. I found a great sedge key up in Maryland  http://www.worldbotanical.com/CAREX2.HTM (scroll down a bit on their website to start the torture), along with some great information from the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center http://www.wildflower.org/mobile/expert/show.php?id=6930 . I also used a list of sedges from Travis county along with a list of  sedges from our local Native Plant Society group. I'm getting closer to an answer. Plant Delights has one that looks very similar called 'Bonnie and Clyde'. I hope I don't have little gangsters in my front yard.


I'm deciding tomorrow what to call the it. I just hope it has a cool name.
David/ :-)
Related Posts with Thumbnails