The Natural Gardener | A Garden Center Tour

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One of our favorite nurseries to visit while in the Austin area is The Natural Gardener. It’s on the southwest side of town, tucked away off the main roads heading to Bee Cave and Dripping Springs. It’s full of native plants and all sorts of wonderous plants!

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Right off the bat we found a hairy prickly pear cactus that begged to be taken home and of course we took it up on its offer!

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There’s a huge succulent and cactus section to cater to the more drought tolerant landscape of the area.

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Pots of Ruellia caroliniana

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In addition to the area where plants are for sale are demonstation vegetable gardens as well as other beautiful landscaped areas.

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At the back of the nursery is a pen for goats and chickens!

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And of course a greenhouse for the tropicals!

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We picked up a few plants on our excursion as well as some ceramic pots for some indoor plants that will go in our office spaces at work. I also grabbed up some warm weather seeds that were marked 40% off and will plant those next spring.

I like listening to the Gardening Naturally show hosted by the owner, John Dromgoole. I used to be able to find it in iTunes but it hasn’t been on there in awhile. Maybe you can find it in another podcatcher.

This nursery is a must visit for any gardener if in the Austin area. You are guaranteed to find something unique and interesting here!

Anticipating Fall Vegetable Gardening

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Remember the garden looking like this? This was early July. It got much, much worse after that. And this was pretty bad!

Needless to say, summer came upon us and we did not keep up with gardening. A few weekends ago we spent some time getting it all weeded and attempting to get new mulch down on the paths and beds. It looks so much better and now I can actually look forward to fall garden planning.

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The peppers and eggplant were among the very minimal survivors that were planted way back in May sometime.

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We bought some artichokes and cauliflower to start and need to go through our seeds to see what else we might need to order.

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This time next year Forest will be able to ‘help’ in the garden without us worrying about him eating something he shouldn’t. Right now he’s still crawling and is unable to discern between what is food and what is not food, so everything he can get will go in his mouth!

I hope to have a better update on the vegetable garden here in a few weeks when we get it planted out a bit more. Our evenings are starting to be less available to gardening now that the light is almost gone by 7:30 pm. Weekends are getting busy as it is cooling off a bit so we can hike or camp more. Somehow we’ll manage to garden!

long time, no blog…

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Hello! It’s Chel.

I know it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me. It’s been a … strange (?) summer.

Long story, short(er): I haven’t been feeling well for a while (about two-and-a-half years, to be honest) and a blood test at my doctor’s office in September showed that my iron levels have gotten so low, it’s actually affecting my heart function. So I have pretty severe anemia, which would explain the exhaustion, anxiety, and lack of focus I’ve been experiencing for such a long time. Feeling so terrible definitely influenced my gardening habits these last few months.

Because it’s been so hot, I have been doing the bare minimum as far as anything outdoors (besides swimming). I swim and then briefly check if the plants need water and then head back inside. No real planting, pruning, photographing, or enjoying the garden, for the most part. I got a few new plants, got them going, trashed the ones that died from the heat, and basically felt overwhelmed by it all.

This last week I finally started feeling a tiny bit better- and that tiny bit is making a huge difference. I did a little repotting yesterday and today and it felt good to be out there again, with my hands in the dirt. Like a clean start, in a way.

I’m excited for fall in the garden. Fall is always our peak season for growing down here in Southwest Florida, so it’s a great time to have a garden. I’m hoping I feel a little better so I can really enjoy some time out there.

Anyway, enough blathering. I did take a few photos here and there over the summer (and a few over the last week), so I thought I would share them.

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Hope you are all well!

Nyssa aquatica Update

Three years ago we planted a water tupelo on the edge of our pond. It has since thrived and done extremely well in its location. I thought I’d show a little update!

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As you can see, it has gained a lot of height in the last three years! I can’t wait to see what it looks like in another three years!

Saving Passionfruit Seeds

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Back when we lived in Florida I got a few passionfruit from the grocery store once. Being that we started so much from seeds and because we had a natural curiosity to see what would grow, I started the seeds. They did indeed grow and we hand pollinated our vines so we could harvest the fruit. We were successful and enjoyed doing this.

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Fast forward many years later to here in Texas and we have a Passiflora ‘incense’ which is a variety. I haven’t seen any fruit from this plant yet and I haphazardly did try to pollinate one of the flowers once this summer. We have native Passiflora incaranta and the tiny Passiflora lutea in the yard, too. I was the grocery store last weekend and our store had a clearance fruit section quite often. This time I was surprsied to see a bag of 12-15 passionfruits for a dollar! I nabbed them up quickly and have eaten on them all week. I opted to save one of them for seeds.

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I put the seeds into a jar and will let them ferment for a few days, rinse them, and start the seeds. I want to get them going and then will end up overwintering them so I can plant them next year. We’ll see if this little experiement works!

Mid-August | Hot but Anticipating Autumn

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A few nights ago I decided to finally clean up the potting bench. Up until earlier this summer we had several things growing out over there. With various projects going on around the house and the general busy-ness of the summer, the potting bench got neglected and unwatered. Therefore just about everything on the bench succumbed to the drought and heat.

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I cleaned it up and there were four things still alive! Oops!

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Evenings are starting to come on earlier now that we’re headed towards September. It seemed earlier this year, the change of seasons. I know the drought is the cause of this but it also felt like the light changed–the angle of the sun–earlier, too. I know that’s not possible so maybe I was just paying more attention.

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Over the next few weeks I’m going to attempt to get the flower gardens back under control so they can prepare to go dormant in a few months. I’m looking forward to a bit of a reprieve this winter in the flower garden and switch over to enjoying the vegetable garden again.

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I’m ready, so ready for Autumn! I can’t wait for it to cool off so Forest can come outside with us on weekends once again.

Closing Out July in the Garden

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Well, we went from over saturation in the early part of summer to no rain and parched yards for the middle part of summer. I’m not sure when the last day of rain was recorded here. The only good thing about no rain is that the grass isn’t growing as fast. Our ability to keep on top of mowing has been scattered this summer with various trips out of town. At some points keeping the grass mowed was imperative as it seemed to grow overnight. Now, not so much.

The weeds I got under control in the flower beds a few months ago are staring to come back. I guess I need to head back into those beds soon. My brother and sister-in-law braved the weed jungle of our vegetable garden a week ago when they came to visit. My brother had insisted he wasn’t going to do any gardening while he was visiting but the next thing I knew he was out there pulling some weeds. I’m pretty sure whatever they pulled has already been replaced by more weeds!

Despite all of that there are still some great things going on in the garden. It might not be as lush as it has been in prior years but there’s still beauty out there. I’m definitely looking forward to cooler weather and being outside more often. Forest is getting to the point where it will be easier for him to be outside and semi-entertaining himself in any kind of toy/contrapation that doesn’t let him roam freely about the yard—especially when it cools off.

Oh well. I have higher hopes for keeping up here on Sprout in the coming months. Thanks for bearing with us—if anyone is still reading—this year!

Breaking Up is Hard to Do…

So this week I made a sort of agonizing decision for my garden…

I decided to get rid of my hibiscus plants. (Well… not “get rid of”, but relocate to the general landscape around our house, as opposed to being inside in my garden on the lanai…)

This was, like I said, agonizing. I have been collecting Hibiscus and growing them in pots/planters for years. They are probably one of my favorite plants. I have gotten some amazing varieties, and when they bloom, it’s like nothing else. They make me so happy when they are in bloom.

The issue is: pest control. In the past few years, I have really started to avoid all types of pest control *on* the lanai besides misting with the hose (which works exceptionally well if you have a forceful mister), pruning, and some light applications of soap. I have a LOT of tiny lizards living inside the garden now- inside the lanai- and this year I’ve had a BUNCH of little tiny baby lizards hatch and join the “team”. They do a lot of the pest control for me. And because I enjoy them so much, and they do such a great job, I don’t want to use anything that might irritate or hurt them.

The hibiscus are HORRIBLE when it comes to pest infestation. They are constantly covered in aphids, mealybugs (the worst), and everything else… and nothing I do- including stronger pest control methods- really makes a dent in them. It takes hours and hours of work every month to keep them alive, much less pest free.

We have a few hibiscus in our general landscape outside the lanai, including a few I transplanted, and they do great. I think when they are allowed to grow larger, little infestations aren’t a big deal. But when they are in a planter, and have to be kept under 2-3 feet, a little bit of infestation is a very big deal.I’m just tired of wasting so much time on it.

So this week I removed my hibiscus from their planters and Tom transplanted them the landscape out back, near the sea wall. I kept one hibiscus in a small pot, cut all the way back, and will see how it does now that it’s starting from root.

Now I have four large empty planters and a large chunk of patio garden space, so after doing a bit of research, I ordered the following from Emerald Goddess Gardens (photos courtesy Emerald Goddess Gardens):

Malaysian Orchid

Malaysian Orchid

Terrestrial Orchid

Terrestrial Orchid

Marmalade Bush

Marmalade Bush

Yellow Mandavilla

Yellow Mandevilla

These are all new to me, except for the Mandevilla, which I started growing earlier this spring/summer. They are supposed to be hearty plants that also do well as petite bushes in planters. I found them on a “patio/lanai suggestions” list. The plants arrived yesterday, and I’m excited to plant them and see how they do.

So, hopefully the hibiscus will do well in their new homes outside my lanai garden, and the new plants will flourish on the inside.

Wish me luck!

The Good. The Bad. The Embarassing.

The Good

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The Bad

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I might have been on top of the weeds in the flower garden a month ago, but they are trying to topple me now.

The Embarassing

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Um, yeah…this is the vegetable garden. Somewhere in there are leeks, peppers, garlic, cucumbers, tomatoes, and who knows what else. Oh, I know…weeds!

Back in the Garden…

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Long time, no blog! Not only have I been away from the blog, I was also sort of away from the garden- for most of May and early June, I was sidelined by illness. I was able to go outside and poke around a bit, but my husband Tom took over the big duties like watering, pruning, and everything else that required more than a few seconds.

About two weeks ago, I started getting out there again, gradually taking back duties associated with the daily upkeep. Now I’m back to doing mostly everything, but Tom is still going to give me a hand with the larger tasks. For a container garden, it’s really huge. Tom installed another hose for me, we’ve got several vines inching their way up to the top of the lanai, and pots and planters pretty much cover all areas of the lanai, with little paths to walk around them.

Anyway, one thing I did do while I was taking some time off was to get obsessed with a new version of Lantanas- they are called “Bandana Lantana”.

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I’ve grown Lantana before, but these are bred to be less bushy and more compact, with significantly larger blooms and tons of them. And the colors are insanely beautiful.96.jpg

 

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I got a few to fill in some holes in the garden this spring, and by the time June rolled around, I wound up ordering all the colors in the Bandana Lantana line that were available- peach, cherry, cherry sunrise, lemon zest, pink, and rose. I missed out on the red and white ones, but as soon as they are available, I’ll be getting those, too.

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I’ve never “collected” a plant before, but these Lantana are so beautiful and seem to do extraordinarily well at anything the Florida weather throws at them. They do “shed”, which is pretty typical of Lantana, but compared to the way my petunias shed, it’s really no big deal.

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In the “other things i took pictures of the other day” category, there is this beautiful Teddy Bear Sunflower that grew without any petals (*sigh* leaf and structure wise, it’s the most perfect sunflower I have ever grown. It just doesn’t have any petals!)

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And my good buddy, the Bowl O’ Coleus. We have a few of these going, but this one is the youngest, and therefore the prettiest to look at. Once they get tall, even if I am SUPER proactive on pinching off anything that resembles a bloom, they get tall and spindly. I love them when they are fluffy and leafy.

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Other than plants, there are tons of tiny, tiny little baby lizards all over the lanai. They are seriously cute, but very timid, The older ones are so used to Tom and Chester (the one cat who gets to go on the lanai, who has no interest in lizards) and I, that we can pretty much come within an inch of them, and they won’t move. The babies still have to learn that we’re okay.

Late June in the Garden

It’s a little crazy here lately, but I think the video sums things up.

Early June in the Garden

I put together another video for this month. It’s a little more artistic than I usually do. Enjoy!

passiflora canopy

About two years ago, I relocated one of my passiflora plants to the back of my screened-in lanai. After winding around the trellis that Tom (my husband) built for it, it began clinging to the screen and I decided to let it go ahead and do that, and see what happened.

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Flash forward to now: the vine has taken over one panel of the lanai screen ceiling. It does provide a little more shade for the back of the garden than I would like, but it’s created a little oasis/secret garden back there.

Mostly, it’s leaves. But twice a year, it explodes into bloom, so it’s like a canopy of HUGE plate-sized, unusual, fragrant flowers overhead.  It’s pretty spectacular.

A few weeks ago, the bloom started, and I got Tom to snap a few photos:

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Because they are inside a screened-in lanai, the blooms rarely (if ever) get pollinated.

The clean-up is a kind of a pain: because the blooms only last a day, every morning there’s about 20 spent buds on the ground. But that’s a really small price to pay for a canopy of such beautiful flowers.

 

 

Early May Garden Tour

Chris got a Go Pro camera at Christmas and hadn’t used it so I asked if I could start playing with it. He bought the head component so I could wear it on my head and out the door I went. Forest had an ear infection so I stayed home with him yesterday and we had a few minutes where I could get outside and test it out—that’s the first video. The second video is much longer and is a bit more of an update on the garden with a dip into the backyard.

Enjoy!

Nun’s Orchid

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A month or so ago we ventured out to our local plant nursery since it was spring and we had a renewed interest in our garden once again. We toured the areas under the shade cloth and spotted a pot of nun’s orchid, Phaius tankervilleae. I had wanted some for awhile, especially since we used to have a lot of orchids in Florida, but we just aren’t in a climate, now, where we can leave them out all winter. However, these were ground orchids that we could potentially leave in the ground during the winter and they would return every year. With our protected garden area on the south side of the house we have been able to overwinter some more tropical plants that might have otherwise succumbed to a freeze in the open areas of the garden. This is where the orchid will go. Right now it is still in the pot next to the large pine log pot Chris made a month or so ago, waiting for us to put it in the ground.

I’m really loving the blooms and will look forward to it being a great addition to our garden. Here’s hoping it survives our winter!

More information from UF IFAS

air plant weirdness

Every so often, my air plant does this:

Technically, it’s blooming. And that purple *thing* (there’s actually two of them this time) with the yellow pods and white center-thingee (these are very scientific and technical terms, as you might have guessed)  is the “flower”. It doesn’t open up or anything- it just shoots out and stays like that for about one day and then wilts away and falls off.

It’s a very odd thing to witness, especially since airplants do a whole lot of nothing. To see a bright purple spike shoot straight out is pretty unusual- very alien-like, in a way.

Ahh, the joys of gardening. (Seriously, though- I love when this stuff happens. People think that gardening is a pretty unexciting hobby, but it’s actually really, REALLY interesting.)

April Garden Tour

orchids, orchids, orchids…

orchids, spring 2015

orchids, spring 2015

This has been a banner year for my orchids. I now have seven of them- I had four, and in the last few months, Gracie and Tom added three more to the collection.

They usually bloom in spring/early summer, but this year every single one of them came into bloom at the same time. It’s crazy and beautiful and a little unreal- even though I’ve had my oldest orchid for about eleven years, every time they bloom I still can’t believe they are real. They are just *so* beautiful, and they last so long, and they require so little care. It’s unfathomable to me that every household doesn’t have one.

At this moment, we have six orchids in the kitchen, one in my art studio, and one outside (which has some ants on it, so we let the lizards deal with that…)

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orchids, 2015

This is my newest orchid- when Tom and Gracie were at Lowe’s to run an errand, they picked this orchid up for me as a little surprise. I love the colors.

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My bean orchid from last year. Its blooms lasted months and months and months and it rebounded so quickly.

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This one Gracie got me for Valentine’s Day. She chose it because it was fully in bloom, and the flowers are HUGE. The lady at the shop warned her that because all the flowers were open already, it might not last long, but Gracie had her mind made up. Two months later, it looks exactly as it did the day I got it. (Yes, I double checked that it was real!)

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orchids, 2015

I *think* this is my oldest orchid- eleven years old. It went dormant for a large part of that because I had it in a crummy pot and had no idea what I was doing, so I basically ignored it. When I finally got my gardening thing going, I started paying attention to it and it came back.

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orchids, 2015

This year it had multiple stalks/spikes, about four, which is the most I’ve ever gotten on an orchid.

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orchids, 2015

This guy had three spikes. The flowers are so delicate and beautiful.

It’s funny, because when I’m at the nursery or the home improvement store, I run to look at the more unusual plants, and the hibiscus. I only look at the orchids when I’m on my way out. But they are one of my favorite plants, and they seem to really like whatever it is about our particular environment and location. I should start paying more attention to them when I am out (they are EVERYWHERE- the grocery store, Trader Joe’s, hardware store, etc.) , but I think I’d wind up with hundreds…

Wildflowers in the Right-of-Way

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Chris worked hard to seed the front right-of-way strip thicker with bluebonnets this year. The two previous years we had used a wildflower mix from Wildseed Farms but we weren’t getting the bluebonnet results we wanted. So this year Chris bought a pound of bluebonnet seeds and the rewards from that have been great. We have a few gaps we need to fill in next season but we’re really happy with the results this year. The bulbs we’d planted up front seem to have faded a bit with only some daffodils and hyacinths returning over the years. This was the first year we didn’t get new bulbs to plant up front. It will be interesting to see just how many come back over the years.

Next year Forest will be able to sit in the bluebonnets for a good photo-op!

The Great Carrot Harvest of 2015

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When Chris planted carrots back in the fall I don’t think he expected that we’d get the harvest we did a week ago. Even just a few days before he harvested them he was lamenting that he thought they weren’t going to yield the amount he envisioned. The morning of his harvesting he came in and said he was pretty sure he underestimated the yield he was going to get and sure enough he was right. In the end he filled up a 125 quart cooler full of carrots! Initially he was going to prepare them all for freezing but two evenings worth of washing, blanching, cutting, and vacuum sealing for freezing burned him out of that. In the end we have plenty of carrots to last us throughout the year and a lot of raw carrots to munch on over the next month or so. We’ll be handing out carrots to neighbors, coworkers, and family.

Now, if only we could replicate this with potatoes and sweet potatoes!