It’s been raining forever down here, it seems.
Remember literally 3 posts ago where I was talking about the fact that every living thing with roots around here was a mere three days away from sudden death if I forgot to water them? We had some exceedingly close calls with a few Japanese maples, lost some potted plants, and came inches away from losing the spirea. Yeah… that’s changed.
And now I’m slowly going insane coming up with alternate Toto lyrics because it WILL. NOT. STOP. RAINING.
I cut back the triangle bed before the rain started a few weeks ago- almost everything was either dead, struggling with spider mites due to being stressed from lack of water, or just gotten out of hand. In Texas we prune perennials on a roughly 1/3 in August and 2/3 in February schedule to prevent rank growth and woody stems on many plants such as salvias, mexican oreganos, etc. (they flower on new growth, so old woody stems are undesirable). I was perhaps a bit overzealous and cut the pineapple sage back by 7/8. The fennel was toast so I cut it to the ground, though a few sprigs are popping back up from the bulbs. I took the dahlias out completely. The pink horsemint was brown and crunchy, so out it came. I was going to try to save seeds but I just popped the whole thing out of the ground and shook the entire 3′ dead plant around the areas I want it next year like some kind of medicine woman. Let it be known I was not shuffle foot dancing through this process, though I was barefoot. Most of the seeds had already dropped onto the concrete at that point, but I figured there had to be some still left in the dried flower heads.
I just about scalped the May Night Salvias… look at these good little things coming back though!
So the fuchsia May Night salvias were a solid messy mat in this area with some thinning sections in the middle, and now look at those beauties! What some attention, fertilizer, and copious water will do for a plant! What’s that you say? That’s the entirety of the way it works? Oh right…
I also weeded and mulched most of the triangle bed the same evening I cut everything back. It was a fit of gardening annoyance while the husband was barbecuing and we were hanging out outside. I’m glad I did too because it was perfect timing with all this rain that followed shortly thereafter. Unfortunately I had let the weeds have free reign, and a lot of them set seed… which are now LOVING all the rain as much as the desirable species. There was another kind of rain, this one of seeds, that poured down when I popped a 2′ prostrate spurge out of the ground… and looks like the germination rate was 110% because the picture above is all the spurge seedlings from that spot. Spurge grows in compacted soil, which the front of this bed definitely has- so it’s an indicator that a pitchfork and compost are going to be needed before spring for sure. I also use them as markers for ants- there are ALWAYS ant hills under prostrate spurge plants for some reason. Conditions must be ideal for them both but I’m not sure which comes first in that arrangement. I wasn’t wrong because there were ants under the mother spurge plant, though not fire ants, thankfully.
I also found this plant growing under the pineapple sage. I am leaving it in for now, even though it’s MUCH too close to the walkway (as is the pineapple sage, honestly) because I think there might be a distant chance it’s a purple cone flower. Most likely it’s some form of plantain and a weed… but it just doesn’t look quite like other plantains… I have fingers crossed. There is another one in front of the white mist flower too. I was hoping against hope they were rudbeckias (which I love) for a little while, but the leaves are just too smooth in texture for that. The funny thing is- I don’t actually care for purple cone flowers- I doubt I’d ever buy one. But it’s like a stray cat- just because you never actively wanted a black and white cat, doesn’t mean you don’t keep it when it shows up at your door and let the children name it Alabama. I’ll try to get pictures, he’s a cutie.
We had so much water, so fast, that first week of rain that it caused all the tomatoes to crack as the plants rushed all this newly available moisture to the fruit. I actually had to send the girls out to harvest and toss a bunch of split and wrinkled tomatoes during a break in the rain so the plants didn’t stop producing. (Let me tell you how much they bitched about THAT chore!) The plants have almost no fruit on them right now because of this. In fact, I’ve actually had to buy a box of champagne cherry tomatoes at the store recently and I may have never resented $2.49 more in my life.
The plants themselves are UGLY at this point, close to collapsing under there own weight, and too much for even the 6′ t post that is stabilizing them so the cherry vines are leaning precariously. But hope springs eternal and there are a bunch of new blossoms on the top… and a few scattered fruit as well. I even went through and pruned a full armload of dead leaves and unproductive branches off of the bottom of the cherries during that one evening of furious garden activity… not like you can tell or anything.
It’s been so wet, and I didn’t have the collar of pebbles like I should have around their crown, so my thyme plants have both died. Not enough rain will kill plants, too much rain will kill plants…it’s always something. Without thyme, or a ton of parsley like I usually have, I’m down to some spindly basil and an oregano that is right in the path of a regular dog pee route so I’m not real comfortable cooking with it. I LOVE cooking with fresh herbs, so it really sucks honestly. And without the thyme I am SCREWED for making pan gravy. I need a new thyme plant ASAP, but this weather…
Oh, and there is also the large mint patch under the faucet- but I don’t cook with anything that grows in the beds next to the house due to the fact that from 1910 to 1978 this place had at least 4 layers of lead paint that were all STILL flaking off in spots when we had the house painted this winter. There are no huge chips visible lying around or anything, and no one is nibbling on them, but I just have the image of micro-paint chips in the soil so am being a scaredy-but-better-safe-then-sorry-Nelly about the whole thing. So the mint is purely decorative and the one real spot for a larger herb garden is the tomato plot right now… which is full of tomatoes. It is cooling down, so hopefully we can get some of the new larger beds installed this winter and I’ll have more room for herbs soon.
And finally, the potted plants haven’t needed a hose dragged back to them in weeks. The picture above is the pot with a cutting of my father-in-law’s plumeria. I took the cutting when we were down there for his one year memorial memorial. My in-laws’ ranch is in zone 9 in the Rio Grande Valley- so his plumeria is an evergreen tree down there that is taller than the roof. We’ll have no such luck this one will reach anywhere close to that size here on the cusp between zone 8B and zone 8A. While some people grow oranges and bougainvilleas in the ground here, their survival is a delicate balance between protected microclimates and luck. This plumeria will be staying in the pot to come inside during the cold weather- hopefully similarly to a new black and white new cat, actually… The flowers are white with yellow centers. Sometimes plumerias can be garish color combos but I do like this one. I can’t recall if it’s fragrant, but I think it is.
I’ve never been much of a fan of tropicals (hibiscus, mandevilla, bananas, plumerias…) But this is a memory plant, you know? It reminds me of my father in law, so in the garden it goes. It was an interesting process taking those cuttings, actually. The plant weeps white sap when cut so the cuttings needs to form a callous or they rot when put directly in soil. The process to do that? Take a one foot cutting, about a broom to shovel handle in diameter, cut all the leaves off, and leave them flat on concrete in the blazing sun for a month and ignore them. I read that on MORE than one website. I though SURELY not, not in South Texas summers… really? But lo and behold it worked like a charm! Roots popped quickly out of the callus and the plants leafed out. I took four cuttings and all four took- I gave two of them to my brother in law to have. Right now I worry that we’re getting so much rain that the soil is over saturated and it risks these plumerias rotting… a sentence I would have never expected to write in Texas, honestly. I may have to bring that pot inside so it can dry out!