The Texas Garden in February

*This is, I promise, not a thumb in the eye to everyone dealing with something rhyming with “bee molar cortex.”*

Winter in Texas is different. We still have to mow- not because the grass isn’t mostly dormant- it is- but because the weeds aren’t.

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It’s only MOSTLY dormant- which means it’s slightly alive!

So the yard is still green, just don’t look too closely because the lushest thickest greenest parts in winter… are the patchiest St. Augustine grass in summer thanks to all this crab grass that looks so great right now.

And in winter I have to weed more than in summer- like I did last weekend in the driveway bed. Seeds are coming up thanks to all the rain (it’s raining now actually)- thing is I didn’t like, plant many seeds, you dig? Most of the emerging plants and seedlings were weeds and got the ol’ heave ho. But there is returning coreopsis and mexican hat- so I’m happy about those old friends returning again for another year.

There are also about 20 reseeded larkspur, which I am so thankful for- they’re one of my favorites and I’ve been trying to grow them for over 15 years! There are gardens right here in Texas full of larkspurs- I’ve seen with mine own eyes 50′ beds of larkspur… but here all I get are a few small stragglers. I am a gardener on a mission though. So while the larkspur are spotty, there are at least some of them, and more than there were last year. In classic “of course they are” fashion- the seedlings are almost all hugging the far side of the bed next to the neighbor’s house. Do I smell or something, larkspurs? Like, rude.

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The one seedling that is on our side of the bed, so it’s the one that got it’s picture taken. We reward good behavior around here, larkspurs. (Also- groan with all the acorns this year…)

I actually do know what the deal is- larkspur like sandy well drained soils- and I’ve almost always been on clay. I’m working on the tithe, constantly, so maybe one day. One day.

It is obviously winter though- so it’s an odd juxtaposition all around- dormant grass and green lawn weeds. Cut back perennials and blooming annuals. Leafless trees and roses in bud and bloom. Dead leaves and new seedlings.

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Give me violas to pansies, any day

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Love me some cyclamen. I always wait till they’re out of bloom at Lowes and then buy them for $1 instead of $4.99 for a quart sized pot- sheesh that people won’t buy something if it isn’t in active bloom is CRAZY to me. To my benefit on the sales racks though, so I shouldn’t bitch. They always start reblooming within mere weeks of buying them.

I should say the trees are mostly leafless (that means they’re slightly in leaf! I’m gonna overuse that quote I swear to god). While all the reasonable trees on the street are bare, our red oak out front is still shaggy with dead leaves- and will remain like that all the way until the new leaf buds start.

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Get a haircut, hippy!

There are new cultivars of red oaks that not only have better fall color (ours is more purple/maroon/brown than red) but they are also better at self cleaning. We’ll continue to have a slow shed of brown leaves all winter, so will never be without piles of leaves on the ground, but the tree will still look just like this. (If it was oil and not leaves it’d be Hanukkah.)

But even with that annoyance- I love the tree. At our old house the entire neighborhood was  Arizona Ash trees- just the trashiest tree the world has ever known- they shouldn’t even count as real trees! So to have a red oak and a nice pecan to call our own… I’ll take them even with the shaggy winter look.

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Seriously though, Red Oak- you see those OTHER trees? Being GOOD trees? I’ll give you a cookie?

The roses are all blooming and setting buds… which poses it’s own conundrum. Like I mentioned, it is extra warm and wet this winter, so the roses haven’t really gone dormant. And while lovely, the deadline for pruning is coming up quickly. Texas rose pruning deadlines are easy to remember- it’s mid February. Roses. Valentine’s Day. Easy peasy. But I’m just going to have to wait till after blooming this year.

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Look at all those buds on the Belinda’s Dream! And a stealthy cat.

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And the Marie Pavie is in full bloom- such a lovely little thing- one of my favorites. It’s a small shrub rose and doesn’t need any heavy pruning. Was a birthday gift from my husband and replaces the one left at our old house when we moved.

As for the rest of the driveway bed, the snapdragons are coming in nicely. Though they are unfortunately in the same spot as some daffodils I forgot about and with a nicotinia that is coming back. I’d call it the french intensive method of packing plants, but the truth is I just forgot the daffodils were there and the nicotinia was a survivor when I pulled the rest out thinking they were dead. D’oh!

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Dead leaves… is like mulch. Soil nutrients, yes yes, that’s the ticket!

And while, if timed correctly, the blooms of all three of these would be lovely together, the daffodils are sure to go first and then the snapdragons will start just as soon as the daffodil leaves start to yellow- and are sure to look like nose hairs sticking out of the snapdragons. And then twenty bucks while the green or white or maroon nicotinia would look lovely with the all pink snapdragons, I just bet this survivor will be the weird dusty pink that will be the only color that’d look weird with the bubblegum pink snapdragons. I guess time will tell and we shall see, won’t we?

And thanks to a question in the comments for a previous post- a taste test has been done to determine if decorative kale tastes the same as edible kale.

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Stop. Standing. In. Your. Own. Light.

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Decorative kale

The results are in:  all children preferring the decorative kale (who wouldn’t want to eat a Dr. Seus plant, amiright?) My take is that it is very bland, but lacking in bitterness entirely, so has a future as a garnish. Maybe a leaf floating on a cocktail served in a coup glass if I was up for that kinda thing? (the garnish, not the cocktail in the coup glass- I am very much up for that.)

And so it may be February, but here is to more wet weather, warm houses, and the coming spring… good things to come!