Hand me downs

Last fall my wife’s grandmother asked me to help her transplant some amaryllis bulbs from her old house to her new house. So I grabbed a shovel and filled two boxes full a bulbs. As payment she let me take a few bulbs home for my own garden. At the time I didn’t really have a spot for them but needed to get them planted soon since winter was quickly approaching. I ended up just putting them in a cedar barrel sitting near our front door.

This past week they finally went into full bloom! They are a nice deep red and much taller than I expected.

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The best part about these bulbs, my wife’s grandmother informed me that they originally came from her grandfather’s garden and she has planted then at every house shes lived in. Whenever she moves she leaves a few for the next owner and takes a few for her new house. So I was excited to finally get to enjoy my hand me down bulbs and their long family lineage now in my own yard.

February foliage

Taking part in my first foliage follow-up. After grabbing a couple of quick pictures I noticed a few things. My garden/yard as a whole is still pretty sparse, but it’s still in the beginning stages. Also, for “winter” I found a good amount of green and flowers.

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Right out the door, a nice bright green splash of color from one of my fox tail ferns framing my front door. You can even see a couple of slim spears of new growth that sprang just a couple of days ago.

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These wax leaf begonias were a surprise. I planted them last spring and expected them to just freeze up and die during the winter. Once the autumn leaves started falling, I left a six inch pile of leaves on this bed just to help keep any weeds from taking root. Last weekend, while doing some yard clean up and prep for the upcoming spring, I pulled back the leaves and found the begonias thriving and blooming! I guess it just shows how mild this winter has been.

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One of my newest salvias I planted just a few months ago, in October. It’s already starting to show it’s color.

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Another salvia, this time in white about ready to go into full bloom.

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A great shot of a bed full of trailing lantana. I planted these last spring and watered them, maybe twice? They are loving the enormous amount of sun in this spot. Also, I’m pretty sure they’ve been blooming since I planted them. In the background you can see is a nice clump of “wild petunia” that came with the house. As I researched, just now, to see if that’s really what it was, I discovered I may actually be an invasive species (Ruellia caerulea) here in Texas… In fact, I came across this in the Austin Grow Green guide about ruellia, “taller types are invasive; do not plant near preserves.” Luckily, I don’t live near a preserve, but as you can see they are tall. Much taller than the 8″ – 1′ drawf variety that is recommended. I guess I will need to take a further look at that bed.

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These pansies have been thriving thanks to some recent rain and the mild winter.

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Finally, a crimson clover cover crop getting one of my raised beds ready for the upcoming spring planting.

Hope you enjoyed some of my February foliage. Check out Pam’s blog Digging for even more great foliage.

Path to somewhere

So I guess it’s about time to start making use of this blog. Since it’s been “winter”, for the most part the past month or so, not too much has been going on in the gardens. My garden has a few fall/winter veggies growing, but a good part of my my garden has a cover crop of crimson clover in preparation for the spring garden. I have to admit the last two days of 60 – 70 degree weather already has me thinking it’s time to start planting for spring, but in my experience I know February usually has a couple of wintery surprises.

There is one project I wanted to show off. This actually took place back before winter really took hold. I’m a big fan of reducing the lawn with flowers, natives, hardscapes and even some yard art. Not only does it mean less lawn to take care of and usually less maintenance in general when using the right plants, but it also means a more interesting looking yard. A true garden escape.

When we first purchased our house, there was pretty much no landscaping going on. The “side yard” as I call it, a decent sized yard between us and our neighbors, was pretty much a few crape myrtles against the house, weeds and some more weeds mixed in. I decided that would be my first focus since my neighbors on that side had a nice looking yard and that was worst looking part of our front yard. I promptly cleared out all of the weeds from the flower bed and filled it in with some salvia.  Then I threw in an esperanza and trailing lantana in a circular flower bed that was occupied by a large stump. For the most part everything did great, except most of the weeds came back…

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My wife and I had talked of adding a paver pathway from the front of the house, through the side yard and into the backyard. Just so happened her parents had a palette of pavers sitting in their driveway they had no use for. So it was decided. I’d use the free pavers, and who doesn’t love free, to create a pathway and extend the current flower bed. Also taking the opportunity to  clean up the flower bed, add some more salvias and put down some weed block and mulch to hopefully at least help with the weeds.

First step was to dig down a few inches to make a nice even base for the pavers. Already off the bat I was beginning to hate clay soil.

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After digging out the pathway I realized it wasn’t deep enough so I went back over it once more to be down another inch. Overall, I was able to get the pathway about 2 to 3 inches deep.

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Next I put down some weed block to help prevent anything sneaking up through the pavers. Then I added a thing layer of sand just to help level things up and give something to seat the pavers into.

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Now the fun part, laying the pavers. I started in the corner instead of at one of the ends.  This way I could make sure pattern would have a smooth transition through the corner and the two pathways would mach up correctly.  You can also see I used a simple pattern to try and avoid too many seams, and help lock the pavers in place.

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Thanks to the age old proverb, “Measure twice, cut once”, and with some luck, the pavers ended up fitting perfectly.  Really I measured about five or more times.  I even measured each new row to make sure I was going straight along the side of the house. I’m not a pro, so any little bit of OCD to make sure it comes out right is fine by me.

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After a full weekend I got the entire pathway laid. I used a couple of bags of sand to sweep into the seams to help lock to bricks in place. I’ll probably have to go back with more sand every few months until it all settles into the cracks.

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Here you can see our dog Jake wasn’t happy about being stuck in the backyard as we finished the last few rows. You can also see we ran out of bricks. There’s still about a hundred more bricks that we need to transport to our house.  Those should finish off the pathway perfectly.  For now though, there’s just a little awkward and abrupt end to the pathway.

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Finally, all that was left was the finishing details. I pulled up parts of the old metal border and replaced it with new bordering material that would extend the entire length of the larger flower bed. Under my soil, about six inches down, I have limestone. Some of the old rusty stakes were nearly impossible to pull out of the limestone. I even broke my wooded hammer trying to pry them out!

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I also pulled up all of the weeds… again. This time though I added weed block and some mulch help keep them in check. The new extended parts of the flower bed got a couple of new salvias to fill it in. And the pathway was done.

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There’s still a small section by the back gate that needs some landscaping but I’ve got a fun idea that possible involves some cacti for that area.

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Overall though, it was a big success I think. I have a few additional ideas for landscaping the side yard but this is a huge improvement.  I cannot wait for spring and summer for all of those salvia to start blooming agin.