Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mercer Plant Swap

I prepared for the swap on Friday night, digging up plants & taking cuttings, part of the time wearing my headlamp since it is getting dark earlier. I loaded the car with plants, extra plastic pots, chips for the potluck, and a chair. Saturday started with an early morning 7-mile run as part of my half-marathon training. After a quick wardrobe change, I was on my way north to Mercer Arboretum. There must have been around 30 swappers there plus friends, children, and spouses.

IMG_1549 There is a lingo to the plant swap and there is definitely etiquette. There are what we call pre-trades, these are trades you set up ahead of time with other people, usually through email or message boards. Pre-trades are always kept under your table so everyone knows they are not available. There’s also the orphan pile. It’s usually started toward the end of the swapping. It’s a pile where you put the plants you don’t want to take home with you and it’s a free for all for anyone who wants a few more plants.

There’s great camaraderie at a plant swap and you can always find a new plant that you’ve never heard of, but will grow in your area. Over the years, I’ve come home with several new plants from the swap. Many of them have shown up on a Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Some that I can think of are firespike, pinecone ginger, rock rose, angel trumpet, hibiscus, salvia coccinea, daylilies, clerodendrum bungei, variegated duranta, gold edge duranta, crocosmia, & mexican turk’s cap.

IMG_1551 When my garden was smaller I always came home with more plants than I brought, but this year the goal was to come home with less. I decided to do all of my trades as pre-trades this year. Anything else that I brought with me was anyone’s for the asking. I brought home a great selection, some plants that I already have, but want more of as I work on my garden expansion project and a few that are new to me. Some are cuttings, while others are already in pots. I’m sure you’ll see a few of these show up in future GBBD posts.

A big thanks to our swap organizer and support crew! They did a great job as usual!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mystery Hibiscus

On occasion, I have been known to go to the local plant swaps. There’s usually one at Mercer and one in Clear Lake every Spring and Fall. The plant swaps usually have a table of freebies, especially at the end of the swap when everyone wants to get rid of the plants they brought, but didn’t trade. I think it was Spring 2009, when I found this hibiscus cutting sitting on the freebie table. I thought, what the heck, I’ll try to root it and whatever flower color it is, will be a surprise. Well, it rooted, but I didn’t plant it in the ground until this year. Yesterday, I was looking out the window and noticed a bright color where nothing has been blooming lately…it was that hibiscus.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bed Building

I woke up Saturday morning with a flurry of ideas for the yard. I must have been dreaming about expanding the gardens.

IMG_1536 The onslaught of plant sales this past month has caused an explosion of plants on the driveway (my current nursery). These are plants without a home. I recently read Carol’s GBBD post on May Dreams Gardens, she mentioned a nursery bed. Now, that’s what I need. A temporary bed to plant all my impulse buys in until I find a home for them. (note to the reader: another solution would be to stop buying plants on impulse, but what would be the fun in that? :))

Besides a nursery bed, I want to expand a couple of existing beds, mulch around the trees, make a curve around the corner, increase the angle here and there, oh yeah I still need a place for that fig tree and the lemon tree, and I need to water. Uggh, I’m tired just writing about it.

IMG_1512Here’s the start of the plan, repositioning the edging for the expanded garden and mulching around one of the pecans.

I created the circle at a 5’ radius around the tree by using a hand rake. 


Then, I put newspaper on the grass. The newspaper will kill the grass and act as a weed barrier for awhile.


Wet the newspaper thoroughly then put the mulch on top. It’s just that easy. I used eight 2 cu ft bags of mulch for a 10’ diameter circle.

Ta da…
Next will be filling in the area on the left of the tree (in the last picture) with dirt for the expanded flowerbed. I’ll also transplant the shorter plants at the edge of the old border to the new border. And, lest I forget, train the dogs to stay out of this new bed. I’m sure they are wondering why their part of the yard keeps shrinking. Poor puppies.

Gratuitous puppy picture

Saturday, October 16, 2010

October Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

Happy Garden Bloggers Bloom Day to all!

It has finally cooled off in Houston although we haven’t had rain for about a month. Once the first cool front hit I thought to myself, finally I’m done with the watering chores. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Us humans are loving the cool, dry weather, but the plants are suffering without the rain.

Despite the dry weather, and probably because of the cool weather, there are still many plants blooming in the garden. Let’s see which ones…

Desert Rock Rose

Blue Queen Saliva & Gomphrena
I'm actually leaning towards this being Indigo Spires Salvia instead of Blue Queen. Does anyone have an expert opinion?

I almost thinned all of the blue mist flower out earlier this year. It was just taking up space and had only a couple of disappointing blooms. Luckily, I was busy with other things so it remained in the garden. Over the last 3 or 4 weeks it has exploded in blooms. So happy I kept it.

Candlestick Plant (cassia alata)
I love the candlestick plant. I had one last year near the compost pile, but it didn't survive the winter. These two came up in the vegetable garden, they were a gift from the compost that I spread there in the spring.

Pink Trumpet Vine (podranea ricasoliana)

Iochroma cyaneum

Pink Surprise Bush

Salvia vanhouttei

The salvia vanhouttei has unique maroon blooms, I bought this one at one of the local plant sales last year.

Other plants blooming are: torenia, penta, hot lips salvia, mexican bush sage, gaura, chenille plant, batface cuphea, salvia coccinea, white turks cap, duranta erecta, yellow cestrum, knock-out roses, scented jasmine, angelonia, purple porterweed, & hamelia.

Visit May Dreams Gardens for more Garden Bloggers Bloom Days.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Thursday Gardening

IMG_1476So, you’re taking a vacation day on Thursday? Don’t most people take a Friday or Monday off? Yeah, yeah, but most people are not fanatical about plant sales.

Thursday was the first day of the Houston Garden Club’s annual Bulb & Plant Mart. This is one of the biggest plant sales of the year! I arrived about 30 minutes after they opened and it was a mad house. There were gardeners and wagons everywhere.


This year I pre-ordered my bulbs. They were already bagged and paid for when I arrived-roman hyacinth, scilla peruviana, anemones, freesia, and crinum americanum.  The crinum americanum is already in it’s new home in the rain garden along with a couple iris japonica and freesia laxa that I picked up inside the bulb house.

My wagon filled up quickly with various perennials destined for unknown locations around my yard. As I was scoping out the plants, Cindy from MKOK appeared. Wow, we haven’t seen each other since Buffa10! We chatted quickly then we were back to the hunt.

I noticed the checkout line growing longer as I circled the tree section of the sale. I thought if I just made a few more passes around all the booths the line would get shorter. Well, the line actually doubled while I was killing time. An hour or so later, I was wheeling my little red wagon full of plants towards my car. Luckily, the time passed quickly, I was in line behind Diana Liga one of the Permaculture instructors for Urban Harvest, aspiring market gardener, & chicken wrangler. We are both vegetarian gardeners with software developer husbands, what are the odds!?

The sale continues through Saturday. Check their website for the schedule and catalog of plants.