>And so it begins…

>One of my planned fall projects is to remove some of our grass and create some beds in the back yard. Soften the look of the yard and give me more planting space. Really, it’s just about giving me more planting space. It’s all about me…buying more plants. The cycle never stops. Sorry John.

Actually, with all of the wonderful gardeners I know now in Austin, I find that I am getting some passalong plants and I just love it. And quite frankly, I need more soil to put these wonderful plants in. So, back to the bed. The bed will curve along the side of the pool, take a turn and run along the patio and then run underneath our 2nd story deck. The roses are planted below the deck right now, they get some fierce sun there, and they will stay. But the bed will allow me to plant something in front of them and keep the grass from getting around the base of the roses.

And so I marked the trench last week and made the basic digs with the shovel. Then today, I began laying the border.

I did the stonework until I ran out of shade. I’ll keep going this week as we have such wonderful weather.

AND all you gardeners out there, please let me know if you have any suggestions for companion plants to go in front of the roses.

I also noticed my morning glories are all blooming so well. In fact, they seem to ignore the time of day all together and stay open morning, noon and evening.

Ahhh, I love fall.

>Bugs in the Garden-Trouble!

>I saw the most fascinating display of two unusual bugs in the garden today. Luckily, I was able to capture most of it with my camera. It was an interaction between a honeybee and a ladybug. The honeybee was beautiful, but a little on the bossy side with the ladybug who happened to be mulling about close by. The ladybug quickly showed her ornery side and made her displeasure quite clear and the honeybee was driven away.

Let’s see if I can embed the pictures. …

Here you see the honeybee approaching the ladybug.

Quickly the ladybug begins to show her distress at the honeybee

Finally she makes it quite clear she wants nothing to do with the honeybee by making lots of noise

And the honeybee is driven off

Such mischievous insects frolicking in my garden!

>Queen of the Night

> Here she is. The moonflower is finally showing up at night now. We have had about a week of flowers at night and you can see there are plenty buds to go. She must like the weather cooling down. The fragrance is really so wonderful. Anyway, I will definitely plan to keep this an annual in my garden to enjoy the fragrance and look of the flowers at night. I’m hoping I can figure out a place closer to where we would be sitting if outside.

>Belated Bloggers’ Bloom Day

>My apologies, my bloom day collided with my “Sick Child” day, as we have had illness haunting our family for the past few weeks. But I won’t go into gross bodily functions in children. That’s for my other blog.

Oh, the glorious weather that has tantalized me this week. Today it is overcast and a gorgeous temperature in the mid eighties. We have slept with the windows open the last few nights. Bring on the fall!

I walked around my garden today without breaking a sweat and saw what has been revived by the cool weather.

A moonflower vine has been teasing me for the last few night. It has buds all over it but these two are ready to go. I checked last night, but they stayed closed. These flowers are amazing to smell at night and I only wish I had them right outside my bedroom window.

My peas are just peaking out of the ground at the base of the trellis in my veggie garden

My gulf Muehly grass is putting on show-stopping gauzy red stalks_ I planted them based on being struck dumb when I saw them planted en masse at a development and have been waiting for it’s bloom time.

The fountain grasses are putting on their own little show with their dramatic creamy stalks

When I approached my wildflower/septic field, I noticed some newcomers visiting for the fall, alongside the oldtimers making their way out. Here, scarlet sage grows up in front of the skeletons of the coneflowers.

Right next to it, I found a beautiful cluster of seed heads with white flowers below. After some research, I think I have IDed these as milfoil.

A morning glory peeks out from a tangle of greenery

My jasmine vine is not blooming, but it is in growth mode, twining up the legs of our deck. My father in law helped me attach guide wires in the spring for it to grab on to.

And my Texas Sage has put on a n unexpected encore performance with it’s beautiful pink flowers against blue-green foliage

>Growing my garden knowledge

>I’ve mentioned before how grateful I am to have taken the Master Gardening class last year. It is so fascinating to take a casual hobby and really intensely focus on growing your knowledge in the area and finding out whether what you knew before is factual or urban garden legend. I find that working at the Master Gardeners phone desk answering calls from the public on gardening helps me continue to develop my knowledge base and hone my skills. I still feel very much a beginner but it is wonderful being surrounded by those who have been involved for many more years.

Austin bloggers have commented a lot about our unusually wet year this year. One of the issues we have been getting a lot of calls on this year is Oak Leaf Drop- not to be confused with Oak Wilt which is terrifying to have happen to a prize large oak tree. Here is some information should any of you be interested in Oak Leaf Drop and how the wet weather has affected trees.

Abundant rains have continued to fall across most areas of Texas all summer and into the early fall. These rains coupled with abundant humidity from the Gulf have extended the early summer symptomatic outbreaks of leaf disease in oaks, specifically live oaks, this year. Oaks are still experiencing significant leaf drop (defoliation) throughout their canopies and especially on the lower half of the tree. Affected trees look very thin and sickly from a distance. Their fallen leaves on the ground appear spotted or mottled with blotches colored yellow, brown, and light-green. However, the live oaks are still putting on a sustained growth flush starting in mid August and extending into October. This can be seen as long twig extensions (candling) at the outer edge of the canopies.

As we cautioned in early summer, this defoliation is not oak wilt. This problem is only confined to the leaf tissues. Branches remain alive and viable for new leaves to form still this fall or next spring. The trees are not dying. Fungicides are ineffective as infection occurred earlier in the year. Raking up and disposing of the fallen leaves on the ground is a good strategy to remove the local inoculum. This defoliation is a natural occurrence and something that typically happens to the oaks in high rainfall years. This year is different since the rains have continued to come since late winter and leaf disease conditions and subsequent leaf defoliations have persisted all summer.

Again, this is not oak wilt. Oak wilt leaf symptoms are completely different. Also a pattern of mortality in the stand of trees over time is not apparent, i.e. an infection center radiating out over the landscape for several years. The oaks will recover and put on new leaves. This year’s excellent growing conditions will carry over into next year’s growth and the oaks of Texas will continue to grow and provide us with their many benefits.

>Where in the heck is Fall?

>I had hopes for this weekend that the weather would cool off finally as we have been far above average for this time of year. But, alas, the forecast has changed and it looks like more of the same through next week. Temps in the 90s. I just keep waiting for that front to hit and bring me some breezes, and stir up the gardening vibes inside of me.

Honestly, I need some colder weather to inject me with some energy. I have been slacking in my gardening duties as my mothering duties overtook me. Baby started crawling, son got croup, baby got croup, son went to doctor and got flu shot, son on antibiotics, baby went to doctor and they found ear infection, baby on antibiotics. My husband and I have not slept alone in our bed in two weeks if that gives you any indication of the sleep deprivation level at our house.

Actually, I will admit to some gardening this weekend. Husband and I hired our babysitter to come over Sunday morning (thank god she’s not a church-goer or we would never get anything done!)to play with the kids and we had “I get to do what I want” for 3 hours. John cleaned the garage and I weeded and reworked the veggie garden. Melon season is officially over since I have just harvested my 3 watermelons. Tomatilla season is over as I pulled those out. Tomato season is winding down (or perhaps getting reinvigorated) as I did some serious pruning of the Juliets and Sweet 100s. But…hello pea season!!!! Seeds went in at the bottom of the trellis.

I must admit I was disappointed with the cantaloupes I grew- I harvested quite a few and they were gorgeous when opened, but completely lacking in sweetness until I got to the final one. So, too much work for too few rewards. The tomatillas were great but I was surprised- a ton of flowers and less but still impressive fruits. But man, the fruits were midgets. But I did get enough to make quite a few dinners with them, and even added them to gazpacho. The Juliets were the winner this year. Produced like crazy, good solid taste, and literally harvested basket after basket after basket. Watermelons…interesting to grow, absolutely took over every spare inch of garden space. Not sure I would do them again.

So when the weather gets my fall energy flowing, my task list includes:
1. transplanting the Texas hibiscus into the ground from the pot it has been in for 3 years
2. trimming back roses
3. trimming dead limbs off of Texas sage
4. Starting to visualize lines of beds in backyard I want to create where lawn currently grows (task #4 will grow into about 60 further tasks once I can start moving on this project. )

This project for the new bed is something I have thought about for a while, creating additional flower space in our back yard and removing some of the lawn. It will involve removing grass, tilling, soil amendment, stonework. And finally planting. But I have thought of fall as a time to build a foundation for other seasons and that seems to fit perfectly with this project.