From the producer: November 7, 2008

November 6th, 2008 Posted in Uncategorized

For years, I’ve drooled over every abutilon I’ve seen in gardens. But, they look like something I could kill in a minute, so they never made it to the budgetary food chain. Then, this spring, a gardener gave me one of his ‘Tangerine Dream’ rooted cuttings. During this horrible summer, every morning I walked out expecting to find its sad little remains.  Instead, it said, “Howdy, don’t worry about me.” The day after Halloween, it gave me the best treat ever.

The trick may be that it likes its spot at the end of the den bed: morning sun, afternoon shade. The soil is fairly loose after years of compost and mulch. In that bed, ‘Country Girl’ mums also started to open against asters and daylilies.

With Pam Penick’s encouragement, I got a bamboo muhly for the front bed.  It looks a little weather worn from summering in a pot, but I gave it some Medina Hasta Gro after I watered it in. I bet it will fill that blank spot by next year.  To it’s direct left is a tiny Betonyleaf mistflower (Conoclinium betonicifolium) from the recent Wildflower Center sale that should fill in that space by next year.  Various bulbs accent in spring and fall.

In the foreground is the Tecoma stans I just moved.  By next summer, the two of them will softly cover the corner.  The plumbagos in the foreground are this year’s divisions, too, so they’re still on baby legs.  All of them are sure better than the nandinas that overwhelmed the house until their sudden “departure” last fall.  Here’s the front view.

To its left is the shrimp plant I divided in spring.  By next year, it will fluff out, too.  I like the contrast of the different leaf colors and foliage textures.   I haven’t decided whether I’m going to add more Aztec grass or keep dividing the setcresea. There’s also a zexmenia I moved in there, so I need to keep in mind that things will grow (at least, I hope so).

I’d been out to get an umbrella sedge for the rental fence bed, too, but when I saw this one, ‘Sparkler’ sedge (Carex phyllocephala), I changed my plan.

On chores, I tackled the lettuce beds, since the weeds figured the watering and fertilizer were meant for their seeds, too. With our first little nip that wilted the batface cuphea, I planned to check my rowcover situation. But the heat made me lazy, so I’ll do it this weekend.  That means, of course, that it will suddenly drop to 17º when I’m at work and I end up stumbling around in the dark with a flashlight. (Oh, while I was trimming off the cuphea, I planted a chervil that Trisha gave me, and some larkspur seeds to fill its blankness when it freezes for good.)

The only things I’ll protect this year are the tender container plants I don’t take under cover, the new Agave celsiis, the Satsuma orange, and the lettuce. A few years ago, we made lettuce hoops with flexible copper tubing (plumbing supply section) after seeing it in a garden. A luxury it was, but they’re so pretty all year, and we have just a small space to protect. For grand vegetable gardens, rebar or PVC is a better decision.

The main news!  Our Christmas present came early, thanks to Zac Zamora of Variance Vessels. His sleigh was in the shop, so he used his van instead.

Forever, I’ve wanted the perfect birdbath. Last fall, I saw an incredible one near KLRU, took a picture, and imagined how I could make it happen for me. About that time, I saw a blurb in Renee Studebakers’s Statesman garden section about Variance.

When I checked out Zac’s site, I found a potential vessel for my idea, and a great CTG guest!  Along with his vessels, Zac’s a nationally recognized creative artist for his natural habitat designs.  Faster than you can click “Contact,” we set a taping date for a January broadcast.

For the heck of it, I sent him my photo and explained that I wanted a cat-safe, bird-perfect birdbath. Along with Greg’s measurements for height and size in our garden, Zac did extensive research to design a basin that is layered like a natural pond.

Then he crafted the metal base with feet and supports to handle the basin’s 240-pound weight. Along the way, he sent me pictures of it in progress and asked about finishing details. I’m astounded that from my few vague notions, he captured my dream precisely! And, it’s a straight-shot view from our patio and our den. For years, the Afghan pine had this spot, but it’s been reborn as a birdbath!

On delivery day, Zac brought Erik O’Brian and Dean Hansen, friends and fellow gardeners, to place and level it to perfection.

Greg helps finesse, since we’re not going to be moving it!

I loved Zac’s idea of a solar fountain!  I had just the rocks for the fountain’s little well. When it’s going full steam, we can even hear it from the patio. Here, it was just warming up, so to speak.

We’re still working out the best position for the solar panel.  Most likely, we’ll install it on the nearby rose arbor.  For now, I’m protecting the cord from rabbit, dog, or gardener mangling with something I got during Harvey house proofing.

Thank you to Eric, Zac, and Dean!

On water, here’s a funny for you from Jerin, CTG editor and camera operator.  Twitter fans, alert:  now your plants can twitter you when they need water.

I hate to think what would happen if our plants organize a Twitter network.  We’re doomed.

Finally, to learn more about growing winter vegetables from the experts and just darned good people, head to Angel Valley Farms this Saturday, November 8, for Jo and John Dwyer’s annual Open Farm tour from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can also visit their farm stand for organic produce, which is open every weekend in the harvest seasons.

Until next week, Linda

  1. 11 Responses to “From the producer: November 7, 2008”

  2. By Jenny on Nov 6, 2008

    I love the bird bath and so will the birds! You’ll have to post photos when they visit. Seeing your picture of the abutilon makes me realize that I will have to move mine to a better spot. This year it is a sick stick with nothing on it. Too much shade and poor soil.


    Linda reply on November 8th, 2008 4:25 pm:

    Hi, Jenny! Well, I did kill one, I think. Probably because it got too much shade. This is cool–learning about plants from all of you on the blog!


  3. By Pam/Digging on Nov 6, 2008

    Wow on the fountain! I checked out their website a couple of weeks ago, after reading about them on Renee’s blog, and I’d love to have a piece in my garden too.

    I just planted my first abutilon too—’Marilyn’s Choice,’ which is selling at Barton Springs Nursery. It’s a red and orangey-yellow one. The one I really wanted is called ‘Candy Corn.’ It’s a clear red and yellow that I saw growing in Lucinda Hutson’s front garden. But I don’t know where to find it.

    Your bamboo muhly will look feathery and beautiful in a year. When it’s a baby, it looks, I’m sorry to say, like a handful of Bermuda grass. But it will get pretty in the spring, I promise!


    Linda reply on November 8th, 2008 4:26 pm:

    Hi, Pam! You would love Zac!

    I will check out Marilyn, and perhaps we can find a source for Candy Corn. I bet Lucinda would let us take cuttings, too.


  4. By Annie in Austin on Nov 7, 2008

    The new bird bath looks great – I can imagine the birds enjoying the choice of which ripple to stand on!
    Linda, I’ve had a dwarf abutilon for a few years – barely grows, only a couple of flowers. Your post has informed me I have it sited backwards, with morning shade and afternoon sun.

    That’s the most common aspect in my yard. The preferred morning sun with afternoon shade is at a premium, with so many candidates jostling for those prime positions that the abutilon is kinda out of luck.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose


    Linda reply on November 8th, 2008 4:29 pm:

    Hi, Annie! From Renee, it sounds like the morning sun/afternoon shade or dappled shade is the key. Pam also has some so see what she says. I just got another one “Patrick,” from Barton Springs.

    And yep, I know, the prime spot is getting full and I wasn’t sure I could even fit in the abutilon.

    Yea for your swallowtails! I’d never had so many on this the orange until now. They also loved my Thai lime. Linda


  5. By Vertie on Nov 9, 2008

    The new bird bath looks wonderful, but I will never let my plants Twitter me. I am pretty certain I don’t want to know what they will say!


  6. By Brent on Nov 12, 2008

    Hey Linda! Love, love, love the bird bath. I know you will like the noise the running water makes. I just came back from the New York area and it was my first time to see the foliage colors of the Northeast. I sure was jealous of the brilliant reds of the Japanese Maples they can grow. I might be able to plant abutilon since I have lots of areas with morning sun and afternoon shade. Perhaps too much shade?


  7. By Sharky on Jul 27, 2010

    Hello Linda
    How you been able to take some pictures when birds come down to your bird bath? If so, please share to enjoy.


    Linda reply on July 27th, 2010 5:16 pm:

    I’m trying, but I need to put the long lens on a tripod, since they don’t want me too close. Just haven’t done it yet.


  8. By amy likes solar panel on Jun 22, 2011

    You are doing great work on your garden. I can’t wait to see the final outcome. :)


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