Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Spring planting and party plans

For the last 10 years we've had a big party in late April, timed mostly to coincide with various April events that deserve celebration, but not coincidentally also coinciding with the garden's best moment. Or is it the other way around? Have I gradually created a garden that looks its best at a time when we want to have a party (we've found that mid to late April gives us the best chance of relatively cool weather and no mosquitoes, at least at our house).

We skipped the party last year, which would have been the 11th annual, because of the construction. We actually toyed with the notion of having it in the midst of the building project and, if we had been at the just-framed stage, it might have worked but by mid-April we were into drywall and that was a mess that wouldn't haved mixed well with a party, even if the garden was looking better than I would have expected with no attention and construction going on all around it.

The first year we had the party — 1996 — the long back bed had been planted for one year. (I wish I had some digital pictures of the garden from those days; surely I have prints that I could scan. I'll have to look). In the intervening years that long L-shaped bed has changed and evolved. The only plants left from my original plan are a couple of red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora). The picture at the top of the page is the long leg of the bed today, looking from front to back, past the wildly blooming Old Blush rose and the orchid tree, covered in its white flowers.

That original configuration also included the only plant that existed in the back yard (other than weeds and Turk's cap) before we built the bed: a large multi-stemmed yucca, possibly twisted leaf yucca. Over several years that yucca deteriorated, plagued by various insect infestations. About five years ago we cut it down and thought we dug it up but it returned and we let it grow back, filling in the back of that part of the bed. This spring we decided that it just looked straggly and unattractive and were determined to be done with it once and for all. My able assistant worked long and tirelessly until, finally, he extracted an enormous, bulbous root, about three feet long and probably 18 inches around. After that I got the bright idea that I wanted to dig up the hamelia patens that had been in the ground beside the yucca for the past seven or eight years. It was the orange variety and I much prefer the red one I have in the far back. Besides, witih it gone (it was HUGE in the summer, six to eight feet wide and tall) I would have the perfect place for the agave parryii that I bought with my birthday gift certificate. So Dan set to with my new garden fork and extracted the hamelia.

I built a circle of stones to elevate the agave a bit and improve its drainage and transplanted a Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) seedling from the front yard behind it. I put (probably too many) annuals and a couple of small perennials around it: some rather sad California poppies in 4-inch pots that I've had since December but never planted, three bat-face cupheas, three winecups (the creeping kind not the standing which I prefer but couldn't find in 4-inch), three 4-inch cleomes, and two one-gallon salvia superba "May Night" (I have some other salivas called "May Night" but they were labeled salvia nemarosa; they look identical to me). Also the one-gallon dark blue plumbago I bought last fall and couldn't find a home for. Oh, and I plan to plant the Cecile Brunner rose that my mom sent me in a big pot in the spot where the hamelia was.

I also finally got the yellow columbine that was dug up when the French drain was built last spring back in the ground (just in time for it to bloom) and put the salvia guaranitica "Black and Blue" that's been overcrowded in its pot for several years in the ground too (that's the pot I'll use for Cecile Brunner). Now I just have a few more plants to get in the ground (some inland sea oats and a couple of salvia roemarianas/cedar sage).

It's a good thing I'm finally getting everything in the ground because we finally decided yesterday, a bit late, to go ahead with this year's party and now I have a little less than three weeks to get the garden in shape (with the added incentive of a visit by the Austin garden bloggers on the day following the party.

The back garden is actually looking quite lovely right now. Hopefully it will hold up for a few more weeks.


Pam/Digging said...

I can't wait to see it. Your roses and agave look great.

Susan said...

Hey Pam -- I forgot to mention that, based on your recommendation, I also bought and planted a bamboo muhly (you can see it on the left behind the new agave). And this agave was labeled parryii, variety "Estrella." I'm thinking yours is not parryii. I saw an amazing picture of a mature agave parryii, maybe on the Yuccado website, and I'm hoping in 10 years or so mine will look like that. I'll see if I can find the link.