Best plans foiled

I have a rare treat today. It's a post about a disappointment in the garden, with the best of intentions not producing the results that were hoped for. Plans that seemed so solid and promised great returns a month ago now reveal a major flaw -- through unexpected circumstances.

That's not what makes this post special though, because as gardeners we deal with spoiled plans and disappointing results all of the time. What makes this post special is that it's not the humans in the garden whose plans have been foiled...


Japanese mapleings

Japanese maples in the spring are wonderful, their foliage so fresh and perfect, as yet untouched by the blasts of summer heat. Plenty of water available, cool temperatures, vibrant colors -- but this post is not going to be a survey of my maples.

No, it's going to be a bit smaller in scope than that...


Pond adjustment

The long months of winter make me forget each year how wonderful the pond is, how the garden would just not be the same without it. Once spring arrives and the plants start waking up, my focus returns to it, and I spend so much time just looking.

It's quite nice already, isn't it? It's got some problems though, which I hope I fixed this weekend.


Some Support

This being my first spring growing large-flowered Clematis, I'm pleasantly surprised at the vigor that even my weakest plants have shown as things start to warm up here. So much growth already that I needed to do something about providing them support, allowing them to climb.

I started with the one that was doing best last year and has continued this spring: 'Niobe'. I had provided a temporary trellis for it to climb last year, but it's time for a more permanent solution.



Yesterday I talked about a plant (Tecoma capensis) that clearly survived a much colder winter than it should have. Today, I take a brief look at a plant that should have survived -- but I'm not sure to what extent yet.

It's my Musa basjoo, my cold-hardy banana. I've had this in the ground for three years now and have protected it the same way each winter, but this is the first spring that I'm concerned about it.



I received a couple of small transplants of cape honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis) three years ago in a plant trade with Gerhard of Succulents and More. In his California climate, these viney shrubs (or are they shrubby vines?) are quite the nuisance, suckering from their roots and taking over garden beds. Since I loved the foliage and was looking for a vine that could handle the tough conditions of my south wall trellis, I thought I'd give this "tropical" plant a go.

Expecting this to act like an annual for me, I soon realized that this plant may never flower. Still, some attractive foliage that won't wilt in the hot conditions over here would be nice. I was a little surprised when this vine survived the first two winters, but they were so mild for us in St. Louis that I wasn't shocked. Seeing the vine reaching a little bit higher up the trellis each year made me happy too.


Starting on the garage plants

Sorry about missing a post yesterday, but I used the time to work in the garden rather than write about it. One of the things I did was pull out most of the plants that had overwintered in the garage. It was a disappointing year in that regard, at least at first glance.

I'll ease into it though, rather than shock you with photos of failures right off the bat. My sago palm -- getting so big and therefore difficult to find a good overwintering spot for -- worried me a bit as it looked like it started dying later in the winter.


Bamboo Recovery

All of the bamboo in the Midwest (and probably other parts of the country) took a big hit this year, as the extra-low temperatures turned most "evergreen" bamboos brown. Emails from readers indicate that this is not just a problem in the St. Louis area, as there are many bamboo growers that haven't experienced this browning before and are asking what they should do.

Hopefully this post will help you decide whether your bamboo needs to be cut down or if you just need a little more patience until the missing greenery returns. Let's take a look...



Oh, hello there! Can't really stop to chat right now, as I'm actually quite busy you see.

I know you're not very close by, watching me through that camera lens, but I'm going to keep an eye on you anyway -- nothing personal. You don't mind if I keep working, do you?


Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, April 2014

I so rarely post for Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, mainly because of timing. The 15th of every month usually catches me by surprise, and I don't have time to collect bloom photos and put together a post. This year I want to be more bloom conscious though, so I'm making an extra effort to make GBBD posts happen.

Luckily there are actually some blooms to show this month. Everything is a few weeks behind where it has been the past few springs, but there is enough going on to be interesting I think. I tried to be as thorough as possible, but I may have missed one or two things.



Although it was 80ºF (27ºC) this weekend it's currently below freezing -- the water barrel out the front window confirms that. Still, it seems spring is finally here in St. Louis.

My first spring with peonies, so let's start with those!


Last look at seed pods

I really hate early spring cleanup, when I remove all of last year's growth, the remnants of what was a greener, warmer, happier time. It's true that I enjoy the often architectural stems and pods that remain sturdily standing after months of cold snows and winds, but the main reason I hate cutting them is that I'll have nothing to look at for several weeks. The new growth is so slow to emerge most years, cautiously peeking, wondering when it will be safely warm again.

The rose mallow (Hibiscus lasiocarpos) is probably the poster child of this -- I so hate removing its wonderful pods each spring! Let's take one last look at them before they go...




Grasses surprise

More grasses to cut, this time in front of the house, closest to the porch. Mexican feather grass so lovely even when quite possibly completely dead -- they don't reliably overwinter for me even in normal winters.

These supposedly do better when not sheared, so I pull out any loose blades and leave the rest long. Since I like the look of even the brown blades of this grass, I don't mind this. It will be a bit of a surprise if these actually green back up though, but they're usually slow to get going so maybe there's still a chance.


Springtime nemeses

I was originally going to write about my main springtime garden nemesis (violets), but as I started photographing I realized that there are more than one, and violets are probably not even at the top of the list.

So let's take a look at three of the worst, starting with what I just call "wild strawberries".


One loss

As you may know, I overwinter many plants indoors, always looking for ways to minimize the effort and care they require.

Unfortunately, I sometimes push these limits too far, and low-care crosses the line to neglect, and a plant pays the price. Take for instance my organ-pipe cactus.


Grasses, so easy

Grasses are one of my favorite plants to overwinter, as they're so simple and rewarding. They need minimal care, are tolerant of periods of neglect, and well, they're grasses -- so essential in any garden! This winter I made the typical Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' (purple fountain grass) divisions to grow indoors, but also a couple of experimental "Vertigo" Pennisetum.

Besides burning where the leaf tips touched the lights, every single one of these divisions has made it through the cold, dark tunnel that is winter and come out the other side into the light that is spring.


Question: What's better than compost?

Answer: Compost made from food waste! Sure, as gardeners we routinely save kitchen scraps and add them to our compost piles (you are doing this, right?) and if we're a little bit more motivated might even find a local business or two that can collect buckets of scraps for us.

If you've been reading INWIG for a while, you may remember that my wife is a baker and would often bring home heaps of banana peels and other nutrient-rich organics that were destined for the dumpster. How can this procedure be expanded though, as most bakeries, coffee shops, restaurants, and grocery stores don't have employees willing to cart buckets of scraps home?


Bamboo survey: before and after

Back on January third I posted several photos of my lush, green bamboos. Knowing that some very cold air was heading our way, I wanted to document the "before" state. Today I show the "after".

I debated how I should best show both states here, and decided that rather than just including a link to the previous post, I'd include the "before" photos where appropriate. So let's get started.


Seedlings set free

With all of the days this week until Friday forecast to be mild, I took a chance on my edible seedlings yesterday. Before I get into that though, let's take a look at them.

If you're like me you can't resist checking on your seedlings several times each day. I'm not sure what I expect to see, but I feel compelled to investigate, scrutinize.


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