Gryffyn's Garden

a blog about my gardening attempts

   Feb 10

the Poo Crew

While making a routine run to Costco to pick up dog food, Victor found a compost tumbler at a super price. After a phone call home, he promptly loaded it up on the cart and brought it home. I had been looking at various compost solutions and knew that I wanted a tumbler since I didn’t want to wrestle the piles myself. Comparable bins I had looked at were quite a bit more than this $99 deal. It’s sturdy too – so I look forward to breaking it in!

compost tumbler

our compost tumbler

Now that we have the means to make compost, it’s time to put some of the critters to work. Well, if you could call going about their normal business “work”! But at least we will be making use of their “byproducts”!

So meet the “poo crew”:

Memphis is our miniature horse that we got to keep our elderly, retired hunter/jumper, Leo, company in his twilight years (he’s 30 years old). Memphis is such a tidy boy and tends to save a corner of his pen for his toilet, so it’s easy to go in and retrieve his leavings to take to the bin.

memphis the ministure horse stallion

Memphis

Our elder equine, Leo.

Leo, my elderly, retired hunter/jumper

Leo

We also have a small flock of chickens – 2 Ameracauna, 1 Polish and 1 Buff Cochin. Their coop is tractor style, so we can move it from place to place and collect their leavings to add to the compost bin or spread directly into the garden.

our little flock of chickens

our little flock of chickens

one of our Ameracauna hens

one of our Ameracauna hens


   Feb 06

Great White…South?

snow in February, 2011

it's all....white!

Everything drenched in white!! The metro Dallas area was shut down for almost a week! We got 7-8 inches of snow in the end and below freezing temps for several days. We had to go out last minute and get some frost covers for the blueberry shrubs and the Artemisia and Dianthus in the little circle garden.


   Jan 30

Putting on the Learning Cap

One thing that made finding North Haven Gardens so exciting was the wealth of information they have to share. I was thrilled to learn that they regularly have seminars and classes to help novices such as myself have a better chance of success. Considering that in the past I have suffered from a “black thumb” (well…the plants suffered more, I guess) and did not have the best grades in Plant Biology at A&M, the opportunity to be spoonfed some information to keep myself from being the plague to the plants I want to grow is much welcomed.

Today I attended my first class – Texas Gardening 101. I received a notebook filled with a printout of the Powerpoint slides and the handouts offered at NHG with growing information, planting dates, and lists of Texas natives and those introduced plants that do well. Also included was a nice book on North Texas Gardening which I am sure will be referenced on a regular basis as I attempt to broaden my knowledge of all things green.

I am looking forward to more classes at NHG – I’ve already marked some on my calendar!


   Jan 24

First Edibles Planted

In the last year I’ve managed to “step away from the cookie” and have turned my sweet tooth to berries, although there is the occasional Milano relapse. North Haven Gardens had some blueberry shrubs and we took that first step towards planting edibles here at Gryffyn’s Aeyrie.

We got two different varieties – a Brightwell and a Powderblue. Multiple varieties are recommended in order to improve pollination.

blueberry shrubs

Brightwell (lower left) and Powderblue (upper right) blueberry shrubs

We amended the soil with cottonseed burrs and HollyTone and a touch of herb food and watered them in, then raked leaves around the base for mulch. Here is the information provided in their tags:

Brightwell Blueberry

  • Sun Exposure: Sun
  • Flowering: White-pinkish flowers in the spring
  • Average Size: 8-12′ tall x 6-8′ wide
  • Growth Rate/Habit: Rapid grower. Bushy habit.
  • Hardiness Zones: Cold hardy to 10-20°F / Zone 8
  • Pruning: Prune to prevent overbearing. Remove some of the oldest branches each winter.
  • Watering: Newly planted container plants require more frequent watering than established landscape plantings. Wind, temperature and soil type are factors to consider in determining watering.
  • Fertilizing: Blueberries grow best with acid-fertilizers and 4-6″ of mulch.
  • Features: Upright growing with berries ripening in early season. If acid soil is not available, grow in large pot in a peat moss rich media mix.
  • Companion Plants: Blueberries mix well with geraniums, hyssop, basil and mulberries.

Powder Blue blueberry

Powderblue Blueberry

  • Small fruit
  • Vigorous bushy growing with tasty berries ripening in mid-to-late season
  • Zone 8
  • Hardy to 10-20°F
  • Sun
  • 550-650 hours winter chilling
  • If acid soil planting site is not available, grow in large pot in a peat moss rich media

   Jan 15

Getting Started – The Sidewalk Byway, the Circle and “the Mound”

Today we visited a great gardening supply that my husband found online that is just south of the intersection of Central (Hwy 75) and the LBJ Loop (I-635). He was actually looking for opportunities to fill out our chicken flock and there was a sale scheduled today. Unfortunately, that fell through thanks to inclement weather – but I am thrilled to have such a fabulous resource. They have many seminars and classes available, so I will have a great opportunity to learn and get some hands-on experience as I venture into the world of gardening. The store’s name is North Haven Gardens – and I am looking forward to future visits. For the life of me, I cannot remember the very helpful lady that showed us a variety of things while fielding a myriad of questions from garden virgins. Although there was no Polish Top Hat chicken joining us today, we did pack the van with some goodies.

our first gardening purchase from North Haven Gardens

our inaugural gardening haul from NHG

First we tackled “the mound.” As you come into our driveway, there is a mound with the back of it surrounded by posts. All it has been is a spot for Johnson grass to grow too tall during the hot months and it’s just…boring. There is a crape myrtle next to it – but it seems silly to have this raised area just looking like a pimple on the ground.

"the mound" - looking pretty bleak

Today we purchased our first little decoration for the mound – a Gulf Stream Nandina (Nandina domestica). Here are the details from its info card:

Finely cut evergreen foliage shifts subtly from bronze to green to bright red as winter approaches. Ideal for mass planting, foundation planting or all-season accent

  • Sun exposure: Plant in full sun for best leaf color and growth. Will tolerate light shade.
  • Average size: 4′ tall and wide
  • Hardiness: Hardy to -10°F
  • Type: Evergreen
  • Spacing: 2′ to 4′ apart
  • Water” Keep soil moist until established. Drought tolerant when established.
  • Fertilize: Fertilize in spring just before new growth begins.
  • Pruning: Requires little pruning to maintain superior habit.

I will be excited to see how this grows as it meets all my desires – low maintenance, evergreen and hardy for this area and my habits. At the moment it’s not much – but it’s a start for our bleak little mound.

gulf stream nandina - Nandina domestica

currently a bright red

Gulf Stream Nandina - Nandina Domestica

from the top

Next on my list needing a good dressing up was the little circular patch with the brick border (where the bottlebrush failed last year).

the circle garden

the woebegone circular garden bed

I decided to try Artemisia (the Powys Castle variety) and while browsing around found a neat little flowering perennial called Dianthus ‘Passion.’ It has a little grassy mound (evergreen to semi-evergreen) and the flowers bloom in the spring on a stalk rising from the mound of foliage.  I figured we could put the heady Artemisia in the middle and 4 clumps of the dianthus around it and see how it does. I figure I will eventually add some Scabiosa (aka pincushion flower; Black Knight or Flowering Star variety since they seem unusual) perennial flowers to the border. But for now, here is the remodel of our Circle:

the circle garden with artemisia and dianthus

the circle garden with artemisia and dianthus

artemisia and dianthus passion in the circle garden

closeup of the circle garden

a passion dianthus

closeup of the Dianthus 'Passion'

Posted below is the information from their id cards.

Dianthus ‘Passion’

  • Perennial with deep, dark, red double flowers that rise above healthy green foliage on sturdy stems
  • Full sun
  • Fragrant

Artemisia (Powys Castle)

  • Perennial reaching 2′ high and wide
  • Sun
  • A lacey and delicate yet tough plant for hot, dry and sunny areas. Leaves release a subtle camphor fragrance when brushed against.
  • Forms a low growing mound
  • Pruning more than 6″ not suggested

The final facelift for the day was the sidewalk “byway” – the strip that runs between the sidewalk and the front yard. We have the three Rose of Sharon trees at one end, and the overgrown and messy holly at the other end nearest the front door – but there is a “wasteland” between the two areas that needed population with something. Again, we found some nice evergreen (although not necessarily “green) candidates!

sidewalk byway

the large gap between the two ends of our sidewalk byway

sidewalk byway

the side nearest the driveway with the Rose of Sharon "triplets"

Our choices for filling in the gaps? Firepower Nandina and Purple Diamond Loropetalum! Here is the information from their cards that were attached to them:

Purple Diamond Loropetalum

Purple Diamond Loropetalum

Purple Diamond Loropetalum

  • vibrant pink blooms in spring; rich purple foliage
  • 4-5′ wide and high
  • hardy to 0ºF
  • water as needed
  • acidic, moist, well-drained humus-rich soil
  • growth rate moderate to fast
  • fertilize in early spring
  • shape after spring bloom
  • full sun to part shade
Firepower nandina

Firepower Nandina

Fire Power Nandina

  • Hardy, compact, evergreen shrub with bright green summer foliage that turns a fiery red throughout fall and winter.
  • Ideal for border, accent or foundation planting
  • Tolerant of heat and poor soils
  • Disease resistant
  • Full sun best – will tolerate light shade
  • reaches 2′ tall and wide
  • Hardy to -10ºF
  • Space 2′ apart
  • Keep soil moist until established; drought tolerant once established
  • Fertilize in spring just before new growth begins (all-purpose fertilizer)
  • Little to no pruning required
  • Mixes well with vinca, daylily, butterfly bush, liriope and redbud

We also added, somewhat as an afterthought, but I liked the plant and had never seen one before, a Euphorbia (aka “Blackbird”) to the very start of the byway nearest the driveway, next to our Borzoi statue.

Euphorbia ("Blackbird")

Euphorbia ("Blackbird")

Euphorbia

  • Perennial
  • Sun-Part shade
  • Size 18-20 inches
  • A hybrid spurge from England, this forms a bushy evergreen mound of deep purple foliage

And here is how it looked at the end of the day:

the circle garden and byway on front door side

the circle garden and byway near the front door

sidewalk byway near the drive

sidewalk byway near the drive

We ran out of daylight – there is still one Purple Diamond to plant (to the left of the Nandina). We are going to have to first relocate some “holly sprouts” – probably along the fenceline to start some privacy hedge, as well as doing some clearing of the holly – it has been VERY prolific!

I also managed to get our burn barrel started and we took care of a big chunk of the deadwood we had collected, as well as some of the trimming we did on one of the Rose of Sharons. We still have a lot of clearing to do in various areas to attempt to tidy up our more rampantly growing areas.

So we had a productive day starting some of our gardening plans!!


   Aug 09

In the Beginning – From the Front

the front sidewalk, border and hedge

Here is a show of the walkway to our front door. Scary, huh? We are on a corner lot – out of range of this photo to the right is the driveway, and we just enter from the garage (aka oversized closet). So we hardly ever see the tangled mess that the walkway can become. To the far right are three “Rose of Sharon”/Althea trees (or big shrubs?) which currently have some pretty blooms. In front of them you can make out the pot with some canna plants I brought home from my childhood home in Houston. Noticed that a neighbor down the street has these all along his front fenceline. I am trying to figure out where to place them. On the far left is a big holly bush in need of some major trimming. That is one thing I need to learn to do is proper trimming and pruning. At the moment there is some sort of English ivy at the top that goes down to the hedge running along the house. I figure I will be waiting until winter to do the trimming once the ivy goes dormant – at the moment it is just so lush and green.

blooms from our Rose of Sharon/Althea

blooms from our Rose of Sharon/Althea

To the left of the pot of cannas and visible only because of the “weedeating phobia” is a circle of red brick that would really like something nice planted in it. I attempted a cute little bottlebrush. Which died. Somewhat quickly. Quite upsetting since it was an unusual and pretty plant – and I prefer the unusual. So now I have to contemplate something else to plant there – preferably evergreen.

Actually – I want a LOT of evergreens to use so we have nice backdrops when taking photos of our dogs in the wintertime.

Below is what was once an evergreen – unfortunately it is now a “brittle brown.” I have no idea what it was though. I suspect we lost it when we had issues with the waterline which is on the other side of the shrub. We had a leak somewhere and the area flooded. Although it is supposedly fixed, at least according to our water bills, we still have something of a bog between the dead shrub and the big crape myrtle – photos will come in a future post. You can see the ivy twining in its upper branches. I think it’s English ivy – you can see it better in this picture of my garden Flion.

one of the gar(den)goyles

my ivy-entwined flion

Needless to say, one of the upcoming jobs will be the removal of this sad shrub and replacing it with something else. Hopefully some experts are reading and can suggest a replacement, preferably evergreen and can handle a possibly damper environment. Bonus points for unusual.

Below is the shrub in its more vibrant period, used as a backdrop for this photo of an adolescent Moose (the dog’s name, not the species). Not sure if one can determine what it was – but it sure was handy. Very easy to photoshop people out of photos when using it in the background – super handy.


   Aug 09

The “Twins” – Two Crapes and a Grape

Here are the “twin” crape myrtles in the front yard. They are bordered by a series of large rocks (can’t see them for the overgrown weeds) that circle around them. Nested between them is my metal Borzoi weathervane. Somewhat visible draped from tree to tree is a grape vine of some variety which I need help identifying. This darned grape vine is what had me contemplating trying to grown some of our own edible goodies. We have several crape myrtles in the yard, these two in the front yard and an additional one (white flowered) in the corner between the front of the house next to Leo’s (horse) fenceline where it butts up against the brick. Then we also have 3 in various spots along the driveway.

I need to learn how to prune these so they don’t look so untidy. There are also now a couple of crape myrtle seedlings between the “twins.” I am going to try and move them somewhere else, likely along the front fenceline. If I thought I could put them in one of the dog yards in the back, I would – but that would likely require a lot of extra work in trying to construct some sort of obstacle to keep the dogs away from them while they are becoming established. I am reminded of when my wolf hybrid Maikoh enjoyed his “chew toys’ – mom’s rosebush and the old crabapple tree – at my childhood home. That didn’t go over well.

Here is a closeup of the grapevine and a cluster of its fruit. I am hoping someone can help me identify what variety it is!

Although I am angry at this grapevine. I have been excitedly watching it produce these little clusters, then watching them turn from green to the speckled pink/purple, and get darker. It piqued my interest in growing some edibles here – and then, when I decided to taste a berry – proved inedible. Perhaps I tried to early? I expected the fruit to be sour and somewhat unripe. What I did NOT expect was that it would taste like I was sucking on a tree twig. Yuck.

So – can someone tell me what grape variety this is? If it is an inedible variety no matter its ripeness, then I will work on chopping it down this winter instead of trying to transplant it elsewhere.


   Jul 26

May I Buy a Trowel?

Working from home and hanging around here more often has now resulted in me becoming irritated with how ratty it looks outside. Granted, we expect the back yard to be ratty thanks to the dogs…but the front yard is currently a dog-free zone. There is no excuse for it to look like a white trash jungle. I am tired of the dead branch pile laying behind our storage barn…I am tired of knee-high weeds along borders because of a seeming weedeater phobia (I thought men liked gadgets!)…and I learned today that its difficult to get to the front door from the driveway due to the overgrowth of the holly hedge of hell. Since we go in from the garage all the time, we don’t really think about the walkway. Whoops.

Before the season turned north Texas into an inferno, I had done some cleanup around the little “sittin’ area)” that is between the driveway and the front sidewalk – lots of pulling of weeds (a lot of “beggar’s lice”) and small seedlings growing up in what is supposed to be a bed running along the front sidewalk. In that bed are a couple Rose of Sharon trees/shrubs and a big, messy, overgrown holly variety.  Between the house and the sidewalk is a hedge of another holly variety – one with prickly leaves, and a mangy border of monkey(?) grass.

I also went on a mission against a vicious enemy. One thing that apparently grows REALLY well in our yard is…poison ivy. No thanks. I had gotten tired of waiting for the removal of the ivy that was taking over another little holly bush and literally strangling it. I looked like a leper for a month – and I had worn long sleeves, long pants and gloves. By some miracle I managed to not get it on my face – but my forearms were a total wreck. I think I’ve gone through 4 large bottles of poison ivy killer from the local Home Depot.

I will be posting pictures of the current state of the yard, and my hopes for various areas as well as seeking advice from those with more experience than I in the world of plants. I got a D in plant biology at A&M years ago – and the only thing I remember is xylem and phloem. The words…not what they are. I will also be asking for help with plant id because there is some stuff here that I don’t know what it is! I do recognize the poison ivy though!