Saturday, July 25, 2009

Last summer tomatoes

I've had pretty good luck with tomatoes, particularly my Cherokee Purple heirlooms, during this beastly summer because they're naturally shaded by a 65-year-old American Elm tree. But even these shaded and watered tomatoes have now finally succumbed to spider mites, blight, and wooly aphids.

I harvested some of the larger green tomatoes that were surrounded by spider mites' webs, then cut out all the most diseased branches and left a few small green tomatoes on the now almost-naked vines.

I also cut back (by about a third) the two green zebras and one sugar sweetie I grew from seed that never set fruit in hopes they'll produce this Fall. Two (green) Black Krims are still hanging onto fairly healthy vines, and I can't wait to compare their taste to the Cherokee Purples!

black krim

Not that I'm counting--ahem--but it looks like today will be Austin's 38th day of triple-digit heat this year.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Crispy garden bloggers’ bloom day

This coneflower reflects how we’re feeling here in Austin after 28 days of triple-digit heat (12 of which were record breakers) and continued exceptional drought. My 65-year-old trees and veggie garden get my highest priority for supplemental watering, so I don’t have much to show this month. Only my hardiest xeric plants have managed to bloom a little. I’ll definitely be looking at other bloggers’ blooms on Carol’s May Dreams Gardens blog!

gulf fritillary on verbena

spider lily (Hymenocallis "Tropical Giant")

island of purple ruellia

smaller island of white ruellia


Texas silverado sage (cenizo)

rock rose (Pavonia lasiopetala)

cucumber flowers (Japanese soyu)

Also blooming (limping along) now are lantana, turk's cap, society garlic, Mexican bush sage, oxalis, gaura, and torenia.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Thrives on neglect

Sometimes I take plant descriptions too literally. I have learned that “drought-tolerant” doesn’t mean the plant will necessarily look great during a drought, and it doesn’t mean the plant won’t need at least a little bit of supplemental water during a drought.

But occasionally I run across a plant that seems to truly thrive on neglect. Rosemary, which I love and have lots of, is fairly notorious for loving to be ignored. I’ve never given my rosemary supplemental water or food, and I only cut it back when it gets in my way.

My mysterious spidery flower receives even less attention than my ignored rosemary, and yet it sends up three days’ worth of these exotic blooms every July. My neighbor found these left over from one of her catering jobs and gave them to me several years ago. Neither of us knew what they were.

More recently, I thought it might be a spider flower (Cleome hassleriana), but mine doesn’t really look like the images I’ve found online. Oddly, the only other place I’ve ever seen these (although they were twice as big) was in northeastern Australia, near the Great Barrier Reef. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of it! Anyone recognize this tropical beauty? Edited 7:15 p.m.--Thanks to comments from Laura and Eoin: it's a Spider Lily-Hymenocallis "Tropical Giant"!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

I knew my tomato luck wouldn’t last

I didn’t hermetically seal the bird netting around this Black Krim tomato I planted from seed, so a squirrel took advantage. What’s surprising is that the squirrel ignored the unprotected tomato on the neighboring plant!

close-up human's view of clothespin and bird netting

before: close-up squirrel's view (thanks to husband Kurt for creating cartoon tomato)

after: close-up squirrel's view

This smaller pest, a hornworm I think, had no problem getting inside the bird netting to ruin this Cherokee Purple:

The herbs, jalapenos, and cucumbers aren’t attracting any pests—yippee!