Garden Notes

Has the drought in California caught your attention? Near daily stories in the major national newspapers about water shortages in the Central Valley have been shouting at me. Will the cost of vegetables, fruits and nuts become prohibitive? Sure, the Central Valley is only one region, but it is a major region of food production for the United States. The cost and quantity of vegetable, fruits and nuts is bound to be impacted. What can we do?

The subject of winter interest seems to mystify gardeners when it comes to design. Just what makes a garden interesting in winter? It is a common misconception that color alone from the ephemeral flower defines the garden. Design and style is based upon our choice of plant, hardscape and materials, their placement in the landscape in relation to each other.

In my last post to Garden Notes, The Gardening Year 2013, I stated I didn't know whether 2013 was a hotter, cooler or average year, heat-wise. The AHS Plant Heat Zone Map provides a great tool gardeners can use month to month to guide them in real time plant care. Compare "heat day" averages to see if it's cooler, average or warmer. I've crunched the data for the past 20 years that may offer insights.

Gardening in the Texas Panhandle proved to be challenging once again, however not worst, best nor average. But through the resilience of both plants and gardeners, the area ended up with another stunning fall season.

To me, fall is such a glorious time; greens fading to yellows, golds and russets. More yellows than russets – after all this is Amarillo – accompanied with brilliant canary, ochre, sienna, both raw and burnt, oranges, burgundy, mahogany and crimson reds against the shiny blue skies. In the Texas Panhandle, leaf change of cool and warm season plants combine to extend a colorful and exuberant season.

Dusty Miller would usually catch my attention late in the season, alone by itself in a pot after it's companions have given up from neglect. Spindly and ratty looking, it adversely colored my vision for gray and silver foliaged plants for many a year. You would think I should have celebrated its ability to survive. Such was my bias towards green.

The founders of the New American Gardening style have passed, but their legacy remains as strong, flowing and free spirited as their gardens.

Grasses combine naturally with broad-leaf plants in prairies, savannas, pampas, steppes, velds and meadows throughout the world, and are they essential in designed landscapes. This image is so imprinted in our mind, that a landscape without grasses and grass-like plants appears lacking. When dancing in our Panhandle wind or rhythmically swaying with a gentle breeze, the incorporation of grasses into the home landscape infuses the design with soothing images of nature, whether the style is formal or informal.

There is deeper meaning and principles we can learn from a study of Japanese gardens that will help us in creating a sense of place in Texas Panhandle gardens.

A repeat of the Corps of Discovery documentary on PBS and a re-read of the beautifully illustrated book, Uncommon to This Country, Botanical Discoveries of Lewis and Clark, lead me to spruce up my garden with a selection of both native and non-native bulbs.

While it's hot and toasty outside, savvy gardeners are thumbing through seed catalogs choosing what they'll be eating once the weather turns cold and frosty. It's time to order seeds and prepare vegetable beds for fall and winter vegetable gardening.

Within an easy day drive from Amarillo is one of America's top five botanic gardens, the Denver Botanic Gardens. When visiting this city on the edge of plains and mountains, plan to spend a half day or more immersed in top class horticultural design and style, visiting a world of plants from the tropics to tundra.

What would Monet do if he lived on the Texas High Plains? How would he garden and what plants would he use. I offer some ideas.

Claude Monet is known not only for his artistry on the canvas, but with the soil. His garden at Giverny is one of the best loved and visited. Much of his gardening renown is due to his great love of flowers, his harmonious use of colors, a departure from past garden styles, the exuberance of the gardens through the seasons and his impression of the gardens in his paintings.

Whether for a bed devoted to season long, non-stop color or to fill in vacancies until perennials spread and mature, annual flowers provide a spectacular service. Though rooted in nature, their journey to our gardens is long and their face bears little resemblance to their forebears. From an eye sore to a plant for sore eyes, a brief history of the zinnia.

A few Garden Notes for 2013 merit brief updates as more information became available. I'll start with the last post and work my way back.

If you've gardened in the Texas Panhandle very long, you'll be faced with dealing with the aftermath of hail sooner or later. Some years, any location could get hailed on numerous times, at any time of the year; other years, not at all. Even dry, drought years will bring the rare thunderstorm with hail when it seems more hail than rain fell, leaving us thinking we would just as soon have passed up the opportunity for precipitation if given the choice.

On May 21, at 8:00 a.m. GMT, the greatest and grandest flower show will open to the public, the Royal Horticultural Society's Chelsea Flower Show, lovingly referred to as Chelsea. The Chelsea experience is available with just a tap of your finger with the iPhone app or RHS website.

Gardening with plants both locally native those native to the American Southwest is not just easy and fun, but showcases their beauty, resilience and adaptability to our home gardens. Soil and weather combine to make a trying environment for local gardening using traditional teachings and heat intolerant plants from northern regions much kinder to flowers and foliage.

Yesterday, I posted information on my top local native wildflowers for the garden. Today, We'll top it off with shrubs, grasses and cacti to lend variety in shape, width and texture. Naturally, if you were planting and installing a garden, the trees and shrubs would go in first, before the herbaceous perennials and grasses. I'm only listing a few of the many local native and Southwest native plants available.

To celebrate our local botanic heritage, consider converting a bit of your landscape into a native plant garden. Not only will it look great from April through October with near continuous bloom, native plant gardens are eco-friendly.

This week, May 4 - May 12th is National Wildflower Awareness Week. Celebrate the abundance, take time to see, identify and learn about a few of the thousands of native wildflowers throughout Texas and the United States.

Nearly a month ago I posted a GardenNotes about neonicotinoids and pollinators, particularly bees. This post reports the EU Commission ban on neonicotinoides in the 27 member nations and the results of a Dutch study on the devastating effects of imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid, on aquatic life.

Today, April 22, is Earth Day. April 22 had been designated Earth Day on April 22, 1970, thought to be the beginning of the modern environmental movement. It was eight years since the publishing of Silent Spring, the landmark book by Rachel Carson in 1962, which brought national and international awareness to the disruption of ecosystems by pesticide and herbicide use. Before that time, the interconnectivity of life was rarely considered, and little understood.

With the average date of the last frost upon us, it's time to take the risk and start buying and planting. This isn't a guarantee temperatures won't drop below freezing, but cold hardy perennials properly hardened off shouldn't skip a beat even if the temperature drops into the upper twenties. Let's see what Canyon's Edge Plants has in stock this weekend.