Monday, January 26, 2009

The Drought Is Over

No, not that drought. My personal blogging drought, combined with my drought of interest in my garden. Entirely coincidentally, it's actually raining today.Of course, my prolonged lack of concern was not without collateral damage. The cauliflower seems to have taken it on the chin.
The broccoli seems to have adopted Austin's schizophrenic weather as its personal mantra. Forming a head and flowering at the same time. Oy. At this point it's become a science experiment. I'll just wait to see what happens.
I'm still holding out hope that some of the other broccoli plants may grow larger enough to constitute an entire serving.

In other, happier areas of the garden, the garlic (knock wood) seems to be surviving. I'll know more in May, when coincidentally the drought MAY be over (knock, knock, knock wood).The herb garden I planted this fall continues to be the happiest part of my garden, probably because it's making me the happiest. Every time I snip a spring of thyme, grab a few sage leaves, or cut some cilanto, I remind myself, "I'm saving two dollars." I could be saving even more if I found some more uses for my dill, but for now its flowers are paying its rent.

Elsewhere in the garden, I've got some seedlings that are making me happy simply because they are growing. Last fall I threw out some flower seeds in the full sun bed and lo and behold some germinated. The slight problem I have is that I have no idea what kind of plants they want to grow up to be. I didn't even keep the seed packages. (Remember folks, sometimes this blog is a cautionary tale . If you want to actually know what you have growing, I suggest you follow Zanthan Gardens meticulous methods, not my sow and let grow approach.)
This plant kind of looks like a buttercrunch lettuce I grew last year. Maybe one of its seeds was in my compost? I nibbled on one of the leaves (see lower left) and decided it wasn't lettuce. It's far, far less tasty than lettuce. Maybe it will be a pretty flower?
And this one might be a weed, who knows? For now its leaves are pretty enough to keep it safe from the circle ho'.

Heck, it would have to far more offensive for me to consider yanking it out. The drought may be over, but I'm still not a fan of weeding.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Fair Hope of Success

Much to my garden's dismay, I'm hibernating. I'm avoiding it. The drought, the temperature swings, the lack of success--all are currently conspiring to keep me away from the backyard. I even missed my dog's triumphant display of her efforts to protect me from any additional rat encounters at the compost bin.

I'm sure at some point I will feel that desire to sow again. I received some nice gardening presents for Christmas, and they must be dirtied.

Until then, I've got pictures of other places where gardening is, ahem, easier.
Over the holidays, we visited my family in southern Alabama. My sister arranged for us to stay at her father-in-law's vacation house in Fairhope on Mobile Bay. The house sits right on the bay so it was like we were having a double vacation--a vacation while on our vacation.

The house is large enough to sleep any combination of her kids and my brother's kids, which I think was the real plan behind our staying there. My sister had every night booked except Christmas Eve.When I was growing up in Mobile, Fairhope was lumped in what people called "over the bay." As in, "We're leaving behind this oppressive humidity in Mobile and spending the summer 'over the bay'." Distance-wise, it would be like spending the summer at Lake Travis.

Since my sister moved to Fairhope, I've begun to learn more about the town. The more I learn, the more I realize it's a lot like Austin--a little liberal oasis in an otherwise conservative state. (Residents recently fought the building of a Wal-Mart, and in Austin-weird style, Willie Bean Roscoe, a dog, recently ran for mayor.)

The city was founded in 1894 as utopian single-tax colony. The name came from one of the founders' suggestion that the new colony had a "fair hope of success." Artists and intellectuals flocked there, including Marietta Johnson.Johnson (depicted above), a world leader of the Progressive Education movement, founded the School of Organic Education in Fairhope in 1907. The "organic" in the name doesn't refer to planting techniques but rather to teaching techniques.

We stayed just down the street from the city's bayfront parklands, which include this sculpture, miles of waterfront property, and a municipal pier, aka the Big Pier. A sidewalk covers the length of the waterfront. It's kind of Fairhope's version of Austin's hike-and-bike trail.
It's hard to tell in this picture, but this seahorse is about 45 feet in the air, towering over the parklands.This bed of pansies is just one many that the city replants regularly. Earlier in the morning, this bed was empty. At other times of the year, I've seen it full of stargazer lilies, which I can only guess are planted as mature plants.
Every time I visit beds throughout the city are full--completely chock full of blooming plants. I wondered who paid and maintained for all the plants. This visit I found out definitively: the city.
Six times a year (seriously, it seems much more often than that; okay, another part of the website says that the displays are changed every six to eight weeks, which sounds about right), the city replants many, many beds in a few different styles.

These beds above are curb cut-ins to slow down drivers.
The city's horticulture division of the public works grows many of these plants in its greenhouse.
These beds above are throughout the downtown walking, shopping, and dining area. I know it's hard to tell in this picture but there are SIX completely full beds on that one corner. Each corner gets as many. It's a plant cornucopia!
And then on other streets in the middle of the block, there are planters like these.

Not to be outdone by the city, some people also actually garden there as well! Imagine that! Camellias, the state flower, were in bloom throughout the area. My niece told me I had to take a picture of this camellia because she has one in her yard. She told me it's a peppermint camellia.
Did you know that there are more than 100 different kinds of camellias? While Fairhope and Austin don't exactly share the same weather (can you imagine what we could grow here with 65 inches of annual rainfall!), I think there are a few varieties that will grow here.
I guess I'm not the only one who noticed the similarities between Fairhope and Austin.
Now if we could just have a FEW inches of their rainfall.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Bellingrath Gardens Christmas Lights

I spent the holidays visiting my family in Alabama, and I've got several posts' worth of photographs. Maybe if I make it my New Year's resolution to post them all, I'll do it.

Now that you've stopped laughing, I hope you can enjoy these pictures from Bellingrath Gardens Christmas in Lights.
Located outside Mobile on Fowl River, the gardens were created by extremely rich Coca-Cola franchisee Walter Bellingrath and his wife, Bessie Mae Morse Bellingrath. They started in 1927, adding paths, fountains, waterfalls, camellias, and azaleas.
In 1932 a national garden club meeting took place in Mobile. One afternoon during the meeting, the Bellingraths decided to invite Mobilians over for a visit. Five thousand people showed up!

I think the Bellingraths were surprised that many people showed up, but being gardeners, they really should have known that no self-respecting gardener would pass up the chance to gawk at another gardener's garden. Two years later they opened the gardens to the public year round.

I vaguely remember visiting the gardens as a child when the azaleas were in bloom, sometime in mid-March through early April. More than 250,000 azaleas cover the 65-acre estate. At the time, I remember being BORED after the first 100 or so azaleas.
Now I would love to visit the gardens in the spring, and in the daylight. Perhaps I've grown a bit more sophisticated in my tastes, or maybe I've just become one of "those people."
The Christmas lights also cover much of the 65 acres. Each area boasts a different theme, and I was excited to see what was around the corner. My niece, who has been there many times, could tell which displays were different than previous years. I was just along for the walk.

This gator in the pond moved back and forth, trying to scare us.
The massive lights show just whetted my appetite to see the garden in bloom. A few plants in the greenhouse were blooming like this hibiscus
and this poinsettia tree. I also knew I was near some blooming plants when I smelled the narcissus before I saw them.
I don't have pictures of several areas of the lights because it rained periodically throughout our stroll. It being Mobile most people weren't fazed by the downpours. We all knew that they would stop as quickly as they started. I do wish I'd had a jacket but my nephew was thrilled. He loves the rain!
Luckily for me, the showers were mere drizzles by the time we hit the seascape.

Maybe I loved these sea creatures because I knew I would be eating some particularly delicious ones after the lights tour.

Of course, Bellingrath Gardens had to have flowers on display. The last acre or two was filled with flower lights:
and of course, camellias.
I've got pictures of real camellias in bloom that I hope to post soon. It's only the first day of 2009, and already I'm sticking my resolutions! This must be a personal record!

Hope the new year brings us all new blooms, or maybe just pictures of old blooms!