bearded iris Incantation
Bearded iris ‘Incantation’. April 29, 2009.

April 30th, 2009
Iris ‘Incantation’

A lavender blue bearded iris opened this week and I had to go through my files of photographs to identify it. Everyone is under the misconception that I keep great records. In contrast, I feel like I never write down the precise bit of information that I want to know later. When did I transplant this iris? Where did I move it from? What is it? Why didn’t I label it or jot down a few notes?

In my files I found several photos of ‘Incantation’. Some taken with my digital video recorder in on April 21, 2002. Another set taken with my first digital camera on April 24, 2005. These showed the distinct veining on the falls and the bit of bright orange on the throat of the otherwise white beard.

bearded iris Incantation
Bearded iris ‘Incantation’. April 24, 2005.

This year ‘Incantation’ opened on April 25th. I have only one rhizome left which has sent up one stalk with three flowers. I originally bought three rhizomes from Schreiner’s in 1999 for $7.50 a piece (not factoring in the discount). They bloomed in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005, and now 2009. I thought I’d lost them to rot completely. I transplanted them again last fall and only one survived. It has been smothered by bluebonnets most of the spring and I was completely surprised when the flower stalk popped up last week.

Here’s my original impression from April 20, 2000.

First flower. Well-proportioned with standards the periwinkle blue of some of the larkspur. It blends very well with the larkspur but what I really need is contrast. This is the trouble with liking one color and buying every flower that is that color.

I think I was wrong. I look at the photo at the top of this post and now I think that’s just perfect.

California poppy Mikado
California poppy ‘Mikado’.

April 15th, 2009
GBBD 200904: April 2009

Carol at May Dreams Gardens invites us to tell her what’s blooming in our gardens on the 15th of each month.

April 15, 2009

Carol may dream of May, but at Zanthan Gardens the month worth waiting and working for is April. More flowers are blooming right now than any other time of year. Austin had a little rain in March and that brought our drought-stricken garden to life. I can’t begin to photograph everything that’s blooming right now or even all that’s new from last month. So I just took a few photos of my favorites and put the complete list at the end.

I like small and airy flowers, “fairy flowers” Dawn called them. We went shopping at The Great Outdoors together last week and I couldn’t resist this Dahlberg Daisy, Thymophylla tenuiloba. I much prefer it to the larger, coarse-leafed Engelmann daisy. I also bought Spanish lavender, Lavandula stoechas which has huge showy bracts.
Dahlberg Daisy
Dahlberg Daisy ‘Golden Fleece’.

The duranta has been flowering non-stop since last year. Our winter was so mild that it didn’t freeze down to the ground as it typically does. I took this photo primarily so you could see the mass of larkspur behind it. I really like jewel-toned purples and violets.
Duranta erecta
Duranta erecta in front of larkspur.

I can’t resist a blue flower either. The bluebonnets and the baby blue eyes had it rough this year and are fading fast. The Spanish bluebells sent up only two flowers. The promising news is that La Niña weather pattern might finally be at an end. Maybe Austin will have a normal summer–you know, where we have only 13 100° days, not 50+. The yellow bearded iris is an heirloom iris that came with my yard. It’s very common in Austin and if you know what it is, tell me.
Iris flavascens
Unidentified bearded iris (maybe Iris flavascens) in front of bluebonnets on the left and baby blue eyes on the right.

I recently featured ‘Strictly Ballroom’ but I couldn’t resist a final photo. I think this is the last flower. I’m glad it made it to Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.
iris Strictly Ballroom
bearded iris, Strictly Ballroom.

Is it cheating if you buy flowers on GBBD? After a trip to the periodontist this morning I stopped by Barton Springs Nursery and bought this Louisiana iris and a Nierembergia gracilis ‘Starry Eyes’. AJM has wanted Louisana irises since he saw them at an Austin iris show even before we had a pond.
Louisiana iris, Full Eclipse
Louisiana iris, Full Eclipse.

I try different sweet peas every year. This year it is ‘Knee-hi Mix’ a variety for containers. After planting a container I had some seeds left over so I planted them next to a trellis by the front door. The ones in the ground are now as tall as I am and have been blooming since March 6th. The ones in the pot finally started blooming last week. I prefer scented sweet peas and these aren’t very…except for this one with the broken color. I’m trying to save seeds but today also marked the appearance of the inch worms and, of course, they decided to nibble on the only flower I was interested in saving seeds from.
Lathyrus odoratus Knee-hi mix
Lathyrus odoratus ‘Knee-hi Mix’.

Love-in-the-mist is one of the plants (like cilantro or baby blue eyes) that I let self-sow to use as filler in the meadow. This year, I’m glad to see the white ones making a comeback.Nigella damascena

Every rose except ‘Red Cascade’ is blooming today and even it has buds. ‘Mermaid’ is a vicious climber with huge flowers that glow in the moonlight. After years of growing in the shade it found the sunlight and is now doing its best to climb up and strangle a rose of Sharon tree. I love it so much I can’t help but indulge it.
rose Mermaid
rose ‘Mermaid’.

Although my original ‘New Dawn’ rose died last fall, I did manage to strike a rose from it several years ago and it is in full bloom this week.
rose New Dawn
rose ‘New Dawn’.

I did a close-up shot of Confederate jasmine last year so this year I wanted to show it how I usually see it–a huge mass of white. Confederate jasmine is an evergreen perennial vine which can handle Austin’s heat. The main reason to grow it, is its intoxicating scent. I never get tired of it. When it’s blooming, I always wish I’d planted more.
Trachelospermum jasminoides
Confederate jasmine.

St Joseph’s lily is another heirloom bulb that you see all over old Austin neighborhoods. It looks like a giant amaryllis and is in the same family. St. Joseph’s Day is March 19th but it didn’t start blooming in my garden until April 3rd.
Hippeastrum x Johnsonii
St. Joseph’s lily. Related to amaryllis rather than a true lily.

April 15, 2009

Complete List for April

The list of all plants flowering today, April 15th 2009, at Zanthan Gardens. I’ve also noted if the plant was blooming on GBBD April 15th, 2007 or 2008.

  • Allium neapolitanum (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Aloe barbadensis (2008, 2009)
  • Asclepias curassavica (overwintered) (2009)
  • Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’ (2008, 2009)
  • Brugmansia (from Annie in Austin) (2009)
  • Centaurea cyanus ‘Black Magic’ (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Commelinantia anomala (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Consolida ambigua (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Coriandrum sativum (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Crinum bulbispermum (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Dahlberg daisy ‘Golden Fleece’ (2009)
  • Datura (from Diana which overwintered) (2009)
  • Diospyros kaki ‘Eureka’ (Japanese persimmon) (2007, 2009)
  • Duranta erecta (overwintered) (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Engelmannia peristenia/pinnatifida (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Eschscholzia californica ‘Mikado’ (2008, 2009)
  • Eupatorium wrightii (from Pam) (2009)
  • Hesperaloe parviflora (2008, 2009)
  • Hippeastrum x johnsonii (St. Joseph’s lily) (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • iris bearded ‘Strictly Ballroom (2009)
  • Iris flavescens (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Iris x fulvala ‘Full Eclipse’ (2009)
  • jalapeno (2009)
  • Kalanchoe daigremontiana (Mother of Thousands) (2009)
  • Lantana montevidensis (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Lantana x hybrida ‘New Gold’ (2008, 2009)
  • Lathyrus odoratus (2007, 2008, 2009) ‘Knee-Hi Mix’
  • Lavandula heterophyla ‘Goodwin Creek Grey‘ (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Lavandula stoechas (2009)
  • Lobularia maritima (2008, 2009)
  • Lonicera japonica (2009)
  • Lupinus texensis (fading) (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Malvaviscus arboreus (2009)
  • Mirabilis jalapa (2008, 2009)
  • Nemophila insignis (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Nerium oleander ‘Turner’s Shari D.’ (2008, 2009)
  • Nierembergia gracilis ‘Starry Eyes’ (2009)
  • Nigella damascena (2008, 2009)
  • Oenothera speciosa (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Orchid (from Dawn) (2009)
  • Oxalis crassipis (hot pink) (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Oxalis pes-caprae ‘Scotty’s Surprise’ (fading) (2008, 2009)
  • Oxalis triangularis (both purple and white) (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Phlomis lanata (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Polanisia dodecandra (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Retama (2008, 2009)
  • Rhaphiolepis indica (end of the season) (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • rose ‘Blush Noisette‘ (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • rose ‘Ducher’ (waning) (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • rose ‘French Lace’ (2007, 2009)
  • rose white Lady Banksia (my neighbor’s but droops over the fence) (2009)
  • rose ‘Madame Alfred Carriere‘ (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • rose ‘Mermaid’ (2009)
  • rose ‘New Dawn’ (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • rose ‘Prosperity’ (full bloom) (2008, 2009)
  • rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • ruellia (overwintered) (2009)
  • Sedum album (2008, 2009)
  • Setcreasea pallida, both colors
  • Solanum jasminoides (potato vine) (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Spiraea bridal wreath (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • tomatillo (2009)
  • tomato (2007, 2009)
  • Trachelospermum jasminoides (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Tradescantia (spiderwort) (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Verbena canadensis (lavender wilding) (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Viola cornuta (2007, 2008, 2009) ‘Sorbet Coconut Duet’
  • Vitia sativa (common vetch, a pretty weed) (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • yaupon holly (2007, 2009)
  • Zexmenia hispida (from Pam) (2009)

compost tumbler
The finished product from the Organic Compost Tumbler: sifted and unsifted compost.

April 7th, 2009
Organic Compost Tumbler

Chris from Organic Compost Tumbler sent me a UCT-9 compost tumbler to review.

April 3, 2009: The Results

About 2 1/2 months has passed since I loaded up the “World’s Best” Organic Compost Tumbler. At first the material in the tumbler was quite light and the tumbler was easy to turn. In the last couple of weeks, the material has become denser, reduced in mass to just the bottom half of the tumbler and so the tumbler has become more awkward to turn. I took these as signs that the compost was ready.

When I looked inside it looked very similar to my own open-pile compost. There were still some sticks in it but the oak leaves, kitchen scraps, and pine needles had broken down.
compost tumbler
In the case of compost tumblers, half empty is definitely half full.

I decided that the compost was ready. If I waited for the big sticks to break down that the other smaller stuff would rot away to almost nothing. Also, I needed compost for my vegetable garden and I needed the compost tumbler for all the trimmings from the spring garden cleanup.

My first question was how do I get the compost out? I wanted to dump it into a wheel barrow or bucket, not just on the ground but it’s impossible to put anything under the compost tumbler and turn the stuff out. I ended up dumping it on the ground but now I realized that if I’d found some plastic sheeting, that would have solved my problem.
compost tumbler
The compost filled the bottom half of the tumbler or two of these galvanized tubs…sorry that I don’t have a better way to measure the amount.

The compost apparently had not heated up as much as was expecting because avocado and mango pits had not broken down (and some were sprouting), nor did section of Turk’s cap stems (which I had cut into 3 to 4 inch pieces). However, there was no evidence of smaller seeds or garlic sprouting–which I have a problem with in my open pile. I do not interpret this as a fault of the Organic Compost Tumbler because (see below) successful composting depends a great deal on the mix of materials. Although I had chopped the larger pieces down and turned the tumbler almost every day, the mix was a bit on the brown side and initially too dry.

compost tumbler
A mix of fine compost and some larger chunks that I think need to break down more.

The result, then, was very similar to what I get out of my open compost pile–with one important exception. It wasn’t crawling with roaches, pill bugs, or earwigs. This made sifting it so much more pleasant. I use the fine compost on my vegetables when planting them or as top-dressing. I use the coarse compost as a mulch or throw it back on the pile as “starter” for the next batch.

Bottom Line

Do I like the Organic Compost Tumbler?
Yes. I don’t think the end product is much different than my open pile. But making the compost is a much more convenient. It’s so much easier to tumble the composter than it is to turn an open pile. And it looks nicer and it doesn’t attract pests (not only roaches, earwigs, and pillbugs but raccoons, rats, and opossums.)

Would I recommend it?
Yes. I think a compost tumbler is useful for people in urban or suburban neighborhoods who don’t have room or which there are restrictions on compost piles. It won’t produce all the compost you need nor will it be able to consume all the kitchen scraps and garden clippings that you produce. But it is a start.

Since receiving the Organic Compost Tumbler for review I’ve kept an eye out for other types. The prices are about the same but this is the sturdiest one I’ve seen. And it’s made out of recycled plastic.

Would I buy it myself?
I am considering buying one or two more…as budget permits. One is simply not enough to handle my composting needs. I used up the entire contents of my first batch in about two hours and wanted more. I have already filled the compost tumbler up: this time with chinaberry and hackberry tree sprouts. I’m looking forward to seeing whether a different mix will compost hotter and faster. I’ve learned my lesson about making sure it is damp (but not too wet). And I will probably “harvest” the mix as soon as the tumbler feels heavy and awkward to turn.

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bearded iris Strictly Ballroom
2009-04-05. Bearded iris ‘Strictly Ballroom’.

April 5th, 2009
Iris 'Strictly Ballroom'

Today ‘Strictly Ballroom’ is the lone reminder of my former obsession with bearded irises.