Tatton Park
2008-08-22. The beech walk, Tatton Park.

July 18th, 2010
Tatton Park: Beech Walk

There are in our existence spots of time,
That with distinct pre-eminence retain
A renovating virtue, whence, depressed…
In trivial occupations, and the round
Of ordinary intercourse, our minds
Are nourished and invisibly repaired;
— William Wordsworth, The Prelude, Book Twelfth

I have been holding the memory of this walk through Tatton Park in reserve, waiting for a miserable summer day in Austin to pull it out and use it like a charm against the heat.

I began at the Knutsford entrance and walked through the beech wood to Tatton Park garden. Almost as I begin my walk, a misty rain starts to fall. The trees are so dense that very little rain falls on me.

In Austin we are suffering drought but Cheshire has had a rainy summer. I enjoy the novelty of picking my way down the muddy track. Sometimes there are huge mucky puddles and I have to backtrack to get around them. The walk is so dark and wet that even though it is just two rows of trees lining a path, I can imagine that I’m lost deep in a forest.

Tatton Park

My only company is the sheep.

Tatton Park

I visit the gardens and have lunch the Stables Restaurant. They are promoting locally grown (Cheshire) food including vegetables grown at Tatton. This is the best meal I’ve ever had at an RHS garden. At other garden shops, it’s usually just a supermarket scone and teabag in hot water for “tea”.

I thought I’d be energized by lunch enough to tour the gardens more. I’ve been here so many times that after I visit my favorite spots I decide it’s better to begin the walk home.

Tatton Park
Of all the trees, I loved this one the best.

I linger. I loll. I meander. I soak up the impressions, stopping often to take photographs or to write. It takes almost three hours to get home: one hour down beech walk, and two hours from Knutsford to Mobberley.

Tatton Park
Melchett Mere

While here I stand, not only with the sense
Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
That in this moment there is life and food
For future years.
— William Wordsworth, Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey


Tatton Park: The Italian Garden
Tatton Park: The Japanese Garden

Polanisa dodecandra
2010-07-15. When it’s summer, I can count on clammyweed (Polanisia dodecandra).

July 15th, 2010
GBBD 201007: July 2010

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day

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

July 15, 2010

Although Austin’s heat index hit triple digit temperatures this week, our actual highs have remained in the 90s. The humidity is smothering. Being in the garden is miserable, even at dawn. If the humidity doesn’t drive me indoors, the mosquitoes do. However, looking at the garden from inside an air-conditioned house, I’m astonished at how green it still is, how lovely it appears from a distance.

I find it interesting to look back at previous years’ GBBD posts. Last July as we kept racking up our triple digit days on the way to 68 (not quite breaking the 1925 record of 69), I couldn’t bring myself to face the garden or to inventory my disappointment. Of course, now I wish I’d made the effort just to see what could bloom in a summer like last year’s. (And yes, a voice in my head told me as much at the time but for once the heart won out.) In July 2008 we were still at the beginning of the drought, suffering but still believing that fall rains would bring relief. The summer of 2007, however, was very similar to this summer.

The rain has encouraged the roses to bloom. All, except ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’*, have bloomed this month. ‘Red Cascade’ has been the real surprise. It sat there for years doing nothing and this year it’s hasn’t stopped blooming. It wants to be a ground rose though. Long canes snake out hugging the ground. They aren’t happy when I try to tie them up to the fence. The small fig tree I planted last year has doubled in size.

In the losses column another surprise: the gingko tree. It’s never been particularly vibrant but it held on through drought and freeze. It attempted to leaf out this spring, put out a few wan leaves, and then gave up. The rain also killed off my new sotol plant (planted in well draining soil amended with decomposed granite) and my thyme (potted in a deep herb pot).

Rain or drought certain flowers are dependable July bloomers at Zanthan Gardens: Antigonon leptopus, Hibiscus syriacus, Lagerstroemia indica, and Malvaviscus arboreus. Carefree self-sown flowers are Polanisia dodecandra, Ruellia (various), and Rudbeckia hirta. Perversely, given that I always have them, I don’t really want more of them. What I really want this year a Pride of Barbados. I’m almost content to enjoy my neighbor’s as I sit looking out the window from my desk. I could plant my own but when our low temperatures barely drop out of the 80s at night, I’m not highly motivated to work in the garden.

Noticeably absent from the list of dependable summer bloomers are the duranta and the plumbago. Neither has recovered yet from the Great Freeze of January 2010. The oleander is also slowing making its way back and has managed to put out a couple of flowers. I used to it being a huge wall of champagne-colored flowers.

New for July

I’ve tried growing crocosmia several times. This is my first success thanks to passalong plants from AnnieinAustin. They just began blooming yesterday.

2010-07-15. Crocosmia. (Technically this won’t bloom until tomorrow.)

I first noticed the pigeonberry in Eleanor’s Garden of E on the 2009 Master Gardener’s tour. I liked it so much I bought a 4-inch pot of one on the spot. It died back to its roots during the January 2010 freeze and has remained quite small. It began blooming July 10th.

Rivina humilis pigeonberry
2010-07-15. Pigeonberry (Rivina humilis).

When I bought a Mexican buckeye tree a few years back, there were second small plant in the container. I planted it and it’s stayed about a foot tall, smothered under weeds. In late spring when I was cleaning up around the raspberries, I uncovered it. It appreciated either the attention or the rain and has tripled in size in a couple of months. Today I noticed it was flowering, something it’s supposed to do in early spring.

Ungnadia speciosa
2010-07-15. Mexican buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa).

Between GBBDs

Several flower bloomed and faded in my garden between GBBDs and so didn’t show up in the inventory for either June or July. Rainlilies: Zephyranthes grandiflora, Zephyranthes ‘Labuffarosea’ (another passalong from @AnnieinAustin), and the two different white ones. The Crinum bulbispermum rebloomed after the rain.


* 2010-07-18. ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ produced one flower. That means every rose has produced at least one flower in July 2010…not all at the same time.

Complete List for July 2010

Zanthan Gardens

This is the list of all plants flowering today, July 15th 2010, at Zanthan Gardens. I’ve also noted if the plant was blooming on GBBD July 15th, 2007 or 2008. I have no notes for July 2009.

  • Abelia grandiflora (2007, 2010)
  • Antigonon leptopus (2007, 2008, 2010)
  • Antirrhinum majus (2010)
  • Aristolochia fimbriata (2010)
  • Asparagus densiflorus (2010)
  • Commelina communis/erecta (2007, 2010)
  • Crocosmia (2010)
  • Datura inoxia (2010)
  • Engelmannia peristenia/pinnatifida (2008, 2010)
  • Helianthus annuus (2010)
  • Hesperaloe parviflora (2008, 2010)
  • Hibiscus syriacus (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)
  • Lagerstroemia indica‘Catawba’ (2007, 2008, 2010)
  • Lantana ‘New Gold’ (2007, 2010)
  • Malvaviscus arboreus (2007, 2008, 2010)
  • Mondo grass (2007, 2010)
  • Nerium oleander ‘Turner’s Shari D.’ (2007, 2008, 2010)
  • Nierembergia gracilis ‘Starry Eyes’ (2010)
  • Oenothera speciosa (2007, 2010)
  • Origanum vulgare (2010)
  • Oxalis triangularis (2007, 2008, 2010)
  • Parkinsonia aculeata (2010)
  • Pavonia hastata (2010)
  • Rivina humilis (2010)
  • Polanisia dodecandra (2007, 2008, 2010)
  • rose ‘Blush Noisette‘ (2007, 2010)
  • rose ‘Ducher’ (2010)
  • rose ‘New Dawn’ (2010)
  • rose ‘Red Cascade’ (2010)
  • rosemary (2007, 2010)
  • Rudbeckia hirta (2007, 2010)
  • Ruellia (2007, 2008, 2010)
  • Setcresea (both purple and green) (2007, 2008, 2010)
  • Thymophylla tenuiloba ‘Golden Fleece’ (2010)
  • Ungnadia speciosa (2010)
  • Verbena canadensis (2007, 2010)
  • waterlily ‘Helvola’ (2008, 2010)
  • Zexmenia hispida (2010)

Zanthan Gardens privacy fence
The new fence. And a new bed to plant. Notice that it does not slope with the ground. Why is revealed below.

July 10th, 2010
Fenced In

Zanthan Gardens privacy fence
The old fence. Part of it collapsed and is leaning against the section still standing which is covered in ivy.

Born and bred in the American Southwest, I have a longing for wide open spaces but given my urban reality I appreciate how fences make good neighbors. My garden is bordered by six neighbors and the resulting fence line is a patchwork of picket, chain link, and wooden privacy fences (each of a different design). I’ve been lazy about fence maintenance and twice my procrastination has paid off.

Half (about 40 additional feet) of the same fence that one neighbor replaced in 2003 bordered another neighbor. After seven years, the fence finally collapsed under the weight of the ivy. I decided to take on my share of neighborly obligation and replace it.

Finding a Contractor

My biggest hurdle was a mental one. After my last unsuccessful dealings with a contractor, I was very reluctant to go through the process of interviewing and hiring anyone.

The first person I talked with took measurements and wrote up an estimate. He was professional, but (I felt) impersonal. He didn’t have any questions about the quirks of the site. He didn’t offer me any options, outline alternatives, or discuss anticipated issues. He didn’t explain the process or ask about my questions or concerns. This one-size-fits-all solution just didn’t fit me.

The second person I talked to stood me up three times–and that was just to give me an estimate. Each excuse was valid and apologetic. However, it bothered me that he called to cancel at the moment he was supposed to be meeting me, not when he first realized that he couldn’t make the appointment. I understand that the unexpected happens. What I evaluate is how someone responds. Taken as a whole his responses seemed to indicate someone disorganized who didn’t think things through. This might not be a fair assessment but all I had to go on was three phone conversations. First impressions really do count.

I appealed to the Austin garden blogger network and Pam/Digging came to the rescue. When I met with R. I was impressed by two things: he was attentive and he was observant. He listened to what I wanted and he looked at the site. He paced back and forth as he imagined the process of putting up the fence and as he mentally discovered issues asked me questions about how I’d like them handled.

Prepping the Garden

I had known this fence was going to be replaced for years, so I had already moved the bulbs that were originally there. The English ivy smothered everything else. The most difficult plant to deal with was the ‘Mermaid’ rose which had threaded itself through the fence and trees. ‘Mermaid’ is one prickly rose! I cut off an older section which was tangled in a crape myrtle that was going to be removed. I moved all the new canes over to one side and tied them out of the way. I flagged the whole rose with ribbons of orange construction tape–not so much for the protection of the rose but for the protection of the workers.

One thing I’ve learned about workers: they’re efficient because they’re focused on getting their job done. That focus is so narrow they don’t “see” a garden. So I marked off the path through the garden beds with more orange construction tape. This is an edging that speaks to construction workers: it says, “Don’t take a shortcut through here. Don’t dump materials here. Don’t pour cement here.”

The Process

Zanthan Gardens privacy fence
Robert Frost might have wondered if good fences make good neighbors. I don’t.

The fence came down quickly. The bigger part of the job was hacking out of the ivy and removing a few spindly trees (hackberry, redbud, and crape myrtle) growing up through the fence. As you can see in the photo above, what I took for saplings were actually the suckers from the stump of what had once been a huge redbud. Unfortunately, this stump was where an old post was and where a new post hole had to be dug–a lot of hard work for the crew. They dealt with it without shirking.

After further consideration, we agreed to leave the largest hackberry. I’ve tried for years to remove it from my side and what’s left is a rather large tree overhanging my neighbor’s yard. To cut it down now would require professional tree people and consultation with my neighbor who wasn’t around. Besides with all the little trees around it gone, it now looks rather graceful.

Zanthan Gardens privacy fence
After the post holes were dug and the posts set in concrete.

The next day, the fence took shape. I am so impressed at how straight and true all the lines are. My yard slopes from the SW corner to the NE. A horizontal line is such a relief.

The Result

I had an unusual requirement. Both my neighbors on this south side are uphill from me. A line of huge blocks of stone divides our properties. I wanted to be able to see the stones under the fence. I wanted air circulation so to prevent plant diseases. And I wanted to have access all the way to the stones so that I could cut out any seedlings that the birds and squirrels and wind plant there.

Zanthan Gardens privacy fence
The hackberry that grew up in the fence line and the beautiful old stone boundary marker.

The solution was to make the top of the fence horizontal and let the bottom be open. This way the height of the fence matches the height of the fences each of my neighbors built.

Zanthan Gardens privacy fence
I hope my neighbor is pleased with how well the new fence matches his.
Zanthan Gardens privacy fence

From my neighbor’s side, the fence is the standard height. From my side (downhill), it appears taller.

tomato Red Zebra
Tomato ‘Red Zebra’. Maybe

July 2nd, 2010
Tomato Review 2010 Spring

Selecting a Site

All through last summer I watched the sunlight and shadows in my yard and concluded that the consistently sunniest spot was alongside the driveway. Ever since my neighbor’s installed a privacy fence, I’ve been removing the invasive nandina. Now I was more determined than ever to turn this spot into our new tomato bed. This would be the fifth spot I’ve tried.

Zanthan Gardens tomato vines
2009-11-22. I spy a good spot for the tomatoes.

Starting from Seed

My favorite store for unusual tomatoes, Gardens, closed this year so I decided (at the last minute) to start tomatoes from seed. I received my order on February 25th. When I worked in an office with good lighting and warm rooms, I had great luck growing tomatoes from seed. I used to put my seed tray on top of my computer monitor and they’d pop up in days with that bottom heat. However, my house is cold and dark in the winter and my computer doesn’t have one of those old-fashioned monitors. The sad ending to this story is not a single seed came up.

Tomato Season

I went to the Sunshine Coop sale on March 6th and got six starts. This might seem early but in 2009, I already had all my tomatoes planted by this date.

Zanthan Gardens tomato vines
2010-03-11. The tomatoes are planted.

As always, I’m running behind and I have not gotten the tomato bed built before I have to get the tomatoes in the ground. In Austin, we have a very short window of opportunity. Plant too early and face a late freeze. Plant too late and face early high temperatures which prevent the tomatoes from setting fruit. Because I live downtown which is usually a few degrees warmer than the suburbs and because this spot is protected from north winds and gets full summer sun, I plant early.

When I planted the tomatoes on March 11th, the daytime high was 74° and the nighttime low 45° (a bit chilly for tomatoes). The first 90° day was April 23rd (compared with April 9th in 2009).

We picked our first tomato, a small “Jaune Flamme” on May 17th. It wasn’t entirely ripe but we were leaving for a week out of town and we couldn’t resist. From May 25th to June 30th, we picked tomatoes almost every day. Now in July, there are a couple of tomatoes still ripening. The tomatoes are still flowering but the nights are too hot for them to set fruit. The 2010 tomato season was almost 2 weeks longer than in 2009. We still haven’t had any triple digit highs. In 2009, by July 2nd Austin had had twelve triple digit days…what we average for an entire summer. (This week temperatures have dropped and we’ve had four straight days of rain. Maybe they’ll start setting again.)

Soil Preparation

I dig down about a foot and still pull out another bag full of nandina and snailseed vine roots. I dig in about a foot of Natural Gardener Hill Country garden soil as well as the three inches of leaf mold that has rotted down in this spot for the last 20 years. The soil is pretty nice black clay. When I get down below a foot, the clay is still damp from our generously rainy winter and a little cold.

I plant all the tomatoes in the warm amended soil. I put dolomite lime (magnesium and calcium) in each hole and plant them with a water bottle just as I did last year. I believe that the steady moisture reduces problems with blossom end rot. I put toilet paper roll collars around the stems to foil the cutworms.

Zanthan Gardens tomato vines
2010-03-11. I hill the dirt up but can’t build a raised bed until the peas come out.

At this point I don’t mulch. I use the water bottles to get water directly to the roots. I never spray the plants or the dirt around them. For now, the dirt is acting like a 4 inch layer of mulch. And because it’s dark, it’s soaking up the sunlight and quite warm.

However, I can’t build the raised beds for the tomatoes because I planted the English peas along the chain link fence and they are at the height of their production. It will be another month, April 3rd, before the raised bed is installed and two more weeks, April 18th, before the netting is put up to keep out the squirrels. The tomato fortress successfully foiled the squirrels right up until the last week of harvest. Then they managed to shake tomatoes loose and roll them towards the netting and eat them. Overall we lost only half a dozen tomatoes to the squirrels. Last year we lost more than half of the total tomatoes.

Zanthan Gardens tomato vines
2010-05-13. All the tomatoes are flowering and setting fruit.

The weekend before we leave town for a week, Austin gets a good soaking rain. Afterwards, I mulch the tomato bed with several inches of composted pine needles from this year’s Christmas tree mulch.


Early in the season, I found four tomato hornworms and picked them off by hand. They did only slight damage. When temperatures climbed into the 90s, I noticed more stink bugs. I’d pick them off every morning. They were more of a problem in the last couple of weeks of June. Our biggest pest, the squirrels, managed to broach our defenses but we lost only four tomatoes to them. We already have plans to refit the tomato fortress and make it even more secure next year.


This year only a couple of tomatoes developed blossom end rot. I attribute it to uneven watering; they didn’t get any water the week we out of town and then we came back, it poured. Only one tomato cat-faced. One variety, (red Zebra?) consistently split.

Tomato Varieties

Zanthan Gardens tomato vines
From left to right: Faribo Goldheart, Arkansas Traveler, Jaune Flamme.

All six plants were grown in the same conditions. They were grown in the same soil, received the same amount of sunlight, were watered and fertilized the same. This year we had two winners and two losers. ‘Jaune Flamme’ and ‘Arkansas Traveler’ produced well and consistently. ‘Red Zebra’ produced moderately well but every tomato was cracked. ‘Faribo Goldhart’ produced only four tomatoes and only one of them was edible.

Jaune Flamme

We loved ‘Jaune Flamme’ so much last year that I bought two plants this year. They got off to a quick start and were the first to produce fruit. The tomatoes average about 2 ounces–larger than a cherry tomato but not a full-sized tomato. They are tangy and juicy. When fully ripe, the interior is a blush rose. The vines reached the top of the tomato fortress (which is 8 feet tall).

Arkansas Traveler

I bought one ‘Arkansas Traveler’ but it had two plants growing in the pot. They’re said to love the heat and the plants didn’t seem to get going until it warmed up a bit. At one point they were half the size of the ‘Jaune Flamme’ vines. However, once they started growing, they set nice trusses of red, blemish-free fruit. They averaged four or five ounces each. Even when fully ripe, ‘Arkansas Traveler’ is a somewhat pinkish, rather than bright red. They were firm and meaty. They weren’t flashy but they were dependable.

tomato Arkansas Traveler
‘Arkansas Traveler’ set fruit well.

Red Zebra?

I bought ‘Azoychka’ but as soon as the fruits of this tomato starting turning color, it was evident that it wasn’t the yellow Russian tomato I’d enjoyed last year. It looked like it was going to be ‘Green Zebra’. Then the green turned to red. They skin was glossy and on the vine they looked gorgeous. But when I picked them, they were all cracked. And in some cases ants would get in the cracks. I learned to pick them a little green and slice off the tops. The bottom two-thirds of the tomato was fine. But I don’t think I will grow them again.

The ‘Red Zebra’ tomatoes were slightly smaller than the ‘Arkansas Traveler’. The taste was a bit more tangy.

tomato Red Zebra
Red Zebra? Beautiful on the blossom side but not on the stem side.

Faribo Goldheart

‘Faribo Goldheart’ was the biggest disappointment of the bunch. First of all, it set only 5 fruit. The first one was cat-faced. The next one was perfect. The next one ripened on one side but was shrunken on the other. The last two rotted on one side–like blossom end rot but on not on the end. (I have a photo but it was taken in very poor light so you’re spared the horror.)