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Garden journal - all of 2016


Our new homesite at Mango Knoll Court
March 20, 2016. Exit Pennsylvania
After twenty years of tending our Pennsylvania garden, it's time to say goodbye. I moved to Texas this winter for a new job; Amy and the kids will be following me down in July. We'll all miss our "Lush Gardens", where we planted our first trees, watched the kids grow up (as well as the trees we planted for them when they were born), and engaged in grand projects such as our swimming pond. I'll miss the plant sales I used to put on, and the thousands of seedlings I would start in the basement every winter (no basements in Texas!). So I hope that whoever comes to live in our home after us appreciates (or at least tolerates) some of our garden features. Many dozens of trees and hundreds of perennials are hoping for life after Rob!
Of course Texas will offer its own horticultural opportunities, albeit on a smaller scale. Contrary to the notion that everything is bigger in Texas, lot sizes in new communities are definitely not! We decided to build in a brand new development called Harvest Green, which focuses on a farming and gardening theme. There will be lots of green around us, but the fenced-in lot (the photo here shows what it looks like in its pre-construction stage) is several times smaller than what we're used to. That means we'll have several new frontiers: Gulf Coast gardening (heat, humidity, and bugs, along with gumbo soil!) and square foot gardening (which might be an interesting challenge). With all that, I sincerely hope that there is a Rob's Plants - Texas Edition on the horizon – but until we're settled and can start tending the new garden, the site will stay Pennsylvania-centric, and updates will be sporadic for now.
Speaking of Pennsylvania – there's an exciting new development in the Lehigh Valley! Thanks to a handful of enthusiastic volunteers, there is now a LV chapter of Plant a Row For the Hungry. They are in startup mode right now, and very much looking for additional participants. I'd give more details here, but their own website does them much more justice than I could. Please consider planting a row of edibles in your garden this year to support this worthwhile initiative!
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Cotinus 'Grace' doing the Truffula Dance
May 27, 2016. Last time at the Lush Gardens
I'm back at my home for the past twenty years, the one whose gardens are described on this website. Since I moved to Houston four months ago, I've been back just a few times, to share some time with my family, who won't be moving till summer. This Memorial Day visit will likely be my last one, so it's a bittersweet occasion – I look outside and see the tree-filled half acre that was the source of so much joy, anticipation, and a good helping of frustration through most of my adult life. It's good to see how it all works together, even though it is hardly a well manicured garden. From the sun-drenched garden (mostly lawn) where many years ago Amy and I got married on a brand-new patio and were surrounded by our wedding guests in a big happy tent, the Lush Gardens have undergone many transformations, to where now big trees and a big pond dominate the space, one that feels wonderfully established. I hope its new owners will similarly find satisfaction in the garden, even if they don't see themselves as gardeners yet. The birds and butterflies that have made their homes here will certainly serve as inspiration and a reminder of the importance of keeping nature around us.
This weekend's activities around the garden are half reconnection, half making sure we leave everything in a presentable state for those who come after us. And of course, the garden, which has been maintained mostly by Amy this spring, threw some surprises at me. Such as the funky state of the 'Grace' smoketree, resembling Dr. Seuss's truffula trees after their partial winter survival. I normally cut it back fairly low to the ground in early spring, but this year it was allowed to do its own thing without intervention, leading to a comical appearance (you'll have to take my word for it, I admit the photo isn't particularly convincing).
My next post, whenever it happens, will likely talk about our new garden in Houston – which will feel quite the opposite of established, but will offer a blank slate not unlike the one I faced twenty years ago here in Pennsylvania. Another cycle, coming right up!
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Multi-eyed jumper
September 10, 2016. Greetings from Texas
Well, it was only a matter of time before our new abode in Texas would present its first garden-related photographic opportunity. Actually, there had been one before, involving an anole lizard, but I neglected to put that one up on this site, so you get the second one: a twinflagged jumping spider (Anasaitis canosa) that was happily exploring our kitchen counter. He outwitted the protections put in place by the extermination company: we've been convinced that it is downright impossible to do without routine extermination services in these parts, and so far we've given in to the local trend. But our little guest apparently found a way around those defenses. Which is reassuring, to some extent: while I certainly would prefer not to encounter brown recluse or black widow spiders, I'm not keen on a plot of land devoid of insect life. Hopefully we'll find a happy medium.
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our blank slate
October 01, 2016. The blank slate
Finally, the Houston summer appears to be receding. We've had some delightfully cool mornings, and even the afternoons have been pleasant, with temperatures reaching only into the mid-80s. So it is now time to start exploring the joys of gardening on the Gulf Coast. Over the past few months, Amy and I have visited a few local nurseries, and have been perplexed by the variety of plant offerings, almost all unfamiliar (or familiar only from gardening magazines) – very little overlap with our Pennsylvania perennial plant palette. Our canvas is quite different as well – compared to the wide open back yard we were accustomed to, the regimented, fenced-in space we see out our back windows now seems restricted. It's a decent-size yard, by new Houston-area subdivision standards, and the St-Augustine-grass lawn comes with a sprinkler system, a luxury we didn't enjoy up North. But where to begin? The front yard is off limits – the homeowners association has placed such extreme limits on what is and isn't allowed there, we're likely to leave the anemic landscaping put in by the builder as is for now, and focus on the back. And there, we can choose from a smorgasbord of new subtropical plantings. Today, we set our first steps towards a garden that's our own – selecting both familiar plants (a hydrangea and a Sky Pencil holly) and new ones (a lemon tree! a sago palm!) in our first Texas plant shopping spree. Just to get the juices flowing – the few plants we bought won't make a dent in St. Augustine's domain. But it's a start to establishing our new garden. I hope to be writing updates more frequently from now on.
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Last modified: October 01, 2016
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