Savannah. Charleston. New Orleans. San Antonio. These colonial-era cities inspire the courtyard garden ideal: green and lush, with beautiful plants, pools and fountains, paved with stone, tiles or bricks, & protected by sheltering walls with gates that reveal a table and chairs for cocktails or an al fresco meal...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Upcoming Project: Suggestions, Please!

OK, it's been in the one hundred degrees here. I have not been thinking about my garden, I have not been out in my garden, (except at night to water) but the temperatures have dipped back into the double digits and I'm thinking about my garden projects again. Oh, and consequently, the blog. The next project I want to tackle is my garden gate.

I'm loath to show you pictures of my garden gate in its current state. It looks much better when Zéphirine is blooming her heart out in spring and early summer. A picture of her in bloom is shown above. The gate is nondescript almost out-of-the-box-look iron. I have added a cast brass door knocker in the shape of a classic woman's head. Now remember, the wise women of Garden Rant say they are "bored with perfect magazine gardens." Here is the "Before" picture taken this weekend.

Now, I have always loved gates with an arch of flowering plants over them, particularly roses, so a few years ago, I lashed together two pieces of green bamboo and created the arch over this gate. Rosa 'Zéphirine Drouhin' grows up each side and meets in the middle. Some years here in San Antonio, she is not quite in the mood, but other years, with cooler wetter springs, she really shows off. Her moods may be variable, but she has no thorns, and therefore is particularly appropriate near gates and other paths. She also has a divine perfume.

In New Orleans and Charleston, and above, Scotland, the wrought iron ornamentation of the garden gate often continues to a stationary wrought iron arch over the gate. These provide added security and decoration and I've always admired their old-world charm. I bought one at Shades of Green, my local independently owned garden center, which I love. Well, I wasn't specific about loving the arch or Shades of Green, but it doesn't matter, because I love both. My goal is to have the arch installed over my gate, with an added arch of rebar over the antique portion, on which to tie Zéphirine. Perhaps for propriety's sake I shouldn't say tie, but instead afix or fasten. You know she's French and very particular. If I offend her, next spring may be an "off" year. The arch  will need to have to downward portions on each end to fit into the upright outside sides of the gate, and then be welded together.

In the future, look for AFTER photographs. I will try to install it without offending Zéphirine's sensibilities. Perhaps next spring she will reward us!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

New Plant Find: Christia obcordata!

This gardener just returned from his gardening mecca, Naples, Florida. Seriously, I dream of gardening there. I guess that relegates me to the "Tropical Gardener" status. Hey, maybe that's why I like courtyards so much...they provide micro-climates in my 8b - 9a garden which are more 9b-10a-ish. But I still may have to create a temporary greenhouse to protect my coddled ones during San Antonio's rare freezes. Oh no, another project to add to the list!

Anyway, I was with the Missus, and it was before the 10am dress shop opening bell was sounded, so we went to my favorite nursery in Naples - the one where I first saw my wall fountain, Driftwood Garden Center - and skulked around.

The first thing I saw was this Heliconia "Andromeda," oh, if only...

Then, I saw a plant I had never seen, nor heard of before on the way in. It looked like green butterflies with chocolate stripes. At first I thought it was a weird Oxalis, or something. I was intrigued. There were six 1.5 gallon pots, at only $8 each. Hmmm.

Next, I came across this artfully arranged vignette of plants in front of their beautiful terracotta selection.

They also had a huge selection of bromeliads, and not the usual suspects, either. I imagined placing them in the nooks and crannies of old leaf bases on my palms in my future garden in the "almost tropics" once I win the lottery.

So, after sauntering about, daydreaming about my future canal-side tropical garden paradise, I finally asked one of the staff about the chocolate butterflies I had noticed on the way in. "We just got those in, They're called Christia obcordata, and we've only had them once before. If you want one, you'd better pick it up now, we'll probably sell out today."

Well, you can't wave a redder flag in front of this bull! I hightailed it back to the front of the greenhouse to find a family carting one off, and a gentleman picking up another one! Only four left, and it wasn't even ten o'clock yet! I quickly evaluated the remaining four plants for the one I thought had the best chance of surviving modern airline travel and nuclear body-scanner attacks, and snatched it up. The Missus even wanted me to get one. She knew I could manage to get it back somehow, and appreciated its weird appearance and the fact they were disappearing like hotcakes.

I potted my new baby down to a pot which is about a half gallon size and didn't have to prune too many roots. I wrapped the pot in a grocery bag and tied the top to keep the moisture and soil in. I pruned some of the branches so she would fit into a large shopping bag and stuffed bubble wrap strategically so the pot would stay upright in the shopping bag. She made it through security twice with only one raised eyebrow, but I really don't think I could have hijacked a plane with one tropical plant, no matter how showy.

Well, she's going to be another true tropical which will have to be brought inside for our short "winter," but I'm sure she'll be worth it. From what I can find, Christia likes to be kept moist, enjoys part sun to light shade, and "prefers warmer temperatures." She may be placed in a hanging basket, because I read somewhere that nematodes love them. I'll let you know how she does!