Garden Notes

There is deeper meaning and principles we can learn from a study of Japanese gardens that will help us in creating a sense of place in Texas Panhandle gardens.

A repeat of the Corps of Discovery documentary on PBS and a re-read of the beautifully illustrated book, Uncommon to This Country, Botanical Discoveries of Lewis and Clark, lead me to spruce up my garden with a selection of both native and non-native bulbs.

While it's hot and toasty outside, savvy gardeners are thumbing through seed catalogs choosing what they'll be eating once the weather turns cold and frosty. It's time to order seeds and prepare vegetable beds for fall and winter vegetable gardening.

Within an easy day drive from Amarillo is one of America's top five botanic gardens, the Denver Botanic Gardens. When visiting this city on the edge of plains and mountains, plan to spend a half day or more immersed in top class horticultural design and style, visiting a world of plants from the tropics to tundra.

What would Monet do if he lived on the Texas High Plains? How would he garden and what plants would he use. I offer some ideas.

Claude Monet is known not only for his artistry on the canvas, but with the soil. His garden at Giverny is one of the best loved and visited. Much of his gardening renown is due to his great love of flowers, his harmonious use of colors, a departure from past garden styles, the exuberance of the gardens through the seasons and his impression of the gardens in his paintings.

Whether for a bed devoted to season long, non-stop color or to fill in vacancies until perennials spread and mature, annual flowers provide a spectacular service. Though rooted in nature, their journey to our gardens is long and their face bears little resemblance to their forebears. From an eye sore to a plant for sore eyes, a brief history of the zinnia.

A few Garden Notes for 2013 merit brief updates as more information became available. I'll start with the last post and work my way back.

If you've gardened in the Texas Panhandle very long, you'll be faced with dealing with the aftermath of hail sooner or later. Some years, any location could get hailed on numerous times, at any time of the year; other years, not at all. Even dry, drought years will bring the rare thunderstorm with hail when it seems more hail than rain fell, leaving us thinking we would just as soon have passed up the opportunity for precipitation if given the choice.

On May 21, at 8:00 a.m. GMT, the greatest and grandest flower show will open to the public, the Royal Horticultural Society's Chelsea Flower Show, lovingly referred to as Chelsea. The Chelsea experience is available with just a tap of your finger with the iPhone app or RHS website.

Gardening with plants both locally native those native to the American Southwest is not just easy and fun, but showcases their beauty, resilience and adaptability to our home gardens. Soil and weather combine to make a trying environment for local gardening using traditional teachings and heat intolerant plants from northern regions much kinder to flowers and foliage.

Yesterday, I posted information on my top local native wildflowers for the garden. Today, We'll top it off with shrubs, grasses and cacti to lend variety in shape, width and texture. Naturally, if you were planting and installing a garden, the trees and shrubs would go in first, before the herbaceous perennials and grasses. I'm only listing a few of the many local native and Southwest native plants available.

To celebrate our local botanic heritage, consider converting a bit of your landscape into a native plant garden. Not only will it look great from April through October with near continuous bloom, native plant gardens are eco-friendly.

This week, May 4 - May 12th is National Wildflower Awareness Week. Celebrate the abundance, take time to see, identify and learn about a few of the thousands of native wildflowers throughout Texas and the United States.

Nearly a month ago I posted a GardenNotes about neonicotinoids and pollinators, particularly bees. This post reports the EU Commission ban on neonicotinoides in the 27 member nations and the results of a Dutch study on the devastating effects of imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid, on aquatic life.

Today, April 22, is Earth Day. April 22 had been designated Earth Day on April 22, 1970, thought to be the beginning of the modern environmental movement. It was eight years since the publishing of Silent Spring, the landmark book by Rachel Carson in 1962, which brought national and international awareness to the disruption of ecosystems by pesticide and herbicide use. Before that time, the interconnectivity of life was rarely considered, and little understood.

With the average date of the last frost upon us, it's time to take the risk and start buying and planting. This isn't a guarantee temperatures won't drop below freezing, but cold hardy perennials properly hardened off shouldn't skip a beat even if the temperature drops into the upper twenties. Let's see what Canyon's Edge Plants has in stock this weekend.

I'm still catching up on horticultural news of 2012. This post includes a few important hort-bits, easy to miss if one isn't out searching for it: a new release of the Plant Hardiness Map, official listing of the world's flora, a change in the procedure of naming new species, a link to a noteworthy essay on naming and finally, the top new plant species, including one named after a cartoon character.

Nearly every week, and sometimes daily, articles appear in the Environmental section of major newspapers about colony collapse disorder (CCD) and other pollinator and bird maladies. This year is no exception, continuing where it ended last year, with reports of massive bee disappearances and death, in some cases up to 40-50% of the bee hives used in agriculture pollination and production.

Spring is the time of year many gardeners amend their soils to improve organic content and soil structure. Although composted animal manures and composted plant material is considered to be the best soil amendment for general improvement of soil tilth, the use of a group of synthetic chemicals referred to as persistent herbicides gives rise to caution when procuring organic amendments. In particular, adding herbicide-exposed composted manure and other products to vegetable and ornamental beds can be devastating.

In advance of the article in this Sunday's Amarillo Globe-News reporting on the forecast of a continued drought, the Prairie Water Film Festival was held this weekend at the Don Harrington Discovery Center, sponsored by the Amarillo League of Women Voters. And to further punctuate the ravages of climate, the festival ended as the wind speed outside gusted to 50 miles an hour or more.

We are already an hour into Spring, arrived at just after sunrise at 8:02 am this Wednesday, March 20, 2013. After realizing we've reached the long awaited vernal equinox, I ran outside, braving the chilly air and cut a small bouquet of hyacinth, a violet cultivar of the Dutch hyacinth, Hyacinthus orientalis. Once the hyacinths bloom, I feel the gloom of winter has been dispelled.

Horticultural news rarely makes our local papers. Especially news regarding opportunities for Citizen Scientists. The American Gardener Magazine contains pertinent horticultural news one would not run across otherwise. I've summarized some opportunites for gardeners as citizen scientists and news about invasive plants from their 2012 magazines.

We are into another year and as in every year, we never quite know what we'll face. Plenty of sun and wind for sure, perhaps timely and average rainfall amounts. Possibly snow, hail, sudden temperature shifts, hopefully not anything worse. These are normal weather occurrences gardeners deal with nearly each and every year. If you haven't been as successful as you'd like when tackling the average conditions, your garden probably suffered under the more extreme heat and drought we've been under. I can't foretell the future, but most climatologists agree the trend is towards warmer average temperatures and less rainfall in our region for the next century.

Once again, rain was the topic that most dominated the gardening thought and conversation, and heat, coming in second place. Each year brings challenges, some new along with the old. With nearly twice the rainfall as in 2011, the Texas Panhandle was still far below our average. Luckily, sufficient, inexpensive supplementation of water is still available to help gardens survive during dry spells in Amarillo. Because of this, it was only at the end of the year, that I felt the impact of the drought crisis that affected the United States from the Mississippi westward.