Horrors! Two weeks of neglect is one week and six days too many. Yikes. That poor tomato plant finally succumbed to the heat and who knows what else. I’m pretty sure someone would know, by the way – even me – with a moment’s examination, but that’s not the point. It stopped fruiting weeks ago and was fighting an interesting battle with the purslane.
The pumpkin plants weren't fighting. They were bailing, desperately trying to find another place to grow. Our little grandchildren had carefully sown the seeds and the birds got most of them. I know this because I saw a cardinal helping himself. But a couple of plants survived in two different beds and I aim to watch out for those as best I can.
It was a hot, muggy, buggy, unpleasant task cleaning out that bed. Fire ants had taken over a corner, even despite the crazy purslane. But I did manage to clear it and now the pumpkin, Musquée de Provence, has room to spread. I haven’t raked the bed yet, but it looks so much better.
It’s lovely just thinking of fall.
Is the light beginning to change? Are the days a little shorter? Yes and yes, but it’s still hot, hot, hot. And yes, maybe I’ve been boycotting just a little. I was sneak-attacked by poison ivy, after all, AND it’s steaming hot by 8 a.m. Not my cup of tea, as my grandmother used to say.
But I got out there this past weekend. I needed to reconnect with my garden and show some weeds who’s boss. I yanked some poison oak, btw, and spoke to it rather aggressively as I did so. But I digress.
Azalea time! Have I mentioned that they belong to the genus rhododendron? It was quite a learning journey when I looked up my azaleas R. indicum, “Macrantha Orange”.
First of all, r. indicum suggests that this rhododendron originated in India. But it didn’t. There’s some speculation as to how it got that name, mostly to do with trade routes. All of my excellent sources agree that most of our evergreen hybrids originated in Japan and China. And while sources suggest that R. indicum originated in both countries, most or all of those here in the U.S. originated in Japan, where they’re called Satsuki-tsutsuji. The Japanese, by the way, have their own naming system. For themselves, they don’t use the Latin. Can’t say I blame them, but, well, aaaaagh. ‘Macrantha’ is just another name given by another botanist for this same hybrid, and there have been many other names. If you're further interested in the tongue-twisting, mind-boggling nomenclature of these azaleas, Virginia Tech website has an excellent article written by Harold Greer.
After the hybrid groups and, within those groups, the hundreds and thousands of cultivars, we can consider developers, breeders, nurseries.
Given the vastness of it all, I was rather surprised that I was able to trace the history of the azaleas I brought home. I have three cultivars from Robin Hill, and Encore azaleas, and a Glenn Dale variety, and the orange macranthas.
My macarantha azaleas are happy so far. I hope that they bloom this fall, but that might be expecting too much. But to show you the color, here's a photo from OnlinePlantGuide.com:
Aren’t azaleas pretty in bloom?
In my next few posts, I’ll share a little information about the Robin Hill, Glenn Dale, and Encore azaleas. In the meantime, here's a link to the Satsuki page on the Azalea Society of America website.
During the past week and through the weekend, I considered changing the name of this blog to “Garden Warrior”. I plot and plan. I work under dangerous conditions. I am frequently under assault. At times, I might drop everything and run for cover. I hope that I’m working towards the greater good.
And last week, I got taken by surprise, a flat bad thing in battle. I don’t know precisely how it even happened, did not see the enemy attack. Clearly, poison ivy is sneakier than one might anticipate. On the bright side, I don’t seem to be highly sensitive to it, just enough to be extremely uncomfortable for the first several days.
Yep, Garden Warrior totally fits. But I digress.
Let’s talk azaleas.
Our babies seem to be faring well so far. There was a bit of a hard time with availability close to home. Here in Texas, high summer is not the time to transplant them. But when I did find a nearby nursery with azaleas in stock, I found they had a lot. So very many, all different kinds, all mixed together, all baking in the sun. And they were priced to go.
At the time (just a few weeks ago), I knew very little about azaleas, which was ridiculous considering how much information there is out there. I had not done my research. What can I say? I was going on emotion. But I had my phone to look stuff up and I had a very basic idea of what I wanted: evergreen, extended bloom-time, and compact. Our garden space is small and some azalea varieties grow taller than me. That simply wouldn’t work.
And so it began. Several hours later – I'm not exaggerating – it took me hours -- I was the proud owner of 30 azaleas. The next day, after only a few additional hours, I was the owner of ten more. I think I will hold on telling you about the varieties I ended up with. The stories of the breeders are just too interesting to gloss over. So it looks like there will be one or two more azalea posts -- until bloom time, that is!
But I would like to mention, because of the lovely story and website, that in the U.S., azaleas were first planted outdoors at Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, South Carolina, by plantation owner Reverend John Grimké Drayton. If I tell you the story and do not send you to the website, I'm doing you no favor. Suffice to say that it’s a romantic story. Gardens and romance – a perfect combo for yours truly. I’ve never been to Magnolia Plantation, but it’s now on my list.
I plot and I plan. I work under dangerous conditions. I am frequently under assault. At times, I might drop everything and run for cover. I strive to work towards the greater good.
Gardening in southeast Texas can be brutal. Heat, humidity, and potentially disease-carrying mosquitoes are problems for more than half the year and a dangerous combination in summer. That’s to say nothing of fire ants and other biting, stinging insects. Snakes, too, although they only make a rare appearance in my little garden. Poison ivy and oak are common and birds sow both generously.
Despite some uncomfortable conditions, I feel very protective of the wild in my garden. It’s important to know friend from foe, for example, venomous from nonvenomous snakes and even then, it’s often not necessary to engage. As for the bugs, it is not fine with us to hurt the good with the bad. Pesticides are banned. So are herbicides. Our beds, whether food or ornamental, are organic. And while our garden isn’t entirely native, we do have plenty of native plants that please the local wildlife as well as ourselves.
While every garden is different, they all offer challenges, pleasures, time with nature. Much like people, they have their good days and bad days, high seasons and low; and they can all be fun and beautiful if you love them enough.