With some extra help from Mother Nature, my garden shall have a new face this spring! Here in the Houston area, we’ve mostly enjoyed a very mild winter. I’m not at all sure whether the garden plants were loving it or getting exhausted. Where we currently reside, there are many perennials that go year round, even those that would die back for the winter in my old garden, less than thirty miles northwest. Until last week, tomatoes were continuing to ripen, pentas welcomed butterflies, a few small lemons were growing, roses were blooming away. Then, out of nowhere, the weather went from mild to freezing; temperatures held at below freezing for two full days. It might not sound like much to those in colder climes, but it was enough to turn much of my garden into mush.
I don't even feel dismayed. Why bother? In fact, I am rather excited. With gardens both old and new, we sometimes find things aren’t working out quite as we had imagined. I had made a promise to myself that I would mostly avoid giant plants. I kept that promise. The few giants that I have, like the hummingbird bush that I bought and the hibiscus I inherited, are pitiful sticks right now, but they’re good, hard workers most of the time. I don’t begrudge them their space. But there are some things I planted, not giant at all, that simply decided to take over. Pretty as they might be, likely as they were to come back from their roots, those huge piles of mush were yanked. The tomatoes were disgusting, poor things, not that I expected to keep them through winter. I won’t plant those in a flower bed again, not that I now have a sunny box ready and waiting. I’m not sorry about the Norfolk pine, either, and only slightly regretful about the Eureka lemon tree. I am rather sorry about the rosemary, but it’s inexpensive to replace and grows quickly. You see that overall, I’m fine with the purge. My little garden shall be renewed.
I have lots and lots of new space, considering the size of my garden. Before the frost, we had removed a dead hedge fronting a north-facing wall. It was a benign but ugly non-native of which I can never remember the name. I don’t know what killed it, only that it wasn’t me and I was glad to see it go. I hope to replace it with a row of yaupon holly, NOT dwarf. We shall see how big a struggle it is to keep the yaupon hedge at a reasonable height. From what I’ve read, it’s an ongoing but not difficult process. I adore native hollies. For now, I shall not entertain negative thoughts; I cannot find a shade-tolerant hedge I like better. I’m not sure what else I will plant in that bed, but it’s going to be wildlife-friendly.
I have a few more weeks of a southeast Texas winter left to plan for our new landscape. If all goes well, it will be beautiful, different, and even more native than it was. In the meantime, hope springs eternal in the garden.
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. 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.