Sunday, July 10, 2011

Stroll Through My Garden

It's been almost 100 degrees every day for the past month in Houston.  I don't worry about sunscreen, I just make sure I don't overheat. During the day, I make sure I wear a wide-brimmed hat, drink lots of water, and stay outside for frequent but short periods of time. If you haven't built up your heat tolerance like I have (any marathon runner will tell you it's a mental thing) then try to go outside after 7:30pm. The weather is actually beautiful. In my neighborhood there are people taking walks, riding their bikes, and hanging out with their kids at 7:30 until lights out, around 8:30pm. It's not much, but it's an entire hour of gorgeous weather every summer day in Houston.

Jacaranda Seedlings

Mini Arrangement. Roses Molineux, Earth Song, and Golden Princess. Cosmos Psyche White, and Evolvulus Blue Daze.

Mini Arrangement in a bed of Shasta Daisy Seedlings

Bumble Bee getting his back rubbed full of pollen. Passiflora Incarnata

The result of all the bumble bees playing around in my Passionflowers. These fruit are only 2 weeks old. There's another one that is 4 weeks old and it's the same size. I guess they grow fast in the beginning and stop to mature. Passionfruit are ripe once they begin to wrinkle.

My pumpkin patch. I've been picking pumpkin flowers almost every day for the past 3 months! It's not showing any signs of slowing down. I get a bumper crop of flowers on days that the sprinkler comes on.

A patch of Shasta Daisies: White Knight and Alaska. I sowed seeds last fall, and forgot to thin them. They look great though. I will divide them in the fall and plant them everywhere.

My self watering planters bought at for my birthday. It's filled with Pro-Mix. I stick cuttings of herbs in here and they start to take over. . I throw down seeds and they come up w/in days. Anything grows here 

Spacemaster Cucumbers from 7 year old seeds. Better late than never.

Dragon Fruit Cuttings, Is that a Flower bud?

Here are my dragon fruit plants that I grew from cuttings last year. I posted previously on these plants, White, Red, and Purple. These pictures were taken today, I had a very pleasant surprise, see last picture. I'm not sure if it's a flower bud, I've never grown dragon fruit before. But it looks different from the other new growths.

Is that what I think it is?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Avocado Dense Planting

If you look closely, you'll see I planted two small avocado trees about 18" from the center larger avocado tree. I just saw a youtube video by Dave Wilson Nursery on dense planting of fruit trees. They say that "all" fruit trees can be controlled by summer pruning. The idea is to get several varieties in a small space to increase pollination and to space out fruit harvest. All three are unknown  varieties, one by seed, and the other two from rootsock where the top branches died in the winter. Once they are older, I will try my hand at grafting named cultivars on to them. For now my job is to nurture the roots and not worry about what's growing on top.

Crepe Myrtle Centerpiece and Flowers in the House

Total noob here when it comes to flower arranging, although I've been doing it for years. I can't remember the last time I got an arrangement to look the way I want. Luckily for me, my crepe myrtle flowers are self arranging. The underappreciated, ubiquitous, and indestructible tree of the south is not commonly considered cut flower material, the flowers only last a day or two, but the centerpiece above is beautiful nonetheless. They remind me of Martha Stewart's enviable lilac arrangements. I can't grow lilacs here, at least not until they come up with a heat tolerant variety for us zone-pushers. It's probably easier to come up with a fragrant crepe myrtle. 

although the crepe myrtle flowers don't last too long, the buds will last almost forever and make great airy filler material. The above mini arrangement was made totally from stuff I gathered from my little garden. I wrote down a goal/wish several years ago that I could arrange fresh flowers for the house everyday. I didn't know then how I could afford to buy that many flowers, but the universe had it's ways of opening one's mind. Things that normally were not considered arrangement material became apparent to me. I have since used dried flower heads, herbs, grasses, shrub leaves, etc. And most of the time my arrangements are small when I don't have enough material, or my flowers had short stems (like the roses and psyche cosmos above). The above arrangement has lasted me over three months!! (I replace the faded flowers and redo the arrangement everyday). My wish came true after all.

Friday, July 1, 2011

More annonas!

I thought these were weeds, and then I remembered a Cherimoya fruit that I bought at the grocery store last year. It was decent tasting, considering it came from the grocery store, and probably born halfway around the world somewhere. I read that most grocery store Cherimoyas are probably Fino de Jete from Chile.  I had no idea the seed was even viable. And after our heavy freeze, I completely forgot about it. Yet here they are in Mid June 2011. So I potted them up. I'll figure out what to do with all these seedlings later. I also finally potted a bunch of other tropical fruit seeds, like white sapote and more cherimoyas. I planted 9 seeds to a gallon pot. Guess what I used as my potting mix this year? Soil conditioner (Nature's Way I think)  from Lowes mixed w/perlite for fun.

Makok Sapodilla Flowers in a Pot

This is a Makok Sapodilla that I bought in 2010. It's flowering very heavily, but from what I hear it may not bear any fruit this year. It's about 4 ft tall in a 16" pot. I hurried and repotted it when I first saw the flowers back in February.

If people are getting a single tree to set fruit the second year it flowers and not the first year, then Sapodilla fruit set is not a self-incompatibility issue, right? It seems that it needs to have a high level of humidity. Even though the leaves are doing fine, my flowers are on a hot westfacing patio and they are drying up and not setting fruit. I will try placing it on the garden beds around other leafy trees to see if I can get fruit set this year. 

This is my  Alano from 2010. It's in a 12" pot without holes. I planted it as a houseplant when I first got it. I placed it next to a northwest window (not that bright, but at least I don't worry about frost). It did develop scales, I noticed sticky stuff on my floors, so I brought it outside and removed them all by hand, as much as I could. After doing nothing for several months, it began putting out new growth and started growing FAST around March 2011. The growth is a bit lanky since it's been sheltered, but the leaves are beautiful. I am now trying to harden it up a bit by placing it on my porch in the shade. 

Sugar Apple, Annona Sqamosa Fruiting in a pot

picture taken June 21, 2011
 I bought this Sugar Apple (Seedling) in a 3 gal container just last year. It hasn't gotten any bigger, but it's now producing tons of flowers. The leaves turned yellow during the cold weather, but it held onto the leaves until around March 2011. The yellow leaves finally dropped in April and new leaves emerged, with tiny buds! I had to learn how to pollinate the flowers fast! It's simple really. Flowers start out female and become male as they get older. Find older, faded flowers and remove the pistils (pollen) into a small container, using a brush. Using a tiny brush, transfer the pollen to a newly opened flower. Mark the pollinated flowers by pinching off a petal. It's really that easy. If you're still confused, do a search on Youtube on how to hand pollinate a sugar apple.

Picture taken June 21, 2011
Success after the first try! I was so excited when I first saw this baby fruit. It's my first ever annona fruit!

Picture taken July 1, 2011
It has grown super fast! Now I see why some cultures call this the Buddha's Head Fruit. I now have 6 developing fruit on my tiny tree. I need to stop hand pollinating! Or maybe I should keeping doing it, it's so much fun. I'll let the tree decide if it wants to hold the fruit or not. Some people even pick their flowers, thinking  their trees won't be able to handle the fruit. I say let the tree decide, it's smarter than you think.

Jakfruit Seedlings! Amazing

Two Jakfruit seedlings I planted from a locally grown (Zone 8B) fruit. The fruit was deep yellow, almost orange, very sweet, not fibrous at all. Timeline:

seeds sprouted in October 2010
Brought indoors when temps dipped below 32F in November. Seems to be deciduous, lost all leaves.
Brought back out after the severe freeze of Jan 2011
The above pictures were taken in April of 2011. They are planted in drinking cups.

And here they are in June 2011. These are the exact two Jakfruit trees from before. I had nine but I gave them all away except these two. I potted them in 1 gallon containers just three weeks ago and they immediately started growing like crazy.

This is what they look like now! Avocado, Atemoya, P. Incarnata, June 2011

 Avocado from previous posts. It is even bigger than before!

 See the healthy atemoya leaves? My tomatoes will stop bearing soon, I hope, so I can clear them out and make room for the atemoyas. Not that I don't appreciate my Romas, they were extremely abundant and tomatoes were fantastic! But my atemoyas are very dear to me.

Remember this 4" passionfruit? It's huge now and has a flower bud on every node on all parts of the vine. Look at that cute little fruit! This picture was taken AFTER it was accidentally mowed over about a month before. I had a huge 8 ft branch w/two fast growing fruit, and then my grass guy tried to trim the weeds around it with his trimmer....... I had to keep telling myself "don't worry, this plant will grow back even stronger". But it still hurt! I learned my lesson: do the weeding myself before the grass guy gets here.

It's Alive! Alive!!

Avocado coming back to life. This picture was taken April 2011. I knew it took some willpower to overcome the harshness of the previous winter. But this little guy came through. It was a grafted plant, and the plant that is coming back up is not the same.....but you know what, it doesn't matter to me. What some people fail to see is that the plant that is coming back is very frost hardy! So no matter what kind of avocado I do end up getting, at least it will survive at 22F. Besides, who says you can't get good fruit anyway. I love this little tree and I hope that it will try to please me with delicious and abundant fruit.

 Atemoya also coming back from the root. I was so happy to see my atemoyas again. I bought these as grafted cultivars, so what's coming up is not the "Lisa" or the "Gefner". But the fact that the roots came back means I will have a frost-tolerant annona. Living in zone 8B, I am happy with that. Plus, I don't think I've had an annona fruit that I didn't like. I am an optimist, so if the fruits turn out to be rocks, I'll find something positive out of that too! But I hope my trees bear me fruit that is even better than expected.

This is my tiny passionflower that I bought in a 4" pot just 6 months before, around October 2010. I planted it in the ground around November. It did nothing, didn't grow, nothing and then in the winter it died to the ground. I almost gave up hope. This picture above was taken in April 2011, I didn't even realize it had come back! Passiflora incarnata, my "resurrection" plant. You should see what it looks like now.

After the freeze inJan 2011 in my area (Houston) there was a lot of "destruction" that occurred in my new garden. It wasn't until March/April that I began going outside regularly again.....and to my surprise, all was not lost.

The above picture was my avocado that I just planted in the Fall of 2010. I was so proud of this little plant. I wrapped the bottom trunk with foam pipe insulation, that was it, the leaves were unprotected. I also mounded as much soil as I could around the base, it was only 8 inches or so. When the weather dipped one day to 22 F, it was unphased. But the freeze lasted a week. We had constant temps around 25-29F. Surprisingly, the leaves were still green after that first episode. But then one week later we had another freezing week. On the last day of freezing temps and harsh winds, this avocado's leaves began to turn brown. I was surprised it even lasted that long.

I didn't even want to photograph my two atemoyas I bought. It was downright depressing. I wrapped them in piping insulation, but they turned to dried sticks. Atemoyas are somewhat frost tolerant down to 26F. But this past winter was too much for it. So I decided to use these "sticks" as a tomato stake. That is a roma tomato I planted right next to it.