The Beginning of the EndPosted on : September 5, 2014
The hot dry days of summer finally made it, but thankfully September should begin to usher them out. I’ve done my share of grumbling about the heat and lack of rain lately, but it certainly could have been worse. Plus if it wasn’t for our hellish summers, we wouldn’t truly appreciate our spring-like falls and mild winters.
A number of native wildflowers peaked here in early August including the beautiful Carolina lily (Lilium michauxii) and our local native rough blazing star (Liatris aspera). There are precious few Carolina lilies on my property but a plethora of rough blazing star in my pocket prairie and along the roadside. Unfortunately it gets mowed along the road before it gets a chance to bloom or reseed each year. Both of these wildflowers attract swallowtail butterflies, especially spicebush swallowtails.
Early during the month I made a trip to Galveston with my boss, David Creech, to visit with the folks at Moody Gardens. They certainly do a fine job maintaining that place. Unfortunately the whole island is in need of more trees to replace those lost after hurricane Ike. Precious few plants will tolerate sea water!
I continued to pick and shell peas during the month of August, mostly still working on my new Purple Cow pea project. The maroon and white color of the pea is stable as is the purple hull but I need to make it decide whether to be a regular sized pea or an easier to shell crowder like its parent. It will take me at least several more years playing with it. This will be my Aggie pea. After that I’ll work on a purple and white one that can be my Lumberjack pea. I have enough odd ball seed projects stashed away in the freezer to last me several more lifetimes!
My black oil sunflower patch at Big Momma’s also peaked in early August and I just mowed it down. If I hurry I have just enough time to bloom another patch before frost. I’ll eventually turn the whole plot into a patch of lent lilies (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) but for now I only have one row. I used to have a full plot down the road but sold it a number of years ago. It will take me about a decade to fill this one up from dividing that single row. But as Jerry Clower used to say, “What’s time to a hog?”
A few more of my spider lilies bloomed in August including the peppermint striped Lycoris x incarnata and the blue tipped, magenta Lycoris x jacksoniana. The common heirloom red spider lily (Lycoris radiata radiata) should bloom in September just after the oxblood lilies (Rhodophiala bifida). All these “naked ladies” signal the end of dry weather and the beginning of our wet season. They can never arrive soon enough for me. My pride and joy is my growing collection of pink oxblood lilies. I grew a bunch from seed, so one day will have a yard full of all shades of pink. I have them planted at “Miss Lou’s” across the road which will be my retirement home once I win the lottery and have it restored. It will be a full blown raised Creole cottage with a wrap around porch.
During the middle of the month I had to make an unfortunate visit to the Texas Orthopedic Hospital in Houston to have my new hip checked out since it’s still painful and making popping sounds. It turns out a tendon is snagging on the new hardware so they gave me an expensive shot of pain killer and slow release cortisone. Worst case scenario is surgery number three on the same hip to fine tune it. yippee.
While in the Houston area I did make a trip down to the American Fence and Supply Co. in League City to pick up four more rolls of double loop wire fencing so I can redo my ugly vegetable garden. I also got to eat at Ninfa’s which I’ve always loved. And still yet I snagged cuttings from a long lost rose I shared with my best friend years ago. He has dragged it around to several houses and I was happy to see it still blooming. I got it years ago from Del Rio when I lived in San Antonio. As one gets more mature we find comfort in clinging to our old friends, even the green ones.
Speaking of old friends I also made a trip to San Antonio to the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association Trade Show. Riding for six hours is about three hours more than I can take, but it was worth it to visit and run around with my master mentor Dr. Jerry Parsons. He gave a botanical garden and nursery tour to our SFA horticulture professors and students. Nobody has given more of their time for horticulture students over the years than Jerry has.
I went on a cooking binge at the end of August peaking with homemade spaghetti sauce made from ground pork along with my own tomatoes, garlic, thyme, and basil. I topped it off with plenty of Parmesan cheese and my homemade rustic Italian bread. The whole wheat version isn’t near as good so I slip in 1/3 cup of whole oats into the bread flower that nobody ever notices. I could eat it toasted with olive oil every meal!
The dogs have kept me entertained during these dog days of summer with Miss Lizzie even helping to mow the yard. After plenty of grass and weeds all summer, things are finally sizzling down to brown threads. Unfortunately I don’t have a sprinkler system and only water my tiny front El Toro zoysia lawn using a hose and sprinkler. After seeing how brown San Antonio was I certainly won’t complain however. Until next month, be happy that you have true friends and that something is green. –Greg
Written by Greg Grant
Greg Grant is an award-winning horticulturist, conservationist, and writer from Tyler, Texas. Each month he writes an article for the Arbor Gate Blog where he is given free range to write about any topic that interests him. During the week, he is the Smith County horticulturist in Tyler for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and on the weekends, he tends his grandparent’s restored dogtrot farmhouse, his Rebel Eloy Emanis Pine Savanna and Bird Sanctuary, and terriers Acer, Lizzie, Mollie, and Sonny Boy Desalvo Fontenot.