The Watering Can - 4/15/2024

Let's see who survived the winter and is giving it a go in 2024

It was a cold, wet Winter here in South Louisiana and we needed it. After the brutal heat and drought of 2023, just about everything welcomed a few nice cool showers to replenish themselves.

I didn't get as much yard work done over the Winter as I'd hoped, for various reasons. Mainly we're trying to figure out just how much longer we’ll be living here at the Landry Property and where we might go if we leave, and all of that is very much still being figured out. I did do some more Chinese Privet cleanup in January, and have started to clear the trails in the South Pine Woods again.

More of the plants that went in the ground last year survived than I expected, especially after where we left off in the last edition of this series. That has been really heartening the last couple of weeks as things have really started to green out nicely.

The Pond mostly refilled from the winter rains, much to my surprise, though we've discovered now that there is a break or sinkhole on the east side of it, near where one of the Titis was planted. There'd been a sinkhole there before, and it seems like the bank is really getting eroded badly on the ditch side.

Speaking of the ditch, in February, DEMCO or the city or someone came and sprayed the ditch with herbicide right as things were starting to grow and now it's almost completely dead. One of the only things that's survived are the young pine trees — the things that would potentially threaten the power lines the most. So that whole experience was pretty frustrating. Certainly not going to help the erosion problem any.

Overall, the plants are responding in a really interesting way to last year's conditions. A lot of things are having the biggest and best Spring that I've seen since I've been here. It'll be interesting to see how that continues, both for the plants that are growing on their own and the ones that I'm tending to.

So with all of that, let's check and see how everyone's doing.

Red Mulberries (Morus rubra)

Overall, the Mulberries continue to thrive in their respective ways, and so far we've gotten the best crop of actual mulberries that we've had since they were planted.

Mulberry #1 keeps growing tall and strong, and right now it's full of berries that are going to be ripe just in time for the migrating birds moving through later this month. Mulberry #2 is doing so well in its spot next to the Big House, and it had some huge, plump berries on it this year that got eaten up by the birds last week.

Little Mulberry #3 continues to maintain its lovely bushy shape, and I hope the improved Liquid Fence application will help protect it and really grow out a bit more this year.

A small mulberry tree grows in a yard next to a gravel driveway Mulberry #2 thriving in its place near the Big House. Couldn't be happier with this guy.
A small, bushy mulberry tree growing in a lawn, surrounded by pine straw mulch Mulberry #3 has a wonderful shape and I hope I can protect it well enough this year to really grow out a good bit.

Black Willows (Salix nigra)

The bigger Black Willows by the Pond continue to do well, with Willow #1 growing taller and taller and Willow #2 continuing to bush out. Willow #2 does have a bit of a leaf rust/fungus issue right now and so I'll be trying to get that worked out. It may need a pretty major pruning and some fungicide but I'm hoping it'll hang in there. We'll just have to see.

Willow #3 survived, shockingly, though it did accidentally get hit with the weed eater a couple of days ago. I think there's a chance it will hang in there, but the broken paddle boat needs to be moved away from it before it gets crushed or mowed again.

Willow #4 back in the Old Pond area is small but it's still hanging in there and has some new growth on it so far this year. It may not get enough sun back there to grow as fast as the ones by the Pond, but I think it'll be okay in the long run. This summer should be an interesting test.

A young willow tree stands on the bank of a large pond Tall Willow #1 doing its thing on the banks of the pond. I think I'm going to keep the little shoots at the bottom to become secondary trunks, a pretty common look for Willows
A small, bushy Willow tree grows on the banks of a pond

Common Pawpaws (Asimina triloba)

Sadly, it looks like Pawpaw 1 died this winter. I can only assume last year was just too much for it in the end.

Pawpaw 2 has hung in there, and so far looks like it has one little flower getting started and a few leaves budding. We'll see if it hangs in there. But only one tree means definitely no fruit this year, sadly. If I continue with them here, the Pawpaws might need a deep-soaking watering system to keep them nice and happy while having a bit of an afternoon exposure in the summer.

Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana)

A gift from my friend Janine, this little tree has replaced the fully-dead Eastern Redbud that struggled so heavily in this spot. I think the cedar will be much better suited to be surrounded by these pines and living in full sun.

If I go with Eastern Redbuds again, they'll definitely need to be somewhere where they're hidden from the afternoon sun.

A small, spiky cedar tree sapling sticks out of the ground next to a metal watering can The little redcedar has survived well in a pot, so I'm hoping it will like its new home in the Eastern Driveway Woods.

Red Maples (Acer rubrum)

Much to my surprise, two of the "Pond Maples" survived and have started growing again. I had completely written off the ten or so saplings that I'd transplanted from my mom's house last year, but these two seem like they are going to give it a go this year. I hope they can have a good year and get a couple of feet of growth on them.

I think the more Fall (and early Spring, actually) color I can bring into the yard will be greatly appreciated by everyone, so I'd really like to get Maples going wherever I can.

A small Red Maple sapling grows next to a small orange plastic flag Let's call this guy Pond Maple 1. It was the largest of all of the saplings I transplanted last year.
A small Red Maple sapling grows next to a small orange plastic flag This will be Pond Maple 2. It was also one of the larger transplants, and is growing in a bushy pattern so far this year which I like.

Titi (Cyrilla racemiflora)

Titi 1 is doing great — it flowered last year and put out some seed, and now has a fresh batch of bright green leaves for the year. I noticed today that it's just starting to put out this year's racemes for flowers, and there are a lot more than it had last year. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and it will be able to have a really good year.

Sadly, Titi 2 died. It was mostly dead by last November, but the base still had a little life in it, and that little bit of life seems to have left. There is something growing near its root ball that isn't grass and could possibly be Titi, but the leaves are so small that so far it's hard to tell.

A small bush growing next to a pond. It has small, freshly bright green leaves growing on it Titi 1 with its fresh year's growth, looking happy. I'm hoping it grows a little more horizontal this year.

Buttonbushes (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

The Buttonbushes are having a great year so far, and since we avoided the last freeze this year, I'm really hoping we're going to get some flowers this summer. I think that would be a really beautiful addition to the pond — it's lovely, spherical blooms.

Buttonbush 1 started leafing out first, and got nibbled back a bit by the deer, but now is bushing out nicely in its slightly shadier spot. Lots of great new growth the last couple of weeks, specifically.

Buttonbush 2, the taller of the pair, took a bit longer to get going but has absolutely taken off in the last two weeks, putting out a few new branches probably over six inches long already. I really think this one has a great shot of flowering this year.

A small bush with smooth, arrow-shaped leaves grows next to the long leaves of an iris bed next to a pond Buttonbush 1, looking stocky but healthy.
A taller, somewhat lanky bush grows next to a pond and an iris bed Buttonbush 2, growing tall and strong in the sun with a more tree-like stature so far.

Black Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)

The Ranch Elderberry had completely died back last year between the drought and constant bombardment by the deer, and I'm happy to report that it survived all of that and so far is coming back pretty strong. It's small and shrubby, but it's alive, and I just hope that it can get some good growth in this year and I can keep the deer away.

The Oklahoma John Elderberry held on despite being broken in half by the deer last year, and it started leafing out a bit in February and they were already nibbling the tiny leaves off every few days. Well so far the new Liquid Fence regimen is working well, and since the days really started getting warmer and longer in April, it's put on over a foot of new growth in a few spots.

If I really let myself hope I would love to get some blooms on the Oklahoma John this year, but I would be very happy just to keep it healthy and undamaged by the deer and able to get a lot of nice new growth over the summer.

A black elderberry tree grows new, bushy growth out of the ground The Ranch Elderberry hung in there, and is growing steadily in its small stature, having completely died back last year.
A small black elderberry bush shows a bunch of new growth The Oklahoma John is growing FAST now that the days are getting a bit longer and warmer. I really hope it blooms this year.

South Meadow

The South Meadow has changed quite a bit considering the damage it went through last year (and a bit so far this year, too). But once again I'm happy to report that more survived than I was expecting.

Both of the Lanceleaf Coreopsis and two Black-eyed Susans made it, along with one of the Purple Coneflowers from the Dry Patch. After further review, though, the location of the Dry Patch was not working well with my in-law's mowing. So last week these plants got moved over to the spot where I transplanted the Narrowleaf False Dragonhead last year, in what will now be called the Triangle Meadow. As long as they survive the transplant, this should be a pretty colorful little area this summer.

The Wet Patch of of the South Meadow got very overgrown, and by November it was pretty much impossible to tell if anything had survived the last summer. It got mowed back a couple of weeks ago, and lo and behold, at least one plant has survived. One of the little Swamp Milkweeds has started coming back, and I'm going to protect it with all my might. It looks like one of the Beeblossoms (Gaura lindheimeri) might be coming back, but it just started putting out tiny new leaves today, so we'll have to see.

The three Stokes' Aster, two Butterflyweed, and other Swamp Milkweed and Beeblossom all seem to be dead.

A patch of several small plants, otherwise surrounded by dead leaf litter mulch The Triangle Meadow with its new red oak branch border
A small bunch of thin leaves grows out of the ground surrounded by dead leaf litter The large of the Lanceleaf Coreopsis, seemingly the most successful of the Dry Patch plants that survived.
A small rosette of fuzzy leaves growing out of mulched ground One of the fuzzy rosettes of the Black-eyed Susans. Looking good after transplanting so far.

Mayhaws (Crataegus aestivalis)

These two took a long time to get started this Spring but they are doing well now. Neither flowered, and it may be a few more years still before either one does. That will be a happy time!

Mayhaw #1 looks great and is leafing out really nicely. I love the form of this little tree and I think it will be really beautiful one day. I trimmed off a couple of dead branches and a small basal sucker that had started and was growing up into the middle of the tree.

I also trimmed Mayhaw #2 a bit, removing one of the larger "extra" trunks to give it a bit better shape and removing a couple of small suckers on it as well. Apparently this is going to be pretty regular for the first few years of maintenance on them.

This one is also leafing out well but is having a bit of an issue with aphids the last couple of weeks (which both of them struggled with last year), and I am going to be a lot more aggressive about getting rid of them this year. It was obvious how much they stunted the Mayhaw's growth last year.

A small Mayhaw tree growing in a yard, with a long thin trunk and nicely shaped crown Mayhaw #1 is a lovely little tree. It'll be interesting to see how much bigger it gets this year!
A small, bushy Mayhaw tree growing in a yard Mayhaw #2 has a little better shape now after pruning, and I think they'll make a nice pair as they grow.

Swamp Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius)

This was an interesting little lesson in growing plants, and so far it's a little funny. Of the two Swamp Sunflowers, only one was able to put out any blooms last year. The other was pretty much cut down between the deer and the weed eater.

The one that flowered seems to have died — I don't see anything coming back around it so far. The one that cut back? It seems to have taken that opportunity to send out rhizomes instead, and now it's coming up in at least a half-dozen spots around the original planting, spreading just like I'm hoping it would in this spot along the bank of the pond. I'm thrilled!

A few rosettes of sunflower leaves can be seen growing up through a patch of green grass The broad, rough sunflower leaves can be seen growing up through the grass. I need to clear the grass out a bit in this spot now that I now the sunflowers are hanging in there.

Aquatic Milkweed (Asclepias perennis)

Possibly the most successful of last year's plantings, the Aquatic Milkweed continues to thrive in its wet spot in the Old Pond area. Both spots held on and seem to have gotten bigger, including the one that got run over by a truck this winter, and both are starting to bud out with this year's flowers already.

This seems like an example of a perfect siting, and honestly I would love to get a couple more to plant throughout this area that stays so wet. But maybe it will be able to spread on its own this year!

An aquatic milkweed plant with its lance-shaped leaves grows in a muddy spot This Aquatic milkweed got run over by a truck late last year but seems to have taken it in stride.
An aquatic milkweed plant with its lance-shaped leaves grows in a muddy spot What can I say? Beautiful.

What's Next for This Year

Our big plan right now is to really improve the Casita Garden, the area next to our little house on the property. I planted three Scarlet Sages and three Purple Sages there last year, and so far those don't seem to be coming back.

De and I are hoping to make this a lovely area in the time before we hit the road this summer. I've potted some young Elderberries and Beautyberries, and we're going to try growing a few other things in pots and on trellises here and there. It's a decent sized spot (25'x17') to bring some beauty closer to us.

Other than that, I think it will mostly be about maintaining the plants I've got in place, and planning out this winter's yard work far in advance. I really want to transplant a lot more stuff, including some of the Red Buckeyes growing under our Mother Cow Oak, but it's already a little too warm for it now for most things that I have in mind transplant-wise.

I want to continue to build out the trails in the South Pine Woods and along the Creek, to make accessing that a lot easier and to encourage other folks here to explore it and see how beautiful it can be.

All in all we're trying to find a balance of continuing to grow here while looking forward to what might be next. We're learning a lot, and that feels great.