Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Friday, August 8, 2014

An experiment begins

I wrote not too long ago that I wanted to transplant several bed hogs that were taking more than their fair share of the sunny beds in the fenced back yard. One of the hoggiest of them all?  The garlic chives.

Nobody ought to ever have to buy more than one pot of garlic chives.  Even if you wanted an entire lot filled with them (which would certainly be striking in August when they set blooms) you could have that based upon divisions from one four inch pot in the space of just a few seasons.

Garlic chive clumps are easy to divide, every flower stalk sets a head full of seed with a high germination rate, and they don't seem particularly fussy about their growing conditions.

I plan to put that to the ultimate test.

I had a gap in a front bed, in plain and constant line of sight from the front door, and it has been bugging me for months.  I had a planter there before which I moved once summertime arrived because it was blocking the sprinkler for that bed.  Summer is not a great time to start a new plant anywhere, so I figured I would let the gap ride a while, knowing the perfect plant to fill in that spot would come to me.

But like I said - this gap was part of my front porch view, and guys, I like that view.  I view that view, dozens of times a day through the glass in our door and often, once the temperatures ease a bit, I find that view conducive to sitting with a glass of iced tea or chilled white wine, as I contemplate the goodness of life.  So that gap nagged at me.  It wanted me to fill it sooner rather than later, but with what?

Oho! Garlic chives! Of course!  A nice clump of strappy bright green leaves with the occasional spires of white blooms thrown up overhead in the heat of August, when little else is in bloom.

So I grabbed my favorite shovel, now dubbed "the wire killer" by The Hub after a few nasty run-ins with sprinkler wires, dug out a clump of garlic chives that were absolutely superfluous, and moved them out front.  Gap, meet your filler!

Then I had what just might turn out to be a slightly genius idea.  I'm always impressed with symbiotic plant combinations where one plant offers some benefit to the other.  Nature often does that effortlessly and I find that when I copy what Nature is up to, I often get great results.
I took two or three of the outlier plants of my garlic chive clump and carefully placed them in among a patch of rain lilies that are routinely browsed down to stumps by our neighbor-herd deer.  My hopes are that the bulbs will coexist peacefully, and once the deer chomp down on tangy garlic chives mixed in with the delicious (to them) rain lilies, that they will find it distasteful.

The "ultimate test" nature of this pairing comes into play because it is August, and this particular corner of the mailbox planter does not get one drop of supplemental water.  Ever.  The rain lilies and opuntia established there survive because they are natives, and do just fine with whatever the Texas weather hands them.  In fact there is very little other than rocks and sandy soil under those lilies.  The stonework for the retaining wall is cracked, and when it rains, the water flows right through that corner and down the drive.
I mixed in a some soil with the chives to hopefully hold a little more moisture while they get started.  I'll hand water the transplants until it looks like they are either going to make it or prove my idea to be just another misplaced gesture.  Fingers crossed the plants in combination will prove to be just the deer proofing needed.  I have a few singleton lilies here and there that I plan to pair with garlic chive plants when the Grand Transplantation Implementation happens later this year in cooler weather.  A garlic chive a day to keep Bambi away?  Here's hoping!


Tina said...

I hope offering your beloved deer something distasteful along with the tasteful works by way of them moving along elsewhere. I've done the exact same thing: I love a plant, the decide it's the plant of all the areas where I can't find the right plant, then regret that I've overused that plant. I still do it; I don't seem to learn. I've never grown garlic chives--they are pretty and in a time of year where so much is tired. Keep us posted and hope you can chive on, but maybe not quite so much.

TexasDeb said...

It appears as if the transplanted garlic chives might just make it through the heat. I knew I was pushing my luck by not waiting until later but some days something snaps and I just can. not. wait.

Say...if you don't have any garlic chives at all and I have way too many...I'll have loads of divisions to offer in about a month. If you're interested.... They are yummy in stir fries and the flowers just laugh off the August sun.

Tina said...

Hmm, I like them, but I don't know if I have room for them. Part sun works, right? I'm so limited now, I just don't have much room in my gardens--let me think about it and I'll get back with you. I know what you mean about transplanting this time of year--I did it too, recently. I know I should wait, but I just cant, can't, can't once I have that thing in my head.

TexasDeb said...

Tina: You are wise to wait, honestly. I am going to transplant at least one well established clump into pretty deep shade and if they do fine under those circumstances we can talk again next Spring! In the meantime I wish it would rain so I can get a good grasp on where/how many rain lilies I've got. Under ordinary circumstances I pretty much take them for granted!

Debra said...

Gaps. I call them bald spots and my husband looks at me kind of funny but they leave me feeling embarrassed or exposed or something.
Chives aren't that easy for me. They survive but I haven't seen them multiply. You are doing something they like!
I really like the idea of mixing them in with rain lilies. That is genius. What is the plant in the top left of the first picture? I like the leaves very much.

TexasDeb said...

Debra: Bald spots. Ha! They are annoying, are they not?

Let me clear something up - I'm writing here about garlic chives (also called Chinese chives), Allium tuberosum, not onion chives, which are Allium schoenoprasum. I'd venture to say anybody can grow garlic chives. My onion chives are fussier always seem to struggle.

That plant is a firebush, Hamelia patens, it dies back to the ground each winter, native to Florida (hummingbirds love it). It has great orange/red blossoms late in the season and blooms through to frost. It's behind schedule this year because of our colder winter. Super heat tolerant though. Hope to have some photos of it flowering soon.

TexasDeb said...

Debra: Oh crump. You said top left and I looked top right. The plant in the top LEFT of the first photo is a native, Senna lindheimeriana, they have yellow flowers early Fall through to frost. Birds love the seeds. That one is new and is just getting established - hoping for flowers from it also later this month. Even if it doesn't bloom you're right - those leaves are a great shape, aren't they?!

Anonymous said...

Gaps are OK (spoken by a true desert rat!). The mix of cactus, chives and rain lilies is a good one to be sure, at least visually. But those deer...

TexasDeb said...

David, welcome! It is true - the deer love a gap as well and often make their own. I'm betting on their distaste for garlic to make them stop putting in their own gaps and leave me to find my own way with negative spaces.