The large containers that edge the patio have been bugging me - first I just switched the containers around and generally tidied the plants. Sometimes that's enough, and the shadier end did look better but the sunny end needed more. The Mexican Fan Palm bought last spring looked happy but the poor 'Celeste' fig was on the decline. After some of the branches were killed by a late freeze a couple of years ago, the rest of the tree gave up - bearing no fruit and with the leaves becoming smaller each year. Eight years in a pot was too long - even when the pot is a large terra cotta souvenir.
We'd picked up this container from a garden pottery dealer along an Oklahoma highway on the way back to Austin from Illinois in late 1999. After a bout of pneumonia at Christmas, I was so weak the shoulder strap barely kept me upright in the car but I was strong enough to croak "Stop!" and to stagger around the pottery yard long enough to pick out one big clay pot; Philo had to stuff it with our luggage to fit it in the car. We continued on to Austin and as the sun grew stronger I started to feel stronger, too. Soon after we got back I planted the fig tree. It grew fast and I rooted a cutting in 2003. That cutting was planted in the Secret Garden after we moved here -it took hold and made figs last year. Now it was time to let the original fig go and plant something that we'd like to look at while sitting on the patio. The roots of the dying fig were entwined with creeping fig and 'LaBuffarosea' rainlilies in one solid mass. I clipped and pulled and clawed, tugging out bulbs but trying to leave the fig vine on the outside wall of the pot. Finally I could flip the root ball out with the roots of the creeping fig attached like an umbilical cord to the green part. I scraped and cleaned the inside of the pot.
John Dromgoole has advised using window screening fabric cut to fit inside the bottom of containers before planting to help keep the drainage holes clear and to help keep out insects like pillbugs. I now do this every time I repot anything so that was the next step.
I cut away most of the root mass, preserving a chunk of roots from one part of the creeping fig that had attached to the outside of the pot. But instead of setting the creeping fig loose again, I stuffed its roots into a smaller plastic pot to slow it down a little, using chunks of styrofoam packing blocks to raise the black pot level with the big pot's rim. The fig vine looks cool against the terracotta so I hope it lives, but am not counting on it.
So who is the new main inhabitant? I found a second 'Mutabilis' rose last week, at Hill Country Landscape Garden on Pond Springs Road and was pleased to find that the plant came from the Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham.
I'd looked for rose soil at a few places with no luck, but found it at the Austin GardenVille - I'm trying to do things right from the beginning with this new 'Mutabilis' - soil and rose went into the terracotta pot. Are any of you growing roses in containers? Are you using special soil? Does it make a big difference?
I'd bought enough rose soil to repot the three mini-roses, too. The pale apricot mini-rose from my daughter and her husband had been potted last fall using the piece of screen at the bottom. It was doing well and needed a larger container, but the roots of the two 'Champagne' roses were avoiding the soil at the bottom of their pots - a sign they weren't draining fast enough. I cut two screens and then all three were planted in the rose soil.
Thanks to the squirrels I found wanna-be trees in every mini-rose pot ... either live oak or pecan. Mr McGregor's Daughter calls her garden "Squirrelhaven", but that name would work here, too.
If the rose likes its new home this end of the patio will have a 'Butterfly Rose' blooming this spring where we can see it from the breakfast room window.
The idea for this post came from Kate, who said she craved seeing any kind of garden work - I hope this bit of gardening puttering qualifies, but what's an Austin post without a flower photo? With warm, windy weather and no frosts in the forecast, the 'Pius X' Camellia japonica hasn't held one bud in reserve. It's thrown caution to the wind and believes in spring.
This post, "The Terracotta Shuffle", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin