Michael Battalio


Year without a winter

As I explained in my last post, there had been no winter as of the middle of January. We are at the end of March, and it never came. We never got below 34 and only hit it once. It’s already been in the 90s a couple of times. Consequently, everything is blooming early this year.

I begin with a photo of a bed that was ravaged by the construction company when they repaved the road. The plants have recovered nicely, and I’ve done my best to repair the bed. At the time I took the pictures, I obviously hadn’t finished laying mulch down over the bed, but I’ve finished that now.

File Mar 26, 11 27 00 AM

Here is a closeup of the irises you see in the photo above. I’ve lost the variety name of this plant, but it is from Cooley’s iris garden in Oregon (which is out of business now). I transplanted this variety from my parent’s home before my dad mowed all of my plants down after I left for TX. He isn’t a man for the patience of weeding.

File Mar 26, 11 08 59 AM

This next iris is one from my adoptive grandmother who died a few years ago. Her house has been sold, so all I have left of her extensive gardens are some irises and lilies. She always referred to this variety as ‘Chinamade,’ but I have no way of knowing if that is accurate. You can tell it is an older variety due to the lack of heft to the petals. The term for it is substance. The petals are a bit floppy and delicate looking. In the first photo, you can tell that those flowers look sturdier. This is purely a result of breeding. Older varieties also have fewer flowers per stalk, and the flowers never last more than two days. Newer varieties, if the plants are healthy, can have 10 or more flowers per stalk with blooms that last up to four days (but usually three). There has been a lot of progress in cultivating bearded iris. They are also one of the few plants (the other being daylilies) that have done well in MS and TX for me.

File Mar 26, 11 26 17 AM

Next I have a beautiful calla lily that was here when I moved in. Because it didn’t freeze, this is the first year I’ve seen the plant produce a show like this. Every other year the plant has started to grow only to be knocked back by a freeze (and not necessarily a late freeze, the plant always comes out too early).


Last is a photo of the vegetable garden before I cleaned it. I’ll post photos of the cleaned bed with a lot of pepper plants next time. You can see pepper plants from last summer still growing. I’m still picking peppers off of them. I can’t believe I successfully overwintered pepper plants. I was hopeful that the pepper plants would take off with warming temps, but it appears that peppers just have one growing season in them. I’ve already pulled a lot of them out.

File Mar 26, 11 28 03 AM


Mostly iris in this blog. Bearded iris are among my most favorite of plants. The beauty, fragrance, and elegance are unequaled, yet they are nearly carefree. Simply put them in the ground and wait. Many rebloom, though it is too hot in TX for that to happen.


This iris below is one near to my heart. I will be taking it with me when I move away from TX. This iris was grown by a very close friend of the family who acted as my grandmother after my father’s mother died when I was young. She and my father’s parents were the ones that instilled a love for gardening in me, thus I will always make certain to take this plant with me. This iris is a very old variety as can be identified by the lack of substance to the petals. Old iris are much more delicate than new varieties like the one above. Older varieties also have fewer blooms per stalk than newer varieties. This one had five blooms on the stalk. The one above will have more than 8.


A columbine actually made it through last summer and is rewarding me with tons of blooms. It was even evergreen during the winter.


Here’s a Peruvian daffodil that I did not know was around. The interesting thing of adopting the garden of a previous gardener is that there are always surprises.


Here is one of the amaryllis that was left by a previous owner. None of the ones I planted have gotten big enough to bloom on their own. Red is a rather common color for amaryllis, but they are so spectacular that even common varieties are dazzling when they decide to bloom.


Lastly a Louisiana iris that I placed in some part shade. I was concerned that it would be too shady, but I was gifted with a lone bloom stalk this year. Bearded iris simply will not bloom if given too much shade.