Friday, April 24, 2015

THE BLESSINGS OF HIGH WALLS

First of all I want to thank everyone who sent their commiserations either by writing on my blog, face time or by email.
There is good news from the garden today. As many of you have visited here know, our garden is surrounded by walls. Some of the walls of the houses are very high. The hail storm blew in from the west and those plants in the lee of the walls were miraculously unscathed.


At the front door, protected by a porch overhang and a 20' wall to one side the yellow star jasmine, Trachelospermum asiaticum was untouchedIt is a little different from the Confederate jasmine, although closely related and said to be a little hardier. The center of the flower is tinged with yellow.


On the pool wall the Confederate jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides, was similarly spared. Both are now blooming with their heady fragrance.


You can see that the flowers on this one do not have the yellow center.


2 out of 3 isn't so bad. The third one on the potting shed wall wasn't so lucky but knowing how vigorous these plants are I know it will be back again.


I wasn't planning on staining the hail-blasted trellis this year.


The Mock orange, Philadelphus virginalis 'Natchez' is planted on the east side of a 20' wall and was similarily protected. But just 8' away on the other side everything was flattened.






Other plants were saved because they were sheltered by larger plants above them. This little cactus, one of a group, beneath an agave at the foot of the steps from the English garden took no damage. This week it when the sun came out it opened a flower.




And the Lady finger cactus, Echinocereus pentalophus, on the steps was not affected as the hail came through the arch.


More cleaning up for me this weekend. Hope you have a bright and sunny one.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

STONED TO DEATH

This one word strikes fear into the heart of every gardener. HAIL. I have stood at the window many times as those pellets of ice dropped from the sky, worrying about how much damage it would do to my plants. Saturday night was different. We were leaving a friend's house and stood outside for a few minutes listening to a strange sound in the distance. As we headed down the road it began to hail pounding the car until visibility was zero. I was sure the windows would break. By the time we reached the road to our house the hail had stopped but we could see large drifts of hail, sometimes as deep as 4" At one point we stopped to try to take photographs. We should have waited until we got home. It would appear our street was one of the worst hit. We estimates 90% of the leaves are off the trees.
Ice was piled up several inches thick in many locations.

Side entrance to the garden. 3 garbage cans of leaves

The driveway and dry creek. 5 garbage cans from the driveway
 As well as this, 3 garbage cans of off the roof and 3 off the front path.

Piles of marble-sized hail covering plants

All vegetables stripped of leaves
 Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, chard, beans stripped.

Citrus trees stripped of fruit and flowers.

Two glass globes on pedestals smashed

All agaves shredded and pock-marked

Salvia luecantha 
 Ironically I decided to trim the tips off all my S. leucantha, this year, to make them more bushy. I wasted my time.
3 year old Bronze fennel flattened

All the flowers in my new window box flattened.

Mangave,'Macho moch' not so macho after all.
There will be no seeding of annuals this year. It is to be hoped that there are still plenty of bluebonnet and poppy seeds in the ground for next year. I pray that day lilies will bloom from the mangled and tattered foliage. I know the roses will be OK and hopefully the live oaks. But my big sadness is for my structural agaves and cactus.
I noticed the hummingbird wandering around the garden looking for blooms on Sunday. Was it some kind of omen that I found a hummingbird feeder at a garage sale last year. They have been visiting every day.
It's hard to believe that a week ago my sunken garden looked like this. I have lots of photos t remind me of how it will look next year.



Friday, April 17, 2015

THE WILLOW LOOP

This spring has been an exceptional spring for wildflowers. Winter rains meant germination of seeds lying dormant in the soil and coupled with some warm February days it wasn't long before the road sides were a blaze of blue and red. Around Austin our state flower the bluebonnet, Lupinus texensis, nearly lost the show to the Indian paintbrush, Castilleja indivia, this year.
We hadn't yet had the chance to take any road trips, but Wednesday promised to be a perfect day to head out to the Willow Loop.


This is the road to Sandy and bluebonnets were in thick swatches along the edges of the road. No doubt making the best use of roadside run-off.


Was this a good year for mimosa too. I have two blooming in my wild garden too.


The Willow Loop is a private road that winds its way through some pretty Texas hill country. Residents permit visitors on the condition that they don't stop. Of course people do. But there are too many reasons not to stop and during the quieter times it is easy to get out and take a few photographs. Our first stop was not for wildflowers but for Texas Longhorns. And they were so accommodating as they moved through the trees towards us.


The same ranch had dressed up their fence posts with cowboy boots.


This plaque on the tree caught my attention. Some historical oak tree, I thought. No....a memorial to one of the residents who met his untimely end at this tree. It was some time before I saw the wording around the Texas plaque.


A quick stop but a photograph, from the car, for this swarm of bees settled in a tree.


Then it was time to move on to see the real show. Several years ago we drove this same road, seen here,  and the prickly poppies, Argemone albiflora, were unbelievably beautiful.  We had every expectation that we would see the same scene again.


We began to see more and more poppies mixed in with bluebonnets.


And then suddenly on either side of the road a sea of white.


Such a delicate flower with tissue paper-like blooms. But the prickly poppy is also known for its prickly pods. I once tried to collect some seeds from one that appeared in my garden. Not so easy. Best to let them just seed themselves. When left alone they seem to do as good a job as bluebonnet at carpeting the countryside.


This is one plant you are not likely to come across at the Wildflower Center. Maybe they are afraid of the above happening.



We continued along the loop taking in beautiful hill country scenery and spotting other wildflowers such as the wine cups, penstemons and daisies. Then we headed towards Fredericksburg and the Navajo Grill for an early dinner. What a wonderful day.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A PERFECT DAY FOR VISITORS

When visitors come to my garden at this time of year I really like them to come early in the morning. That's because there is no shade and when the sun beats down the flowers tend to sulk. So when I learnt my visitors this week would arrive around 2:30pm I was worried for how they would find it. I need not have worried because the sun never came out and made for a really nice showing.

Sunken garden with bluebonnets, blackfoots, skullcaps.
California poppies, bluebonnets

Hinckley's columbine, corn poppies, 
 The Zephirine drouhin growing in the corner grew from a root of a potted rose that was in the corner. She is the most spectacular of the 3 Zephs. I have and has never been watered or fertilized. I let her do her own thing which is exactly what a rose likes.

Zephirine drouhin
 My visitors got to see both my Lady Banks roses. I bought a cutting of the  white Lady Banks rose, Rosa banksiae x banksiae from the Rose Museum in Tombstone, Arizona. The original rose was brought there in 1885 and was a cutting from the original rose brought from China by a Sir Joseph Banks expedition in 1805.
Lady Banks' rose
My yellow rose in the front garden was at its peak this week and what a show with her clusters of tiny double yellow flowers.


Another big bloomer and at its peak this week was the cross vine, Bignonia capreolata, tangerine beauty. Would you know there was a greenhouse hiding under here? This is the very same vine that I cut back down to the ground 2 years ago. As I pulled out a root from a standing position I fell backwards and ended up being unable to move for 3 days. I have to cut it back again this year but a cut-back is all it is getting.

Everyone got to see the Claret cup cactus. This clump had 20 blooms this year.


And in the herb garden the culinary sage was a mass of purple blooms.


I had a few ladies question me about the tiny plant pots on top of the bamboo canes. Do you know why they are there? So I don't poke my eye out!


Yes, my visitors couldn't have come at a more perfect time.



Friday, April 10, 2015

A DAY SPENT WITH GARDENERS

This week I had the pleasure of leading a group of gardeners, Rock'n Oaks Garden Club, from San Antonio, on a tour at The Wildflower center. It was my first time back this year and I have to say everything was looking beautiful.

Admissions kiosk and green roof
The great thing about taking gardeners on a tour is their interest level in everything. I signed up for this tour a long time ago because I knew it was organized by Shirley from Rock Oak Deer. It was such a large group we needed 2 docents. After giving my introduction to the center, with a brief history and architecture, it was on to check out what was in bloom. Wisely, the Wild Flower Center makes sure that the bluebonnet does not take over! After all there are plenty of other spring flowers who would like to share the limelight.


Just beyond the entrance they have set up a station for viewing the Great-Horned owl. Yes, back again for a fifth year and I am told with three owlets. They have binoculars so you can get a really good view of the nest and a felt cut-out to demonstrate the wing span of the owl when in flight. The owl appears not to mind an open nest and is more than happy next to the sotol in the wall planter. I wonder what they make of all the gawkers.



But that was the end of my photography because I was too busy with the tour. Nevertheless I was determined to take some when the group followed on to our house after the picnic lunch.
I had been trying to decide all week whether we were going to tramp through the bluebonnets down the side of the house. After visiting the front garden the natural way is to go out through the front gate and down the side of the house. We haven't walked down here all spring but because the bluebonnets are fading and I have another much larger group at the end of the month I decided we would tip toe through the bluebonnets. And so we did... in single file.


And after I had taken this photo my camera abilities went to sleep again and didn't awaken until I realized I didn't have a photo of the group. So, as they were about to leave I got them all together, David included, for a group photo.


It was a fun day. I went straight into the house, put the kettle on and put my feet up. Stay tuned for what the group saw in the garden that day.