Thursday, May 24, 2018

A GARDENER MUST DO THIS EVERY DAY

Every morning, before the heat of the day sets in, I take a stroll around the gardens. Most times I am carrying a cup of tea and not infrequently I put it down, pull out my phone and take a  photograph of a particularly pleasing view. Early morning is the best time which captures plants refreshed by cooler night temperatures.

View from the vegetable garden over the wall into the pool garden
The Monarda 'Peters Purple' and the tall spires of mullein, in the sunken garden, just looked perfect this morning.
I have no control over where the mullein place themselves. In fact I tried to transplant one this year and it didn't like the place I put it. But these just add a little drama to the back corner of the garden. Gone is the sadness of losing the Rosa Zepherine drouhin rose that once sprawled over the wall.



This spring we removed much of the planting along the back of the pool and replaced it with Mexican river rocks. I only left a few grasses and echinacea. On my morning walk I made a note that the wall looks a little stark. Maybe a taller grass behind the rock or maybe a mullein will plant itself there. I am definitely much happier to have the rock rather than the bare soil and I like the variety of colors in the rock.


Just a few more weeks to enjoy all 'this' in the herb garden. Soon it will be time to remove the parsley and cilantro gone to seed, and the seed heads of nigella.


And the Confederate rose agave clump, on the center pedestal, with the mother plant sending up a flower stalk. I will probably have to redo the whole pot because the mother plant is going to leave a big hole. Will the youngsters stay in there or will I have to make a completely new planting?


Two things took me by surprise in the herb garden. The flowering of the dill. Rather like parsley it makes a pretty umbel worthy of a place in any garden.


And an unusual variation in the color of Coreopsis tinctoria. Among all the yellows a beautiful burgundy. Now if that isn't a reason not to pull out all those seedlings. You never know which will be a surprise. I must remember to collect seeds.



I like this clump of self-sown echinacea in the English garden. If only it bloomed all summer!


But I need to remove this pink self sown lantana nearby. It just gets too big and requires too many cut backs during the summer.


This walk around the garden is not just a pleasure but an important part of noting changes you need to make. What works and what doesn't. Now on with the day's work


Thursday, May 17, 2018

FRIDAY AT THE FLING

The itinerary for the first real day of 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling was, The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the garden of Diana Kirby, ( Sharing Nature' Garden), The Natural Gardener nursery, with a talk from owner John Dromgoole, followed by lunch in their tented pavilion, and two afternoon tours at the Mirador garden and my garden (Rock Rose).

What can I say? How foolish of we Texas gardeners to have been praying for weeks for rain because this was the day it arrived and while we are at it, why not show our visitors what a real Texas rain looks like. That means 3 1/2" in a matter of 3 hours. I know they were rained out at the WFC, but heard the shop was doing a brisk business, and at Diana's they took shelter in the house. Thank goodness for the ponchos that everyone got in their swag bag.

Because my garden was on tour in the afternoon I was unable to go to the earlier events. I had anticipated going to Diana's and I probably would have if I had not been standing at the window staring out at rain sheeting off the roof. All the anticipation of showing this great group of garden bloggers my garden washed away in a matter of hours. I watched the radar intently but that system was moving so slowly. I made lunch and I don't usually have a glass of wine but this day I did. Then as the rain tapered off we got out the wet vac and began a clean up job on the patio where the waterfall had carried with it a sea of muddy soil. I felt a lot better after that. At 2:00pm a quick text from Pam told me the first group of 50 was on its way and David and I prepared to meet our guests. I gave David strict instructions to take photos because I knew I never would. This week when I asked him about the photos he said they were awful and had deleted them. Thanks goodness we could recover them because they are the only record I have that anyone came here. Apart from this photograph of Jenny Peterson brightening a dreary scene.

Jenny Peterson in her cheerful rain jacket

My garden does not show well in the rain partly because the current cottage garden-type flowers hang their heads and sulk when it rains. Not to mention my inability to control what is growing At least until they have set their seed. That means a lot of pushing plants aside to walk by plus places to plant feet are small. Did I worry that some of my little seedlings would be trampled? Absolutely not. Everyone was completely respectful of every little seedling and not a plant was damaged.



The group is gathered around me holding the branch with the praying mantis egg case and a tiny mantis is just hatching, running up and down the branch and onto my finger. I have a feeling he must have been terrified being ogled by a bunch of camera-toting poncho-wearing faces.


 That's it, the sum total of my photos.


But someone took a photo of the two of us as they were leaving. We look very happy don't we? But not as happy as I would have been if I could have shared my garden in better weather conditions.


So I am going to do that now. Come on in and notice how important shadow play is in the entrance to the garden.




The wet weather creek is dry now as sunny skies pervade once again.


Before you crossed the creek did you spot the hypertufa trough I made? I love the flap jack plant Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, because it grows quickly and takes on great color when stressed.


And the little seating area, also in the breezeway, which may have been hidden by the door. It's a favorite winter afternoon place to have a cup of tea because the sun shines right in here. Or we sometimes sit here in the shade in the morning.


The little table is just a plant pot with a piece of sturdy cardboard supporting years of shell collecting on beaches far and wide.



The wet weather creek continues across the path into the corner of the house.


Beneath the bird-planted yaupon holly, Ilex vomitoria,  as far as the 'I didn't plant that' Texas flowery senna tree, Senna corymbosa. They pop up everywhere but are not long lived. There are always more waiting in the wings but will they plant themselves so perfectly? It's a great place for the bird bath because and a hanging feeder because the tree affords them some shelter.


We used to have some Indian hawthorn plants here but I opted for a cleaner look with the A. desmettiana  'variegata' in the pot. Of course I can't help but add a few plants and a few seedlings are popping up.


When I walk to the end of the garden I like to glance back through a haze of Englemanns daisy.


I wonder if you noticed the water feature. The repurposed post support from a basketball stand dumped in the alley behind my son's house in Dallas. I knew immediately what its second life would become. Good job we were in the truck with a couple of strong backs to heave it up.


Now out through the front gates and around the back into the Secret garden.





And through the Gulag into the English garden. So much more inviting on a sunny day.


And then passing thought the Sun and Moon archway and down into the sunken garden.


And if you don't sit and linger for a while


 down into the herb and vegetable garden which on a sunny day is a hive of activity.


There! I feel so much better now that the rainy Friday is over with. Visits to gardens on Saturday and Sunday will be in the full sun, I can promise.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

A FLINGing good time

Can a week really have gone by since I spent the weekend with a group of 93 garden bloggers, touring Austin gardens? The annual event, the brain child of local garden blogger and author, Pam Penick, held it first meeting in Austin in 2008. Named the Garden Bloggers Fling its aim was to bring together garden bloggers from all over the country. With the help of 3 Austin garden bloggers the first fling brought together 37 garden bloggers from 12 US states. This year the Fling returned to Austin to celebrate its 10th Anniversary and with 93 visitors from all over the USA, Canada and England.

Attendees at the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling
The Fling officially kicked off on Thursday evening with an introductory dinner at the new Austin Central Library. But..... early arrivals were treated to brunch and garden tour at the home of Laura Wills, one of this year's organizers. She laid out a delicious spread of home grown and home cooked delights, including quiches, and deviled eggs from her own chickens, as well as salsas and pickles from her large vegetable garden. (Where was my camera you might ask. It was largely silent as I was introduced to many new faces) But, all was delicious.

Walk through the wildflower meadow at Laura Wills' garden
Diana Kirby, Pam Penick and Laura Wills did a fabulous job of organizing the event, from the selection of gardens, hotel, lunch, dinner venues, printing out a special anniversary booklet of the 10 pervious flings, gathering together gifts for the Goody Bags, name tags with Austin buttons and many more behind the scenes arrangements.


But most important they spent many hours canvassing sponsors, many of whom attended the fling, and who made the whole weekend more affordable for us all. Thank you Diana, Pam and Laura.


Coupons, garden tools, snack packs, phone gadgets, books, cookies and packets of seeds in our goody bags, made it feel like Christmas morning.


And so to the first event Thursday evening's dinner in an event room at the Austin Library. Because I was not staying at the hotel I did not join the happy band of gardeners as they streamed out of the hotel to walk the mile to the library. I can only imagine what might have happened as they crossed intersections. Old friends, made at previous Flings, were greeted and new friends made over dinner. The organizers welcomed everyone and all the while, on a large screen, gardening programs, courtesy of Hortus TV,  played in silence. We don't get enough gardening programs in the USA and we have to look to look further afield for a good garden fix. Hortus TV is where you will find them all.

And so the day ended with some visiting the roof garden of the library and with everyone in high anticipation of the upcoming 3 days of garden visits. Stay tuned.


Friday, April 27, 2018

POTS I MADE

Being a lover of everything gardening and having dabbled in many things garden related it seems quite natural that I would eventually have a go at making my own pots. My first attempts involved using the material hypertufa which being a mixture of peat moss, vermiculite and cement makes for much lighter weight of container.
This was one of the first ones I made using the inside of an old plastic planter. It has weathered the years well.


Then I tried my hand at making something that would mimic the English garden troughs that were common in farmyards. They fetch a hefty price in antique and garden shops.


In a fairly shady area of the garden it has weathered to a nice patina with mosses now growing on one side. I think I could pass this off as the real thing.


Next came a larger one. I underestimated the mix so was not able to make it quite as deep as I had hoped.


The texture really looks like stone, but no mosses on this one as it is in full sun.


One of my favorites is the agave bowl on the pedestal in the herb garden. Made using the inside of a well protected copper bowl I have in the house. This photo was from last year.  The mother Confederate rose agave in this planter has decided to flower this year so I couldn't get a good shot of the whole stem. It will be all change in this pot next year.


Lightweight as these pots are they are still pretty heavy when planted up with gravely soil. An even more light weight planter is one made from polystyrene boxes; and a lot easier to make at little cost. A small one  can be made in less than an hour!


A similar texture can be achieved using a wire brush, sealing the surface and craft paint.



And the bigger boxes make great vegetable containers.


One of the boxes I just finished had been waiting in the garage for me to find the time to work on it. No sooner had I finished it than another one appeared-picked up at a garage sale for $1! When will I have time to get that one done. Not this week for sure.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

CACTI AND SUCCULENTS HANDBOOK. A book review

Cactus and succulents have enjoyed a recent popularity among both outdoor gardeners and indoor gardeners alike.
Anyone can grow these plants, right? Well, yes, but a little knowledge on how to grow them is a must and this book will ensure a successful life for your cactus and succulent purchase.


I was interested to read that although most cactus and succulents hail from frost-free areas of the world the majority of cactus collectors and home enthusiasts live in the Northern hemisphere. Their popularity is partly founded on their ease of growth indoors and recent availability. They ask for little in the way of maintenance and many will reward with gorgeous flowers.

This book covers not only those frost-sensitive cactus and succulents but those species which can be grown successfully outdoors even in colder climates. A comprehensive guide to cultivating cacti and succulents is followed by a section which includes 60 common species of cacti some of which can be grown outside. Gideon provides an easy key to identify growing conditions. There is a big difference between frost free and a minimum of 50ºF. I made that mistake this winter when the temperature dropped down to 18ºF one night. My greenhouse heater could not keep pace and subsequently I lost several of the more sensitive plants I had.


Outside, frost free greenhouse, cold greenhouse, outdoors in summer, indoors in winter. It is important to know exactly what you buy and what conditions will ensure the survival of your purchase.

A short section then covers some of the worlds best collections including 3 in North America, two in South Africa, one in Monaco and surprisingly one in Switzerland. I have actually visited the one in Zurich and was truly amazed at what they were growing there both inside and out.

The rest of the book covers selected examples of plants from 12 different succulents families such as the agaves, yuccas, sedums, sansevierias and euphorbias, many of which are grown as house plants.
As with all plants there are pests and diseases and these are covered in a rather short section.  I think he might have expanded a little to include some of the other really common bugs like the annoying yucca plant bugs. Also maybe a chapter on home made soils as I find a lack of good cactus good growing soils in the marketplace and frequently make attempts to mix my own with varying degrees of success.

Other than that it is a great little book, amply illustrated with lots of good information. This is a great book for Texas gardeners as we are able to grow so many cactus and succulents outdoors. Even then they must be given the right conditions to protect against wet rather than frost.

Gideon Smith is a renowned South African author on succulent plants and has held multiple positions  both in research and  environmental research. He is the author of more than 900 scientific papers  as well as over 50 books.

Published by Fox Chapel Publishing


I was delighted to receive Cacti and Succulents Handbook by Gideon F Smith, as a review copy.