Sunday, July 8, 2018

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

How important is it to know the latin names of your plants? Knowing the genus is one thing but how important is it to get the species name correct? Sometimes that can be difficult as I found today when I was researching my flapjack plant. Or shall we call it paddle plant. Can we not get by just knowing the common name? Flapjack plant just wasn't quite enough for me.

 I was trying to find if these two plants I have are the same species.

This one is growing in a hypertufa planter, west facing. All green with just a touch of yellow.


And this one in an east facing pot with companion cactus. Lots of rosy tips to the leaves.


Yes, I knew it was a kalanchoe, but K. thyrsifloraK. luciae or K. tetraphylla? You'll find all three of these names bandied about on the internet and lots of photos showing these colorful ones but there seems to be a tremendous amount of confusion, even among the growers. The internet is not necessarily the most accurate place to go for the identification of plants. How I would love the pale one to be K. tetraphylla because by all accounts it is very rare.


I know that winter cold can often cause the coloring of this kalanchoe but why is it so colorful own the heat of summer? Similar stress? But why isn't the other one stressed to color?

After spending a lot of time reading articles and blog postings about this kalanchoe I have reached the conclusion that all three of mine are probably K. luciae. Is there an expert out there who can confirm this for me?

Next in line for a true id is this plant.


Variously known as walking iris, fan iris, apostle plant, I bought it from a nursery where plants are often not labeled. I was given a small rhizome of this plant by a garden friend last year but it failed to make it though the winter. Determined to try it out in the shady part of my English garden I bought two 1 gallon plants this spring. Just this morning I noticed a bloom. Time for a proper id.
Neomarica was easy but then scrolling though photos and id on Google I came across species, N.gracilis, N.candida, northiana and N.caerulea. Not to mention Nlongifolia but that flower is yellow. I think I finally narrowed it down to be N. gracilis.

I heard a story about a lady that went into a local nursery asking if they could procure a bird of paradise plant for her. When it arrived she was disappointed to find it was a Mexican bird of paradise. Not the Hawaiian one she wanted. Birds with the same name but quite different latin names. If she had just given the nursery the name Strelitzia reginae there would have been no confusion and she would not have received, Caesalpinia pulcherrima.



Sunday, July 1, 2018

DESERT GARDENS OF STEVE MARTINO

Who buys a book and puts it on the coffee table for 2 weeks? Me. That's who. I wanted to savor the anticipation that came with the purchase.


Anticipation of the wonderful desert landscape projects I was going to see and read about. I don't live in the desert but I love the desert landscape and have spent many vacations hiking in the deserts of the American West. I would love to have the chance to create my own desert landscape although I am sure this will never happen now. But, with a son who lives in Phoenix, my plan is to enjoy the book and then pass it on to him. He is developing some plans for changes to his suburban desert garden and knowing his style this book is perfect.


So after two weeks of anticipation the day finally arrived when I opened the book. No leafing through the pages. I was determined to read about each garden one at a time.

But even before I opened the book I decided to investigate the gardening style of Steve Martino. I came across many articles including the interesting lecture he gave at Oxford University. And words spoken of him, " You celebrate the desert rather than deny it"  and some by himself describing his own work as "weeds and walls" and expanding on how he uses native plants set against his "refined" structures.



This is not really a book review; I have learnt that I am not very good at reviewing books. But rather  to improve my understanding of how I can apply Martino's style to my own garden. Yes, if I was starting over my own garden would probably be quite different. But I think there may still be time to get it out of intensive care and on the road to being a more sustainable garden.

The opening pages begin with a few words from the author, Caren Yglesias, and thanks to the photographer, Steve Gunther, who patiently waited for that perfect moment in time to photograph each garden. (I think we all know when that is... early morning or late in the day.)Then a brief introduction to Martino's designs. Every element in his landscapes must have a purpose. Walls to enclose and create privacy, structures to shade, areas for sitting,  plantings that require no additional water. He used the lessons of the desert itself to create his landscapes.

I was surprised to find that not all his projects are high end, although all had concrete structures which I know come with a price tag. And removal of a traditional style back garden pool, to introduce something more linear, must also be a major undertaking. Some of his designs are to create total privacy and some have majestic desert setting which use a borrowed landscape.

I love how he utilizes the "Accessory building" rule which permits taller structures. Sometimes he uses concrete and sometimes translucent fiberglass panels. Shadows from the structural plants play a big part in his placement of plants. No vegetable gardens here and only native plants. Bold colors are used on many of his walls. I wonder if his clients have input on this or whether like Frank Lloyd Wright he says " You'll get used to it" My thinking is probably not. I must admit I prefer his more muted colors although that may be a function of my age. I went though my bright colored phase in my 30s.

The surprise came when I reached the Casa Blanca Garden. Here was a 90 year old adobe house and Martino had the challenge of designing a garden that would pay homage to this historic structure. He introduced a prickly pear roof which has performed as any other green roof. A small photograph in the book shows the laying down of the pads which have filled in and are now almost 10 years old.


I'll say simply that I love Steve Martino's work and the presentation by Yglesias and Gunther. Just enough information about the projects and plenty of photographs.
The book is back on the coffee table, where, when I have a spare minute, I can leaf though and enjoy these desert gardens once again, before it is on its way to Phoenix.


Friday, June 29, 2018

I THINK I'LL MAKE SOME MORE

Over the last few years I have made quite few of these hypertufa balls.

Hypertufa balls with Carex 'frosty curly'
Last weekend I made two new ones, the darker ones you see in this photo. It has been a project waiting on the shelf in the potting shed for some time. Too hot to be outside gardening but not too hot to work under the shade of the junipers in the back garden. 
My greatest success has been using old glass light globes as the mold, although one of these is made from an old basket ball we found in the woods. And you can make them from a child's ball by cutting a hole in the top, setting it in a bed of sand to support the mixture. See Faire Garden's how to here. I would probably feel less guilty about using one of those than the eventual destruction of the globe. But, when recently I found several globes at an estate sale I snapped them up. They make the job a lot easier.


The equipment needed is easy. A large container for the mix, the wider the better: it makes mixing easier. Gloves, trowel, jug for water, container to measure, cement, vermiculite or perlite and peat moss. And most important a face mask and protective eyewear.


One container of peat moss, vermiculite and cement was enough for two globes. I used a salad container.
Put on the mask( not much fun when the temperature is in the 90s) and measure equal parts of the peat moss, vermiculite and cement into the bowl and mix well making sure to remove any bits of twig and obvious lumps. At this point you can add colorant which you can buy at big box stores. I used some left over pigment from the making of our stucco walls.


I used just over a gallon of water in the mix but this will depend on how dry your peat moss is. it should have the consistency of cottage cheese or a heavy dropping consistency. Gather some up and squeeze. I should stay together.
Spray the inside of the mold with Pam and then add the cement shaking to settle and fill the whole of the globe.
Set aside for several days and then carefully knock the glass with a hammer. It should break away in large pieces. Now keep in a shady place until the cement cures completely.
With two more globes waiting on the shelf I made up another batch this morning. These have no added pigment so I expect them to be much lighter in color.


An hour later when I went back to take a photograph the ants were parading up and down the globes and clustering together on the sides.. They were after the water that had settled on the top as the cement dries out. Now that's what I call desperate for a drink.

For me that's it for ball making. I think I have satisfied my need.

Monday, June 25, 2018

SOURCING IDEAS FOR THE GARDEN

When I started my first garden in 1973 all the ideas came from my own head. I had a Better Homes and Gardens loose leaf book and that was it. It was very basic. I never thought of looking for gardening books at the library or even buying garden books or magazines. Around 1998 I began visiting a few gardens on my travels and buying garden magazines and books, many of them at charity shops in England. By the year 2000, when we started this garden, I had quite a file of ideas snipped from magazines; garden styles I particularly liked; plants that I thought would do well in Texas. It was time to start incorporating some of these ideas into my new landscape.

The front of our house has 4 square high windows. As I looked from outside up at those windows  I remembered an idea I had seen in Sunset magazine years ago.  I found it in my file.


What could be more perfect than to replicate those high windows on the front wall of the garden. It would just add some permanent interest to the wall which looked particularly bare before there were any plants.


David built the boxes and stained them the same color as the front gates.


But the box of mirrors had 12 pieces and sometime later I decided it might be fun to have some on the inside of the curved wall in the front courtyard. This time we used grey stain. This week I caught sight of the reflection of hesperaloe and American beautyberry in one of the windows.



I have seen mirrors used in gardens before. Hung directly on the wall they add another dimension sometimes creating the illusion of another garden beyond and the mirrors seem to remarkably resistant to damage. Some of mine have had to have the wood replaced because of rot and from time to time I clean off the beak marks of the cardinal and mockingbird who see themselves in the glass. It is hard to find the right size of wood and unless you have a router, and when ours died David had to use two sizes of wood to create the inset for the mirror. It would probably work just as well without the mirror being inset as long as it was well sealed.

Another recent project gleaned from a magazine, and squirreled away in my file, was the sliding shutters in both the side entry garden and the English garden. I was trying to work out how we could add shutters to those openings when flicking through my file I came across this sliding shutter.


Another great Sunset magazine idea. David built the shutters and hung them on sliding barn door hardware. The first one he made was for the opening in the side entry. Wind-driven rain was a problem at the side door. This was the perfect solution. It works. No more wet shoes and doormat.


And one thing led to another. "Wouldn't it be nice to have similar shutters in the English Garden?" I asked him. A similar problem exists there with rain and wind from a different direction. Not only are they functional but they add interest to another very dominating wall. What would Dick Clark be saying about this?


Then there are my little sayings. Remember this one above the side entry? I'll be honest I didn't make this one. I actually bought it for $1 at a garage sale with the intention of stenciling my own saying on there. I hunted for a stencil that was the right size and gave up. In the end I thought the saying wasn't such a bad one after all. But the idea to have some writing on the wall came from a garden I visited in England.


At Snowshill Manor in England there is a passage from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Charles Wade might have said that of his own garden and I agree with him.


To make some for myself I found I had to make my own stencils by printing out the letters and cutting them out. One for over the Sun and Moon Archway.


I also saw this idea in a garden shop in England.


And using some wood from the old compost bins I made a similar one to place just by the side entrance.


And those of you who came to the recent Garden Bloggers' Spring Fling might have noticed this one I made to guide you through the front gate and around the side into the other gardens.


I saw this simple theatre at Holehird Gardens, home of the Lakeland Horticultural Society, in the Lake District, England. They have taken the idea of an Auricula Theatre and used it to display miniature hostas. If you want to see an amazing display of auricula theatres then just google the words.


My theatre is for cactus and succulents and replaces a, difficult to water, hayrack planter.


Holehird gardens was another source of one of my garden projects. My trough planter.


But in making this large one I realized just how much material is needed and mine ended up being more shallow and not so thick. And of course alpines are out of the question here so I chose succulents.


And then came some easier planters to make from styrofoam boxes seen on the Hypertufa Gardener They can be made in next to no time and look just as good.


And my largest project of all was my first one and that was the dry stone wall for which the English Garden is named. They abound in the part of the country I grew up and you can see one behind the troughs in the picture from Holehird.
Here's mine.


Then sometimes I have my own ideas as in the stock tank water feature set in a raised bed.


But then recently I saw this idea in a British garden program and filed it away because if my stock tank ever springs a leak, and it will, I will try this idea.


I'm always on the lookout for little things to bring interest into the garden.  I watch gardening programs from England, Australia as well as the US. I watch videos, read magazines, and books and troll Pinterest. There is such a wealth of ideas at our fingertips these days! No one should be short of a source for garden design.

Friday, June 22, 2018

LUCINDA'S GARDEN

On the Saturday and Sunday of this year's Austin Garden Bloggers' Fling I joined the group of 93 flingers to visit a broad selection of Austin gardens. Both days began with a cool sunny morning and progressed to hot sunny afternoons. Visitors were often seen taking advantage of the homeowners' swimming pools by dipping their toes. It seems it has become quite a tradition at the Fling to see this kind of happening.
I loved all the gardens we visited but have to say that there are some gardens which positively announce the vibrant personality of their creator. "Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are" the words written long ago by the English poet Alfred Austin.  This photograph of Lucinda Hutson outside her front door says it all.


In an area of Austin that was once a grove of pecan trees, on a pleasant leafy street with many pretty cottage homes, built in the 1930s and 40s, is one particularly charming house. I remember the first time I visited it was quite easy to pick out the 'purple house' of Lucinda Hutson.  Not quite so easy today as the ginkgo tree has grown taller and fuller casting some welcome shade, and a kumquat, which shades a delightful seating area in front of the house, soften the brightly colored purple walls of her house.


It truly was the most perfect morning for our visit.

A delightful seating area beneath the kumquat tree.
Her front garden is cottage style with an amazing variety of plants and herbs, the ginkgo tree casting just enough shade to make a comfortable place for them to grow well. I couldn't help but marvel at how Lucinda's selection of plants knitted together so well with not the least air of untidiness.

And the hell strip is similarly planted with native heart leaf skull cap, Scuttelaria ovata, hesperaloe and spineless opuntia. In the Mexican tradition the name of her precious cat has been carved on one of the cactus pads.


Hesperaloe flowers in the hell strip
I asked Lucinda if she had any schooling in art and was surprised to hear she had not. She certainly has an artists eye. Look at this pretty selection for her lavender pot.


Years ago there was a driveway alongside the house which led to a garage at the back. (That garage today is just used for overwintering tender plants). A gardening friend suggested Lucinda should build a wall across from the house to create a private area. They built it together.


And leading up to the archway to the side garden several Tuscan pots with, of course, Salvia 'Amistad' in her signature color.
I remember years ago there were iris growing here, which she shred with us. I think every gardener in our group now has that iris and we refer to it as Lucinda's iris. We may have to share it back as she now sh has only one small patch at the end of the driveway.


Through the gateway looking back outside is a reminder of times in Lucinda's youth which she spent in Southern California at her grandmother's.


 And now the story really begins and Lucinda is there to share, with bountiful joy, all the special areas of significance in her garden. She grew up in El Paso and with travels into Mexico with her father and subsequent travel on her own she came to love the Mexican culture and particularly their use of color.
Behind the wall lies the mermaid grotto and mermaids will feature not just in this part of the garden but also in her house.

Mermaid grotto
And the the shrine to Our Lady of La Tina was once a claw foot tub, now decorated and set in stone. La Tina is a play on words as la tina means bath in Mexico.


Look up, look down, with every glance something new. How many things did I miss? Plenty I am sure. And in so looking I ended up missing taking photographs for many things.





Haitian steel oil drum carvings
In her surprisingly spacious back garden there is room to sit, a colorful serving area and a log cabin work retreat.


No doubt she spent many hours in her 'creative cathedral' writing her books, The Herb Garden Cookbook and Viva Tequila!


And things didn't stop with a garden visit. The back door of the garden opened onto the 'stairway to heaven'. Notice Sancho's special doorway. He must walk theses stairs many times. But we were requested to enter the house by the front door.


I don't think I have been on many garden tours where a house tour was included, but Lucinda has an unusual and very special house. Her collection of Mexican folk handicrafts may rival that of any museum. It put me in mind of Charles Wade who bought Snowshill to house his incredible collection of exquisite handicrafts.



Every inch of her house is decorated with the utmost care and creativity.



And time in the kitchen being very close to my heart, a few photographs of where Lucinda perfected her many recipes.




And libations!


After all Lucinda is an expert on Tequila.

Thank you Lucinda for inviting 93 Flingers and their cameras into your garden and home. It was a special and memorable morning for us all.