Wednesday, December 17, 2008


On Sunday we returned to Austin after spending a month away. You can bet that the first thing I did on Monday morning was to get out into the garden. Long johns, ski vest and every other bit of warm clothing in my possession were not enough to keep out the frigid cold that had settled over Austin during the night. The big problem was my hands. Gardening gloves, which I rarely wear, were just not enough. Anyway, I managed to put in about 3 hours. This is the first year for a good crop of berries on the Burford holly. I will actually be able to pick some to bring into the house.
I began by pulling out all the plants that had succumbed to the two frosts that had hit our garden during our absence; tomatoes, beans, basil, all the lingering summer annuals. It was at this point I decided to pull out some large clumps of the alyssum and what did I find underneath but various stages of over wintering harlequin bugs. 

So that's why the problem continues to plague my garden from year to year. I started pulling out the plants and checking under every plant I was going to keep. Hopefully my problem will not be so bad next year. 

One more job to do before I could retreat to the warm house. The Agave desmettiana, located down the side of the house, needed some winter protection before the promised frost. A good covering of dry leaves and a blanket should keep it safe. This agave is only hardy to about 28 degrees and every one in my garden has succumbed to winter if left unprotected. We seem to be the cold spot of Austin.

This is my Christmas cactus, which lives in England. It loves neglect. It had not had any attention since I was there in May. It is the one plant that remains in my mother's flat. She passed away over 2 years ago. How it loves those long fall and winter nights with no light!
When I travel anywhere I am always thinking gardens so my next post will be about plants and gardens we saw during our time away.


  1. Welcome back! That Christmas cactus is gorgeous.

  2. Welcome home to Alaska err Austin. Can you believe those harlequin beetles! I also had loads of them this year...and cucumber beetles, a bumper year for the nasties

  3. Welcome back- so what did you do with the harlequin beetles?

  4. Oh, I have no problem disposing of them with my fingers!

  5. Hiya Jenny,

    Warn us next time when you go gadding about again, will ye!

    You had me worried. I know that one doesn't want to advertise the fact that the house will be empty, but a veiled hint would do ;-)

    I was told that the type of shield bug which you squashed goes by the name of stink bug and leaves a terrible smell on your hands.
    Ours are brown or green, but equally destructive.

    Nice cosy leaf bed for your agave.

    And you have actual red berries: no hordes of marauding blackbirds then. Sigh. Not one single red berry left for us and we had zillions all over the garden.

    Still, they left our apples alone whilst they were decimating the berries. We have been living on apple pie for months now. With whipped cream of course.

    Nice to be back? Was it nice to be away? (I'm not nosey ;-)

    Take care,

  6. It's nice to hear from you again! That Christmas cactus is beautiful. It's convinced me that I'm giving mine WAY too much love and care. From now on, it's getting the 'tough love' treatment!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  7. It is nice to be home Joco. I was missing my blog! and my garden was missing me- all these trips and it is getting out of hand. This is a kind of stink bug but this one doesn't smell as bad as the green and brown ones. Also, it breeds at a phenomenal rate. Warmth brings them to life and suddenly there are thousands of them. very destructive.
    Carol- This "tough love" just isn't working with my garden!
    I'm so glad everyone is coming back to my blog- I was afraid I would be forgotten!!

  8. I'm surprised about the tenderness of your Agave desmettiana. My plant survived without damage at 20 degrees a couple of years ago. I'm also amazed by your Christmas cactus and its ability to survive for 7 months without care!
    It's beautiful.
    Hope you have a wonderful holiday and best wishes for a great new year.

  9. Aiyana- I think it must get a lot colder in my garden than I ever suspect. Part of the problem is the garden being at the bottom of a slope. Another part of the problem may be too much water. I have the agaves mixed in with other plants which require water and maybe they become too succulent. I know we had a problem one year when we had a lot of rain in November and then it froze hard. Lots of succulents had burnt leaves. As to the Christmas cactus. I repotted it in May and gave it a really good watering. England had a wet cold summer so it was in cool conditions. I was just lucky I guess.