Monday, June 30, 2008


Sunday morning I saw bambi for the first time. I knew she was out there somewhere but this was the first sighting. We watched mother walk by the window on her way to picking up her fawn and heading back with her. She was browsing a little on goodness knows what. Believe you me there isn't much out there to eat.
I think that was one of the reasons I decided to remove the bean trellis today. It really needed doing as the Kentucky Wonder beans had really finished and I just didn't want to have to deal with a mess of dead leaves all over the place. We decided to take out the whole structure to make things easy and relocate it to the septic field. It looked like mini Christmas tree.

Well, it wasn't long before the first deer showed up for a little browse. 
Then another one showed up and they began what I believe is the salt lick. I know when I have been working outside the dog loves to lick the salt on my legs so I am assuming that deer also do the same. Or it may just be grooming.

So after  little bit of cleanup the old bean patch is ready for another crop. I am thinking that maybe I will just put in some more cantaloupe seeds and let them sprawl over the gravel along with the others. I don't think it is too late. Will check on that today.

The big news is that last night we had 1 1/2" of rain. This morning the garden had that wonderful fresh scent that, even in Texas, we get after a rainfall. There was a strong perfume of Salvia clevelendii on the air. I love this fragrance that comes after rain even though I haven't quite mastered how to keep the bush from falling over. I don't think the conditions are quite right for it.

Of course another thing that always show up with the rain are the fire ants. Just when you think you don't have them you do.

Here they are piling soil up the stalk of my eggplant. I'll bet there are eggs in there if I knock the soil off. I wish they would just go back down into the soil and hide again.

Friday, June 27, 2008


One of my favorite things to do in the garden is to potter. I usually do this first thing in the morning. I go out there and look to see if anything has changed overnight, do a little deadheading in the hope of prolonging the flowering of the plants, pull a few weeds, admire a few blooms and generally just enjoy the early morning. There isn't much time for pottering these days as the window of gardening opportunity is restricted to about 3 hours in the morning. I could potter for 3 hours but there is much work to be done.

Pottering in the vegetable patch this morning I espied the first cantaloupe. Maybe I was a little late getting the plants in the ground and the early hot weather has prevented fruiting. 

The beans are almost at an end although there are still plenty of flowers forming. It seems that the early beans a long and straight and as the plants become older the beans become short and curled. They still taste OK. Picking beans is considered to be a part of pottering in my book.

I have been watching the Texas sunflowers in the garden. I'm not sure why I let them stay for so long because I always know they will have to come out in the end-before they turn into trees. I picked the flowers to bring into the house. Pottering was over and now it was time to pull out the plants. They were already 5 ' tall with stalks like small saplings. I imagine that they are stealing the water from  more important plants. 

Now it was time for a little exercise with the tennis racket before finishing for the morning! The bug on the plant is a cicada killer. It is a 2" wasp like insect with black and yellow stripes. It would appear that we inherited these insects in a pile of sandy loam. The adults lays the eggs in colonies in the soil along with a cicada or two for the larva to feed on. Every spring they emerge and fly around in an extremely annoying manner. I have discovered that the best way to deal with them is to have a little game of tennis. There is no doubt in my mind that gardening is good exercise.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Agave desmettiana variegata

Now that the California poppies have been removed it is time for the Agave to enjoy a place of prominence for the rest of the summer.
This part of the garden has been home to 3 different plants. First came a rosemary plant which quickly grew to an enormous size. Out it came and was replaced by an Agave desmettiana variegata-not the one that is there today. Winter came, and despite the man at the cactus and succulent sale telling us it was hardy for Austin, it was not. It melted in the frost but left behind about 10 offspring which I immediately potted up. What to put in this spot-ah what about a variegated Miscanthus I thought. Mistake. It soon outgrew the spot and not only that but as result of enjoying the elegant plumes in the winter it seeded everywhere. It was removed this spring with much effort and leaving a gaping hole. Just the spot for one of the Agaves that was quickly outgrowing its pot. I'm not going to worry about losing it this winter because I have plenty more as a result of its pup making. I have never seen an agave produce so many offspring. Certainly the Agave parryi which I purchased several years ago only gave me 3 years before it sent up its flower spike and died. It never produced one pup.

I hope that someone will be able to identify this cactus for me. Purchased at the same time as the original Agave it flowered for the first time this year. Tiny pink flowers in profusion. On the garden tour someone asked if I might cut off a section for him! I don't have great success with cactus having a tendency to over water them.


This succulent is also beginning to flower. Another one I would like to know the name of. 

Monday, June 23, 2008


Today I spent two hours outside and came into the house simply drenched. Not from rain but from the incredible humidity. No doubt this was a result of the one and one half inches of rain we received at the weekend, all in the space of about half an hour. That's it, I thought, I will just have to enjoy the garden from the inside. This is the view of the front garden from the laundry room. 

I was not in there to do the laundry but to sort through the seeds on the counter beneath the window.

From the hallway on my way to the living room.

From the living room.

The kitchen.

The dining room

When we were designing the gardens our idea was that the outside should be an extension of the rooms of our house. To that end the gardens should be visible from every window and accessible from each room. We had no idea what the design should be but each space revealed its needs as we went. That is the advantage of time. Time to discover that we wanted a seating area in each garden that would provide us with a place to sit through every season. That we didn't want to have to mow grass- although sometimes I think that having no grass is more work than having grass. One day D joked that our gardens were rather like the circus act of the man with all the plates spinning on sticks-running back to stop the first plate from falling. 
A few have fallen recently but we'll just pick them up and start again.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I thought I'd post a couple of then and now photographs. Whenever I see these I always wonder why they don't manage to stand in the same position as when the first was taken. I was just taking a photo of the septic field out of interest when I came across an earlier picture I had taken. What was it that Erma Bombeck said "the grass is always greener over the septic field!

She was right about that on April 15th. But wrong on June 15th.

This is another one of my saved plants. When we were removing rubbish and rocks from the entry garden we just dumped it over the side of the driveway. Pretty soon it was quite a pile stretching the length of the driveway. A Retama (Jerusalem thorn) tree started to grow. By the time it came to clean up a few years later there was no way I was going to let it go. D removed all the debris from around the tree and built a dry stack wall. This tree just grows in rubbish.
It has a pretty flower, and vicious spines along the branches. Under the stress of cold weather it will lose its leaves and photosynthesize through its green trunk and branches.

Meanwhile inside the walls, in the English garden. This photo shows the birdbath circle shortly after I planted it with three new roses of the variety Knockout last July. They were planted as a memorial to  a much loved mother and a  great friend. Both were Lancashire lasses and the red rose being the rose of the house of Lancaster seemed appropriate. 

They have bloomed profusely since April.

I was warned by someone that I need to cut them back without fear as they will grow quite large so I took the pruners to them the other day. What I noticed was below every hip there is a new shoot. It's not surprising that they bloom with such vigor.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I have come across this quote on several occasions and thought it very appropriate for me.

"Show me your garden and I will tell you what you are" Alfred Austin

What I think he should have said was, show me your closet and I will tell you what kind of gardener you are. You see, I have the greatest difficulty pruning and pulling out plants that are really in the wrong place. This spills over to everything in my life including my closet.

On my pomegranate tree I know I should remove two of these fruits but it is just so hard for me to do. In fact D was hoping there would be no fruit on the tree this year because the tree is quite huge and I think he would like it out. It is full of fruit so it gets to stay for another year.

A rock rose is growing up through the middle of this Indian Hawthorn bush. How long will it stay there? Probably all summer.

 I have to admit that these blanket flowers and black eyed susans along the rock wall don't look too tidy.

Now these are going to be very difficult to pull out but there are some plants that I actually planted growing underneath.

However, I did pull out the rest of the tomato plants and the deer were the beneficiary of the damaged and green tomatoes and the foliage. New crop going in and guess what, one of them was growing in the path. I potted it up until it had established some more roots and now it is in the ground.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


On the same day as our visit to Levens Hall we visited Holehird Gardens. I have been to the Lakes many times but had never heard of these gardens. Entry to the gardens is by donation. They were designed, installed and are maintained by members of the Lakeland Horticultural Society. Aside from the rockery, with the alpine troughs, ( I think I have a new project for D!) the gardens were extensive, with herbaceous borders, open grassy areas with island plantings, and woodland walks. Rhododendrons were everywhere. My favorite place was the alpine greenhouse although I'm afraid my photograph does not do it justice. I love the idea of the rock wall on the left side and the more informal rockery on the right. At the end of green house was a lakeland slate trickle water feature. For many people gravel gardening may not hold the attraction that is does for me. We have so many wonderful rocks in our garden that it becomes a necessity to put them to good use. I love rocks.
The Lakeland gardens were ablaze with yellow rhododendrons. 
At the end of a wonderful day we headed back down the M6 to St Annes.

Monday, June 16, 2008


We spent two weeks in England this May. I don't remember a time when we were so lucky with the weather. By the time the two weeks were over David was about to move back there-after 40 years! We stayed on the north  west coast of Lancashire in the town of St Annes. We both grew up there and that is the place we always go back to when we visit. It is close enough to the lake district in Cumbria for easy day trips and that is what we did for the first four days of our vacation. I had read about the gardens of Levens Hall and they were our first stop. On a picture perfect morning we entered the world of topiary.

The gardens were laid out in 1694 by Guillaume Beaumont. The idea of clipping evergreen hedges into fantastical shapes was brought over from Europe and many of the yews are original to the garden.

In celebration of the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11, the umbrella yew was designated one of 50 great Great British trees, in recognition of its national heritage.

The trunks of many of the yews form passageways underneath which wild garlic grows. 

Walking through the estate of Levens Hall we were to see wild garlic growing everywhere.

We were to return on two occasions to the buttery at Levens where they served a wonderful cream tea in the most delightful setting.
Stay tuned for more of our garden visits.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


June 15th and summer has already been with us for weeks. I'm afraid my garden is really starting to show that it can't take these temperatures day after day. My drip irrigation system is not keeping up. Please, please can we have a day below 100 degrees and some rain- but not 15 inches all at once!

The datura is looking a little ragged around the edges. I don't know the variety because I brought the seeds from friends in Dallas. We saw theirs blooming in September and it was just spectacular.

The catmint, a variety called Walker's low, seems to like the heat. In fact I am noticing that quite a few of the flowers of the moment are blue.

Like this Agapanthus.

This Salvia clevelendii. I did not grow this for its flowers but for its incredible fragrance when it rains.

It is quite apparent that this fall aster is wanting to get the year over with in a hurry.

Moving on from the blues to the oranges I must not forget the faithful Texas lantana. There are still plenty of coreopsis, blankets and cosmos but the heat is taking its toll on them too. No time to post the list.

I bought this silver leaf Gazania in the fall as a perennial. It has been wonderful. The flowers are a little small now but I am wondering if it really is a perennial. Does anyone else have this plant?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Flowers, succulents and bugs

As I write this the weather man is telling us that we broke another record today. The temperature reached 101. Even in all this heat the garden comes up with a surprise every day. This morning the yellow primrose, Oenothera missouriensis, which was growing in the gravel in the vegetable garden, produced its first bloom. Who knows how he got there but he can stay.

As many of the flowers fade in the unrelenting heat I am grateful for the succulent family. A couple of years ago we took the plunge and drove down to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. We were able to bring home many of their wonderful pots. This ceramic hanging pot is the perfect home for one of those succulents.
Remember the overgrown vegetable garden from two weeks ago? Well, now that the blanket flowers have been removed I can see the pathways again.

However, some things that happened whilst I was gone could not be righted. Unfortunately the leaf footed bugs had a field day with my tomatoes. Although the crop was large, many were completely destroyed by the juice suckers. I am still out there every day, killing them in an attempt to reduce their numbers before the next planting.

I wonder if other gardeners have discovered that both the leaf footed bugs and the harlequins have an aversion to water. So, turning on the hose under the plants makes them all move up the stem to a spot where you can see them and do away with them. I'll be out there again tonight when the sun goes down.