Friday, July 25, 2008


Agaves are an important structural feature in my garden. 

Agave desmettiana is one of my favorites because it make an enormous number of pups which is a good thing because it is not reliably hardy in our area. If they don't winter over then I can easily replace them with those growing in pots.

These ones were all put in the ground this spring. I may try to protect them this winter as they are not too large to cover.
My first agave was Agave parryi. I fell in love with its tight blue rigid leaves. I think it cost about $40 so it was expensive. However, it was going to give me years of joy, or so I thought.

I planted it in the ground in 2002. By early 2004 I noticed that in the center there was a rather tight narrow and pointed rosette of leaves. Oh no, I thought, it's going to flower! I love the candelabra out there in the desert scene but not in my garden- yet. It was to be. Each day the flower stalk grew by at least a foot. No wonder the plants dies after flowering (monocarpic).
Finally the stalk reached its full height and it burst into flower. Every bee in the neighborhood was there. I saved the seeds and some were allowed to fall on the ground but none of them germinated. There were no pups and no bulbils and the plant duly died.  I have read that aside from pups which grow from the rhizome, agaves will reproduce by forming bulbils in the axils of the flower stalk. I had never seen this until walking around my son's neighborhood in Phoenix I espied and agave with pups and bulbils.

Bulbils galore!  Certainly would like some of those. I don't know what variety it is but I'm sure it would do well in a pot.
Now, seeing these bulbils reminds me of a photo I took of an Echinacea plant in my garden. I decided it was a mutation but maybe the Echinacea is mimicing the Agave.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


There are probably not too many things that would induce a visit to Phoenix in the height of summer. For us it was the arrival of our fourth grandchild.
So although this is not my patch I can't resist posting a few photographs of the gardens in the neighborhood. In the brutal temperatures at the moment it is amazing to see so much in flower. The monsoon rains have brought little relief to the summer heat but the plants have come to life. The red bird of paradise, Caesalpinia pulcherrima, with its vibrant red and orange flowers is a good match for the blast furnace temperatures.

All over town the Texas sage is in full bloom although some bushes look better than others!
Texas chain saw massacre.

There is a variety of landscape style, but of course the one for me would always be the xeriscape look with dry creek. I wonder why?

Some choose to provide some shade with Acacia or desert willow trees.
Others have the true desert landscape with cacti and agave.

This strip between wall and sidewalk has a healthy planting of Opuntia and they were sporting some pretty impressive tuna.

Some just have to have a patch of grass and this one needs no mowing!

Sunday, July 20, 2008


I have a weakness for gardening books and magazines as I'm sure many gardeners do. What better time to spend looking through the books than hot summer days. A majority of my books are the result of going to Car Boot sales when I am in England. Many people in England do not have a garage therefore cannot have a garage sale. To sell their unwanted items they drive to a large field at the weekend and sell their items from the back of their car. Above are the books I found this year along with a variety of Gardener's World magazine. Who cares if they are issues from several years ago. I had to leave some books in England because I couldn't bring them all, especially the Royal Horticultural Society Book of Plants. Even if I can't grow some of the plants in the books I can feast my eyes and dream.
The other odd items were finds at the grocery store. A couple of hand forks; I have at least 8 of these now. I'm glad these ones have red handles because I am forever losing them around the garden. Why is it so difficult to find this particular tool in Austin? These and the string were the best deals in England. The little plastic coated rings have been a great success for supporting the cucumber on the trellis. I wish I had bought two packets.

On this same trip we visited the gardens at Arley Hall in Cheshire. This was on the recommendation of Zanthan Gardens (MSS). May was a little early for the main flowering but on the herbaceous border the Ceonothus and alliums were in full flower.

However, it was the perfect time to catch the Rhododendrons and Azaleas in full bloom. What a sight! Now this is one plant we can not grow in Austin because of the alkalinity of our soil. Well, in a pot maybe, but it is not even worth trying to amend the soil as it would eventually revert with the alkaline water.

Walking round the nursery at Arley I was delighted to spot the following plant for sale.

It is nice to look back on those cooler days spent in England in May and look forward to the Fall gardening days in Austin.

Monday, July 7, 2008


The posting by Carol at May Dreams gave me pause for reflection as I spent my early morning hours in the garden. I have a vegetable garden and with prices in the store the way they are at the moment I am happy to take the rough with the smooth when it comes to gardening there. I bet it won't be long before the flower gardeners are thinking about growing a few vegetables themselves. We have enjoyed tomatoes when people were afraid to buy them in the stores for fear of contracting Salmonella.
 The peppers are just starting to ripen and I picked the first one today. By the end of the week there will be a dozen or more. The color of this ripe pepper is as beautiful as any orange flower I have seen. I'm glad a grew jalapeno peppers this year as I see they went on the suspicious list today. Unfortunately it is the wrong time of year for cilantro here.

There are always flowers growing among the vegetables because the seeds come in with the compost. I am happy to leave them there as they attract pollinators into the garden.
There is nothing more exciting than seeing the first cantaloupes setting their fruit. Now that we are through those days of 100 degrees the cantaloupes and cucumbers are finally starting to fruit. 

Among the several varieties of basil that I grow is one Magical Michael. I use it to decorate a serving plate. It produces a beautiful bloom.

Tricolor sage brings delicate shades of purple and cream to the herb garden. These are just a sampling of current color in the vegetable garden.

Friday, July 4, 2008


Nothing is more beautiful in the Texas landscape than the response of the Texas sage to a rainfall. Within days it bursts into profusion of small purple flowers. Texas sage or Leucophyllum is not a sage but a member of the Scrophulariaceae family which include the penstemons, snapdragons and foxgloves. This particular plant seeded here in the decomposed granite. An area which was intended for parking but will never be used as such. I planned to remove the plant but never got round to it. 
There are several varieties of the plant. "Green cloud" has a much greener leaf than the regular silver leaf. "Thundercloud" is known for its abundant blossoms.

Caught in a different light this bush has never flowered before. It is growing in very poor rocky soil. I believe that the intense heat and lack of rain this year followed by and inch of rain last week is responsible for the bloom.
I have been noticing over the years that there are some plants that demand specific conditions to perform at their best. Several years ago I purchased a bergamot plant. Every year it grew leaves but never flowered- until last year. It became a great stand topped with huge raspberry blooms. It must have been the cooler summer with abundant rain. We may never have those conditions again which probably mirrored the more favorable conditions of temperate climates where the plant grows best
One year I grew foxgloves. I had beautiful blooms into the summer. Since then I have grown nothing but leaves. 

The bean tepee has been stripped of every leaf and many of the stalks. Today I removed the remaining bush bean plants and put them outside for the deer. They were over in a shot.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Despite the heat and lack of rain there is still plenty of color in the garden. The Rudbeckia are in full flower. The first one is Rudbeckia hirta "Prairie sun" sometimes referred to as Irish eyes because of its green center, The second one is Rudbeckia "goldsturm". Both grown from seed this year.
I thought it interesting that when I visited James David's garden ("seeds") along with the Bloggers Spring Fling, one of the first things he mentioned was that his garden was not a spring garden but a fall garden.  I have been to the garden before several times and it has always been in the fall. Spring is a wonderful time in Texas. You only have to pay a visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center during the spring months to see an enormous variety of Texas natives in bloom. In my garden too, spring plants abound although they are not all natives. Fall is also a wonderful time for the Texas garden but to enjoy these two seasons you have to be prepared for quite a bit of work. That means removing the larkspur, poppies, love in a mist and many others when they have set seed. Next come the salvias, cosmos, zinnias blanket flowers, lantana, zexmania, to name a few.  Right now, if we want to enjoy them in the fall then they need to be cut back quite hard. There is still time to sow seeds and move small re-seeders around. 
Over the last week the Salvia greggii, catmint, lantana have all been cut back and today I did some serious removal of an untidy collection of plants in the sunken garden.

It is actually looking quite tidy but not so colorful right now. The structure alone should hold it through the next couple of months.

A bluebonnet which has seeded in the veg. garden path must think it is spring again. I think it must have been late germinating because of the lack of rain.

Gomphrena will bloom throughout the summer and fall with a minimum of care. Its seeds can be saved from year to year although it is a hardy annual here.
And then there is the ever present Rock rose(Pavonia) to add a splash of pink to the gravel.