Wednesday, December 31, 2008


The two day drive home from Phoenix, this week, gave me ample time to reflect on garden happenings in 2008.

In January we added what was to be the last hard scape feature in the English garden. David used some of our left over bricks ( purchased for a deal at the Habitat for Humanity store) to create a semicircular edging for a new bed, which echoes the other features of the garden; patio, bird bath and the curved dry stone wall. Circular patio stones replaced the original field stones to complete the theme of circles. A Philippine violet was planted in the center and in no time at all plants were filling in the empty spaces.

My absence from the garden for two months in the summer was noted by all those opportunistic seeds. The violet was soon completely crowded out by blanket flowers, cone flowers, cosmos and all manner of salvia.

Nevertheless, the plant managed to put on quite a display in the fall.

Spring is always a riotous mix of California poppies, larkspur and blanket flowers but this year the pink poppies were outstanding.

In the spring I made my debut in the world of garden blogging. Introduced by Pam, of Digging, I became well and truly hooked when I gave the Spring Flingers a tour of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The day before, several bloggers had an impromptu tour of my garden. I have to credit blogging with an introduction to many new plants and techniques and a greater acceptance of mishaps in the garden as well as new gardening friends.

In April we opened our garden for the tremendously successful Master Gardener's Tour. Over 650 visitors strolled through the grounds in the space of eight hours. The only photograph I took was one of Skip Richter, the director of the Extension Service, who gave a talk on sustainable gardening practices. I enjoyed the photographs and comments posted by garden bloggers who visited the garden.
I have been away from my garden more this year than any other year. A total of four months. Plants became overgrown and, during a two month absence in the summer, the garden became a nature preserve!

We enjoyed the foxes for a week before they found our comings and goings too much and moved on.
In the fall D tackled the job of removing a Vitex, 3 Texas sage and a large Southern wax myrtle from in front of the garage. Pulling out can sometimes take a lot longer than planting!

The wax myrtle had been damaged in a wind storm in the spring and the vitex was interfering with the driveway. One of the first jobs in the New Year will be to replant the area with zeriscape plants. Now if I could just find a Whale's tongue agave!! I can't wait to get started.

                                     I hope you all had a memorable year in the garden


Tuesday, December 23, 2008


When Christmas cards arrive from England I am always struck by how many of them have a robin. The English robin (Erithacus rubecula melophilus) is quite different from his American namesake. He is about the size of our wren and behaves in a similar manner, flitting from branch to branch in a friendly manner. He is a year round visitor to the garden but his red breast stands out in the snowy garden. This November a robin followed us as we hiked along a trail in the Lake District. He just stayed still long enough to for me to snap a photograph of him. 

When I was a child we always cut holly to bring into the house but mistletoe was something we had to buy. A bunch of mistletoe would dangle from the light in the hallway. The usually reserved British were apparently open to kisses as this time of the year! Now, we have mistletoe growing in huge bunches from our live oak trees. They tend to favor apple and oak trees. I have even read in English garden magazines how to take the berries and push them into a crack in the tree bark in order to grow your own little parasite! 
It is easy to see how these plants were looked upon as special in the winter garden. The evergreen holly and mistletoe with their red and white berries and the robin with his red breast. They brought a little brightness into the winter home.
I hope your garden has something to offer the Christmas home- be it pine cones, seed heads, ivy or berries. Greetings of the Season to gardener's everywhere.

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.