Monday, March 29, 2010


and this is the moment for Lady Banks, Rosa banksiae 'lutea' She is more spectacular this year than any before.

Trusses of yellow blossoms.

Not content with wowing us inside our entry garden she is putting on a similar display on the other side of the wall.

Now, what could this western scene have to do with Lady Banks rose? In January, on our way back to Austin from Phoenix, we took a short detour from Intestate 10 to visit the town of Tombstone, Arizona. We were not there to see a reenactment of the Gunfight at OK Corral. We were there to visit the Rose Museum. To see the largest rose in the world, the Lady Banks rose, Rosa banksiae 'banksiae'
This rose was brought as a cutting from Scotland in 1885. A gift brought from Scotland by a visitor to her homesick friend. It was planted in her garden and lives to this day.

Unfortunately we weren't there at bloom time, but nevertheless, we were wowed by the sheer size of this rose, supported by a multitude of pillars.

Looking at the size of the trunk I was beginning to get a little worried about my Lady Banks, as yet only about 14 years old. Imagine over a hundred years from now. Somebody else's problem!
There is one difference between this rose and mine. This rose is from an original cutting brought back from China by a student of Sir Joseph Banks. It is the white variety and carries with it a delicate fragrance. How could I resist buying a cutting of this wonderfully historic rose.

Today the first flower opened.

Now, bearing in mind just how big this rose is going to get, I have to decide where I am going to plant it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


These shadows on the wall mean only one thing.

The pomegranate tree made it through the terrible winter and is leafing out. Now let's see if we can get through the next few weeks without a frost. I say that because every year but last a late spring frost burnt off many of the new leaves and probably took some flower buds with it. That meant fewer pomegranates, although I never could complain about not having enough. In fact last year there were so many that many just rotted on the ground. The 'abundant harvest' was responsible for my having these little beauties in the ground this year.

Tulipa clusiana 'cynthia' has delighted us this year with her gorgeous colors.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Last November the hanging basket of graptopetalum was breathing a sigh of relief having made it through a wretchedly hot dry summer. It really liked the dry part. Unfortunately the worst was yet to come. Frigid cold followed by wet.
Left outside all winter the stems began to rot and disease spread down the stems until it reached the leaf rosettes. At this point I began to cut off the best of the rosettes and, after a day of drying, set them in a bed of pumice. As rot continued to spread down the remaining stems I realized that more drastic measures needed to be taken.
Yesterday I made the decision to pull everything out and redo the whole basket. The remaining rosettes were hung out to dry in the mesh potting shed bench.

The rosettes planted in the pumice have all rooted. Pumice is the most incredible medium for rooting.

It may take time for the planter to retain its former glory but these little plants are tough when it comes to surviving the hardships of a Texas climate. They root from leaves which are left to dry out on the ground, quickly forming miniature rosettes of leaves.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Although the more common, orange California poppy blooms in huge numbers in my garden a few white ones show up every year. This selection is called 'white linen' and has seeded itself from one of last years plants. It is always a surprise when the first flowers open.

This white hyacinth may only bloom one time as hyacinths are not commonly seen in the Texas spring garden. It was one of the bulbs in the white selection of bulbs I received as my prize in the Gardening Gone Wild photo contest. It will be interesting to see if they return next year.

Other white bulbs from this selection are the white grape hyacinths. As they fade their foliage will be covered by the creeping wine cup.

The Tulipa clusiana, seem to be a little bit of a mixture. The red underside of the closed tulips opens to a brilliant yellow.
Bluebonnets are waiting in the wings for their day.

Winter must have been just what the stocks were looking for. They have put on an incredible display. All mauve, but the second ones to open were doubles.

Only one scabiosa plant made it through the winter and the first flower opened this week. I don't know anything about the structure of this flower but I noticed tiny flowers inside the center. Are they the flowers or is the whole flower the flower?

Columbines would probably take over the garden if I were to let them. The Hinkley's yellow seems to like sun or shade.
Too bad the garden is going to get another dose of winter this week. A likely frost on Saturday night following another bout of rain tomorrow morning. Time to get those plants indoors again!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Sometimes something good comes out of an unwelcome event. I am referring to the our record low winter temperatures. All the butterfly iris in the front of the dining room window were lost to the freeze. When we took them out they had left their mark on the Indian Hawthorne. In the end the decision was made to remove everything and come up with a new planting. The hawthorne had almost overgrown the little water feature we had made form a large native rock which had a perfect hole in the center. Suddenly the water feature didn't look so hot anymore. The new planting deserved something better and I had just the thing.
Last fall we were helping our son clean up in the alleyway behind his house, when I spotted this hexagonal piece of concrete with a square hole in the center. Years ago it must have held a 4x4" wooden post. The nails which held the post in the center were still there. I just knew it would make a great water feature. It took my husband and son to load it onto our truck. Last week David struggled to bring it into our front garden, positioning it over the original planter buried in the ground. It is supported on a some old blocks, with a wire mesh over the top and an old piece of garden hose passing through that square hole. It was now my job to tie it into the existing dry creek by repositioning the rocks around the feature and arranging some rocks in the hole so that water will flow over the top as well as drop down into the sump. Voila!
The new planting in front of the window will include red yucca , Hesperaloe parviflora and autumn sage, Salvia greggii. In front the Whale's tongue agave, Agave ovatifolia.

Monday, March 15, 2010


The ridiculously warm weekend, in Central Texas, opened up all the narcissi in one fell swoop. If only I knew their names. I was so careful to label this one but I should have used pencil instead of permanent marker. There was nothing permanent about it.

There are singles and frilly doubles and ones with peach colored centers.

This one is Daffodil 'chromacolor' I love it.

Tulip clusiana 'Lady Jane' is a species tulip which naturalizes well in Texas.

Tulipa saxatalis, also naturalizes well in the landscape.

The agaritas, Mahonia trifoliata, are slowly coming into bloom. Their sweet honey-like fragrance is a magnet for bees.

Here comes the first of the winecups, Callirhoe involucrata. Last year the flowers in this bed were pink, this year purple.

California poppy, Eschscholzia californica.

Larkspur, Consolida orientalis.

Yesterday the first summer snowflake, Leucojum aestivum, opened. Of course the temperature was 80 degrees." It's summer" they said.

and the first swallowtail visited the garden. He seems to like the stocks.

The windflowers, are usually finished blooming by now but there are more than ever this year. it's their year,
Thanks Carol for hosting another Garden Bloggers' Bloom day. Check out what is happening in gardens around the world by visiting Carol at Maydreams.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


but it's so much nicer to be home! At least that's what my seedlings were saying when I removed them from the truck this afternoon. I'm probably the only crazy gardener who would load her precious seedlings into the truck on Thursday morning, drive up to Dallas with them and drive back Saturday afternoon. They spent the whole time in the back of the truck. I had planned to take them out but a strong, cold NW wind made me play it safe and leave them inside. Why would anyone in their right mind do this? Clear sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s at home. How could I leave them to fry in the greenhouse? Load 'em up and take 'em along. I also brought back some river rocks that were languishing in my son's garden.

I didn't even take them to the Dallas Arboretum to see the spring display of daffodils.

My grandson and I posed for a photograph in front of a colorful display of tulips and pansies. The gardens were in the first week of the annual Fiesta de Las Flores, with 500,000 blooming spring bulbs to delight the visitors.

There will be many sights to delight young and old alike over the next few weeks. Today we met Ferdinand the Bull. He was a character introduced by Munro Leaf in his book of the same name, published in 1936. This 12' topiary of grasses, sits among a garden of flowers surrounded by topiary bees.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Early mornings out in the garden are full of bird sounds. Occasionally the mating call of the road runner, Geococcyx californianus, is heard and yesterday he came close by as I was out with my camera. He is a frequent visitor in our neighborhood and one time when I was bending down planting something in the garden he came just a few feet away from me. I kept perfectly still as he came closer and closer. He was too busy looking for insects and spiders to see me. He is welcome to the grasshoppers, crickets and snails but I don't like it when he comes foraging for my lizards and anoles. Somewhere around he makes a nest in a shrubby bush but I have never yet seen one.
His call wasn't the only call I heard.

At first I thought it was turkeys, as they have been around the last few days, but the sound came from high up in the sky. It was the sandhill cranes, Grus canadensis, on their way back from the South Texas brush country to their breeding grounds in the Canadian tundra, Alaska and the northern marshes and grasslands. They fly in a ragged group high up in the sky but their trumpeting cry causes you to look up and is wonderful to hear. It is a signal that spring is on the way.

Inspired by owl boxes we saw in several gardens on the Master Gardeners' Tour last fall and by a recent posting by Pam, at Digging, I asked David if he would make a screech owl box. He found plans for building a box on uTube and today he mounted it high in the Spanish oak tree. It is unlikely that an owl will use the box this year because the human scent on the wood will take time to wear off. He plans to make a smaller box with a round hole with plans taken from the Audubon website. I know there are screech owls around here as I frequently hear them in the night and one time we had one fly in through the skylight on the greenhouse. We hope, next year, they will nest in one of our boxes.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


One of my favorite spring flowers is the stock, which I started these from seed last year. Unfortunately they are in one of the vegetable beds, which is often the case with my flowers. When we find ourselves leaving town in the spring and I have all these little plants that need to be taken care of for a few weeks I put them in the vegetable raised beds next to a little drip irrigation outlet. By the time I come home they are too big to move and that's where they have to stay. This year one of the beds has become a cutting garden.

Not as showy as the flowers you buy in the grocery store, but multi stemmed and for some reason, all lilac.
Which is fine with me because the color goes well with my other spring bloomer the miniature daffs. How I wish I had planted more than just this one clump.

The two flowers together made a spring posy to bring into the house where their fragrance fills the air. David and I discussed the smell, which I thought quite spicy, with a hint of sweetness. He thought the smell reminded him of Tabac soap. Many years ago his father had a German penfriend and when he came to visit he brought some of this soap as a gift. My stocks triggered his memory from the past.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


A link on Jenny Peterson's blog led me a to a great garden website. Rachel at Successful Garden Design offers some great tips on what to do before you get planting. Plants are the icing on the cake, she says, and you had better have a good cake on which to put it. If you sign up for her newsletter she will send you a tutorial on how to go about designing your garden. I sent for the newsletter and there are some very useful tips. It is well worthwhile if you are contemplating some new garden design.

It is a glorious morning in Austin but there is more than a chill on the air. I went out with camera to take a few shots before the sun came up but was glad to get back in the house to warm up my hands. In this view looking towards the archway I have two pots with all that remain of my Agave desmettiana. Fortunately these two were in the potting shed so made it through our harsh winter. A bunch of dried Nigella fill the second pot waiting for a summer planting of asparagus fern.
When it comes to garden design we had a great backdrop with which to work. We just had to work with filling in what was in the middle. This year I have lost so many plants and spring is so late that without the garden bones things would look terrible. I just have to redo the icing. What I lack are more structural plantings to get the garden through the winter months.

Central Texas has more limestone than we know what to do with. These ledgestones came from our foundation and one man in a bobcat and I worked to arrange them into our sunken garden. Inspired by the central sunken area at the Wildflower Center. Granite covered the ground for a while until the seedlings became a problem. That was when we switched to Arizona sandstone. That was a giant jigsaw, I can tell you. Now I still have too much going on in the cracks, which requires a lot of weeding, but the rewards are Blackfoot daisies, blue eyed grass, blanket flowers and skullcap to name a few.

In the corner of the raised area I have replaced the A. desmettiana with a Yucca recurvifolia, soft leaf yucca. No more messing around with plants that don't make it.

In the English garden I will have to replace one of my roses and most of the wall germander which was edging the birdbath circle. Lost to hot/cold/wet. One or all. It remains to be seen whether the pomegranate tree will have survived.

For now the bare bones are holding the garden together.

More rocks, gravel and river rock in the front and a bumper crop of bluebonnets too. So many that I have had to remove many to prevent overcrowding. Whatever happens this year I think it is going to be the year of the bluebonnet.