Sunday, October 30, 2011


I caught the mocking bird flying out of the pyracantha today. He likes a varied diet.

Having eaten all the American Beautyberry berries he now has lantana as an appetizer, pokeweed as a main course with a side of chile pequin and pyracantha for dessert.

I'm certainly glad he hasn't stumbled on the pomegranates. They have all taken on this ruby red appearance, standing out like beacons. The strange thing is that you never know what they will look like inside until you cut into them. This one had rather pale seeds. They taste just as good as the ones with really luscious red seeds.

But I like it much better when I cut into one and see this.

For years we struggled with a way to get those seeds out. It was always a supremely messy job and we always had red fingers and seeds all over the place. The last year a friend bought me this simple device. It really work well. Halve the fruit and put it over the grid. Tap the back of the pomegranate with a spoon and all the seeds drop into the container.

We have them on our breakfast cereal/oatmeal every morning. They add a tangy crunch and I know they must be good for us.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Some plants want to be in the spotlight when summer blooms start to fade and days become cooler. This grass is fast becoming a favorite. For one thing, I don't have to do anything. It just shows up. Then it is easy once the seed heads have faded. They either blow away or you can run your hand over them and pull them off. Pink crystals Melinis nerviglumis stays green all summer with a minimum or no water at all. It isn't fussy where it grows.

Another major fall bloomer is the Philippine violet. This is a plant that dies down to the ground during winter, but just look how much growth it puts on before blooming in late October. It seems to have no pests and the leaves stay green all summer. If you see one at the nursery, snap it up. You won't regret having such a beauty in the garden.

This is my first year to grow Salvia madrensis. I bought a 4" pot in the spring. It has grown quietly in a shady corner under the Lady Banks' rose, biding its time, until finally the flower racemes began to color and open. It may be root hardy but if not I am happy to grow it as an annual.

Celosia spicata, bristly pink plumes. It is hard to imagine what a hummingbird would find in one of these flowers, but they find something.

The fragrant mistflower, Eupatorium

Fall obedient plant, Physostegia virginiata, on cue.

Frost weed, Verbesina viginica. This one is in the border behind the pool. There are none outside the walls this year due to drought.

Mexican mint marigold, Tagetes lucida.

I only just identified this plant last evening. It is Exotic Love vine, Firecracker vine, Mina lobata. The single vine was growing in among the Cardinal vine. The leaves were completely different and I just thought it was some kind of morning glory that wasn't producing flowers. Imagine my surprise, today, when I noticed some flower racemes. The seed must have been mixed in with the Cardinal Vine seeds I received from gardening friend, Meredith at Great Stems. I hope to save some for next year as both these vines seem to be the answer to a trellis in a difficult spot.

Tithonia rotundifolia, 'torch' The monarchs love this flower.

Scutellaria wrightii with Erigeron annus.

The calamondin orange moved from its corner in the vegetable garden so that we can enjoy its fruits.

Some plants never stop. Gaillardia pulchella is one. A non-stop bloomer year round.

Zinnia seeds planted in late August make a show in a pot.

The yellow knockout rose with its faint lemony fragrance. Who would knock a knockout. Not I.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Congratulations to Linda at Patchwork Gardens,  the winner of the gift certificate generously donated by Shoal Creek Nursery as part of The Support Local Nurseries campaign. Please contact me with your full name and contact information at so I can be in touch with Shoal Creek. You must claim your certificate, in person, within 2 weeks. If unable to do so please let me know immediately.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Yesterday, three garden blogging friends and I met for lunch, at Jack Allen's, and then drove out to visit Vivero Gardens. It was my second visit, the first being earlier this year, and the nursery stock was looking just as wonderful as ever.
This visit was prompted by Support Your Independent Nursery month, the brain wave of gardening friend and blogger  Pam Penick, Digging,Check out her webpage today for other gardeners' postings on Austin nurseries. Let's all help out by buying from the independent nurseries.

The nursery is located at 12000 Hwy 290 West, so it may be quite a hike for those who live in Austin, but I have to say if you are looking for great specimen plants this is the place to go. All the nursery stock is in the prime of condition due to the fact that they grow and care for many of the plants themselves.

Here is our fellow blogger Kathy who blogs at Vivero's Garden. Michael, her husband and Kathy run the nursery together and are very knowledgeable. They will be sure to help with your nursery selections.

I didn't leave empty handed. I bought this white flowering Leucophyllum, and a penstemon 'blue midnight'.

Finally, this is a reminder that it is the final day to enter our competition to win a gift certificates at 8 of our local nurseries. If you haven't done so already leave a comment here and then visit the other websites listed at the bottom of the page.
We will be announcing the winners Thursday morning.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I don't mind sharing my garden, why can't he?

The mockingbird was just going crazy with this mirror yesterday. For an more than an hour he had an altercation with himself in the front garden. In the end I had to cover over the mirror with plastic bags. He was so bent on this other mockingbird in his territory that he let me get within 3 feet of him to capture his antics. Later on I caught him doing the same thing outside the walls with the other mirror boxes. He just wants all that pokeweed booty for himself.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Today, after our walk, we went to Whole Foods for our usual taco breakfast/lunch. In the fish department, what did I see but a poor ladybug. Poor thing probably came in with the flowers. It's going home with me. What to put it in? Ah! I have the two paper plates (clean) and the 3 lidded salsa cups and a fork and spoon that I am carrying in a bag, from our lunch ( recycler extraordinaire). I scooped up the ladybug into the bag for the  ride home. Having ascertained that it was not the dreaded Asian lady beetle, I set it free in the garden. I haven't seen an aphid in the garden all summer so I hope it is getting ready to hibernate.

Another sign of madness in a gardener is allowing a poke weed to grow in the garden. I am fascinated by the flowers and berries and the mocking bird adores them. He has already set up winter camp here. I always wonder if it is the same bird year after. He sleeps in the Lady Banks' rose and flies out with a screech when we have visitors who leave late, in the dark. He is on a good thing with all the chile pequin, yaupon and those delicious poke weed berries. Crazy lady, but someone loves me!

Saturday, October 22, 2011


This was the first of two bee houses David made to order last year. The first and smaller one, I completed and wrote about last fall. I cut and filled the A frame with the cardboard tubes from trouser coat hangers ( the easy bit). They worked well and the apartments were quickly filled.

Here is the original one today. Insects have left their nest, as shown by the holes in the mud sealed entrance, and I really should do a fall clean-up of the empty ones. This time I shall replace them with bamboo.

The second, larger one, lay on the bench in the garage until a couple of weeks ago. When ESP was cutting down some of his bamboo I asked him if he had any to spare, and he did. I was amazed at how thick his bamboo was but nevertheless I cut several pieces to go along with some thinner bamboo I already had, ( that bit took me ages) and I packed the pieces in. Of course the subsequent dry weather loosened the pieces so I had to add some more to tighten the whole structure.

The bamboo certainly looks a lot nicer. This bee house is for our grandson, who turns 6 in November, so I decided to dress it up a little.

I shingled the roof using pieces of bark I found around the wood pile. Then used a couple of strips of cedar bark to dress up the front. ( Hope the golden cheek warbler's don't mind)

Providing a home for pollinating insects is very important to the health of the garden in general. These holes are used by the solitary bees and wasps, insects that feed upon pollen and in so doing pollinate our plants. Sometimes they use mud to fill in the hole and other times leaf cuttings. If you find plants in your garden with round holes cut out of the leaves then you can be sure that you have leaf cutter bees ( Megachile species). They seem to favor beautyberry and roses in my garden.

I have a much larger critter house in the planning stage, (English gardens are full of ideas for such projects). It has been on my 'to do' list for a while and today we picked up a piece of wood at a garage sale perfect for the project. It will serve as a winter home for more than bees. Maybe lizards and hedgehogs. Oh! I forgot no hedgehogs in Texas unless you want to pay $100!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


If you follow my blog then you know that concrete work is no stranger in this garden. When we first began work on the garden we had to do a few small retaining walls. It was our first dabble into the land of  masonry block, mortar and stucco. We bought a cement mixer. Then the real projects began.
"I can't find any pavers that I really like," I told David. "Maybe we could make some" ( By we I really mean David) And so began the making of 169 pavers for our herb and vegetable garden. I posted back in 2009 about this project.

Then we tried our hand at brick laying and patio making in the English garden. All those small flat limestone rocks I collected when they were building came in handy.

We worked together to make the circular patio. I won't forget mortaring in between the stones. It was back breaking but so rewarding. David completed the circle around the bird bath and made some round pavers to complement the circle theme.
Then, single handed, David paved the small garden off our bedroom.

It seemed as though there was no more need for the cement mixer and David was happy to have it out of the garage. He packed it off to Craig's list and sold it in a minute.
So what next. When Pam Penick, Digging, did a recent revue of the book, Concrete Garden Projects, I was reminded of all those articles I had cut out of magazines, over the years, on how to do hypertufa projects.  It spurred me into action. Off I went to to buy a sac of cement and some peat moss. I already had the sand from a recent pool filter change.

I decided to use the mixture I had in one of my magazine cuttings. 2 sand, 2 peat, 1 cement.

Mix to the consistency of cottage cheese.

My mold was an old plastic planter which I oiled well. I placed a cork in the drainage hole. Packed in half the the mix reinforced with chicken wire ( that was the tough part) and added the rest of the mix.

Left it to dry and then tried to get it out. Disaster. I had a feeling that this mix didn't have enough cement in it, or maybe it was too dry. First I couldn't get it out, so i had to hammer the outside to try to loosen it. You can see what happened.

Not to be beaten, and with plenty of materials left I tried another mix. This time 1 peat, 1 sand, 1 vermiculite and 1 cement. More water and more success.

I felt that my English garden really needed some troughs. Every English garden has them. It seems I had just the perfect mould to make round troughs to complement the circular theme of this garden.

And I now have the book, which is loaded with wonderful ideas. I like the way that the authors have laid out the book. First come the projects with a link to the instructions for each project at the back of the book. Most of the time they use a fine concrete mix which I assume means that the pea gravel is very small. I think the ready mix bags may have slightly larger gravel. Certainly this would be good for making patio pavers. Wire reinforcing was used in our pavers to increase the strength.
The projects range from simple small pots to larger projects. I'm sure David is dreading my showing him one of these projects. For now I am content to make a few more pots in the same mould before moving on to some authentic looking rectangular troughs. When they age they look just like the real thing. I will let them sit over the winter before planting next spring. Ready to have a go? Today is also the last day to sign up for a chance to win this book. You can do so here. But hurry, the contest finishes tomorrow October 21st.
And if you haven't already signed up with me and my gardening friends, for the opportunity to win a gift certificate from 8 of our local nurseries, then do so now. Just visit each the blogs of each one of participating bloggers and comment on their post too. Mine is here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


What better time to celebrate Native Plant Week in Texas. Now is the time gardeners are thinking about replacing and adding plants to their fall garden. After such a devastating hot, dry summer natives rule the roost.

Each day 5 natives plants and trees have been chosen and today my namesake rock rose, Pavonia lasiopetala, is one of the chosen. I think the original plant in my garden came from a seed. Since then it has appeared each year in various parts of the garden. It blooms all summer and like many, comes into full glory in the fall. Pretty pink flowers open every day. The foliage is always green, seemingly no bugs or diseases. Carefree as you come.

My garden lends itself towards plants seeding themselves, so most of the time they just appear. I don't do anything nor can take credit for much of this. I do pull seeds and scatter them in other places because nature doesn't always put them in the right place.

Where deer are constant visitors the Lindheimer senna, blackfoot daisy, Melampodium leucanthum, damianita, Damianita chrysactinia, dahlberg daisy, Thymophylla tenuiloba, lantana, copper canyon daisy, Tagetes limonii, fragrant mistflower, Eupatorium havanense, bluebonnets, Lupinus texensis, daisy fleabane, Erigeron annus, Texas sage, Leucophyllum frutescens, rain lilies, Zephyranthes drummondii,   and Salvia leucantha provide color among cactus, agaves, yaupons, vitex, persimmon and oaks.

I am fortunate to be able to garden deer free in many parts of my garden but even here I use a lot of natives in among other adapted plants.

The smaller plants, like daisy fleabane and skull caps make a perfect addition to the sunken rock garden because they remain small and manageable. Even so I they too may need a cut back mid-way through the summer. They will respond by producing a new flush of leaves and flowers.

The purple skull cap, Scutellaria wrightii, is one of my favorites and cross breeding has resulted in several shades of purple and mixtures of purple and white.

Four nerve daisy, Tetraneuris scaposa, is a prolific re-seeder. This one is growing out of a hole in a rock. Quite happily.

Pass along plants, like this flame acanthus, Anisacanthus wrightii, from my friend Bob at Draco gardens, is a winner with the hummingbirds and creates a mass of delicate foliage and flowers by fall. I cut it back hard in the spring to encourage bushiness.

Although the major blooming time for damianita, Chrysactinia mexicana, is spring, a few flowers appear in the fall. Very tolerant of drought conditions and also deer resistant due to its highly aromatic foliage.

Zexmenia, Zexmenia hispida, also deer resistant can be trimmed back to maintain a neat appearance. Even cutting back to the ground doesn't faze this plant.

The little chocolate daisy, Berlandiera lyrata. Why doesn't it reseed? I really wish it would because it is not easy to find.

This year the Salvia leucantha suffered from the lack of rain and relentless heat. It maybe too late for the hummers but is not too late for gardeners to enjoy.
Think native when you go to the nursery this fall. All of our local independent nurseries carry a good selection of plants and seeds to make your garden a native garden.