Wednesday, November 30, 2011


We had our third freeze of the winter earlier this week. It came with a howling cold wind. As the wind blew it froze the water on the bird bath into a raised solid lump of ice on the right hand side.

With little moisture in the air there was just a light dusting on the plants.

It was enough the kill off more flowering annuals. Those that had survived the last frost, being in a more favored location.

This year, thanks to reading about this little gadget on Ally's blog, I am hoping that I will be able to keep a better handle on the temperature in the greenhouse. Ally has a very sophisticated set up in her green house. I am just happy to have the greenhouse as a winter house and place to start seeds in the spring. It then spends the rest of the summer empty.

I have never been happy with the way this heater switches on and off. It would still be blasting away when the temperature in the greenhouse was like a summer's day. Hopefully the thermo cube will keep it in check. It is purported to turn the power on when the temperature gets to 35 F  and off again when it reaches 45 F. We shall see.

The second method of keeping things warm in there is passive solar. I collect all the wine bottles and milk bottle and fill them up with water. They give back their heat during the night. Wine bottles are the best as the water gets quite warm in there.

A few succulents are in the house, probably for the winter. They are positioned here and there in south facing areas. This little succulent, which I purchased two years ago in California seems to prefer this indoor climate. Outside all summer it just wasn't happy. With few blooms left in the garden I am delighted to see it blooming.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Tonight we will have a hard freeze. No more mucking about with covers.

Except, that is, for the large A. desmettiana in the raised bed by the side entry. I am seriously hoping that it will make it through the night because if it does my plan will be to remove it for the winter. I do this with all the smaller desmets. because they will not survive a winter in this part of town. Small ones are pretty easy to remove. This one has only been in the ground since the spring, having spent its whole life in a pot, so I am hoping it will not be too much of a fight.

You may wonder why I bother. Only because it happens to be one of my favorite agaves and such a 'pupper'.

These two in the greenhouse were pulled from their summer place and potted up in a loose soil for the winter. I never had thought of putting one in a hanging basket before but this one I picked up at a garage sale for a dollar. I was really thinking more about the coir insert than the basket.

The lemons are now in the potting shed. There will be no more potting this winter. There is barely room to move.

I'll just be popping in there to pick the odd lemon as they fully ripen.

The time has come to bid farewell to the little zinnias along the path.

and the gomphrena, sheltered by the wall of one of the vegetable beds. I fear they will not be with us by morning.
Are you and your plants tucked in well for the night?

Friday, November 25, 2011


Do you count things in the garden? I do, and today was the day to count the lemons.

I have four lemon trees, all in pots. They are improved Meyer lemons and I can tell you that you will never want to buy a grocery store lemon ever again once you have tasted the Meyer. Thin skinned and wonderfully fragrant, no bitterness.
They spend the frost free months against the house on a south facing wall. They are watered separately from other plants in the garden using a battery powered timer and drip irrigation. During our long absences, this terrible summer, this watering system did the job of keeping the plants healthy.

I have to go to some lengths to maintain the trees because they must find a place sheltered from frost over the winter. At one time, I would keep them in the house and enjoy their fragrant winter blooms, but when travel takes us away during winter months they have to find a home in the potting shed, greenhouse or garage. The lemon tree in the foreground was left out two winters ago and when the temperatures dropped into the low teens I was sure it was lost. However, when spring arrived the tree started to grow new leaves. It did not bear fruit that year but this year the lemon count is 27. This convinced me that I must protect during the winter. The trees will be too set back to produce if I leave them outside.
The prize for the most lemons goes to the tree at the back; total count 38. The total count for all four trees is 106. Hm!! let me see what shall I do with them...........

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


On this Thanksgiving Day I am thankful for my gardening friends whom I have met throughout the years, my recent garden blogging friends near and afar and all those who have visited my garden blog.

                                                         HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I have decided to rename my kitchen garden. I'm going to call it the potager.

Surely this French word for kitchen garden has to have been derived from potage, meaning soup. Lots of things for the pot in my garden and also quite a potage of other things too.

As summer turns to fall there is much work to do to prepare for the winter potager. We have an excellent winter growing season here in central Texas and green crops are already well on the way. But it wasn't always like this. There was lots of work to do before I could even begin to grow vegetables.

First came laying the pipework for a drain which would be located in the center of the garden.

With that done we then built a short retaining wall along the back edge of the garden. We already knew we would have to build raised beds because this area had been filled with rubble. This was my way of laying out how the beds would go. Once again several angles to contend with. I finally settled on seven 4'x4' square beds and four 4'x8' beds, which David built for me.

Looking towards the house I decided it would be better to create a paved area which we did with pavers that David made by hand. If you look closely you can see the original 3 he made as a trial. He went on to make over 180.

But there are more than vegetables growing here.

In this area I grow herbs. Some edible some more decorative like this santolina and Dittany of Crete.

A wayward mullein which will be allowed to remain until it flowers.

All kinds of plants soften the paving. Alyssum, chives, blanket flowers, feather grass, Mexican marigold mint, verbena, cosmos. If it looks good it gets to stay.

In the winter beds I am growing, pak choi, sugar peas, radish, mustard, lettuce, broccoli, Napa cabbage, garlic. Two beds are planted with a cover crop of Austrian peas. Among the pavers and in the gravel are California poppies, blanket flowers, cornflowers, cilantro, dahlberg daisy. Yes, it's a veritable potage.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Picked the first of the new winter crops last evening. Baby Pak Choi.

 I also picked the first new parsley, chives and cilantro. Had to rustle together a quick meal after our drive back from Dallas.  A ham, cheese and herb omelet to go with the garlic, sauteed pak choi. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011


 she didn't live in a shoe ..... but she had so many seedlings she didn't know what to do.

Just look at this lot. There are blackfoot daisies, dahlberg daisies, blanket flowers and purple skullcaps. In the sunken garden the recent rain brought forth a 'spectacle' of seedlings. That's my new collective noun for describing what would happen if I allowed all these to flower. One year I had bluebonnets packed in so tightly between the pavers that it became impossible to walk in there. I ended up pulling out so many I felt guilty. So I have to make a decision on who will stay and who will go and this is SO hard for me to do. I will say though that I have given the good guys a little breathing room and that is because there was also a 'sneak' of weeds among them which I had no qualms about removing.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


There are always a few lucky plants who get to spend the winter inside the house. Partly because the extra greenery is nice to have inside and partly because both potting shed and greenhouse will be full up again this year. Most of the ones which come inside will not require any water over the winter. If we are away for a period of time then plants which require more water will go in the potting shed where the humidity levels are higher.

Close inspection of plants is a necessity. After all, there are probably hitch hikers down there among the leaves. It's not unusual for me to bring lizards into the house. I was carrying in a sanseverai last year and as I walked down the hallway to the place where it was going to spend the winter I discovered an anole pressed up against the long leaves. I did a quick turnaround. Yesterday while moving this aloe plant a few feet out popped another anole. Such darling little critters. He must have just molted becasue you can see the old skin on his tail.

I brought some cactus inside but had to find new trays for them because on two of them the preying mantis had laid its egg case. I don't want a repeat of trying to catch all the little mantids as happened one year when the mantis laid its eggs on one of the branches on the lemon tree.
Make sure you check out your plants for hitch hikers.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Sometimes a landscaper doesn't quite get it right. I came across this landscaping in a commercial area just south of the river. Compare this with this mornings foliage follow up by Pam, Digging.

Striking columnar planters and in the right setting they would be an eye catcher but what went wrong here? I see they have placed a spotlight on the feature, planted it with agaves and then walked away and forgotten about it.

The second mistake was surrounding the feature with grass. Oh, yes, they water and mow the grass but forget about the succulents.

Looks like the plants in this shorted column are faring a little better.

Maybe they should have planted the column with these!

 I really like these metal agaves and cactus, but they do have to be in the right setting.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Happy Bloom Day, everyone. Please join Carol of Maydreams Gardens in celebration of November Bloom Day.
Nothing really new blooming in my garden this middle of November, but something interesting. At first glance it may look a little like the Holly and the Ivy, but in fact it is the pyracantha and the chile pequin.

This variegated chile pequin showed up this year and I really like it. Variegation is caused by the inability of the merstem tissue to produce chloroblasts. The tissue is unable to make chlorophyl resulting in the light colored tissue.  Chiles grow all over the garden because the mocking bird drops the seeds from his perches high up on the walls. To maintain this plant I might have to take cuttings. I think it's worth a try to keep this one going.

The espaliered pyracantha has scaled the kitchen wall as far as it is allowed to go.

When we see the branches through the high windows we know it is time to get out the ladder and do some trimming.
This year the plant has been particularly fruitful, much to the mocking bird's delight. We'll see whether he permits the cedar wax wings to feast there in the spring.

Monday, November 14, 2011


So here I am after a full day outside. Walked 5 miles, worked outside until I was dropping, showered then set to work on the pomegranates.

I need a little entertainment while I work and today it was listening to an episode of Gardners' Question Time on BBC Radio 4.  I can't begin to tell you how much I learn listening to this show.

Recently I learnt that all those nitrogen fixing nodules on the roots of legumes are almost completely depleted after flowering. So when I strip my bluebonnet nodules off, after flowering, and turn them into the soil there is little nitrogen left. I have to do it before flowering. As though I would do that! But, I am growing a cover crop of Austrian peas, in two of my veggy. beds,  this year and I will be digging them in.

I learnt that the reason one clump of narcissus failed to bloom last year is because they are getting far too much shade now, underneath the yaupon holly. So I dug them up and replanted in sunnier locations. There were 39!!

Earthworms don't like to be disturbed so don't be turning over the bed each time.

So the show I listened to today was from the village of Walsham le Willows in Surrey. I think you would find the show interesting and highly entertaining and available as a podcast.
At the very end, as I removed the arils from another pomegranate, I learnt that it was unlikely to be the  the apple which tempted Eve. More than likely it was the pomegranate. Who wouldn't be tempted by those plump little beauties

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Just when you think it will last forever summer is over in a flash. Jack Frost pays your garden a visit and takes away with him much of your lingering color.

We have had two freezes in the last two weeks. The first one dipped into the 20s.  It was just for a few hours but what a difference those few hours made. Gone are the tithonia, gomphrena, most of the zinnias. The garden is taking on her winter cloak. A sudden bareness.

Yesterday, in a more sheltered, shady spot by the front entry gate, it was time to deal with the mountain of potted pothos that had grown during the summer, trailing and rooting alongside the wall. After taking a few cuttings, to root in a glass jar, I sat down and began a serious cutback. I was just pointing out to a visitor last week that I never sit on this bench. I was wrong.

It was the perfect place to sit and do the job. I also trimmed the tips of the A. demettiana, which will go inside for the winter. I'm not the one who has to carry this inside and I'm very cognizant of things that could cause eye damage these days.

Then I turned my attention to the sunken garden pulling out the faded zinnias and the masses of gomphrena.

What lies beneath would make a good title for a posting. So many things come to light after removing the summer planting. This ice plant can now enjoy the spotlight.

Billowing mounds of alyssum need to be cut back so that they will once again take on a more compact form.

It isn't easy to cut back flowering plants but I am thinking now of spring. I want my alyssum to look like this one which was cut back to nothing several weeks ago. Although I love the deep purple one I have all shades from purple down to white. It is another of my reliable re-seeders. The bees love it and it perfumes the air with its sweet honey fragrance.

While crouching down removing errant seedlings and weeds I noticed that the blue gilia, Gilia rigidula, is once again in flower. I have never seen this plant in a nursery and I don't know why because though a delicate looking and diminutive plant it is as tough as nails. Several plants on the chalky hillside have gone without water all summer and although not blooming like this one are starting to leaf out again. It seems to seed readily although I have yet to see the seeds. This one is growing by the rock in the center of the sunken garden. The soil is poor and dry and the constant shedding of the surface of the stone makes for a very alkaline soil.

I am certainly going to try to propagate this little beauty.