Monday, April 30, 2012


There is no better time. The sun is just peaking over the tree tops ready to flood the garden.

The plants are refreshed from the cool of the night.

Can it really be that this will all go away by 2pm when the temperature soars into the 90s. Yes, but it will be back again for a few hours the next day.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


The royal tiara is out again today, but this time to celebrate the 1st anniversary of the Duke and Duchesse of Cambridge.
BBC America reminded me by showing the Royal Wedding again this afternoon. After a morning in the garden followed by a 5 mile walk I was ready to flop into a chair and do nothing. Nothing, that is, except shed the odd tear listening to the choral music in Westminster Abbey and the Pomp and Circumstance of the whole thing.  Play me a bit of Elgar and I am well away.  
Call me an old softy but I enjoyed it all again.
Happy Anniversary William and Kate.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


The first daylily bloomed today. I spotted it from the kitchen window, noticing a deep burgundy patch among the other plants.

Yes, I planted the daylily ten years ago but look what the birds did. They thought that the seed heads of the nigella, love-in-a-mist would look perfect alongside the lily and they were right. Have you noticed how so much of this accidental design goes on in the garden.
Of course many times it doesn't quite work out that well.

This Verbena bonariensis. So beautiful this year and there is no way I will ever pull it out even though we have to swat it aside every time we walk down the path. Which is often.

Then a Texas persimmon, Diospyros texana, behind the potting shed. For a while I thought it was a yaupon as the mocking bird is always dropping seeds from the parapets above the house.

Then last year I noticed those furry little fruits developing and realized the true identity. This year it is loaded with fruits. I really could have done with this tree somewhere else where it would have room to attain its full height. It may end up being another one of my espaliers.

Like this little yaupon I am training outside the greenhouse.

I love the retama but this is not the place for it. I know I cut it back down to the ground last year but here it is again. I know I will never get the root out. It is about to bloom so I will just leave if for now to waft around in the breeze.

Sometimes it gets really out of hand, as this patch of bare ground in the vegetable garden. Not for long though because I bought my first tank and this is where it is going to go!

Thursday, April 26, 2012


The weather;  heat, lack of rain, caterpillars eating everything are driving me to think about giving up gardening! And then this.

I had seen this poppy shoot up between the salvias. It opened this week to a beautiful purple. The good thing is that all the pinks are gone so if I save the seeds they should be purple. I think I will have a change next year.
It really doesn't take much. However, I am thinking about changing the planting. This is madness trying to keep anything watered with drip irrigation.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


A family of Eastern Phoebes, Sayornis phoebe, joined us and entertained us at dinner tonight.

It was a great reward for the garden having produced the largest number of moths in all the years I have been a gardener. A family of four fly catchers entranced us with their aerobatic antics. Swooping through the air with great agility like WW2 spitfires. Coming to rest on the tomato cages.

The show went on long enough for David to go inside and get the camera and provide me with a nice shot of a perching bird. As we came inside the house David told me this was one reason why we can never leave here. I guess there is no retirement for a gardener!

Monday, April 23, 2012


I used the word 'wow'  more than normal yesterday. Well, who wouldn't. We just had two wonderfully clear days with dry air and what more perfect conditions for all my cactus to bloom in concert.

First, the clump growing in front of the dry creek, outside the walls. This is the largest of the lace cactus, Echinocereus reichenbachii.

Then the one I picked up at the garage sale. This one has rather pale papery blooms.

Now, one within the walls, which I can see through the dining room window.

The large potted mammilaria which has been blooming non-stop for weeks. There are even more flowers in bud between the tubercles.

Finally, my second garage sale find. This one unknown. I saw one in flower last week at BSN but no-one seemed to know its name.

I think this one will still be blooming tomorrow because the petals are much sturdier.

Finally, a tiara-clad cactus waiting in the wings. Last year this cactus bloomed  in time for the royal wedding at the end of April.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Remember what this area looked like a few weeks ago. Ah! What a pretty sight but oh what a mess those bluebonnets leave behind leave behind with spent foliage and dried petals.

It took two days of work to clean out the plants before they threw their seed. I gathered them all up and took them to areas where I would be much happier to see them bloom and it will be much less work for me.

Then I had to use the blower to blow out all the leaves from the overhanging live oak tree and collect them up. I am happy to see the rocks and pebbles again. There are a few plants still remaining; others that have seeded themselves like Mexican feather grass, zexmenia and lantana.

Maybe just the odd bluebonnet here and there next year. Maybe time to add a few more agaves and succulents.

Friday, April 20, 2012


When I first started gardening, in a rental house, 44 years ago I had a row of petunias under the front window and a patch of tomatoes in the back garden. I still remember the thrill of the first tomatoes appearing on the plant. I would go out and count them every day. Almost every year since then I have grown tomatoes and I still feel the thrill when the first fruit begins to set.

I was delighted to receive this book from Timberpress for review. Jennifer Bartley has written a book that will delight both seasoned and first time gardeners, cooks and garden designers alike.
When we garden we garden within the seasons, whether it be flowers or edibles and that is the way Jennifer has laid out her book. From Spring through to winter each section highlights those seasonable vegetables, fruits and herbs and brings them together with wonderfully simple recipes. No table is complete without a centerpiece of garden branches or flowers which proclaim the season. Jennifer includes ideas for designing potagers and flower beds which incorporate both decorative and edible plants. Finally we cannot move from one season to another without preparing for the next. The author provides us with a list of chores. A new season is on the way.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


This is how the ground looks outside my garden walls.

Other parts of Texas may have been fortunate to receive rainfall in the last month or so but here none has fallen. It seems we are to have another droughty year.

And yet, even in this inhospitable environment of thin, dry soils and rock plants manage to survive. I have not identified this ground hugging, silvery foliaged plant but en masse it makes for an attractive ground cover. I think it might like a place in my own rock gardens.

A few stands of prickly pear, Opuntia ( unknown species)

and a newly identified wildflower which I believe to be Colorado Venus's Looking Glass, Triodanis coloradoensis. If I am correct then this flower, of the bluebell family,  is endemic to the Hill Country.

I have many wine-cups of the trailing variety, Calliroe involucrata, so it was exciting to find the standing wine-cup, Callirhoe digitata, also enjoying this harsh environment.
I find great reward in finding new plants in the wild.

Monday, April 16, 2012


I noticed today my prickly pears, Opuntia, are starting to bloom.

Vicious as this plant may be if you happen to brush up against any of its spines or glochids, the flowers are spectacular. Some have a more orange throat.....

 and some are pure yellow.

Either way bees and beetles are not afraid to enter the flower and bury themselves among the pollen-bearing stamens.

But all is not well. On the same plant I notice shriveled flowers. At first I thought it must be caused by the lack of rainfall. Then I notice a plumply normal flower among the shriveled. The pads seem healthy enough. Is this some disease? I can find nothing on the internet about such a problem. Any ideas?

Saturday, April 14, 2012


It finally got to me. Yes, I could no longer stand the plants in the pathways. Tired of doing my "Ministry of Silly Walks" walk. Long strides over bluebonnets and swatting aside the Verbena. Sprawling blanket flowers everywhere. They all came out.

Well, most of them.

I left this Verbena bonariensis, so loved by all the butterflies.

and this native mullein, as long as its leaves look attractive.

I then turned my attention to a corner of the upper level of the sunken garden. Three large columbines were looking decidedly sick from lack of water. When in doubt add another rock! This one was no mean size, being rather like an iceberg. This is a favorite spot for plants as the area escapes the blasting afternoon sun. I had a couple of Festuca glauca which I grew from seed and a Gomphrena globosa x fireworks. A couple of narrow leaf zinnias should finish off the spot.
I also took out a lot of plants in the sunken garden. Poppies galore this year.

A good tidy up can certainly make you feel a lot better. Now, please send us some rain.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


When I came home this afternoon and checked my email there was an email and photo from David. "Good News" was the title. I might have gone so far as to say Very Good News!

I picked D up from the airport this morning after his overnight flight from Buenas Aires. No sooner home than out in the garden looking for jobs! As he glanced up at the owl house he spotted the new resident. So the earlier ant invasion, that David took care of, did not deter him. I don't think there are any leaves in there for a soft nest but you never know, maybe it is just more than a daytime roost.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


If you are a lover of wild flowers, and let's face it if you live in Texas then you most certainly are, you will understand why I stopped to get a few shots of this scene. I wasn't even out looking for wildflowers.

In fact, I was on my way up to Dallas for Easter and as usual I left Interstate 35 at Elm Mott turning onto the old Dallas road. Enough of that madness on the highway, I would rather drive 50 miles on peaceful country roads, joining the Highway just north of Hillsboro. It breaks the journey and makes the 3+hr drive more tolerable.

There were pleasant roadside scenes of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush; lots of pink evening primroses and then wow, a stand of penstemons, Penstemon cobaea. It isn't called showy beardtongue for nothing.

But I didn't stop because I was several hundred yards up the road before I realized what I had seen and there was no convenient place  to turnaround. I thought I would stop on the way home, which I did. I had my camera at the ready on the front seat and when I reached the spot there they were looking as wonderful as they had on Friday afternoon.

 It is no secret that my favorite flower is the foxglove and this is our native Texas foxglove. Believe it or not I don't have any in my garden. It is rare to find the plant in the nursery.
The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center plant sale is coming up next weekend and just maybe I will be lucky enough to find a plant there.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Wishing all my readers a Happy Easter.

Friday, April 6, 2012


Is anyone else getting worried about what kind of summer we are going to have? Could it possibly be worse than last summer? Most would think we were having summer already. The mercury hit 90° yesterday and another week in the 80s is promised. That and no rain.
The weather man tricked me into cleaning the driveway earlier this week. I wasn't about to let it rain on all those live oak leaves and flowers. But it was the caterpillar poop that really had me worried.

The oak leaf rollers seem to arrive without my even noticing this year. Within the space of a week the old leaves fell the new leaves came and with it the oak leaf rollers. Once or twice I walked in the house and felt that tickle on my neck!

But they were there and so was their poop. This is some of the poop I collected from the driveway. Only a gardener would collect it up and use it under her roses.
I'm glad the job was done, even though that rain never came.