Saturday, March 30, 2013


From far away our grandchildren hunt for easter eggs in my garden. How many do you see among the claret cup cactus?

Happy Easter from Texas.

And here is where the 16 were hiding.

Friday, March 29, 2013


When D told me he wanted to paint the gate last year I had to tell him "After it has flowered"

I said those very same words a few years ago when he said we should remove the cross vine, Bignonia capreolata, from the greenhouse roof.

At the same time I am removing this vine from the gate I will be removing it from the greenhouse roof.

And from the Yaupon holly growing next to the gate. This is one big vine but it can be held in check.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Texas may not be having its best wildflower season this year because of drought, but where plants receive a little extra water its business as usual.

It is bluebonnet time and there is no parking in the granite parking area during spring.

Amsonia ciliata, var Texana, sometimes called bluestar

Blackfoot daisy, Melampodium leucanthum, Chocolate flower, Berlandiera lyrata. Love my chocolate in the mornings.

Columbine Aquilegia chrysantha var. Hinckleyana. Visitors include the sphinx moth.

Blanket flower, Gaillardia pulchella.

Damianita Chrysactinia mexicana.
It is a special time for us all as winter sheds her cloak and the fields and roadsides begin to bloom with native species. Do you invite native species into your garden?

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Just when I thought it was safe to get everything out of the greenhouse I discover it wasn't. A strong cold front with blustery, unfriendly winds will drop our temperatures into the low 30s tonight. The forecast is for 34° but like as not, in my garden, there will be a frost. Preparations have been made.

The wind has already knocked down my pretty heirloom narcissus 'cheerfulness'. I moved the bulbs from under the yaupon tree where they had not bloomed for 2 years. Now, they have more light and were rewarding me with blooms. I would prefer to see them in the garden but their musky fragrance is welcome in the house too. I think I love these ones above all the others.

When the blooms on the grocery store primroses faded several weeks ago, I put the plants out in the garden in morning sun. Now they have started to bloom again. I wonder if there is any chance of their survival to next year. Probably not, but this second blooming is a bonus I was not expecting.

I have spent most of the day in the potting shed and greenhouse. Both were in a terrible state. Passing from one to the other I enjoyed the cross vine which now covers the whole of the greenhouse roof. I will have to cut it back this year because when out of flower it is not the most attractive and if left will likely bring down the roof. Pruning this vine is a regular occurrence.

All my tender plants are in the house or up against the house. I am hoping the wind will drop before it goes dark so that I can go out and cover the peas, tomatoes and succulents. Now it's tea time!

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Our two wheelbarrows have seen a lot of service. Their trays have worn so thin that they are full of holes. When I saw someone was selling one at a garage sale I was determined to be over there at 8am. And I was.

The wheelbarrow turned out to be a disappointment because it was a small one. However  it works for me as I can't haul the weight of material I once could. But I really got excited when I saw the rain barrel. It was pretty grubby but the price was right.

This gardener can never have enough clay pots and saucers.

Total cost for all items $10. Now that's what I call a bargain.

The barrel comes with a screened cover although the overflow pipe and hose are missing.

We will have to do a little work on the rainbarrel. I'm not very happy with the size of the drain hole and will need to make it larger to install a proper tap.

I also rescued this little potted succulent. I had a feeling that no one would buy it so I took it home. I need to repot it in one of the clay pots!
The plant has now been identified as Rhipsalis grandiflora, thanks to Gwennie and Gwennies garden.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


It is worth the once a year show. The claret cup cactus, Echinocereus coccineus, has a bloom that shines like a ruby jewel in the garden.

Unlike many delicate petaled cactus flowers, this one last several days. The first ones to bloom are in the sunken garden but this year the big show will be in the front courtyard. I counted no less than 20 buds. I can't wait for the show.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


March certainly came in like a lion this year. It roared in with temperatures, in the 80s, strong buffeting winds and hit a record high of 90° yesterday.

Our poor spring flowers, like these Tulipa clusiana 'Lady Jane', with their delicate petals, do not last long under such conditions.

Petals need to be tough, like those of the Blackfoot daisy, Melampodium leucanthum.

But it isn't just tough for the flowers. The Swallowtail caterpillars are having a tough time too. Two days ago I counted 10 tiny caterpillars on a parsley plant. Today when I looked I couldn't find any. Then on closer examination, this.

A fire ant in the act of devouring one of my babies. I quickly went over to look at the bronze fennel plant where I knew there were two caterpillars getting ready to pupate. To my horror, this.

A stink bug devouring this caterpillar. Too late to help him but at least I may have saved the other one.

Later in the day I had to rescue a blackswallowtail butterfly from the greenhouse! The things a gardener has to do.

Friday, March 15, 2013


It is the most amazing March bloom day.

Our mild winter and wonderfully warm days have brought an early spring to Austin. After a very dry winter an inch of rain fell last week and the plants responded with immediate growth. So much is blooming.

it is a special year when the pink jasmine, Jasminum polyanthum, flowers. Frequently zapped by frost but not this year. It is planted in a sheltered south corner of the house.


A lone freesia planted many years ago.

Gazanias from last year.

Native blue gilia, Gilia rigidula. See how it adores the inhospitable limey soils.

The cross vine, Bignonia capreolata, on the gate.

Indian hawthorne, Raphiolepis indica.

Blackfoot daisy, Melampodium leucanthum.

Wright's purple skullcap, Scutellaria wrightii.

Blanket flowers, Gaillardia pulchella, in the path.

Clusters of sweet alyssum, Lobularia maritima. Watch out for the harlequin bug!

Trusses of Lady Banks' rose, Rosa banksia 'lutea'.

Closed for the evening, Tulipa clusiana, Lady Jane. See the flower buds on the Claret cup cactus? Can't wait for that showing.
What's blooming in your garden this March? You can join many of your fellow gardeners at Maydreams gardens. Thanks, Carol, for hosting.

Monday, March 11, 2013


If it were not for the fact that the top of the dry-stone retaining wall is almost at eye level I might have missed these tiny star-shaped flowers, with their speckled pink petals and stamens with cerise anthers.

This is the flower of the Graptopetalum, more commonly known as ghost plant, for its pale ghost-like leaves. A native to Mexico and a lover of limey soils it seems to have found a perfect home where very little else will grow.

Not quite as showy but equally small and easy to miss the flowers of the leopard lily, Ledebouria socialis. This one is planted in a pot so when I moved it today I noticed the string of tiny flowers. Both these plants are known more for their striking foliage than their flowers: the ghost plant with its fat grey leaves and the leopard lily with its silver and green mottled leaves. But their flowers deserve the spotlight too, especially as they bloom early in the season.

And once again another plant known more for its chartreuse bracts than its flowers,  gopher plant, Euphorbia rigida. Stop and take a look at the center of those yellow bracts to see the beautiful little flower. Let's hear it for the March little guys.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Last summer we purchased a 4'x2' stock tank to make into a water feature. I had the perfect place for it in the potager. I decided to wait until the spring to plant it as we were going to be traveling throughout the summer.

A couple of weeks ago, when there was a threat of rain, D took the tank out of the garden and placed it under the fall pipe from our gutters. Because we have enclosed gardens it was necessary to pipe the water out of the garden and the pipe comes out about 20' from the wall. The water drains down into the  wet weather creek below our property.  If you missed my posting about the result of the drizzle we received that day you can read about it here. When we looked inside the tank we were amazed. Full from less than 1/10". Let's get another tank and join them together".

This time we got a 5'X2' which just fits into our truck. D placed the larger tank under the fall pipe joining the two tanks together through their drain holes. Now we can collect 500 gallons!
OK, we need somewhere in the potager to store some of this water. We have the perfect place for a couple of rain barrels. These are the nicest ones we have seen: made here in Austin and on stands and for sale at the Natural Gardener. They were expensive at $299. They hold 55 gallons each.

Next D purchased a 1/3hp submersible pump for $60, suitable for pumping up to 25' in height, and we bought a new tank for my water garden, which I hope to plant in the coming weeks. Now we wait for the rain. Friday there was a promise of some drizzle. It didn't seem much but there was a steady stream out of the pipe and we collected over 500 gallons. I say this because I was busy bucketing it out so that it didn't overflow. I must have bucketed 50gallons. Later in the day I told D we must get all that water out because tomorrow it is really going to rain and I want every drop!

With the pump in place we began pumping over the wall into the new rain barrels.

Then into my empty water feature tank and a garbage can and every bucket we had!

For your information in Texas there is no sales tax on water collection systems including tanks. We discovered this when we were buying the rain barrels. After some phone calls and searching we came up with the necessary paperwork to take along to the store. If you decide to do this make sure you take the paperwork along. Callahans knew nothing about it and I doubt any other stores which sell tanks do. The form you need is 01-339 page 2. On the reason for the exemption write in for rainwater harvesting.
One reader posted on my previous blog with a link to the U tube video she made about her solar  water collection system. It is a very informative video and well worth watching if you are thinking of setting up a system.
OK rain, do your stuff!