Sunday, April 28, 2013


 This week saw the start of the annual seriously good pruning and cutting back days. There will be many more to follow.

This is the walkway down towards the gate at the end of the vegetable garden. Yes, that's mint on the left and the trim back comes at least 3 times a year. For now I was more concerned with getting out the trailing wine cup. It had totally obliterated the path and required a hop, skip and a jump to pass by. It had woven its way up through the seat of the new bench I purchased this year and would soon be in my 'highly successful this year' hayrack planter on the wall. The felt lining did the trick.

This is a hot spot on the wall of the potting shed, facing west and there is no way that even succulents would tolerate such a blast furnace. Soon these plants will have served their time and I will have to think of their replacements. The feather grass, dahlberg daisy and alyssum will stay and likely I will put in some zinnias. For now there are still the stocks to bloom.

This is the pathway alongside the citrus pots. Once the feather grass, mealy blue sage and California poppies were removed I could now reach the far end of the square beds. Three buckets for the compost pile.

This morning I turned my attention to the beds themselves.

Two rows of gone-to-seed arugula. I thought they looked rather pretty with their back drop of blanket flowers until I spotted a harlequin bug on them. Then I pulled them out. I do not want to face an attack of those bugs this year. I also finally removed the gone-to-seed cilantro, carefully removing the remaining lady bugs and relocating them to an aphid colony on the top of the chocolate chip mangave. Apparently they don't like those dizzying heights and have left. Will have to dunk the top in some insecticidal soap.

Friday, April 26, 2013


I just couldn't wait to see if there were any potatoes down there. I'll just scratch the soil away from the plant that had flowered. Yes! I'm adding a few to the day's harvest for tonight's dinner.

So here's what will accompany the pork chops. Roasted beets dressed with Meyer lemon olive oil and white grapefruit balsamic vinegar over sauteed beet tops. Fresh sugar snap peas.

If you grow peas and you haven't grown Pisum sativum, Cascadia, then plan to put them on the list next year. These peas can be eaten at all stages; even when the pod gets fat with peas you can eat them pod and all. They are great for dips with hummus, stuffed, steamed chopped up in Italian dishes or curries. Then if at the end of the season if you have just eaten too many then save and dry the peas for next year. They are open pollinated so breed true.
But the part I'm looking forward to is those buttery yellow potatoes. There is just no comparison with grocery store spuds. They aren't quite as good as Jersey new potatoes but next best.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Today the ladies from Shady Hollow Garden club came to visit. They were supposed to come two weeks ago but we had to cancel because of rain. This time the weather was more cooperative, although you can see from their clothes that it was pretty chilly. I warned them early on, "dress for 38°" because that was the wind chill at 8am this morning.

With a strong north wind blowing on the driveway we were all anxious to get inside the walls, although even high walls don't protect much from this kind of gusty wind. Where was my camera all this time? Hung around my neck, as usual. How many photos did I take? Just two.

By the time they reached the vegetable garden I remembered and took one more. It was in this garden when someone noticed this anole. OK, we have lots of them running around but this one is different.

He is inside the house. He wasn't going to find much to eat in there. With the help of a washing up bowl we managed to get him to the outside.
All these ladies are hands on gardeners and also into crafting things for the garden. There was talk about making hypertufa pots and spheres and look at this.

Anne had made this wonderful jewel studded ball from a bowling ball. Just what I needed to brighten up a corner of my garden. I am not sure of its permanent home yet but for now it is among the greenery on the patio. It is so heavy that there is no way the night visitors will knock it over like the little mouse at the foot. I often find it upside down in the morning.
Thank you ladies. David and I really enjoyed your visit.

Monday, April 22, 2013


We sat out in our favorite lunch spot today. I had spent 4 hours outside doing a bit of this and that  and we both ended up pulling out this terrible European thistle from areas outside the garden. Will it do any good? Maybe not but I feel better seeing it gone. We both deserved to sit down for a nice lunch break.

First the hummingbird came to the red salvia and the Texas betony and then I noticed a butterfly flitting around. You know how it goes? I'll get the camera and stay here a while and hope to get a good photo of both these visitors. It took time but finally I identified the butterfly as a common buckeye, Junonia coenica. He spent over half an hour flitting from one blackfoot daisy to another and I watched and snapped until finally I got a reasonably good shot.
Now the temperature is in the 80s. Gone is that morning coolness I enjoyed working in the sunken garden.

It is time to go inside.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


This is how the weekend began. On Friday afternoon we sat  outside under the umbrella in the front garden.

It was warm and still and the fragrance of the Confederate jasmine, which is on the trellis by the front door, filled the air.

It was one of those perfect evenings. we should do this more often.

With two of our young grandchildren in town for the weekend we thought it the perfect opportunity to take them along to the East Austin Garden Fair sponsored by Texas AgriLife Extensionservice. It was a chilly Saturday morning but the sun was shining brightly.


Our first stop was to visit the chickens, brought in by fellow garden blogger and Master Gardener Ally, from Gardenally Who knew that chickens like raisins, although it was much easier just to drop them into the cage than risk a pecked finger.

Then the children learnt why the eggs have a different color and what kind of house they live in.

Next stop was at the bee hive. Not too sure about this.

Until under the safety of a bee keeper's hat.

And learning how bees are calmed with smoke.

Time to visit the craft table and make a bug house.

I visited with Vicki from Playinoutside, who was there demonstrating the rain water harvesting and this little butterfly water station she made. I think this is next on my project list.

Then, because we were in the neighborhood we stopped in at East Austin Succulents.

I had not been there for a long time and couldn't believe their selection. You had better know what you are looking for or you may be in serious trouble.

And of course I didn't go with a purchase in mind so I left empty handed... this time!

We rounded out a busy day with a visit to the Salt Lick to celebrate our son's birthday. I hope I have the energy to work in the garden on Sunday.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


The cold front blew in last night bringing rain and chilly temperatures. I knew it wasn't going to be a day to spend in the garden but I needed to go out to pick peas, parsley and lemons. Snails were loving it. They are so easy to catch on such a day. It was worth spending an extra 15 minutes going around collecting them. I also went to check on the grapefruit halves, which act as snail traps, in the front garden. You wouldn't expect to find snails in a gravel garden but they have taken a fancy to the leaves on the Macho Mocha mangave stripping the top surface off the lower leaves.
Then I spotted this dwarf iris in bloom.

I had picked up several dwarf iris in the summer at the local Saturday market in Boise, Idaho. This one is called Autumn Maple. It was hybridized in 1992 and is classified as a rebloomer. I can expect another blooming in the fall. I think the flower is a little large for the foliage and maybe I don't have it placed in the best spot but it certainly was another welcome surprise and uplifting to see on another bad news day.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


I was just lamenting the lack of a frilled poppy this year. I suppose it is because I tend to control how many poppies throw their seeds, removing their heads before they ripen.  I had already walked past this area this morning and never noticed.

And then the second time there it was. The flower of my day. Of course the bees don't like this flower. They can't find the pollen among all those petals.

With the threat of wind and thunderstorms tonight I decided it was time to go out and take a few photos of delicately petaled flowers.

Pink evening primrose, Oenothera speciosa. What's not to love about this pretty pink flower? It's rampant invasive behavior?  Still, now I have it and it isn't going away anytime soon. I might as well enjoy it and I do.

Then the mock orange, Philadelphus "natchez' In the space of 24hours all the blooms opened. That's what 3 days in the 80s will do. Every year I say the same thing. "Hold your horses" and save something for next week, please.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Yesterday I cut back the mealy blue sage, Salvia farinacea. I don't know why I let it grow in the sunken garden. In fact, I can't do anything about it as it is growing out of the rocks and I can't get to the roots. I like to have some because the goldfinches feast on the seeds during the fall and it is a pretty blue. I allowed it a few more days by bringing it into the house. 3 vases of mealy blue sage.

I can see clearly now the sage is gone. Underneath a sad alyssum with tiny harlequin bugs developing. I remember catching the adults a few weeks ago. Guess they had already laid their eggs. I pulled it out and am determined not to let the salvia grow to shade this area. I replaced the alyssum with a sedum 'coral carpet'.
It was a day spent working outside doing a lot of the grunge jobs. I removed the rocks from around the center drain the vegetable garden, relocating some worms and disposing of a number of snails. Even I decided that there comes a time when blanket flowers and poppies hanging over the drain need to be removed. Exactly how many blanket flowers do I need! How many bluebonnets do I need? How many California poppies do I need? The garden is being swallowed alive! It is time to spring clean.

Monday, April 15, 2013


It is the height of spring in Central Texas. The garden is a sea of poppies from the orange California poppies Eschscholzia californica...

To the common corn poppy, Papaver rhoeas.

Pink poppies, the seeds given to me by a friend.

And one white California poppy this year.

I could easily have missed the flowering of my lace cactus, Echinocereus reichenbacchii. Typically her blooms open well into the afternoon when the sun reaches that part of the garden. I just noticed that flush of pink as I was getting ready to come inside.

It now meant another half hour with the camera checking all my lace cactus. They were all blooming.

The ones in the front driveway area among the bluebonnets.

And the ones up on the top wild area. They looks so fat and happy. The pistil in the center of one was moving. Deep inside the flower a bee was wallowing among the stamens.

When he emerged pollen was flying everywhere.

Here are a few of the flowers that are blooming in the sunken garden.

Ruby crystal grass, Melinis nervigumis, with Damianita, Chrysactinia mexicana.

Dahlberg daisy, Thymophylla tenuiloba,

Blackfoot daisy, Melampodium leucacnthum. with blue eyd grass, Sisyrinchium pruinosum.

More blue eyed grass with sedum.

The sunken garden.

Square bud primrose, Calylophus berlandieri.

Scarlet penstemon, Penstemon triflorus.

Anacacho orchid tree, Bauhinia lunarioides.