Saturday, May 30, 2015


I don't know when it was I signed up to have our Austin Garden a GoGo to be held at our house, on May 30th, but I can tell you it was long before I found out I needed to have a hip replacement, which I had on February the 18th, and before I knew our garden would be pummeled by hail on April 18th and before I knew that Texas would find itself under endless flooding rain with barely a glimpse of sun for the whole month of May. But I did( sign up for it, that is) and all those events made me (and David) work especially hard to get everything looking the best it could be for the day. Every gardener likes to show her/his garden to its best. Heavens knows I have done enough garden tours and it doesn't come without a lot of fretting about the weather. I had my eyes glued to the radar as they promised more rain over Texas on Saturday. But the gardening gods were kind and there was no rain just some sun, heat and humidity. It was enough for the lace cactus to send out 4 blooms. I wonder if anyone noticed them because they are out in the front and we didn't walk that way.

The format of our visits follows along the lines of food and drink in the house, followed by tour of the garden and then our plant swap. The purpose has always been to ask advice on a troubling part of the garden. I was going to ask for planting suggestions, for the recently renovated section of the English garden, as plant selection has always been my weakness. I took some advice from a gardener at our local nursery and I am not happy with those selections. I should have been asking my fellow garden bloggers, as so many of them are designers. But, somehow the morning went by and that was forgotten.
I also planned a visit to a neighbor's garden. I had visited Syd's garden in the fall and knew my group would be wowed by the visit. And they were.
I have no photos to share of the event or the visit to Syd's garden but I have some recipes to share from the 'eats'. Several people asked for recipes and this seems the easiest place to share them.

The Deviled Egg recipe came from Natasha's Kitchen. No mayo and only half the egg yolks. It was a first time try and everyone seemed to like it. It is now in my special book of recipes.

The Crustless Quiche is slightly altered from a recipe in our local newspaper years ago and by Renee Studebaker. Little did I know that I would meet up with Renee when our garden blogging group formed. She was here today.

The Crustless Quiche

6 stalks of swiss chard
½ red pepper
2 green onions chopped
1 clove garlic pressed and chopped
sea salt
5 eggs
1¼ cups milk
6Tbsp goat cheese broken up
¼ cup smoked gouda grated
¼ cup parmesan cheese
butter and whole wheat pastry flour

Preheat oven to 365°  Wash drain and chop chard. If stems are thick chop and saute. Then add the chard, pepper and onions and saute until tender. Season to taste. This can be done the day before if oyu are serving for breakfast.
Butter a 9" pie dish and sprinkle with pastry flour to cover. Sprinkle half the parmesan over the bottom.
Add the sauteed vegs. Distribute the grated gouda and goat cheese evenly over the top. Whisk the eggs and milk with a pinch of salt and pour over the top. Bake at 365° for 35 minutes.

Currant Scones

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 stick cold butter
¾cup dried currants
½cup low fat buttermilk
1 large egg beaten

Whisk the dry ingredients in a bowl and cut in the butter or work with fingers until resembles coarse meal. Do quickly so the butter doesn't melt. Stir in currants and beaten egg and buttermilk. Bring together with a fork until just combined then knead quickly. Pat or roll into an 8" disc and cut out with a 2¼"fluted cutter. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush tops with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 425° for 12-15 minutes until the tops are browned.
Serve with butter jam and for a wonderful Cornish cream tea jam and whipped or clotted cream.

AND NOW IT IS POURING DOWN! Thank you garden gods.

Saturday, May 23, 2015


We were driving back from our morning walk around the lake when I happened to look at facetime and saw one of my gardening friends mention the annual Day Lily Show at Zilker Park. As we were close by and had never been before we decided to stop in. Maybe I could add to my own collection.

I heard the other day on the Chelsea Flower Show that day lilies are one of the easiest plants to hybridize. What fun it must be waiting to discover the color of your new plant. Judging by many of the lilies on display most are in the orange/yellow range of color but there are a few spectacular dark ones. Ten minutes ago I wasn't even thinking of day lilies and now I was on the hunt for a dark one like this one in the center or better still the one at the top.

I had already been forewarned that in order to get the 'unusuals' you have to be there when the show opens. I can imagine the doors opening and the crowd rushing straight to the sales table like the Harrods annual sale. Not my scene at all. I took a leisurely stroll around all the exhibits and then went into the sales room.

I did manage to find a dark red one. It was the only one left in the box so it was obviously popular and with a rather strange name "Passion District" Hybridized by Carr in 1997, this tetraploid stands about 28"tall with a flower 5.75" It is red with lighter red water marks and its parents were Midnight magic and Betty Warren Woods. I dare say that if my day lilies could talk among themselves there would be much complaining, not only about my not knowing their parentage but also their name. The only one whose name I can remember is Tiny Pumpkin.
My daylilies are all blooming so without further ado my Day Lily show.

Whereas the first two a tall, standing abut 24" this next one is much smaller. Less than 12" and quite obviously the pink layers of the flower are very tasty having been eaten by the snails.

And here is 'tiny pumpkin'. Tiny in flower only as she stand 24"

I call this a ditch lily. This common orange lily has a reputation for becoming invasive. In my garden I have had a problem even getting it to flower. It has been in the ground for at least 3 years and produced nothing but leaves. Maybe it has been spreading underground all this time and next year plans to make explosive growth. If so, it will join the long list of spreading perennials. For now I am more than happy to enjoy its May blooms.

All the hybrid daylilies were given to me by a colleague of David when he was working in Gonzales. The couple had a hobby farm and were breeding day lilies. They have brought joy to the garden every year for the past 12 years.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Just ask my gardening group, I'll take in any waif and stray plant. And when it comes to saving stray plants in my garden it's a given. The problem is what to do with them all. Naturally some are more favored than others. Some are sent to the Gulag.

Conditions are harsh in my Gulag. If you are in the ground on the lower level. There is no soil, just a fill limestone road base covered with gravel. And water only comes when it rains so all the plants have to withstand long periods of dryness. There used to be a sharkskin agave here. It died but not before leaving behind three little pups. We'll see how they do. There is no longer any shade from a large oak tree above the retaining wall. It was lost during the extended drought and terrible heat a few years back. More sunshine means more plants are growing there. Texas sedge is establishing itself. It's also a place to send some of my pruned cactus pads. Miraculously these plants received some protection from the hail by the hillside with large mountain junipers.

I think that some of the plants are trying hard to get into a more favorable location. This Cane cholla, Opuntia imbricata, has produced three new shoots. It has to be all the rain we have had in the last few weeks. I wonder if it will flower this year.

Because this area is outside the walls it is visited by deer and a very annoying turkey. This lone male caught sight of himself in the window and now parades through here every day, scratching at the ground and trampling my fragile blue gilias. He certainly is a handsome fellow but I wish he would join the other turkeys down at the bottom of the hill.

So where are the favored places for my cactus and succulents. The sheltered area on the fireplace is one.

These plants were lucky to be in such a sheltered spot during the hail. Several pots blown off the shelf landed on others down below.  A few new plants and a little repotting and things are looking good again. This area receives morning sun and is protected from the summer afternoon sun.
Then a little further over plants that receive sun until late morning.

On the steps morning sun and late afternoon sun.

Then there is the side entry. That's the place for more agaves and cactus which have proved themselves to be deer proof. Furthermore they were sheltered by the high wall during the hail storm and those close up had most of the damage to the lower leaves, which I have cut off. I have done a lot of snipping and repotting this past few weeks.

Unless you are up close it is hard to see the damage on this A. desmettiana. It fared better than the one out by the garage which was a total loss. A second one still needs a lot of pruning as do the ones outside the front gate. Eventually.

Things are starting to get back to normal and the rain we have had in the past 3 weeks has been a blessing. Even the Gulag isn't such a bad place right now.

Do you have a Gulag? I bet you do.

Friday, May 15, 2015


It's raining again this morning. After all the rain that has fallen on Texas over the past ten days I think the rain lily must have pride of place on the month's Garden Bloggers' Bloom day. Please join with Carol at May Dreams Gardens and share your May posts.

Rain lily

Day lily
Common ditch lily

Heart-leaf skullcap, Scutellaria ovata

Verbena bonariensis

Common tickseed, Coreopsis tinctoria

Pomegranate flower, Punica granatum

Blanket flower, Gaillardia pulchella.

Wine cups, Callirhoe involucrata

Confederate jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides

Chocolate daisy, Berlandiera lyrata
Happy Bloom Day everyone.

Sunday, May 10, 2015


I've always preferred the tiny flowers to large showy blooms. I have memories of my childhood lying in the grass and looking for scarlet pimpernels. I didn't know then that one day I would have them in my own garden and consider them a weed. But why I wonder, they are pretty little flowers when seen up close.

Scarlet pimpernel, Anagallis arvensis.
When I received a prize at the age of 11, in my first year in high school, it was natural for me to spend the money( it had to be at the local book store) on a wild flower book and I chose The Observers Book of Wild Flowers. I still have the book.

I am still a lover of tiny flowers. These sedums, with their starry flowers found a perfect niche in this broken rock. I purposefully left the gap when the rock broke as it was being brought into the garden.

Sedum potosinum, forms a neat mat of evergreen leaves which burst into bloom in the spring. It is easily propagated by breaking off a small piece and tucking into the soil.

Left unchecked it will spread to cover the ground but can be easily controlled.

Thymes also work well between pavers their roots protected by the stones.

 These plants flower at ground level but tiny flowers may go unnoticed unless brought to eye level and one way to do this is plant on top of a retaining wall.

Several years ago I found this little native blue gilia, Gilia rigidula, growing under some cedar trees. I transplanted it to this area where it has spread modestly over the years. It bloomed prolifically a few weeks ago and will bloom again on and off through the rest of the season.

I have not seen this plant at nurseries or even at the Wildflower Center, maybe due to its fragility. 
A few bluebonnets bloomed here this year due to the more open nature of the area after the loss of some Spanish oak trees.
And what a lovely surprise to see a bloom stalk on my grandfather's pipe, Callisia fragrans.

The flowers are so complicated I'm not sure if it is compound and whether they are petals, sepals or tepals.

And who can forget the little flowers on the Mammilaria cactus. When I spotted these bright little flowers on my thumb cactus they were barely visible hanging from the fireplace hearth.

 I moved it up onto a ledge where its little flowers could be admired.

Do you have tiny treasures in your garden? If not it may just be that they are there but you haven't noticed them.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


As a child, growing up in England, I would walk along the roads peering through small gaps in the hedges that surrounded gardens. Sometimes there was a high wall with a wooden gate right on the street. What lay behind that gate? The wall was too tall to peer over and the gate was always locked. Since those youthful times I have had the opportunity to pass through many gaps in hedges and through many gates as I visited gardens in England. Always it is the tantalizing view from outside the gate or hedge. The promise of yet another secret garden room beyond.
Any book that was going to take me through more garden gates would be hard to resist, so when I was offered a review copy of the Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds, by Victoria Summerley I jumped at the chance. Was it possible that there were more gardens to visit in the Cotswolds? I thought I had been to most of them.

How wrong I was. What I was to find when I opened the book was just how many more beautiful gardens there are in the Cotswolds. Victoria takes us on a somewhat unusual visit to these gardens.  Given access to the gardens, some of which have limited access or are completely private, she met with owners, garden makers and gardeners for a personal view of these impressive gardens. And they are  brought to life by Victoria's delightful prose and the superb photography of Hugo Rittson-Thomas.
Make no mistake, these are not small Cotswold cottage gardens. They are large houses with ample grounds and landscaping and one can only imagine the hours that must go into maintaining such beautiful gardens.
At the back of the book there is a map with locations of the gardens and on the opposite page opening times of the gardens. It is disappointing to see that many are only open through the National Gardens Scheme, one day a year and at least five are private. Unless you live close by it would appear that the gardens will likely remain secret to many. This book maybe your only chance to visit. But I suppose that is the idea behind a garden being secret. You'll have to visit the gardens through Victoria's words and Hugo's photographs. I can tell you, you won't be disappointed.
I'm sure the Cotswolds abounds with many more secret gardens and my only disappointment in the book was that it did not cover some of the smaller gardener-made gardens. Maybe they are really that secret.

Victoria Summerly lives in the village of Bibury. Victoria a former executive director of the Independent newspaper and an award winning garden journalist who writes about her own garden at Tales of Awkward Hill.

Hugo Rittson-Thomas, besides being a leading portrait photographer has filmed many other Cotswold gardens.

The book is published by Frances Lincoln

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


The rain last night was like a tonic for my garden. Plants seem to have shot up over night and many native flowers are blooming. Here's a sample of the native plants that are flowering in my garden today.

Monday, May 4, 2015


I feel very fortunate to live in Texas where we really take our wildflowers seriously. That is not to say that other states don't do the same but the shear size of Texas alone with its diversity of plant habitats and weather conditions means we can boast more than 5000 different species of flowering plants.

Hundreds of miles of roads link 7 distinct geographic areas; Big Bend Country, Panhandle Plains, Hill Country, Prairies and Lakes, Piney Woods,  South Texas Plains and Gulf Coast. And along those roadsides 800,000 acres of highway right-of-way are cared for by the Texas Department of transportation.
They are proud to call themselves the nation's largest gardener.
Every year they plant trees and shrubs and sow tons of wildflower seeds to give Texas the most spectacular wildflower show of any state.
I am proud to be a member and volunteer at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center which showcases native plants from all regions of the state. Their mission is to restore, conserve and create healthy landscapes. We can do that by adding native plants to our own gardens.

Wildflowers bring incredible beauty to our gardens. Many survive without additional water and fertilizer and provide habitat for wildlife.

Bluebonnets, square-bud primrose,pink primrose,poppies and skullcap before the hail storm.
Celebrate National Wildflower by adding native plants to your garden.

Friday, May 1, 2015


I have three Texas clematis growing in my garden. This one is on a west facing wall. If you remember the recent hail storm came from the west but a lemon tree in front of it saved it's delicate stems from the brunt of the storm.

Texas clematis x Princess Diana.

The second one is on an east-facing wall. What is amusing about this one is that it sent up a long leggy stalk which went over the top of the wall. It thought better of its desire to go westward when the wind began to blow and promptly retreated behind the safety of the wall. I think it has decided to stay.

It has an unusual flower, more like Clematis pitcheri and a color that I cannot identify. It was purchased at a Wildflower Center sale so I am wondering if it was grown from seed. Although I was at first disappointed with its rather wishy-washy color it has grown on me. Like Clematis pitcheri its tepals don't open any more than shown in the photograph.

But sadness comes with one growing on the South facing wall. It strangely seemed to take the brunt of the hail which all but destroyed its stems.

This one was also purchased at the Wildflower Center and was sold as C. texensis x Princess Diana. Seen before the hailstorm.

This may be a good time to improve on the trellis!