Monday, October 26, 2015


When I visit gardens I'm always on the lookout for how they organize and plant their pots. After all what is a garden without its pots.

This was a grouping of pots that really caught my eye when, recently, I visited the garden of James David. I have never thought of putting gravel and stones in pots, but look how effective this grouping is. Of course these are pretty special pots most likely having been hewn out by someone in a foreign land. When Mr David owned the nursery Gardens he sourced many of his materials from the far east and Europe.

There is plenty of evidence of that in his garden and in these repurposed pieces.

A grouping of clay pots, the lighter colored ones from Tuscany, serve as a visual barrier along the edge of this pathway. These are potted up with box and ferns to give a quite different look.

With large shipments of pottery coming to their store it was inevitable that some would get broken. I remember seeing this pot many years ago and being told that they trimmed the pot and fastened the half to the wall. It's planted with a variegated pittosporum. What a clever idea.

There is something about European pots that I love. It has to do with the flare at the top and the rolled rim. I favor clay pots in my garden but if I find one of this kind at a garage sale I really treasure it.

Arranging pots at different heights also adds drama. These pots were in the atrium of a garden I visited last weekend in San Antonio. The owner, Linda Peterson, has a wonderful talent for arrangement. It was raining at the time hence the rain splashed window and my reflection in the window. The different heights of plants as well as raising pots on pedestals creates a perfect tableau.

Here are a few of my favorite pots. I picked up this metal tripod at a garage sale. Have no idea what it was used for but it is perfect for this tall terracotta pot. The plant has become very overgown and I should really cut it off and start it again but I love the way it hangs. In the empty space at the top I put the cardinal's nest from the espalier with a clay bird.

I love long Tom pots but they aren't easy to come by. I found this on in Phoenix at a nursery going out of business. It was sitting in a forgotten corner and was full of horticultural pumice. That was the bonus.

This was a garage sale pot with the usual $1 price tag. I love the little fishes.

And my attempt to copy the James David pots at the top of this post.

This one was my big splurge. I finally found a head pot with a decent price. I have been waiting forever and last week there it was sitting on the side at Barton Springs Nursery. It is perfect for my Huernia schneideriana.

It has been a good year for pots so I still have plenty of pots waiting to be potted up. It a great job for a rainy day.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


It would appear that most of the time I don't have much say in where plants are going to grow. I would like them in the beds. They would like to grow in the pathways.

This is the scene between two of the beds in the vegetable garden and is played out in may places in the garden. Here's another grouping slap bang in the middle of the two beds. They all want to be in the same place. Mexican feather grass, alyssum, narrow-leaf zinnia, Zinnia linearis, and a gaillardia, Gaillardia pulchella.

My job is to do some weeding out so that we can actually walk through the area. As usual the ruby crystal grass seedlings have been abundant. I must have pulled out over 50.

It is hard to believe that 4 weeks ago there was nothing growing here except the mealy blue sage, Salvia farinacea.  More narrow-leaf zinnia, Zinnia linearis, dahlberg daisy, Dyssodia tenuifolia and gomphrena, Gomphrena globosa.

The one disappointment this year has been the seedling chocolate daisy, which seems determined to co-habit with another seedling gopher plant. You can see the pair here in the lower center of the photo. I am wondering how this is going to play out. Should I make the choice for them?
This is the sunken garden where I rely on plants to self-seed.

Another plant that is in abundance this year is the native frost weed, Verbesina virginica. I saw this being sold as a shade plant at a recent Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center sale. In my garden it has seeded with abundance this year in full sun. Not only does it put on this floral show in the fall, but when we have a frost it will exude water from the stem which will create  incredible crystal like structures. For now it is a favorite of the bees.

It is always a thrill for me to find a special plant has reseeded. Such is the case with this Philippine violet. It found a spot right along the edge of the path. I hope I can get it out without damage when it loses its leaves.

A similar seedling along the edge of the walkway to the patio was never removed. It is a good job that it dies back every winter because it is now too late to move it. Why do they always choose the edges?

This garden just wouldn't be the same without all the help I get from mother nature.

Monday, October 12, 2015


Yes, it's a little confusing to say the least because in my English garden you will find Carolina jessamine, Japanese anemone, Texas clematis, Mexican feather grass, Australian leatherleaf acacia and of course the Philippine violet which is blooming in my garden as I write.

So why did I call it an English Garden? The dry stone wall. It was the very first thing I did. With so little native soil underpinned by deep rock it really was the only answer to being able to plant. The 2' high wall follows the contour of the concrete garden wall. It took months of stone collecting as the house was being built and hours of labor to put it together. Not to mention some trapped finger nails.
Walls like this, but much higher, were built all over the North of England to fence off the fields after Enclosure. They are a part of my heritage. And to be honest it is one of my favorite gardening jobs.

If truth be known most of the flowers you see growing in the English gardens are not native but brought to England by the great plant collectors of the 18th and 19th centuries. However, I would like my garden to look a little more English and that is one of my ongoing projects.

English gardens are known for their roses so this week I added a new English rose to the garden. It was actually an impulse buy. I kept checking my local nursery to see if they had Rosa 'Felicia' which I needed to replace due to hail damage, but to no avail. Then I spotted this rose, Rosa 'Molineux' and fell in love with her musky tea-rose scent and her peachy yellow bloom. Plus, she is a shrub rose suitable for a pot.

I have the Rock 'n Oaks garden club to thank for the addition of Rosa 'Molineux' following their visit to my garden this spring and their generous gift following the hail damage. I still plan to keep looking for 'Felicia'. She is truly the most wonderfully fragrant, repeat blooming musk rose there ever was! Even with all the stem damage she is putting out the odd bloom in response to some cooler nights

But a little more about Rosa 'Molineux'. She is a David Austin rose, patented in 1994 and named for the Wolverhampton Wanderers Football club which is located close to the David Austin Gardens, in England. Another gardener wrote of her, ' I do not know of another Austin with all the virtues of 'Molineux' This rose has a lot to live up to. Our climate may not be as welcoming as that of England but
she has a nice location on an east facing wall. I will move her up to the house for winter protection.
There are other roses in the garden. A circle of knockout roses around the bird bath....

and lots of rock roses, Pavonia lasiopetala, that seeded themselves in front of the bedroom window. New blooms open up every morning.

We added a couple of trellises this year with a Clematis jackmanii on each. Both were from bare roots . One did better than the other which I may have to replace next year. Another trellis is planned for the opposite wall and I am looking into plans for a wooden pillar on which to grow a pillar roses. I saw this idea at Mottisfont gardens in England. These will be on each side of the archway. If only we could have a rainy day so that I could bury my nose in a few gardening books.

Friday, October 9, 2015


We had our breakfast in the English garden yesterday. A bowl of pomegranate seeds, to have on our oatmeal, will be the last from our pomegranate tree in the corner. You can see the tree in the top left corner of the picture. It really has become more of a bush over the years, the center trunk having succumbed to some kind of bark fungus during a wet summer.

Still the tree soldiered on with a lackluster crop every year. Sometimes due to late frosts but mostly to decline. I kept waiting for another year like the one we had some years ago. Oh! you should have seen how many pomegranates we harvested that year. Do you remember? I won second place in a photo competition called 'Abundant Harvest' What could be more fitting than the pomegranate winning such a prize with its association with fertility.

But this year in May the hail came and it did massive damage to every woody plant. You can see the tree has tried valiantly to repair the bark in many places.

In others it seems to have given up.

And so I decided the time had come to remove it and redo that corner of the garden. David has been asking for a few years if he could take it out so I finally gave him permission. At last we will be able to use the gate at the back.
For the present time I am thinking about what to do in this empty spot. I have my share of those this year so it may take me a while. In the meantime I have moved the refurbished, garage sale bench into the area. What could be more fitting for a so called English garden.

There is work to do;  re-stucco the wall, move those iris and the yaupon holly that seeded under the tree. Maybe a pot of winter annuals to dress up the area, a little table on which to put my tea tray!  Now if only the weather would become more fall like I could get on with moving a few plants around and then I can sit down on the bench, tea in hand and a pile of gardening books by my side, and come up with an idea.

Sunday, October 4, 2015


Earlier this week I had the privilege of touring several of the gardens participating in this years Master Gardeners' tour.

The gardens have been chosen to showcase the variety of conditions we garden with in Austin; shady, sunny, rocky, sloping and flat. Some are planted with native and some with plants adapted to our growing conditions.
I garden in an area with rock and little soil so I am always amazed to enter a garden with such abundant foliage. Such was the case with the first garden I visited at 4603 Palisade Drive.
I was immediately struck by the hell strip planting. A mix of succulents and grasses.

The front garden slopes down towards the house and is heavily shaded. A perfect place to grow Berkeley sedge...

and a Japanese maple.

Around the back a huge palm presides over the pool area. Can you see the long dangling strings of seeds hanging from the palm. Maybe the result of a very wet May but I suggested to Sue that it might have something to do with competition from that bottle tree at its foot, with its string of twinkling lights. If you enjoy a lush green lush landscape then you will enjoy the setting of this garden with its towering trees. Some pleasing pieces of stone sculpture are the icing on the cake.

The next garden was in a neighborhood of small houses at 1315 Cullen Avenue. Once again a well planted hell strip with a purple martin house sure to distract the eye from the pole at the end of the street.

The surprise here was the double lot which, as you walked around, seemed to go on for ever. There is so much for the eye to take in that I felt the need to walk around the garden twice. In my head I called this the garden of many bird baths but I might just as well have called it the garden of many vegetable beds or useful repurposing.

Birds are made very welcome in this garden with a good supply of food and water.
The house has been remodeled and enlarged and the additional roof area made it worthwhile to install an impressive water collection system with  5000 gallon tank. Gardeners interested in installing a similar system would benefit from visiting this garden.

 Also for ideas on container gardening and how to keep out the critters.
Here's a great idea. A pivoting gate for closing off an area when privacy is needed but allowing accessibility at other times.

The next garden on our tour I have visited many times from its early beginnings. I never tire of walking around this beautifully designed garden. It is the garden of Pam Penick, the nationally acclaimed author of the book Lawn Gone.
4503, Mountain Path Drive

Pam gardens almost exclusively with natives and is not afraid to experiment with design and planting. Of course in making her garden, getting rid of lawn was a priority. In the front she has used sedges and wooly stemodia to replace the area once planted with St Augustine grass. Because deer frequent she has had to bear that restriction in mind too. 

Once a place where water collected during heavy rainfalls large stepping stones and gravel take care of heavy run-off. Recycled steel planted with yuccas and agaves add visual interest.

In the back garden a large stock tank takes center stage, the trickle of water from a recirculating stand pipe filling the air with that magically soothing sound.

Have you heard about Moby the whale's tongue agave? Whether you have or not you will just have to go and see him for yourself. He lords over the other side of the garden.

In need a a break after a long morning we stopped for lunch before heading out along Ranch Road 2244 to 1012 Weston Lane. The driveway leading up to the house has some impressive rock work on either side. We are away from the flat lots of in town and into the hillcountry.

There was little in the way of soil and in order to put in any plants a total of 14 truck loads of soil were brought in.

Drainage issues were solved by creating wet weather creeks which run across the front of the house and takes the water away to a safe place. A bronze duck is waiting for such a day.

I fear the visitors eye will be drawn immediately to the view at the back of the green sward. There is no doubt that the view, the stone work around the pool and the total setting is beyond words.

On a glorious day such as this I just wanted to plonk myself down on one of those chairs under the umbrella and drink it all in.

But do step back and admire the planting along the edge of the house. Because the house backs to the north this area is mostly in shade.

Regrettably I had to leave the tour at this point and missed the 3 remaining gardens. But you don't have to.

Information on the tour, including the addresses and map can be found at Inside Austin Garden Tour.