Tuesday, March 29, 2016


It's easy for me to like rocks- I have plenty of them. It makes sense to use what you have and with terrain like mine rock gardens are certainly the answer. There is little soil and creating raised areas is the only way.
In the front courtyard area it's a colorful time in the spring.

Among my favorites are the square bud primrose, Calylophus berlandieri, and the blackfoot daisy,Melampodium leucanthum.

This year we only have a few bluebonnets which is probably a good thing as one plant can cover an area 3'x3'

The first of the Claret cup cactus, Echinocereus triglochidiatus, buds opened today. I have three small clumps but not quite so many flowers this year. It isn't easy to find these native to Texas cactus but I would love to have more. I'm not the only one to love them. The ants have been particularly annoying this year, mounding up the soil around them. I had to take serious measures.

There is even a double take on this area. The reflection in the dining room window.

At this time of the year there is less color in the raised bed on the other side of the path. A few columbines and the mallow under the arching branches of the Lady Banks' Rose. Later there will be day lilies on the upper tier.

This is the area we removed damaged plants from last year. I added a few rocks along the dry creek and the pot. For the time being it will hold and Agave weberi 'Arizona star'

Although there is a good display of bluebonnets outside the walls it is not as prolific as in prior years due to the loss of last years bluebonnets to hail. ( Will I ever stop talking about that hail damage? Probably not as the damage is far reaching). Thank goodness for nature always leaving a few behind in case of such happenings and for garden friends who share their seeds.

Around the side of the house there are only a few in the pathway that was completely filled last year. I think I like it better this way. So much easier to walk without trampling. I wonder whether the large Agave weberi will live for another year or will the agave snout weevils found in this area last year have found a new host?

In the sunken garden more native plants. Skullcaps, erigeron daisies, chocolate daisies and the fading seeds heads of the gopher plant.

Our spring is about one month early this year but at least the temperatures have moderated. Let's keep it that way for a few more weeks.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


It's Wildflower Wednesday and I'm joining Gail at  Clay and Limestone to post about a little native growing in my garden.
It might seem strange to be posting about this delicate bloomer today, with our famous Texas bluebonnet putting on such a big show. However, Blue gilia, Gilia rigidula, this pretty diminutive Texas wildflower is one of my spring favorites.

It isn't a plant you will find in your local nursery, in fact I have never seen it outside of my own garden although I am sure it is to be found in the Hill Country and further west. You can see how delicate is its foliage, easily trampled by unwary feet. But above that foliage a bright blue star shaped flower.

It took a beating from the hail last year so the patch isn't quite as large as in previous years but it seeds quite readily in the right kind of soil. It prefers dry, chalky soil and gravel.

This genus was named after the 18th Century Spanish botanist, Felipe Luis Gil. Gilia rigidula is native to Central, west Texas and New Mexico but there are other species of this wildflower to be found in other parts of the USA.

Friday, March 18, 2016


It's a little early to be taking that drive into the hill country, wildflower spotting. Or at least I thought it was until yesterday at 3:30pm when I had a text from David, "truck won't start." He was in Kingsland, Texas and waiting for AAA to come see if they could start it. Then the text at  5:30pm to say they were towing him to a service station and could I come and get him. "Enjoy the wildflowers", he texted. I did.

The drive was about 60 miles along Hwy 71 then cutting off on 2233 before turning left towards Kingsland. I have never been there before. It was hard to keep my eyes on the road for the bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush, the first of our spring wildflower show.

Thank heaven for wide verges and for wildflowers which enjoy each others company.

And for ranchers with the true Texas spirit.

I am determined next year to purchase seed of Indian paintbrush. In fact on the way I was daydreaming about scalping our septic field and trying again to establish a wildflower meadow. I need to get rid of all the grasses and weeds that have invaded.
By the time I arrived at the shop it was 6:30pm. We needed to find a place for dinner. David had been busy picking out a couple of places. Here I was thinking Sonic Burger or Dairy Queen. David was thinking Grand Central Cafe at the historic Antlers Inn, a 1901 restored railroad inn. It may have been St Patrick's day and everyone in this town was celebrating with dinner at the Central Cafe. The wait was 45mins. We moved on to his second choice, Doc's Fish Camp and Grill, in Marble Falls where we had a nice catfish dinner with 2 sides. I had garlic potatoes and coleslaw and David had mushrooms and sweet potato fries. It was a great meal and a first for someone who has never had catfish before!

So today, we drove back the same 60 miles to pick up the truck. Camshaft sensor for the second time. Spare part to be carried at all times!
The flowers were as pretty and on the way back I had the chance to stop at a few places. The first was a little country store with hanging plants. I didn't buy any but did by fresh yard eggs and the man gave me a tomato! He told me I'd be back for more!

Hot house tomato
Then a quick stop at the overlook above Lake LBJ.

 The Spanish bayonet yuccas are in bloom everywhere.

 And the granite works in Marble Falls. So nice to have a local source of decomposed and granite gravel.

The two day, 240 mile  adventure is over!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


I'm in love. Well, who wouldn't be with these little beauties, Tulipa praestans,  Persian pearl. I planted these in the fall and with the rain and warm days they opened all at once.

 They are like little jewels in dry gravel landscape.

These species tulips are the only kind of tulips that grow successfully in Central Texas. I have Tulipa clusiana, Lady Jane and Tulipa clusiana var. chrysantha.

Tulipa clusiana Lady Jane

Unlike Lady Jane Grey my Lady Jane seems to be here to stay unlike chrysantha whose numbers have dwindled over the years.
Among my other spring bulbs the Ipheion uniflorum, star flower is a reliable bloomer in early spring. The bright blue star-like flowers spring from strappy foliage.

An impulse purchase of freesias was a success. Many years ago I grew some in pots and then plant them in the ground. They return year after year. Hopefully these will do the same.

This is probably the only flower that is blooming at the correct time. The native anemone, Anemone berlandiera is usually the first flower to bloom in the spring.

Ten weeks stocks started from seed in the fall .

Ten week stocks

California poppies with alyssum and dianthus

Blackfoot daisies, Melampodium leucanthus, and Four nerve daisy, Tetraneuris nervosa.

And the Lady Banks' Rose, Rosa banksiae. I purchased this as a cutting from the rose at the Rose Museum in Tombstone, Arizona. The rose there came from an original cutting of the one at Kew Gardens which was the original one brought from China!
This year she is gorgeous and outshining the yellow one at the front. There are many more blooms to come.

Of course always plenty of bluebonnets although not as many this year.

 We are having an unprecedented early spring after little in the way of winter. Today the temperature was 90º It feels like summer on this March bloom day. Have you had an unusual winter? An early spring? Catch up with your favorite garden bloggers on this bloom day. Thanks Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting the day.

Saturday, March 12, 2016


Years ago a garden acquaintance was walking around the garden with her husband. "And what's wrong with this plant" he asked, "too much sun? too little sun? too much rain? too little rain?" Of course this is Texas and what else do you expect. You might add to that list, a late frost, hail, devoured by snails, slugs and pill bugs, plants mounded up by fire ants, attacked by aphids, mealy bugs, scale, bagrada bugs, harlequin bugs and leaf footed bugs, tomato horn worms and deer.
My garden has been visited by all of the above and for one second I throw my hands up in the air and say "I'm giving up gardening" It never lasts. Whatever you call it, passion or addiction,  I can't keep my hands out of the soil. And with all that frustrates me about gardening in Texas there is always a reward around the corner.

The agarita, Mahonia trifoliata, never produced a single berry last year because it was hit by hail but this year it is putting on a show and I am hoping this will be a fruitful year.

The hellebore I bought in 2011 and hasn't bloomed once since then is blooming this year. Do you remove the leaves from your hellebore? I read that many gardeners in England do.

Among many orange California poppies I have a white one.

When I picked up , on impulse, a bag of freesias in the fall I had no idea that they would put on such a show. Planted in pots as well as in the ground their strappy broken foliage may not be much but the flowers are heavenly.

Two of my lemon trees and the lime all filled with flowers. But where are the bees? The few I have seen have been on the alyssum although I saw two solitary bees on there yesterday feeding on pollen.

And the ever faithful chocolate daisy, Berlandiera lyrata, is back for its 10th year.

The Aloe X 'David Verity' has produced a successful bloom as a result of our mild winter

And despite the fact that we were away when my Texas mountain laurel, Sophora secundiflora, bloomed. I am so proud that I grew this one from seed.

And when the fire ants start mounding their soil around my succulents I just shrug my shoulders and get on with hosing them off.

 Not that they need any more rain after the 4" we received over the last 3 days.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

THUMBS UP. SCARLET FLAX, Linum grandiflorum rubrum

Every year new plants appear at the nurseries and we are tempted. Sometimes our temptation is rewarded and sometimes not. Two years ago I was tempted to buy some seedlings in the fall labeled scarlet flax, Linum grandiflorum rubrum. I have grow blue flax before and it is a lovely plant but scarlet flax was new to me. What a success it was. A delicate foliage with delicate scarlet flowers.

What made them so delightful was the slightly darker tinge of red around the center and edges of the flower. This and the blue pollen colored stamens.
So when fall came this year I went back to the nursery searching for those same 4" pots. Nowhere to be found.  Isn't that often the way with nurseries? But, they told me, we have the seeds. And so I bought a packet and started the seeds myself. Some illustrations on seed packages can be a little fanciful but these are true to their illustration.

 I'm pleased to report that I have several clumps of scarlet flax this year and a few blooms began to open this week, a full month earlier than last year. How I wish I had done more. How I wish they would last forever. It does say they are good for hot dry gardens so maybe I will sow the remaining seeds and get a later bloom.

The plant is native to Algeria but has naturalized in Europe and in North America.
Thumbs up on this plant.

Saturday, March 5, 2016


Following on the success of my last bee house and seeing how brutal our Texas weather can be with outdoor structures I decided it was time for an upgrade. A friend of mine has a bamboo forest in her back garden and last year her son cut much of it down. I was more than happy to take it.

Maybe it is good to cut bamboo when it is green rather than waiting for it to dry out. I tried one piece with the hack saw and decided I would wait. A year later it was ready to be cut and this time I was bringing in the big guns having found cutting with the hack saw was no easier.

Even this saw had trouble, although I decided maybe a smaller toothed saw blade would have worked better. I had quite a bit of sanding to do where the saw didn't make a clean cut. It still took a lot less time than hand cutting. Thanks David.
Here's the box I was planning to use. Another garage sale find. I thought maybe it had been someone's craft project because the wood had been poorly put together, until I saw the Made in China sticker on the bottom. Plus the ivy painting on the side was not my style. A spray can of paint was needed.

With a new paint job and the requisite number of pieces of bamboo cut to size it was time to assemble. It's amazing how easily the pieces fir together and all that is needed in the end are some filler pieces to make sure there is a tight fit.

For variety I added pieces of bark in one section and pine cones and a small clay pot with grasses in another. In the top some broken pieces of clay pot. Plenty of nesting sites for ladybirds and green lacewings as well as solitary bees of all sizes.

Once I am sure that the bamboo is completely tight I will to hang on the wall in the potager. I'm sure the bees will be attracted to all the flowers that are, once again, growing in the pathways and be delighted with their new home.
If you would like to learn more about the bees who will nest in my house then a book that covers everything you need to know about gardening with bees is The Bee-Friendly Garden by Kate Frey and Gretchen Le Buhn.