Friday, September 23, 2016


I'm thrilled with how my garden balls worked out. I decided to relocate all the balls to the English garden. They are a perfect complement to the circular pavers and all things circular in this garden. Now, I just need to find a bigger mold. Once I tried to use a child's ball but it just collapsed. Probably the wrong kind.

If you missed my posting on how I made the balls you can find it at project if the week.

Thursday, September 22, 2016


What do you do when the temperature and humidity are so unpleasant you can't possibly work outside? I toyed for a moment with household chores and then thought of something very useful that I could do gardening wise, in the house. Seed sorting.
Yes, I'm a seed saver. I collect seeds from my garden, gardens I visit, accept seeds from other gardeners and hoard old packets of seeds. Where do I do this? In my laundry room-and other places.
This is one of those other places-in the kitchen. But by far the largest collection is in the laundry room.

It is embarrassing to say I have seeds dating back to 2009. My first job was to go through all those packets and throw them away-oh the pain.
On the floor were two grocery bags of dried bluebonnet seed pods. 

I had already done one bag earlier in the summer by hand. This time I was a lot smarter. I trampled no the bags crushing all the dried pods until they released most of the seeds. So much easier on the hands. After putting them in  container and blowing away all the chaff I am left with a total of 14oz of seed that will not be in places I don't want them.

Next the scarlet flax seeds. 

I think I am finally getting there.

Next job is to sort them into seasons. Those to be planted in the fall like bluebonnets, larkspur, nigella, rose campion, violas and the winter vegetables, like carrots, beets, peas, lettuce, arugula. radishes. Those to be started in the late winter like stocks, poppies, nasturtiums. And those to be planted outdoors in the summer, zinnias, gomphrenas. Then there are the miscellaneous -unlabeled. I will just throw those outside and see what comes up. I like surprises.
With the promise of rain this weekend I think this might be a good time to start putting out some of those seeds. I will try once again to establish a bluebonnet colony on the septic field. One of the problems is the strength of the grasses out there; the enemy of wildflowers.  So, we decided to bag the grass in future so the ground is poorer. I will also add Indian paintbrush seeds which a semi parasitic putting their roots into grass. I have read that yellow rattle does the same thing and is a good way to establish a wildflower meadow.
Aren you ready to plant some wildflowers this fall?

Monday, September 19, 2016


I always have projects buzzing around in my head. How many get done? Not so many. This week I finished a couple and hope to finish 2 more by the end of the weekend.

The first was a fairly simple one; replacing the silver ponyfoot in the side entry garden with river rock. Earlier on in the season, when the ponyfoot was growing very nicely, I thought I would give it a top dressing of compost. Unfortunately that compost, although sold to me as cold and composted, burnt the life out of the plants. I thought maybe they would recover, and they did somewhat, but whatever was in the mix was clearly detrimental to the soil. The seller came out and said he was sorry and that it had never happened before. Later I found another garden friend shared a similar experience a few years ago and her soil is still not right. So, this week, I ripped out the plants and irrigation system and replaced with New Mexico river rock. David and I went down to the stone yard and hand loaded onto the truck. We seriously underestimated how much we needed and a second trip was necessary. Being a great lover of all things rock I am happy with the result.

On the way back from the stone yard we stopped in at the new Habitat for Humanity Restore which opened in the last year. We had found the brick there that we used in the English Garden. I was greatly disappointed in this new store but did pick up 3 things. A small polystyrene cooler and these two globe lights.The first to make a trough and the globes to make a couple of hypertufa balls. The two pieces of wood are for a third project; a bird feeder.

Today, when it as just too hot to be working outside, I took myself into the garage and made the trough. I had it done in less than an hour  So much easier than the real hypertufa and at little cost. David thought I overpaid for the cooler at $1!The only other tools needed were the wire brush, grill lighter to seal and paints. I had all of these. Even the bunny ears cactus found a new home.

Project number 2 involves cement, which is not a product I like to deal with. The plan is to spray the inside of the globes with oil and then fill with the hypertufa mixture (equal parts of cement, vermiculite and peat moss). I had the peat moss and the vermiculite but needed to buy bag of cement. Why does it come in such heavy bags. In Europe there is a law which says the bags cannot weigh more than 50lb. Clearly to protect backs. Anyway we were able to get a bag on sale at our local stone yard.
First thing Saturday I opened the bag of peat moss that had been sitting around outside for years. Surprise!! A Texas garter snake, Thamnopsis sirtalis,  had taken up residence in there. I know he is a garter snake rather than a ribbon snake because there is no white dot in front of his eye.

With the snake out of the way I measured out the ingredients and mixed with water.

Sprayed the inside of the globes with cooking spray.

And filled with the mixture.

Next day I placed the globes in a plastic bag and carefully tapped the glass until it broke off.

Now the balls need to sit for a time until they dry out and harden throughout. Then they will join the other two globes in the front garden.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Mine is a garden of self-seeding plants. Not all plant place themselves in places that I would choose, but many do.
In a corner of my front courtyard garden a tree senna, Senna corymbosa, has grown. It couldn't be more perfect. A place for birds to sit before and after visiting the bird bath. It has always been a difficult corner because no sun reaches the corner so the tree has grown out rather than up and there is heavier growth and flowering on the front side.

And the Lindheimer senna, Senna lindheimeriana,  seen here outside the garden walls.

and plenty have seeded inside the front courtyard too.

They are two of my native plants whose flowering brings light into the garden in September.
Native blackfoot daisies, Melanpodium leucanthum are never happier than in the poor gravel of the English garden.

And rock rose, Pavonia lasiopetala,would just like to take over other places in the English garden, if I let it.

 I think I need to encourage it to spread its wings and grow outside with the the zexmenia, Wedelia hispida.

This very fine stemmed and leaved plant is greenthread, Thelesperma filifolium.

Zexmenia and thelosperma growing together
I'll be saving seeds from the gomphrena 'strawberry fields' for next year. It has put on an amazing show covering the gravel in one area of the English garden. Last year I had one plant here.

Another gomphrena that has reseeded is Gomphrena globosa 'fireworks' I cut this plant back to the ground a few weeks ago.

And once again the pathways in the vegetable garden are filled with flowery weeds!

I guess I will never change.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


I think it has been a most unusual year-weather-wise.  First we had unseasonably warm temperatures with no rain in February. That was enough to kill some plants in my garden, because I was gone for 5 weeks and the watering system was off. Then we had a spell of temperatures over 100º- 16 in all. The rest were in the 90s which feels cool! Then came the rain and lots of it. Somewhere in the region of 16" in less than a week. Are we done yet, I wonder?
But that rain has been a blessing for some plants and the death knell for others.

Cactus and succulents like dry conditions. Correct? But when the rain comes they burst into flower. First you might notice a slight protuberance on the stem. Sometimes smooth and sometimes fuzzy. It's a signal that within days a glorious flower will arrive.

Is there anything more beautiful? Each day a new cactus opened.

Echinopsis oxygona

Gymnocalcyium baldianum

The flowers on the stapelia, Stapelia gigantia are jostling for position. I kept my eyes open for maggots but this time it would seem no flies visited. A blessing.

Day lilies have burst into bloom again. I always worry about out of season blooming thinking that maybe there will be no spring bloom. Sometimes this happens in the fall with my Philadelphus but it has always bloomed again in the spring again. I certainly hope this will be the case with these day lilies which have been putting out blooms every day for over 3 weeks.

Ditch lilies are blooming on the ground because their foliage is now hidden by the ever increasing size of the Philippine violet. The flower stems just grew out along the ground until they found the light.

But among all the good surprises there have been some bad ones. A few cactus have rotted inside and the gopher plant, despite being planted in very free draining soil is rotting. I have noticed a lot of splits on the stems which may result from them taking up to much water. Rather like tomatoes which split after too much rain.

I have actually pulled a couple out because I can see they are a lost cause with many of their leaves brown and stems rotting. I am so sad because come spring this is one of my favorite plants lighting up the garden with its chartreuse blooms.
But our lakes are full and the landscapes are green again so the loss of a few plants is a small price to pay. Although I have heard recently that a lot of post oak tress are dying and they are blaming inconsistent weather patterns. I hope the same doesn't happen to the live oaks too or we are going to see vast changes in our landscapes.

Saturday, September 3, 2016


Put in the words, "cactus theatre' on Google and you may come up with a restaurant or two and the odd theater. Put in the words Auricula Theatre on Google and up will pop photographs of hundreds of examples of Auricula theatres. In its basic form it would be a bookshelf-like structure mounted on the wall displaying potted auriculas, Primula auricula.
It is one of the stands always seen at the Chelsea Flower Show where, WS Lockyer, wearing his bowler hat, has exhibited his auriculas in theatrical fashion, year after year, taking home many gold medals.

Auriculas, although cold hardy, cannot tolerate excessive heat or moisture. They are the alpine cousins of primroses. Clearly they will never grow in Texas. But after seeing an example of a dwarf hosta theatre at Holehird Gardens this summer ( another plant that won't do well in this part of Texas) I came up with the idea of a Cactus Theatre, and I had just the place for one. The entry way to our front garden.

For several year there has been a hayrack planter on this wall but it really was too small and I had never really had a successful planting of anything. The closest I came was with grandfather's pipe, Callisia fragrans, but that was just a one-off year and the next year when I tried to do the same thing it looked awful. The area is partly shaded by some high beams and the wall protected from the westerly sun. It is the perfect place for cactus and succulents, offering them a little shade but plenty of light.
David and I discussed design, modeling it on the one we had seen at Holehird only changing the overall dimensions to suit our area. We purchased the wood and pots and David did the cutting and assembling. I stained it with the stain we used on the side entry steps, which we already had. The total cost for the project, including pots was under $35. I think it will be a lots easier to take care of.

Many of the plants are ones I had on hand and are succulents. But this weekend is the Austin Cactus and Succulent Show and Sale so I may come home with some special plants for my Cactus Theatre. The cactus below I bought at the Wildflower center sale last year. It is a slow grower not having grown more than a few millimeters in over a year.

Button cactus, Epithelantha micromeris

This was the second of two projects completed this week. The first were several very simple bee houses cut from rounds of oak logs. Drilled to create nesting holes and hung on the wall in the English garden.

Maybe now the bees will stop filling the holes in my umbrella.

Thursday, September 1, 2016


For a moment this morning I thought I was back in psychology class doing the Rorschach ink blot test. There was a beetle walking around the rim of a pot that stopped me in my tracks. I can see a lobster and a about you? Not surprising- I always see plants and animals in those cards.

A quick photo and then to find out what it was. That was an easy and yellow beetle. Up popped Gymnetis caseyi, or the harlequin flower bug. "Harlequin" strikes fear in the heart of this gardener but I don't think I need to worry. Here are the facts.

One site says it is invasive.
One site says it is the only scarab beetle that occurs naturally north of Mexico. Several sightings in Texas.
One site says it is normally found in mid elevation tropical rainforests- We have had a lot of rain recently!
One site is breeding them and is having discussions with other breeders.
One site is selling them for $10 each but is out of stock. They make great pets or a tasty treat for reptiles(that's a pretty expensive meal)
Who to believe? I have contacted Wizzie Brown, our Extension service entomologist. She is sure to know. stay tuned.