Saturday, April 20, 2019


                                         Wishing all my readers a Happy Easter 2019

Tuesday, April 16, 2019


I was watching a recent episode of Gardeners' World where they visited a gardener who holds the National Collection of clematis. Specifically Clematis texensis and Clematis viticella, the smaller flowered varieties. His belief is that it is unnatural to constrain these clematis on a trellis. Rather, that they should be allowed to twine into roses and other garden shrubs. I think I agree.

Clematis texensis 'Princess Diana'

Clematis versicolor Pale leather flower
It is not the easiest of tasks to get these two to climb a trellis. Twice this week I have caught two of mine heading into other plants, the first into a potted citrus and the second into an American beauty berry. Once they are twined it is difficult to get them untwined. I have used a secondary support in the form of bird netting to make it easier for the leaf petioles to twine and hold on but there are often stem wafting around in the air looking for........another plant to climb! It is too late for these two but a recent acquisition, with no trellis available, I decided to plant it beneath a climbing rose. This is not one of the smaller kind, but I am hoping its bloom cycle will fill in when the Zephirine drouihin rose finishes blooming. For now they are blooming together.

Clematis 'Brother Stefan'
Although Brother Stefan has a medium-sized flower, I think that the larger flowered varieties are better suited to a trellis. My Clematis jackmanii, Most certainly demands a good trellis to display her large flowers. I planted this one 3 years ago from a small bare root start. It is finally showing its stuff. Gorgeous blooms, some 6" across and many of them.

It seems I am starting my own little collection of Clematis. Will I be scouring the internet every night looking for new varieties like that clematis gardener in England? If I want more I may have to, as our local nurseries never seem to carry any. Or I may just start taking cuttings. I came across a tutorial on how to do this and I think now is about the right time.

Saturday, April 13, 2019


It is often said that mother nature is no gardener but today I will sing her praises as I share with you some of the things she gets right. Just look how she planted this mullein , Verbascum thapsus, in my English garden. It's as though she thought the expanses of gravel needed just a little dressing up. How about a few bluebonnets sprinkled here and there and a grass or two. Isn't that better?

And another fine specimen at the bottom of the vegetable garden steps. What is not to love about those beautiful sage-colored velvety leaves.

I will admit that she tries to have me grow more than I actually need and I am choosy. They must meet a certain criteria if they are to stay, like a  nice even rosette of leaves with few blemishes.
Mullein were introduced into he USA in the 1700s and are pretty widespread throughout the country. They also appear on the invasive list although I rarely see more than a few scattered around where I live. In the 80s we hiked with a Navaho guide into the ruins of Betatakin, and she told us that Native Americans used the leaves as baby diapers. In Texas it is known as cowboy toilet paper. As a biennial it reaches the rosette stage during the first year of its cycle and then sends up a tall flower stalk with pretty yellow flowers. Although, some time in Texas it achieves both stages within a year.

There is no better place to see her handiwork than in my sunken garden. Toadflax, Nuttallanthus texanus, is everywhere this year and one special clump has me won over that this is a worthwhile plant to have in the cottage garden, particularly if you can get it to seed en masse.

There are so many plants in this area that have self seeded, poppies, mealy blue sage, Brazos penstemon, columbine, grasses, skullcaps and even the delicious chocolate daisy. I never know from one year to the next what will be where, but rest assured, they will be there.

A visitor to the garden this past weekend commented to David, out of my earshot, that there didn't seem to be very many vegetables in my vegetable garden. I could have put him straight about the change-over season, when winter crops such as kale, cabbage, broccoli and peas reach the end their lives, to be replaced by the summer vegetables. So far I had only planted some tomatoes and peppers. But he did have a point as many of my beds are filled with those same poppies as grow in the sunken garden.

And then there are the cilantros and parsley plants which I allow to go to seed every year and repay me by filling in the beds with new plants each winter.

I rather like the way she planted the pink primrose at the corner of one of the vegetable beds. Most would rip this plant out immediately because it does have a tendency to spread everywhere. I'm that different kind of gardener.

and this blanket flower in the pathway between vegetable beds.

In the front courtyard I will have to take some action against the numbers of liatris that are showing up everywhere. I tried to gather the seed in the fall but much escaped and is now seeding heavily in the gravel. Most of them will be removed but this is one of the lucky ones which, in a previous year, found a permanent home.

But I am truly excited to see many seedlings of this little plant, Colorado Venus' Looking Glass, Triodanis coloradoënsis. Two years ago the flower showed up in a hole in a rock I had brought in from another area of the lot, and is now starting to spread itself around the garden. It is a member of the bluebell family and endemic to the Hill Country fo Central Texas. A delicate little beauty which I am sure to blog about when it starts blooming in a few weeks. A perfect little rock garden plant.

All thanks to Mother Nature.

Monday, April 8, 2019


Over the years I have become more and more interested in cactus and succulents and have amassed quite a collection. I see a trend towards this easier kind of gardening in my future. I love the structure of all of them, even those that are the least attractive to look at, and it is many of these that put on the most stunning floral display every year.
On a particularly rainy Sunday it was wonderful to look back at some of my cactus that have flowered in the last two weeks. The first is the ladyfinger cactus, Echinocereus pentalophus. 

I have several of these in pots which spent the winter in the greenhouse where the dry conditions and cool temperatures made for a spectacular blooming over a period of 4 weeks. Not all the flowers opened at once although on this plant 10 blooms appeared at the same time. Whereas many cactus flowers are ephemeral these last for at least 4 days, opening in the late morning and closing by evening. Although we are slightly out of its range in zone 8b I have succeeded in growing in the ground in well-draining gravelly soil.

The claret cup cactus, Echinocereus triglochidiatus, however, is completely hardy in our area and I have several stands in the front courtyard garden. Their petals are quite stiff which means the blooms can last for over a week. The hummingbird is a regular visitor for nectar.

Some of the mammilaria species pop out a few flowers during the winter when located in a sunny window.

But their main blooming time is spring when the crowns bear tiara-like rings of booms which are similarly long lasting.

We have a number of nurseries which sell cactus and even the big box stores have some nice specimens. As always is is necessary to do ones own research about the hardiness of species as often labels are inaccurate. Surprisingly Walmart had a great cactus selection this year and the thing I loved was that each were labeled with the the genus and species names in detail. So often small cactus come with no labeling. They were a welcome addition to my cactus theatre.

Thursday, April 4, 2019


Shortly after we moved into the house in 2001 I planted a rose on the corner of the wall in the front garden. I don't recall whether I did any research back then. Probably not, because the rose I bought I knew nothing about when in 2007 a gentleman, who was visiting the garden, shared with me a little about its history. In fact he sent me copies of a story that was in National Geographic magazine about  the man who was responsible for bringing  the rose from China and after whose wife the rose was named.

That rose was the Lady Banks rose, Rosa banksiae. Named for the wife of Sir Joseph Banks, who as director of Kew Gardens was responsible for bringing many plants back from his own travels, but also sponsoring the plant gathering expedition of William Kerr who brought back the rose from China.

The yellow form of the rose, R. banksiae var. lutea, bears clusters of small yellow flowers on thornless stems in early Spring. It is a one time bloomer and a big rose as you can see from the photograph. Underneath my rose is a tangled of dead branches which support the top growth.

The rose has scrambled over the wall to the outside and even up into an oak tree across the path.

I have a clear view of the yellow rose from where I sit in the living room. More often the not a  mockingbird spends the winter in the rose and on cold nights when visitors are leaving there is a shriek of surprise form him. Similarly, at this time of the year a mocking bird also takes up residence-is it the same one I wonder? Every morning he flies towards this window lands on the ledge and pecks away at his reflection. Then he flies into the yaupon holly, picks off a few berries and flies back into the rose. Wrens and cardinals also favor the tree too but it is always the mockingbird high up on the top lording over his demesne.

The original Lady Banks rose brought back by Kerr was white, R. banksiae var. banksiae and a few years ago I bought a rooted cutting of the white rose from the Rose Museum in Tombstone, Arizona. Mindful of the size of the rose in Tombstone, which is supported by a trellis and covers 2,800 sq ft. I planted it at the back of the garden and am making more of an effort to keep it tamed, pruning after it flowers in the Spring. You can read all about my visit to Tombstone here. My white rose has a great provenance.

Unfortunately we were passing though Tombstone in January so did not see the rose blooming. Maybe one day. While our bloom is not quite as spectacular this year due to the earlier buds being subjected to temperatures in the 20s she is putting on a pretty darned good show. When her bloom finishes her leaves provide a little shade to a small part of a very sunny garden.

Monday, April 1, 2019


April brings the primrose sweet

Scatters daisies at our feet

Welcome April into your garden.

Saturday, March 30, 2019


This week we hosted a large group of visitors from the Garden Clubs of America. As usual there had been fretting for several weeks about how the garden was going to look, what would be blooming and what wouldn't. You know the gardeners' cry, "You should have been here last week, or even this morning." I do try hard not to say that any more. Timing seems to be all important when a garden tour is on the books. Constant checking the weather report and temperatures. If only I could say, "come over today" That may be the only kind of garden tour in our future.
Of course the bluebonnets were blooming beautifully as well as the mallows, freesias, iris,

Globe mallow

and lots of other unusual things like kale and cabbage....gone to flower in our strange Spring, but left for the pollinators.

Flowers of Napa cabbage
Lovely clumps of fragrant narcissus 'cheerfulness'

and clumps of native wild alliums looking at home between the rocks.

And Texas yellow star, Lindheimera texana, which has established itself in a dry corner of the garden.

And because this was an afternoon tour even the Gilia rigidula was on show. Growing on top of the retaining wall between the secret garden and the English garden where it is much easier to appreciate than if it was growing low down on the ground. You are not likely to see this for sale unless in a specialist nursery. I found mine on the property and moved it to this spot.

But days later some of these plants are fading and others making an appearance. The warm sun this week and the claret cup cactus, Echinocereus triglochidiatus started to bloom.

And another round of the ladyfinger cactus, Echinocereus pentalophus.

and more and more blooms opening every day on the Lady Banks rose , Rosa banksia 'lutea'

And last evening as I strolled around the garden, I noticed the blue eyed grass,  Sisyrinchium was blooming. My Monday visitors missed seeing these.

I am now asking myself if my next garden visitors will see them. Will they last another 8 days. But of course there will be something else in bloom. The poppies and penstemons for sure and maybe the mallows will keep going for another week. The skullcaps and blackfoot daisies should be coming into their own. Yes. Spring and early summer are a succession of plants that bloom, fade and are replaced by others, so what am I fretting about? Just my nature.

Saturday, March 23, 2019


I can't tell you how many times I have said "Next Year" It is the nature of gardening that we are often looking to the next year. Just this morning I was saying those very words.

I love to grow things from seeds and those that can be sown directly in the ground are my favorite. Last fall I purchased a packet of California poppy seeds. Not that I need any more of those self- seeding orange poppies. But this packet was different. California poppy,  Eschscholzia caespitosa dwarf Sometimes called the Tufted poppy or Foothill poppy it is native to the Chaparral community of plants from Oregon through California to Baja California.

Always on the lookout for dwarf plants for my rock gardens I thought I would give them a try.  I noticed some rather spindly looking shoots some weeks ago doubting that they would amount to much. We have been so dry that I decided they were not doing well because of the lack of rain, so I watered them. They responded by growing and flowering in the space of two weeks with lovely bright yellow blooms. They are only 6" tall, perfect for a spot between the rocks. I wish now I had sowed the whole packet instead of putting a few seeds in 3 areas. A big Next Year for these little poppies.

Sometimes illustrations on seed packets disappoint, but not this one.

Alas, another packet of seeds disappointed me this year. Double Click Blend, Cosmos. I grew these same flowers last year and they had gorgeous, frilly blooms. This year among the 20 seeds in the packet not one of them is frilled. In fact several are plain run-of-the-mill cosmos. It is too late for me to grow them again this year so it will be another case of hoping for better luck Next Year.

We spent the morning moving the citrus into position in the potager and the plants that are staged at the ziggurat steps. Or rather I directed as David did the lifting, carrying and placing. Those citrus pots are heavy and some of the other plants are vicious, particularly Aloe marlothii. Honestly, I felt terribly guilty asking him to do a job that someone of our age shouldn't be doing. I made him a promise that he will never have to move the Aloe marlothii again. It will either survive or die in that spot. I don't think it is ever going to reach its full potential which is to flower with gorgeous orange blooms. Possibly because it spends the winter in the garage which is not  place to induce winter blooming.

Always an unplanned combination of plants is likely to bring a Next Year moment, but how often is it repeated? And what of those beautiful red flax flowers. Last year I said more Next Year and I have exactly 2 clumps of them. The seed packets sitting idle in the laundry room. But once again I can say Next Year and hope it will be. The years are slipping away!
Our septic filed is another Next Year dream. For years I tried to grow wildflowers but none ever came. In an attempt to reduce the fertility of the soil we started gathering the grass when mowing and directed our sprinkler heads into the wooded area. And after 2 years it seems to be working. There are many clumps of bluebonnets several blanket flowers and I can just visualize that Next Year it will be a wildflower meadow, and if not next year then the next year.

Sunday, March 17, 2019


Our mild winter has been kind to many of my flowering blooms, although I have to admit I did protect the freesias during some recent nights when the temperatures fell in to the 20s. The same with some of the iris because they were in bud.

The purple iris were a passalong and came without a name which is often the case in my garden. The pretty little narcissus alongside this clump is also without a name, much to my regret.

Another passalong iris, known only as Peach, lives up to its name. It smells of peaches.

The naturalizing species tulips, or lady tulips, Tulipa clusiana, have not disappointed this year. Some years ago I read that the seed were not viable and I would pick off the seed heads after flowering. Then I discovered that the seed pots were attractive in themselves and allowed the seed to fall. Now there are many new plants forming.

Tulipa clusiana Lady Jane

Tulipa clusiana, Lady Jane with petals closed
Tulipa clusiana var. chrysantha, has yellow petals with red markings on the underside.

The species tulips, Tulipa humilis, Persian pearl was planted several years ago. It bloomed the first year and then nothing for 2 years. Now once again it is going to bloom. This is one of the shortest stemmed tulips, just a few inches tall.

I took the upper photo this morning and this one when the petals opened up when the sun came out.

All these tulips are perfect for the rock garden where they will receive good drainage.

The freesias have been magnificent, whether in pot or in the ground. They did receive addition protection from freezes but worth every cover I brought in and out.

And the same with pots of anemones.

I just wish they would all last just a little longer.