Friday, October 19, 2018


Years ago we had a family website which we gave the above name. It sounded so much better than Half the Work is Getting Started. All that was on our mind at the time was the tremendous job that faced us in designing and building the garden. It was quite daunting, but we chipped away at it until it is what it is today. Those latin words have been rolling around in my head recently. And they are good words for me to remember because I have a tendency to let projects sit for a while and then finally when I get around to doing them I realize they didn't take too long at all and their competition gave me untold satisfaction. Case in point, the ever growing pile of styrofoam containers waiting to be turned into garden troughs.

This is what I call a feel good project. Most people put no value on them once they have served their initial purpose and frequently toss them out in the garbage. Or they may put a little value on them and sell them for dollar at a garage sale. It makes me feel good that I am repurposing and saving them from the landfill as well as providing a home for one of my succulents.
It's just getting started on the project is half the battle. The first step is to brush the outside surface with a wire brush and it is one messy job. This time I took myself outside and sat on the edge of the driveway in the shade, mask on and large sheet of plastic on the ground to collect all the bits. It's impossible not to get it all over everything. A few holes drilled in the bottom assured good drainage.

I try to make them more realistic by cutting the tops unevenly and brushing more off in some places. That done the surface needs to be sealed. In the past I used a barbecue lighter and a candle but this time I treated myself to a small heat tool. It costs around $12 dollars after using a 50% coupon at the local craft store.
Next job was to paint. I made a better job of painting this time by giving each box a complete undercoat of gray. The same paint I used to paint the potting shed cupboards-an alkyl latex paint, which I happened to have on hand. Doing this makes sure that the whole surface is protected as well as easier to faux finish.

These are the paints I chose for the finished look.

And the brush I use. It's a good idea to use and old brush with rather open bristles so you get the right paint effect.

I squeezed a little of the paint into a tray and dabbed the brush lightly picking up a little of each color and using a stippling technique applied to the painted surface until I achieved a stone-like effect.

When dry I applied a light coat of satin finish sealant. I have never done this before but decided this would probably extend their life.

Now the fun bit. Planting up with succulents and of course a few pieces of rock. it would be easy to go out and buy new plants but I have so many pots of small succulents to chose from and of course plenty of rocks.

Of course most troughs are made for alpine plants but that is just not going to work here with our hot, humid summers.

I still have the larger ones to plant up but they will soon be together in the new area of the garden called the Troughery.

Saturday, October 13, 2018


I made good use of some very hot and humid days recently by sorting out some of the garden paraphernalia I keep in the little Korean chest in the corner of the living room. Among the stacks of papers are my garden notes, clippings from newspapers, pages of garden ideas I have cut from magazines, and lots of thank you notes from visitors who have been to our garden. This seemed like a good time to organize them into files.
I'm not a keeper of letters. I did once keep a bundle of love letters from David but I burnt them before I got on that plane to come to America! But for some reason I have kept all the cards and notes from people who have been to visit our garden. I'd like to think that some time in the future my descendants will look through this file and learn about how much I loved to garden and share it with others. I know how much I treasure the three cards written by my great, great grandfather to his beloved in the 1840s, and saved down the male line for me to read so many years later. And the excitement David felt when he came across the diary written by his great, great uncle which told of his great grandfather's visit to Australia and his plan to immigrate.

Hand written card from my GGGrandfather
Among many of the letters and cards I received was a favorite which had a photograph of the pot which used to spill water into the pool- long gone and replaced by something more durable. And these two envelopes gave me quite a chuckle. Addressed to the Garden Queen of Austin and Queen mother of Austin gardening. It was nice that he thought that way but very far from a reality. I sent him some of my Monarda and in return he sent me some seeds for my garden.

I ended up organizing the magazine articles, newspaper articles and publications of our various garden tours, into a big binder. But I still need to find a better way to organize that big bulging sleeve of cards. Maybe a better idea would be to just copy and print the contents of each note.
There were lots of photos( taken before a digital camera became an important garden tool) some taken by me and some taken by the visitors and sent to me. It is a reminder of how the garden looked in its infancy.

Would you recognize the garden today? This is how it looked after David finished making those patio stones. Today they have aged and those cracks are home to many self sown plants. I'm afraid it is a weakness I have or is it just my gardening style.
Fall clean up 
And spring in this same garden.

In the front courtyard a photograph of before I planted the Lady Banks rose. It was a visitor on one of the garden tours that asked me if I knew the story of the Lady Banks rose and later sent me some clippings from a National Geographic magazine about the plant hunting expeditions of Sir Joseph Banks and  the origin of the rose's name. The two crape myrtles are long gone although they keep trying to return from roots left behind.

And today. Maybe time for a little clean up, although winter will take care of much of this. Would I ever be bold enough to have a clean sweep so that the rocks would once again be visible?

All these reminiscences were a good thing. This morning I got out in the garden and started the task of removing some of those weedy grasses. But, as always, I just pulled a few here and there preferring to leave it for a few days before I go back and remove more. Once pulled they can never be put back. And then returning heart and humidity drove me back inside the house. But all that is to change in the blink if an eye.

Saturday, October 6, 2018


Trying to work outside in this horrendous humidity is downright miserable. Where is our October weather? Those clear, dry days we expect after a brutal summer. They are just not happening this year and it means a delay in our fall gardening jobs.  This morning I took a walk around the garden with camera, while waiting for some garden visitors to arrive.

The entry garden doesn't see much in the way of change through the seasons although it won't be long before many of these plants will be moved to their winter homes.

In the front courtyard the pink crystal grass, Melinus nerviglumis is starting to flower. Those seed heads will ensure a new crop of grasses for next year.

You wouldn't know there was sunken garden here. Viewed over the wall from the English garden.

In the English garden Rosa 'Felicia' with her beguiling fragrance. Just a glimpse of her through the Sun and Moon archway.

The Philippine violet on the corner of the patio is just starting to bloom.

As is the shrimp plant. A new addition to this same corner.

The planter of bunny ears cactus, Opuntia microdasys, is back on the wall.

Peas are up.

Mexican mint marigold, Tagetes lucida, is just starting to bloom.

Lots of grasses in the herb garden and one big one over by the potting shed. This one is lemon grass, Cymbopogon.

The stock tank pond surrounded by gaillardia, cosmos and narrow leaf zinnias.

A splash of pink from the Japanese anemone. Are their petals supposed to be distorted?

The fall bloomers have definitely enjoyed our recent rains. And there is more to come this weekend.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


I have often mentioned how red was my least favorite color among garden flowers. But there are beginning to be more and more times when I eat my own words, and that time is now. Sometimes red gives that little pop of color which just brings the whole garden to life.

Whereas spring in the front courtyard is mainly about the blues, whites and yellows, fall is mainly about the the varied greens of the grasses and other textured plants. The salvia, Salvia greggii, dormant all summer, spring into life. One of those straggly plants that every year I think of removing until now. Here, straggly looks better than bushy as their arching branches reach over the rocks.

In another corner of this garden the same is true of the firecracker fern. I have seen magnificent displays of this plant when grown in good soil but mine stays rather short and retiring until rain and cooler temperatures bring out the bloom.

Under the shade of the Lady Banks rose, dormant all summer, the shy and retiring Oxblood lilies, Rhodophiala bifida, respond to a good soaking rain by sending up their naked blooms. And what a show they put on this year.

And in the back garden there are the annual strawberry gomphrena, Gomphrena globosa and spider zinnia, Zinnia tenuifolia, and they are red too. Although they usually reseed each year I still save save seeds just in case we have an unusually hard winter.

Another red flowering plant that will be moved into the garage for winter is the Japanes Lantern hibiscus, Hibiscus schizopetalus. It is certainly worthy of a home in the entry garden, if only for its exotic frilled bloom.

Look how deep the color is on the blanket flower, Gaillardia pulchella. Cooler nights are responsible for the depth of color. All flowers seem to take on more color during the fall.

Yes. Red is good.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


Do you like to bring a little gift or two home for your garden when you return from a trip? For me it wouldn't be quite right to come home with nothing. And when we take a road trip then I can fit just about anything in the truck, can't I?
But let's begin with the small things. First my Mother's Day present from Phoenix. Too heavy to send at the time it had to wait for my visit. I'm undecided yet how to display it so for the time being it is keeping company with another prickly pear from Arizona.

At the Denver Botanical Garden I picked up another little bird for the window ledge. He's also metal but staying inside.

In Telluride I spied this little prickly pear wall mount and the green man. The prickly pear is only a couple of inches tall and the green man about four inches. I need to get out the drill  and get busy mounting.

In the gift shop at the Great Basin National Park I bought two things for myself. A book mark and earrings. Of course they remind me of Ladybird Johnson and I think she would have approved of the message on the bookmark. And I shall wear those little darling little earrings when I next give a tour. Imagine, they are made from cereal boxes.

Those were fun little purchases but let's get to the real fun. Finding things at garage and estate sales. Some may be looking for antiques or jewelry, me, I'm looking for garden things. And you may wonder what we are doing going to garage sales and estate sales while on vacation. The fact is that when we are traveling in the trailer we are generally staying put somewhere over the weekend and that's when these events happen. So we went to a few estate sales and garage sales in both Montrose, Co. and Ketchum, Idaho. I like to look on these finds as my providing a good home for something that someone else once loved or used. I like practical things too.
This little cluster of metal objects caught my eye.

After a good brushing and a coat of sealant these ants found their new home on the rocks in my front garden.

The little book ends serve to hold the books I found on the trip. Of course they're all garden related.

A new bird house. I need to add some bark shingles to the roof to protect it. And two little boxes. Just a couple fo dollars each.

And judging by the numbers of hummingbirds in the garden the birds are already on their way south.

And I like to find more practical things too, like this little sharpening stone. It is really handy to carry in my pocket.

And I picked up 2 more polystyrene boxes to make more garden troughs, 2 galvanized buckets for holding plant stakes, a long window box, several protective eye goggles and two large Italian clay planters. Nothing was more than a dollar or two except the clay pots. The fun is in the hunt but now there is work to be done.