Tuesday, June 2, 2020


If I said "not so many pots this year" then I am not doing very well. With my greenhouse and potting shed stacked with plants over the winter it was impossible to get in there to care for them and with a mild winter and lots of sun they suffered enormously from the lack of water. But, cactus and succulents are amazingly resilient and many clung on doggedly to life. Then again there is nothing I love more than bringing plants back to life. So, once again I seem have almost as many post as last year. One change I have made though, in an effort to simplify my life, is to the wall planter and the hanging basket.

Tired of the impossible task of watering through the summer I decided to plant up with succulents. And in one fell swoop I managed to empty 7 small pots of cactus and succulents. They are filling in quickly with our recent rains. Every one of them is cutting from another plant- my weakness has paid off.
The same with the hanging basket on the dining patio.

What on earth was I going to do with the long trailing branch on the Pereskia? A hanging basket seemed to be the perfect solution. Planted in a very gravelly mix I hardened off some Sedum nussbaumerianum cuttings and planted beneath. They play off the copper-colored new leaf growth on Pereskia.
New growth captured at sunrise
And then there are the ones on the fireplace. I ended up nursing them back to health and they all seem to be making it.

There is nothing particularly special about these plants And they propagate readily so there is always another pot to fill. I have found that it pays to use good cactus and succulent soil and last year I did splurge on a couple of bags of soil from East Side Succulents. It's expensive but the plants love the pumice incorporated in the mix. We all know how expensive that product is.

On the lower level more pots and even going up the steps in to the English Garden.

Pot placement is not an easy thing to do and, one day while sitting in the shade and looking at this area, I realized the area had a decided untidy look. I needed to relocate some of the pots. As those who have visited the garden know I have a place outside the garden which is well suited to receiving the extras. Maybe it is unfair of me to call it the Gulag but that is what I have called it in the past. If a plant survives and does well then it may return to the garden. It really isn't such a bad place to live.

And finally the Cactus Theatre in the front garden. I used to have a hayrack here until 3 years ago when I saw a miniature hosta Theatre at Holehird Gardens in the Lake District in England. The perfect solution. Of course once again the plants are mostly cuttings from what I already have. Time for a few treats once lockdown is over for me.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

STATICE, Limonium sinuatum

One year, in the dim distant past, I grew statice, and then never again. Not for any reason other than the fact I had so much of it every vase in the house was filled with dried statice. It was mostly purple and kept its color well over the years. I decide over the winter it was time for renewal so bought a packet of seeds and started them indoors over the winter. I have been thrilled with how successful they have been.

We had toyed with the idea of removing the smaller square beds in the vegetable garden and replacing them with a sitting area and gravel garden but then I decided that it might be better to have a cutting garden. I used one of the beds to plant up the statice.

Statice, Limonium sinuatum, hails from the Mediterranean region and although considered to be hardy from zone 8 up, it probably will not like our humid summers. It is best grown as an annual. One of the great things about statice is that to dries so well, the flowers keeping their color for year.

If you look closely you will see that there are two parts to the flower, the center white corolla and the colorful calyx which surround it. This papery calyx is what makes it suitable for drying.

The flower stems arise from a basal rosette of leaves and are leafless, although there are winged protuberances all the way along the stem.

Mine was a packet of mixed seeds so I had no idea what color they would be until the bracts started to open. Not quite as much of the darker shades as I would like. I must check to see if they have specific colors available because I am definitely going to fill a bed with this plant again next year.

Drying is very simple. Cut the flowers just before the flowers open and hang in a cool dry place for a couple of weeks. Then enjoy for years to come.

Thursday, May 21, 2020


It's the second thing I do every morning. Number one is put the kettle on to make tea. Number two is to pick up my phone and head out into the garden. What will I see this morning; a new flower, a wilted plant, a lizard scurrying ahead of me on the path or just that special scene that I want to capture in a photo? Here are a few of the scenes that I enjoyed this morning.

The kumquat is blooming and this year, if all the flowers are pollinated, we will have a really wonderful crop for kumquat marmalade.

In the distance is the pedestal with the hypertufa crevice garden. I planted it with little plants that could not survive my summer travels, nor the blasting sun. This year I am hoping for better success with a few things that have seeded there, a feather grass, and one particularly tough succulent I snuck in there last fall. But it is my opinion that the rocks could just stand alone.

As I walk back I realize I need to do a little editing to make walking through here a little easier.

Further along the wall the clematis, Clematis texensis 'Princess Diana', is starting to bloom. There was an anxious moment a few weeks ago when I was sure it was lost but then I noticed small shoots beginning to grow and within weeks she was showing her first buds.

Back up the steps and a nice shot of the prickly pear with the heart leaf skullcap. I have managed to control its spread so that it is confined to this area but it is an ongoing process.

A passalong plant from Bob Beyer when he moved to Florida, the Crown of Thorns Euphorbia milii, blooms constantly.

I love my hypertufa balls in the English garden.

and the hypertufa trough in the Spanish Oak garden. I finally settled on the African false hosta, Drimiopsis maculata, another passalong plant.

Just outside the back door a cow bell, picked up at an estate sale, an aloe and a metal lizard make a perfect trio.

And on the far side of the courtyard garden I check out the Clematis versicolor, Lots of new buds ready to pop open.

At the same time on my walk I see plenty of jobs for the day but for now that early morning cup of tea awaits.

Friday, May 15, 2020


I never expected my sunken garden and its surrounds to be a wildflower meadow but it seems that is exactly what I have. Does that disappoint me? Not really although I would love the wildflower meadow to be outside the main garden. But I love the profusion of blooms that greets me every morning when I step outside the door. Each new flower aiming beat the heat and fulfill its destiny-seeds.

And those seeds, wherever they fall, will create next year's garden. The coneflowers, Echinacea purpurea, are beginning to bloom alongside the gaura, Gaura lindheimeri. I have two varieties one pink and one white which seed around the garden and once they start blooming they bloom all summer long. And hidden among them I see the new leaves of the Mexican Bird of Paradise. It will be many weeks before that plant begins to bloom.

I didn't pull out as many of the mulleins as I said I would but they will not be long in the garden as they will soon enter into their rather messy phase. How I wish we could get the perennial kind that I see in English gardens. This one is my favorite although it is taking up more than its share of the sunken area.

Blue flax, Linum lewisii, with it long arching branches.

And scarlet flax, Linum rubrum, native to North Africa but naturalized in the USA. Always there is a plan to have more but always just a few develop.

Seen here with coreopsis and California poppies.

I grew this achillea from seed 2 years ago. It was supposed to be a much darker color. Sometimes the seeds will surprise you.

And also this foxglove, Digitalis purpurea,  which has taken it three years to flower.

On a rather humid morning the chocolate flowers, Berlandiera lyrata, filled the air with its delicious fragrance. They can't help but draw attention to themselves.

Bee balm, Monarda 'Peter's Purple' enjoys far too much success in this garden to the point of crowding out other plants, including the iris it has surrounded.

And under the shade of the Yucca rostrata the shrimp plant, Justicia brandegeeana has been blooming for several months.

 And a surprise shrimp plant which suddenly appeared has been identified as the native Montell bractspike, Yeatesia platystegia,

And finally Brazilian verbena, Verbena bonariensis with prickly pear.

 I rely heavily on the sunken garden to seed itself so never know what will be growing there from year to year. Unfortunately last year I lost all but one pink skullcap and all the purple skullcap which had been a staple in this garden for nearly 15 years but gardeners learn to move on and like Wilkins Micawber I rely on the fact that "Something will turn up" and it usually does.
Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020


There's a lot more to having a garden than planting, pruning and primping. There are those tasks that I call grunt jobs. Maintaining the structures you have added to give interest, like benches, woodwork, metal art, pots, patio floors, bird baths. I have quite a few of these and on several afternoons this past week it seemed the perfect opportunity to get out of the sun and sit in the shade.

These are the two signs that go above the side entrance and the Sun and Moon Archway. Wind, rain and the Texas sun take their toll on any kind of protection you might add. I found myself a shady spot on the patio, where I could continue to enjoy the garden, and in no time the job was done, the signs re-installed.

While I had the can of sealant out I decided it was time for a refresh of all my home-made hypo-styrene pots.

Many of the plants had grown leggy with time and imperfect growing conditions. They needed to be cut off and replanted but before that a spell on the  patio table was the perfect place to callous over the cut ends.

I am always trying to make doo with what I have with just the occasional new purchase. This is one of my favorites which also looks as though it could do with a trim.

With a new coat of sealant they are all ready for the summer heat.

Next job was the Ziggurat steps at the side entry. I remember learning about Ziggurats in elementary school. What a perfect name. I don't know if this is a general name for these kind of steps or was just someone else's interpretation but when I came across the name in an article on Folly Farm I decided to rename my steps. Edwin Lutyens did many renditions of these kind of steps, some of which are curved. They have all stood the test of time. You can read all about the stunning remake of Folly Farm by Dan Pearson. Of course Lutyens' were made of stone so the necessary work of removing leaves from inside the joints was never needed. Unfortunately for us, wooden steps require a little more maintenance especially when situated beneath a live oak tree. The only way to do the job is to poke all the debris out using a piece of wire coat hanger.

Then the steps need to be washed down and re-stained. Thankfully I could pass that job on to David.

The Carolina wrens, who make their annual nest on my cactus theatre have fledged. We had no idea the theatre was going to provide such entertainment. We sat outside in the garage link and watched them build, worried about the safety of the nest from snakes and then the busy feeding time. Then one day the mother was singing away in the tree calling them from the nest and within two days they were gone.

Time for a tidy up, a watering and more entertainment as two of the cactus are about to flower.

There are still more jobs like this to be done but right now it is time to clean up all the bluebonnet debris and the live oak leaves that have been hidden beneath them. It is a big job and will take several days.