Saturday, August 30, 2008


Yesterday evening we arrived home after 7 weeks traveling through New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Idaho and Colorado in our trailer. Whenever I had access to the internet I checked on the local garden blogs. Many of them had horror stories to tell about the triple digit temperatures in Austin. This, coupled with the lack of rainfall had me feeling very nervous about my own garden which I had left to fend for itself. I knew my first post was going to be about what I found when I got home. Believe you me there is a big story to tell, but I just had to take the opportunity for my first post to be about the new residents in our garden.

I can assure you that my Great, great grandfather is turning in his grave at the thought of reynard happily snoozing away in the garden of his great great granddaughter.  After all it was his job to hunt the fox. He was huntsman to the Badsworth Hunt in the early 1800s. Hunting was the cause of his untimely death at the age of 40.
We are thrilled our little friend is enjoying a little peace and quiet in our garden, snoozing the morning away after filling himself with persimmons, pomegranates and probably my cantaloupes.

There were two foxes on the wall this morning but only one stayed behind to spend the rest of the day. He doesn't seem in the least concerned about these intruders in his garden. He looked at me once or twice and then just went back to sleep.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


You would think I had learnt by now to research my plants before buying. I once had a Hypericum (St John's wort) growing in my garden in St Louis. It was a lovely bush with yellow flowers and very mannerly. So I bought a packet of seeds and planted 4 plants in my English garden. They grew well but had very small leaves and no flowers and behaved like a rock garden plant growing and spilling over the wall. I was convinced that that packet must have had the wrong seeds. Determined to have this plant I bought another packet from another company. Same result. Only now did I do my research.
Hypericum perforatum is listed as a noxious weed in 20 countries. It spreads by rhizomes which are now taking over my garden. Believe me I have had this lesson before and I have a "right royal battle" on my hands to get rid of it.
and I quote:

"There is no gardener without humility. Nature is constantly sending even its oldest scholars to the bottom of the class for some egregious blunder"  Alfred Austin.

Friday, August 8, 2008


Whenever I visit Phoenix I simply have to go to the Desert Botanical Garden, which is located in Papago Park. Even if the month is July and the day time high is going to be 110 degrees. It is not surprising that the gardens open their gates at 7am and that is exactly the time that I arrived. Never mind that most of the cactus were no longer in flower just to walk among these giants of the desert is enough for me.

Imagine trying to transplant one of these -and they do.

The desert Botanical Garden lies within the Sonoran desert and although most of the plants growing here have their home in this Southwestern desert, the garden is also committed to conservation of all desert plants of the world.

Cactus and agave also appreciate a little shade, as that provided by this tree. The desert trees include acacia, mimosa, palo verde, mesquite, desert willow. These legumes can fix their own nitrogen and often have roots which extend 100' below the ground.

Or even a little shade cloth

The saguaros are the giants of the desert. Their pleated stem allows them to take up water during the rainy season. Their huge structure is supported by a woody skeleton similar to that of a tree.

They sometimes take on unusual growth

They provide a nesting place for birds

A grouping of barrel cactus


This water feature provides a cool place for birds and other creatures of the desert to visit when we have all gone home.

The Pima Indians, who made their home in the desert hundreds of years ago, learnt to live in harmony with the desert, using desert plants for their needs.

My visit was short because temperatures were already in the 90s. Next time I will make a point of being here in April.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


A friend Marcia, who is a volunteer at the Wildflower Center, sent me this little story this week. Sometimes I wish I had some grass and leaves to add to my compost pile. In the fall we pick up those bags of leaves in the neighborhood so they don't go to waste.

(overheard in a conversation between God and St. Francis):

God: Francis, you know all about gardens and nature; what in the world is going on down there in the U.S.? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistles and the stuff I started eons ago?I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought, and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honeybees, and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of color by now. All I see are patches of green.
St. Francis: It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. They are called the Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers 'weeds' and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.
God: Grass? But it is so boring, it's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, bees or birds, only grubs and sod worms. It's temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want grass growing there?
St. Francis: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it has grown a little, they cut it....sometimes two times a week.
God: They cut it? Do they bale it like hay?
St. Francis: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.
God: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?
St. Francis: No sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.
God: Now let me get this straight...they fertilize it to make it grow and when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?
St. Francis: Yes, sir.
God: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.
St. Francis: You aren't going to believe this Lord, but when the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.
God: What nonsense! At least they kept some of the trees.
That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself.
The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep the moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves become compost to enhance the soil. It's a natural circle of life.
St. Francis: You'd better sit down, Lord. As soon as the leaves fall, the Suburbanites rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.
God: No way! What do they do to protect the shrubs and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?
St Francis: After throwing the leaves away, they go out and buy something called mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.
God: And where do they get this mulch?
St. Francis: They cut down the trees and grind them up to make mulch.
God: Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore.
Saint Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?
St. Catherine: 'Dumb and Dumber,' Lord. It's a really stupid movie about...
God: Never mind -I think I just heard the whole story from Saint Francis!