Wednesday, January 28, 2009


This was my second visit, to the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix, to see Chihuly: The 
Nature of Glass. The gardens provide a stunning settings for the works of Dale Chihuly. Our first visit was on a cold but sunny day in December. Despite the fact that only a certain number of prebooked tickets were available for the 12pm-4pm time slot, the grounds were very crowded. Today was another bright, sunny but cool day with no crowds. Far more enjoyable. 

This grouping Blue reeds, Marlins and Floats.

Our four year old granddaughter was sure these were marbles.

This was one of my favorites.

This little cactus was determined to get some camera time. 

The boojum, Fouquieria columnaris, was in leaf. This rather unusual tree is found only in Baja California. It can leaf out within 72 hours of a rainfall and drop the leaves if there is drought.

I wish I was going to be around when all the cactus come into flower.

At the end of every Botanical garden visit there is a garden shop; an extra treat at the end of the day.

There is no way I could leave there empty handed.

Here's my Agave parryi, huachucaensi, finger nails clipped and ready for the flight home. It did cross my mind that security at the airport might consider it a lethal weapon. Most gardeners would but not the airport security! I had to smile as the man behind me had to leave behind his nail clippers.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


On Saturday the Texas Flower Bulb Society held their Spring sale at Zilker Gardens. Spurred on by wonderful photographs of colorful flowering bulbs on various garden blogs I thought it time my garden had a gift! Although I had a few narcissi that was about it until this year when I received a wonderful gift of Oxblood lilies from Zanthan Gardens. Can't wait to see them flower next fall.
Now I have added
Giant Snowflake-Leucojum.
Two varieties of species tulip- Tulipa clusiana " Lady jane" and Tulipa saxatalis. These tulips are perfect for the rock garden and both naturalize.
Two varieties of rain lily- Zephyranthus primulina and Habranthus hubispatus.
Finally Lycoris radiata- red surprise lily.
They are all planted in the ground each clump with a tag so I don't forget where I planted them! I hope they like their new home.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


If you live in the mountain juniper belt you will know exactly what this is. This morning around 9:45 am the temperature must have just been perfect for the junipers to release their pollen. Just a slight breeze resulted in huge clouds of pollen puffing into the air. Within a matter of seconds hundreds of trees were adding their contribution to the air. It looked as though there was a fire burning in the trees. Fifteen minutes later, as we drove out, the city of Austin was was barely visible. The hills lying under a misty cloud. For allergy sufferers this was not a day to spend outside, even though it was going to be a beautiful day with temperatures in the 70s. Spoilsports.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Northern gardeners may smile when they hear me talking about growing rhubarb. It was so easy when we lived in Canada. My freezer was stock full of rhubarb to tide us over the winter. Rhubarb crumble and rhubarb pie, yum yum. Growing up in England I developed a fondness for the tart fruits; blackcurrants, gooseberries and best of all rhubarb. My grandmother made rhubarb and ginger jam and rhubarb wine.
This fall, at the Master Gardeners' program on vegetable gardening I heard for the first time that in Texas we need to grow rhubarb as an annual. Imagine that. Not only that, but from seed. Impossible! Not. This rhubarb plant was grown from seed, sown in summer by Patty Leander, who gave the presentation and passed on some seedlings for me to try. Here's a link for other gardeners to read about growing rhubarb in Texas.
I'm so excited about how well it is doing. It has been getting special treatment on these cold nights; an extra thick blanket. I'm not about to risk any of those stalks. For now I'm going to wait until spring before I do any cutting.

Every morning for breakfast we have a wonderful Texas grapefruit. The skins have a second life in my garden. They are used to trap slugs, snails and pillbugs.( I learnt this one from my mother) It appears as though we have something else that likes grapefruit. I think it's the hispid cotton rats but it might also be the ring tailed cat. Most mornings I find them turned over and all the remaining fruit eaten.

Just as long as they don't go eating my Napa cabbage.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


When I lived in Canada I was never tempted to try to grow plants that were out of my zone. Here in Texas it is too tempting to grow these plants. After all, it's only once in a while that we get an Alberta Clipper descend as far as the Gulf Coast. It is going to happen tomorrow. For the last 4 days we have had freezing every night but the warm ground has helped protect the plants. Tomorrow I don't think anything will help.
So here is what is blooming in the garden. I had to search hard but I came up with a few stragglers from the summer.

Alyssum usually blooms all winter. Tough little plant in all shades from white to purple. Seeds itself.

Purple lantana growing alongside copper canyon daisy.

Another yellow daisy, Tetraneuris scaposa.

Several salvias are still blooming.


Osteospermum didn't want to open even though the sun was shining.

Finally, in the greenhouse the lemons continue to bloom.

I'll be working in there tomorrow.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I have to admit that when I woke up on Saturday morning to a big chill over the Austin area I was rather glad. It meant I didn't have to miss a day spent out in the garden. I had signed up for a class at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, "Gardeners and Global Warming". This was an introductory class aimed at educating gardeners about the impact of global warming and how they can take action to limit those impacts.
The class was a joint presentation by Alice Nance, Conservation Program Coordinator, of the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department and Andrea Dravigne, Regional Education Manager for the Gulf States, National Wildlife Federation and Go Native U. ( University of Texas)
When I saw the words "Embrace conservation and reduce waste" I couldn't help but think of May Dreams and her multitude of Embrace postings. Apologies if you already did one Carol!  Over the two hour class we listened,got together in groups and offered our observations on possible effects of global warming in our own gardens. Have you noticed any changes? Here is a sampling of some of the things we can do to help in the effort to limit global warming.

Start a compost pile for kitchen and garden waste.

Conserve water. Replace water thirsty exotic plants with native plants.

Remove invasive plants.

Develop a rain garden. This is just one of the many web sites with information on developing a rain garden.
Our sunken garden is a more unusual form of rain garden, being completely surrounded by ledgestones. Rainwater drains into the area and is absorbed through the spaces between the flagstones.

Replace as much of your lawn as possible. Not only will this reduce your watering bill but will also reduce carbon dioxide emissions produced in the treatment of water and gasoline emissions from mowing. If your neighborhood demands a lawn then use a push mower!

Plant trees.

Encourage local garden retailers to stock native plants.

Ask elected officials to eliminate weed laws. I have to admit I had to ask what weed laws were and the response was, the practice of mowing the edges and center strips of the road. How I despaired when they mowed down all the Maximillian sunflowers, Helianthus maximilianii, that used to grow along Southwest Parkway.

Use drip irrigation.

Replace landscape lighting with solar systems and outdoor lighting fixtures with fluorescent bulbs.

Raise awareness of climate change at the local level.

Ask your Member of Congress to support global warming legislation.
We've all seen those bumper stickers that say we are spending our children's inheritance. Well it's no joke. We are. Our children inherit the earth from us.

Friday, January 9, 2009


It has been a gorgeous week to work outside in the garden. A garden that grows year round needs constant attention. I usually spend more time working out in the back garden because it is more sheltered, gets the morning sun and that is where the greenhouse and potting shed are. Today, as soon as the sun reached the front, I ventured out to cut back the skullcaps, remove the dead stems from the Salvia leucantha and lantana  and pull out the remaining zinnias. I will also have to pull out a lot of bluebonnets because if I don't we won't be able to use the seating area. This is what happens when I am not around to control the bluebonnets throwing their seeds.
It seems odd to have such warm days and for there to be very little flowering in the garden. The Copper canyon daisy in a sheltered spot in the front garden still had blooms.

This little butterfly spent the afternoon flitting around the flowers.

We had a new visitor to the garden last night. When we came in late last night I noticed a dark shape on the window ledge above the kitchen cupboards. We went out with a flash light and at first thought it was a raccoon because we saw a striped tail. Then a closer look determined that it was a ring tailed cat. It was difficult to get a picture of him and his tail all in the same shot but there was no doubt of his identity.
This is becoming a popular spot because we keep seeing a squirrel up on the ledge. He has just about eaten every berry on the pyracantha. At least, I hope he is eating the berries and not burying them in the garden. I'm afraid the cedar waxwings will be disappointed this year.

I think it is time to take my cup of tea outside and relax with a few gardening books.

I'll bet we are going to have another great sunset tonight.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Something terrible happened in my greenhouse on Saturday.

I have 5 citrus in there for the winter and all are in flower. Their perfume is almost overwhelming. With temperatures around 80 degrees on Saturday I opened the door and all the vents. When I went back in there in the late afternoon it was almost as though I was in the vicinity of a beehive. There were at least 30 bees in there. Some were busy on the flowers but others were up against the back window trying to get out. Apparently they were unable to navigate back through the door. 

I stood there quite helpless not knowing what to do. A felt terrible because I knew they were probably going to die. I left the door open all night but in the morning they were still there clinging to life.
A lesson learnt. I won't leave the door open again. I'll just open the screen in the door. In the past we have had a screech owl, cardinal, Carolina wren, hummingbird, rabbit and umpteen butterflies and moths in there and I struggled to get them out alive. This time I was not successful.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Do you ever wonder if you inherited your love of gardening? When I look back at my grandfather I know he planted the seeds of his love of gardening in me. This is a photo of my grandfather and my father in 1914. As you can see the garden, in the city of Manchester, England, is quite modest but the important thing is that my grandfather is teaching my father to tend his plants. When my grandfather retired he moved to the coast where he built a house with a beautiful garden which he tended until the day he died.
After my grandparents passed away we moved into that house and became the guardians of their roses, fruit trees, lawns, sunken garden, rockery and greenhouse with grape vine. I loved that house and garden. My memory still carries the scent of roses wafting through the window on a summer's day. Now, far away from that English garden, I have my own garden to take care of.

Last year I had the opportunity to visit my grandparents' garden once again. The house was empty and there was a for sale sign in the front garden. I snuck down the driveway into the back garden. I was saddened to find a neglected and derelict garden. The only remnant of the garden I remembered was the bird bath in the center of what had once been the lawn. My father had built the birdbath just before Word War 2. There was a little stone rabbit, ears missing, sitting on the edge. Here I am at the age of 3 with the little rabbit.

The little rabbit was still on the bird bath. I rather wish I had brought him home with me

The visit reminded me of the lyrics of a song by Judy Collins, Secret Gardens. It has always been a favorite of mine. Take a moment to listen to Judy singing this moving song.

My grandmother's house is still there

But it isn't the same

A plain wooden cottage

A patch of brown lawn

And a fence that hangs standing

And sighing in the Seattle rain

I drive by with strangers

And wish they could see what I see

A tangle of summer birds 
Flying in sunlight

A forest of lilies

An orchard of apricot trees

Secret Gardens of the heart

Where the flowers bloom forever

I see you shining through the night

In the ice and snow of winter

Great grandfather's farm is still there

But it isn't the same

The barn is torn down

And the fences are gone

The Idaho wind blows

The topsoil away every Spring

I still see the ghosts

Of the people I knew long ago

Inside the old kitchen

They bend and sigh

My life passed them up

And the world passed them by

Secret Gardens of the heart

Where the old stay young forever

I see you shining through the night

In the ice and snow of winter

But most of all

It is me that has changed

And yet I'm still the same

That's me at the weddings

That's me at the graves

Dressed like the people

Who once looked so grown-up and brave

I look in the mirror

Through the eyes of the child that was me

I see willows bending

The season is Spring

And the silver blue sailing birds

Fly with the sun on their wings

Secret Gardens of the heart

Where dreams live on forever

I see you shining through the night

In the ice and snow of winter

The memory of their garden will always have a special place in my heart.