Wednesday, March 25, 2009


After the drizzle yesterday morning the sun finally came out in the late afternoon. This swallowtail butterfly, which is the largest I have ever seen, spent over half an hour flitting among the flowers. I managed to capture it with wings open. 
I thought it was a good time to capture the spring flowers in the vegetable garden before they were pounded by the storm that the weather man promised for today. It came at rush hour this evening.  In parts of the county baseball size hail fell, no doubt smashing plants to the ground. We were lucky. No hail but not much rain either. The rain gauge measured on 3/10" Oh well better than nothing.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


This morning it was my perfect gardening day. Overcast 70 degrees and from time to time a little drizzle. Time to plant some of those seedlings I have been growing. There is a good chance of rain tomorrow so what better time. At the same time some of the beds got a much needed infusion of good soil. This time some of the Natural Gardener's rose soil. It is their best and I notice among the mix is a good dose of hadite( expanded shale). Some of it went into the raised bed where the Zepherine drouin is growing. I have been threatening to pull her out because despite a good early spring performance the rest of the year is a disaster with blackspot. 

I will relent again as today there are clusters of fragrant pink roses above our little seating area in the front garden. I plan to do a serious pruning after she has finished the big show removing some of the really old canes. Then maybe with the new soil things will improve for the rest of the year.

I was interested to see the gardeners at the Wildflower Center pulling out the pink primroses. They said they were just pulling them back from the edges to control them, which is exactly what I do. I still like to have a few clumps of them here and there.

The buzzard is keeping a watchful eye over the creek bed. You can see the bluebonnets in the background which are taking over the seating area.

Columbine and gaura fill the raised beds.
I wish these plants would always stay this tidy but there is not much hope for that in Texas.

These are the only kind of plants that stay tidy in my garden.

Monday, March 23, 2009


I'm not sure which is worse no rain or a 40 mile an hour wind. When the fronts pass through they certainly do it with fury. It is a struggle keeping the seedlings growing and everything standing. I know this happens all the time in the spring so you would think I would be prepared. which brings me to my mini greenhouses and a third life for gallon milk jugs.

Earlier this year I used the milk jugs in the greenhouse to line the walls. They take up heat during the day and give it back at night. I did mean to try painting them black this year to see if the water would warm up more but never got round to it. At the same time the jugs of water act as watering can for the seedlings. They prefer a warm drink to one straight from the tap. So yesterday I planted out the basil seedlings and they are lucky to get mini greenhouse. I cut out the bottom of the jug making sure to cut below the reinforced bottom. That makes it easier to put in the ground. When I plant out the squash they will also get a greenhouse as their stems are always susceptible to  breaking off in the wind. Finally the jugs will go to the recycle bins. Another use for the milk jugs is to cut out the top sufficiently to add a few rocks. Make a few pin prick holes in the bottom and fill with water. The water will trickle out slowly to feed new plants. You can even add a little slow release fertilizer to the jug. I suppose you could also fill the jugs with water and position them around a plant just like a wall o' water. As you can guess we drink a lot of milk.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Tempted by the ease with which the Knockout rose "radrazz" grows, how could I resist the yellow variety Rosa "radsunny". Following our Saturday walk around Lady Bird Lake we headed over to our favorite post walk lunch spot, Whole Foods. There among all the new plants I saw the yellow variety I had been reading about. Hardy from zone 5-9, "radsunny" has the same dark leaves but a slightly more upright habit and it is has all the disease resistant attributes of the other knockout roses. In a flash it was in the cart. On the way home I kept smelling a wonderful fragrance; could it be the new rose? It was. I have my yellow rose of Texas.

Friday, March 20, 2009


One of the most wonderful things about having a garden is being able to pop out and pick a few flowers for the house. I always allow plants to grow here there and everywhere in vegatable beds and pathways on the pretext that I will be cutting them to bring inside. One of the stems on the unknown double narcissus was broken off today. I couldn't let it languish so I picked two more stems to bring inside. With a few columbine leaves it makes a miniature arrangement. The fragrance is wonderful and reminds me of my childhood in England.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


When I saw these today I thought I knew exactly what they were and a quick search on google confirmed my thinking. Eggs of the stink bug. The reason I knew what they were. They are similar in shape to the eggs of the harlequin bug although not quite so pretty.  If I have a handle on the harlequins this year apparently I don't on the stink bugs. I have killed so many recently, and today, as we ate our lunch in the front bluebonnet patch, we noticed the stinkers at work among the bluebonnets. Then I spotted the eggs. They weren't very smart laying them on the upper surface of the leaf. At least that is one batch that won't be hatching.

This egg case is a completely different story. Placed 8' up on the wood above our patio this is a praying mantis egg case. I like these guys because they feed on crickets, grasshoppers and flies. They also have cannibalistic habits. Hundreds of miniature mantids emerge from the egg case and it is not unusual for the first one out to be eaten by the next one. It doesn't start there either. The female has been known to eat the male during or after the mating process. I guess that will depend on how well he performs!  Years ago when I found one of these on a plant I thought "this doesn't look good" but I soon learnt to welcome sight of the egg cases. I did once have one, cemented to my lemon tree, start hatching in the house and I had tens of these tiny mantids running around. I tried to rescue them with a piece of paper but some of them were caught in spiders webs. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I think I am most fortunate to be a gardener. When I wake up in the morning I can't wait to get outside and see which new flower will have opened. At this time of the year it seems as though it is a daily occurrence, which makes it all the more exciting. Every plant is in a hurry to bloom, probably because it knows that a Texas summer is on the way and they had better make the most of the cooler days; not that the last few days have been cooler with a new record of 86 degrees set the other day. Just the other day this chocolate daisy, Berlandiera lyrata, pictured above, which I saw for the first time this morning with all its petals unfurled, was nothing but a green bud.

You can just see the buds of the future petals.

So, I called D outside and said "get down and smell this flower and tell me what you think" "Wow" he exclaimed "it smells like chocolate" Right on. Hence its name chocolate daisy. It is growing quite happily in the sunken garden and has been for years. 

In the same garden the white wine cup, Callirhoe involucrata 'lineariloba', seems quite at home on the upper level. Despite being nibbled by the cotton rats it is now a mass of flowers. It is rather an aggressive plant having overtaken a calylophus some years ago.

Chives are flowering in the herb garden.

Not being much of a note taker and not much good at record keeping, it is no surprise that I have no idea of the name of this double narcissus. Only that it has the most fragrant flower. Perhaps someone can identify it for me.

With such a poor showing of bluebonnets outside the walls I relented and let them stay in the front garden. We always eat lunch here on a sunny day and it isn't easy to pick our way to the seating but I'll save these seeds to replant areas outside.

I even posed for a photo among them.

Monday, March 16, 2009


It was a much better bloom day today.

The sun was up early this morning and so were the California poppies.

All that rain has freshened up the garden.

"Lady Jane" turned her face to the warm sun.

The first butterfly iris opened.

Blue eyed grass,  is always a reliable spring bloomer.

As is the blanket flower.

I let the white flowered wild onion be and I love the way the pink flowered onion carpets the ground  beneath the oak and persimmon trees.

I wish the pink primrose would join them instead of preferring my garden.

The sun brought out the flowers on the ice plant, Delospermia cooperii.

and the first buds on the pomegranate tree showed up.

It's nice to see the first ladybird lava too. It must mean that the aphids are on the way!

Sunday, March 15, 2009


 Over the last 3 days we have had 3 1/2" of rain and no sun. I have cabin fever despite having spent several hours in the greenhouse with my babies. They all went back in there as temperatures went down into the 30s and I didn't want to risk losing them. I'm grateful for the rain but sun, please come back.

 For three days the Tulipa clusiana "Lady Jane" has been closed up sporting her outer pink cloak. This species tulip does not require the chilling that the larger hybrid tulips need. Ideal for the rock garden because of it only reaches about 9" and is a wonderful naturalized.

Earlier last week the petals were open to display their pale yellow interior.

Some flowers are out despite the lack of sun. The bluebonnets, Lupinus texenis, inside the garden have fared a good deal better than those outside. This one is paired with the Mexican feather grass, Stipa tenuissima.

The cheerful dahlberg daisy, Dyssodia tenuiloba, seems to favor cracks and crannies in the paths and stones where it re -seeds every year. All parts of the plant are poisonous which explains why the deer and rabbits seem to leave it alone.

Another member of the aster family Pachera glabella, with its deeply divided leaves is not something you will find at the nursery. It is a native annual wildflower which showed up in my garden and which I encourage. It makes a great cut flower and is long lasting.

The Indian hawthorn, Raphiolepis indica var. pink lady and clara are starting to flower.

Prairie verbena,Glandularia bipinnatifida, pops up in the most unexpected places.

The yellow native columbine, Aquilegia chrysantha var, hinkleyana is a short lived perennial but will provide enough seeds to keep the plant going for years.

Zephirine drouin, on the front wall, is sending out new blooms daily. This highly fragrant repeat climber is looking a little worse the wear for the rain but these are the early blooms and she should bounce back after the wonderful rain.

California poppy clearly does not like the lack of sun.

Thanks, Carol at May Dreams for hosting Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. I think I see a brightness in the sky!

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Unaffected by the heavy downpours, temperatures in the high thirties and strong winds, the crossvine Bignonia capreolata delights us on a cold Saturday morning.

This vine growing on the pool wall had been chopped to the ground, three years ago, and every root removed. Or so I thought. 

It came back again with equal vigor and has now draped itself over the wall in a delightfully attractive curtain.
The cucumber trellis outside the greenhouse has also been taken over by the vine. I have enjoyed it for a few years and I admit it does shade the greenhouse, from the fierce summer temperatures and those hot days in the spring when temperatures soar into the 80s, but I will just have to rely on the shade cloth next year because it is coming out after the flowers fade. No doubt it will be back.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Spring will certainly come to Texas this year but I think it will be a little different from the last few years. Sparse rainfall at the end of the year will mean fewer wildflowers in the fields. Or should I say fewer of our beloved Texas bluebonnets( Lupinus texensis). All is not lost because some wild flowers thrive on the lack of rainfall and competition from native grasses which will not grow so tall. It will be their spot in the limelight. 

You can see by looking at these photographs of our patch last year that the bluebonnet can dominate. Where enough moisture is found one seed will grow to be a plant 3 feet in diameter. I have one or two of those inside my garden where soils are deeper. 

I walked up to the top of our property yesterday and saw that there will not be one flower there this year. The ground is hard and dry and the seeds which germinated earlier in the year are shriveled and stunted. Even so some are trying to produce a diminutive flower. 

Even the possibility of rain this weekend, the first in months, will do little to bring them on. What a good job that nature makes sure that not all seeds germinate at the same time. Under the dry grass will be others waiting for the fall rains. Their tough seeds coats may just have taken a little longer to wear to the point where water can penetrate. Good old mother nature.
So who will be in the fields this spring. Members of the sunflower family, Engelmann's daisy will be there along with pink Missouri primrose. Ah, yes, I grew that primrose in St Louis. It was so well mannered but here in my Texas garden it wants to take over. 

I actually bought seeds! I am forever pulling out, keeping it under control so that it will only grace the garden  with a beautiful clump or two. Now if only it would grow out on the septic field I could just imagine it............