Thursday, April 30, 2009

GAZANIA GLORY (Treasure flower)

Gazanias are one of my favorite flowers in the summer garden. They are so well behaved and nothing seems to phase them; be it sun, wind, humidity or heat. They come in all kinds of sunny bright colors. I prefer the shades of yellow and orange as they seem to tolerate the sun better and do not fade, but they do come in paler shades of pink. Their foliage is dark green and they stay compact throughout the growing season. Just about perfect.

Several years ago I added this perennial variety to my rock garden. It has a silver leaf with fine coating of hairs. The flowers are yellow and although no blooms appear during the winter the foliage adds a bight spot to the garden.

This year I added a third variety. This one has a more lemon colored flower but the same fuzzy foliage. It seems a little more open than the original one which makes a tight spreading clump.
I may have to strike a few cuttings in the fall. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


The rest of the world must think that the gardeners of central Texas are obsessed with weather. We have to shout to the world when we get rain, as we did yesterday. Our rain gauge measured 1.1" and we are over the moon. This morning it is still cloudy and misty but the garden is completely refreshed. My plans for cutting back and pulling out have been sidestepped. Do I really have to do the ironing!

Doesn't take long for the fungi to show up. They have to take immediate advantage of any moisture.

I probably wouldn't have noticed the young persimmons on the Texas persimmon, Diospyros texana, if it had not been for many littering the path, knocked down by heavy rain. Fruit drop is quite normal and hopefully there will be enough left to reach maturity. This fruit is high on the diet list for foxes during the fall. 

In 2004 I saw this fox in the same tree helping himself to the fruits. What a surprise that was.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Once in a while a plant grows in its most perfect form. This Skullcap, Scutellaria wrightii, seeded in between the paving in my sunken garden. It is now 3 years old and I know I will be heartbroken when it passes away. It isn't easy to find plants that behave so well and don't grow to enormous proportions. The pink, more common, skullcap is also a fairly orderly grower, although it has a tendency to lose its shape because of setting down roots along the stem and forming new plants. This is in itself an asset, but the purple skullcap forms a neat mound. I would say it is almost impossible to find in local garden centers and it is a mystery why because it self seeds freely in the poorest of conditions. My original plant came from the Wildflower Center's sale. 

This is going to be very interesting when I sow the seeds of this poppy next year. Will they breed true, I wonder? Clearly a mutation of the common pink poppy which I have growing in my garden. The larger poppy has no frills and no white marking. It was rather small, having grown under some rather testing conditions in a crowded pot. but I will be saving the seeds to see what happens next year.

This first ripe tomato is a first for this garden. April! It is a cherry and they do mature earlier but even so. It was hiding under an enormous parsley plant which I removed today. I staggered out of the garden under its enormous weight and dumped it on the septic field. Maybe the deer will enjoy it.

This early flowering is really worrying me. The Copper canyon daisy, Tagetes lemmoni, is a fall bloomer! Last year it didn't flower until November and this year April! I think these plants are worried they aren't going to get any rain at all this year so they had better get busy. Of course they were wrong. It is raining right this minute and a pretty good downpour. I love this plant. A native perennial, which is cut back down to the ground every year, it is deer proof with aromatic foliage and the most delightful flowers in the fall. 

Saturday, April 25, 2009


I caught the rose "felicia" in a perfect pose. So pretty she is my desktop image of the week. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


When we first moved into our house we thought that the wall at the front looked a little bare. Above it, and inside the walls, we could see four small windows high up in the house. By chance there had been a project in Sunset magazine on making small boxes with mirror backing. I thought it would be perfect to add some interest to the wall and at the same time mimic the windows in the house. No sooner said than done! For the last few years plant growth all but obscured the mirrored boxes,until we cleared out a lot of the planting in he fall and trimmed up the vitex tree. Now the boxes are visible again. It is a favorite place for the cardinal to sit and peck away trying to scare himself off.
Early this morning the air was clear and fresh but we all knew what was coming later on in the day. Another 90+ degree day. Very unseasonable. What will summer be like. I took the opportunity to walk up onto the plateau to see what, if anything, was flowering. No sign of flowers on the basket grass, Nolina texana. These gorgeous specimens don't seem to care if they get any water. The native Americans used this grass to make baskets. No need to cut this one back in the fall.

A fine old prickly pear was starting to bloom. Every flower seemed to have a visitor. I think this is the same beetle I found on the Missouri primrose. Must be attracted to the yellow bloom.

and a rain lily. I wish  had more of these. Even though I scatter the seeds around they are still rather sparse.
Here is the sotol, Dasylirion wheeleri, we removed from the garden and virtually threw outside. It has rooted and is much happier where it can do its strappy thing.

Inside the walls spring flowers are fading fast in the early heat. Until summer blooms begin structure becomes the important feature of the garden; the offset cement stones which divide the dry creek on each side of the entry garden.

Almost all the plants here have seeded themselves; bluebonnets, damianita, fournerve daisy, erigeron, ruellia, California poppies and feather grass. Saves me a lot of planting work even if there is plenty of pulling out work.

I gave a 10:30am tour at the Wildflower Center and by the time I returned home it was simply too hot to work outside. We broke the record for a high today but the good news is that tomorrow will only be in the 80s.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


There are a few things to me that herald the start of the summer season. The gaillardias or blanket flowers coming into bloom in their hundreds is the first. This flower form is a new one for me this year. I planted the seeds of Gaillardia pulchella 'sundance' in the vegetable bed, with an idea to moving the seeds when they had germinated. They are still there along with the pink California poppies and the Alyssum saxatile! I saw them blooming last year at the Dallas Arboretum and thought they would make a nice change from the regular flower form.

My other vegetable beds are also overflowing with the blanket flowers and also the pathways- everywhere but out there beyond the walls. I have decided that the foraging cotton rats must be eating the seeds that I throw out. I need to bury them in the future.

The second harbinger of summer is the arrival of Chuck-wills-widow or the common night jar. Two nights ago when we had the bedroom windows open I could hear his distinctive call right outside the window. Listen to his call.

I also saw the first hummingbird yesterday.
I am also inclined to think that summer is here when the temperature reaches 93 degrees as it did today and will do again tomorrow. Time to say goodbye to the peas!

Monday, April 20, 2009


This wonderful new addition to my vegetable garden deserves a spot in the limelight. Pisum sativum 'cascadia' was planted in January and has been a prolific and steady producer for many weeks.  No matter what stage of growth the whole pod is deliciously sweet and tender, even when the peas are fully formed. I was planning to save some pods for next year but they are just too yummy. Maybe I'll find a few hiding underneath when I pull them out. They make a great pea for eating raw, and I have added them to pasta dishes and curries as well as steaming them. I think they would be very good stuffed- must look up a recipe for that.
I used "pea brush" to support the tender vines. The plants have grown to about 4 feet so next year I will use longer supports. The plants are resistant to mildew although our dry winter would not have been a problem.  For sweetness it is important to grow peas in full sun. An absolute keeper.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I couldn't wait to get outside this morning. "I think I will go out and clean up the greenhouse." I said.  The torrential rain of yesterday meant that the soil would be too wet to work but I just had to be outside breathing in the wonderfully fresh rain soaked air; the scent of jasmine and Salvia clevelandii heavy on the air. However, I wasn't to spend much time in the greenhouse. This is Texas, and it wasn't long before the sun burnt through the mist and it was a picture perfect day. Everything in the garden was refreshed. Of course I did the rounds.

I'm amazed at how quickly the leucojum has come into bloom. Just a week ago the leaves were barely peaking through the ground.

and this very late narcissus in the sunken garden. Wish I knew its name.

The Philadelphus "natchez" was actually blooming on 'bloom day' but I never noticed. I was so busy looking at the lower level plants. I wish it had the fragrance of the native species but it certainly puts on a splendid display.

The lemon never ceases to amaze with its bloom power. It flowered earlier on but despite visits from the bees the fruit did not set. I guess it is having another go. It will be fragrant.

Neither D nor I can resist bending down to smell Felicia as we pass by. This hybrid musk, double, pink petaled rose has the sweetest fragrance. 

This is the first pale blue nigella.

among a sea of darker larkspur.

The pomegranate crop is going to be a record this year. I have never seen so many flowers on the tree and the fruit is already starting to fill out. What I need now is one of the heavy duty, ratchet style fruit presses. 

This twist leaf yucca, Yucca rupicola, in the outer gardens, is sending up a flower. I have protected it from the deer. They love to break off the flowers. This yucca is one of several plants endemic to the Edward's plateau on which our garden sits. It is happy to grow in the thin dry soils which lie over limestone rocks.

Always on the lookout for plants for the dry gravel garden I saw this Manfreda maculosa at the Wildflower Center yesterday. I was out of town during the spring plant sale but had the opportunity to do a little shopping at discount when I was over there yesterday. This low growing tuberose has delightfully mottled leaves.

The granite pathway at the back of the house has become a wildflower meadow. Bluebonnets, poppies, vervain, dahlberg daisy and no one is eating them!! I am amazed the deer are not eating the poppies.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Are you a seed saver? I am. I have a box full of seeds I have collected and packets of seeds I bought and haven't yet planted. There is someone else out there who is very serious about collecting seeds. The Millennium Seed Bank, coordinated by The Royal Botanic Gardens, at Kew, England, is collecting seeds from around the world with a view to saving them for the future. It is thought that as many as 60-100,000 thousand species of plants are at threat from extinction. The MSB aims to collect 10% of the targeted species, by the year 2010. This means collecting 10-20,000 seeds of each species. With a budget of $120 million the MSB coordinates 30 organizations in 20 countries. The bank is housed in the Wellcome Trust Millennium building at Wakehurst Place, Sussex, England. 
Here in Austin, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has been charged with collecting seeds for the state of Texas. Quite an undertaking. If you are interested you can learn more about this project by watching the following video from the royal Botanic Garden at Kew, London.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Thanks to Carol at Maydreams gardens we are able to share our gardens each month. Damianita's sunny blossoms are a sure sign that it is April in Texas. It is one of a few deer resistant flowering plants for outside the walls.

Inside or out the fragrant Trachelospermum jasminoides perfumes the air. Here by the front door it wafts into the house when the door is opened. I have two varieties of this evergreen vine. This one has a yellow tinge to the flower.

In the back garden is the white variety.

Two more yellow blooms showed up this week. Zexmania-

Englemann's daisy, Englemannia pinnatifida.

It was a surprise to see love-in-a-mist, Nigella damascena, in its white form this year as last year they were all blue. After the flowers fade the seed pods make a lovely dried bouquet.

Under the Lady Banks rose, lyre leaf sage, Salvia lyrata, lights up a shady spot. It makes a great ground cover and re seeds easily.

Their leaves are bright green with darker markings.

The first blooms of Lantana horrida.

Scutellaria wrightii.

Such an easy , reliable plant. Gulf coast penstemon, Penstemon tenuis.

It makes me wonder if there will be anything left to bloom in May!

Friday, April 10, 2009


It turns out the bluebonnets put on a better display this year than I ever could have imagined, given the dry winter. The inch or so of rain we received a couple of weeks ago really brought them back to life. These are growing along the side of the driveway. 

On the other side of the driveway is an area of decomposed granite which is supposed to be a parking area. It has gradually been taken over by plants. A couple of Texas sage have seeded there along with lantana, feather grass and of course bluebonnets.

I love the Aurinia saxatalis. I started this from seed last year and it is one of those perfect rock garden plants that grows to just the right size and no more.

Another yellow bloomer, with which I have great success, is the Dahlberg daisy, seen here growing in a pot. It will continue to bloom all summer.

Gulf coast penstemon, yellow columbines and blue salvia have seeded freely in the sunken garden.

There is a similar profusion of flowers in the English garden. There is no doubt that this is a wonderful time of the year for exuberant blooming.