Thursday, December 23, 2010


We may not have a white Christmas in Texas but the snowy scene here is part of our traditional English Christmas celebration. On Christmas day we will cut into our Christmas cake. Baked from a recipe in Mrs Beeton's Cookery book, and covered with marzipan and royal icing. The British never make jokes about fruit cake. We love every crumb!
Merry Christmas, gardening friends.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Despite the mild fall this year, those few frosty days took their toll and banished summer flowers, leaving garden bones. Fortunately they are not bare bones.

I couldn't wait to get my hands on a Whale's Tongue agave, A. ovatifolia, having been introduced to the plant by Pam at Digging. When we redid the area in the front garden earlier this year I gave it pride of place. It settled in quite nicely surrounded by several grasses of ruby crystals Melinis nerviglumis. Yes, this grass is about as invasive as mexican feather grass, all these plants having reseeded here, but I am starting to prefer it. For one thing it has a more mannerly appearance, staying green throughout the summer with no irrigation. It sends up beautiful pink plumes, particularly in the late fall. Of course, Mexican feather grass will always have a home here too.

In the sunken garden, I am still searching for the perfect plant for the center. I feel like the spot needs something tall but it would have to be a plant that can survive in all weathers. No water in dry times but could cope with lots of water during wet times. This area behaves like a rain garden getting much of the drainage from the surrounding raised areas. This year the purple fountain grass, Pennisetum setaceum, did not fare well during the dry summer. I may have to revert to the regular Miscanthus grass which I know does well here. I am still struggling to remove it from one area of the sunken garden, despite having taken up some of the stones to get at the roots.

This squid agave, A. bracteosa was shrouded all summer long with gomphrena. Now it has the winter spotlight. I removed 4 pups this fall. Best to get them out when they are young.

Heart leaf skull cap, Scutellaria ovata, has taken over the corner of the patio, where once the yellow columbine flowered. It might take over the whole garden if allowed.

Once the spot where a rosemary bush grew, followed by Agave desmettiana, is now a soft leaf yucca, Yucca recurvifolia. I hope it will flower next year.

All the narrow leaf zinnias are gone leaving behind the purple and pink skullcaps. I wonder what will show up in the cracks between the stones next year?

Thursday, December 2, 2010


No self respecting English garden could call itself thus unless it had a hedgehog or two. When I was growing up, in England, we once had a hedgehog visit our garden. We gave him the rather unimaginative name of Prickles. Our dog used to rush around the garden looking for his hiding place and received many a prick on his nose for getting too close. Prickles was pretty flea ridden but he had an appetite for slugs which made him very welcome.
This harmless, nocturnal little creature came alive in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, where he was used as a croquet ball. His natural tendency to curl up into a ball made him the perfect subject. Beatrix Potter treated the hedgehog a little more kindly in Mrs Tiggy-Winkle.
Hedgehogs are closely related to moles and shrews but their fur has been adapted to form sharp spines. They molt every 18 months or so and hibernate in the fall, during which time they can lose up to 1/3 of their body weight.

It seems I have quite a weakness for the little critter. This is my collection of hedgehogs picked up at car boot sales on trips to England. They are my indoor hedgehogs. No, I don't belong to the hedgehog fan club or wear a hedgehog T shirt and I won't be standing with a placard. Nor will I be sending off to a breeder in the US for an exotic pygmy hedgehog. I'll just have to do the slug hunting myself.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Could it be that, once again, I'm talking about the weather? You bet. The wind is howling through the trees as yet another front passes through. Last week it brought a temperature in the low 20s, yesterday it was in the 80s. Tonight, back to freezing again. No rain in weeks. Yep, if you want to grow in Texas you'd better be tough.

someone is kind enough to take you into the house. Some of my plants get to spend the winter in a more favorable place; the greenhouse, potting shed or even the house. These two ice plants are just flowering their heads off in the greenhouse.

I moved all my 'tenders' into the greenhouse last week and, despite no heater, they seemed to survive that frigid night. I put it down to a few things. Radiation heat from the rows of wine and milk bottles, warmth stored in the gravel on the ground and some protection from the cross vine which re grew this year and is once again creeping over the roof.

The third blooming plant is Plectranthus, 'Mona lavender' It was one of the plants used by the folks at Gardener's supply. I enjoyed its blooms so much in the fall that I thought I would try to winter it over.

But apart from that, the garden is now taking on its winter appearance, with the loss of all the little zinnias and cosmos which were growing between the pavers in the herb garden. Aready, I see the tough little spring bloomers waiting for their turn. Blanket flowers, coreopsis, poppies.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


We may have already had a couple of light frosts in our garden, this year, but last night was a real freeze. Today will be a day for removing a lot of damaged plants. Even frost covers couldn't cope with the temperature drop. Every leaf is frozen. Some will recover but many will have succumbed to irreparable cell damage. Already, as the sun warms up the air the leaves and stems are collapsing.
I hope the greenhouse offered a little little protection. I didn't use the heater hoping that the sun warmed bottles and gravel would protect. I have a self watering tray in there and the fabric on the top was frozen. We shall see. Too cold to work outside there now. I'll wait until the temperature warms up a little.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


When the folks at Gardener's Supply filmed in our garden a few weeks ago, they left some of their plants with us at the end of the weekend. One of them was a standard hibiscus. This is a plant that David loves so it will be wintering over, along with the lemons and cactus in the potting shed. It is still flowering in this incredibly un fall-like weather.

Despite the fact that, some time ago, David said he wasn't going to move any more rocks, he got busy yesterday finding a new rock to use as a bridge over the dry creek in the front garden. And what a rock it was!! It makes a perfect bridge. I had been busy myself removing the rocks from the creek and digging out all the silt and soil that had accumulated over the last 8 years. The creek is now deeper and should drain much better.

The Indian Hawthorn plants along the garage wall were covering over the original stepping stones which have now been moved further out. Our garden is never without the need for continual improvement and I am so grateful to have such a willing hand. Thanks David. Enjoy your bloom.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Quick David. Here comes our Thanksgiving turkey!

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Change comes to the garden, whether it be the garden plants, preparing for the coming season change as this crepe myrtle, or the gardener making plans to improve some area of the garden.

This was the area slated for change; the side entry to the garden. This photograph was taken in 2009 when the senna tree, seen on the left, was looking at its best. But things don't stay the same and the frigid winter of last year coupled with a dry summer brought the tree into a decline. It was time to move on.

I enlisted the help of our Garden Bloggers' Garden a Go Go group for suggestions. We mulled over all the designs they left. We toyed with the idea of putting in a Texas tank but in the end decided that it would be more in keeping with the design if we were to have a rectangular planter made from metal. I was hoping Bob at Draco Welding might be able to do the job but he was booked up until February. More phone calls and emails. Getting in touch with Austin companies who do this kind of work. Not a one returned any of our phone messages or emails. What goes on here? Do they have so much work that they don't even care about my job? In the end we had to abandon that idea and move forward on our own. We decided that we could achieve a similar look by building a wooden planter. When stained it would match the deck.

This area has seen some changes since we moved in.

To begin with we used the area as a work area while David was making the pavers for our vegetable garden.

My job; imprinting the pavers with a rock to give them some texture. Usually a late evening job.

In 2004 work began on the area and the first job was to find a better way of coming down from the upper level. We had used a ramp of limestone rubble for three years. I wanted something more than a few narrow steps. We scoured the landscaping and deck building books and came up with the following plan, which David implemented in short order. He is so good at getting on with and finishing a job.

Later we stained the deck to match the trim on the house. The mound of rubble was moved over to the corner and some rocks added. Nothing more was done for a couple for years and during that time a senna and vitex tree seeded there. They grew quickly and made a nice planting. Nothing more was done until a few weeks ago.

David got busy removing the tree, the rocks, the mound of soil.

He built, stained and filled the new planter. Now it is my job to fill the planter. I need to go back and look at the GoGo plans for ideas. I think we need some kind of tree at the back of the planter to soften the walls. Low maintenance is the key, so I am thinking of agaves and yuccas. I'm open to any suggestions.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Listen to the great horned owl, Bubo virginiatus, twit twoo whoo whoo. I heard him this morning, high in the Spanish Oak tree above our bedroom, as a faint light was creeping into the morning sky. He called a few times and then was gone. Off to hunt for his breakfast.
A couple of weeks ago, when I was just getting up, his call was so close to the kitchen I went outside, with camera in hand, and saw him above me on the parapet wall. You can just see the tell tale ears. As the camera flashed he flew off into the woods. Quite a sight.

Friday, November 19, 2010


I always pay attention when the weather man says there is going to be a freeze in the hill country but not in the city. We are only 7 miles from downtown, but frequently the coldest spot in the area. So last night I covered and brought in and picked.

I picked all the peppers, squash and tomatoes.

Glad I did.

Some plants, like this Berggarten sage, don't mind the dusting of ice crystals.

But the basil is a different matter. By tonight the leaves on this plant will have turned black.

The bees will no longer want to visit the flowers on this Thai basil plant, which I photographed yesterday afternoon. This weekend I will have my work cut out pulling out all the damaged plants. Winter is finally on the way.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Welcome to bloom day in Austin Texas. Stop by at May Dreams to catch up with what is blooming in other gardens.

November is a special time for three plants in my garden. First, the Philippine violet, Barleria cristata. Dying back down to the ground every winter, it takes time to fill out into a rounded 5' bush before bursting into bloom.

The copper canyon daisy, Tagetes limmonii.

Seen here mixed with gomphrena.

The Mexican mint Marigold, Tagetes lucida. Sometimes used as a substitute for tarragon. It has a tendency to be a little invasive. Here I have allowed a plant to grow in between the pavers in the herb garden.

I'm not actually sure what this red salvia or where it came from. It spreads by underground runners forming a green mat and sending up spikes of red flowers from time to time. It seems to flower better during the cooler weather. Thanks to one reader, now identified as Salvia darcyi.

Cat's whiskers, Orthosiphon aristatus, still blooming, but with smaller spikes.

Blanket flowers, Gaillardia aristata, never seems to stop blooming.

This one came back true to the parent plant, which was a hybrid I grew last year. It found a home in between the vegetable beds and of course I let it stay.

And still the cone flowers, Echinacea purpurea, keep blooming.

and the little flowers of the snapdragon vine among the chile pequin.

Wright's skullcap, Scutellaria wrightii.

Wait a minute! This leather flower, Clematis pitcheri, shouldn't be flowering now.

and it is far too early for the Carolina jessamine, Gelsemium sempervirens. However, at the Wildflower Center on Thursday I saw an Anacacho orchid tree in full bloom. Clearly, others are experiencing this out of season blooming. I wonder what will happen in the spring!
Happy Bloom Day.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Cone flowers, Echinacea purpurea, often look rather pale before their petals fully open but they always end up the same old purple. So this flower has really taken me by surprise. It is in the front rockery, where several cone flowers popped up this year, all of them pink, except for this one. I am delighted.

I have been pulling out cone flowers all week long in the back garden. Around the pool they just like to take over and, delightful as they are when blooming en masse, they are invasive. No matter how many I pull they will be back again next year. More white ones please!

I also bid farewell to the cleome, Senorita rosalita, but not before picking her final blooms to use in the house. The only negative thing I have to say about this flower is that it has a slight skunky smell. This was only evident when I brought the blooms in to the house. I'm pleased to say not detectable in the garden. This will be on my list of to buy plants next spring. This plant was in full sun and full sun in Texas means full sun.

The least colorful of my gardens is the front courtyard. I probably don't pay it enough attention. I am also trying to cut back on the workload by planting only those plants which grow easily, with little care and attention and less water. It falls to the members of the agave and cactus family and other less fussy natives. Here an A. augustifolia among several barrel cactus. narrow leaf zinnias peeking through in the back ground.
I have a major project underway in the front courtyard but more about that later.