Sunday, February 28, 2010


I am beginning to think that there is not much chance of my garden looking like this by April 12th this year. If so it is going to have to hurry up and get going. In fact I'm thinking that maybe we won't have a spring, because if it doesn't get a move on it will be summer. Things are so dreary out there that is hard to get a good shot of the garden. The only way to get a nice photo is a close up of the few plants that are in flower and I really like to take long shots. Anyway, I really wanted to start off with some nice reminder of what a garden can look like before I get to the point of this post.

Yesterday, I was looking at an old copy of the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) magazine from October 2008. In the column Garden Talk there was an article on garden blogs. I really took offense at what the writer had to say.

He referred to the good old days when gardeners used to write diaries and notebooks, jotting down when things germinated and what the weather was like. Now there is The Blog...Heaven help us. He likens us to thousands of jellyfish lurking off the beach. "Why would anyone want to read about someone else's mosaic virus" he says. Oh, and if someone reads our "ramblings" and the "log jam of drivel" ........ . He has a lot more to say, mostly negative but then he does conclude a blog might "spread a little knowledge"

I'd like to stick him with a spear of my Spanish Bayonet yucca! He just doesn't get it, does he?
Reading garden blogs is turning me into a better gardener. I am learning first hand all about the plants that do well here in my area. I am introduced to plants of which I have never even heard, ( the nursery business must love this) I have met an incredible group of gardeners who has introduced a social aspect to what is often a lone activity. We had a lovely afternoon yesterday, meeting at the home of one of our group to offer suggestions on how to improve a problem area in her garden. We had a plant swap and met more new gardeners. I enjoy the links to blogs which give me ideas on how to design areas of the garden. Jellyfish indeed!
I won't even mention what he said about cats.

Phew! I just had to get this one off my chest.

Friday, February 26, 2010


We usually enjoy mild winters in central Texas. That is until this year. Our gardens are reeling under one of the coldest winters on record and so it continues. We did have a warm day yesterday but then today, although sunny, there is a cold wind. So when I was out weeding today I saw this little plant in flower. Scilla siberica 'alba', Siberian squill, obviously quite at home here this year. I had literally stuck the bulbs in the herb garden as we were to leave on a trip in November. I suspect this will be their only year to bloom here. They look like alpine plants unless this one is stunted for some reason. It would have been better suited to a spot in the rock garden.

I never have planted many bulbs until this year and those few , planted in the past, have lost their tags, so this multi headed narcissus has no name. I have a preference for the multi headed narcissi rather than the single flowering varieties. Later the white ones will flower but right now they are just poking up through the ground.

I love the little muscari popping up among the california poppies. Their rather rangy foliage will be hidden, after blooming, as the poppies take center stage.

I am really wishing that I had just planted all these Iris reticulata together. They really need to be en masse to make a statement.

Surely this is a sign that spring will soon arrive. A viola, seeded from last year. I didn't plant any this year but little plants are popping up all over the place. In a somewhat dreary garden a few bright rays of sunshine.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


A little over a week ago I opened a packet of seeds and this was what I found.

The packet contained seeds of Delosperma floribunda 'stardust' I have always had great success with delosperma as a rock garden plant and decided to try growing them from seed. However, this was a first. I have seen pelleted seeds before but never so tiny. Not much hope for these, I thought. The directions said that the seeds need light to germinate and suggested sowing in shallow furrows. I decided to just make a shallow dent in the soil in the six pack and hope for the best.

Today I noticed tiny specks of green, the first seed leaves. I think I have 100% germination. I really had no expectations that they would germinate so I was over the moon. Now the test will be keeping them alive.

The greenhouse is starting to look a little crowded. I have such a weakness for saving plants as well as starting seeds. So all these little ones you see here are seedlings uprooted from the gravel. There is hardly room to move in there with all the other overwintering plants.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


There is something about a light dusting of snow in the garden. It enhances the plant structure and suddenly the winter garden takes on a new and interesting look. This might be a rocky plateau in west Texas with A. parryi and A. filifera set among the ledge stones in my front garden.

Even the old brown buzzard stands out against the snow covered gravel and the Mexican feather grass. ( On a side note I read yesterday that feather grass should be divided to keep it vigorous).

The snow flakes which fell this morning were some of the largest I have ever seen. They quickly gave a generous dusting to the English garden. Enough to outline the brick edged beds and dry stone wall.

This is my first daffodil. If it had an idea of opening today it quickly changed its mind.
I left the house at 10:30am and didn't return until 3pm by which time most of the snow had melted. There are still flurries and I have the heater on in the greenhouse which is filled to bursting with seedlings and overwintering plants. It's going to be another cold night.

Monday, February 22, 2010


On the news tonight we saw film footage of the terrible devastation and loss of life in Funchal, on the island of Madeira. It is sad that many will learn of this island only because of the torrential rain, which over a period of a few hours brought a wall of water and mud down the verdant hillsides. I'm sure that the flash flood swept away these plants growing along the sides of this storm drain.
On our recent cruise across the Atlantic from Southampton to Miami, Madeira was our last port of call, before heading out across the Atlantic ocean. We docked in the capital, Funchal, on a beautiful, sunny November morning. Here I am standing on the dock side by the ship! Just kidding. Can you imagine setting sail across the Atlantic in this little wooden ship?

This is the second time we have visited the island and we knew exactly how we were going to spend the day. We walked into town and picked up a public bus which goes up the hill to the Jardim Botanico da Madeira.

In 1891 the Reid family built their home, Quinoto do Bom Sucesso, on this piece of land on the hilltop high above the city of Funchal. It was later acquired by the government and opened to the public as a botanical garden in 1960. Besides being a research institute and seed bank the gardens showcase many of the over 900 endemic species from the surrounding group of islands.

The rich volcanic soils and sub tropical climate account for the lush growth.

The hillsides have been terraced using available lava rock to form retaining walls and pathways.

In the more shaded upper levels water is channeled into pools which support ferns and other water loving plants. There is a marked contrast between these upper terraces and the lower, more sun filled terraces.

As a lover of cactus and agaves it was very easy for me to feel at home here.

These cactus, agaves and aloe have adapted well to their new home. Many of them were sending out their blooms. It was only when we visited California this January that I realized just what a spectacle those blooms would be when they flowered.

Below the cactus garden an area of topiary reminiscent of our trip to Levens Hall in Cumbria.

On our previous visit I failed to identify this gorgeous vine in full flower along one of the walkways. This time I made a point of getting the name.

Solandra maxima is a native of Mexico. We also saw this plant blooming in San Diego this winter.

We spent several hours in the gardens enjoying the plants and stopping for a cup of coffee on a wonderful terrace overlooking the ocean we were about to cross. We took the bus back down the hill, walked through the town and the city park overlooking the port. A wonderful day in Funchal.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


My husband gave this little Halcyon pot to me, as a gift, some years ago. I may not live every day as it it was my last but I do garden as though I am going to live for ever. What gardener doesn't?
So, today was one of those days. In fact it has been one of those weeks. The slow realization that many of the plants that were so damaged by our incredibly cold temperatures, did not make it.

First came the star jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides, which grew on the trellis by the study window. Every leaf was brown. It has been cut back to bare wood. Will it send out new shoots or should I replace it. I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt right now but I may just go ahead and replace it. I also removed all the citrus, which were in pots along this window. I think they are all dead. Time to replace. I simply cannot live without Meyer lemons in my kitchen.

What is really strange is that a similar vine at the front door, and on the NW side of the house, has not one brown leaf. The only difference between this vine and the one at the back of the house is that this has pale yellow flowers and the one at the rear has pure white flowers. I don't think it is Trachelospermum asiaticum but it may be.

Last week I cut back the butterfly iris at the front of the house. Today it was removed along with the rest of the planting in front of the window. The Indian hawthorne, Raphiolepis indica,
was planted along with the iris 8 years ago. When I removed the iris it left gaping holes on either side of the hawthorn. I bit the bullet and decided to have a fresh start.

I am feeling quite liberated. The area doesn't look as bare as I though it would and I am thinking about a complete change in look.

More agaves and grasses. In the meantime I have planted some Mexican feather grasses which I had removed from a planter in the vegetable garden. This week I shall give some thought to the new planting. David and I discussed replacing our home made disappearing water feature with a tall pot. I may be going shopping this week.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


This morning, following a visit from old Jack last night, and with the promise of a warmer day ahead, I went out, camera in hand, to film foliage rather than flowers. My first visit with other gardeners to Digging's, Foliage Follow up Day.

One vegetable we will soon enjoy is the Napa cabbage, 'tenderheart'. It surprised me last year, when the rosette of leaves suddenly started to grow in an upright manner and within weeks a tight cabbage had formed. We ate it in salads, soups and stir fries. This cabbage didn't mind our 10 degree days at all.

This trio of golden barrel cacti have spent the last 5 years in a pot. They also made it through our terrible winter with no damage. This year I plan to put them in the ground. I will really work on providing the good drainage they need to cope with wet winters. They have survived in this shallow pot with a mixture of mostly gravel and sand.

Lace cactus, Echinocereus reichenbachii, have also found a happy home in the gravel of my front garden. They will bloom with amazing magenta flowers in the spring.

This A. parryi, which I purchased at the DBG in Phoenix, rounds out the cacti and succulents growing in the front garden.

Sedum potosinum, is one of several carpeting succulents which are tolerant of harsh winters. All are rather aggressive in their growth. This one blooms with delightful star shaped flowers in the late spring.

The frost tinged leaves of the California poppy, Eschlozia california, will soon be putting on their big display.

Mexican feather grass, Nassella tenuissima. This is a grass which grows in abundance among the gravel and granite. I always have plenty to share with other gardeners. Just a selection of the greens growing in my garden.

Monday, February 15, 2010


I wonder what will be showing up in gardens this February bloom day, as Carol at Maydreams invites us to share our garden flowers.

The pages of my blog book tell a different story about what was blooming in the garden last February. So many flowers in bloom following a mild winter. This year on that same day it is hard to find more than a couple of blooms.

Iris reticulata is a new one; the bulbs planted last November. I don't know if this bulb normally does well in central Texas or the unusually cold winter provided the perfect growing conditions. I don't have a good track record with bulbs, forgetting where I put them and then digging into them some time later, so this time I made rings out of wire coat hangers to mark the spot where I planted them.

Daisy fleabane, Erigeron, certainly enjoys the cool wet weather we have been having. This self sowing plant is an asset in the garden because of its neat mounding habit. It is less weedy than many of my other self sowing plants.

The viburnum 'spring bouquet' is still in bud , whereas last year the flowers had opened to their more muted pale pink. The cool wet winter seems to suit the plant.

The native anemone, Anemone decapetala, is now blooming in large numbers on sunny days.

I still have a preference for the purple and blue flowers, this once seen with a new Mexican feather grass, Stipa tenuissima.

With the ground still too wet to work, I spend a lot of time looking. Looking to see if there are any signs of life in those plants which were really hard hit. For many it will be at least another month before new growth will show. For now it is the hardy plants which are peeking through the ground. These are new shoots of Oenothera, the yellow primrose.

Outside the potting shed door, in the gravel, all kinds of seedlings are growing. I have rescued a number of Lychnis, rose campion, which have been potted up until they are big enough to transplant into the garden. These plants are hard to find in the nurseries but quite easy to grow from seed sown in the fall.

Finally, in the house. My poor succulents, brought from sunny California, have been in the unheated potting shed. I brought them into the house and arranged them in a basket for us both to enjoy. Happy Bloom Day, gardeners everywhere.