Friday, April 30, 2010


There comes a time when those beautiful blooming annuals fade and die. This is particularly true in central Texas, when temperatures reach into the 80s and the soils become dry with lack of rain. For all the rain we received earlier on in the year there is little left in the ground.
Even so I don't think I could garden without these short lived beauties. Rose campion, Lychnis coronaria, has become a favorite along with the feathery fronds of the multicolored Love in a mist, Nigella damascena, seen here with a single purple larkspur, against the backdrop of the stucco wall.

What came as a real surprise today was seeing a white rose campion. In fact 2 plants appeared this year. It has been a year for color changes with a grouping of purple poppies showing up. I'm still puzzled as to where they came from.

The white alliums, which I received from the International Bulb Company, burst out of their confining bracts this week. It will be interesting to see if they do well here. They have rather large tulip like foliage which may be a problem for the summer.

It is nice to have a little white mixed in with the purples and reds of the salvias and campions.

Along the back edge of the pool the ice plant, Deloperma cooperi, has spread to soften the edges of the pool coping. I love to see plants spilling over walls and pathways.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


It has happened again. The nest is empty and it is not because the baby cardinals have fledged. This morning while we were eating breakfast we heard the angry sounds of a cardinal. I went outside to look. The bird was in the tree at the front and eventually flew off. This afternoon I went to take a photo and found the nest empty. Who stole the 3 little chicks-a snake, a scrub jay? Surely a snake couldn't eat all three. It must be the jays. I am so sad for the mother and father bird. This is not a good place for birds to raise a family.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


It happens in the blink of an eye. On Monday morning I checked on the lace cactus growing in the front garden. The flower bud was ripe to open. "Good" I thought, it will bloom tomorrow, just as our out of town visitors are arriving. It was not to be. By the time the sun reached the spot around lunch time it had unfurled its delicate paper petals, shouting out "come and see me now, tomorrow I will be gone" Sure enough, the flower had shriveled and closed 24hours later.

Another cactus is flowering and these have a longer bloom time. A pretty little coronet of flowers encircles the top, with the promise of more flowers to come. This cactus is in the bowl I bought in Phoenix in December and which I completely repotted on returning home. The bowl had been overwatered by the store and in the soggy soil I was afraid for their health.

I finally managed to get this yellow flowered succulent identified at the recent Cactus show. It is Glottiphylum davisii, and every few weeks it puts out a single yellow bloom.

The cardinal chicks have hatched. As I have mentioned before, the nest is built in the cross vine growing on the gate in the English garden. We are really excited because previous nests built in our garden by cardinals and doves have been marauded by the scrub jay. We are keeping our fingers crossed for these little hatchlings.

The yellow Confederate jasmine perfumes the whole garden. Incredibly, it survived our extremely cold winter without the loss of a single leaf. Unlike the sister, white flowered jasmine in the back garden. That one lost every leaf and we had to cut it down to bare wood.

It was in serious need of a good pruning so we have mother nature to thank for her perfect timing.

Monday, April 26, 2010


This year many of the fields in central Texas are golden yellow. The four nerve daisy, Tetraneuris scaposa, is spreading a carpet of yellow across the land. On my upper lot, where there is a small field- like area, bluebonnets are competing for space with this yellow daisy.

For some reason cedar trees have not invaded this area, which runs along the edge of a rocky escarpment. In the 50s a fire raged across this area, as evidenced by the burnt out stumps of tree trunks.
Along the edges grow twist leaf yucca,

and prickly pear cactus, Opuntia. Along the edges of the pads are rows of flower buds. This is the yellow flowering variety. They used to grow all the way along the edge of the rocky ledge but someone removed many of them before we bought the lot. There was so little soil underneath that it is taking years for soil to reform and anything to grow back there.

There is one clump of green flowered milkweed, Asclepias asperula.

This close up shows how the flowers are arranged to form a 3-4" ball. Each flower is composed of 5 partially divided petals inside which are the white stemmed stamens capped by ball like anthers.
This is one part of my property that has been left to nature. There is a good stand of live and Spanish Oaks and the bird life is plentiful. Every night I hear owls and this week heard the first Chuck Will's widow.

Clearly other things go on out there too. I wish I knew which bird ( possibly turkey)these belonged to. Was it the fox, coyote or the owl who made a killing?

Better watch out my dear.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

SISYRINCHIUM, The blue eyed grass

Blue eyed grass belongs to the large genus Sisyrinchium. All have narrow grass like leaves and for a while I used to call this plant blue iris grass. It really doesn't have a blue eye so how this name came about I have no idea. Although this plant is a perennial, I have found it to be short lived. No matter because it sows its seeds freely and once in the garden you will have it for life. In fact it can become a little weedy on bare ground. The original of these plants came from ones growing in my native areas. Now I have more inside the walls than out there. Deer don't seem browse.

This little clump seeded, along with a dahlberg daisy, at the foot of the steps leading from the vegetable garden.

Here with daisy fleabane, Erigeron.

Popping up in the middle of a skullcap.

A fitting companion for the blue Festuca glauca.

The blackfoot daisy doesn't mind having her as a companion because the narrow leaves don't interfere with sunlight.
The flowers do not open until later in the day when suddenly a clump of grassy leaves burst into flower.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Taking photographs of the garden in sunlight is always a problem for the camera. My sunken garden is in full sun shortly after it rises. It is the best time of the day, just before the sun comes through the trees. This morning was a perfect morning.

Of course the California poppies were not awake- it was only 5am there! but the stars were still out.

Sedum potosinum, in the sunken garden.

and the Missouri primrose, Oenothera missouriensis. These flowers will be closed by the time I come home later today.
Last year alyssum was in this spot. This year it is this yellow flowering sedum, flowering alongside dahlberg daisy and alyssum.

Larkspur is not as prevalent this year. It may have been the hard winter. A sheltered spot in the vegetable garden has the best flowering. How could I pull it out?

Yeah! The first tomatoes.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Some things are difficult for me to do; throwing things away, cleaning out the closet, pruning and taking out overgrown plants. Today was a big day. I started the day pruning the Lady Banks rose and ended by cutting down the mountain laurel growing in the front garden. You can see the stump here. It was the right thing to do. I planted it when I didn't know any better. A small slow growing tree. It ended up not being slow growing enough and not small. It was leaning over, struggling under the vigorous Lady Banks. Plants underneath withered and died.

It impeded the view when we came in through the front gate.

Its low growing branches covered over rocks.
There is still more rose pruning to do.
I will have to decide whether to remove the sharply angled branch, and there is a hole to fill where the laurel grew. All in all I am a lot happier to have this tree out of the way. I will just have to enjoy its fragrance and bloom outside my walls.

Monday, April 19, 2010


This certainly is the year of the poppy in my garden. Even the normally single petalled poppy are turning up with can can like frills.

Not that the bees like these new frilly ones. They couldn't find their way in to find the pollen even if they tried. It's fun to watch them as they revel in the multiple numbers of pollen loaded stamens. This bee couldn't stuff more into his pollen sacs if he tried.

The corn or Flanders poppies must be thinking they are in Europe this year after the cold winter and all the rain.

What do you think of your cousins, California poppies? They don't need the sun to shine to open up! After all you can't rely on the sun to shine over the pond. We haven't had much sun over the last few days.

So many of my flowers didn't get a chance to join bloom day this April because there were so many. The mealy blue sage for one. Not in a good spot because underneath is growing the blue flax and flax took pride of place on bloom day.

The yellow mound of basket of gold, Alyssum saxatile. I started from seed last year and wish I had done more this year. I hope it likes its new home in the English garden.
Talking of English, this is an English daisy. Not the pom pom pink flowers that were on the seed packet. I am often disappointed by the picture on the packet. Even so it's a nice little flower.
Rose campion, began to flower last week. This area of campion, heart leaf skull cap and gulf coast penstemon got together to form a completely different planting from last year. They pushed out the yellow columbine that was growing there last year.

This year the pyracantha espalier and the philadelphus flowered in unison. Not good planning. I really need to put in a purple clematis to break up the white. Nevertheless, I am starting to train the pyracantha round the corner of the wall. keeping up with the pruning is a big job.
I think the philadelphus could cope with a pretty little Texas clematis twining among its white flowers. I have just the one, purchased at the Wildflower Center plant sale last Friday and still looking for a new home.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Every year, about this time, I find myself pulling out loads of bluebonnets and it's not because they have finished blooming. The problem is that with so many seeding every year they just about take over the garden. They look fine to start with but then when the plant takes on a diameter of 4' and I can't walk for a sea of blue, I know it's time for them to go to the compost pile. These are not the bluebonnets growing outside the walls but those inside.

This was the scene in the English garden just a couple of weeks ago, the paths completely covered.

I feel so much better now that most of them are gone. We can now walk down the path, although we can no longer go through the gate. The nest we saw last week, hidden inside the crossvine, on the gate and just that is just visible at the back, has a cardinal sitting on eggs. So no opening the gate for a few weeks, and no removing the vine which David has been begging me to do since last year. he wants to paint the gate.

I pulled out bluebonnets in the sunken garden too. After all I couldn't risk damage to my Wright's skullcap, back for the fourth year. I can't believe how this one has grown into such a perfect mound. It is not in flower yet but I love it just as it is.

It isn't just bluebonnets either. In a 3" space at the steps leading down to the vegetable garden there is a selection of blanket flowers, larkspur, California poppies, love in a mist and two kinds of sedum. In the end I'll pull them out but for now I have other places on which I need to concentrate.

I am constantly pulling out poppies, dahlberg daisy, verbena and blanket flowers along the pathway past the veggie beds. But for all the extra work and grumbling I love having plants growing along the pathways and in the gravel. Some I will let stay to maturity and they will encourage pollinators and add interest to the stone and gravel. Mother nature often plants just the right plant in the perfect spot. In fact I have decided that most of the time she plants and I try to perfect.

As to bluebonnet seeds for next year. I have plenty of those. These ones growing along the new granite pathway at the back will be saved to spread into other areas of the garden.

Here is one plant mother nature has not yet planted in my garden and I wish she would. This morning, I spotted this sweet smelling, Amsonia tubiflora, growing wild on an undeveloped lot nearby. I sent the image to Joseph Marcus at the Wildflower Center who was able to identify it for me. He was very excited because he said this was growing at the Eastern end of its range and he had never seen the flower. I have the blue amsonia growing here but have never, ever seen this white one before. What a surprise.