Thursday, January 31, 2013


Last night, at 10pm., when the outside temperature dropped to 34°, I went out with the scissors and cut the blooms on the iris.

Sometimes I am reluctant to cut blooms like this but not when I think they will be killed by frost. The added bonus is this incredible peach fragrance. I could smell it as soon as I walked in the room this morning.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


iris would bloom in April not in January. My unknown fragrant peach iris is blooming right now!

The first bloom opened yesterday just in time for the cold front which is passing though our area right now. The wind is howling, things are blowing around the garden and the temperature has dropped from the high yesterday of 85° to 48°

It begins to look as though the plant is putting its all into this one bloom time because there are 5 bloom stalks which will open in the next few days, if the weather will allow.
The garden is well ahead of itself this year although other plants seem to be holding back on blooming. The smart ones know that there is still some winter to come.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Yesterday, I was looking at my mallow plant hoping to find some seeds. What I did spot was a dead bee in the center of one of the flowers.

As I turned the flower around I saw the reason. A crab spider must have been waiting for the unwary bee. Crab spiders do not spin webs but wait, as this one did, for their prey to come close. They have very powerful venom which paralyses the prey.

The orange mallow has flowered non-stop during our dry, mild winter and the bees have been busy gathering pollen every day. It was a good place to sit and wait.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Three years ago I was extolling the virtues of the decollate snail, Rumina decollata. You can read the whole story here

Conical Rumina decollata
Having discovered several of these conical-shelled snails in my garden in December of 2009, which I promptly disposed of, I headed into the house to do some research. Oh! no, I have killed good snails. These snail eats other snails. My research had taken me to an article which Debra Lee Baldwin had researched for Sunset magazine. I needn't have worried about the loss because once again the snails started showing up in large numbers. I let them go about their business. The small snails, which eat little seedlings and gnaw at the base of violas, soon began to disappear. I was hoping they would eat pill bugs too. All was well, until.....

I was wondering why no larkspur are showing up in the herb beds this year. As I loosened the mulch I came across these tiny white sticks. Then I realized what they were; they were the denuded stems of larkspur. I rooted a little more and found a nest of decollate snails. Very distraught I began gathering them up: rooting through the mulch. Boy there were some woppers.

I began the trapping process the old-fashioned way as my mum did in our garden in England: a tasty grapefruit shell and a little hand picking too. Some I gathered and flung over the wall for the roadrunner. They don't climb, so claims the article. I have disposed of hundreds and from now on no snail shall make its home here. Yesterday, I discovered one had eaten a young bluebonnet seedling. Is that why there are no bluebonnets in the sunken garden this year I wonder.
So I am sorry Debra I beg to differ. Decollate snails do eat seedlings and they do climb: witness the ones hiding in the holes in my limestone boulders. The only way in there is to climb up or down.

Thanks to my friend, at The Transplantable Rose, who suggested the title for this post. I was sharing my story with her when she complained about lost seedlings. "Maybe you have decollate snails" I say. Today she checked and she does, and that's when she gave me the idea for the post title.

Friday, January 25, 2013


Yes, I know, most of the USA is shivering under abnormally low temperatures. I hope they are holed up somewhere warm dreaming of spring. When I was at the grocery store today I couldn't resist buying three 4" pots of primroses. Nothing heralds spring like these pretty little yellow flowers, even if it is a few months away.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


On this beautiful January day I took a break from pruning to photograph the blooms that had, in my absence, missed Bloom Day.

This is the first time my yellow bulbine, Bulbine frutescens, has survived and bloomed with great vigor in January. Admittedly it is in a sheltered spot against the wall of the house and protected from the frost, which rolls down the hill, by the high retaining wall. A deep freeze would have killed the South African plant but I think what it really liked was a dry winter, and that it has been.

The viburnum,Viburnum tinus Spring Bouquet, in the English garden, looked as though it would not produce blooms this winter but here it is. It really looks its best before the flowers open as the pink turns to white once the flowers open.
 I am concerned for our spring wildflowers. For the first time ever I have not one bluebonnet in my sunken garden and only a handful in the front garden. So many times I have been annoyed by being unable to walk though the area for bluebonnets, but now I have only two or three plants and they are right under the little table! Did they hear my grumbles?

This was the front garden in early April, 2011. I think I may need to do a little transplanting from the outside. I find I do need bluebonnets after all.

Another first for me is the bloom on the kalanchoe, mother-of-thousands. While other gardeners show off their pretty blooms mine seems to reproduce without blooming. Hundreds of babies along the edges of the leaf but not a single bloom-until this year. Maybe I really stressed it out by forgetting to bring it in from the cold. Returning home from our trip I discovered the plant had succumbed to frosty nights. The plant itself is a gonner but by golly the blooms were still there so I cut them off and brought them inside. No need to worry about new plants here. Their offspring is growing in every pot I have!
Spring will not be far behind if we continue to have the unusually high temperatures of the past week. I remember attending a gardening seminar shortly after I came to Austin, where the lecturer warned about feeling the warm sun on the back of the neck in early February and rushing out to the nurseries to buy and plant annuals. Just what the nursery business wants. A freeze comes and wipes them out and now you have to buy again. Oh! but it is so hard to hold oneself back when the days are warm and balmy.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


For the first 18 years of my life I lived within 1mile of the beach. A long sandy beach which stretched for miles and miles. I spent a lot of time there from a very early age. So, it isn't surprising that I love to walk along beaches and that is what I have been doing on the wonderful beaches of the Florida Gulf coast.

I look for shells, David looks for dinner.

And our grand daughter finds her first fossil shark's tooth.
But a gardener needs to get a garden fix and mine was a visit to the Marie Selby Botanical Garden in Sarasota. From our campsite at Turtle Beach to the gardens is a very pleasant 10 mile ride on our folding bikes. I mention the folding because with that small wheel it takes a lot longer to achieve this distance. Being unused to the saddle there were a few stops along the way for some derriere relief!

One stop was to admire these hibiscus-like flowers strewn along the sidewalk. Not the hibiscus leaf I am used to though. We would have to wait until we reached the gardens to get an ID.

This is the fourth time we have visited the garden which is a paradise of ficus, bamboo, orchids, succulents, epiphytes and all manner of tropical plants. Fortunately our membership at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center affords us free entry into the garden on their reciprocal gardens program. If you travel and love to visit gardens then I can assure you that this is a wonderful benefit of the membership and paid for itself in this one visit!

Following the death of her husband Marie Selby continued to live in the bayfront home, among the banyans and laurels, until her death in 1971. It was her wish to leave the house and gardens to the community and in 1975 the gardens opened to the public for the first time, as a center for epiphyte display and research. We first entered their beautiful conservatory with displays of orchids, pitcher plants, euphorbias and epiphytes.

Potinara, Burana Beauty

Nepenthes bicalcarata

Paphiopedilum spicerianum
Then out into the bright Florida sunlight and a tropical jungle.

Eyes are drawn up high into the trees to tropical epiphytes.

In the bromeliad garden the branches are festooned with plants attached to the tree trunks by their snake-like roots.

The original 7 acre garden has grown over the years with the addition of the adjacent property. The house is now used to display art and the current exhibition is of botanical watercolors with a difference.
You can read all about the exhibit here.

Behind the house lies the butterfly, herb gardens and tropical fruit garden.

The gardens are a perfect place for a wedding venue with the large covered gazebo overlooking the waters of Sarasota Bay.

The pathway winds along the bayfront where the aerial roots of the Banyan have created an archway.

Many flowering bushes of the Brazilian rainforest tree, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, Brunfelsia sp.

And a photographic opportunity under the Ficus microcarpa, Chineses Banyan.

Tucked into the far corner a koi pond.

And by the pond's edge the beautiful pendulous blooms of Clerodendrum schmidtii.

The garden shop with a fine display of orchids. Tempted but wise.

And finally the identification of our roadside plant. The sea hibiscus and by all accounts invasive. Another yesterday, today and tomorrow type plant where the blooms begin as yellow and by the time they drop they are that rusty red color.

Then back on the bikes for the 10 mile ride back to camp. We did stop on the way at the wonderful little bakery at Moreton's on Osprey for a shared slice of German chocolate cake. Glad I worked that off with the bike ride.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


One of my favorite flowers in the spring garden is the rose campion, Lychnis coronaria. 

A short-lived perennial it reseeds itself easily under the right conditions. What are these? Look below.

This cactus planter was situated a few feet away from where a clump of lychnis was growing. Recently I noticed some seedlings had germinated To begin with I wasn't completely sure that they were lychnis but as their seed leaves gave way to their first set of true leaves I saw those familiar fuzzy leaves. They are easily distinguished from lamb's ears seedlings by the point at the end of the leaf. They will remain in this pot until February when I will transplant them into their own 4" pots and later into the garden. I always find my best crop of seedlings growing in gravel substrate!