Monday, June 30, 2014


Where would our gardens be without the genus Salvia; annuals, biennials, perennials, herbaceous and woody shrubs; all the colors of the rainbow. These dependable plants are of immense value in the Texas garden where several mechanisms help them through the tough Texas summers.

Above is one of my salvias not commonly seen in Austin gardens. Salvia clevelandii, is native to California and Baja where it grows as a short lived perennial. It is more difficult to grow here because it prefers a dry summer with less humidity. I grow it for its fragrance. In the early morning it perfumes the air and, at other times, I can barely walk by without brushing it with my hands and bringing its exquisite scent to my nose.

I grow the common culinary sage, Salvia officinalis for cooking. If you haven't tried fried sage leaves then you are missing out on a treat. Fry the leaves in butter until crisp and serve over ravioli with lemon butter or other non-tomato pastas. This sage blooms for long periods in the early summer after which it can be cut back to make new growth. The bees love it.

Salvia officinalis 'Berggarten', has a more rounded leaf and downy grey leaves. It too can be used for cooking but also adds beauty to any garden. Unlike the common sage it does not produce flowers. It has the tendency to travel as stems touch the ground and put down new roots. The older part may eventually become woody and die back.

There are several smaller leaved sages, among them the yellow, Salvia officinalis 'Icterina' and purple leaf Salvia officinalis 'Purpurascens', grown more for ornamental purposes.

But the main stays of the Texas garden have to be the blooming sages. The Salvia greggii which come in white, red, pink and purple.

And Salvia microphylla 'hot lips' These are always a favorite of the hummingbirds. I probably have more Salvia greggii in my garden than any other plant. That is because they seed freely. The plant is sometimes called autumn sage but this is really a misnomer as it flowers throughout the summer and autumn. Shearing the plant partway through the long summer will bring on a new flush of flowers.

I shall have to wait a little longer for the Salvia leucantha, to bloom. Outside my vegetable garden it grows in a good base of decomposed gravel. It receives no additional water, makes a delightfully shaped bush and is completely deer proof. Winter frost results in it dying back down to the ground but it is extremely hardy. It will spread by underground stems which make for plenty of plants to share with other gardeners. This one is seen blooming in my garden in September. It has both the purple flower and calyx. Another variety has the white flower and purple calyx.

Another fall bloomer is Salvia madrensis, sometimes called forsythia sage for its long arching stems and yellow flowers.

 It is slow to come back from die back in the winter but over the summer it builds up to reach a height of over 5' by fall. It has unusual square stems with a ridge at each corner of the stem, which make it easy to identify. In my garden it is planted under the Lady Banks' rose which probably helps it survive some of the lowest winter temperatures.

One of my salvias is becoming a little pest and I am rapidly removing it from my garden. Salvia farinacea, mealy cup sage. Best allowed to grow in the wild.

                                                                TO SALVIA

                                               In these times of fashionable rages
                                               Let us honor enduring sages.
                                               Known to cure, to mend, to ease;
                                               Companions to cooks; splendid teas.
                                               Hundreds of species our world adorn,
                                               Richly diverse in flower and form.
                                               Hail to Salvia, that scented salvation,
                                               Worthy of study and our admiration.

                                                                                            - Andy Doty

Do you grow Salvia in your garden? Please share your successes.

Friday, June 27, 2014


Yesterday morning I was at the Wildflower center to give a tour to a new group of master gardeners from near Waco. It was an opportunity to take a quick tour with my camera.

The entry booth with its green roof.

The wetland pond was looking as lush as I have ever seen with water lilies and lotus.

 I had no idea that we had a native lotus, Nelumbo lutea. With its large umbrella leaves and pale yellow flowers it was clearly enjoying all our rain and humidity.

In the sheltered corner of the auditorium the Mexican olive, Cordia boissieri, was also in bloom. Guarded by the Agave lopthantha with its vicious, serrated teeth. This sheltered corner saved the tree from our recent very cold winter. This tree might not survive in a more exposed area.

I wish I had managed to identify this grass in the center courtyard. I have never seen it in flower before and it was spectacular with its rust colored tresses.

The seed heads of the Devil's shoestring, Nolina lindheimeriana, were also putting on a show.

It was my first opportunity to visit the Luci and Ian Family garden since its completion. The pathway starts behind the visitor gallery and runs alongside the library. I was wowed by how quickly the plants have grown filing in to give swaths of color. I turned around to capture the same planting with the gallery and tower int he background.

Mexican feather grasses soften the entrance way with its Texas style rusted steel archway.

As the pathway sweeps around it crosses the Ellen Clarke Temple play lawn. A large sweep of habiturf grass where children can run, play, fly a kite or just get close up with some of our native creatures of the prairie.



There is an open pavilion where groups of children can sit on steps under the shade during class presentations. Not a soul around this early in the day. In fact I have the whole garden to myself. One of my favorite features is the water play area with its meandering stream.

All is quiet at the water pump; watering cans waiting to be filled. Little gardeners will be watering the nearby plants.

There are plenty of places to sit but don't think of sitting on these holey Texas rocks..

The waterfall and grotto.

And these Spanish bayonet yuccas remind us that we are in Texas.

Petroglyphs on the walls of the grotto.

The stumpery with lots of opportunity for climbing.

Let's play hide and seek it the Peggy Pitman Mays family Nature Spiral.

Or in the giant birds' nests.

You can even work out under the old Texas windmill.

I left the garden via the pathway which leads to the butterfly garden and then to the theme gardens. Not a soul around.

A quick peak at the art of Linda Calvert Jacobson in the carriage house.

As I passed by the entrance to the Family Garden I spy the first little visitor of the day. I wonder if he knows how much fun is in store.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


MAY 11TH 2014
On May the 11th our ship sailed into the port of Southampton, England, after the 14 night passage from Fort Lauderdale. We were about to embark on a two week tour of southwest England, with emphasis on gardens and National Trust properties. Being so close to Portsmouth it was a wonderful opportunity to go and see Henry VIII's flagship the Mary Rose, at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. I purchased the tickets on line, before we left, for fear that Sunday would be a very busy day.
Built in 1510 the Mary Rose sank on 19th July 1545 at the Battle of the Solent against the French. We were about to learn the story of her retrieval from the mud of the Solent and the subsequent treatment, still ongoing, to preserve her.

When she sank she came to rest at a 60° angle on her starboard side. Silt began to gather around the structure protecting that part of the ship from rot and decay. Later the remaining part of the ship was filled with heavy grey clay. There it lay until 1982 when it was raised from the bottom using a giant cradle. It was constantly sprayed with fresh water until 1994 when the water was exchanged for polyethylene glycol. In 2004 the concentration of the solution was increased to form a waxy coating. In 2013 they began to dry out the timbers.

As we made our way along the corridor which runs alongside the drying room, housing the ship, peep holes allowed us to view the drying process. Unfortunately it was impossible to get a full shot of the ship. I can't begin to describe what it is like seeing the remains of a ship that sank over 500 years ago and to learn the story of its retrieval. We were soon to see some of the over 19,000 artifacts that the silts of the Solent protected from decay. An amazing insight into Tudor life.

On board the day the ship sank were 185 soldiers, 200 mariners and 30 gunners. Of those only 25-30 survived. There is no written account of how the ship sank and various theories have been put forward. We likely will never know. But the treasure that that ship held is beyond belief. And I don't mean gold. They have found the remains of 45% of the ships crew. Many times they are able to tell from the position they were found and from deformities of their skeleton what their job was on the ship.

We know the job of this little guy. He was a ratter and was found just outside the Master carpenter's cabin. It is interesting that although we think of cats as catching rats it actually takes an animal with a much stronger jaw to kill a rat. Furthermore, it is unlikely there were cats on the ship because of their association with witches and also that cats had been banned in much of Europe.

Room after room held cases of preserved artifacts.

Imagine wicker surviving for so many years.

The English longbow. Over 137 longbow and 3850 arrows were found along with the skeletons of the men who used the bows.

The display cases were filled with artifacts but low light levels made it difficult to capture. You can view the Image Gallery here. I can only add that if you have any interest in British history and the opportunity to visit England, then a visit to the see the Mary Rose is a must.

It was good to get out in the fresh air and light again but we were about to enter another ship. Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory.

We will need to duck our heads as we explore.

It was at the Battle of Trafalgar on October 21st 1805 that Nelson sent a message to his fleet using flags. The message-"England expects that everyman will do his duty"

Nelson's bed

Rows of leather buckets

At the height of the fighting Nelson was on the deck when he took a musket ball in the shoulder. The ball smashed into this lower back causing massive bleeding and paralysis. He died some hours later.

The barrel in which Nelson's body was stored before return to England
We visited one more ship, the HMS Warrior and several of the museums.  The Warrior was the first iron hulled ship. However, by this time I was feeling pretty exhausted. It was beginning to rain and a stiff wind was blowing. It was time to find a place for dinner and head to our B&B for the night. Tomorrow we will be heading to Kingston Lacy and Corfe Castle.