Saturday, October 29, 2016


The Black Witch moth, Ascalapha odorata, also known as La Sorcière Noire, Mariposa de la Muerte, arrived at my house overnight. It is the largest of our North American moths with a wing span of up to 7" and is sometimes mistaken for a bat as it is nocturnal with a flight similar to a bat. This one is a male lacking the white stripe across the wing.  If I was superstitious I might be a little disturbed by its presence, especially at this time of year. It is on the wall, nestled up against the roof, over our side door.

Because of its association with bats it is tied to many superstitions. In Mexico, named the mariposa de la muerte( butterfly of death) they believe if it flies into your house it means and you are sick you will die. Here in Texas the butterfly has to visit all four corners of the house before a death. But if it appears after someone has died then it is their soul returning to bid you farewell. Some believe if it flies into your field of view it brings a curse from your enemy, or if it lands on your head your hair will fall out. I much prefer the one that says if it alights on you, you will get rich or if it lands over your door you will win the lottery. Should I go out and buy a lottery ticket? It's tempting.
Have you seen this visitor lurking around your house?

Thursday, October 27, 2016


Yesterday I went out to buy some vegs for the winter garden. Because I like to buy them in 6 packs, for economy, I went to one of the big box stores. I thought I might pick up some 6 packs of winter annuals too. I was surprised to see half the area empty of plants. No vegs. and no 6 packs of annuals. Ah! Those empty shelves mean one thing, getting ready to bring in Christmas trees. Was I too busy getting ready for last week's event in my garden or was it the unusually warm temperatures that had me thinking I still had plenty of time to shop and plant for winter.
Even the garden is still full of color leading one to believe that summer is far from over. Then, this morning there was a slight mist on the cooler air and it just felt a little like fall.

And all the butterflies flitting around in the sunshine are a sign that the end of this season is upon us.

Here's another sign of the season. I cut back the huge gomphrena plant above the sunken garden. Beneath, it looks as though a hispid cotton rat, Sigmodon hispidus, has been busy getting his seeds together for winter. They must have incredible patience to get out those tiny seeds from their fluffy casing. I never bother, just saving the dried flower head and breaking it up and seeding directly in the garden next summer.

It is to be another week of near record temperatures. Already by noon it feels to warm to be out in the garden other than sitting in the shade. Maybe, I'll postpone transplanting those arugula seedlings until tomorrow. I'll take my lunch outside with my new book, The Bold Dry Garden, and do some day dreaming about the new garden area we started at the weekend.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


In late September I spent a week in Vail, with 3 friends.

The air was glorious and even at 8,000' I am pleased to say the lungs still work well. I certainly didn't need any of this. The last time I saw these oxygen canisters was in Cusco, which is 11,000'

There was a trail within walking distance of the condo, which I took several times. The fall color of those aspens was spectacular. One time as I walked there was a strong gust of wind and golden leaves filled the air. Winter is just around the corner.

And grasses were blooming along the creek.

There was talk of a moose having been spotted in the area and the posting on the trail notice board mentioned this being a mountain lion area. That had me watching my back a few times. But I spotted no wildlife.

You would not be surprised to hear that before I left I did a little research to see if there were any gardens in the area and came up with the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, the highest public garden in the world.

The Fords had long time connections with the Vail community and in 1988 the gardens were named in her honor.

The gardens have a fine collection of alpine plants displayed in a wonderful mountain setting. They also promote the conservation of the world's rarest alpine plants. A small visitor center has plenty of displays about alpines as well as regions of the world where they grow. I recall a visit to the alpine meadows of Rocky Mountain National Park some years ago. A biting wind blew over the tundra, even at the height of summer, and elk grazed all around us. This day was quite different as we left to explore the garden. Cool enough to wear a sweater but still with a warm sun.

They have a fine display of unusual trough gardens. You know how much I love troughs!

And crevice gardens with their tiny alpine treasures.

If you think fall is all abut those burnished golds and bronzes then think again although pinks do seem to be a little out of place. And yet these are the fall blooming colchicums.

and Veronica spicata 'Red Fox'

and the pink fall color of this ground cover.

There is a children's area with some delightful stone sculpture. (Vail abounds in expensive sculpture.) Adventure boxes had been placed underneath benches and we saw one child opening up a box to find some little treasures.

There was plenty of lawn for picnicking and for children to run around.

With it being the end of the season the gift shop was closed and several other buildings around the garden. It was very quiet and peaceful and I as glad not to have missed the opportunity to visit.

Monday, October 24, 2016


I follow many who share their gorgeous flower creations on a Monday morning.  Most of my flowers rarely find their way into the house. A simple arrangement of native flowers which I did for the Happy Hour event to benefit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on Friday.

5 small vases of native flowers, for the appetizer table, including Golden rod, Mexican bush sage and blanket flowers.

Happy Monday, and thanks to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden

Sunday, October 23, 2016


The garden is alive with butterflies, the result of all those caterpillars which have been feeding on my garden. Plants that have never seen a caterpillar before, like the American pokeweed...eaten to lacework.
I spent yesterday afternoon chasing them around the garden with my camera. Some are easy and some impossible to capture.
The monarch, Danaus plexippus, seen here feeding on the gomphrena 'fireworks' The monarch is the Texas state butterfly.

The Julia heleconian, Dryas iulia feeding on the lantana.

The beautiful queen, Danaus gilipus, feeding on Greg's mist flower.

Skippers galore. I think this one is a Southern Broken-dash, Wallengrenia otho feeding on gomphrena. Or is it a fiery skipper? That was my first ID.

A bordered patch, Chlosyne lacinia, well camouflaged on the yellow narrow leaf zinnia.

This one may be the marbled white, Melanargia galanthea. common checkered skipper , Pyrgus communis.

I am just beginning to realize that identifying butterflies is no easier than identifying birds. I planned to do some more camera sleuthing today but the wind made it impossible. I chased a yellow, an orange and a swallowtail around the garden but they never landed. Then I had to rescue 3 butterflies from the greenhouse. That took some time. Maybe I will add to my collection this week.

Just added his website which might help to identify butterflies from this area. It just made me realize how difficult it is to identify them. Butterfly Indentification for south Texas

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


There's still time to sign up for the Ladybird Wildflower Center event to be held in our garden this Friday, October 21st, from 4:30-6:30pm. It's going to be a glorious afternoon with clear skies and temperatures in the 70s. Fall at last.

Join us in the house for drinks and appetizers, followed by a short talk and a walk around the garden.
Ticket sales benefit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center and can be purchased here

Monday, October 17, 2016


We had a taste of fall last week. Gardens and gardeners alike breathed a sigh of relief. We opened the windows and delighted in turning the air conditioners off. It was short lived. Summer came back with 90 degree temperatures. The windows were closed and the AC turned back on. Will it ever end?

Two fall plants in the English garden, Gregg's blue mist flower, Conoclinium greggii,  and a Japanese anemone, Anemone x hybrida  purchased so long ago I have lost the name. I would love to have a white one but have not seen the anemone for sale since the time I bought this one.

They spread quickly by underground runners so are easy to propagate. This area of the English garden is fairly shaded from the hot summer sun by the cedars outside the wall although there is less shade now that we have removed the yaupon holly tree. It was leaning forward because of the cedars outside the garden and was just generally in the way. The bed will now be herbaceous plants only.

The Mandevilla vine has reached the top of the trellis but it is not as thick and healthy as it should be.  Possibly due to it being on this south facing wall. Maybe a change of location next year I can keep it alive over the winter.

I'm getting ready to change out the plants in the window box in front of the potting shed window but with the profusion of narrow leaf zinnias, Zinnia liniaris and the 90º temperatures I think I will wait. This is a very hot wall.

The Philippine violet, Barleria cristata is just beginning to flower. I can think of no other plant that is as fuss-free as this one. It has never been visited by insect or disease. Famous last words! I now have nearly a dozen of theses plants that have seeded around the garden. Of course they are all along the edge of pathways where the seeds were blown.

Philippine violet
This is one that grew along the edge of the path and was never removed!

We are now waiting for the emergence of the copper canyon daisy and the Mexican mint marigold. They should flower well into November. Roll on those perfect Texas fall days. I think we may be getting one this weekend which will be perfect for the Wildflower Center Happy Hour event, in our garden, this Friday.

Friday, October 7, 2016


In celebration of Texas Native Plant Week, October 16th-22nd, David and I will be opening our gardens for a happy hour event to benefit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Join us in the house for a glass of wine, beer, and light snacks, provided by the Wildflower Center, where you will mingle with other guests. This will be followed by a short presentation on how we were inspired to create these outdoor spaces around our home and a tour of the gardens.

Date: Friday October 21st

Time: 4:30-6:30pm

Cost: Members $31.50, non-members $35  Proceeds to the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Tickets are limited and can be purchased only through this link to the Wildflower Center Website 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


A week ago I found myself breakfasting alone, a little later than usual, and too late to eat with the birds in the English Garden because the sun was already over the top of the wall. I moved into the Front Courtyard where it was still shady. One of the benefits of having multiple places to sit around the garden. My chosen book was Succulent Container Gardening, by Debra Lee Baldwin.

Debra Lee Baldwin is certainly the queen of succulents in my eyes and this book is one of my favorites; full of wonderful ideas on how to bring out the best in your cactus and succulents; pairing plants with pots and unique ways to style your collection.

Almost all my plants are in terra cotta pots and that is probably where they will stay, but it doesn't stop my enjoyment of turning over each page to an reveal a new and wonderful pairing. And one of those photos gave me an idea.
In the side entry to the house is a table holding my shell collection. A large conch shell which we picked up many years ago has always sat on the table. There was space enough to plant a succulent or two in the open mouth. I looked around for something to plant in there and came up with these. Maybe not the perfect choice, but until I find that perfect plant here they will stay.

Then I saw another idea. I won't be making a fairy garden but I do have some little Chinese figures and I might try to find a succulent with a tree-like appearance to create a Chinese garden in a dish.