Monday, January 30, 2017


Having just returned from 2 months away there is much work to do in the garden. Harsh freezing weather has wreaked havoc among the agaves which have melted into rotten masses. This will not be a pretty post but will serve to show that not everything goes well in the garden and you just can't let these kinds of happenings get you down.

Although there are a few agaves that are hardy down to 10º I have many that will shrivel when the temperatures get below 25º My neighbor tells me one night it sank to 16º Hence the carnage.
I have had this Aloe 'David Verity' for over 7 years. It won't be flowering this year.

And these Agave colorata, are supposed to be hardy to 18º Maybe they are not totally lost. I'll give them a chance.

It was simply a matter of taking a saw to the leaves and cutting through them and putting them in the garbage. And lots of leaves were showing this kind of damage. They were sawn off. I still have tens of Agave weberii  to deal with but they will have to wait. I have more pressing things to tackle.

Then it was the turn of the grasses. It is no surprise that the lemon grass, Cymbopogon, didn't make it, not even under the protection of all those dead leaves. Fortunately I took some shoots in the fall and they are safely in the greenhouse. This was how it looked in September.

And today before I removed the whole clump.

Look how tidy the area is now.

I can walk down the path. I will replant in the same spot as soon as any risk of frost is gone. There is no irrigation there so I find it amazing how well it does.
With summer-like temperatures this week I knew the next job was to cut back the grasses before they start growing. The ruby crystal grass, Melinis nerviglumis, gets the hedgehog cut. Starting the top center with a good pair of scissors and working around to create a round shape.

If there is less dead tissue I let it be. If the center is really dead and the plant a couple years old then I pull it out. The roots are extremely fibrous, as you can see below, so sometimes it is impossible to pull the whole plant out. Then I pull a small section at a time leaving behind the roots. There are always plenty of seedlings to take its place.

Next I will tackle the inland sea oats, Chasmathium latifolium,  although I think they have probably already dropped their seed heads. The good news in that corner of the garden is that the Mahonia, Mahonia aquifolium, is about to flower. This is the first year as the plant was moved two years ago from a too sunny spot where most of its leaves fried. So much happier here.

It like a breath of spring to see flowers. By the end of the week I think there will be more.
At the end this day I feel as though I have accomplished quite a lot. My wrists and hands are weary and sore. That comes of not always wearing gloves. And there is dinner to make!

Sunday, January 22, 2017


Once in a while something good comes out of an accident in the garden. About 8 years ago I stepped backwards right onto a single lace cactus, Echinocereus reichenbachii, smashing it into the ground. Imagine how sick I was at the time. Never fear. Cactus are tough. It divided itself into 3.

Then this mamillaria. Workmen knocked the pot off the wall smashing the top off the cactus. I dried off the broken top and repotted it and left the broken one to heal. That broken one has healed over and has now made a whole new family.

An unwary boot trampled this agave into the ground. It, too, has produced a new family. I am not sure this one is a good thing.

I have often wondered what makes the barrel cactus suddenly start producing multiples on top of itself. Like this one I saw in Arizona. It is quite obvious that the top of the plant has been subjected to some damage in the past. It has made a new top and lots of babies around the sides.

Cactus can take a lot of abuse but sometimes an accident turns out to be a happy event.

Sunday, January 15, 2017


In all the times we have visited the Desert Botanical Gardens I don't think I have ever seen the cactus looking more stunning. Maybe fall rains have refreshed the plants. Maybe the cool cloudy day just brought out their best. It was perfect for a little iPhone photography.

 You can call me a frustrated cactomaniac. Frustrated because of where I live; the limited number of cactus I can grow and most of those in pots. That is doubly true this year as my garden plants were recentlysubjected to night-time temperatures in the teens for several nights.

There was a sign in the garden suggesting the the Agave Victoria-Reginae is endangered by collection for the ornamental trade. They have an amazing number here and rather like the one I have these look like the type that produce offsets. Maybe it is the tightly furled ones that are endangered although I don't think they make a distinction in the name. You can see the pups around the base of the one in the bottom right hand corner.

Even cactus need shade at the hottest time of the year. Here provided by this permanent shade structure in cactus and succulent galleries. In other parts of the garden trees such as the Chilean mesquite and members of the legume family provide a source of nitrogen as well as shade.

This South African tree aloe, Aloe Hercules takes pride of place under the arching shade structure.

We noticed that there is new signage throughout the park in both English and Spanish.

Looking at the tuna on this cholla I can imagine the spectacular flowering earlier in the year.

It is a little too early for many blooms but a sprinkling of aloes were in bloom though out the gardens.

I am always left drooling over these golden barrel cactus.

I remember visiting shortly after the terraces were built. Low level raised beds edged in cut stone    bring more formal structure to this part of the garden.

Touches of color here and there. I wonder if they chose these colors because they are the colors of flowering cactus and aloes.

When we visited last December the colored glass had not been added to the Founders Wall in the Sam and Betty Kitchell Family Heritage Garden. The wall pays tribute to the people and plants who have helped shape the gardens including people and plants.

And even though the cactus add structure to the garden there is always room for sone hardscape. The garden provides many places to sit and contemplate the beauty. There are also some beautiful water features.

A collection of watering cans among the pots dress up this ledge.

You might easily miss this tucked in behind a wall.

A memory wall.

I left even more of a cactomaniac.

Thursday, January 5, 2017


I rather wish it was right up my street but Terrain is over 1800 miles away in Westport, Connecticut. Surely we have an old Cadillac dealership building going begging, which is where Terrain found 17,000sq ft of space to open their fabulous garden store.

I espied it when we were driving by the other day and knew I had to go there. So, today, after a walk along the beach on Long Island Sound, David and I stopped in. Nice that they had a chair for him to sit down while I browsed. Unfortunately it was only going to be browsing for me.

Do you ever feel a little embarrassed about taking photographs in a store? I was prepared to tell them that I write a garden blog and would be giving them a little free publicity. I doubt they need it. But, no-one asked, although there were a few looks from other browsers.
 In the summer the outside must be brimming with plants. For now there are just a few dwarf evergreens and ericaceous  plants.

But inside the store is a feast for the eyes on a winter's day or any day for that matter. Part nursery, part flower shop and with a wealth of organic style accessories to dress up your house and garden  this is a perfect place to pick up a gift for a friend or even a treat for yourself.

Fresh foliage and dried twigs and seed heads for dressing up seasonal wreaths.

It is a vast space and impossible to take in everything in one visit.

The terrarium section is giving me ideas. I have never dabbled in terrarium life but I certainly have some of these wide-mouthed bowls that I could use.

In this store you will find them ready made as well as everything you need to make them yourself.

Maybe a few tillandsias. I would just have to step outside my own door to find the common Texas ball moss, Tillandsia recurvata.

This one really caught my eye.

I love the way the store is divided into different theme areas. This one is all about drinks.

These old fashioned bee skeps date back to 1200s but are no longer legal to use today because of poor accessibility.

The kitchen wares area.

There is a section on bathrooms. Everything is so beautifully presented.

This light might not be practical inside the house but would be a fabulous addition to a sheltered patio.

Lots of wooden toadstools and brush trees grace this wall.

I have seen these brush Christmas trees before. Danger Garden!

And these little hypertuffa mushrooms have given me an idea.

And when you have finished browsing there is always the cafe for a quiet lunch with a friend.

This is definitely a destination garden store and I was thrilled to come across it when visiting our son and his family. I have no doubts that I will be back.
At the same time I am thinking that Austin might be grown up enough now to have a store like this one.