Monday, August 21, 2017


We talked for years about taking the trailer and heading to Idaho to see the eclipse. We didn't go. We had to make do with a 65.3% It started at 11:41am and finished at 2:39pm, the peak covering being at 1:10pm. I had my paper plates ready just as I did in 1959 in England but I wish I had made the effort to get the glasses. I will for the 2024 show which will be right here in Texas.
Instead, I made do with watching it on TV

Our 63.3% had a small effect on the light and it certainly made for a cooler day, for which I was grateful. In my own garden the moon kissed the sun. This is one of the new ones I found this summer.

And what a perfect opportunity to mention the other new suns and moons that I picked up this summer. It has become a bit of a hunt for me when I travel and because I prefer them to be clay-colored. Europe seems to be a really good source.
In Taormina, Sicily, I spied this happy little sun.

And this windy little chap.

And I found these in a charming little shop which sold nothing but clay in Slovenia. They are really ornaments so quite a bit smaller than some.

Then there was the sundial in Korkula. We literally had to beg the man to sell it to us. He didn't want to because it was missing its gnomon. We said we didn't care about that but still he wouldn't sell it to us. But after further begging he said he would sell it at half the price. Who could argue with that? It will go above the Sun and Moon Archway.

They now have found a new home on the Sun and Moon Archway.

And if you're wondering how come we went so so may places in Europe-we were on a cruise ship that took us there.

Saturday, August 19, 2017


My front courtyard garden is not a place of summer color. Spring, yes, but summer it rests on the laurels of the agaves and grasses. Except, that is, when it rains.

Finally, two weeks ago, we had rain...2" of it and even better a cool day. I think the temperature barely reached 80º. The Texas sage, Leucophyllum frutescens, sometimes called the barometer bush, duly responded and started to make its appearance on bloom day. 3 days later it is in magnificent full bloom. I was out early this morning but the bees had beaten me to it.

It's serendipity that I planted this white one because it fits in so well with the greens of summer. It was an impulse buy many years ago when I visited Vivero Gardens nursery. I had never seen the white one before and really had no idea where I would put it. Just look at it admiring itself in the mirror.

And even getting in on this bird-planted American beauty berry, Calicarpa americana.

I keep the plant loosely pruned and remove lower growth so it is more tree like. We'll enjoy the bloom for many more days.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


I am joining Carol at May Dreams Gardens to celebrate August Bloom Day. Won't you visit her garden and see who is joining her from around the world to celebrate Bloom Day.

The rain has brought new life to my parched garden. Leucophyllum frutescens, commonly called Texas sage, but more aptly the barometer bush, responded after about 10 days with a flush of flowers.

Roadside are blooming with the more commonly seen purple sage. In our neighborhood irrigation never results in a bloom so I feel sure that a change in pressure and a cold front with rain is the trigger.

This little native shrugs off the 100º days.

As does the chocolate daisy, Berlandiera lyrata, although the early morning blooms will be closed by noon.

The Japanese lantern flower, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis var. schizopetalus.

My clematis just don't like Texas summers but has struggled to produce two blooms for bloom day.

It's been a week for blooms on the Echinopis. First a white and then a pink one.

It is always the same little bees who come to visit these flowers but never any seeds.

I hope everyone is enjoying their garden on this August bloom day. It's 100º here in Austin. That's number 35 for the year!

Sunday, August 13, 2017


I had a plan. I was going to give up my Saturday morning in the garden and go to the a class on plastering at Tree House. David thought I was crazy but I told him I would like to learn a little more about technique of plastering so I could do some repair work on our plastered walls.

There were only 4 people there when I arrived and while I was helping myself to a cup of coffee someone came over to check me in! She didn't see my name on the list and had I signed up. "Oh!" I said with surprise, " I didn't know I needed to sign up." It turned out this was a fee class and the class was full. How come I hadn't seen that on the notice I got from them on Facebook? I drank my coffee and went to have a wander around the store.
We are so lucky to have a store like this in Austin. I just wish I was about 50 years younger. How many times have I said that? You can read all about the the Tree House story here.

I doubt there is not a single thing in the store that you wouldn't wish you had in your home. From the solar panels, on demand water heaters, insulation, VOC free paints, gorgeous wool carpets, stone flooring, tiles, kitchen cabinets, lighting, water purification systems, composting systems, plus all kinds of items to make living more healthy. And of course the plastered walls.
In the garden section they have a huge display of water collection systems.

As well as organic seeds, soils, pots and plants.

Bird, butterfly and bat houses of all kinds.

Kits for starting you own bee hives,

I must have spent over an hour there just walking around looking at everything they had. The morning was not lost after all. I left with grand ideas about replacing our current water collection tanks for one of those real ones. New carpet? It is about time. Bees? How I would love to have my own honey. And solar power? Like I said I wish I was 50 years younger.

Tree House is Located at 4477 South Lamar Blvd #600, close to Central Market. If you have never been they would love to have you visit.

Friday, August 11, 2017


I have worked all this past week on the sunken garden. Unfortunately the heat and humidity mean only a 3 hour slot in the early morning and two of those hours in the full sun. There is still much more to be done.

I'm afraid I am one of those gardeners who has great difficulty removing plants. It is even difficult for me to remove a plant that is not performing well as I will always give it one last chance. I pulled most of the blanket flowers just leaving one or two that look as though they will make it to fall. I hate to pull them all because the American goldfinches love their seeds.

With some semblance of order on the lower level, I turned to the surrounds. A few years ago a Pride of Barbados, Caesalpinia pulcherrima, seeded in front of the pool. It dies back to the ground in winter, and is slow to return,  so it never becomes hugely overgrown. It is a good companion for the iris. I don't think there are many plants that shout 'Summer' quite as loudly as this.

Last year I saved some seeds and finding them among my seed store just 10 days ago, I soaked them in water and those that swelled I planted in seed compost. They are now an inch tall. I will hold them over the winter and plant in the from next year.

Along the low wall there was a tangle of Russian sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia, mixed in with Ruellia and errant strands of fig ivy, Ficus repens It feels liberating to have removed the lot. All that remain is the gopher plant with some underlying pink skullcap. In the fall I plan to add some santolina to be backed by columbines.

Working further along I reached the squid agave, Agave bracteosa. Judging by the fact that I removed over 50 pups it has been quite a long time since I did a clean out.

I saved the best. What on earth am I going to do with them all? I potted up a few and planted about 6 outside in the areas where we cleared yaupons this year.

And as I promised myself this past spring I removed all the muscari bulbs growing along the edge. I was tired of their scrappy foliage and few blooms. After pulling out the bulbs I begin to see why they didn't perform. They were all too small to be a success. Probably due to poor dry soil which I plan to amend. Many of my bulbs we3re blind this year and this points to poor care on my part.
I'm taking back my rocks. No more ruellia, mealyblue sage, pink crystal grasses growing in the holes.      And I really mean to keep to this.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


There is not a plant in my garden that didn't respond to the wonderful rain we had this past week. So long overdue. One day I was looking at plants that were withered and dying and a day later it was as though someone had waved a magic wand and breathed new life into them. But of all the plants in the garden there are no plants that respond so dramatically as the rain lilies.
It may be time to divide this large clump of pink rain lilies.

Our native rain blooms a couple of days after rain. Unfortunately if a deer walks by he likes to nibble off the flower.
Cooper pedunculate
Just a couple of yellow zephyranthes.
And this stunning flower on the Trichocereus cactus greeted me this morning.

Friday, August 4, 2017


It's always exciting to find a new native plant which does well in a garden setting. Last fall Julie Marcus, Senior Horticulturalist at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center gave me a little cutting of a pyramid bush, Melochia tomentosa. It was a spindly little plant bearing only 3 leaves. I was naturally concerned about putting such a small plant in the ground so I kept it in the greenhouse over the winter planting it in the upper level of the sunken garden this spring. As is often the case I promptly forgot about it. The echinacea and mealy blue sage grew up around it and it was only as I cut back the overgrown plants that I saw the little pyramid bush had survived my neglect. I was thrilled.

Since releasing it from bondage it has grown in leaps and bounds, and will soon reach its final size of 2'x2' It is perfect for the upper level of the sunken garden. It is covered with pretty little pink flowers which, by all accounts, will bloom all summer until the first frost. A perennial member of the chocolate family it will die to the ground in the winter but will quickly return once temperatures warm. Just the kind of plant you need to take over when spring blooms fade.

By all accounts it roots easily from semi-hardwood cuttings and seeds quite readily. I look forward to having more of this delightful little plant in the garden.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


Blue plumbago, Plumbago auriculata,  is one of my favorite summer plants. This tender perennial is native to South Africa dying back to the ground every winter. In fact I want it to die back so that it has to start from scratch every year.  That way it stays manageable until the end of the year. It waits for all those spring bloomers to leave the garden before it begins growing back and flowers constantly throughout the summer and fall.
It is a happy companion for this Yucca rostrata. For those of you wondering why I haven't trimmed up the grass skirt.... probably not going to happen.

Bearing a similar name, Leadwort plumbago, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, also has blue flowers but its growing habit is quite different. It makes a great ground cover blooming from May to October and disappearing over the winter. Never fear its roots with be spreading underground during the winter and it is necessary to keep it in check.

I am only just becoming to appreciate how well scabiosa does during our hot summers. It has been flowering non-stop since spring and shows no signs of letting up. I have one plant that is 4 years old and ready to be divided in the spring. I picked up another 3 plants this spring and all are doing well despite the heat and humidity.

Ruellia! Don't let its self seeding nature prevent you from having this plant in your garden. When little else blooming ruellia will, pumping out new flowers every day. Just make sure you cut off the seed heads as soon as the flowers finish blooming. I have two kinds, both the dwarf and taller variety. They both require a little work to keep them under control but their bloom more than make up for that.

Yes, I have the summer blues and they are good ones.