Friday, September 29, 2017


It was just a matter of time before we were finally blessed with a good rainfall. In all a total of 3.8" fell over a period of two days. I'm expecting the arrival of plenty of weed seedlings as well as bluebonnets and other spring annuals over the next week. But the one thing I have been dreading is the awakening of the snails after their long summer nap. They have arrived and they are hungry, and not for brown vegetation. They want fresh greens. How perfect was their timing to coincide with the young tender chard and kale leaves, as well as emerging seedlings.
Maybe other gardeners don't bother much about the slugs and snails in their garden. It depends mainly on what you are growing as to whether you will notice their feeding habits. They love vegetables, so those tender seedlings are first and foremost on their menu. But they also love the flowers of the blackfoot daisies as well as seedlings of larkspur and many other annuals-but not nigella (love-in-a-mist). If I sow some seeds directly in the ground I will never see a single plant, so if you ever wonder why a packet of seeds never germinates the snail may be your culprit. The only defense is to cull their numbers dramatically.

I have been out hand picking and have already done away with hundreds. It worries me a little that a new snail has appeared this year... this tiny round one. I am not sure yet if they are just babies but they are more difficult to spot in the gravel and I am not going to let them multiply into great numbers.
The more common ones for me are the decollate snails. When they first appear their shells are complete but wear and tear breaks off the tip.

In the gravel they try to bury themselves but that broken off tips is easy to spot.

They gather in large numbers underneath the blackfoot daisies and can shred the flowers overnight.

There are many suggestions for dealing with slugs and snails. Hand picking takes time but is well rewarded. Small containers of beer partly buried in the ground works well. Empty grapefruit halves turned upside down and left overnight will bring them running as well as the pill bugs. Carrot peelings placed under the shelter of a plant will attract them but you have to remember to remove the snails in the early morning before they return to their shelter.
Using baits is the easy way. Sluggo or Sluggo Plus, both certified for use in organic gardens, work really well. The Plus formula also eliminates other pests such as earwigs, pill bugs, army worms and cutworms. But I prefer not to wipe out everything in the garden just to control their numbers we have a reasonable balance.
On to the next pest of the moment. Caterpillars on my vegetables. These little devils have been making lacework out of my curly kale. I have been feeding them to the little fish in my stock tank pond. Talk about piraña activity when I drop them in.

I could spray with Bt but that involves making it up. Just easier to pick them off.

I didn't even notice the nymphs of the leaf footed bugs on the peppers until I looked at the photograph. You can just see them on the largest pepper. I thought they left with the tomatoes.

Friday, September 22, 2017


For years my morning routine had been to get up, check the weather, email etc. until 7:00am, when I would take a tray of tea to the bedroom and switch on the TV. We would watch the morning news while drinking our two mugs of tea, each, and then proceed with the day. David would make the breakfast while I emptied the AC buckets and did a little general watering, we would eat breakfast together and then I would go out into the garden and start my garden work while he washed up (what an angel).That is, until a few months ago when I decided I no longer wanted to watch THAT depressing news, anymore. So no more lounging around in bed with cups of tea. Plus summer mornings are not to be squandered.

Once this habit was broken it was quite easy to move on and break that new habit. This past week my routine has changed completely and I am loving it. Of course there is no breaking the tea habit, that is a must and I can say that wherever I am in the world tea goes with me and sometimes even my teapot! So the new regime this week is to head out the door as soon as there is good light and take a 3 miles walk. The walk is uphill all the way from Lost Creek to Southwest parkway through a private neighborhood so there is no worry about early morning commuter traffic. The houses are pleasantly landscaped but rather boring so I am accompanied by my phone and a podcast. And you can probably guess the subject matter. Gardening, of course.
I have always listened to The British podcasts, Gardeners' Question Time and the RHS Gardening Podcast as well as Gardens Illustrated Magazine, but they are certainly not enough to feed my new hour long daily walk. GQT is once weekly and GI seems to have fallen by the wayside. ( I love listening to Sarah Raven one about cut flowers). I needed a new source. Enter the Still Growing-a weekly garden podcast. I think I may have listened to one segment some time ago when Pam Penick was interviewed.  I very quickly got used to listening to the Minnesota accent of Jennifer Eberling and absolutely love every bit of her program content. If only I could keep in my head all the information she shares. It has given me even more incentive to take that early morning  exercise.
I really like my new habit.

Sunday, September 17, 2017


When hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas coast, 200 miles away, it brought some much needed rain to Central Texas. Along with that we saw a significant drop in daytime temperatures but more importantly night time temperatures in the low 60s. Warm days and cool nights. For a few days it was like being in California. The plants showed an immediate response; the sickly yellow leaves greened up and the flowers colors brightened. It was glorious but not to last. Still, for those brief few days I enjoyed every moment in the garden.
Sometimes I think fall is better than spring. Everything in the garden has become more blousy. There is barely a scrap of earth or gravel to be seen.

I never know from one year to the next how this will look or which flowers will be present-except there will always be plenty of rock roses.

The Salvia leucantha I have been planning to move for years is still there. The hummingbirds are very adept at flying in through the window in the high wall that separates the gardens.

A week ago there was but one bloom on the butterfly pea, Clitoria ternatea. Now there are many. The blackfoot daisy, Melampodium leucanthum, continues to spread across the step.

Ruby crystal grass, Melinis nerviglumis, is flowering. There will be plenty of those again next year.

  Globe amaranth, Gomphrena haggeana, 'Strawberry fields' is everywhere.

As are the purple and pink varieties growing in the pathway of the vegetable garden.

The spider zinnia will eventually be evicted from its home in the vegetable bed but I will save the seeds for next year.

In the sunken garden it grew where the white California poppy once grew.

In the sunken garden there are gomhrena, pink and purple skullcaps, aura, mealy blue sage, white Salvia greggii, and an errant member of the cucumber family which came in on the compost.

As well as zexmenia, Wedelia texana,  chocolate daisy, Berlandiera lyrata,  and returning alyssum.

But the absolute show stoppers of the moment are the liatris in the front courtyard. Purple is definitely the color of the moment.

Last year I removed many of the bulbs and planted them outside the walls. It seems that every seed germinates but they are silent all summer until their bloom time in the fall.

Phlox paniculata John Fanick, After the first flowering I pruned it back and here it is again. Smells wonderful.

Trailing Snapdragon vine, Asarina procumbens is a native of Mexico but seems to do well here as an annual.

Tradescantia sillamontana with its cobweb leaves and pretty pink flowers, easily grown from cuttings.

In the spring I bought a hanging basket because it looked simply gorgeous. I repotted it into a larger basket with baby diapers in the bottom. It was an impulse buy. It has been watered all summer on a drip system twice a day, and received an occasional fertilize. I have cut it back completely about 3 times. It took a beating on one side during the hurricane but is recovering.

The mandevilla vine is into its second year. I cut it down and put it in the potting shed last winter. It dried out and went dormant but started to come back after a good spring soaking. I will try to keep it for another year.

It is wonderful to see so much color back in the garden and there is still the Philippine violet yet to bloom. Soon it will be fall and these icky-sticky days will be a thing of the past!

Sunday, September 10, 2017


The garden never ceases to provide us with an endless list of jobs to be done. As the cooler temperatures arrive there are plenty of outdoor jobs to be done.  Suddenly I remember those indoor gardening jobs I planned to do when it was 100º Somehow they just never got done.
This week I made a start on some garden ornaments that I needed to protect from the elements before putting them outside. After finally managing to pry the lid off the can of varnish and locating a paintbrush I made a start. By the time I had finished there wasn't a single metal item that hadn't received a coat of protective varnish. I found a shady place to work and made a start.

It was a job worth doing because it gave a new lease on life to all of them. These butterflies and dragonflies I picked up at a garage sale for $1. They looked pretty shabby with flaking areas.

I inherited this piece of decorative wall art from a friend who was leaving town. It spruced up nicely and found a place to hang it. This one I can see from my kitchen window.

These plaques came from a garage sale in Denver when we were traveling in our trailer some years ago. Not sure where they are going to go yet.

Then on to the wooden items. The fish who sits in the side garden pond as well as the wooden plaque above the side entrance.

Then I ventured to the outside to protect several metal wall hangings. It's quite amazing how it changed their appearance.

The bird houses were next. One of the owl houses needed a new floor, which David worked on. After which I shingled the roof.

The tree is turning into a shrine to owls. Surely this year the screech owl will come.

With plenty of bark left over I shingled another bird house. Outdoor things need all the protection they can get.

There! I ticked off quite a few items this week. Now to go and walk around the garden and see what needs doing.

Sunday, September 3, 2017


Walk in through the gate into the front courtyard and you may be greeted by a roar from my recently acquired lion. I have named him Harvey, because he came into my life on Saturday, the day that hurricane Harvey crossed the Texas coastline and to begin its devastation.

On that day we happened to be 1500 miles away, having flown up to Canada to attend a Golden Wedding celebration in Hamilton, Ontario. The day after the celebration we drove along the Lakeshore Rd as far as Oakville, where we lived in the mid 70s. The lakeshore has some beautiful houses and outside one we saw the inevitable Saturday sign 'Garage Sale'. How could we resist?

When I saw the lion I knew immediately he would look perfect among the grasses in the front garden. But then thought about the fact we were not checking baggage. David felt sure we could carry the lion on the plane, one way or another. I wondered if security might be a problem. He's quite heavy, being cast from some kind of metal and his patina needs a little touch up. But we had no problems and no-one even queried the lion as it went though the scanner.

But that wasn't the only critter I found. A sweet little ceramic gecko reminded me of the one in our Air B&B house in France. All I need is a piece of driftwood.

French gecko
I might even let him stay in the house which is where geckos like to live, if the number of ones in our house is anything to go by. I am always shooing them outside but they always come back.

To round out our shopping experience a nice ceramic owl hanging and two lovely Indian scarves. The total came to $10. Now, that's what I call real garage sale prices.

Friday, September 1, 2017


It has taken me a few days to even think about mentioning the damage my garden sustained. It's all minor compared with what Houstonians and those along the coast are facing and will face for years to come. With Austin 200 miles away from the coast our rainfall didn't come anywhere close to that at the coast and while the winds did some damage none of it was catastrophic. We didn't lose any big trees and are forever grateful that we don't have trees overhanging the house, having lost those 5 large oaks several years ago. I'm glad we got those down immediately. We had lots of twigs and leaves scattered all over the place and in the plants. My poor oaks are not in very good shape and now they lost more leaves.
But the rain has gone and the sun shines again and the garden couldn't be happier. In less than a week the oxblood lilies, Rhodofiala bifida. began to bloom. Sometimes known by the name naked ladies because the flowers come before the foliage, they appear overnight, a signal that cooler weather is on the way.

A new crop of the pink rain lilies.

Everything in the garden is refreshed. Wafts of almond fragrance from the blackfoot daisies, Melampodium leucanthum. I wish they were a little more generous in spreading their seed. But this one found a perfect home in the English garden among the stone steps.

More seeded among the grasses in the front courtyard garden.

There's nothing a seed likes better than to find itself in a gravel bed. No fertilizing or watering needed here.

Across the garden the flowers on Rosa Felicia are beginning to show a deeper pink color. Sometimes, even on the hottest day her fragrance wafts through the arch.

The first blooms of liatris hang over the low dry stone wall in the English garden.

I can almost hear the plants saying, 'We made it through the summer and now we have fall to look forward to.' I hope this is the case. Those cooler mornings do make all the difference.