Saturday, March 31, 2018


Would you find it hard to choose the plants in your garden whose bloom you most anticipate. It isn't hard for me. Today two of those much anticipated plants were blooming. The first is the Claret cup cactus, Echinocereus triglochidiatus. My anticipation begins when I start to count the number of blooms I am going to have this year. Bud formation began a few weeks ago and I counted 16 buds.

If you look closely you can see more blooms which will open later this week. Whereas many cactus blooms are ephemeral these ones are made of sturdier stuff and last a number of days. Do I remember saying I didn't like red flowers? I soon got over that when this cactus arrived in my garden. For most of the year it sits quietly among the rocks preparing for next year. I don't fertilize or water and that's just what it gets in its native Texas Hill Country setting. I gave it just a home like that in my front courtyard garden among the limestone rocks. It makes a great partner for the bluebonnets, Lupinus texensis, and the square bud primrose, Calylophus sp. In front a purple skull cap has seeded and its blooms will give some shade to the claret cup during the hot summer.

Then there is another cactus where I find myself counting buds. The ladyfinger cactus, Echinocereus pentalophus. On one small plant 13 buds. This is a banner year and I think our colder winter takes credit for this bloom. The three cactus plants were in the potting shed and the temperature in there got down into the high 30s. They can take some cold but would have probably been lost during the two 18º F nights this winter. Mine are in pots. Plants with long trailing stems would really prefer to be in the ground where they can trail along the ground rather than hanging over the sides of a pot.

And deep in the heart of the flower, rolling around in the pollen is the same fruit fly-sized bee that also visits my Echinopsis flowers. What is it that attracts him to this kind of flower I wonder? Is he a specialist bee who visit cactus flowers? Was he waiting for this flower to open because it was not open until after noon.

And in a few weeks I will be anticipating the flowers on my lace cactus, Echonocereus reichenbachii. As you can see this genus is one of my favorites when it blooms in my spring garden. It all helps to soften the end of bloom time for the Lady Banks rose. Farewell! See you next year. I'll be saying the same of my cactus in a weeks time.

Sunday, March 25, 2018


I have a lot of pots. They sit on various surfaces; stone patio, hearth and wooden decks. Most of them are on saucers but even those don't protect the surfaces on which they sit,  from staining. After heavy rainfalls water can gather underneath and cause unsightly mold stains. The answer is, of course, pot feet and there are some really lovely ones out there, but they are expensive. You may also be able to find some inexpensive ones made from plastic.

I was very fortunate to inherit some clay pot feet from a friend who was leaving town. They add a special touch to my garden pots. One of my favorites is the maple leaf.....

but then there is the fun little piggy...

and an acanthus leaf..

For years I have been making my own pot feet out of corks. Yes, that is the reason for that ever growing collection of corks in the kitchen drawer.

Quite simply I cut down the corks to size, depending on how elevated I want the pot to be, and either stick them to the base of my pots saucers or just place them underneath. I use them outside and in the house when I want to protect a glass or wooden surface. The best cutting tool is a sharp serrated knife.

They also come in handy to use as a spacer when hanging something on an outside wall.

If you have a lot you could use them as a light weight pot filler. Anyone have any other ideas for their use in the garden? No cork boards thank you!

Monday, March 19, 2018


When my Lady Banks rose, Rosa banksiae 'Lutea' started to bloom a week ago I breathed a sigh of relief. I had already decided that this year was not going to be a big bloom. Why? Because lack of winter rain and several bouts of temperatures in the teens had denuded her of every leaf. Did I get a surprise.

She is as beautiful as ever although the blooms are smaller than in other years.

And her show doesn't stop inside the garden. On the other side of the wall she blooms just as magnificently, even sending her some of her branches up into the oak tree. "I'll give that Texas Mountain Laurel and the Agarita a run for their money" she says.

But I don't get to enjoy her just when I am outside. From my seat in the living room I can look across and see her through the window.

Her flowers may be diminutive but so many blooms in a cluster makes for a big impact.

If you have followed my blog for a while there will be no need for me to remind you how this rose was given her name. She was named for the wife of Sir Joesph Banks who sent William Kerr on a plant finding mission to China. He returned with a rose which was named for his sponser's wife, Lady Banks. I learn about Lady Banks from a garden visitor.

But there is another Lady Banks Rose in my garden, this one Rosa banksia 'Banksiae' which has white flowers. Her flowers are a little smaller but no less prolific and carry a faint fragrance of violets.   This rose has a very special provenance, grown from a cutting from the original Lady Banks rose brought from the Fa Tee garden in China by William Kerr. I picked it up on a trip to Tombstone several years ago. You can read the story of our visit here. Rose Museum Tombstone.

I'm not planning on building a trellis for my rose. She will have to make do with the under branches which have died off and which seem to provide sufficient support.

My white rose is planted behind the pool in the sunken garden.

She is loaded with buds this year. There is more than one reason to love this rose even though she is a single bloomer. She is thornless, never shows any signs of blackspot nor does she have any insect problems. She is, however, a big rambling rose and requires serious pruning to keep her in bounds. I have seen photos of her being trained over a small archway or along a fence. Either way prune after the flowering. Then enjoy 4 weeks of blooms in the spring.

Thursday, March 15, 2018


I am in two minds over which spring bulbs will be in my garden next year. I have to weigh up how they look for weeks after the bloom has finished. I know the large public gardens and parks yank their bulbs when they are over, planting new ones every year. For me that is not an option. Or is it? I had never thought of doing this myself.
I have a few favorites which I think are definitely worthwhile leaving in the ground. Number one is the Species tulip Tulipa clusiana, Lady Jane.

Originating from the rocky poor soils of Afghanistan and the Caucuses, it is ideally suited to the poor, dry, limey soils of the Texas Hill Country. It naturalizes well and although I was told the seed are not viable it pops up in several places away from the original bulbs so I think it does reseed occasionally. And the seed pods are what makes the plant tolerable during its bulb regeneration mode. They are one of the few bulbs where I leave the seed pods to mature. It doesn't seem to harm them.
I have tried several of the species tulips including Tulipa clusiana Cynthia, and Tulipa humilis, Persian Pearl, but none return quite so faithfully as Lady Jane.
The flowers close up in the evening and in the early morning their pretty pink undersides are visible until the flowers open once again.

The spring star flower, Ipheion uniform, a native of Argentina and Uruguay, will always be a keeper. It's short grassy leaves are easily hidden among summer growth. It is a great plant for the front of the border.

Why is this next bulb called summer snowflake? It is one of the first spring blooms arriving at the same time as snowdrops in northern climates. The blooms of Leucojum aestivum are similar to the nodding blooms of snowdrops and last for at least two weeks. I have never divided this large clump so I may try to divide 'in the green' this year.

Each of the nodding tepals carries a characteristic green dot.

I love the fragrance of the narcissus family, particularly those with multiple flowers but once the flowers are gone their wide strappy leaves become rather messy as spring progresses. I find the blooms to be fleeting and often damaged by heavy rainfall and late frosts. Maybe they are best grown in a pot where they can be removed from the garden after the blooms die. That is what I did with my paper whites this year.

But it's hard to resist the fragrance of Narcissus tazetta 'Erlicheer' with its double flowers and sometimes as many as 6 flowers on each stem.

and the pretty delicate flowers of Narcissus 'Thalia'

Or this unknown multi-flowered stem.

I certainly have preference for the multi-stemmed flowers with the later flowers Narcissus 'Cheerfulness' yet to bloom.
My personal feeling is that the perfect place for daffodils in in a woodland setting or in grasslands where their foliage can be left to die back. Will I have the heart to pull mine out? I really don't think I have it in me.

Sunday, March 11, 2018


Every night, before I go to sleep, I think about what I am going to do in the garden the next day. I rarely stick to my plan. That is why nothing ever seems to get finished.
I garden just like my father did. He would begin by pruning the roses and then part way through move to the rockery and have a little weed there always leaving behind a rake here and a fork there. That's me. It's a miracle anything ever gets finished. This morning I am going to try to weed out all those extra seedlings growing between the stones in the sunken garden.

Last week I completed a very pressing job. That of trimming the fig ivy on the outside wall before it begins new growth. Our extended fall had resulted in a lot of growth too late in the year to trim. Then along came some very cold spells and all that extra growth was burnt to a crisp. It was a chance to use my newly acquired hedge trimmer purchased for just this purpose. And it worked a treat removing all that extra growth within 20 minutes. With the hand shears it would take me more than an hour.

But of course that is never the end of the job. That his just the beginning. It is inevitable that fig ivy will not stay just where you want it to stay. It had crept over the top of the wall. That I had to tackle from the inside garden using hand clippers. Followed by the growth at the bottom of the wall spreading across the path. When all was done it was time to rake everything up. A full garbage can of material. Then a quick blow to remove most of the smaller debris. All that remains is for me to try and remove, once again, the garlic chives growing along the bottom of the wall.
You may question why I planted fig ivy on the wall in the first place. I felt the wall needed something to break up the monotony of the long house wall and this extended retaining wall. I love the look of a hedge and for most of the year that is how this looks. Plus it is a favorite hiding place for anoles, preying mantis and green lacewings. Worth that little bit of extra effort in the spring and an occasional trim through the growing year.
I'm was feeling pleased with myself that day that I had actually finished a job. Now back to weeding the sunken garden.