Friday, June 29, 2018


Over the last few years I have made quite few of these hypertufa balls.

Hypertufa balls with Carex 'frosty curly'
Last weekend I made two new ones, the darker ones you see in this photo. It has been a project waiting on the shelf in the potting shed for some time. Too hot to be outside gardening but not too hot to work under the shade of the junipers in the back garden. 
My greatest success has been using old glass light globes as the mold, although one of these is made from an old basket ball we found in the woods. And you can make them from a child's ball by cutting a hole in the top, setting it in a bed of sand to support the mixture. See Faire Garden's how to here. I would probably feel less guilty about using one of those than the eventual destruction of the globe. But, when recently I found several globes at an estate sale I snapped them up. They make the job a lot easier.

The equipment needed is easy. A large container for the mix, the wider the better: it makes mixing easier. Gloves, trowel, jug for water, container to measure, cement, vermiculite or perlite and peat moss. And most important a face mask and protective eyewear.

One container of peat moss, vermiculite and cement was enough for two globes. I used a salad container.
Put on the mask( not much fun when the temperature is in the 90s) and measure equal parts of the peat moss, vermiculite and cement into the bowl and mix well making sure to remove any bits of twig and obvious lumps. At this point you can add colorant which you can buy at big box stores. I used some left over pigment from the making of our stucco walls.

I used just over a gallon of water in the mix but this will depend on how dry your peat moss is. it should have the consistency of cottage cheese or a heavy dropping consistency. Gather some up and squeeze. I should stay together.
Spray the inside of the mold with Pam and then add the cement shaking to settle and fill the whole of the globe.
Set aside for several days and then carefully knock the glass with a hammer. It should break away in large pieces. Now keep in a shady place until the cement cures completely.
With two more globes waiting on the shelf I made up another batch this morning. These have no added pigment so I expect them to be much lighter in color.

An hour later when I went back to take a photograph the ants were parading up and down the globes and clustering together on the sides.. They were after the water that had settled on the top as the cement dries out. Now that's what I call desperate for a drink.

For me that's it for ball making. I think I have satisfied my need.

Monday, June 25, 2018


When I started my first garden in 1973 all the ideas came from my own head. I had a Better Homes and Gardens loose leaf book and that was it. It was very basic. I never thought of looking for gardening books at the library or even buying garden books or magazines. Around 1998 I began visiting a few gardens on my travels and buying garden magazines and books, many of them at charity shops in England. By the year 2000, when we started this garden, I had quite a file of ideas snipped from magazines; garden styles I particularly liked; plants that I thought would do well in Texas. It was time to start incorporating some of these ideas into my new landscape.

The front of our house has 4 square high windows. As I looked from outside up at those windows  I remembered an idea I had seen in Sunset magazine years ago.  I found it in my file.

What could be more perfect than to replicate those high windows on the front wall of the garden. It would just add some permanent interest to the wall which looked particularly bare before there were any plants.

David built the boxes and stained them the same color as the front gates.

But the box of mirrors had 12 pieces and sometime later I decided it might be fun to have some on the inside of the curved wall in the front courtyard. This time we used grey stain. This week I caught sight of the reflection of hesperaloe and American beautyberry in one of the windows.

I have seen mirrors used in gardens before. Hung directly on the wall they add another dimension sometimes creating the illusion of another garden beyond and the mirrors seem to remarkably resistant to damage. Some of mine have had to have the wood replaced because of rot and from time to time I clean off the beak marks of the cardinal and mockingbird who see themselves in the glass. It is hard to find the right size of wood and unless you have a router, and when ours died David had to use two sizes of wood to create the inset for the mirror. It would probably work just as well without the mirror being inset as long as it was well sealed.

Another recent project gleaned from a magazine, and squirreled away in my file, was the sliding shutters in both the side entry garden and the English garden. I was trying to work out how we could add shutters to those openings when flicking through my file I came across this sliding shutter.

Another great Sunset magazine idea. David built the shutters and hung them on sliding barn door hardware. The first one he made was for the opening in the side entry. Wind-driven rain was a problem at the side door. This was the perfect solution. It works. No more wet shoes and doormat.

And one thing led to another. "Wouldn't it be nice to have similar shutters in the English Garden?" I asked him. A similar problem exists there with rain and wind from a different direction. Not only are they functional but they add interest to another very dominating wall. What would Dick Clark be saying about this?

Then there are my little sayings. Remember this one above the side entry? I'll be honest I didn't make this one. I actually bought it for $1 at a garage sale with the intention of stenciling my own saying on there. I hunted for a stencil that was the right size and gave up. In the end I thought the saying wasn't such a bad one after all. But the idea to have some writing on the wall came from a garden I visited in England.

At Snowshill Manor in England there is a passage from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Charles Wade might have said that of his own garden and I agree with him.

To make some for myself I found I had to make my own stencils by printing out the letters and cutting them out. One for over the Sun and Moon Archway.

I also saw this idea in a garden shop in England.

And using some wood from the old compost bins I made a similar one to place just by the side entrance.

And those of you who came to the recent Garden Bloggers' Spring Fling might have noticed this one I made to guide you through the front gate and around the side into the other gardens.

I saw this simple theatre at Holehird Gardens, home of the Lakeland Horticultural Society, in the Lake District, England. They have taken the idea of an Auricula Theatre and used it to display miniature hostas. If you want to see an amazing display of auricula theatres then just google the words.

My theatre is for cactus and succulents and replaces a, difficult to water, hayrack planter.

Holehird gardens was another source of one of my garden projects. My trough planter.

But in making this large one I realized just how much material is needed and mine ended up being more shallow and not so thick. And of course alpines are out of the question here so I chose succulents.

And then came some easier planters to make from styrofoam boxes seen on the Hypertufa Gardener They can be made in next to no time and look just as good.

And my largest project of all was my first one and that was the dry stone wall for which the English Garden is named. They abound in the part of the country I grew up and you can see one behind the troughs in the picture from Holehird.
Here's mine.

Then sometimes I have my own ideas as in the stock tank water feature set in a raised bed.

But then recently I saw this idea in a British garden program and filed it away because if my stock tank ever springs a leak, and it will, I will try this idea.

I'm always on the lookout for little things to bring interest into the garden.  I watch gardening programs from England, Australia as well as the US. I watch videos, read magazines, and books and troll Pinterest. There is such a wealth of ideas at our fingertips these days! No one should be short of a source for garden design.

Friday, June 22, 2018


On the Saturday and Sunday of this year's Austin Garden Bloggers' Fling I joined the group of 93 flingers to visit a broad selection of Austin gardens. Both days began with a cool sunny morning and progressed to hot sunny afternoons. Visitors were often seen taking advantage of the homeowners' swimming pools by dipping their toes. It seems it has become quite a tradition at the Fling to see this kind of happening.
I loved all the gardens we visited but have to say that there are some gardens which positively announce the vibrant personality of their creator. "Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are" the words written long ago by the English poet Alfred Austin.  This photograph of Lucinda Hutson outside her front door says it all.

In an area of Austin that was once a grove of pecan trees, on a pleasant leafy street with many pretty cottage homes, built in the 1930s and 40s, is one particularly charming house. I remember the first time I visited it was quite easy to pick out the 'purple house' of Lucinda Hutson.  Not quite so easy today as the ginkgo tree has grown taller and fuller casting some welcome shade, and a kumquat, which shades a delightful seating area in front of the house, soften the brightly colored purple walls of her house.

It truly was the most perfect morning for our visit.

A delightful seating area beneath the kumquat tree.
Her front garden is cottage style with an amazing variety of plants and herbs, the ginkgo tree casting just enough shade to make a comfortable place for them to grow well. I couldn't help but marvel at how Lucinda's selection of plants knitted together so well with not the least air of untidiness.

And the hell strip is similarly planted with native heart leaf skull cap, Scuttelaria ovata, hesperaloe and spineless opuntia. In the Mexican tradition the name of her precious cat has been carved on one of the cactus pads.

Hesperaloe flowers in the hell strip
I asked Lucinda if she had any schooling in art and was surprised to hear she had not. She certainly has an artists eye. Look at this pretty selection for her lavender pot.

Years ago there was a driveway alongside the house which led to a garage at the back. (That garage today is just used for overwintering tender plants). A gardening friend suggested Lucinda should build a wall across from the house to create a private area. They built it together.

And leading up to the archway to the side garden several Tuscan pots with, of course, Salvia 'Amistad' in her signature color.
I remember years ago there were iris growing here, which she shred with us. I think every gardener in our group now has that iris and we refer to it as Lucinda's iris. We may have to share it back as she now sh has only one small patch at the end of the driveway.

Through the gateway looking back outside is a reminder of times in Lucinda's youth which she spent in Southern California at her grandmother's.

 And now the story really begins and Lucinda is there to share, with bountiful joy, all the special areas of significance in her garden. She grew up in El Paso and with travels into Mexico with her father and subsequent travel on her own she came to love the Mexican culture and particularly their use of color.
Behind the wall lies the mermaid grotto and mermaids will feature not just in this part of the garden but also in her house.

Mermaid grotto
And the the shrine to Our Lady of La Tina was once a claw foot tub, now decorated and set in stone. La Tina is a play on words as la tina means bath in Mexico.

Look up, look down, with every glance something new. How many things did I miss? Plenty I am sure. And in so looking I ended up missing taking photographs for many things.

Haitian steel oil drum carvings
In her surprisingly spacious back garden there is room to sit, a colorful serving area and a log cabin work retreat.

No doubt she spent many hours in her 'creative cathedral' writing her books, The Herb Garden Cookbook and Viva Tequila!

And things didn't stop with a garden visit. The back door of the garden opened onto the 'stairway to heaven'. Notice Sancho's special doorway. He must walk theses stairs many times. But we were requested to enter the house by the front door.

I don't think I have been on many garden tours where a house tour was included, but Lucinda has an unusual and very special house. Her collection of Mexican folk handicrafts may rival that of any museum. It put me in mind of Charles Wade who bought Snowshill to house his incredible collection of exquisite handicrafts.

Every inch of her house is decorated with the utmost care and creativity.

And time in the kitchen being very close to my heart, a few photographs of where Lucinda perfected her many recipes.

And libations!

After all Lucinda is an expert on Tequila.

Thank you Lucinda for inviting 93 Flingers and their cameras into your garden and home. It was a special and memorable morning for us all.