Tuesday, September 25, 2018


I have often mentioned how red was my least favorite color among garden flowers. But there are beginning to be more and more times when I eat my own words, and that time is now. Sometimes red gives that little pop of color which just brings the whole garden to life.

Whereas spring in the front courtyard is mainly about the blues, whites and yellows, fall is mainly about the the varied greens of the grasses and other textured plants. The salvia, Salvia greggii, dormant all summer, spring into life. One of those straggly plants that every year I think of removing until now. Here, straggly looks better than bushy as their arching branches reach over the rocks.

In another corner of this garden the same is true of the firecracker fern. I have seen magnificent displays of this plant when grown in good soil but mine stays rather short and retiring until rain and cooler temperatures bring out the bloom.

Under the shade of the Lady Banks rose, dormant all summer, the shy and retiring Oxblood lilies, Rhodophiala bifida, respond to a good soaking rain by sending up their naked blooms. And what a show they put on this year.

And in the back garden there are the annual strawberry gomphrena, Gomphrena globosa and spider zinnia, Zinnia tenuifolia, and they are red too. Although they usually reseed each year I still save save seeds just in case we have an unusually hard winter.

Another red flowering plant that will be moved into the garage for winter is the Japanes Lantern hibiscus, Hibiscus schizopetalus. It is certainly worthy of a home in the entry garden, if only for its exotic frilled bloom.

Look how deep the color is on the blanket flower, Gaillardia pulchella. Cooler nights are responsible for the depth of color. All flowers seem to take on more color during the fall.

Yes. Red is good.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


Do you like to bring a little gift or two home for your garden when you return from a trip? For me it wouldn't be quite right to come home with nothing. And when we take a road trip then I can fit just about anything in the truck, can't I?
But let's begin with the small things. First my Mother's Day present from Phoenix. Too heavy to send at the time it had to wait for my visit. I'm undecided yet how to display it so for the time being it is keeping company with another prickly pear from Arizona.

At the Denver Botanical Garden I picked up another little bird for the window ledge. He's also metal but staying inside.

In Telluride I spied this little prickly pear wall mount and the green man. The prickly pear is only a couple of inches tall and the green man about four inches. I need to get out the drill  and get busy mounting.

In the gift shop at the Great Basin National Park I bought two things for myself. A book mark and earrings. Of course they remind me of Ladybird Johnson and I think she would have approved of the message on the bookmark. And I shall wear those little darling little earrings when I next give a tour. Imagine, they are made from cereal boxes.

Those were fun little purchases but let's get to the real fun. Finding things at garage and estate sales. Some may be looking for antiques or jewelry, me, I'm looking for garden things. And you may wonder what we are doing going to garage sales and estate sales while on vacation. The fact is that when we are traveling in the trailer we are generally staying put somewhere over the weekend and that's when these events happen. So we went to a few estate sales and garage sales in both Montrose, Co. and Ketchum, Idaho. I like to look on these finds as my providing a good home for something that someone else once loved or used. I like practical things too.
This little cluster of metal objects caught my eye.

After a good brushing and a coat of sealant these ants found their new home on the rocks in my front garden.

The little book ends serve to hold the books I found on the trip. Of course they're all garden related.

A new bird house. I need to add some bark shingles to the roof to protect it. And two little boxes. Just a couple fo dollars each.

And judging by the numbers of hummingbirds in the garden the birds are already on their way south.

And I like to find more practical things too, like this little sharpening stone. It is really handy to carry in my pocket.

And I picked up 2 more polystyrene boxes to make more garden troughs, 2 galvanized buckets for holding plant stakes, a long window box, several protective eye goggles and two large Italian clay planters. Nothing was more than a dollar or two except the clay pots. The fun is in the hunt but now there is work to be done.

Thursday, September 13, 2018


This week at our house it has been a little like the British game of cricket, with all the ins and outs.

When I left on vacation I put a great number of my plants out in the side entrance, under the trees. It was partly in the hope that they would get a little rain during my 6 week absence. Lots of succulents, cactus, orchids, begonias most of which spend much of their life under the shade of the patio, and on the fireplace at the back of the house. That rain never happened so, on my return home, I watered them and carried them all back to their rightful homes. A week or so later with the promise of rain I pulled them all out and now after a week of rain I pulled them back in.

Just about every place which has cover has plants.

Orchids moved into the greenhouse.

 And as usual when we have a lot of rain there are plenty who will take advantage of this kind of weather.

Eventually if the sun ever comes out I'll take them out again and the game of cricket will be over. And in case you don't know anything about cricket here is all you need to know.

 The Game of Cricket                                                    

  • You have two sides, one out in the field and one in.
  • Each man that’s in the side that’s in the field goes out and when he’s out comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out.
  • When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in.
  • When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in out.
  • Sometimes there are men still in and not out.
  • There are men called umpires who stay out all the time, and they decide when the men who are in are out.
  • Depending on the weather and the light, the umpires can also send everybody in, no matter whether they’re in or out.
  • When both sides have been in and all the men are out (including those who are not out), then the game is finished.
  • Attributed to the Marylebone Cricket club
For those who live on the east coast. Thinking of you and those who have gardens. Hope you have moved to safer ground.

Sunday, September 9, 2018


The problem with rain in Texas is that more often than not it doesn't know when to start, and then often when it does it doesn't know when to stop.
After an endlessly hot, dry summer, and very little in the way of rain since May 4th, it began to rain this past week. The result of a slow moving frontal boundary sitting right on top of south central Texas. First ½" in the rain gauge. That's not enough we shout, so a little more, up to 1"now, then 2½" and now it just won't stop. It has been raining throughout the night and coming down at a pretty constant pace. It has brought some good things with it of course. The oxblood lilies, Rhodophiala bifida, were the first arrivals pushing their naked heads up through the soil.

Along with the native white rain lilies, Cooperia pedunculata. As hard as I try I can never get them to form a clump like the hybrid variety, despite collecting their seeds and planting together.  When you see them blooming along the roadsides they are similarly spaced out instead of clumping. They just seem to pop up in all the unexpected places, especially  the pathways of my vegetable garden.

Almost overnight the gayfeather Liatris spicata, began to bloom.

In profusion but not as profusely as in prior years. Usually the flowers develop all the way down the stem but lack fo rainfall seems to have reduced the numbers of flowers.

They are a rather weedy plant, their seeds popping up everywhere. They form a large  bulb which is easily dug up in the winter and relocated. This year I have a clump flowering in the granite area out front but others planted in the rocky hillside have failed to produce any flowers. So far no deer have munched the flower heads.

What color goes well with purple? For me it has to be the yellow of the Lindheimer senna, Senna lindheimeriana. Their favorite spot is in the wet weather creek.

But also out in the granite areas. I am spreading their seed onto the hillside which we cleared this spring. This plant is just too easy to grow. It seeds itself, it stays green through the heat and drought and no bugs eat it. And no deer browsing either.

I hope the water lilies are enjoying the day.

There is no outside gardening to be done today, just inside seed cleaning in preparation for the fall planting.
Thank you Laura of Wills Family Acres for the seeds of native Eryngo, Eryngium leavenworhtii. I shall be planting them directly in the ground as they need winter cooling.

and rudbeckia from my own garden.

Will they be the same as the ones that showed up this past year? I hope so.

The rain is a blessing and will make fall planting a lot easier but I think I would like a break now.

Monday, September 3, 2018


Our stay in Phoenix was a brief one. Just enough time to catch up with our son Nick and family, attend the Junior Olympic State swim trials in which our 9 year old granddaughter was participating, and load up the trailer for the next leg of our journey. We needed to get to Parshall by July 22nd (You are going to hear a lot more about that in a subsequent post.)

Her events had been marked on her arm so she knew when to appear on the blocks.

Well done, Holland. You're a great little swimmer and we are glad you like all that swim practice and all those laps you do. There were many times when I felt like jumping in the pool myself. Yikes! That Arizona heat is something else.

Mmm! I wonder what this plant is growing outside the pool. But with 5 weeks of travel ahead of me I didn't feel like snipping a little piece. Maybe on the way back. I spent 15 minutes trying to get an id on this plant last night, to no avail, so please enlighten me if you know it. It seemed to be everywhere.

After a stop at the shops to load up with food for the weeks ahead, Nick and David hitched up the trailer. We were ready to head off towards on the next leg of our trip. About 5 years ago, after our marathon Canada trip, David decided he had had enough of trailer travel life. We gave the rig to Nick, who has a convenient place to store down the side of his house. But in view of our summer plans this year he agreed for us to take the trailer again. If we were going to drive to Colorado then we might as well extend the trip for a few more weeks.

Our first night was at the Sunset Crater National Monument, just north of Flagstaff. The campground is not actually in the park but adjacent and within 100' of the park entrance and visitor center. By the way we always make full use of our National Park pass which we purchased for $10 when we were 62 and which has gained us free access into all the National Parks, Monuments as well as 1/2 price off the cost of the campsites in all the National Parks and National Forest campgrounds. There is no greater perk for aging than this.

We had no trouble finding a good site where we didn't have to unhitch. Always a blessing when you are on the road. It's a nice campsite under pine trees and cool enough to survive without AC. We had stayed there once before but never had chance to do some of the trails.  D studied the map plotting our next day's route.

You can see that the road through the monument drives through lava country with several stops for hikes and roadside information. To think that shortly after the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066 ( a date that every English school child once had drilled in their head) around 1085, the magma started spewing out of the ground building up the great cinder cone that is Sunset Crater. All along the road were loose cinders and larger chunks of rough basalt that had bubbled up through the earth's crust.

It's an unforgiving landscape but even here Apache plume blooms and sets seed.

We stopped at the Wupatki pueblo ruins, once inhabited by the ancestors of Hopi, Zuni and Navajo people of today. The pueblos were built of flat plates of Moenkopi sandstone, hence the bright orange color. After the pueblans left, the place was inhabited by others who followed and changed the buildings, sometimes adding tin roofs. The park service is busy restoring the site to its original building with the help of volunteers. The site is so open and exposed that I was glad I had purchased my sunscreen umbrella before leaving home. One lady even stopped to ask me about it.

 The day became hotter as we moved further into the desert areas, first passing Chimney Rock and then a brief stop at the Teec Nos Pos trading post. We stopped there once in in early 80s when traveling with our three boys in our VW camper which had no AC. We were younger then! A brief visit into their rug room where there were some gorgeous but very expensive rugs. On that trip years ago I think we may have bought a Two Grey Hills rug.

A night with a full hook up was in order so we headed to the KOA in Cortez. Electricity, running water, sewer and showers. All the home comforts! It's nice not to have to worry about the black tank and batteries.

KOA campsites also have cabins but this one had tepees and cabins. What I didn't know was that you had to take your own linens if you want to use one of these, so be prepared. We thad several dry camping nights coming up.

We continued on our way with a plan to stop somewhere near Telluride. We favor National Forest campgrounds so I was busy checking out the possible sites in the area. As we saw the sign to one we pulled in. Our concern is always whether we can turn around so we waited for another rig coming out and stopped to ask them about the camping and turnarounds. No problem they told us but what site number do you have? We are used to first come camping so this came as a surprise that you could book ahead.

Nevertheless we drove on in and were lucky to find a site that had 2 unbooked nights. These camps sites are almost always booked up for the weekend which is always a watch out.

The site was right on the river.

This campground had a couple of drawbacks. First, the flies. I don't know what the attraction is in the area but the flies were worse than annoying. You couldn't get away from them. Then possibly the worst host on the site we have ever experienced. In fact he was no host at all. We saw him for a few minutes the first day fixing a lawn mower and then he disappeared for the rest of our stay. Usually the host drives around in a golf cart with a cheerful welcome and to check you have signed in and paid.  David and I ended up picking up bags of garbage that were strewn around the trash bins. Whoever was maintaining this camp site for the forest service was not doing a good job.
We had never been to Telluride, which was not far away, and drove in there. The main street was very attractive with the usual gift shops and we drove up to view the ski areas which were almost deserted.

The second day we took a hike from our campground. It was basically up a gravel road with some nice views and lots of wildflowers.

Wild roses

Castelleja miniata

Castelleja sulphurea
Twin Berry Lonicera involucrata
But, about an hour into the hike just as we reached this dry lake the sole departed my right shoe and was followed almost immediately by the left one. Nothing to be done but return to camp with stones poking though what was left of the material between the upper and sole. Thank goodness there was some. This was the second pair of Asolos this had happened to. Such a pity because the leather uppers were in perfect condition. I will miss them.

The following day we left the site and as we pulled up to the main road an elderly lady came walking towards us. She had a flat tire and had no idea what to do. No cell phone service out there and she didn't even know if she had a spare. David got her to drive off the road onto a flat area, found her spare and jack and fixed the flat. It was a good lesson for both the lady and myself on how to change a tire. An hour delayed we were on our way with a plan to spend the night in Montrose. It's been a few years since we were there before and that town has grown. Next morning, before heading off, we visited the Montrose Botanic Garden.
I am disappointed in myself that I didn't really take any good photographs of the garden because it certainly deserved better representation from me. I'll blame that on the sun and my holding an umbrella to shade myself. The garden is open to the public-donation box at the entry- and serves to encourage those who live in this high desert region to use xeriscape gardening techniques and plantings. A series of signs at each stop serve to cover all the principles of xeriscaping.

It's a small garden but manages to incorporate several types of garden areas although all the plants are suitable for dry summers and cold winters. At the same time it was an introduction to me to crevice gardening of which I was to see a lot more and which convinced me that this was the next major project on my gardening schedule.

Good signage is important when you are trying to encourage people to make major changes to the landscape. They need to see the plants and know their names. Here's one I grow although it has never looked quite this good.

I wonder if it is the same cultivar?

For the who simply have to have a lawn then there are various selections of low water-use grasses.

It was an enjoyable visit and there were signs that greater things in their future.

We had one last stop for the night in Craig and then it was on to our destination in Parshall. We arrived around noon, David dropping me off, parking and unhitching the trailer off site, and then turning around and driving down to Denver to pick up our son Andrew and family. We had booked a week on the Bar Lazy J Dude Ranch. The final celebration of our 50th Wedding Anniversary.

I had no idea what to expect!