Thursday, January 31, 2019


Last year the inevitable happened. The mother Confederate Rose agave, in the herb garden, flowered. I think things were getting rather crowded for her and she was making room for her offspring.

You know when you see this starting it means flowering.

The family lived in a hypertufa pot that I had made specially for the pedestal in the herb garden. Not an easy life. For one thing the pot is very shallow, receives the full blast of summer sun and was often left to fend for itself during a brutal summer. I also recognize that I might have helped the group if I had pruned out some of the pups. Instead of which they grew together in a tightly packed group.
When the flowering was over I removed the dead agave( no easy matter) but despite adding one of the larger pups to the void in the center, things never looked good. I decided to remove everything and start over. Sad to say the plants have remained in the greenhouse throughout the winter, waiting for my attention.
I turned my sights to a replacement planting. Something easy care, no water. In my current phase of crevice gardening an idea spring to mind. I took some of the smaller rocks I had gathered for the large crevice garden I had planned and et voilà.

I have just added a couple of small sedums, Sedum lineare 'Variegatum',

and Sedum makinoi 'Ogon' and a couple of seedlings of alyssum. When winter is over I may add couple of succulents. It will be about experimentation.

I am pleased with the result and I think it is worthy of a little limelight.

Monday, January 21, 2019


We have been blessed in our current garden with what we like to call a 'quarry' at the back of the lot. We had no idea when we bought the land that it would turn up such a wealth of rocks, and we do look at it that way. A wealth. It opened up a whole new style of gardening. We have used those rocks for making raised beds, patios, pathways and retaining walls as well as rock gardens. I am forever finding a new part of the garden in need of more rocks.

January 2019
Inspired by travel in the Western States of Colorado and Idaho I am venturing on a new-to-me style of rock gardening called crevice gardening. Although when I delved into the subject I realized I had already embraced crevice gardening in a small way.

Quite often when I find a good rock it will break during transportation. That is not always a bad thing as these limestone rocks are very heavy and I can only manage a certain weight. But all is not lost. I marry the two pieces together leaving a crack large enough in which to plant a succulent or small grass.
Then again my sunken garden where, loose-laid over decomposed granite, Arizona sandstone pavers provide yet another example of crevice gardening. Between each paver plants survive with only the water that comes from the sky, moisture being preserved under the pavers as well as providing a cool root-run for the plants.

But I intend to spread my horizons having seen some very inspiring crevice gardens, created both by  man and nature, during last summer's travels. After all rock gardening tries to emulate nature.
The first crevice garden we saw was in the Montrose Botanic Garden, Montrose, Colorado. Their crevice garden was created by volunteers under the expert guidance of Mike Kintgen and Kenton Seth, both well known in the field of crevice gardening.

Bur the most impressive crevice gardens are those at the Denver Botanical Gardens.

While some are more true to what you might see in nature others are probably only suited to a large garden installation. I can't imagine the work that must have gone into cutting these stones to make the perfect curves.

Walk around the other side and you will see this one incorporates a water feature too.

But my favorite was in the Mordecai Childrens' Garden at the DBG.

You don't need to drive far from Denver to find a wealth of rocks suitable for crevice gardening. These slates and sandstones split easily along horizontal lines which make this kind of crevice gardening possible. That night we stayed on a campsite on a lake and I couldn't help wishing that we could take a few of these pieces home. However, one of the things I have learnt about rock gardening is that you must use materials that are compatible with the rocks you have and these just wouldn't look right in my garden. I must find a source closer to home and that means my own back garden.

We now headed on further up to Idaho and our favorite place to camp and hike. Just outside of Ketchum in the Sawtooth Recreation area. We spent a week hiking in the mountains where, with my eyes tuned into crevice gardening, I was able to see plenty of nature's handiwork.
Naturally it takes time for soil to accumulate between the rocks, enough to support plant life.

Once it does it isn't long before the flowers spread carpeting the ground.

Sawtooth Mountains

These plants are growing at 7-8 thousand feet so are considered to be alpine or sub-alpine plants which is one of the reasons people started emulating nature. So they could collect and grow these alpine plants.  Definitely not suitable for a garden in Austin.
The hunt is on to find low-growing plants which would work in these situations. Small, hardy cactus and succulents as well as thymes, skullcaps and erigeron daisies

Hike to Lost Lakes, Sawtooths
Since arriving home from that vacation there has been too much to do to start on the project I have in mind but I have begun collecting suitable rocks. It isn't so easy to find them as we used so many of them making the patio, but they are there and once the pile is big enough work will begin. Winter days are a good time to be searching.

There are simpler ways to make crevice gardens. They can be made in troughs or pots. Just a few stones tucked into the gravel of this trough and planted with a native blue-eyed grass and a dwarf iris, some seedlings of alyssum.

Succulents in trough made from polystyrene box.

Monday, January 7, 2019


I was looking back through my photographs from last year to see when I can expect the Gopher plant, Euphorbia rigida,  to start flowering. Or at least looking better than it does now. These photos where taken the middle of February last year, just as they were coming into flower.

But the main reason I was looking back was because I am looking at my plants now and wondering if their life-span has come to an end. They are looking pretty wretched, long and lanky with masses of missing leaves along the length of the stem. Of course that always happens whether from drought in summer or excessive rain at other times. They certainly got a dose of both this year.
 In my opinion this plant has two good seasons. The season when it flowers and the season when the new leaves have reached about 12". Then they take off, snaking across the garden. The two good seasons follow each other.  First the flowers on the old stems and almost immediately the new growth.  If you don't want to collect the seeds after flowering then the stem can be cut back to tidy the plant.

If you are growing this plant for the first time don't be tempted to cut off those lanky stems because if you do you will be cutting off this year's flowers. There may be one or two stems that clearly are not productive but hold fast on the rest.

So what do mine look like now?

Long, lanky, twisted and scarred from a Texas year.

The stems are badly scarred and there are stumps from last years old stems which were not cut off down to the crown. Those can be tidied up by either pulling them or snipping at the base. That's all the new growth at the base and will plump up over the next month, growing longer over the summer until they flower next February.

I am asking myself if I can live with this mess. For the time being I will give the plant the benefit of the doubt and see how it performs this spring. Then it may be a case of starting over again or planting something less untidy for much of the year. We shall see.