Saturday, March 30, 2019


This week we hosted a large group of visitors from the Garden Clubs of America. As usual there had been fretting for several weeks about how the garden was going to look, what would be blooming and what wouldn't. You know the gardeners' cry, "You should have been here last week, or even this morning." I do try hard not to say that any more. Timing seems to be all important when a garden tour is on the books. Constant checking the weather report and temperatures. If only I could say, "come over today" That may be the only kind of garden tour in our future.
Of course the bluebonnets were blooming beautifully as well as the mallows, freesias, iris,

Globe mallow

and lots of other unusual things like kale and cabbage....gone to flower in our strange Spring, but left for the pollinators.

Flowers of Napa cabbage
Lovely clumps of fragrant narcissus 'cheerfulness'

and clumps of native wild alliums looking at home between the rocks.

And Texas yellow star, Lindheimera texana, which has established itself in a dry corner of the garden.

And because this was an afternoon tour even the Gilia rigidula was on show. Growing on top of the retaining wall between the secret garden and the English garden where it is much easier to appreciate than if it was growing low down on the ground. You are not likely to see this for sale unless in a specialist nursery. I found mine on the property and moved it to this spot.

But days later some of these plants are fading and others making an appearance. The warm sun this week and the claret cup cactus, Echinocereus triglochidiatus started to bloom.

And another round of the ladyfinger cactus, Echinocereus pentalophus.

and more and more blooms opening every day on the Lady Banks rose , Rosa banksia 'lutea'

And last evening as I strolled around the garden, I noticed the blue eyed grass,  Sisyrinchium was blooming. My Monday visitors missed seeing these.

I am now asking myself if my next garden visitors will see them. Will they last another 8 days. But of course there will be something else in bloom. The poppies and penstemons for sure and maybe the mallows will keep going for another week. The skullcaps and blackfoot daisies should be coming into their own. Yes. Spring and early summer are a succession of plants that bloom, fade and are replaced by others, so what am I fretting about? Just my nature.

Saturday, March 23, 2019


I can't tell you how many times I have said "Next Year" It is the nature of gardening that we are often looking to the next year. Just this morning I was saying those very words.

I love to grow things from seeds and those that can be sown directly in the ground are my favorite. Last fall I purchased a packet of California poppy seeds. Not that I need any more of those self- seeding orange poppies. But this packet was different. California poppy,  Eschscholzia caespitosa dwarf Sometimes called the Tufted poppy or Foothill poppy it is native to the Chaparral community of plants from Oregon through California to Baja California.

Always on the lookout for dwarf plants for my rock gardens I thought I would give them a try.  I noticed some rather spindly looking shoots some weeks ago doubting that they would amount to much. We have been so dry that I decided they were not doing well because of the lack of rain, so I watered them. They responded by growing and flowering in the space of two weeks with lovely bright yellow blooms. They are only 6" tall, perfect for a spot between the rocks. I wish now I had sowed the whole packet instead of putting a few seeds in 3 areas. A big Next Year for these little poppies.

Sometimes illustrations on seed packets disappoint, but not this one.

Alas, another packet of seeds disappointed me this year. Double Click Blend, Cosmos. I grew these same flowers last year and they had gorgeous, frilly blooms. This year among the 20 seeds in the packet not one of them is frilled. In fact several are plain run-of-the-mill cosmos. It is too late for me to grow them again this year so it will be another case of hoping for better luck Next Year.

We spent the morning moving the citrus into position in the potager and the plants that are staged at the ziggurat steps. Or rather I directed as David did the lifting, carrying and placing. Those citrus pots are heavy and some of the other plants are vicious, particularly Aloe marlothii. Honestly, I felt terribly guilty asking him to do a job that someone of our age shouldn't be doing. I made him a promise that he will never have to move the Aloe marlothii again. It will either survive or die in that spot. I don't think it is ever going to reach its full potential which is to flower with gorgeous orange blooms. Possibly because it spends the winter in the garage which is not  place to induce winter blooming.

Always an unplanned combination of plants is likely to bring a Next Year moment, but how often is it repeated? And what of those beautiful red flax flowers. Last year I said more Next Year and I have exactly 2 clumps of them. The seed packets sitting idle in the laundry room. But once again I can say Next Year and hope it will be. The years are slipping away!
Our septic filed is another Next Year dream. For years I tried to grow wildflowers but none ever came. In an attempt to reduce the fertility of the soil we started gathering the grass when mowing and directed our sprinkler heads into the wooded area. And after 2 years it seems to be working. There are many clumps of bluebonnets several blanket flowers and I can just visualize that Next Year it will be a wildflower meadow, and if not next year then the next year.

Sunday, March 17, 2019


Our mild winter has been kind to many of my flowering blooms, although I have to admit I did protect the freesias during some recent nights when the temperatures fell in to the 20s. The same with some of the iris because they were in bud.

The purple iris were a passalong and came without a name which is often the case in my garden. The pretty little narcissus alongside this clump is also without a name, much to my regret.

Another passalong iris, known only as Peach, lives up to its name. It smells of peaches.

The naturalizing species tulips, or lady tulips, Tulipa clusiana, have not disappointed this year. Some years ago I read that the seed were not viable and I would pick off the seed heads after flowering. Then I discovered that the seed pots were attractive in themselves and allowed the seed to fall. Now there are many new plants forming.

Tulipa clusiana Lady Jane

Tulipa clusiana, Lady Jane with petals closed
Tulipa clusiana var. chrysantha, has yellow petals with red markings on the underside.

The species tulips, Tulipa humilis, Persian pearl was planted several years ago. It bloomed the first year and then nothing for 2 years. Now once again it is going to bloom. This is one of the shortest stemmed tulips, just a few inches tall.

I took the upper photo this morning and this one when the petals opened up when the sun came out.

All these tulips are perfect for the rock garden where they will receive good drainage.

The freesias have been magnificent, whether in pot or in the ground. They did receive addition protection from freezes but worth every cover I brought in and out.

And the same with pots of anemones.

I just wish they would all last just a little longer.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


I found the perfect spot to make a small crevice garden. It would give me the practice I need before embarking on the much larger one I plan for the front. I already had collected a small pile of suitable rocks and all I had to do was to carry them around into the Secret Garden. That was the hardest part of the whole exercise.

In a corner of the garden, underneath a small Anacacho orchid tree, there was enough space to create the small crevice garden. The ground was already mounded so it was easy to pull apart the soil to push in the rocks. This was one of the fastest projects I have ever done and was complete within a half hour.

I am giving some thought to continuing around the corner replacing the aloes.  I will wait for winter to be over before tucking succulents into the crevices. Corsican violets, Viola corsica, I have grown from seed should do well in this area.

 A garden friend, who was leaving town, gave me this attractive speckled aloe which just completes the color of the little bistro set and umbrella.

Time for a cup of coffee.

Monday, March 4, 2019


Each Spring I look forward to seeing those first green shoots poking up through the bare soil. By the time they have reached this size I am looking for the flower buds appearing at the base.

Soon there will be a host of golden daffodils-or not it seems for this clump, once again, this year. That is because I have been promising myself for several years to divide the ever enlarging clump which have now, in horticultural terms, gone blind. Only 7 blooms this year and all that foliage. They were planted at least ten years ago and have never been divided.

But when to divide is the question I had to ask myself. Many gardeners believe in dividing once the foliage has died down and the bulbs have finished their growing cycle. But if I do that those bulbs are not going to grow any larger this year and I will only get the same number of flowers next year. The cycle will take two years for the bulbs to fill out and bloom again. Hence my decision to move them while they are 'in the green'. It is so much easier to do because there will be no risk of damaging the bulbs.

The ground being rather dry it was easy to dig them up. Not as deep rooted as I expected but easy to see why I only got a few flowers this year. Most of the bulbs were not big enough to flower. I am hoping to remedy that by replanting while they still have time to increase their size this season. They will get a good feeding at the same time.
Bulbs may go blind for several reasons. Overcrowding, planting too shallowly and not enough sun are the main reasons. There4 is no guarantee that once a bulb has gone blind it will grow big enough to flower again but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that next year I will see a host of golden daffodils.
And there is more work to be done as I have several clumps in need of dividing.

Saturday, March 2, 2019


In my early gardening years in this garden I had the Newcomer's Garden club visit. It was the first of many garden groups that have visited my garden. I remember standing out in the front courtyard and telling them that my worst fear was that deer would get into the garden and eat everything down to a nub. Of course that was before the next worse gardening event,  the horrendous hail storm we had in April 4 years ago, which took 90% off the leaves of the trees, flattened everything in sight and left such bark damage on so many woody plants that they never recovered. Among others I lost a gorgeous Zephirine drouhin rose to that event. But the garden and I got over that.

Now here comes another 'worst things that could happen' but this time there is warning of what is to come. I am doing my best to make preparations. Inevitably there will be damage.

A strong Arctic cold front will blow in on Sunday during the day and the lowest high temperature of the day, recorded in Austin for this day, is likely on Monday. The temperature will barely rise above freezing all day and we will have three nights of temperatures in the mid 20s. Plus those strong gusty winds. The garden has already had a low in the mid 20s this winter but this one will be different. A milder than normal winter has most of our plants a month ahead in their growth cycle. My garden has benefitted from this with a fabulous blooming of the Texas Mountain Laurel, Sophia secundiflora.

Often the buds are blasted by a frost at the wrong time. This one is in my front courtyard, a seedling from the original tree I planted and removed because it grew too large for the space. It  is a more erect tree so may get to stay for longer.

But what of my other Mountain laurels outside the walls. They don't enjoy quite the favorable conditions of inside the garden. Their flowers are only just in bud. Will their petals be protected by that enclosing bract?

The mallows, Sphaeralcea ambigua, are in flower too with lots of new buds waiting to open. I don't hold out much hope for them. Just because they are natives doesn't necessarily afford them special protection.

And when the sun finally comes out again will the bees be disappointed too find the flowers on the agarita, Mahonia trifoliata,  blasted.

The first of the species tulips are blooming. This one Tulipa clusiana Lady Jane.

And these gorgeous deep purple iris. Only two blooms last year but already at least 5 on this plants and more around the bird bath in the English Garden.

And the freesias. Shedding a tear.

So what's a gardener to do. First, I have a lot of plants that I will simply move inside, some into the house and some back into the greenhouse, some into the potting shed and some into the garage. I was premature in taking some things outside. The citrus are much easier to move as I have them on carts which I can just wheel in and out of the garage.

I also made a final picking of peas. It has been a wonderful year with pounds of peas but I don't plan to protect the plants. I also picked some of the kale that was starting to go to seed and the last few spears of broccoli.

I'll put row covers on the rest of the winter vegs. to give them some protection and I will be using a lot of blankets, plankets and sheets to protect my tender agaves, iris and freesias. And will keep my fingers crossed that all will survive as I have an early garden tour at the end of March.
But one thing is for sure. Just like all the other 'worst events' I will not be discouraged from gardening.