Wednesday, August 14, 2019

THE PLUMERIA AND THE SPIDER

I couldn't help myself this morning. Although I am not allowed out into the garden, I happened to catch a glimpse, though the window, of the first plumeria bloom. I had anticipated coming home to the plant being full of flowers and there was not one. Maybe not enough water or maybe it was just taking longer to bloom after the long rootless winter. I stepped out of the door and took a quick photo.


When I enlarged the photo I noticed the little crab spider and a moth dangling down below the flower. I touched the moth but it was firmly attached by a thread. It was then I realized that this was the spider's larder. I have never thought much before about these crab spiders. I see them frequently on the rose flowers when I bend down to smell them, and it never entered my head what they were doing. It seems a little unfair to hang around waiting in ambush for a pollinator to come by but then survival of the fittest long ago determined a continuation of this species of spider. Not being a web spinner it had to find another way of trapping its prey and here was the perfect niche. These spiders are pretty good at camouflaging themselves. As soon as a pollinator comes by they strike with a sting whose venom quickly paralyzes the insect. In this case a night-flying moth was attracted to the plumeria flower, as moonlight lit up those white blooms last night, zap!

Monday, August 12, 2019

HOME IS WHERE THE GARDEN IS

After visiting a wealth of gardens in temperate zones it was time to come back down to earth 10 days ago, when we returned from our nine-week trip. Once again I had to get on, what I call, my Texas Eyes. I wonder what others think when they come from those lush, green gardens of England to the burnt up landscape of Central Texas in August. Does it take their eyes time to adjust?


Much had died in my absence so that was the first job. I am still not finished with removing weeds, and spent annuals. 12 bins so far. And there is much cutting back to do...the lantanas, salvias and roses. We still have a long season ahead of us and I must prepare for the cooler times in October.
The front garden is not under irrigation so I spent some time with hose in hand. The sennas are just starting to grow. One of the toughest plants I grow.


I ahd to remove almost all the blanket flowers. They had been attacked by some sap-sucking bug. But  ave no doubt that as the weather cools I will begin to see seedlings develop.


This is a garden with little shade. But the sentinel Yucca rostrata does offer a little respite for some plants from the mid-day sun.


Even so the plumbago is bleached out. I am grateful for that little patch of color.


The only other color in the garden is from the Pride of Barbados, Caesalpinia pulcherimma.


There is only a short window in the morning when I can work outside comfortably. Daytime temperatures are starting off at 80° and soon climb above 90° We are in for a full week of temperatures in the triple digits. I set myself a couple of jobs every day but much is left undone. It has taken me a week to getting round to fill up the bird bath. Tomorrow I plan to cut back the roses so that they will bloom again in October.


I have moved many of my cactus and succulents into the shade of the patio, and away from the brutal afternoon sun.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

FORGET MY GARDEN, LOOK AT THESE

Nine weeks away from home can have a pretty detrimental effect on a garden-especially in the summer heat of Texas. I am still wading my way through rampant growth of the weedy kind. So far 12 bins of waste and still more to come. When I retreat to the house I like to relive some of the gardens I visited on my travels, while in England this summer. These two are private gardens which I visited in June. Many of you will be quite familiar with the first.


The first is the garden of fellow English blogger and garden book author Victoria Summerley, in her garden at Awkward Hill, Bibury. This was our second visit to Victoria's garden, the first being a few years ago when on one of those perfect English, summer mornings we strolled around her garden. But, as is often the case I can be easily distracted by the moment and failed to take any photographs. I wanted to put that to rights.

I had bought tickets to Highgrove, the private gardens of HRH The Prince of Wales, at Highbury. We needed to spend the night nearby and remembering there was an inn in Bibury David booked us into The Swan for one night.
Well, we couldn't go to Bibury and not go to see Victoria, so it was decided we would visit her the evening before our Royal tour. Another chance to get out the camera...or rather the phone.
We were on a rather tight schedule flying in to Southampton from Guernsey, where we had spent a week, hiking. By the time we got to Bibury it was close to 7pm, our prearranged visit time. On our prior visit we had driven up to the house but this time we walked taking a completely different route, crossing the bridge over the River Coln, which flows through the center of the village.


The path leads to Arlington Row, a row of cottages dating to the 17C,  and on up to Awkward Hill at the top.


It was a gorgeous evening. Victoria greeted us and with glass in hand we headed out into the garden. There are certain touches that just make a garden welcoming. A beautiful bouquet of garden flowers on the table and a chinz pillow on the chair beckoning to sit down. But this time I was determined to get those photos.


The cottage is built of honey-colored Cotswold stone which has softened over time. We saw some new houses being built and were surprised how bright and out of place the new stone looked when compared with the age-weathered stones of the older village cottages.
A lovely wide terrace runs across the back of the house and between patio and house roses clamber up the wall.


After a few moments of chat Victoria's dog, Rufus, enticed David into joining him for a little ball play, in his part of the garden-the lawn.


Isn't he a handsome chap?



Whereas the majority of English gardens are narrow and long, Victoria's garden not only has good depth but width. It also borrows from the surrounding landscape and but for the low wall you might think it went on and on for acres.
At some time the land had sloped away from right to left and in order to create level areas of grass the gardens were stepped down, dividing into 3 main areas. On the high side it is bordered by a low wall with a narrow strip of planting, except where steps take you up to the higher level. The wall of next door's house forms the boundary.
I love the way Victoria has broken up the greenery with a large pot. It gives a place to rest the eye before moving on the look at the tree with hanging bird cage.


As does a large circular plaque with encircling birds on the wall and the peak of a Tuscan-style pot among the greenery.


A strongly defined planting along the lower side of the central lawn area is bounded by a flagstone pathway. A large New Zealand flax and artemisia and fleabane, Erigeron karvinskianus, soften the edge of the path.


You can just see the edge of the stone steps which lead down to the next garden.


It is always good to turn and look back to see where you came from or you might easily miss the stacked-stone steps and artfully placed pots.


There is just something very English about positioning a bird path in the center of a lawn and reminds me of our garden at home where my father had made the bird bath out of stone. Not quite as handsome as this one, I might add. This one certainly looks as though it has some antiquity.  I love the way the generous stone-edged area around the bath adds more weight to the scene.


An intimate seating area sheltered by the stacked stone wall shows the grade level from the house. The ever present Mexican fleabane, Erigeron karvinskianus. 


Moving down and around the side of the house there is a lovely water feature.



And I noticed Victoria had been busy clearing large areas below and to the side, where she is now tending her bee hives.




I don't suppose a staddle stone would look right in a Texas garden but in the Cotswold it is a must.



I have a keen interest in hyperfufa pots. Here is one made from an old sink.


This one might be authentic.





Thanks Victoria for welcoming us to your garden again and goodbye Rufus.


The following morning we drove to the village of Tetbury to visit Highgrove. It has taken me years to get tickets to visit so you can imagine the excitement. Alas, no photos were allowed except in the waiting area where are hung many of the watercolors painted by Prince Charles, along with a few family photographs displayed on a table.


The tour, and guide were fantastic and maybe it was better to not have the distraction of a camera.
We had lunch in their dining room before heading to Worcester to stay with a college friend of David and our second garden.
It is always a pleasure to visit with Neil and Lesley and their lovely garden and we were blessed with the same beautiful evening as the previous day. While Lesley tended to dinner in the kitchen I  strolled down the garden path. That topiary has grown another level since we were last there. I can't remember now if it was an entirely different plant from the hedging or some other species that sprouted up through the middle and Neil took advantage of. Either way it breaks the line of the hedge. Eyes are drawn straight to it.


Unlike Victoria's garden this one is long but cleverly broken into separate areas. Beyond the garage to the right a pergola.



And opposite a stone table and benches with this gorgeous pot planted with hens and chicks.



A fine stand of orange kniphofia and a tall grass almost hides the lawn from view..


You might be excused from continuing down the garden path once you catch sight of the greenhouse.


 I went inside to see Neil's collection of cactus and other assorted plants. It seems he can grow cactus much better than I can.



Oh! What's this? Graptopetalum tacitus? I need to be on the lookout.


And at the far end there is a grape vine. It's going to be good harvest!


I spotted a new shale-mulched bed at the end of the greenhouse.


Across the lawn A rose catenary stretching down the garden, breaks for a few feet and then continues. Do I remember from previous visits that this was the Monocot bed?


And on the opposite side a fool your eye Gothic mirror.


Then it was time to crack open a bottle of champagne to celebrate the birthday boy.


Thanks Neil and Lesley for a wonderful visit.

"Now it is back to the weeding"