Monday, May 25, 2015

El Nino is quenching the garden's thirst...

Our devastating drought has altered the state of our gardens here in Central Texas and it's changed our mindset, too.

We're not used to rain.  Not a little rain, not a lot of rain. We've had so much rain here this month that we don't know what to do with it. 

There's so much green in my garden that I have to wear shades to walk through it.  My plants would now like a little sun to shine as well, but they've never been quite so lush.
 A ribbon of catmint, Mexican feather grass and lamb's ears lines the front of this Southwest cottage-style bed.
 The lamb's ears make a dramatic statement when they are all standing at attention in full bloom.
 The black and blue salvia and lingering bluebonnets echo the blue in the large ceramic pot in the front bed.
Soft and spiky plants share this bed, providing sculptural interest and contrasting textures.  Soon the color of Mexican limelight salvia and orange tecoma stans will add to this palette.
Beautiful blooms are vying for my attention in the cutting garden - ready to come join me in the house!
Ditch lilies, Klondike cosmos, larkspur, shasta daisies, purple coneflowers and clematis are all showing off in the cutting bed.

This morning, I picked this bouquet for my mom and dad, who are celebrating their wedding anniversary today.  But tornado warnings and unrelenting thunderstorms kept me home this afternoon and they had to enjoy them via a photo.  So, now we can all enjoy them.
New spring plantings are growing and the caladiums are shooting up out of the ground as fast as I can count them.
I'm smitten with the Mexican bird of paradise, Caesalpinia Mexicana, and its exotic and wispy blooms.
The brilliant purple flags of these Amistad salvia provide a backdrop for senorita Rosalita cleome, dianthus and yarrow.

It's delightful to walk through the garden with the grass squishing under your clogs, appreciating the much-needed rain.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Magical mulch transforms the garden...

I love spring.  I love the first bulbs, buds and beautiful colors that emerge in the landscape.

Once pruning is done, new plants are planted and the garden is basically on its way,  I'm ready for the next color in the garden -- brown.

That's right.  Not dead brown, but bright, organic great-smelling mulch brown.  Native Texas hardwood much is my favorite.  It helps protect the plants from the heat and the cold, and it helps keep precious moisture in during the drought.

And it is another color in the garden -- it provides a great deal of the contrast we want in our landscapes.

And there's nothing like walking through the garden and reaching down to brush some of that fluffy, fresh mulch off a few leaves.

I think we're over 9 yards now.  They had to go get another truck load of it, so I'm not sure what the final total was.

All the plants are happy, as is this gardener!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

One for me, one for you, one for me, one for you...

Passalong.  One of my favorite words.  This simple word represents the cornerstone of gardening.  Just as heirloom vegetable seeds, carefully preserved and handed down from generation to generation, passalong plants represent the intricately woven past of our gardens.

I'm fortunate to be part of a group of more than 50 other gardeners in the Austin area that write garden blogs.  While not everyone in the group is active, a core group of gardeners meets once a month at someone's garden to oooh and ahhh, commiserate, eat, drink, teach, and share in the joy of gardening.  Oh, and we pass along plants.

The plant swap gives us the opportunity to trial new things in our gardens and to share extras with those who are building or rebuilding in their landscapes.  I feel blessed to have been the recipient of so many wonderful gifts. 

And, yes, sometimes plants even make it full circle. 

For a while, I was sharing off shoots of my 'grandfather's pipe' plant (not as in MY grandfather, but the grandfather's pipe plant that I was growing - confusing right?)  After I had handed out pieces for a few years, others began to bring them to the swap to share theirs, because the plant is so prolific and easy to grow.  "Wait a minute," I said, "you can't ditch your extras of my plant here - that's mine to push on everyone." 

Sharing is a wonderful thing.  So, today I will be digging some more in my garden - planting little plants that I bought to put in pots -- yes, more plants and more pots.  My latest collection is gathered in the wooden box on the little table in the photo above. 

And, on the ground below it are all of the plants that I am passing along.  Today, I will continue digging up some pups and reseeded plants to share with a friend who needs to fill in her garden and to share with some of my clients who are avid newbie gardeners and are eager to try new things.

Plants that will be finding new homes this week include: squid agaves, quadricolor agaves, lamb's ears, datura, echinacea (coneflower), catmint, silver ponyfoot, pale pavonia, Mexican feather grass,  and Nuevo Leon salvia.  

In my own garden, I know that I have enjoyed the beauty of so many passalongs.  To name but a few, Green goblet agave from Pam of Digging, white cemetery iris from The Transplantable Rose, a lovely peach iris from Robin of Getting Grounded, agave pups from so many of my blogging friends, larkspur seeds from Zanthan Gardens and Caroline of The Shovel Ready Garden, Klondike cosmos seeds from my neighbor Holly, a collection of seeds brought to me by my friend, Maria, from Monet's garden at Giverny, and countless other plants from other gardeners.

These Klondike cosmos are a riot of hot summer color, but watch out, they reseed like crazy!
 I love the blue hues of larkspur in the late spring garden.
The green goblet agave has a unique color, and I love how the dark emerald green leaves contrast with other grey-green plants in the dry garden, like this euphorbia rigida.

Strolling around the garden infuses me with a sense of peace and serenity, and it reminds me of my good friends, enjoying the some of the same plants in their gardens.  My garden blog turns 8 this July -- it hardly seems possible.  I'm so thankful to have it and all the friends, both near and far, that it has brought into my life. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spring spruce up from a wide angle lens

One of the rites of spring (even though it has already been 94 degrees here in Austin, Texas), after the whining about winter, pruning, planting and mulching, is taking photos of the garden as it grows.

I recently bought a wide angle lens, primarily for use in photographing our landscaping jobs and getting a good overview.  But, I haven't put it to use here at home. 

When I finished the recent spring planting and mulching work on the back garden (which is technically outside of our property line in the neighborhood easement), I decided to try out the new lens. 

If you're wondering WHY I am gardening and watering outside of our property, it's because the back is bordered by hideous cedar trees. 

Several years ago I decided to remedy the ugly cedar problem.  I  started a deer-resistant, drought-tolerant "trial bed" -- all things that are tough as nails and can survive with next-to-no water.  In the heat of summer I would drag the hose all the way back there and water with a oscillating sprinkler head only once a month if we hadn't had rain.

But then came the barn.  The neighbor on the country road far behind us decided he needed to build a barn -- a RED barn -- right on the back edge of our easement.  Which you can see through the trees -- see the silver metal roof -- and below the little bit of red peeking through?   Well, I can see it.  So, I expanded the bed, planted soon-to-be large, screening plants, shrubs and trees and added an actual sprinkler head to make it easier to get the plants established at least, though I still don't water often back there. 

My goal is to eventually remove the cedars when the nicer plants have gotten large enough to provide some screen.  On this end you'll find a sharkskin agave, some quadricolor agaves, some creeping germander, two Kentucky coffee trees, given to me by my father, (thanks, Daddy!), a green goblet agave passalong from Pam of Digging , some newly planted Yaupon holly trees, and far in the back, a Mexican olive tree. Oh, and two hot pink oleander to coordinate with the desert willow and salvia on the other end.
I've added things slowly -- some passalongs, some things that didn't behave elsewhere in the garden and some things I just had to have.  The goal is for this bed to be low maintenance.  So, toward this end of the bed, you'll find my beautiful whale's tongue agave, a desert willow tree, some salvia, Jerusalem sage, zexmenia, euphorbia, dyckia, a few muhly grasses, indigo spires salvia, bright edge yucca, and some recently transplanted large native yuccas that came from a client's overcrowded natural area. There are also two yaupon hollies on this end, hidden behind the other plantings.

This bed is mostly out of sight from the back deck, unless you walk down the steps leading to the back of the pool.  The aerial shots (well, high as I could get them -- me on the back pool sheer wall) give you a sense of the breath of the bed.

We've started pruning out some of the dead wood on the cedars and hope to start taking some of them out entirely in a few years. I have babies from my loquat tree in the front, so I think there will be a few loquats back there soon, as well.  I will have to fence them until they get tall, since the deer have free reign back there and will think I finally served up something that they like to eat!

It's nice when things come together in the garden, isn't it?