Monday, October 29, 2007


I recently spent a day (on my company’s dime) at Lake Austin Spa, getting massage, facial, pedi, and sunning at the pool. It’s a very beautiful place; the grounds are spectacular but there’s something a little New Age-agey about its food and spiritual ambiance. In between “treatments” I was at the pool, reading Eat, Pray, Love, the summer phenom, recommended to me by a colleague. I felt like a complete cliche. A woman, who had been off by herself under an umbrella meditating and doing yoga, stopped by my chaise lounge afterwards, and said “I’m reading that too!” (No, really?) I felt I was in my own private Oprah special (and this was before O did her show with the author, Elizabeth Gilbert). While ogling the amazing gardens there, I rustled a root from an interesting plant; it looked like a bamboo with a cornstalk leaf. I finally found this at a plant nursery: it’s called Buddha’s Belly. Thus completes my trip to Nirvana-on-the-Colorado.
Good news is that the plant has rooted. It's in my nursery waiting for the long-heralded front garden.

Plant Torture

Here is a photo of one of the two loquat trees that I dug up from Vale Street and brought with me. These are being trimmed to grow straight up and have pom-poms of foliage at the top. It’s something I saw done at Cornerstone Hardware's nursery (a Westlake store that tried to go mano a mano with Breed and Co. directly across the street and is now out of business; the wonderful plant guy has moved to Great Outdoors in case you're wondering). I thought how striking they were. After crossing off my life-list the act of espaliering a vine on a wall, I felt this was the next challenge: topiary trees In about two years, they'll make a smashing statement on my deck. Loquats grow ferociously fast, thrive in heat and while blooming in Nov/Dec give of a gorgeous smell of vanilla-cinnamon.
My daughter Rachel does not approve of rigorous plant control. She was horrified to see that I had bound (with cruel twist-ties!) some stalks of an indoor Ficus to turn it into a tree. Every gardener is always bending growing things to their will and we do this in complete imitation of Mother Nature, who is hardly a benevolent or hands-off force herself.
Witness the crossvine seen here when it was first planted in mid-August and the second picture taken this weekend, October 29. Filling in the privacy fence wall quite nicely, huh? I hope neighbor Leslie appreciates this b/c it almost looks even nicer when the vine is creeping over a fence and tumbling down from above.
Crossvine can be seen throughout East Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi growing in road culverts where it is just a shapeless low-growing rambler in a ditch. But given something to grow on it will latch on and climb up and up. It turns into something quite lovely and different from its ditch-persona. And what's the harm in that?
Not to mention it's evergreen.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Blue and gold days and no end in sight. The only sound today is that of the nuts and acorns clattering down in historic proportions. After global warming is all done, here where I stand will evidently be a giant liveoak forest.
It was not silent the first part of the weekend. On Friday Leslie had her Halloween party and to set the tone she mounted an inflatable Harley being driven by a skeleton in front of her house. She invited me to come by for a drink; but after I got back from neighbor Mark's regular martini gig, I was done. What a shame as I missed the party's highlight: Beer Pong. I'm not sure of exact rules but apparently insane bellowing is a crucial component. Today Leslie told me that the police came, surely the sign of a successful bash. I suspect Lisa on the other side, as she told me she's called the cops on loud parties somewhere else on the street. And then last night there was another Halloween party across the street, but this one was 100% shrieking banshees of 10-year girl variety.
At top is a little picture of Aurora after its recent paint job. And the fuzzy shrub is the Bush Honeysuckle--I'm looking forward to its winter bloom cycle. That fragrance! I cut it back some in the spring and it's got lots of new growth so hopefully, lots of blooms too.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Life resumes!

Thanks to God, Jesus, Buddha, and Mother Earth. This weekend I can finally garden. My treeguy was here this week cutting deadwood out of the hackberry that hangs over my deck and has managed to destroy the turf beneath the place where he was working. This pot is holds a loquat, one of two that I am training into topiary trees. I plan to replant them in some decent soil, since they are currently in crap.
Sometime during the summer I threw down cosmos seed in the front bed and and now one is actually blooming. It's only about 8" tall; they really must be the most hardy of annuals.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Invalid Gardening

The past 4 weeks have not been kind to my garden. Due to surgery, I spent the last weeks creeping around like a mutant zombie and was only able to water the pot plants before retreating back to my bottle of Vicodin. Meanwhile the chinch bugs crept relentlessly though the St Augustine in the front yard. Let them do their worst--I plan to rip up the grass in front anyway and plant a huge bed.

So I tried my best to keep my nursery plants okay because I need them for my front bed. I have baby soft-leaf yuccas, flame acanthus, oleander, hypericum, and numerous agaves, all propagated from either my former Vale Street garden or rustled here and there. When I was at Lake Austin Spa I dug up a baby plug of this really neat 6-ft tall bamboo-cornstalk thing. It's doing well.

It's been very frustrating to not be healthy during the best time of year for planting. But I went swimming at Deep Eddy on Friday, not a very long swim, but it was good to be back.