Sunday, July 1, 2012

Persian Shield

Just the name sounds exotic. I saw this purple show-off at Shoal Creek Nursery and thought hard about it. Then a day later I was in Boerne and saw it at the entrance to the Burlap Horse. The owner, Melissa Haberstroh told me it's very low maintenance, dies to ground in winter and comes back. It's almost irridescent. I tucked two into dead spots on either side of the front steps and they immediately began to work their charm. It's always great to find a shade lover that can bedazzle.

Plumbago and esperanza are doing great in the backyard, but the star performer is the yellow shrimp plant.It's profusely blooming which is more than I can say for the shrimp plant in front which only begins to bloom two seconds before the first frost. Beyond annoying. What is wrong with this plant?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Hope Springs Infernal

After last summer, I really thought I'd never garden or post on this blog again. A story in the Statesman real estate section mentioned a woman who was selling her house to move to North Carolina, because she wanted to be able to garden. I hear you, lady.

But let's face it, gardening is an addiction. Five inches of rain and a flush of rosebuds, and I've got that monkey on my back all over again. Pouring hundreds of dollars into antique roses, lambskin pruning gloves, and whatever newfangled soaker hose they've got to sell me.
My yard in Brentwood did not even get a mild freeze; so in combination with the rain, things are looking lush. I have petunias that actually wintered over. It has been interesting to see how my newly-installed backyard garden survived the summer. The clear winners were silver germander, lorapetalum and yellow columbine. The losers were spireas—which all died early in the summer— and the berkeley sedge. It's not dead, but I kind of wish it were.

And on the south fence, all the salvias, plumbago and turk's cap are happily thriving.
In the kidney-bean-shaped bed in the way back, I've put in more germanders since they seem so happy in the shady soil situation back there.
Converting the backyard to gravel is working out well. Zeke has stayed to his paths. I haven't had to water or mow. After the twice-a-year liveoak leaf-drop I have to blow the gravel. I know people hate leafblowers but they are the most practical tool in cleaning up gravel.

Meanwhile in the front yard, the big excitment is the bloom spike on one of the softleaf yuccas. I've had this plant for 10 years now, moving its pups from Rollingwood to my new house. Never has it EVER bloomed.

My neighbor cleared out some of his overgrowth resulting in a new patch of sun on my side yard into which I've introduced a little-leaf cordia. I saw this plant blooming in the middle of last summer's nonstop 100 degree days. It's a kind of scrawny thing with a demented growth habit—all sharp angles and jutting stems—but it has stunning snow white flowers. It has blue-gray foliage and looks alot like its Texas olive cousin.

Blooming now: columbine, roses reve d'or, iceberg, yellow, red, and rainbow knockout, salvia.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Bark, bark, bark! No, it’s not the baying of the yellow lab in the morning. It’s the pile of wood at the foot of every sycamore in town. The bumper crop of wood shavings is everywhere. I wondered if it might be drought related, but the experts apparently don’t know much about why some trees shed their bark or why some years they shed more than others. Meanwhile the bark-exfoliation phenomenon is beautiful in some aspects and an unsightly mess in others. While the newly exposed tree trunks look Pottery Barn-chic in shades of cream, I’m glad I don’t have one in my yard and have to deal with the clean up. I’d rather just acknowledge their stalwartness as paid homage in this wonderful song by Bill Callahan.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Get any rain?

I hope you did. Only thunder here. Still all plants in the new backyard are doing okay with one exception. The spireas had some kind of die-off, where they dropped their leaves, but they appear to be coming back. The Berkeley Sedge is not dead, but it’s also not doing anything. It was the one plant I had no experience with; it was recommended by a landscaper as a great groundcover for dry shade. We’ll see about that. If you have any scoop on this plant, please let me know. The yellow shrimp have been blooming nonstop—lovely!
I got these ten toes shoes at Whole Earth (using a gift certificate, thank heaven, as they are $$$). They’re supposed to correct your gait and eliminate pains from running/walking for exercise. Well, I’m not sure about that, but they are my new favorite gardening footwear. Comfortable, sure-footed, and super-cool in the heat. Once you get over the freak show aspect... I actually saw someone wearing them on the T in Boston last week. Might be a fun gift for that gardening Dad for Father’s Day.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Doggone Garden

When Zeke came to live with me in January 2010, I can't say the backyard was in great shape. I had kind of let it go au naturel. Except for a Knockout Red and a mutabilis rose, I've really never done much back there, preferring to focus my attention on the immediate area surrounding my deck where I spend most of my waking hours.
Zeke and the drought wreaked such havoc on the lawn that it had become a barren waste that had moved into eyesore zone. I've never had a dog that made any impact on my garden, let alone trampled paths like Zeke has. But I'm smitten with him, so I tolerate his habits. Here's backyard in February.

I decided to make a major overhaul and used every penny of my tax return. I interviewed several landscape designers and had 3 people give me bids. In the end, I employed a father and son I found on Craigslist who I liked because they were muy amable and came with good references as to their hard work. I designed the plan myself, after much study of online gardens and ideas. I knew I wanted to get rid of all grass. I currently have no lawnmower as my front yard is so small I can weedwhack it. I already have pea gravel in my side yard and driveway and was happy with its look and practicality. I used Zeke's existing paths as my guide and using garden hoses laid out three beds. Sprayed painted their outlines on the ground. Then la familia Avila came with their team and began work.

I specked the plants and the Avilas bought them wholesale somewhere. The north bed which is mostly shady is a plan of silver germander, lorapetalum Purple Pixie, columbine, turk's cap and shrimp plant—all plants that I currently have growing elsewhere successfully in my yard's clay-clogged soil. When the plants arrived they looked incredibly healthy. But a surprise was that the shrimp plants were already in full bloom and a sulphur yellow color I had never seen before. But since they are really quite pretty and look great with the purple lorapetalums, I decided to embrace this serendipity.

I also had the pavers around the deck removed, for two reasons. They were ugly and uneven and I was concerned about tripping over them as I head into my twilight years. The other reason is I thought it would look better to have one continuous material rather than two things going on, pea gravel and pavers. I had the workers set cut limestone pavers in the pea gravel surrounding the deck. This looks good and I'm pleased with the result but it has a downside: Zeke throws up gravel on the pavers in his running and so there is not "perfection" in the Zen garden sense at all times. Buddha tells me to get over it.

The south bed, which is sunnier, is a mix of reliable color: esperanza, blue plumbago, red sage, and turk's cap. It backs up to the fence with Port St. John's creeper. The kidney-bean-shaped bed around the birdbath has spirea, berkeley sedge and the Knockout rose. One unexpected bonus of the new plan is that it showcases the Knockout Rose and mutabilis; before they were back in the boondocks. Now they can be seen better against the pea gravel. A week after I installed the pea gravel, I had the first round of the dreaded liveoak crap; a snowfall of those caterpillar thingies. I kept planning to leafblow it, but never got around to it and it kind of biodegraded into oblivion.

I'm enjoying watching the plants settle in and mulling over possible evergreen additions to the color bed. Zeke seems to like the new layout too.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Early Warning Signs

What makes a gardener and why do some people make a garden and others not? When I walk around my neighborhood I admire the diversity of gardens and how variously people use their outdoor spaces. The ones that are most curious are the yards where no one has planted anything. It’s hard to imagine how this could occur over a 40-year span, the age of most Brentwood/Crestview homes. But you do see the occasional house where there is nothing, no foundation plantings, no beds, not even a nandina.
I know I’m her mother, but isn’t this the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? A baby, a sunsuit, a pot of seasonal color. These appear to be portulaca, a plant I turn my back on these days, because of how its blooms shut down midday. Who needs a flower that doesn’t stay on duty? I just barely tolerate pavonia for that reason. Anyway, this little toddler who loved to water the pots has now begun her own garden and it’s gratifying to know that my mother’s legacy of gardening was passed down to both Rachel and Grace. I have both plants and pots that were my mother’s. I treasure my time as their caretakers and hope to pass them on in due time.

Meet Felicia

She may not look like much but she’s got two buds on her left and right canes, which since she’s only been in her spot less than a month, is very impressive. She comes from the Antique Rose Emporium in San Antonio and was chosen because the authorities say she tolerates a lot of shade and will still bloom. She is now queen of the remote side yard/gravel bed. Meanwhile Reve D’Or in blazing sun has shown very little activity despite having been potted more than two months ago. So, go Felicia!
After cutting back the top-heavy Icebergs after their spring bloom extravaganza,I expected a quiet summer. They surprised me by ramping right back up with another round of floribundance. You can’t see in this picture but all their new leaves look like someone took a hole-puncher to them. Research suggests it’s a leaf-cutter bee doing the hole-punching but I’ve never spotted anything but beetles on the roses. As long as they leave the rosebuds alone, I’ll ignore the leaf decimation.