Thursday, March 23, 2017

BLUEBONNET BONANZA

Once again the area in front of our house is awash with our state flower, the Texas bluebonnet, Lupinus texensis.


This year, with a little of  my help, they are even spreading down the road and onto the empty lot next door to us.


Native plants love a lean soil and they do not do well in competition with grasses. I see a patch of annual rye grass out front that needs dealing with before it sets seed, so that bluebonnets can grow there next year.


Bluebonnets love to grow in decomposed granite so down the side wall that surrounds our front. It's not easy to pick your way round to the side gate. They have even covered the rocks on the left side.




Behind that wall it suits me just to have one two blooming among the other native spring wildflowers.


I am a little more forgiving in the English garden where large expanses of gravel quickly fill with bluebonnets.




And there is always room for just one in the sunken garden. One plant can easily cover 3'


And I don't mind doing the odd high jump to get to the vegetable beds.


But soon the time will come when the bluebonnets go to seed and we must wait for the seeds ripen before they are removed.

I don't need to go traveling to enjoy this bonanza of bluebonnets.....but I probably will. Next week will be the perfect time to take a little road trip to see roadsides of our other spring native flowers.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

THE GREENING OF THE SUNKEN GARDEN

David commented on a marked change in the sunken garden following rain and warm temperatures. If I don't get around to doing some culling we won't even know the sunken garden is there. But what would I do without all my little self seeders.


The blackfoot daisies,  Melampodium leucanthum, and the dahlberg daisies, Thymophylla tenuiloba.


The Indian blanket flowers, Gaillardia pulchella,   and the sedum, Sedum potosinum.



the gopher plant, Euphorbia rigida. I didn't really want it down below in the sunken area but here it will stay.


The blue eyed grass, Sisyrinchium angustifolium.


The chocolate daisy, Berlandiera lyrata. This one has been here for years enjoying a cool root run under the sandstone pavers.


The California poppies. I am so glad this white one is back again this year. Eschscholzia californica.



But there are plenty of orange ones too.


And the first of the corn poppies, Papaver rhoeas.


There are a few seeders who can be a little annoying. The false garlic, Nothoscordum bivalve, with the white flowers and yellow centers and wild onion, Allium canadense, with pale purple flowers. Both are pretty but are the devil at seeding themselves and once the bulb forms they are not so easy to root out as the bulb works its way deep into the soil. This year I struck a deal with them. They can flower but they can't set seed!


We may not be able to grow those lovely pom-pom alliums but we have our own and I love the flowers.

Nothoscordum bivalve


Allium canadense
They make a pretty addition to a rock garden. All these plants seed freely in the sunken area of the garden. Because the specs between the pavers are less than 1" it would be difficult to plant without self sowing plants.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

GOODNESS GRACIOUS GREAT STICKS ON FIRE

Sticks on Fire, Euphorbia tirucalli, is a native of South Africa, which can be grown in the ground in a frost free climate or in a pot in colder regions. It is easy to see how it came by its common name as during colder times the year its stems turn red. This is not by accident.


The tiny leaves open for such a short period of time that the plant relies upon chlorophyll in the stems for photosynthesis. The new young stems are pale yellow and it take two seasons for chlorophyll to develop. During this time the new growth depends upon the chlorophyll in the older stems. Without this chlorophyll which would normally reflect green, the stems reflect several colors ranging from yellow though salmon to red. This is particularly noticeable in the winter months.


Here they are seen brightening up the winter garden in Phoenix, Arizona.


This is one I have in a pot. It spent the summer in a more shaded part of the garden which is probably why it is not as fiery as the ones I saw in Arizona. This year it will experience the full blast of the Texas summer sun. These second year stems will quickly turn green and new growth will be pale yellow.


Because the plant belongs to the Euphorbia family it produces that milky sap which can cause a severe skin irritation. It is best to wear gloves and glasses when dealing with the plant. It is best placed where it will not come into contact with passers by. The plant grows quickly from cuttings and is about as carefree as you can get if protected from winter frosts.

Monday, March 13, 2017

CONTAINER GARDENS. A book review

The garden editors at Southern Living have produced a comprehensive guide to container planting which should be a useful addition to every gardener's bookshelf. If you have ever struggled with trying to keep a container alive during a hot dry summer then you maybe you need to get back to basics.


From pot selection and preparation, soil selection, and plant choices, there is also a section on how to mend that treasured cracked or broken pot. Once you have mastered the basics covered in the first chapter you can move on to creating a stunning planter for every situation. Ever heard that expression that you should have a thriller, spiller and filler? Not all pots should follow this rule. Find out which plants look good as a single planting.

There is plenty of eye candy as expected. The book covers most locations where you would use outdoor pots.  Even within the same garden one has to be mindful of sun, shade, wet or dry conditions. But, I was a little disappointed there was a lack of coverage for those who live in the drier parts of the south where there are even some desert areas. Yes, a few close-up shots of succulents in smaller pots but no larger containers of agaves and succulents which I know can be spectacular.  Container plantings that require little or no waterings is absent as well as a section on irrigation.

Roughly half of the book is dedicated to indoor plantings before moving on to the outdoor containers for edibles. At the very least everyone should have a container of herbs outside their back door.

I was sent this book to review and, as a gardener of many years, I believe that, despite those omissions I mentioned, this book should give both seasoned or beginning gardeners a good foundation for creating stunning container gardens.

Container Gardens, published by Oxmoor House, was released March 7 2017, $21.95.

Friday, March 10, 2017

BASKETS OF GARDEN GOODIES

The first is my garage sale basket with garage sale goodies. It has been sitting there for a while waiting for me to do something with the contents. Maybe this week.


I'm told the humming birds start showing up around the middle of March so I'd better get the new hummingbird feeder filled and out there. They will be hungry after their long flight from South America. I have decided to place it among the flowers instead of hanging it. Easier for me to deal with. I didn't have the required 1/2" dowel so I used 3 thin pieces of bamboo for the time being. I made up my own sugar water 1/4 cup sugar to 1 cup of water, brought to the boil and cooled.


And the wrens were busy today trying to decide which of the three shelves and behind which cactus pot to build their nest. They just can't make up their minds. A pair spent the morning bobbing back and forward, putting little pieces of nest material along and behind the pots, and then seemed to give up, probably because we had workmen coming and going.


The mesh bags of lint are for them to line their nest. I have been collecting lint all year and have filled two mesh bags. As a reminder, if you are going to save lint for the birds make sure you don't use fabric softener.



I need to make a base for the heron as he only has one leg to stand on! I think a slice of cedar tree should work.

There are a couple of metal plaques and a ceramic toadstool. I'll find a home for them out there. And a small sun. I don't care for the orange paint so I need to tone that down a little before he joins the others on the sun and moon wall. Talking of which......


We had to have some stucco work done on the archway wall and they had to remove all the original stucco. At least they built a tent so that the debris wouldn't get on my garden but it didn't stopped the massive amounts of dust as they sawed through the 1" thick stucco. The suns and moons had to be taken down and are in the second basket.


That part of the job is finished now but we may have to wait  few days before putting them back up. Meanwhile I found another sun and moon that I couldn't resist, at a price I couldn't resist, even though I had to drive 18 miles to get it.


My original intention was to put him over the sun and moon archway but I am not sure that is the right place. He may replace the rather rusty old sun we bought in Mexico one year.


Oh! I don't know about that, I rather like his rusty old face.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

ANEMONE TIME

The anemone has always been a favorite flower.


Little bunches of mixed blue, purple, red and pink-colored flowers would appear in the shops around Mother's Day, which falls much earlier in England. And one appeared in my A level botany exam to identify. Of course I knew what it was but still had to go through the process of identifying it with my Flora. Does anyone use a flora anymore? Or did they go away like log tables?

I bought half a dozen of those strange little corms this year and planted them in a pot. The first flowers opened the other day. They are much larger than the native anemones, Anemone berlandieri, and A. caroliniana, which are dotted all around the garden. I like them just as much.
The are usually the first flowers to bloom in the spring, although this year they seem late. But true to their common name 'windflower' there was a stiff wind blowing which heralded a cold front.




But I discovered someone else who likes these pretty little flowers. The rock squirrel, Spermophilus variegatus. In my opinion he is far more of a garden enemy that the tree squirrel. He has been eating the flowers of my wild anemone, dianthus, pansy, violas and munching on fleshy succulents and green vegetables. He also enjoys the seed that has fallen to the ground under the bird feeder.


He is a persistent creature and is not easily deterred. My neighbor tells me he lives under the rocks around his pool but he comes over to my house to eat.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

RELIVING OUR HONEYMOON

We had a most unusual honeymoon. I arrived in Austin, Texas, on a Monday, on the Saturday we were married and on the Sunday we visited Hamilton Pool. That was our honeymoon. David was a graduate student and I had yet to find a job so we had no money. One of the guests at our wedding lent us his red Triumph Spitfire for the day, as a wedding present, and off we headed into the Texas hill country.


Someone must have told us about Hamilton Pool. The drive there, from our apartment on Speedway, was a lot more tortuous than today. At the time Hamilton Pool was on private land with a $1 entrance fee. Still a bargain today for those with a concession. As we took the rocky trail down to the grotto I saw my first Texas armadillo. So much excitement in one week!


We have visited Hamilton Pool many times since our return to Texas in 1994.mostly the day after our anniversary but sometimes on the day. Things have changed quite a bit over the years. With the explosion of residents in the greater Austin area you now have to book to visit after May1st. We weren't anticipating a crowd on our arrival at 10:45 am. in February, despite it being a Saturday. We were wrong. There is limited parking and all the parking places were taken. We had to wait until someone left and vacated a parking spot. I think it was about 15 minutes but as we were leaving a few hours later the line of cars waiting for spots reached almost to the road. I'm not sure I would have that much patience.
The trail drops quite steeply from the parking lot to the river. We first took the trail to the left which heads down to the Pedernales river. What started out as a chilly morning was turning into a beautiful day.


The creek, which feeds into the Pedernales, was running quite well. We have seen it with almost no flow, especially during the drought, although there is always some water from the springs that feed the creek. Bald cypress stand with their roots in the water. Soon they will be in leaf.


Red Buckeye just coming into bloom


Along with the Mexican plum.


and agarita


I even spotted this fossil ammonite on the trail. This area was once an ancient seabed during the Cretaceous period and there is plenty of marine fossil evidence to be found.



We finally arrived at the Pedernales River. After years of drought 2016 brought replenishing rains. Our lakes are full and the rivers are running full once again.


We retried our steps and continued on the trail to the grotto. Long before we arrived at the pool we could hear the waterfall. Hamilton pool is a collapsed grotto and the creek leading up to the waterfall a collapsed river. As water passed through the more permeable years it hit a layer of less permeable material and began to flow sideways eventually eroding until it collapsed.
On entering the grotto if you look to the left you will see the keeper of the cave. I am sure I am not the first to notice these eyes watching as I entered.


It's a scramble over the rocks


 and in some places tight squeeze.


And you can't help but look up and wonder when the next layer is going fall down.


As we returned to the parking lot I noticed this piece wood. I only saw one name written on the cave wall. Maybe their idea is working.



We found a picnic table and had our picnic lunch. Another honeymoon over!