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Brushing Off

Well, hello!

It has been a long time since I’ve updated or visited this blog. For the longest time, I used this site to document lists of plants and their behavior in my garden. I never, in a million years, thought I’d get any traffic here; it was like my little personal diary. But my, how blogs have changed!

Other life and blogging projects got in the way of keeping up with this one, but one of the big reasons my blogging slowed down has to do with the actual life of my garden. In 2009, we hired a landscaper to overhaul our back garden, creating some lovely stonescapes and garden paths. After that I tried to focus most of my efforts on long-term landscaping.

The first thing I did was gradually eliminate all the junk trees. Four hackberries, many chinaberries and lots of overgrown ligustrums–gone! This left a bright area of sunshine that I’d never had before.

Then I went to work removing any experimental plants that took too much ongoing effort to maintain. My goal and hope was to create a bit more of a sustainable garden with native-happy plants. At this point, the only annuals I have going in my garden are the self-sowing wildflowers, which took on a life of their own in that bright area of sunshine.

Then there are my beloved sweet peas, which have a couple of raised beds all to themselves. Even though they are short-lived in early spring, my garden wouldn’t be complete without their fragrance at least once a year.

My hat is off to those of you who gardened your way through the summer of 2011! The awful drought we experienced that summer and my constant efforts just to keep trees alive really put my gardening soul to the test, and another reason I lost my garden blogging mojo. It was too dang hot and ugly to even take pictures. I lost many of my favorite roses that summer. But there were also surprises. The Devoniensis rose which I planted from a small pot 3 1/2 years ago, not only takes the heat like a champ with little effort from me, but has taken over my arbor. Have you ever tried to prune one of these puppies back? It’s brutal. I have to ply my husband with lots of coffee to help.

Anyway, I’ve collected lots of photos of my garden over the past couple of years and some reflections on long-term gardening. I hope to brush off this space with a few of those over the summer.

Spring gloriousness

I really wish I kept a more regular garden diary–at least for myself. (I have for some reason a backlog of entries I’ve never published so I’ll try and get those on here soon.) This spring has been particularly miraculous around here; so much of the hard work of the past couple of years combined with the coolest spring I’ve ever experienced in Texas produced an over-abundant garden so lush with fragrance I’m quite happy to just be in my own garden. Never mind that the weeds are on steroids, too. I’ve barely had time for garden tours, especially my favorite at the Wildflower Center.

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surprise vintage iris

This white iris started blooming in my garden this week. I have never seen one so early. Although I planted nearly 200 irises in fall of 2008, this was one of the bunch that already existed in my garden. Most of the irises that came with the house were planted in an area of overgrown shrubs, and were in too much shade. The rest were along the driveway, also an area of mostly shade.

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“Coral Nymph” Pink Sage

This beautiful flower was one of the first things I ever planted in my garden and I couldn’t remember its name.

At first I thought it was some kind of skullcap because I didn’t know anything about plants when I bought it. It kept popping up occasionally in early summer, in the same places where I’d sown Texas Red Sage (Salvia coccinea) seeds. Is this color a naturally-occurring variety of red sage? I don’t know, but it continues to reseed and looks beautiful mingled with its red sisters.

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drip systems and absentee gardening

Nearly every summer we pack down the house and leave for a month or two to visit friends and family abroad. Packing down the garden is becoming more and more of a challenge. I’d love to meet other fellow travelers with Texas gardens–to figure out how they manage to keep it surviving during the brutal summer months. The larger my garden grows, the harder this task becomes. It’s not just the waning vegetables or annuals that need tending but even the larger “sustainable” places of my garden.

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What lived, what died

It might be too soon to say this, it being just early August and we have two more months of hot (i.e., 90s-100s) to go, but I am already able to see what of my new plants and garden are worth trying again, what needs to be moved, and what I would never plant again.

Viola ‘Etain’, a perennial viola in some climates, died during our three-week stay in Europe. Partially because a friend accidentally turned off the drip system in this area, but I have a feeling it would have needed daily watering anyway. I loved how much these bloomed in spring and even through the early days of June, but they do need water. I think I will pass on these again (although they have a beautiful fragrance, if you can find them!). Read more

Gen-X Gardening (a manifesto?)

Time magazine did a special this week on organic gardening and my favorite local nursery, Natural Gardener. The article and video concerns the trends that are happening in the younger generation with gardening, as a part of a “New Frugality” series. This was the place that really inspired me to garden. More than just a nursery, it’s a wonderful place to spend a morning with coffee in hand. There are a number of display gardens and it really shows off what one can do in the Hill Country near Austin with its rocky limestone soils and wizened junipers. Read more