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Posts from the ‘journal’ category

Attack of the Chinaberries (and other tree-planting adventures)

Last month I finally planted my first tree, a Mexican plum. I didn’t expect the tiny thing to bloom for me this spring, but a couple of weeks ago past it rewarded me with a few small fragrant flowers. (We also have a five-year-old Mexican plum in our front yard, planted by the realtor right before we bought the house, and it never bloomed until this year.)

I’ve not yet been so daring up till this past year to plant a tree. in fact, most of my tree adventures have been about eradicating the junk trees I do have. Once we started to get rid of nuisance trees, I wanted to know about the good trees. I started noticing trees in our neighborhood. Once I read about Mexican plum, I suddenly started seeing it everywhere. Read more

Daffodil Day

Today is daffodil day. In my garden, it’s a moment when the very early tazettas are just past their peak and the early bloomers are in full bloom. In the fall of 2007, I went a little crazy with daffodil bulbs; I didn’t understand the differences so I ordered a bunch that were recommended by Scott Ogden’s Garden Bulbs for the South, and then threw in a few non-returning daffodils just for the fun of it. Pink daffodils! I had to try them! At the time, I didn’t have anywhere permanent to put most of them; our property was very shaded from buildings and fences and such and the little garden bed space I had I wanted for more permanent things. So I used planters, and a lot of them, wheeling daffodils around to show off when they came in bloom and wheeling them away when they became a mess of leaves. Read more

In the Beginning

Better late than never, I’ve been wanting to get around to writing about our adventures in garden design this past year. Last summer was a long and infamously hot drought-filled summer, so much so that by the time we finished our backyard hardscaping, I was too tired (and too hot) to write. Thankfully, armed with my new SLR camera, my husband and I took hundreds of pictures.

When we first moved into our house, it was the backyard that sold me. Nothing special to some people but for this neighborhood it has a long yard, which is nearly twice the size of our house. Most of the original platted properties in this neighborhood have been divided into two lots in the last 20 years. Everything about this house and the yard had its original touch, and the last two previous owners had added nothing major but they had cared for it lovingly. Read more

Purple Hairstreak

I was busy taking adoring photos of my sweet peas last week (and I am embarrassed to say just how many) when I noticed the flicker of a jewel color on one of them. Sometimes even flies have iridescence, and so I ignored it until the flicker kept moving. Thankfully, this beautiful little creature had patience on me, as I crept closer. I’d never seen this butterfly before, the male Purple Hairstreak, but thanks to butterfly siting galleries i was able to identify him and his nearby friend who was also resting very contentedly on a sweet pea flower.

And I don’t blame them at all; I could snooze for years next to this fragrance. This year, I tried a new sweet pea from a seller in England, a mix of colors called Winter Sunshine. They are just slightly more fragrant than Winter Elegance or Royal sweet peas, and like all early-blooming sweet peas, they started blooming in early February. Read more

Sweet Pea that has run wild

It is a rich, full-bodied whistle,

cracked ice crunching in pails,

the night that numbs the leaf,

the duel of two nightingales,

the sweet pea that has run wild,

Creation’s tears in shoulder blades

–Boris Pasternak, “Definition of Poetry” Read more

a winter surprise

Oooh, I love surprises. There have been so many of them in my garden, things I never planted, or remember planting, springing up out of nowhere. Our very long driveway is lined with a patchy, weedy mess that is slowly eroding away but at one point someone had gardened there. Read more

succombing to the blowers

Blowers are a nuisance, and I’m sure many agree with me. Perhaps in the country or in the suburbs they might have a more innocuous presence but here in the city, the sound of big gas blowers is overwhelming. Worse than the garbage trucks. It ricochets for blocks.

Austin is not a big city, not an urban jungle, so I don’t live every day with the sound of metros and subways and alarms. It’s more like a big village. There are very few cities in the world where one can live nearly downtown and still have a quarter of an acre, more than half of which is yard. That’s what I love about Austin and what it’s known for, its funky little old neighborhoods of cute Arts and Crafts houses and big yards. Read more

The Texas Bluebell, the Eustoma, or a tale of Latin Names

OK, just to get this out of the way, a little Latin lesson. Some days I feel like a gardener, and others a scientist. My husband calls it my right-brain/left-brain garden. When researching wildflowers, the first problem one gets into is in the matter of names. Flowers have different common names all over the world, and the more this world piles its information online, the more confusing it can get.

Latin names help us get this confusion out of the way, but I admit they are rather boring to most people, sometimes just down right goofy. The gardening world now persists in calling Ranunculus “ranunculus” rather than its much more fitting common name “Persian Buttercup”. But then, people might get Buttercup confused with Narcissus, which is what we called “Buttercups” as children where I grew up, and what others in the South call Jonquils or you call Daffodils. Ahh, never mind. Read more

on a hunt for daisy-ness

Daisy: Any of several plants of the Composite/Aster family, especially a widely naturalized Eurasian plant (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum) having flower heads with a yellow center and white rays. Also called oxeye daisy, white daisy. Before 1000, known in Middle English as dayesye, and in Old English as dægesēge.

When I think of wildflowers, daisies and poppies are the first that come to mind. What fantasy wildflower meadow would be complete without either of them? The “day’s eye” is especially the essence of meadow cheer, flowers that open with the sun and close at night. Read more

Sweet Violet

Today I opened my eagerly awaited box of sweet violets, and they are among the last of my fall plantings. After researching them last fall, I found the one nursery in the U.S. that specializes in violets and since I was a little late in their fall delivery season, I waited all year to order them, for fear that a spring planting might be too hard on them. I contented myself in the meantime with experimenting with other fragrant plants I had never tried, like sweet peas and garden pinks.

I have never smelled a sweet violet before, and I suspected they might have the same light fruity fragrance that other violas have. But I was wrong. As I opened the package I could smell a distinct fragrance I had never smelled before. Surprisingly, some of the violets were in bloom, particularly “D’Udine”, a pretty little double violet. Read more