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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 Peas

These lovely, childlike highly fragrant flowers have become already one of my garden obsessions. I ordered almost 30 different types of varieties by seed, while really only having room to grow about five. And this was never having seen a sweet pea before. But I am not alone, I have read many stories of other gardeners who fell to the same captivation by sweet peas, after seeing a photo in a catalog or gardening magazine. And I wonder why, for such a delicate flower? Read more

German Chamomile

There are two kinds of chamomile grown for tea, one commonly called Roman or English chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). There are gardeners in some parts of the world that carefully cultivate this kind into an oh-so-romantic-sounding “Chamomile lawn”. Imagine walking and playing on a carpet of fragrant daisies. Read more

Clotilde Soupert

This is a beautiful Polyantha rose, a group of roses with petite blossoms and form. Although not quite miniature roses, they are quite different than your average rose shrub. (As if roses are anything average!) Other famous Polyanthas include Cecile Brunner, Marie Pavie and her sister Marie Daly, Pinkie and The Fairy. While most of the time they are diminutive in form, barely reaching above three or four feet, many of them have been developed as climbing sports; Cecile Brunner’s climbing variety tends to be more popular than its original compact shrub. Read more

Duchesse de Brabant

My one-year-old Duchesse de Brabant is bound to become my favorite rose. I have only seen about five blooms total on it but it is just one of those promises of greatness. Already it grows in a shape that I like, tall but elegantly loose. Unlike Hybrid Teas or my favorite David Austin “Heritage” rose, it is not stiff, nor are the blooms upright cups. It is not slouchy, though. I guess I would describe it the way a bias-cut silk dress fits, shaped but draping and billowing when it needs to. Read more

Ballerina Rose

Normally, I like very full, cupped large flowers in roses, but I decided to add this one after researching Hybrid Musks that grow well in Texas, and seeing picture after picture of its ridiculously lush effect. The small flowers are barely bigger than a quarter, but in large sprays that cover this bush, which can get up to six-feet wide. It can become quite an enormous bush, even climbing into trees if one allows it, cascading branches falling over each other and covered with hundreds of small, giddy pastel pink flowers.

I suspect that I’ve planted it too close to another bush, but in my new butterfly gardenette, I’m going for a massed effect. This area was once a thicket of chinaberry trees, a hackberry and very old messy tree-sized privets. It was all removed during our garden construction and left me with a large area that gets full sun all summer–the only area like this in my garden. My first thought was–butterfly garden! Ballerina joins Felicia and Duchesse de Brabant and a host of butterfly-host and nectar plants in this bed. Read more

Culinary Sage

What would an edible herb garden be without sage? Well, mine. Up till now, in my little five-foot by five foot herb bed, I’ve had oregano, mint, rosemary, thyme, lavender, cilantro, parsley, feverfew, chamomile. But when looking for a mildly seasoned pork chop recipe the recently, I wondered why I had no sage. So now I do.

Salvias are everywhere in our nurseries, and many of them are evergreen. So too is the downy-leafed common sage, whose beautiful purple flowers are worth it alone. Read more

Viola ‘Etain’

Update September 2009: They did not live through the Texas summer. Seems like they’d need to be watered daily to survive.

On a trip to Scotland this summer, I was walking by a small cornershop florist in a small village, and in front a lone pot of violas was blooming, labeled “Etain”. I leaned in to smell and was surprised; it was nothing like pansies or annual violas, which often have no fragrance. I had to have one. I almost considered buying it and trying to hide it somewhere in my suitcase home. So you can imagine my excitement when, on a trip to Home Depot to buy house paint, I happened to come across these in the nursery. Just six of them, and I took four. 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

Purple coneflower

This flower needs no introduction. During my first-ever gardening escapade, I sowed Texas wildflower seeds all over my bare back yard (in January!), and native Purple Coneflower was among them. They never came up but the next year I sowed the seeds in a prepared bed in fall. By spring it seemed like hundreds came up. I discarded many and potted many others, giving some away to friends that summer. Read more