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My Garden

I have a small garden near the center of Austin, Texas in an old neighborhood that was designed in the 1930s. (Across the street from us is an elderly home originally built for war widows.) It’s not so small by many city standards, nearly a quarter of an acre, and enough to keep me very busy. It has an old barn, built along with the house in 1937, and only last year did we tear town the falling-apart chicken coop that the original owners once kept.

When we moved here in 2005, I had never owned a home nor gardened before. Although I’m an artist and writer, I never really thought I could be good at gardening, which is basically creating outdoors. I used to think I was a plant killer. My first plant ever was a pot of African violets that I bought at a grocery store when I was 21. Not long later the plants died, probably because I kept forgetting to water them. I bought a little jug of MiracleGro and didn’t know what it was so I never used it.

But it was the mysterious, wooded backyard dominated by an Eastern red cedar that sold our house. Over the next year I discovered all sorts of signs of an earlier, loved garden from the property’s first owners. Two massive rose bushes, and a host of intermittent bulbs that flowered all over the yard. It took me two years to identify them. I have to thank the lavish Souvenir de la Malmaison rose for giving me the rose bug. To see and breathe this rose in her spring beauty is to be converted forever to roses. She is growing right in a clump of St. Augustine grass and clay. I had always considered roses to be the province of experienced gardeners, but once I gave myself permission to tend such beauties, I started collecting them like mad.

Then there were the Texas wildflowers. My first trip to the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center sent me on a massive wildflower seed buying spree. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was obsessed with recreating a small patch of the wildflower beauty that made me fall in love with Texas.

Which isn’t easy. Nearly 6 months of the year it is too unbearably hot to be outside gardening any time after 10 a.m. And the stress of that heat and sometimes drought makes for desperate times for a garden. Not to mention the soil here is rock hard clay and nearly impossible to dig when dry. But Texas (and Texans) have a reputation for being rugged and stubborn, and are proud of making something out of nothing. This is still the inventive frontier mentality, and I am learning to love it.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Marsha Conwell #

    I am looking for someone who will share Gladiolus byzantinus. I had this plant before I retired and sold my house. I need a few bulbs to get started where I live now. If you have this plant in your garden and you are willing to share, I would be very grateful. Please let me know if you are interested in selling, trading or sharing.
    Marsha Conwell

    December 29, 2011
    • Amy #

      Hi Marsha, I’m sorry I am so late in replying as I haven’t been keeping up with my blog here very well. Unfortunately, I only have about five of the heirloom Byzantine glads in my garden, which were all I could afford, and I’m hoping to keep them so they make more. They have made some little baby cormlets which not really big enough to bloom yet. I bought mine at Another site that sells them is

      I know the real deal is hard to find, but you might be able to find someone to trade with at the Texas Gardening Forum (link here). There are lots of great folks with old gardens and bulbs on that site and many times people trade.

      I hope you find some–they are indeed beautiful!

      February 7, 2012
  2. Larry Swenson #

    You are a person after my own heart. We lived near Dothan, AL (zone 8a) and the “Grand Primo” paperwhites grew everywhere! We recently had moved back south from fourteen years in Philadelphia and I was over whelmed by the bulbs in the South, especially the Paperwhites and the other tazetta, ERLICHEERS, which are AWESOM E! We have move near Montgomery, AL (zone 8b) and fortunately, they still grow well here. Tonight, 2/11/2012, we are going down to 22F and I WANT to wake upseeing all of my hundreds of blooms intact!

    When one read the main blogs, articles…they say “throw the bulbs away after blooming”. How tragic for such a majectic plant.!!

    I am still re-planting bulbs by the hundreds from my uncle’s yard next door, but we so have four acres! Such visiions of things to come!

    Thanks for your artice on the “Grand Primo” paperwhite, tazetta, narcissus, daffodil.

    Larry Swenson

    February 12, 2012
    • Amy #

      Thank you, Larry, I love these daffodils so much. They come back, drought or not, frost or warmth. I love the Erlicheers–so beautiful and fragrant.

      November 6, 2012

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