Friday, May 20, 2016

The scent of a garden...

I was walking up to our front door this morning when I was literally stopped in my tracks by a lovely, perfume-like  scent.  I looked all around me, examining the plants on both sides of the path. Hmmmm...Mexican oregano, nope - that has a sharp, herbal scent, and usually only when touched. Not the iris, not the 'purple pastel' salvia, the purple skullcap, the Zexmenia, or the black scallop ajuga.  What was it?
So, then I expanded my search and saw the Magnolia 'little gem' magnolia far out in the middle of the yard.  Sure enough, a large white bloom stared back at me.
And then I spied another, and another.  I stood there for a while and absorbed the luscious scent.
Unlike many of the blooms in my garden, which are small and delicate, the magnolia bloom is bold and beautiful, it's creamy white petals like intricate porcelain saucers.
Since there are many of them on the tree, I plan to bring one bloom inside to float in a glass bowl and infuse the house with its heady perfume.  Nature's potourri, there's nothing better.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Rain, rain...well, just take a break, please...

Living with frequent drought makes dealing with torrential rains tricky.  We want rain. We need rain. But, in the Hill Country, it's tough for the ground to absorb.  Which leads to floods.  Dangerous floods.

Beyond the frightening potential human toll, gardeners also have to deal with plant-killing floods.  I just turned in my article for next week's Austin American Statesman, where I write about plants that "don't like to have wet feet."   Today, that's gonna be all of the plants in my garden.  That's from 3.34" this morning alone and 8.29" for the month.
Having lived through the sizzling, scorching drought, I am hesitant to wish for an end to the rain. But, geez, it can take a break for a little while -- enough already!
Our home sits downhill from several other homes and so we get run-off.  Serious run-off!  We have French drains and dry creeks in 3 separate places, designed to deal with days just like today.
And our drainage abatement IS working.  Water is moving to where it's been directed.
The dry creek is no where near dry.
No sign of any let up right now, but it's ok, cuz the rain is "Rollin' down the river..."  We also have a 10,000 gallon rainwater tank, which is totally full.  I'd take a picture of the gauge and the tank for you, but I'd have to get wet.  No thanks!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fresh foliage follow-up ...

Having blogged HERE about everything that was blooming in my garden this weekend, today I'll join Pam Penick of Digging, and highlight some of the lush foliage in my garden.

Refusing to be dismissed by a lack of blooms, many of my favorite plants in the garden earn their status with colorful, textured foliage that delights season after season.

Last fall I planted a few more heuchera -- actually gold zebra heucherella -- the lime and burgundy plants in the foreground.  I was delighted when they reached out with these wispy white blooms, almost like exclamation points emerging from their core.

I try to limit the annuals in my garden because I have enough work caring for the perennials as it is, but I reliably plant coleus in many places each spring.  Their hot, popping colors brighten any shady spot and bring an energy to the garden that I just love in our Texas summers.
My Cephalotaxus, or Japanese plum yews, continue to thrive in the mostly shade areas of the front and side gardens.  I love seeing the new growth arrive, heralded by the luscious lime foliage.  I began using these in the garden about 3 years ago and they are tough as nails and satisfy my wish to have other conifers in the landscape.
This cardoon qualifies as a foliage favorite for sure.  Fuzzy, spiny, and dusty, these leaves are always showing off in the garden.
This Yucca aloifolia, commonly known as Spanish Dagger or Bayonet, means serious business.  Unlike the variegated 'bright edge' and 'color guard' yuccas that live in other parts of my garden, this guy's leaves are sword-like and quite dangerous to work around.  This pup  popped up when I had to move its momma several years ago because she was getting too tall for the front of the bed.  Her little one is following in her footsteps, so this one may soon move to another bed behind the back fence.
My Persian shields never fully died back this winter, so they are already getting to be a nice size in the shade garden.  Score!
Plectranthus amboinicus, also known as Cuban Oregano, Mexican Mint, Spanish Thyme and Indian Mint, is a staple in my ornamental gardens.  It is an herb and can be used in a wide variety of dishes.  But I grow it for it's cool, textured and succulent leaves.  Mature, it's about 18 inches tall and wide and makes a nice front of bed plant.  It's an annual here, but can easily be propagated from cuttings, which is what I do.  It's not a true mint - it's botanically closer to Swedish ivy, which I also grow for similar places in the garden.
Another fabulous variegated abelia.  I'm kicking myself for not keeping the tag.  I love that this one is creamy and mild, while the 'Twist of Lime' and 'Kaleidoscopes' I love are spicier -- with lime, bronze and reddish foliage.
Sparkler sedges are scattered throughout my garden.  This winter I thought I'd lost one in the back, but it's coming back from the roots.  Sadly, it has reverted and is coming up solid green.
I'm about to plant several more of these variegated dwarf firebushes for their hot, tropical color.

That's the foliage tour for today.  What's your favorite foliage in the garden?

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Greening up the garden on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

After several gifts of much-needed rain this spring, the garden is beaming with delight.  (As are the weeds, but that's another story.)

We barely saw winter this year, it made a few stops nearby, but never stayed long enough to qualify for a freeze at my house.

Having happily forgone dormancy, many plants in the garden are big and bursting with blooms well ahead of their traditional schedules.  So here is a peek into my garden as I celebrate Garden Bloggers Bloom day, created by Carol of May Dreams Gardens.

This tropical hibiscus was never expected to make it through the winter - I planted two them knowing I'd probably have to replace them this spring, but low and behold, they are happily blooming again.
Euphorbia 'Ascot rainbow' against the backdrop of native prairie verbena.
Jerusalem sage, Phlomis, getting cozy with some Salvia Greggii in the front bed.
New additions to my shade garden last year, I added both solid yellow and fruit cocktail shrimp plant to the palette.
Purple and fuchsia dominate the end of the front bed.  The irises in the foreground are done already, but they were a lovely lavender.
Scuttelaria wrightii, purple skullcap, enjoyed our warm spring and is trailing out into the walkway.
I replanted Cleome 'Senorita Rosalita' again this year where I had some holes in the front bed.  It makes a nice contrast agains the sculptural foxtail ferns.
A tidy, low, mounding shrub, Catmint 'Walker's Low,' is one of my favorites.
The Salvia 'Mexican limelight' on the right and back of this photo is only sporting a few blooms right now, but soon it will create a nice contrast against the yellow Calylophus in the front.
The butterflies homed right in on this native butterfly weed -- they knew I'd planted it just for them. (Along with dill, parsley, fennel and many other host/food plants.)
This explosion of four-nerve daisies came flying over from the bed on the other side of the driveway and clearly like where they landed!
More prairie verbena in driveway bed, set against the Lantana 'horrida,' -- purple and orange is one of my go-to color combos.
Early spring and much-needed rains also mean an early pruning season in the garden.  I'm not quite as excited about that result.
Here, the Jerusalem sage, Salvia greggii, Zexmenia, Mexican feather grass and Mexican honesuckle are getting just a little too neighborly for my taste.  I'm gonna have to go break up the fight out there this week!
I've twice tried to plant Cardoon in this bed with no success.  This year, voila!  This plant, put in last summer, overwintered well and is rewarding me with blooms.
I love its color and its beautiful, exotic form.
The cardoon, related to the artichoke, is enjoyed frequently in Mediterranean cuisine.  It is grown primarily for its thick stalks, which can be braised, stewed or deep-fried.
I've also grown artichokes many times in the past, but usually let the chokes bloom instead of eating them.  They are just too pretty to eat, in my opinion.
I think I'll try to cook a few of the stalks of this cardoon - just to see what it tastes like.
Most of my lantana is blooming throughout the garden.  Purple trailing lantana is backed by Loropetalum 'ever red' in the front walkway bed.
I think this is Lantana 'cherry sunrise' on the side of the house.  Unlike the native 'horrida' which can take over your garden - growing up to 6 feet wide and almost as tall - this cultivar is a very compact and orderly size of 2-3 feet wide.
The first of several rock roses began blooming this week.  Pavonia lasiopetala is a tough native plant, but the deer find it tasty, so it has to live inside of the fence.
This daylily, 'grape magic' was ordered from Olallie Daylily Gardens when I created the daylily bed in 2008.  It was advertised as an August bloomer.  Just a tad early this year~!
 This is Mexican flame vine, hard at work brightening up this section of fence.
These daylilies are not in the daylily bed, but out by the pool.  I don't know the cultivar, and they look a little washed out in this photo - they are a very deep, velvety maroon color.
Just down the way in the pool bed, this Pride of Barbados has also begun to bloom, well in advance of its traditional August arrival.

 Last year's addition to the pool bed was this Iochroma 'royal queen.'
I didn't realize how well it would do in this spot, so I'll have to keep pruning it.  I might have to get a few more to put in other spots in the bed now that I've seen how much they like it.
 Clematis pitcheri is crawling with delicate little blooms.
Although I like the bright blue larkspur the best, the white and pale blue are the most prominent in the cutting garden this spring.
Leonotis leonurus, lion's tail, 'carefree beauty' rose and Salvia 'indigo spires' are all blooming at once in the cutting garden.
 Our recent rains have been good for these salvias.  In times of drought, they really fade back.
 Plenty of chow for pollinators in this garden!
I planted a few 4" pots of Limonium sinuatum, (statice) in the garden last month.  After all, a cutting garden needs some of this bouquet staple, doesn't it?
The Echinacea reseed in this small spot and come back in droves, year after year.
Behind the pool, the transplanted Salvia 'Amistad' adapted very well and is bordered by yellow bulbine.
Behind our fence, the oleander I planted last year as a screen is doing its job.  I will probably add a few more this year so we can start taking out some cedars.
The Loropetalum 'ever red' in the front bed makes a dramatic statement.
The Texas Yellow Star, or Lindheimera texana daisy, reseeded into my decomposed granite path and now towers above all of the other low-growers.  It doesn't really matter, though, because the bluebonnets and wine cups have already taken over the entire path, so the yellow star can be right at home.

We may be in for an early, hot summer, but I'm ok with that since I've enjoyed so many beautiful early blooms in the garden.  What's blooming in your garden today?