Friday, February 5, 2016

Winter is planning season in the garden

We've had such a mild winter here in Central Texas - we haven't even had an official freeze yet at our house.  A few plants have been affected by close-to-freezing temps.  (Though some other gardnerers in cooler spots around the city have had one or two brief dips to or just below 32.)

It even hit 88 degrees last weekend, and I welcomed it complete with shorts, sunscreen, big hat and a few much-needed breaks inside to avoid what truly felt like heat stroke.  It was January, for goodness sake!

I'd been sketching out a few ideas for changing beds -- vowing to treat my own garden with the same care that I give to design clients.  Than means  I need to tame some overgrown plants, move some others to better locations and add in some more evergreen color to create a cohesive design.

The bed in front of the garage did well last year, but I'd neglected to prune back the pale pavonia right in front of the window.  Last fall I moved the purple-blooming salvia 'Amistad' in front of the pavonia - they were small and leggy in their previous spot.  Well, they REALLY liked this bed - so much that they grew even bigger than the pavonias behind them.  Gorgeous, but unruly and completely out of scale.  Pavonias: chop.  Salvia 'Amistad:' move.  Dianella: add.

They looked beautiful against the Senorita Rosalita cleome I planted in front of them, but they soon grew OVER the cleomes and the yarrow and tried to accost guest walking down the sidewalk!  They will now look beautiful in the bed at the corner of the house now -- I hope!  

After a trip to the candy store -- well, really, Vivero Growers -- I found some beautiful new plants to complete my design.  I added in a third variegated dianella and put in several Loropetalum 'cabernet'  to provide more evergreen color in the bed.  I left one 'Amistad' in between the pavonias and I promise I will keep it pruned down just a bit. 

A stunning Japanese maple, Acer palatum var. dissectum 'Tamukeyama,' went in toward the house, where an 'Edward Goucher' abelia came out.  To echo the burgundy colors, I added a few more Ajuga 'black scallop' around the dianella.  The maple has deep red bark and delicate weeping branches.  The leaves are very fine.  I can't wait to see it bud out.  It will only get early morning sun in this spot and will be protected by the house.

The deciduous tree in front of the new maple came out - it's a Caesalpinia gillesii, or often called by one of its common names, Yellow Bird of Paradise.  It needed a drier bed - so I relocated it across the driveway to a sunnier spot with tougher conditions.

And here you see my favorite shovel -- I bought it at Red Barn and it has a nice foothold for pushing down on and the handle makes it easier to get some oomph into your motion!

I haven't re-mulched after adding in some Geo Growers thunder dirt to the bed -- I'm still debating whether or not I want to plant some seeds in here in a few carefully selected spots.

Because I'm a plant collector, I don't always follow my own design rules (or even loose guidelines) if I've found some wonderful new plant that HAS to get squeezed in somewhere.  I also suffer from the guilt of getting rid of plants that aren't working.  Thank goodness I know so many other gardeners and garden bloggers who might have the perfect spot for things.  BTW - Austin garden bloggers, I still have that nice 5 gallon-sized rock rose that came out of this been and needs a home - it's about 2-1/2 - feet tall, but the deer keep eating it outside of the fence and I don't have a place for it inside of the fence...first comment, first come and get it!

What are you sketching for your spring garden?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Join me for my Spring Landscape Design Workshop in Austin...

SPRING GARDEN DESIGN WORKSHOP -- Thinking about making changes to your landscape this year? Well, NOW is the time to start planning. Whether you’re just making adjustments to your landscape or you’re ready for some serious refreshing or expansion, understanding the basics of garden design will give you a roadmap to ensure beautiful results.

I will be hosting a 4-hour Garden Design Workshop in Austin in March and would love for you to join me. In this exciting 4-hour class, you’ll learn:
• the principles and elements of landscape design, 
• how to assess your current landscape’s strengths and shortcomings, 
• which native and adapted plants to use to create 8 specific garden styles:

        Southwest Desert

        Texas Native

• and how to design a landscape – including drawing a sample plan with my personal review of your design ideas.

If you're interested in taking the class, please leave me a comment with your contact info and I will contact you with the registration information and the workshop cost. 

Details are still being finalized -- date and location will be announced next week based on number of participants, so let me know if you'd like to attend.

If you know someone else who might be interested, please feel free to pass along the information.

Hope to see you soon!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Winter is time to plan spring hardscape projects...

Now that winter is keeping us out of the garden, what's a gardener to do?   That's easy -- plan.  Plan for all the big ideas you'd like to turn into reality once spring planting fever hits.  It's the perfect time to start planning structural hardscape changes in your landscape. 

Today, our landscapes are becoming extensions of our homes.  They bring us outdoors, in rooms and areas that provide entertaining space, room for kids and pets to play, or maybe a quiet reading nook. 
Where to start?   Ask yourself -- was your patio too small for entertaining last year?  Did you, or your dogs, wear a dirty path in the grass to get from area to area?   Or do you just want to remove some grass, water a little less or solve a drainage problem with a dry creek?
Now what?

Ask yourself some preliminary questions.  First, consider your personal style – are you traditional, natural or contemporary?  Think about the existing area – do you want to use the same material as your house or other structures, or do you want something different? Identify whether you’d prefer creating a color contrast color or seamless hues of a single color.
Consider the type of material best suited to your project.  Stone is sold by the ton -- decomposed granite by the yard -- your local landscape supply yards can help you determine how much you’ll need based on your measurements.  Here are some of the choices that are commonly used for hardscape projects.

Flagstone – Can be used for a variety of landscaping projects, from paths to patios and walls.  It can be mortared into place or simply set in decomposed granite or gravel so it remains permeable.  Wondering what to do with the sidewalk strip in front of your house where the grass is perpetually dying?  Consider some attractive flagstone set in decomposed granite.  If you want a softer look, add a few Mexican feather grasses or a few small agaves or a boulder or two for interest. 
River Rock – Available in a variety of size ranges, river rock is smooth and comes in a blend of colors.  It can be used to create a meandering dry stream through your landscape or to solve drainage issues.  You can also simply replace grass with an attractive contrast of natural material in your yard.  It can be used to puddle below a water feature or a birdbath.  Always be sure to vary the size of the rock in a dry creek, scattering in the larger rocks before you put down the smaller size for a more natural look.
Pavers – Man-made pavers come in very imaginable color and size.  The most commonly used are made of concrete and can be used for patios and porches, paths and even walls.  They can be laid on a bed of sand, placed close together for a more manicured look, or can be laid with spacing to allow for either grass or pretty little ground covers to grow between.  Pavers create a more manicured, formal style in outdoor rooms.
Decomposed or crushed granite – Weathered granite that has broken down into small pieces and particles of silt, DG is commonly used in patios, paths and even beds with arid plants.  It’s versatile as a filler for many different projects – just be careful not to use it on a steep hill – our periodic gully washers can wreak havoc with it.  You’ll want to make sure to use some sort of edging – metal or stone – to keep the granite in place and separated from grass or beds adjacent to it.

Gravel – Available in many different colors and sizes, gravel is a great material.  It can work wonders to help with small drainage issues and it adds texture and contrast to the garden.  Because it is larger, when used in a path, it is less likely to wash away than decomposed granite. 
Chopped block – Most stone can be purchased as a rough-hewn brick-like shape that is more natural in form.  These are used to build retaining walls, benches, planting beds or pathway borders. 

River rock, flagstone, chopped block and other stones come in specific palettes of color – Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado or New Mexico – are some of the choices you can find around Austin.  From golds to browns and reds or grays and pinks, the right hues in your garden can be like a fresh coat of paint in your house. 

If you are creating paths or dry streams, remember to use long, sweeping curves to provide flow and make your garden more natural and inviting.

Adding different types of material to you landscape can make it interesting and inviting – creating contrast and texture that enhance your garden.  
These are all landscape design projects I created.  For more ideas and information, go to Diana's Designs and see other projects.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Garden shoes giveaway...

I ordered a pair of my favorite garden shoes in the fall when it was raining buckets.

Sloggers are comfortable and waterproof and durable.  Unfortunately, I experienced operator error when placing the order and ended up with the wrong size.  Months later, as I get back to the task of returning them, I cannot find the receipt or the email confirming my online order.

So, if you wear a women's size 9 shoe, leave me a comment below about your favorite plant and I'll do a random drawing to give away the shoes.  You have until midnight, Sunday night, January 10th to enter.

Good luck!