Sunday, October 10, 2021

More work

 So one of the weird things is that once I start working on something, I'll either let it sit for like a decade, or I'll get it done in a weekend.  

This is a spot that nothing has every grown all that well - except for the spreading liriope, and part of the reason why things don't grow well, I'm sure, is BECAUSE of the spreading liriope. So I made the decision to yank it all out as well as the rough leaf dogwood I never really liked. Which means now I get to think of something else to put there.  I'm thinking Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum and a bunch of columbines.

Friday, October 8, 2021


 I tend to let my paper wasps have free reign of the yard. I currently have at least 5 different nests, and, as long as they don't sting us, they get to stay. Full disclosure - one DID sting Shawn but by the time I went out and bought wasp spray for him to spray the nest he was over his anger at getting stung so that nest earned a reprieve.

The benefit of wasps is that they keep the yard caterpillar free. The downfall is wasps is that they'll also keep your yard free of the caterpillars you actually want (i.e. the monarch caterpillars).  Thus, if I find monarch caterpillars, I have to raise them in the house.  I've previously written about this so I won't rehash all of that here, BUT I figure y'all would like to see the videos I got earlier this summer of both the beginning and the end of the pupation stage. (As we are now in fall migration mode, be sure to cut that tropical milkweed to the ground for the rest of the year - we want those butterflies making their way down to Mexico, not getting waylaid by thinking it's time to mate)

Sunday, September 26, 2021

A Long Suffering Project

 A few weeks ago, Shawn brought up "the hideous bed." Again. I call it "the hideous bed," not because it's hideous, or even a bed, but because Diana's husband called one of her flower beds right after she finished it "hideous" and never changed his mind, and thus "hideous bed" is now a catch-all for anything in the yard that the non-gardener/landscaper hates. Even if it is a half-finished project.

This is a "half finished project" because I originally was going to remove the rock, backfill with soil, and landscape. Unfortunately, as soon as I removed some of the rock (to use for 2 other yard projects), I realized that the area was actually graded in a way to direct runoff away from the house, so backfilling with soil was immediately out, but I was also too lazy to go get more rock, and I also wasn't sure if I wanted to try to do some sort of french drain system.  

So, while he was off on his boy's trip (mountain biking in Colorado), I decided to finally DO something about the half finished hideous bed.

Instead of getting more limestone piece like we've already got, I decided to change it up with some "shadow stone" instead. I went with angular rock just so it compacts together and provides a more stable walking medium.  Now it's officially "done" but I'm still debating on putting something in the center area - like the birdbath or the bird statue. 

Of course, now I'm also all about redoing the area between this spot and the house - removing all the plants (liriope and rough leaf dogwood) and starting over - maybe with a Rusty Blackhaw and Inland Sea Oats or Columbine

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The queen is dead


When we moved to this house in 2005, there were two Arizona Ash trees in the back yard.  The first one died a few years after we moved in when carpenter ants created quite the visible crack in the trunk which I only noticed because our cats stopped climbing the tree and I was trying to figure out why.  The thing about Arizona ashes is that they grow quickly and die off in a weird clumping pattern. Carpenter ants also don't actually kill the tree since they only remove dead wood. Our neighbors down the street had carpenter ants a few years ago on their tree, but the part they were going after was about 10' from the ground so they cut off the tree at about 8' tall and damned if that thing didn't completely regrow and form a beautiful shade tree. Naturally it got severely knocked back by the monster freeze of 2021 (winter storm Uri), which is when ours also got knocked back.  About a month ago, I noticed a bunch of saw dust on the deck and the plants around the tree and, sure enough, there were carpenter ants.  Rather than hope that the tree would pull through, especially since the most sawdust was right at the base, and because of the way the tree grew, it meant that the ants were pretty close to the bottom of the tree, we opted to go ahead and have it removed.  So we called in our Tree Guy (Ulises from Donkey Tree), and his crew came by yesterday to cut down the tree.  So now our yard looks like this:

It is quite the change.  Additionally, they removed a 10-yr-old oak tree that was too close to the cedar elm and too close to the house. Removing these trees makes the yard SO MUCH sunnier, and I'm not sure the beautyberry will like the amount of sun, but the Agarita and Mountain Laurel will probably love it.  Removing the trees, however, got me looking at all the other trees I have around. I mean there's a rough leaf dogwood, which I actually hate and keep saying I'll remove, there was a Carolina Buckthorn which Shawn always complained about being too close to the house (I actually decided to remove it last night while I was talking on the phone with my sister and I was ASTOUNDED at how easy I pulled it out of the ground...which also kinda explains why it's generally not done well), the cedar elm is growing into the possumhaws, there's a live oak in the back corner which is too close to the fence and a live oak in the front yard which is probably too close to the water line to the house, and the desert willow (which is only like 3' tall) is entirely too close to the cedar elm (though may be okay if the cedar elm keeps growing and we can get it limbed up).  That's not even getting into the 2 red tip photinia that are in the yards that really need to be removed as well.

It's only funny because I've always loved how many trees we have and now I'm basically trying to figure out how to remove about half of them. 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

I'm a farmer now

Utrecht Blue Wheat from Botanical Interests.  My garden is too good for them, that's why the plants all fell over, but they've still produced some baller seed heads which I plan to cut, dry, and then give to my friend, Jameson, since he uses wheat seed heads in his decor.
I'm a farmer now. My Great Grandfather would be so proud.  And probably rolling his eyes.

Thursday, July 8, 2021


The Sunflowers have been outstanding this year.  I read an article on the 5th that this is probably because sunflowers like having wet weather at the beginning, nice long, sunny days, and freshly turned dirt that doesn't have other stuff growing in it (hence why they're so popular right along roadways or other areas which are under construction).  This one is likely black oil sunflower as I do put out see for the birds which the squirrels tend to get to first - and boy do they make a mess.

How fitting, then, that there are several Van Gogh immersive art shows going on in Texas right now (one in Austin, one in Houston, and I think there may also be one in San Antonio)?

Monday, July 5, 2021

Grow This: Cossack Pineapple Ground Cherry

One of my favorite garden finds is Ground Cherry "Cossack Pineapple."  I don't remember how I got the seeds (it's possible I got them from a school garden that I visited and they were giving away seed packs that had gotten wet and/or were expired), and I've only grown them a handful of times, but my goodness these are good.  

Ground Cherries are related to Tomatillos and look very similar in so much that they grow in little paper lantern-type coverings.  The plants I've grown have topped out at 8" or so and about the same width.  The first year I grew them (YEARS ago), I had like 2 plants, but that definitely wasn't enough to use for like jams or anything - you'd probably need more like 6 plants for that to work. This year, I started 2 plants, but only one survived - it's only created a handful of fruits, but every time i see one that's ready, I just eat it in the garden - like the snow peas we grow - they're garden foods, and they just never make it into the house.  

These ones are like nature's sweet tarts because they are sweet as candy, but with a tart flavor - like my mom would probably insist that they needed copious amounts of sugar to be edible, but I've always been a fan of tart fruits - my favorite apple is Granny Smith, I only eat green bananas, I like the blackberries and strawberries when they're under-ripe, so yeah, these things are perfect for me.  I'll have to find more seeds and add them to my normal rotation.  Maybe I'll even try them in the little AeroGarden (which Roberta gifted me since she became too obsessed with cleaning it EVERY DAY like a weirdo, so she gave it to me to grow lettuce since it's apparently the ONLY way I can get lettuce to grow).

This one is even a little underripe - they're supposed to be a very yellow color instead of a yellow/green color.  BUT damn is it delicious.