Monday, March 26, 2012


Two years ago I posted a picture of my blooming rose bush on Twitter and Lori at The Gardener of Good and Evil told me it was a Dr. Huey rose.  Dr. Huey is used most frequently as rootstock for other roses.  In fact, it's almost impossible to find a Dr. Huey rose in and of itself - most people end up with them when they prune their rose bush by cutting it to the ground thus cutting off the grafted part.  Now I'm beginning to wonder if another rose is coming up - the cane is much larger, the thorns are larger and the leaves are also much either the grafted rose is making a comeback or it's just the difference between drought year growth and water surplus growth...

Only time will tell, I suppose.  Though it would be kinda cool to have two different roses on the same bush...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Rain garden

A picture of the rain garden full of rain.  Since taking this photo on 3/11, the monarda has grown another couple of inches (so it won't be fully under water).

Thursday, March 22, 2012


My husband insists these are beetles of some kind.  I insist they're cockroaches.  He says I'm crazy.  I'm quite positive I'm right.  And as such, after taking the photo I smashed them all to bits.  Of course, that was a bit difficult since they were on the ceiling...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

European Starlings

I forget who asked for it, but someone wanted a picture of a starling -

The bird shown is in it's winter plumage - by spring the buff and white tips will have worn off of the feathers and the bird will be a plain shiny black color.  This wearing of the tips thus causing the bird to look different depending on the season is called "wear molt."  As you can tell by the name (European Starling), the birds are native to Europe, not the US.  They were brought over specifically to be released in Central Park (New York) because a group of people in the 1890's wanted America to have all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare's work.  Because the birds are relatively new transplants and it was only a set number released, they don't have very much genetic diversity.  Female starlings may lay their eggs in other birds' nests (parasitism) - this tends to happen if the female starling finds a mate late in the breeding season (a female who finds a mate at the beginning of the season will incubate her own eggs).  Starlings are able to mimic other birds and even sometimes speech (I once read a book where the author and his wife did wildlife rescue and raised a clutch of starlings - one didn't molt correctly so he stayed with the couple for an additional year, he learned to say "hello, Arthur!").  Additionally, Starlings cannot digest sucrose (table sugar) so they won't eat foods that contain it.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Project: Hellstrip


With devil weed (aka Asiatic Jasmine) in the small part on the other side of the driveway
During 2:

With large flat rocks placed - I got them from J and M Stone Supply on 620 just west/south of Anderson Mill Road for $10.  That's 10 bucks, TOTAL for 10 large-ish flat sandstone rocks.  When the local box stores were selling much smaller pieces of flagstone for $6 a pop, I think this is a great deal.

During 3:
 1/2 cubic yard of decomposed granite.  Also purchased from J and M.  I had actually bothered to calculate how much I would need - the amount was covering the entire bed of the truck with 2" of granite.  However, when the guy at J and M came over with a Bobcat, he loaded it right up.  That means we ended up with about 3-4x the amount we needed.

I used a shovel to fill a bucket with the granite and then I dumped it out on the hell strip.

After the granite has been all spread out

The remainder of the granite.  Looks like I need to do another project.

Now then, just to plant the plants - I already have the following:
Mexican Feather Grass (see previous post),
Artemisia (because it grows like a weed),
Wine Cup, Dittany of Crete, and Dahlberg Daisy (from Jenny at RockRose),
 Alamo Vine (from Susie at VivaVerde),
Engelmann's Daisy, Creeping Thyme, Silver Thyme, Lavender Thyme and Fern Leaf Lavender Verbena from the AOG garden sale. 

I'm going to start some Ruby Crystals Grass from seed and I'd like to get Four Nerve Daisy and Blackfoot Daisy as well.  And maybe perhaps some skullcap and alyssium.  Does anyone else have any suggestions for other good Hellstrip plants?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Baby Mexican Feather Grass

My feather grass did send out little babies (who knew? I mean I know Mexican Feather Grass is a rampant self sower, but mine hadn't ever set seed before).

I'll have to dig it up and find it a new home.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Book Review: Founding Gardeners

As the name implies, Founding Gardeners by Andrea Wulf is a book about the 4 'original' gardeners of America: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison.  This was a book that my sister picked up for me for Christmas, and I have got to say that I LOVED it.  4 Stars, 2 thumbs up, the whole shebang.  But then, of course, I'm both a garden nerd and a history nerd. 

The book never was dry (some can be - the book '1776' comes to mind), though I'm sure to some, it may be.  My biggest problem with the book was the amount of information that is jam packed into it - footnotes, the bibliography (which makes up almost half of the book), and an appendix.  It seems to me that these 4 gentlemen (along with select others that were not in the politics game), were the original garden bloggers - there were tours of gardens, there were letters, plants and seeds exchanged, there was even research on best practices for crop rotation and manures.  Jefferson and Adams took a tour of English gardens while Adams was serving as ambassador (makes me wonder if Jenny at RockRose saw any of the same gardens when she did her England Garden tour a few years back), and this is where they first became friends (they had a falling out years later over politics, they eventually, in their retirement, became friends again - all because of gardening).  Washington insisted on using American plants at Mount Vernon and wanted his plantation to be something wholly American.  Madison was considered what today would be a conservationist and called for people to step lightly on the land lest it be entirely destroyed in the rush to grow wheat and tobacco.  Jefferson was more excited about the Louisiana Purchase and the plants that would be found than he was about the land itself. And Adams never felt more at peace than he did when he was in his orchards in Quincy, Massachusetts.

As I said, I loved it and I highly recommend the book - good reads, good reads...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Grass Experiment

After the horrible summer Austin sustained, our lawns ain't lookin' too hot (har-har - get it?  Hot in reference to our lawns, which died because of the heat?).  My friend Andrea decided to replace her backyard with Habiturf.  I told her she should blog about it.  She agreed - as long as I set it up.  The theory is that it will start out with some heavy typing - the beginning, the locations, the prep, the seeding - and then will move into more of a pictorial blog showing updates on the lawn - week 1, week 2, week 3 (why isn't anything growing yet), etc..

I don't know how frequently it will get updated.  Since the experiment is at Andrea's house, she is the one that has to take the photos and post them; plus, she's planning her wedding, so it's not like she has gobs of time to go about starting a blog.  This is where I come in - I set it up and I posted the first post, and I'll probably have to help with the subsequent 'wordy' posts, but I'm sure we can figure out how to update the blog via mobile (I mean, blogger has everything all set up - all we have to do is flip some switch somewhere).

Any ways, this is getting a bit long to tell you that you should totes head over to our grand, albeit expensive, experiment:  The Grass Experiment.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Ragamuffin, Ruttabaga

Ally at GardenAlly had tried to make rutabaga fries a month or so ago but said they turned out mushy.  I had left a comment giving pointers on how my husband makes sweet potato fries because they also tend to turn mushy if you aren't careful.

The next time Ally and I met up, she gave me a rutabaga and told me to make fries to see how they turned out.  I went home with my giant-as-my-head rutabaga and immediately used half of it in a pot roast (the husband didn't even realize they weren't potatoes).

I then sliced off two more slices and match-sticked them to make fries.

Unlike Ally, I didn't take any pictures, so you'll just have to make do with verbiage.

What you'll need:
A rutabaga in match sticks
cooking spray - for your cookie sheet
olive oil (a teaspoon or so)
corn starch (a tablespoon or so)
salt/pepper/paprika/whatever spice you want
pre-heated oven to 400 (though I turned it up to 450 after I put the fries in)

Step 1:
place rutabaga matchsticks in a large bowl

Step 2:
drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat well

Step 3:
coat evenly with corn starch

Step 4:
spray the cookie sheet with cooking spray

Step 5:
place matchsticks on cookie sheet in a manner so they're not touching or overlapping (if they touch, you'll be essentially steaming the fries instead of baking them)

Step 6:
Cook at 400 or 450 for about 5-10 minutes, use some tongs to turn the fries, and bake for another 5-10 minutes.  Continue turning every 5-10 minutes until fries are done.  I think I ended up cooking mine for about 25 minutes, but I forgot to turn them (I expected them to brown on the top, but they brown on the bottom first, thus the need for turning).

Step 7:
Season, and enjoy.

End result:  Not bad, but I still prefer the sweet potato fries more - the rutabaga has a slight turnip taste to it that I found off-putting in fry form.  That being said, I really liked it with the pot roast.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Experiment: Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

We went from this (July 2011) - planted in mid-April 2011.

To this (November 2011)


To this (March 2012) - I had planted the equivalent of about half of one of these pieces.  As such, I would say growing ginger was a success.  Now all I need to do is break off some of the pieces and re-plant.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Bluebonnet Watch 2012

I have about a dozen bluebonnets that are coming up this year.  Of course, since most of them are in the lawn, I have to protect them from my mower-wielding husband.  This last weekend, my method included pulling up all of the little flags that were used for marking the utilities in the yard back in October, and placing a flag next to each plant.  The husband didn't notice the plants, but he at least mowed up to and stopped at each flag - thus making it so that the bluebonnets all survived.  So now we're on bluebonnet watch to see how many bloom.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Austin Organic Growers and Sunshine Community Gardens Plant Sales

You would have thought that at some point on Friday night I would have said to myself "Self, tomorrow is the AOG sale AND the Sunshine sale.  You know how picked over the sales get if you don't show up early.  Plus you need to go get some decomposed granite.  And you really should prune back the Gregg's Mistflower and the Artemisia.  Perhaps you should go to bed somewhat early."  Instead, I stayed up until midnight.  But I have an excuse - I was creating a spreadsheet of all the plants I want (common name, botanical name, moisture needs, height, sun requirements, color, growing style, other notes).  I am still not done.

So I woke up around 10 am, cleaned the bird bath and bird feeders, and then headed out to the sales at 1045.  I decided to hit up the Sunshine sale first since it's the larger of the two and also the busier of the two.  One of the things I like about the Sunshine sale is that there are other things being sold as well - clay wares, compost, food (sometimes).  Since I've decided that I'm not doing a spring garden this year (I'm doing garlic and onions instead), I did a quick look-through on the garden plants, analyzed the non-food plants, didn't see anything I liked so I went and looked at the artisan wares.  I was quite taken with the Ollallas (it's probably spelled different than that and Google helps zero).  But again, since I'm not growing any spring plants this year, I decided to put off purchasing anything that had to do with tomatoes and peppers (though I am liking those metal plants more and more - I may have to talk to Bob).  In the end I left Sunshine Gardens empty handed and headed down south for the AOG sale.

I was looking forward to the AOG sale more, if only because I remembered them having a pretty 50/50 split of vegetables and ornamentals in the past.  I started first on the ornamentals side and immediately saw 2 plants I wanted.  I grabbed a tray and started loading up.  When I got to the herbs section I noticed that the Dill plants were much larger and more filled out than the plants that were being sold at the Sunshine Gardens (they were both from Gabriel Farms).  I figured it was either that Sunshine already had sold all their big plants by the time I got there, or the AOG just purchased a smaller number of plants so they got larger seedlings.  In the end I got one of the dill plants for the swallowtail caterpillars. I debated on getting a larkspur seedling and ultimately decided against it because I thought it would require more water than I was willing to give it.  Of course, now that I know Jenny grows it in her rock garden, I am regretting that I didn't get it. Though I did correctly think that MSS grows it, and I'm sure she doesn't baby her plants, but I figured they probably aren't as brutalized as a hell strip tends to be.

In the end I spent $18.50 on 3 thyme plants (for the hell strip project), an Engelmann's Daisy (also for the hell strip), 1 dill plant, 1 Lavender Verbena (northern part hell strip), and 1 Gulf Coast Penstemon.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Project: Rain Garden

It all began with my In Law's yard. 

When I saw how much they had completed back in October, I came home and immediately went to work digging a hole for a (at the time) non-existent tree.  When I felt the hole was sufficient, I moved onto digging a hole at the end of our dry river bed.  Over time, the end (just out side of the rocks) started eroding away (technically its probably more like when the water ran out of the bed it wasn't spread out enough).  In my gardening-high, I decided that the universe was telling me  I needed a rain garden.  Thus the hole.  A spur of the moment decision with little to no planning.  Of course the husband was a bit more concerned about this hole in the middle of the yard and my telling him "don't worry!  it'll be fine, you'll see!" didn't really placate him.  So just to show him it would be fine, I didn't do ANYTHING on the project for the next 3 months.

Before-ish.  below shows the area already dug out and full of rain water (it's about 6" deep at the center).  I didn't do the saturation test like I was supposed to (mostly because I know the rainwater doesn't stay around for long in the actual dry river bed plus I figured that a hole not lined with landscape fabric would drain even quicker), but Mother Nature helped out and did the test for me - good news, it drains within 24 hours:

After: the plants are planted, mulch placed and rocks on top of that (Yes I realize this isn't a very good angle since you can't see how it is tied in with the original rock bed).  I didn't have to buy any additional rock - the rock around the outside all came from the front yard Hell Strip area - the previous owners had rocks interspersed with the jasmine. The jasmine just grew over them over time, and so when we removed the dead jasmine (yes, we were lucky and the combination of full sun and no water finally killed off the hell strip jasmine), we found a plethora of rock.  The rock that filled in the hole came from the dry river bed - in some places the rocks are 2-3 deep, so I just looked for loose rocks that didn't expose any of the landscape fabric and moved them over to this area:

Close up showing the plants - top left: Artemisia; top right: Gregg's Mistflower; bottom: Peter's Purple Monarda (picture taken immediately after planting).  I realize that none of these may be considered rain garden plants and they may all die.  That is fine.  I didn't have to pay anything for these plants as they're all from plants I already have in the front yard.  The artemisia is planted at the high point so I don't actually expect it to ever be under water (see first picture - the artemisia is at the high point between the original river bed and the new part).  If it does grow, it should hopefully spread along the ridge and will act as a spreader and slow down the water coming into the garden.  The Gregg's mistflower at the other end should hopefully grow and also act as a spreader and slow down the water leaving the garden (thus preventing any more eroding of the lawn area).