Tuesday, December 31, 2013

End of Year

And just like that I up and leave you for a month.  But never fear, I am still here.  It's just I haven't been blogging as much.

I pulled out old veggie plants in the garden and found that my newer bed (the west bed) is beset with root knot nematodes:
All I can say about this is, DAMMIT!

I also cut back a bunch of other plants (Cosmos, Mexican Petunia and Artemisia), mostly to make light for other plants growing in the area (namely the irises and the yaupon holly).

I planted new plants - Pacman Broccoli, Marathon Broccoli, a Cauliflower and a Brussels Sprouts.  Ivy broke one of the broccoli plants, but the leaves are still growing, so that's weird.

I also went back to working on the grass removal project in the back corner of the yard.  Part of it did include installing a trellis that Bob at Draco made for me.  It will involve planting a rose bush and therefore, removing soil and putting in Ladybug Rose Magic soil.  I have high hopes, even though my poor little grasses are still little.

For Christmas, I gave my parents some herbs and jars and vinegars, oil, and vodka to do some infusion projects.
Infusion stuff - got the idea from Vicki at Playin' Outside

It's finally time to start THINKING about sucking up the leaves in the yard -
Now if only those last few leaves will drop...

AND finally, I made a trip down to East Side Succulents to use a Groupon I got a little while ago.  Shawn even went with me, so I let him pick out most of the plants.  The next step will be to ask my cousins at Art Haus Ceramics to make some special order pots and pot everything up good and proper.
This is what $60 of succulents looks like.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Metal Planters

So one of the bestest parts about blogging about gardening is meeting all the other garden bloggers we have in the Austin area.  You get all sorts of ideas for your garden, learn what plants do well in the area, and you learn something about the people behind the posts.

One of the local garden bloggers, Bob at Draco Gardens, is a welder by trade.  The man is amazing.  He just recently posted a picture of a spigot flower he made for his sister-in-law based off of "that devil site, Pinterest."  He also is tapped by a lot of the garden bloggers for various projects - Meredith found a crow bar in her garden and asked him to turn it into something decorative so she could put it back in her garden, I've asked him to make me some simple trellises for my vines (pictures to come later after I've actually put them up), and Pam asked him to make some metal planters to hang based on a design she found on the web.  I ended up with some of the smaller ones that he made that Pam didn't want.  After sitting in my yard for almost a year, I finally hung them on the fence and filled with some agave lophantha, a squid agave, and ghost plant.  I also hung a mini hummingbird feeder in each one since it was migration season when I hung the planters.  Since migration is mostly done, I've taken down the mini-feeders, but have left my larger one in case there are any straggler hummingbirds.

Taking a tip from Pam, I hung them in a fashion so as not to drip rust along the fence (i.e. hung on the cross beam instead of on the fence proper).

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pam's Pink Turk's Cap

I'm going to be honest here. I'm still torn on the Pam's Pink Turk's Cap. I mean, I like it, but at the same time, I don't like it as much as the red Turk's Cap. It never seems to do as well as the red variety, but then, this year the red variety also was decimated by the grasshoppers, and never really bloomed like this one did.  Additionally, the pink flowers 'fall apart' after a few days - I've never noticed this on the red variety, so that's cool - the red ones usually just wilt and fall off the plant.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Bloom Day November 2013

After the freeze we had earlier this week, I'm a bit surprised that some of the plants are still blooming.  The eggplant, tomatoes and most of the cosmos are toast, but everything else seems unfazed (the peppers were covered).  The following are still blooming:
Prairie Fleabane
Blackfoot Daisy
Butterfly Bush
Mexican Mint Marigold
Gregg's Mistflower
Culinary Ginger (was brought in during the freeze)
Mexican Petunia
Shrimp Plant
Unscented Plumeria (was brought in during the freeze)
Henry Duelberg Sage
Autumn Sage
Caldwell Pink Rose

Monday, November 11, 2013


Sorry for the radio silence, dear reader.  I was on vacation in Florida (oh there will be blog posts and pictures, don't you worry), and then when I came back, I jumped right into helping with flood stuff from the Halloween flood.  And today is the first day I've had off since I've come back.  This storm event is the flood of record for Onion Creek watershed and I'm guessing that we'll be talking about it 15 years from now, much the same way we talk about the Memorial Day floods.  I'll probably end up writing more about it as time goes on, but not now...not now.

I still need to update my "rain page," but we got around 4" while on vacation and then another 2" right after returning home.  Sadly, hardly any of this rain has made a dent in the drought because all of it keeps falling in locations where it won't end up behind Mansfield dam. 

The morning was spent getting the garden ready for the winter - there's a soft freeze coming our way on Tuesday/Wednesday so I decided I should dig up plants that I want to try to keep alive over the winter and pull off all of the peppers and eggplants.  I'm leaving the tomatoes on in the hope that we won't really freeze and that I'll be able to let them keep ripening.

The insects, birds and squirrels can also tell that winter is coming.  There's a feeling of a mad frenzy and all of the animals are going about trying to prepare as best they can.  I always watch the animals and think of Robert Burns's poem "To a Mouse"

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Another host plant - this one for the Gulf Fritillary.  Passionvine.  This one isn't the native variety (though it is native to South America, so it could easily have found its way here eventually); I believe this one is Blue Passionvine.  The Fritillaries don't care.  To them, it's just food.  Beware - as with most passionvines, it can be a bit invasive and spreads most by roots - surprisingly I've found that this one spreads by roots, but will pop up like 3' away from the mother plant.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Post Haircut

 Finally found some time earlier in the month to trim up the garden beds.  Above is the front bed after removing all the dead and dying things (I don't think you realize how big this is for me - removing the dying things.  I usually just can't do it).

Below is one side of the hell strip after I pulled out a crap-ton of plants.  Eleanor's Gomphrena (I'm not sure of the type - fireworks maybe?) has grown and is now blooming.  In fact, my husband just asked the other day if I just planted it since he hadn't noticed it before. (no I didn't just plant it, but I did spread seed for it a while ago)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Plant This: Milkweed (aka SAVE THE MONARCHS!)

Dude.  I don't know if you've heard yet, but the Monarchs need our help.*  They have been taking some devastating hits to their population over the last few years. And by devastating, I mean like over 60% of the population just gone.  We're talking worse than the Black Death here, people.

Providing adult food sources is a good start - they tend to LOVE Gregg's Mistflower.  Other good plants seem to be Shrubby Boneset (also called White Mistflower), a whole host of daisy-like plants (disc shaped that are wide and flat), and even Lantana and Turk's Cap (though it tends to be frequented more by the Fritillaries).

BUT!  If you REALLY want to help the monarchs, you'll also plant host plants.  Or, in other terms, the plant that the caterpillars will eat (it never ceases to amaze me how many people will plant host plants only to get upset when they're munched down to nubbins by the insect they are hosting).  The Monarchs only lay eggs on milkweed plants.  And yes, your milkweed plants will be chewed down to twigs.  BUT! you'll be helping the monarchs, which is really more important anyway.  Gardening for nature is why you garden, isn't it?

Grouping your plants together to create large masses of the same color will help attract butterflies since they are near sighted (that's probably why they like the mistflowers - the plants create a large grouping all by themselves).  Plant some milkweeds close by, add some dishes of water with some rocks in them (for the butterfly to perch on)and Voila!  Instant Butterfly garden.  If you want to get really ambitious, you can add throw out some fruit trimmings, leave one spot of dirt that isn't covered by mulch (for puddling), and a large clumping grass (for protection at night), and you'll have a garden that the Monarchs will flock to.

* okay, right now probably isn't really the time to plant things like milkweed, but it IS time to plant most perennial plants like the shrubby boneset and lantana.  Plus some future planning is always a good thing.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Watering Trees During a Drought

Huzzah!  I have finally gotten around to writing a post about watering trees during a drought.

Step 1:  Realize that during a drought you will lose some plants.  If you're going to water to save plants, make sure you're watering to save the correct plants.  Note:  Your lawn should never be the plant you opt to save during a drought.  Your shade trees, on the other hand, should be.

Step 2:  Obtain yourself some "tree waterin' bukkits."  I am partial to using old cat litter containers.  Since I've switched to the type that comes in a giant jug, I can use them for everything!  Tree watering buckets, compost tea mixing buckets, seaweed and fish emulsion dilution, etc.  Wonderful things, they are.  Tip:  You get extra credit for making these as 'white trash' as you want.  I highly recommend writing "tree waterin' bukkit" on them.  But you can do what you want.

Step 3:  Figure out how much water your tree watering buckets hold.  I used an old milk carton to measure water.  Each of my green jugs holds 2.5 gallons.

Step 4:  Drill some small holes in the bottom of your bucket.  I didn't even bother getting out the drill - I just grabbed a drill bit (probably the 1/16th bit) and pressed it into the bottom while twisting until a hole formed.  Each bucket has 3 holes.  It took all of 5 minutes to do both buckets.

Step 5:  Calculate how much water each of your trees needs.*  Now this is going to require you to do a bit of math (or maths as our British friends say) (Note:  I'm using Linux so it always tells me that 'math' is incorrect because apparently the Fedora OS is British). Firstly, figure out the diameter of your tree by measuring the circumference of the trunk at about chest height.  Reminder:  circumference means 'around.'  Once you have the circumference (in inches), divide that number by 3.14 (Circumference = pi*diameter).  Voila! you have your diameter.  Use the handy table below to figure out how much water you'll need for your tree.  NOTE:  If the tree is stressed, use an amount at the upper end of the range, if the tree is healthy you can use an amount at the lower end of the range.  NOTE2:  Trees planted within the last year should always get 10 gallons, and they should be watered closer to the trunk in step 7 since all the roots are going to be closer to the trunk due to being still roughly in pot shape)

Step 6:  Figure out how many bucketfuls of water you'll need to use on your tree - you can accomplish this by dividing the number of gallons needed by the number of gallons in your bucket - that's why I have two buckets - two buckets = 5 gallons.  Much easier to divide by 5 than by 2.5.

Step 7:  Line up your bucket with the dripline of the tree - that is roughly the location where the branches end or further out - no need to water right next to the trunk.  Fill your bucket with water and come back 15-20 minutes later as the bucket will take a while before it's drained (that's the point - low and slow...just like barbeque!)

Step 8:  After the bucket is empty, move it to a different spot along the dripline, refill, and let drain.  Continue moving the bucket until you've watered as much as needed for the tree.  Obviously this works better for trees that are smaller than for those that are older - if only because with larger trunked trees, you'll be moving the buckets around for hours.  As it stands right now, I can water all of my trees in the front yard in an afternoon.  I also don't water them every week - I usually only do about once a month, and I'll start watering the Bradford Pear before the others because it gets hit harder by the drought.

Step 9:  Voila!  Your trees are watered and now they won't die.  You're welcome.

* Iffin you don't like my wording or directions, you can see an official City of Austin handout on tree care during droughts here:  http://www.austintexas.gov/sites/default/files/files/Watershed/growgreen/treecare.pdf

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Getting the Good Stuff

So this last weekend was both wonderful and horrible.  Okay, not horrible - just frustrating.

Milkweed with rain drops

On the wonderful side - we got rain!  I got about 4" at my house.  According to all the official gauge data I can find, we didn't get that much.  We are supposed to have gotten 3" or less.  But our rain gauges at the house were showing 4".  Is it possible that our rain gauges will read high?  Absolutely.  It's also possible that they read low.  I really should get a nice rain gauge and put it somewhere a bit more conducive to measuring the amount of rain we got (perhaps having it on the top of the fence would be a bit more accurate).

Non-fragrant plumeria bloom

On the frustrating side - right after I came back from hanging out with a group of Austin area garden bloggers, a stray dog came running up to me.  The poor thing was soaked (we had just had a deluge of rain - based on the fact that the roadways were wet and Lake Creek was a-flowin' full).  He also was not neutered, and when I took him to the vet office down the street, he was not microchipped, nor did he have any tags (though he did have a harness on) (take away lesson for you, dear reader - spay and neuter your pets, get them microchipped, AND have tags on them). 

Poor lost doggie who may end up being put down due to the fact that all the animal shelters in the region are overstuffed with animals.  Make sure to microchip your pets, people!  The last stray I found wandering our street had a microchip, and was reunited with her owners within an hour.  Microchips work. 
We kept him overnight and then took him to the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter since the Austin Animal Center won't accept strays from the Williamson County portion of the City of Austin because...well, I'm not sure why.**  Their website makes no indication that they do not accept animals from the Williamson County portion of Austin's jurisdiction... It's a conundrum!  I'm glad I know this now - 1) if I find a stray animal again, I know to take him to Georgetown, not Austin and 2) when it comes time for me to make my yearly donations to the animal shelter, I can put the money where it will do the most good.

**disclaimer:  this is what I was told by both a staff person and a volunteer after we took the dog there.  This, naturally, goes against what the 311 operator told me, not to mention that there was no mention during my own AAC volunteer training that they do not service the entire Austin full purpose jurisdiction.  Is it possible that the two people I talked to at the shelter are misinformed and the Austin Animal Center actually does service the Austin full purpose jurisdiction? Yes, it is a distinct possibility.  Is it also possible that the Austin Animal Center only services Travis County? Yes, that's also possible.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that "your mileage may vary" and if you find a stray within the City of Austin Full Purpose Jurisdiction (which does include portions of both Williamson and Hays Counties) that you should call the shelter directly and ask a staff person there instead of calling 311 first (note:  chances are likely if you call the shelter and tell them you need to file a found animal report, they will send you to 311 because that's the quickest way for the information to get into the system.  Just ask them to clarify, if you can't keep the animal, that you are allowed to bring it into the shelter - and make sure to get their name so if you show up and are told that they won't accept the animal, you can at least say "I spoke with so-and-so on the phone 30 minutes ago, s/he told me to bring the animal here").

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Around the Yard - Early Sept 2013 - Edibles Edition

Finally we come to my "Edibles" Section of the yard (never you mind that I have herbs all over the place so it's not a TRUE 'edibles only' section). The garden proper looks sad.  I mean, comparatively...as in 'compared to other peoples' gardens.'  I think it's because I never fertilize.  I hardly ever add compost, and I don't think I've refreshed the mulch in a few years.  So yeah.  I PLAN on pulling out the summer plants, digging out all the mulch, adding some soil & compost, and then adding both the mulch I still have and fresh mulch.  Of course, this plan would work much better if I didn't have herbs and other plants that will survive year-round.  

Looking toward the photinia

Looking away from the photinia

A few years ago, I made the mistake of adding lemon balm to the garden.  It was intentional - it was one of my science experiments.  The experiment was to see if it repelled the squash vine borer.  I didn't notice any difference, as in, all my squash was still destroyed.  We did, however, discover that lemon balm works relatively well as a mosquito repellent.  Temporarily, at least.  And I'd rather smell like lemon than sweat.  And so, the lemon balm was given reprieve after reprieve.  Then I added Garlic Chives, and two Chile Pequin, and Swiss Chard, and Thyme, and Oregano.  And now I have have very little space in my gardens for important plants like tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.  Ironically, I just recently pulled out all the lemon balm because I don't really use it for anything and it doesn't seem like any of the beneficials like it either.  

Maybe I should move the herbs to a different location (perhaps to the area by the possumhaws).  I should really clear out the area where I actually PLAN to plant chile pequins and move them this fall.

Potato Box plants...none of which are potatoes.  Naturally.  Also, I don't remember why there's a pipe-cleaner twisted around the one post.  I'm sure I had a good reason at the time.
We also have a potato box full of plants that aren't potatoes.  Because of course we do.  We created the potato box because my mom said that I just HAD to do a potato box.  We have grown potatoes in it twice.  and I've never had to go more than 3 slats high.  The grand plan, of course, is to plant the seed potatoes in the ground, as the plants grow, you add a slat and some dirt.  Then the plants grow more and you add another slat and more dirt.  Continue so on and so forth until you've got six slats and a shit-ton of potatoes (also, 'shit-ton' is the SI unit, just so you know).  Actually, I wonder how this would work on a smaller scale for tomato plants - you know, since tomatoes create roots where the stem is buried...would you end up with more tomatoes?  I feel another experiment coming on.

Anyhoo, back to the potato box plants that aren't potatoes.  In case you haven't already noticed, the husband and I are, generally speaking, lazy.  Why put away your garden stuff when it's past the season which you're using it for when you can just leave it out there creating an eye-sore in your yard?  We tell ourselves that we've left it there to help the Arizona Ash stump decompose quicker.  In reality it's just that we're lazy and we keep saying that we'll try potatoes again.  In the mean time, I use it as a regular planting bed.  Right now it's got a Habanero, Eggplants, an Orange Fogo Pepper, and a Cossack Pineapple ground cherry.  Let me tell you about the ground cherry.  I got the seeds from The Great Outdoors when I went to get a Christmas gift for my mother in law.  They were on clearance, and they were right by the register.  I thought they were some type of tomato-like plant.  And I guess they technically are since they're in the same family.  The fruit looks like little tomatillos, and they are sweet and tart.  I like them.  The husband isn't as much of a fan, but he'll eat them.  The plant we have has been doing pretty well and making a bunch of fruit.  They're like peas, though - you have to have a bunch of plants to get enough to do something with otherwise, they're just an item that you stand out in the garden eating the ripe ones when you see them.

The eggplants just recently started flowering, so I don't know if we'll get anything from them this year.  The habanero and the orange fogo will be dug up in about a month and I'll try to keep them alive through the winter so I can use them next spring.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Around the Yard - Early Sept 2013 - Back yard

Rather than do a gazillion posts (like I did for the front yard), I figure you all can handle just having one whole slew of photos of the back yard.

I'm starting to really like the back yard.  I'm also starting to really want to get back to working on it.  Unfortunately, I have a feeling that my yard is going to take a back seat to my parents yard this fall as they will have to have all their garden beds and plants designed and planted by the beginning of March.  Which is both awesome and mind boggling.  Po' Shawn.  He's always complaining that I never spend enough time doing the yard work here at the house (more like I can find better things to do with my time than shear back plants or spread a few handfuls of compost), and this year there will likely be very little headway made on my backyard plan because I will be helping my parents with theirs.

Above is a picture of the Iris Bed.  you can see the original photos here.  It has obviously grown.  The only downside is that only one of the irises bloomed this year - a Cemetery White.  I also think the Jesse's Song iris died - or at least all of the leaves turned brown and disappeared.  I'm not sure what, if anything, I'm doing wrong - maybe they're getting too much water, maybe they need to be fertilized, maybe they just don't get enough sunlight, or hell, maybe irises don't bloom that first year.  I don't know.  I should probably do some research into that...  The artemisia (front) could stand to have a haircut.  I have a feeling that the iris and the artemisia need much less water than they're getting in this spot - which means the problem is the petunia (back) because I'll water when they start looking sad - which is about once a week or so.

The "Mull-shay" bed, on the other hand, looks fantastic.  Again - if we can just ignore the syrup barrel composter, the line of limestone blocks that I need to use and the fallen leaves, it would be pretty awesome.  I'm not too happy with the Firespike (it's the tallish plant on the right in the front) as it requires more water than I like to give plants.  I also, however, have a problem with removing plants...so I guess I need to hope for it to die off in some fashion.  The Yarrow (the little plants in the front) are a bit of a disappointment, but maybe they just follow the adage, "first year they creep, second year they sleep, and third year they leap."  I also have 4 Beauty Berry Bushes in little 6" pots by the Shrimp Plant (you can make out one pot in the far left of the photo).  The Liriope (the strappy foliage) looks like it's trying to take over, and I do plan on removing a large clump of it since it's right in the middle of the pathway I take to the syrup composter.  I will likely give this giant clump of liriope to my parents for their yard.

The "Grass Bed" was only ever half completed - as in I planted the grasses, but I never removed the St. Augustine.  The plan was actually that the St. Augustine was supposed to have died out over this summer.  Then we'd remove it and mulch the area and have a nice large mulched area for the clump grasses to go wild.  The husband, however, decided that this was the year that he wasn't going to let the St. Augustine die off - mostly because this area is pretty decent, so his plan is to baby this area to get it good and healthy, then cut it up in strips and go place it in areas that the grass actually has died out.  One of the Big Muhlies I planted died, so I think I'll put my little Caldwell Pink Rose in it's place - which means that there are 2 Big Muhlies and 2 Gulf Muhlies and 1 Pink Rose that's smack in the middle of them.  I think it will probably look a little weird, but maybe I can fill in with some more Gulf Muhly or something.

The Photinia Bed went a bit crazy.  It's mostly due to whatever plant it is that I seeded over there (cosmos maybe?).  And as you can tell, that is the problem - I don't remember what seeds I threw out there, only that I threw them out there and they actually did start to grow.  And grow.  And grow.  They're now 4 feet tall or so and show no signs of flowering.  The area also has some Giant Mexican Petunia (mostly hidden by the other plants), and Milkweed in the front.  I hope the Milkweed and Petunias return next year...and if I can only have one, I hope it's the milkweed. 

Possumhaw bed - nothing much here other than I added an Autumn Sage (I got it for my parents and then ended up keeping it).  And there are some self-seeded Wild Petunia.

The Rain Barrel Bed is starting to look pretty good - it has Brazos Penstemmon (in the back - and you can make out the seed heads which have fallen over), the Hamelia Patens "Nana" which is blooming, and then a "Blue Penstemmon" in the front, which also does not look like it plans to bloom anytime soon.  I may end up moving the penstemmon to the possumhaw bed to give the Hamelia more room (especially considering that the Hamelia was the only thing on the plan in this area).

The Rock Bed is filling in nicely - I really should stay on top of the Henry Duelberg sage (in the rocks, on the left) - as in, I really need to cut back the long stems.  I just never can do it because it always seems to have a small amount of blooms which the bees really appreciate.  The funny thing, of course, is that I'm sure if I cut it back and watered it, it would bloom more prolifically.  The Agave Lopantha is starting to pup (you can make out the mother plant in the rocks between, and behind, the sage and the rosemary which is front right).  In pots, there's a Plumeria (the tree looking thing on the left), and a pot full of self-seeded Thai Basil.  I should harvest it and make some more basil cubes.

Back on the other side of the yard, and next to the Mull-shay Bed, is the Turk's Cap Bed.  The grasshoppers really did a number on all of my Turk's Cap this year - 4 plants and not a one looks good.  The Turk's Cap is on the left (in case anyone didn't already know that), the Passion Vine (on the fence) has bloomed off and on all summer - would probably bloom more if I bothered to fertilize (aka Seaweeded or Fish Emulsioned) and water with some consistency.  The Mexican Petunia (the tall plant right in front of the thermometer) likes this area a bunch - it's probably it's favorite location, but I'll eventually remove it all; once the Yaupon (which you can't even see) gets bigger.  While I like the blooms of the White Philippine Violet (right), I don't like how much water it needs - between it and the Firespike mentioned above, I'm always watering one or the other with a bucket of water.  I think I like this one just a tad more than the other, so I don't really want this one to die.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Around the Yard - Early Sept 2013 - Rose Bed

Out front, I have the area that I call "The Rose Bed."  It is named as such since the only things that the bed has ever had in it is a rose bush (Dr. Huey), and Asiatic Jasmine.  The jasmine died during the great heat wave of "aught 8" [note:  Really it was 2011, but I think "aught 8" has a nice ring to it, so I shall go with it].  In summer 2012, I decided it was time to remove the dead jasmine; you can see pictures of the process here.  I planted Zexmenia (front left) because I like the yellow/orange flowers and the fact that the plant can survive handily without additional water.  Of course, I also watered this bed a bit more frequently in 2012 because I was trying to get the plants established.  And established they did become.  The zexmenia seeded out prolifically, you can't even see the Chocolate Daisy anymore and the Summer Thyme is beginning to be overtaken (right in front of the rose).  The Dwarf Lion's tail (in the back on the left) is relatively huge, and the Blackfoot Daisies (with white flowers) are doing swimmingly.  All that being said...this bed needs a haircut. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Around the Yard - Early Sept 2013 - Front Bed

My the front bed looks a little sad.  I think I need to remove the Guara (front and center), the old Parsley plant (on the front-left), and the dead Coreopsis plants (in the back).  As I said - everything just generally needs a haircut.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Around the Yard - Early Sept 2013 - Entry Beds

And we continue on with the tour of the yard. Next we will look at the entry walkway beds. I don't really have a reason why I'm jumping to this area (actually, I do - it's because the names were next in the list of photos).

Walking up to the front door, the pathway can be pretty overgrown at times - the Gregg's Mistflower and Lantana (both on the left) like to spill over a lot.  And the Culinary Ginger (in the pot), always grows like a little kid's chives experiment.  In front of the ginger, succulent pots do most of the heavy lifting for interest since the Society Garlic and Dwarf Petunias all end up looking pretty sad.  You'd never know it, but there's also passionvine along the right side - the caterpillars keep it pretty mowed down (most of the time, there are only little 6" twigs of it sticking up)

Under the front windows, I have a bed of Artemisia which has a Pam's Pink Turk's Cap as well as a Chile Pequin, and a tiny Pale Pavonia plant along the front edge.  The Chile Pequin is in more shade than it would like, so it doesn't set out a whole bunch of peppers, and I tend to leave them for the birds anyhow.  The avocado tree which I grew from a pit is in the pot to the right.  I started it in 2005, and it's been an outside only plant for the last 2 winters (though it will occasionally be pulled to be right under the light and wrapped in blankets if the weather warrants).

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Around the Yard - Early Sept 2013 - Hell Strip

My dad is now on the mend, and the 'rents will be moving out of the house tomorrow, so I hope to maybe, possibly, have more time to blog in the near future. The problem, of course, is the husband - he now has it in his head that we must exercise every day. EVERY DAY! We exercise after we come home; so after getting home, exercising, showering and eating dinner, we usually have about an hour before we go to bed. Not much time for blogging when we do things that way. So I may end up resorting to creating blog entries to be posted at a later date (not like I don't do that already).

Anyhoo - I figured, since it's been a while, that I would start with some photos from around the yard - just so you can see what it looks like in all its crispy glory. (Don't worry - I'll get to the 'how to water trees in a drought' eventually - probably next weekend)

In the photo above, the Artemisia (the silvery plant) looks pretty darn good - and the Alamo Vine (on the mail box) as well.  Other plants that seem to be doing pretty well include Santolina (both gray and green - you can see them close to the car tire), and the Ruby Crystals grass (next to the Santolina).  Plants that aren't doing so well include a plethora of some type of sage that was a tag-a-long plant from some plant that I purchased (I let it reseed - when it gets enough water it looks pretty darn good), and Tahoka Daisy (I just think it's at the end of it's life cycle because it usually looks really good in the spring).  The neighbor's patch of grass is pretty crisp-i-fied and there is a giant Fire Ant mound.  Yippie!

In the above picture, there really isn't anything that's doing exceptionally well.  This is because all the Dahlberg Daisies are reseeding and will die off soon.  There really isn't a whole lot else in this bed - there's a Mexican Feather Grass which is dead (or dying), and Prairie Fleabane (currently reseeding).  And a bunch of weeds...A whole bunch of weeds.  I will probably be tackling this next weekend.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Stay Tuned for Watering Trees in a Drought

Ifin I don't remember, someone needs to remind me to post about watering trees in a drought.  Added bonus of a picture of my "Tree Waterin' Bukkit"

Also, I should take updated photos of the front bed, the hell strips, the iris bed, the garden, the photinia bed, the mull-shay...So yeah, I really need to get out and take photos.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

On Watering

Dude.  Watering Plants Sucks.  That's right - watering sucks so much that it requires Capital letters.  CAPITALS!

I heard a rumor today that Cedar Park may be going to 'no outdoor watering' as of February 1 if we don't start getting some good rains...And there are dire predictions for this drought to last for another 3-5 years.  Which means that come hell or high water (ha!  get it?!), peoples' landscapes are going to be changing.  Even having a small vegetable garden may be changing in the near future.

Seriously.  Conserve your water.  We've taken to keeping a bucket in the shower that we move in and out of the stream of water as we soap up or whatever (it's kinda like a modified European shower - since Shawn and I shower together, it gets annoying to turn on and off the water every time we switch, hence the bucket - it actually works pretty well and we usually get about 3 gallons every shower).  If we're running water for the sink, we will use our big stockpot to collect the water until it's hot.  We've already replaced our shower heads, toilets and faucets with low-flow equivalents.  I've also been working on the landscape to get it more self sufficient - but we still have a ways to go.  Some of the plants I have just don't handle the heat well - the Philippine Violet and Firespike wilt easily and get watered frequently, but the Turk's Cap, Shrimp Plant and Liriope only get water maybe once a week.  The Rose Bed out front only gets watered once every other week - like that's totally awesome.  But I do have to put blinders on because otherwise I'd be watering everything all the time. 

Sigh.  Stupid drought.  But you know what they say - droughts are broken by floods.  So be sure to prepare for the eventual flood - if you're in a floodplain, have an escape route and an emergency kit, determine if you should get flood insurance (flood damage isn't covered by your standard home-owner's insurance), and always be situationally aware (actually, that goes for all of us).  If you use Windows or Apple OS (but not an i-product or Linux), you can view the City of Austin's floodplain viewer online to help determine where the floodplains are by your house or on your normal driving routes - http://ATXFloodPro.com.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

August = Blah

Usually August isn't so bad.  Oh! Don't get me wrong - it's hot, miserable, and the plants and cats hate it (okay, the one cat loves it, but she'd live in the oven if I let her).  BUT!  There's an end in sight - the sun starts to go down a little earlier, it doesn't quite feel like it's trying to kill everything at 6:30 at night.

And I suppose it's not that bad this time around either, but it just seems worse since I've actually had tomato plants give up the ghost (first time I can remember that plants have actually died - sure they wouldn't look good, but they didn't die).  And the tomato plants get watered every day!  Some plants do better than others - the Rose Bed gets by with almost no water at all and looks great, while the Hell Strip area can look a little weedy if the plants aren't blooming.  I'm most impressed by my little Caldwell Pink Rose - it's in a small 1-gallon pot, it gets full sun, and while it does get watered every day, it's actually thriving - my pepper plants in pots aren't doing nearly as well.  The Firespike and Philippine Violet both use more water than I'd like (the violet more so this year than in the past because I moved it to a location that gets more sun), and the passionvine and Turk's Cap need more water than I'm willing to give if they're ever going to bloom consistently, but otherwise most of the ornamentals are keeping on, keeping on.

But seriously, maybe the garden would look better if I pulled out all the dead plants...

Also, as a head's up - I know blogging has been a little light around these here parts, and it's mostly been because we've been trying to go for a jog every night after work.  And now it's probably going to get even more sparse because my Dad had to be taken to the hospital on Thursday with heart problems.  He's doing better now, but does have to have a heart valve replaced on Monday - so any thoughts and prayers you can spare would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Anderson Mill Mini-Triathlon

I felt that I should post this here, mostly because I haven't been updating my normal blog with any sort of regularity, but I still update this blog and most of my friends who read the other one read this one. Besides, if I ever see you in person you know that I've been complaining about the crazy workouts that my husband and I have been doing in order to train for a [mythical] triathlon.

Our neighborhood does a Mini Triathlon two times a year (it might actually be more, I'm not sure). We participated in the July triathlon. It's not a big one, and in fact there are a bunch of kids who compete. The overall event is 300 meters swimming, 2 miles biking, and 1 mile running. Easy enough that you can do it even if you haven't been training, but hard enough to wish that you had.

Us before the race - God I look tired.  I'm not a morning person in case that wasn't already clear.

My husband took our waterproof camera to take photos, but then didn't bother actually taking it while he was doing the course. Since he finished 5 minutes before I did, he got to take some pictures of me competing. Below is the only one that you could actually see me (the camera doesn't exactly have a great zoom function).
Me acting like a goof ball - only 25 yards to go.  To be fair, I did sprint the rest of the way.
We had done a practice mini-triathlon the weekend before the event and I did all 3 legs in a grand total of 41 minutes.  Not great, but then I wasn't trying to go fast; and we were doing slightly longer biking and running portions because we were doing it from our house instead of from the swimming pool.  During the actual event, I did it in 29 minutes.

Now to start training for the September event.

Friday, August 2, 2013

NxNA garden tour: Deckert Garden

The final stop on the NxNA Garden tour was at the Deckert Garden.  I was immediately taken with the Desert Willow on the corner of the lot.  And then I noticed the awesome combo of Knockout Rose with Purple Heart.

Further along the curb front, there was a very nice plumbago plant with some white sage.

Close to the front door, there was a table full of wonderous kitsch.

And next to the table, a stack of balanced rocks topped with some gorgeous glass.

Around the side of the house, an eclectic path

Which leads to an elevated deck

On an old tree stump sits a purple sweet potato vine in a pot.

And of course wine bottles are put to good use as edging.

A view from the back of the yard looking toward the house - Ms. Deckert is at the corner of the deck - the work of a gardener is never done and even on the tour day, she was still doing yard projects.

On the ledge of the deck, there is a cute bird made of a shovel head, some pliers and a bike fork.  Ms. Deckert told me she found it at a garage sale for $5. 

A final view from the front yard

Ms. Deckert and I spent some time talking about the tour - she wasn't the first who said that the major downfall of the tour is that those who are hosting it can't go and see all the other gardens.  I agreed and thought that she should mention it to the organizer to see if maybe they could do a tour for just the tour hosts - you know go from one garden to the next as a group so they could see the other gardens.  She also told me that it's so nice to be able to share her yard with others who actually appreciate all the hard work that goes into creating and maintaining it - you know, like-minded individuals actually getting to meet and talk about plants.

All in all, the NxNA garden tour was a great success - the only complaint I had was that there were so many gardens it was difficult to get to all of them - I only went to 14 of them, and I skipped 5.  All of the hosts were very gracious and out going and I had a blast talking to everyone.  I've gotten some great ideas for my own yard (the husband is a little scared, to be honest), and I look forward to having another NxNA garden tour next year.