Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Garden House

January is a prime month for cleaning out and reorganizing. 
First, it's cold and rainy outside.
And there's something about packing up all that holiday stuff, and seeing the house fresh and uncluttered again, that encourages me to take on other tidying projects. 
(Plus I had just finished reading Marie Kondo's book 'The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up'!)

The garden house was an obvious target.
Various tools and materials had migrated between the two rooms of the garden house and the garage to the point where it seemed we spent as much time looking for stuff as getting things done.

We decided to shift all the garden stuff to the smaller front room and use the large back room as a workshop. Now the garage is just for the car (and during the winter the boat).

Just like the garage, the walls of the garden house are galvanized metal sheets instead of the usual drywall. It's great - bright, reflective, sturdy and we never have to paint it.

The aluminum shutters visible on the back wall can be opened to allow ventilation to flow from the workshop room behind which is lined with roll-out windows.

My husband attached a wooden board along the walls. The ripple in the metal siding allows space for an assortment of movable hooks. 

Permanent supports hold up awkward items like rakes and shovels.
We used to store these in a rolling cart, but it was always difficult to find what I wanted and pull it out. Now I can easily see everything!




I feel so organized all of a sudden!

Outside, I still haven't decided what to do about the latest round of wave damage.
Once again all the stones and logs where rolled up and over and six feet beyond where they were put.
Hmmm...bigger rocks?

An amazing number of plants are still in bloom, although we have had several small freezes.
The lantana, verbena, cilantro and roses are still hanging on as the camellias start to bud.

I'm not gardening, but I am spending time with all the beautiful bulb and flower catalogs!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Our Christmas cactus is in bloom at exactly the right time!
I left it outside in the shade all summer, and didn't bring it in until last week.  That must be the trick, because usually it doesn't put on a show until February.

I'm mostly finished cooking
The table is set for tonight's feast.
Kye has his glad rags on.

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!


Monday, December 7, 2015

Starting That Holiday Decorating!

Four days of rain over Thanksgiving weekend kept us indoors, so we turned our energies to dragging out and sorting through the Christmas decorations.
Fortunately, my mother loves creating holiday vignettes, so I had plenty of creative help!

We started with the window ledge in the kitchen, mixing artificial greens with real acorns and pine cones.

Then came a Santa figure and a little wooden sheep.

I made the rustic birdhouse on the right a few years ago using a cardboard tea box as the base.
It's covered with bark and topped with a pine cone. The entrance hole is an acorn cap. It's amazing what a glue gun can magic into being!
I have quite a few of these little bird houses, and we got to thinking about how pretty it might look if we could hang some of them in the window.

I found a wet but sturdy branch in a pile of old pruned sticks.
It had nice curve, and was just the size of the window. 


We were able to hang it with fishing line.
I used the glue gun to attach the birds and some bits of greenery.


So that was this years first vignette!

This past weekend was gorgeous. 
We took the dog, boated over the the Harbor Club for lunch, and sat outside in the warm sun.
It would be so nice if this weather lasted through Christmas!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

October Rains

Those predicted heavy rains showed up right on schedule. 
It was a steady downpour for three days.

The rain did not stop Kye from chasing squirrels, but it did raise the lake level inch by inch.

More than 20 inches in 24 hours had the water rising so quickly it topped the seawall.

Fortunately there was very little wind, so we did not have any garden damage from wave action.
And the boat house is equipped with lifts so that the boats can't swim around.

Once the rains stopped the water drained away from the yard within half a day.
The bonus was all the nitrogen in the rain water greened everything up very quickly.

After blooming a pale and faded pink during the drought months, this Bayse's Blue Rose suddenly put out bright magenta flowers.

And the Old Blush rose bush covered itself with new blooms for the first week of November.

In the front yard, the upper level path was almost complete when the storm arrived.

We have learned not to walk on these newly laid stones until the ground dries back up and we finish securing them in place. Otherwise the path will buckle unevenly.

It will be so nice to be able to walk this loop without getting muddy.
And to start collecting some new plants and bulbs!

The rains continued for a second weekend, but as we were leaving on Sunday a bit of sun broke through the clouds. Maybe next weekend I can get those pansies planted!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Mexican Mint Marigold

The most eye-catching fall color in our garden comes from the deep yellow flowers of 
Mexican Mint Marigold.  
This perennial herb is cut to the ground in late winter, puts out vigorous shoots in the spring, and bursts into bloom in the late fall.


In Mexico these blossoms are known as flores del muerto because they are such a popular decoration for altars and graves on November 1st, the Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead celebration.

Bumble bees and honey bees love these little golden flowers.
They are very easy to grow in the ground or in pots.  


Native to the new world, Mexican Mint Marigold (Tagetes lucida) has a long history of medicinal use as well as a seasoning for food.  The leaves smell amazing - like a very bright tarragon.  It's sometimes called Texas tarragon.


This is one of our newer roses, Republic of Texas, planted last spring and just starting to put on a show.  It's another pioneer rose from the Antique Rose Emporium.  It will stay small at two or three feet, so I tucked it into the raised bed along the pool retaining wall. 


This is another rose that arrived at the same time, Skyrocket, a hybrid musk climber. I forgot to take a close-up photo, but it's flowers are a pinky-red color. 
I picked it because it is supposed to a vigorous climber (10-12 feet), and I want to train it to wrap itself around our mostly dead bumelia tree.  A mostly dead tree should make a fine support for roses and birdhouses - we'll see how that goes.
It's very thorny and so got a good grip on the bark as soon as it could reach the tree, but I added a temporary twine support to see it through the winter weather. 


I've been trying to finish this corner garden before the winter rains.
I used stone around the old tree to make easy footing for rose care and bird feeder refills, etc. 
I also used stone and garden fabric along the sidewalk that borders the seawall.
This is where last springs wild wave action washed out mulch and sticks and soil, leaving so many roots exposed.


These new rocks and stones are bigger, so fingers crossed.  The stump is very heavy, but I think any really big waves may roll it right over the plants...hmm. Unfortunately we may be tested this weekend before I can finish! There are heavy rains in the forecast.


Well, we certainly need the rain. Maybe it will be a gentle steady downpour!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Garden Conservancy: Texas Open Day

The Garden Conservancy, an organization founded on the idea of "gardens helping gardens", hosted an open garden tour day in Dallas this month.
My husband and I visited one of the private gardens generously opened to the public.
The Thomas house, built in the 1920's and now under the loving care of its second owners, was a delight and an inspiration.


Set well back from a fairly busy street, the house sits on a crest above a sloping and wooded front garden.  Walking through the iron gates and up the brick driveway is like being gently transported to the south of France.


Street noise is replaced by bird song and the cooing of their dule of doves from their cote under the trees.  This is a green garden, highlighted for the season with mounds of white mums and white pumpkins.


We were particularly taken with the way in which this garden was both wild and formal.  Beautiful terracotta pots and clipped shrubs marked the winding gravel paths, while the areas under the trees rambled with various ground-covers and woodland 'volunteers'.


The front veranda provided the perfect shady spot for relaxing. 


And the view back toward the street never hinted that this was the middle of Dallas.


Off the front veranda, to the side of the house, was a sunny pool and dining area. 


I loved the sky blue window boxes lining the second floor terrace.
Cactus and mums - an unexpected and fun combination!


And the tiny balcony with its trio of pots seemed just the perfect touch.


Along one side of the pool garden there was a handsome fountain. And behind the fountain, up a short staircase just off the garage area, was quite a surprise...


Possibly the cutest chicken house I've ever seen!


Several roosters made regular announcements as the hens clucked in agreement.
The hen house had its own little parterre garden and a charming shell encrusted fountain.


Visiting other gardens, large or small, formal or free form, is always a treat!
Happy gardening, friends!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Roses That Stand Up to Heat

I love roses and have been working them into our landscape wherever I can find an opening. Like every Texas gardener seduced by roses, I'm trying to collect really tough plants.

Here are a few I can recommend and one I'd like to add.

 In my own garden I continue to have good luck with the lovely Gideon Lincecum.


 The flowers are pure white, open form and topped by large puffs of bright yellow stamens that the bees love. The leaves are a dark and leathery green. I have four of these plants in different locations, and they have each proven to be tough as well as beautiful.


Plus, to top it off, this rose produces big, gorgeous orange hips!


The Gideon Lincecum is one of the pioneer roses introduced by the Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham, Texas.  It was named for an exceptional early Texas settler, Dr. Gideon Lincecum (1793-1874), a physician, naturalist, historian and author.

At the end of August I returned to the rose test gardens in Farmers Branch to see which of the 100 varieties planted back in 2008 were looking their best after a long hot summer.

 There were several white roses that looked particularly good, with lots of healthy leaves and flowers.


This is Cole's Settlement, another pioneer rose. After seven years it's about 4'x3', and looking full and healthy.


Here is my Cole's Settlement when it was first planted. This has been a good rose for me, too. It's similar to Gideon Lincecum, but in my garden it doesn't produce quite as many flowers, and the leaves are not that very deep green that sets off the Lincecum blossoms so nicely.

I think both of them are prettier than Iceberg. This is my Iceberg rose. 
It looks best from a distance. I've seen it used as a hedge to great effect.


Also looking good in the trial gardens was Lion's Fairy Tale.
 Kordes introduced this rose in 2002, and it was the rose of the year in England in 2006. It's a tall and bushy floribunda with creamy, blush white flowers.  Even after day after day of temperatures topping 100 it was covered in new growth. I'm putting this one on my wish list.


Back home, Fourth of July has put on a great show all summer.


It's a wild and crazy climber, with lots of thorns. Fortunately it's in a corner away from any walking paths! I love the random white stripes.


These are the delicate pink blossoms of the Swamp Rose.


Planted just this spring, the bush is already a good sized 3'x3'.


Something stung me, right through my garden glove, as I was pruning a Knockout rose.
I dashed inside and put nail polish remover on it (yes, it helps, I don't know why).
It wasn't until the next day that I saw this wasp's nest right in the middle of the plant!
Nasty little critters!


Fall is coming and the pleasure of gardening in cooler days!