Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Wave Action

A sudden storm on Saturday evening pointed out a flaw in my garden planning. While gentle rains drain down the hill and wash mulch into the lake, fierce storms create wave action that breaches the seawall and washes the mulch into the yard.
Assaulted from both directions!

From inside the house we watched ten foot spums of spray crash up and over the wall and fence.
Very dramatic!
 Our heavy wooden rocking chairs went sailing by into the bushes.
We were so engrossed that we didn't even noticed our dog eating the full dinner plate that my husband had just set down on the coffee table (steak & baked potato with sour cream gone, asperagus untouched).

The logs and stones that my garden friend and I put into place last weekend along the lake sidewalk were washed right up and over the plants. 
Some poor plants were flattened, others washed to bare root status.

The next day my husband put the gravel path back together using more stones to weigh down the garden fabric.

Then he got the logs back in place, and I began staking them on both sides, adding gravel and more stones.
 The trick is those logs float, so we'll see how well this works!

Around the oak tree, whose roots were exposed, I added more soil and mulch, and built a nest of twigs and sticks to try and keep it covered.

The sedum held up very well, so perhaps encouraging it to continue to spread and grow around the twigs will help.

I did collect a bouquet of butterfly bush flowers before the storm.

Such a gorgeous color!
I have them in three shades of lavender. This is the middle tone. I love the red eye at the center of each tiny floret, and they do smell lovely - not as enchanting as lilacs, but very sweet.
Happy gardening, friends!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Garden 'Volunteers', Good and Bad

Here is the seawall garden, freshly weeded and looking its best, compliments of a dear friend visiting from the northeast. 
This tenacious weeder and I spent two and half days working from the pointy end to the far fence, wrangling out weeds and the invading roots of our St. Augustine lawn.
 I fear it's a no-win situation with that grass - it can't believe its not welcome. 
Twelve inches down we found fat healthy runners and pulled up five foot lengths!
(That little strip of metal edging is not a barrier of any sort.)

But we had a great time, taking breaks in the pool, working through rain and baking humidity - the kind of activity only real garden nuts enjoy!

The purple day lilies have taken over from the peach and yellow varieties.

Up close they look like watercolors, right down to the crenelations between the colors.

Also in a lavender shade and just beginning to show are the liatris.

These native perennials are sometimes called Blazing Star or Gayfeather.

The big surprise was the number of rampant kitchen garden volunteers that seemed to spring up overnight.
This zucchini set root between the chives.

I pulled another that was overwhelming the tomato cages.
All the rain and mild temperatures have created a perfect zucchini environment.

This squash vine was tangled up with volunteer tomatoes and zucchini plants, all crowning the compost heap.

And the best surprise was this big fella, cascading over the stone wall in the east corner garden.

When we pulled back the leaves we found a pumpkin!
Surprising because I've never tried to grow pumpkins or even compost Halloween pumpkins.

The rains came and went, and the water was rough, but we did manage a boat ride. We hadn't seen the house from the water for a long time. It's so nice to be surrounded by moisture after all the dry months. The plants feel the same way!

Happy gardening, friends!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Art Inspiration from Rising Waters

Well, we have more water in Texas these days than we ever thought to see!
There's has been a lot of flooding and damage and danger sround the state.

Our lake is full, but the creeks feeding it are still running fast and high above their banks. It will take weeks to move the water toward the sea in a controlled way.

Starved for water or flooded out - our relationship with nature is a delicate thing.

Thinking about that balancing act was the inspiration for a collage of hand-painted and recycled papers.

I titled this Dominion as question rather than an answer. As we struggle to maintain a healthy relationship with Mother Nature, where is the tipping point?

The squares and rectangles are balanced against irregular, organic shapes;
 human needs against the natural world;
 both pushing and resisting.

Below is a close-up of some of the detail work.

Artists Webpage for Dominion

Back in the garden there were lots of blues and greens, too!

The vitex tree/bush is in glorious bloom.

And so is the germander, each plant covered with tiny, drooping lavender bells.

The rain did clear off enough last weekend to allow construction of our pergola.
We've been going back and forth on this design since building the house.

We wanted to create more shade at this end of the pool, and more privacy from the property next door.  
This area feels very exposed now that the bumelia tree in the background below has died back to about a fifth of its former size (termites!).  I think we are going to have to get creative and come up with interesting ideas for the remains of a dead tree by next summer.

While the carpenters worked on the pergola, I was rescuing mulch. 

The little wooly stemodia plant above held its mulch with the help of  mini twig fence.
But in other places the mulch just floated away towards the drains or across the paths and driveway.
Such a waste!

On Saturday I made this twig edging to hold the mulch in this area.
This is the driveway garden, a large square space (maybe forty by fifty feet) that I am filling in bit by bit. 
I need two more flats of trailing rosemary to finish the curve on the right, before going to work on the left.  Now it seems this twig edging is also a nice rustic way to remind myself where to step - a gardeners path for weeding and trimming!

Here's to some sun for the next few days and a chance to dry out!
Happy gardening!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sad Roses & Delighted Day Lilies

The weather in Texas this spring has been wet enough to support a true English garden!

 My drought tolerant plants look weary, the roses are getting black spot and dropping all their leaves,
 but the day lilies are having their best year yet. 

This garden area is very close to the sea wall and exposed to the wind, but the lily stems are really hardy.

I think these star shaped yellow lilies are just as showy multi-petaled varieties. 
 And the flower pods are so cool.

The yarrow is really unhappy about the wet soil. 
Many of the canes just lay down and gave up!

But all the lavender (which refused to grow in the circle garden around St. Fiacre and so was replanted here and there around the property) is blooming like mad. Sometimes there is just no predicting how a plant is going to react.

Between storms my husband managed to get the supports for our raspberries and olalillieberries in place. This spot on the far side of the guest house is where we also plan to build a keyhole garden.

The supports look very rustic, but John cleverly attached the weathered wood to sturdy metal tree stakes.

The wire supports form a gentle V shape to support the canes as they grow.
I found the idea for the for the V supports on google and pinned quite a few pictures to Pinterest, if anyone else is looking for ideas.


My favorite job with the ground so wet is clearing weeds around little trees or perennials in the wild area, and then building little twig nests around them.  
This way they won't get stepped on , and the twigs hold the mulch in place.

 Sometimes I find a pretty volunteer!
Happy gardening friends, and here's hoping for a little sun this weekend!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mysteries of Painting: Texture Draws the Eye

Texture is a particularly interesting art element because it can manifest in so many ways.

For example, art can bring us texture as pure Illusion.

Many painting and drawing mediums allow artists to render textures with astonishing clarity and realism.  For centuries still life paintings were designed expressly to demonstrate an artists skill in representing various textures.
And it's fun to do - the closer you look, the more you see. It can be kind of addictive!

Pieter Claesz (1597-1660)   'Still Life with Musical Instrument's

In this collection of carefully observed objects, my hands-down favorite is the silver platter and loaf of bread. I think the artist favored it too, placing it dead center in the composition.
Those crusty slices of bread contrast gorgeously against the cool, mirror-like surface of the platter.

These wonderfully slippery looking fish by Jacob Gillig are so realistic that I can almost smell them!

Jacob Gillig (1636-1701)     'Freshwater Fish'

And these flowers look even more fragile situated on that hard marble surface.

Willem van Aelst (1627-1683)        'Flower Still Life'

Simulated textures can add a great deal to our appreciation and understanding of a subject.

 But in addition to illusion, there is another way in which a painter can use texture.
This is by creating Actual Texture.

 If we were allowed to touch the surface of this painting by Van Gogh with our eyes closed, our fingers would read the paintings textural changes from flower to flower.

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)   'Sunflowers'

Creating actual texture with paint is called impasto.
Notice the how selectively the texture has been applied against a relatively smooth background. These flowers seem to press against the restraints of the canvas as if to escape the confines of two dimensions!

This work is less realistic than the fish painting, less like a photograph, but very obviously the result of close observation of a specific vase of sunflowers.
 Van Gogh is inviting us to experience these sunflowers in a different way from the classical compositions of earlier generations.

A third way that artists employ texture is by adding materials other than paint to their canvas or board.
This type of actual texture is called collage.

Suzanne Oldham                                                                     Bouquet

This is collage of recycled papers. Inspired by my garden, I wanted to capture the exuberant energy of new growth in a way that I could not with brush strokes or with a realistic style.
 The raw, torn edges of the paper and their various unexpected surface textures feels very immediate to me. There is an untamed quality - just the thing for my untamed garden!

Examining how and why an artist uses texture is a fascinating way to approach a piece of art.

Have you ever found yourself  intrigued by an illusion or a surface before even considering the theme or subject?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

And the Rains Came!

The big news here is the big water!
After months of drought the rains have come, and the lake is reborn. 

On Saturday afternoon, as the next storm was brewing up,
 I took this view of our boathouse from the lot next door.

The photo below was taken last weekend.  
Our 200 foot beach had twindled down to a thin strip, and we had our fingers crossed that the waters would keep rising.

The wave action and driving winds are making short work of all the beach weeds (and baby trees).

Really, the rain has has been amazing (our word of the week), it just keeps coming!
It's supposed to rain all this next week, too!

The boathouse has been transformed from a long-legged tree house to a floating island.
It turned out to be too rough this weekend to get the boat into its cradle.

The gardens have been just popping with nitrogen-happy plants.
Also happy weeds. I should have used pre-emergent - who knew? - the ground has been been too dry and hard for much weed action over the last few years.

The tomatoes have set fruit and squash plant volunteers have been turning up all over the place.

The lysimachia returned, covered with fairy sized yellow bouquets.

I planted a Kangaroos Paw in this mosaic pot. I think the flowers look more like this roosters coxcomb than a marsupial paw. 

The Italian oregano is in full flower above a skirt of weeping rosemary.

Also in bloom in this bed: sage, thyme, mums, lavender, and santolina.

Last of all, I want to share another rose. 
This is Cole's Settlement, one of the pioneer roses from the Antique Rose Emporium. It arrived a couple of months ago, and is quickly becoming another favorite. The flowers are larger and more open faced than my other white roses.

I notice that my Iceberg roses are not happy, and are dropping most of their leaves. Apparently they prefer it hot and dry and are discouraged by all this wet and damp. 
Anyone else out there noticing the usually reliable Iceberg looking sickly???