Sunday, August 2, 2015

Armadillo Blues

Our yard is under armadillo attack.
These funny looking little dinosaurs have grubbed around a bit during the past few years, but they didn't do too much damage, so we were willing to share our plot of land. There's a nice southwestern weirdness about them, and it's always fun to see the local wildlife.
But now things have gotten out of hand.

It's not just that they throw dirt all over the place, and toss stones about, and destroy my twig edgings.

They dig deep holes around the plants, tearing up the roots.

That leaves the poor plants exposed for five or more days until we can leave the city and return to the lake.  In this heat the plants die pretty quickly with their roots uncovered.

This little evergreen and the camellia behind it are deeply distressed.
I tucked the ajuga back in and most of them look like they will make it, but all the annuals died.

Here is a lovely patch of purple mazus before...

...and here is the same spot after an armadillo had lunch on what ever grubs and worms were living underneath the plants.

Apparently armadillos were once much larger (yikes!). 
The small version is trouble enough.

They ignore being shouted at, and are not afraid of the dog.
They do have a strong aversion to being sprayed with the hose and can run pretty fast!
But we are going to put up an armadillo fence - more on that project later.

I did finish planting prostrate rosemary along the front curve of the driveway garden. 

The Black Diamond crepe myrtle continue to be excellent performers!

The millettia reticulata is in bloom for the first time. This is it's third summer. Sometimes called evergreen wisteria, it is not related to real wisteria (Wisteria senensis).

And the desert willow trees are in bloom with their lovely orchid-like flowers.

Here is one of the passion flower vines looking just as it should - completely devoured!
Brilliant orange caterpillars are still foraging on it, while the butterflies have moved on to the butterfly bush nearby.

Happy gardening, friends!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Abstract Sculpture at the Nasher

The scorcher days of July are upon us - with temperatures topping 100, it literally feels like we are carrying the heat around on our heads and shoulders.
Perfect weather to escape into the cool climate of an art gallery!

The bright and restless energy of the latest exhibit inside the Nasher Sculpture Center is providing high contrast to its ever tranquil gardens.

British sculptor Phyllida Barlow has created seven giant pieces specifically for the Nasher.
They are irresistible, each one drawing the viewer into alternate world first by mere scale!

The entrance gallery is crowded with multi-legged constructions that rise with lumbering grace up to the ceiling.  'Untitled: Stiltedcrates' seemed to be made of our collective debris, assembled and grown so large we were dwarfed by it.
It was exciting and unnerving at the same time. 

For those of us who like to experience art first as an explorer, before learning about the artists intent, this is a fun show.  I was with a friend, another artist, and we had the best time posing questions and sharing ideas about each piece before ever refering to the catalog.

We both liked the colorful paneled walls of  'Untitled: Stockade', an upended and fractured structure that has the initial attraction of  a child's clubhouse grown overlarge.

But looking closer it was apparent how uneasily the structure was balanced on its bed of black pallets.

And the inside is a hollow shell, cluttered with timbers laid as haphazardly as a game Pick-Up-Sticks.

That uneasy feeling was answered when learning its inspiration: radio reports detailing the destruction of a home during a hurricane.

Each piece in the show has its own mysteries.

'Untitled: Hangingmonument'

If you have a chance don't miss this seeing these thought provoking installations.

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!