Saturday, December 28, 2013

January's Waving Grasses

The weather has been gorgeous here, cold nights in the 30's,
 followed by bright, clear days in the 50's.
Perfect weather for long walks.

 Kye and I like to explore along the seawall. 
The lake was low this summer, so the beach has naturalized.
At full pool, this shallow inlet will be full of water.

In this neighborhood, the owners of undeveloped lots
are required to mow their properties at intervals throughout the year. 
Unfortunately, this leaves the land looking scraped and dead all summer. 

The truth is that our peninsula is at its most beautiful between the last fall mowing
and the first spring mowing.
That's when the winter grasses put on a show,
 and the hardy native plants seize their opportunity!

It's also a fine time to keep an eye out for wildlife sightings.
We have a tiny deer herd (about six animals) that we usually spot at dusk,
slipping quietly between the trees.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Dry Creek Bed

This view is too pretty not to share!
I took this photo on Friday from the little 3rd floor balcony off my studio in the city.

The flush of color dressing these oak trees was so intense the photo hardly captures it.

Out at the lake, there was quite a lot of rain and wind last week.
We arrived in the dark on Friday night, so when we opened the blinds on Saturday morning, it was a surprise to find the big Hackberry tree in front of the house was suddenly leafless.

We had finished part one of the dry creek bed last week, but I forgot to take a photo.
 And now it's under a yellow blanket...

Until the leaves are dry enough to blow away, it's rather hard to see, but all the big stones from the round tub  I showed in my last post are now in place over the top of the drainage pipe.
 (Yes, it was a back-breaker, plus a wrist and elbow strainer!)

I also started the plantings.  They include cast iron plant (aspidistra), several types of nandina, juniper, variegated euonymus, liriope, ground cover Asian jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum), and Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica).

This view shows the path and steps that lead up to the higher level.
Eventually that path will continue to the left, and lead back down to the dogtrot patio area.
I am so fortunate to be married to a man who can lay a dandy path and even create stairs!

In the back yard, he also completed the path to the dock.

I love the beautiful curves.  This going to be another fun area to plant!

 The rains continued all weekend (the lake is up two feet since mid-October!).
Nice timing to send us indoors, to start sorting ideas and materials for the holiday decorations. 
My Mother created this years first vignette in our kitchen window.

Although our chances of snow are very thin,
 and building a snowman zero,
because we all grew up in the north we crave the imagery of a white Christmas.

Our childhood memories (from Thanksgiving through Easter) are of a snow covered landscape.

This little scene brings back memories of real white frosted, icicle trimmed roofs.
 I always loved that magical sparkle tree lights have when they glow through a blanket snow! 
 Wouldn't it be nice if we could import that weather for just a week?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Stone for the Front Garden

 We have finally had enough rain to determine if the drainage system for our front courtyard actually works. 
 And, happily, it does! 
The water now flows down and around and into the lake.
That means no more giant rain pond blocking the way to the front door!
This photo from last spring shows the water spouting off the roof and filling the courtyard.

Now with the sidewalk in place and the drain working,
we can start landscaping this area.

 I started with a hedge of small sized Burford holly on each side of the walk.

Our plan is for a very naturalized landscape to compliment the architecture of the house,
but we decided that the contrast of this more formal element will help highlight the way to our front door.

That haze of pink in the center of the garden is gaura (Gaura lindheimeri).

I'd like fill this space with more of these native plants. Sometimes called bee blossom, the little flowers seem to dance in the breeze, and the butterflies love them!

The river rock was placed just where we wanted to continue to extend the sidewalk with stepping stones, so we'll have to finish with that idea when the tub is empty.

 The stones in the big round tub must be ferried down the walk and through the opening in the wall. 
Hmmm...that sounds like a back-breaker!
They will be laid over the buried drainage pipe to create the look of a dry stream bed.

I love this tiny path - it's so nice to have a way to the hose fob that is not boot-sucking mud.

The mysterious pile of stones next to the path is to cope with the very dramatic rush of water that surges off our roof during a rainstorm.
 The house does not have gutters
 (they just didn't look right on this Texas regional design),
and when it finally does rain here,
it pours,
blowing the  plants in this spot right out of the ground!

We have four other places where rain water streaming off of the roof is a problem.
Here, by the guest house, we are trying a rain chain.

It's tricky to adjust it, however, because the trajectory of the water changes with the strength of the downpour.
 Once we get it right, we plan to put a rain barrel under it.

Meanwhile, I'm building these stone pads.
They work, and eventually the plants will grow up and hide them.

I've started planting perennials in this spot: soft-leaved Mahonia, evergreen ferns, liriope, mums, creeping jenny and dianthus.

And out on the water...

 The pelicans and cormorants have returned!
I guess mid-November is the time to look for them.
Suddenly there they were, flying low over the house,
and landing in the thousands out by the pier.

We never get tired of watching them!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Ruth's Waterwise Garden

After a long hot Texas summer,
what does a certified Waterwise Garden look like in late October?

This is Ruth's garden (another Master Gardener friend of mine).
She very kindly agreed to a late season tour via my blog!

Ruth's yard has been on the Waterwise Garden Tour for the last few years.
The tour is in early June, and is sponsored by Dallas Water Utilities.
June is a lovely month for tours, every plant seems to be bursting with joie de vivre, but I've often thought evaluating a garden in late summer or early fall really raises the bar.

In 2009 Ruth and her husband hired a garden designer to layout a plan for their property, and then they began planting.

Their garden includes plants native to North Texas, and also non-native plants that adapt well to this location because they originated in similar environments. 

There was no shortage of color.
Many of Ruth's plants self-seed or winter-over in our Zone 8 location.

In addition to collecting rain water, Ruth's garden has an irrigation system, but it was used only once this summer.

 The garden art includes some early pieces by Sharon Zigrossi (an artist I featured in an earlier post).

Rather than creating a separate patch,
vegetables like this monster zucchini are mixed in with other plantings.

 The zucchini was backed by a large esperanza and colorful peacock sculpture.

Winding paths circle the long narrow property.
At the back of the property is the service alley.

Ruth doesn't waste any space! Even the back alley had a collection of plants in between the mulch piles.  This gigantic Frostweed bush (Verbesina virginica) was hosting a flock of Monarch butterflies.

Ruth shared a great tip she learned from another Master Gardener:
an easy way to selectively eliminate invasive plants.

This tool, originally designed to reach items in high places, has been modified with pieces of sponge .
(A hole was drilled in each plastic end piece, allowing a plastic tie to secure the sponges).
Now, instead of trying to spot spray an herbicide, the sponges are dipped in the solution. The sponges can easily and selectively grab just the weed.
Ruth says this simple tool is much easier on the back and the garden!

It's inspiring to know that being water wise doesn't mean having a yard that is limited to rocks and cactus (handsome as those paddles are!).

Waterwise has become the word in garden design, and not only in traditionally dry environments.

 I imagine gardeners everywhere could quickly find another use for any savings from a lower water bill!
Here's a list of some of the plants flourishing in Ruth's garden:
Asters, Ageratum, Cosmos, Day Lilies, Esperanza, Lantana, Lenten Rose, Liriope, Mexican Feather Grass, Mums, Rock Rose, Rosemary, Sedum, Turk's Cap, Yucca.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Fresh Eye: Artist Sharon Zigrossi

My last post was a visit to my friend Sharon's garden
 to see her heat resistant, happily thriving succulents.
 I also included a photo of this freshly washed assortment.
They represent an introduction to Sharon's other passion - ART!

 Sharon is a self-taught sculptor who works with found objects.
Where most of us might see only a pile of sadly lost hubcaps,
Sharon sees a garden of shapes waiting to be transformed.

Like many artists not constrained by formal training,
she has a unique visual language.
Sharon sees creative possibilities in otherwise overlooked items.

This mundane hubcap has been re-imagined as a vibrant wheel of color.  

Sharon's studio is inspirational, a wonderful collage of color and pattern.

Just visiting makes me want to settle right in and start creating!
I have wanted one of her pieces for the lake house since I first saw them.
Sharon will do specially commissioned pieces,
 so I asked if she would include two things of mine in her design.

The first item was the nozzle off of a very old watering can that had belonged to my father.  The can itself has holes, and the nozzle is completely clogged, but they have sentimental value.
 The second item was a circular piece of flashing. 
My husband and I seem to spend a lot of time at Home Depot hunting for solutions to various home and garden challenges.  One day I discovered these ruffled circles of metal flashing.  I thought they were so pretty there had to be some way to use them. A couple of weeks later I realized they would be a perfect foil for the nozzle, if Sharon could figure out how to make it all work.
And she did!

To start, Sharon found the perfect hubcap.

 Then began the process of constructing and painting the piece.

Color, glorious color! I love how the large red petals seem to be in motion. And notice her use of pattern: dots and circles echoing the larger shape of the sculpture.

Slowly the original three pieces" disappear".
The hubcap isn't even a distant memory, it's been absorbed into the artists concept.
The finished creation is gorgeous!
We just love the bold color against the limestone walls on the back porch.


To see more of Sharon's work you can visit her Etsy shop here: