currently in Austin


From the Producer: 4/12

I can’t believe I did this: I ripped Scooter’s headliner with a star jasmine’s support stake. I swore I wouldn’t make the same mistake I did with my last car, Spot. But, there was a line of cars waiting for my space and I got in a rush. My consolation is that it was for a good cause. Last Friday night I realized that another star jasmine, instead of the rosemary, would make a wonderful entrance to the hill cove. It’ll take a few years for the new one to match the current “shrub” on the patio side, but already the two make an incredible doorway to this space, completing its definition as a destination. I moved the rosemary to guard the lettuce bed.

Next, it turns out the blooming wedelia in back is actually Packera obovata (or Senecio obovata), a native groundsel. It looks different than wedelia, but I figured it was just a different variety. Indeed I do have wedelia there and in the rental side bed. Who knows where it came from, but it’s a great groundcover to precede wedelia’s summer flowers in part shade. Recently I saw its flowers in an arrangement at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and it’s on the list for their plant sale this weekend.

I couldn’t pass up a Red Cestrum “Newellii” with evergreen leaves and red flowers much of the year to attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. I planted it in the back fence bed, near the raised primrose fence intersection. I’ve come up with a fabulous idea for this area — to execute next year — and will keep you posted. You know, a new plant is sort of like painting the den. Inside, with new paint, you realize you a need new window treatment, rug, and furniture. Outside, one new plant starts the same domino effect.

To continue the tour: This week we’re at the other fence bordering my dear neighbor, Amelia, who settled the neighborhood with her husband, Joe, when the houses were built. Our yard had two pear trees, and along with my first canning experience, I took lots of pictures of this miracle of nature I’d never seen. Joe came knocking at the door. “Linda, do you know if you take pictures of the pears they will all fall off?” I was horrified, until I saw his grin. What a great neighbor, and fellow gardener, who helped us with everything until his premature death from cancer.

Amelia’s mom, a supreme gardener, didn’t speak much English, but when she visited and later to live, she became my mentor. One day, Joe asked me what in the heck I was doing carrying leaves around in my mop bucket to put in the dust bowl. “Mom” looked at me and nodded her head in approval. Later, when I made that side a garden, she went out every morning of her last years to look at it, the rest of the garden, and the compost pile behind the shed, and nod her head.

For many years, though, it was grass. We scattered a few mountain laurel seeds from the tree in front, and seeds from the spiderworts. Then, my mother died, and a friend gave me an Isabella Sprunt rose. I crammed it into the ground, no soil amendment, no nothing. Didn’t bother that girl — some years she blooms on Christmas day.

Eventually I made it an official garden with a few trips to the rock place for a border. At the gate end, beyond the woodpile, a yaupon holly is a backdrop to the former tomato bed, now devoted to tithonias. Next is a Maggie rose with spuria iris and larkspur in spring and a few tithonia in summer. Her neighbor is a trellis, with a new rose, Peggy Martin, that recently replaced one I loved, but was too prone to blackspot. She’s fronted with calylophus and self-seeded Texas sedge.

Moving along the fence is a Pride of Barbados, a cassia given to me by a friend, the mountain laurel (now huge), a Mutabalis rose, coral honeysuckle, Isabella Sprunt, and Rusty blackhaw viburnum.

I’ve layered them with Eupatorium greggii, Tecoma stans (Esperanza), Salvia “Teresa”, Salvia leucantha, Salvia indigo spires, Salvia “Mystic Spires”, a Hamelia patens (firebush or hummingbird bush) and flame acanthus (Anisacanthus wrightii), another hummer attraction. I’ve tried ornamental grasses of all kinds, but they just haven’t made it, though the native sedges are everywhere. In spring, there are spiderworts, and a few poppies and larkspur and a couple of Mexican hats (it’s not their favorite locale, though they do great in my curb beds, where I harvested the seeds).

Right now, the borders are a field of orange bulbines that I’ve divided many times. Most years, lavender Gulf penstemons join them, but most drowned last year. Self-seeded pink evening primrose fills some gaps. Once, I had great stands of winecups, but it got too shady for them. Recently I added monardas, columbines under the mountain laurel, and a new one for me, Purple Umbrella (Trachellium ceerueleum), a perennial to about 3 foot with purple flowers in summer. Locally grown, so I have high hopes for it.

As you can see, this one is sort of a hodge-podge, and often where I stuck a new plant I couldn’t resist but didn’t have a spot for it. Mainly, there are gaps enough for a visit with Amelia while our dogs sniff noses, and we sniff flowers, but privacy enough that we can water in our pajamas.

Until next week, Linda