Spanish/Mexican Melting Pot Gardens and Food

September 11th, 2014 Posted in books, garden design, garden rooms, garden structure, garlic, herbs, lawn replace, patios, water features | 4 Comments »

How did Spanish and Mexican designs influence our garden melting pot?

rill in San Antonio courtyard Central Texas Gardener

To celebrate Hispanic Heritage month on PBS, we look at a few contributions, like plazas, courtyards and our own patios to extend living space.

Lucinda Hutson's outdoor dining room Central Texas Gardener

First, let’s answer Daphne’s viewer question from Amy Winn, since I know it’s got lots of people worried. Why do live oak trees drop their leaves in summer instead of in spring?

why oak leaves drop in summer Central Texas Gardener

Drought.  Many trees respond this way to conserve resources for their roots. They unload their baggage, which is also why fruit trees abort their fruit. Find out more.

Now, have you ever grown garlic? Introduced to Mexico by the Spanish, it’s certainly a staple in our recipes now.  To grow more flavorful garlic than you’ll ever find in grocery stores, Trisha Shirey hosts special guest Ivy Lara from Dripping Springs Garlic Queens to show you how. Ivy demonstrates the proper spacing for cloves like Lorz (Artichoke), Shilla & Red Janice (Turban) in mid-October.

grow garlic Trisha Shirey & Ivy Lara Dripping Springs Garlic Queens

Great tip: soak overnight in liquid seaweed and then rinse with rubbing alcohol the next morning. Give them sun and slow drip water once a week if rains miss us.

Here’s our group shot with Garlic Queen founder Jana Kaura who started her venture in Dripping Springs!

Dripping Springs Garlic Queens Central Texas Gardener

Get all their tips for planting and drying next May/June.

how to dry garlic Dripping Springs Garlic Queens

October means cilantro time, too, so let’s get the beds ready now. It’s very easy from seed or transplants. Perfect for containers.  All you need is sun and daily watering to germinate seeds. After that, just snip off what you need and it keeps on going.

how to grow cilantro central texas gardener

Daphne dishes out the info on Plant of the Week. For sure, do successive plantings to have plenty to snip all winter. When it bolts in late spring, keep the flowers for beneficial insects and seeds.

bolting cilantro flowers central texas gardeners

When the green seeds turn completely brown, harvest for kitchen coriander or save for next fall.

unripe cilantro seeds central texas gardener

On a short tour of Spanish and Mexican contributions, Tom meets with our beloved mentor and friend, Dr. William C. Welch, professor and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist.

Tom Spencer and William C. Welch Central Texas Gardener

I do hope you have his book, co-authored with Greg Grant, to see where our gardens really came from, including those plants you easily find now in local nurseries, like citrus.

heirloom gardening for the south by William C. Welch

Cooling water and brilliant color is certainly a combo we love in our hot climate!

pride of barbados over aqueduct central texas gardener

Of course, succulents are part of the heritage, here in Jenny and David Stocker’s garden.

succulents and bench walled garden Jenny Stocker Central Texas Gardener

In Lucinda Hutson’s garden, she expounds the Mexican tradition of roof gardens and lots of color below.

agaves on roof lucinda hutson garden central texas gardener

Mosaic and tiles are an enduring classic for today’s gardeners who love personalized intricate craftsmanship.  Again, from Lucinda’s garden.

mosaic nicho bathtub lucinda hutson central texas gardener

brugmansia and door tiles lucinda hutson garden central texas gardener

Event break!  Before we go on to our garden tour that illustrates Dr. Welch’s concepts, I must mention the incredible Monarch Appreciation Day on Saturday, September 13th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at  Zilker Botanical Garden.

Monarch butterfly on coneflower central texas gardener

This free event supports Monarch butterflies who pass through our gardens back to Mexico on their fall migration. Along with a super plant sale and talks, including bee hive instructions, there’s tons of fun activities for the kiddos: build a bee house, make wildflower seed balls, face painting and much more!

SO, now for our tour! We head to San Antonio where owner Claire Golden and architect Don B. McDonald renovated the historic house and its mission-styled walled back garden.

San Antonio mission-style courtyard garden design central texas gardener

Inspired by trips to Mexico with her husband J.Y. during his lifetime, Claire envisioned beloved homes they’d visited, instead of the sloping grass and weeds that once defined the courtyard.

san antonio courtyard central texas gardener

Water, even small amounts, is part of our Spanish heritage. I could sit with Claire by this recirculating bubbling fountain and chat for hours, even in the heat!

inset patio fountain san antonio central texas gardener

The main attraction is the central Spanish-heritage aqueduct or rill.

aqueduct mission style courtyard san antonio central texas gardener

As Claire says, “Water and plants are the perfect soothing combination, inspiring, really. Even if it’s hot, water gives you a sense of traveling to different parts of the world, does it not?”

aqueduct mission style courtyard san antonio central texas gardener

Even though Don B. McDonald broke up the open expanse to invite wandering to secret destinations, the rill is ever present. This view shows Claire’s famous Margarita Room (behind the door), filled with her Mexican collections of “margarita adornments.”

courtyard garden san antonio central texas gardener

View back to the new loggia.

Claire Golden courtyard garden san antonio central texas gardener

This intimate spot against the rill is for truly hands-on conversation.

hands chairs courtyard garden san antonio central texas gardener

As Dr. Welch tells us, arbors and pergolas are essential Spanish/Mexican designs to live outside without burning to a crisp.

shade pergola san antonio mission style courtyard central texas gardener

outdoor fireplace room central texas gardener

Claire completely enraptures and inspires me.  Isn’t it lovely to know someone who embraces you with wisdom and sincere encouragement?  Although she’s passionate about art, she believes that “less is more” to truly make a statement.

garden patio niche design central texas gardener

dragon sconce central texas gardener

I love her foyer to the mission-styled doors, the driveway entrance to the courtyard.

mission style gates garden courtyard claire golden central texas gardener

Let’s head to the front, where she turned an ugly drainage ditch from the sloping street into a wildlife-loving recirculating stream.

recirculating stream from drainage ditch claire golden central texas gardener

Her first call was to faux bois artisan, Carlos Cortes, to install his hand-crafted bridge.

Carlos Cortes faux bois bridge Central Texas Gardener

On the shady wide plaza in front, she entertains many guests, including our CTG assistants, Robert and Trey on the Cortes faux bois furniture, during a much-needed ice cream break that steamy hot day.

Carlos Cortes faux bois furniture Claire Golden patio

Director Ed Fuentes ate his treat while composing yet another fabulous shot.

Carlos Cortes faux bois furniture Claire Golden patio

Like his video version of the faux bois furniture. Here’s just my shot.

Carlos Cortes faux bois chairs claire golden central texas gardener

Let’s not wait any longer! Meet dear Claire and her garden for yourself!

Finally, thanks to Mary Alice Appleman for her Viewer Picture of the Week! We’re all so envious that she lucked into this license plate.

CTG license plate central texas gardener

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

Let’s gear up again!

August 27th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

I’ve been buzzing around to launch our fall programs!

Bee on Pride of Barbados Central Texas Gardener

Even though August is a real drag, we’re getting twinges of inspiration, like from ‘Fireworks’ goldenrod (Solidago rugosa).

'Fireworks' goldenrod  Central Texas Gardener

To pump us up again, on September 6, Nathan Unclebach from Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery picks drought-defiant beauties, even for small gardens. Here’s Yucca gloriosa ‘Tiny Star’.

Yucca gloriosa 'Tiny Star' Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery

On tour, designer Russell Womack reduced lawn for a low-water panorama for neighbors and wildlife.

reduced lawn for wildlife plants Central Texas Gardener

wildlife garden for drought central texas gardener

September 13, Dr. William Welch illustrates how Spanish/Mexican designs influenced our garden melting pot. We snagged a “family” portrait with William’s wife Lucille.

William C. Welch, Tom Spencer, Linda Lehmusvirta Central Texas Gardener

On tour, Claire Golden’s mission-styled courtyard renovation reflects Spanish roots through a central aqueduct or rill that cools things down with just a bit of water.

garden rill San Antonio mission-courtyard central texas gardener

The courtyard’s majestic doors are reminiscent of San Antonio’s missions.

garden courtyard mission gate san antonio central texas gardener

Garlic’s a Mexican food staple we can’t live without! Trisha joins Ivy Lara from Dripping Springs Garlic Queens to show how to grow flavorful garlic you’ll never find in stores. Our group shot includes co-founder Jana Kaura.

growing garlic central texas gardener

September 20, Andrea DeLong-Amaya from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center explains what insects really see, which may be quite different from our perspective!

Bordered Patch butterfly on zexmenia central texas gardener

crossvine wildlife vine central texas gardener

On tour, Heather Ginsburg dumped the lawn so her young family could actually see some insects and birds.

Xeric-style no lawn wildlife garden San Antonio central texas gardener

Trisha demonstrates the latest tools to banish those pesky tree seedlings without breaking your back.

Pullerbear and Lawn Jaws sapling removal Central Texas Gardener

Sept 27, Master Gardener Ally Stressing’s got the tips for a tasty fall and winter vegetable garden.

Tom Spencer and Ally Stressing Central Texas Gardener

On tour at Wells Branch Elementary, future gardeners make groundbreaking connections, in Spanish and English.

Wells Branch Elementary School garden Central Texas Gardener

Oct. 4, loveable Red Dirt Ramblings blogger and author Dee Nash jumpstarts new gardeners with hands-on tips from soil and design to pathways and raised beds.

20-30 Something Garden Guide Dee Nash

On tour, young agrarians at Ten Acre Organics turned a suburban yard into a garden of food and aquaponics to build a neighborhood food network.

Ten Acre Organics ATX Central Texas Gardener

Ten Acre Organics backyard aquaponics Central Texas Gardener

Of course, Daphne picks the plants to go for this fall and answers your top questions, like why this prairie verbena is rotting.

prairie verbena rot central texas gardener

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time, Linda

Dirty Birdie Bath Time: 20-second-break

August 20th, 2014 Posted in 20-second-breaks, birds | 2 Comments »

It’s HOT! Cool down with this cardinal for a 20-second-break!

Fireworks in August!

August 12th, 2014 Posted in drought, groundcovers, habitat, hummingbirds, lawn replace, native plants, succulents | 6 Comments »

First, big deal fireworks for Central Texas Gardener! We’d sure love your vote for our SXSW panel: The Future of Food: Tradition Meets Technology. It takes just a minute to register and vote.  Just click on the button.

Vote to see my session at SXSW 2015!

Our esteemed and lively panel includes: Dustin Fedako from East Side Compost Pedallers, Paige Hill from Urban Patchwork and Michael Hanan from Ten Acre Organics. We all thank you for spreading the good word at SXSW!

Our garden future lies in plants that sustain essential wildlife, including food crop pollinators, while conserving water. This red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) was on the job nurturing an eager hummingbird, until I got in the way!

red yucca hesperaloe parviflora hummingbird plant

On my daily drive to KLRU, I really like watching this front yard evolve over the year with its play on colors and textures, even in drought.

reduced lawn front garden native plants

I’d like to be this tidy. I’m not.

reduced lawn front yard with wildlife plants

We do have something in common: structure with lots of plants for wildlife, like Tecoma stans (Esperanza or Yellow Bells) that attracts hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies.

walkway with native plants web

On the home front, I was lucky to find the native Tecoma stans. Note the different leaves from cultivar ‘Gold Star’.

native tecoma stans austin garden

Desert willow is another hummingbird champion with its hot weather fireworks.

desert willow drought small tree for hummingbirds

Even though my crinums don’t sag a bit in heat, so far this mystery one is the only to bloom.

Pink crinum perennial bulb for drought austin garden

Since I don’t fare well with most yuccas, Beschorneria yuccoides ‘Flamingo Glow’ deeply satisfies structural contribution in this somewhat shady spot blasted by late afternoon fireworks.

beschorneria flamingo glow austin drought garden

I’m still exploring its foreground options. For now, purple heart (Tradescantia pallida/Setcreasea pallida) gets the role.

purple heart Tradescantia pallida austin drought garden

Yes, I know it’s common as mud, but who can resist a purple plant that defies drought and attracts insects to its flowers? Perhaps that’s why it’s been such a standby for years, don’t you think? And you don’t need a degree in horticulture to grow it.

purple heart flower drought tough groundcover

A Tradescantia that surprised me is cobweb spiderwort (Tradescantia sillamontana).

cobweb spiderwort drought tough austin garden for wildlife

This experiment has been such a success that I may propagate it for the Beschorneria’s foreground.  It dies back in winter, but not for long! Bonus points: it attracts beneficial insects, syrphid flies (hover fly).

syrphid fly (hover fly) on cobweb spiderwort austin drought garden

Aptenia (also called ice plant) just doesn’t give up, either. When I pulled out the lawn in this area, I stuck in a few cuttings. It hasn’t let up yet and even bloomed in December! A few ‘Fireworks’ gomphrenas are drooping over for a chat.

Aptenia ice plant and fireworks gomphrena drought austin garden

Native frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) is blooming its little head off in this heat, most appreciated by tiny insects.  It’s as cooling as the grass that once lined this strip, but with so many more benefits!

Native frogfruit drought groundcover austin texas

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for helping CTG get to SxSW! Linda