Winter fun, trip to Wharton, spider ID

November 19th, 2009 Posted in Uncategorized

Last Sunday, this little acrobat wasted no time cashing in its Salvia coccinea coupon before it expires.

Bumblebee on white Salvia coccinea

My Forsythia sage (Salvia madrensis), a young passalong from Renee of Renee’s Roots, could stand more sun, but I like its adolescent bloom and broad leaves against the new Dianella (variegated flax lily). Some much-needed tree pruning could take care of the sun situation. Where’s Santa when you need him?

Salvia madrensis with dianella

In east Austin, this week’s winter tease didn’t faze these two, but we’re on the countdown to brown. If the coccinea doesn’t re-seed, it’s an inexpensive replacement in spring. The madrensis will return, with second-year roots ready to take on bigger tasks.  I suspect that in year three, it’ll be ready to carry on its passalong heritage.

But mostly for us, when winter strikes for real, the garden doesn’t cower until spring.  As some perennials go dormant and summer annuals go dead, we can focus on evergreen textures, sculptural bark, berries, seed heads, and rich color, even from frost-nipped leaves.

Since there’s so much to enjoy in our sans-mosquito season, this week Tom meets with Randa Daude, owner of Oma’s Garten Pflanzen in Killeen. She takes a fresh look at standouts in our brief chilly break, like this Yaupon holly ‘Saratoga Gold’.

Yaupon holly 'Saratoga Gold'

Oma’s is her second career. As a gardener, Randa was always dividing plants to give away. Her friends suggested she open a nursery, so she did!  She’s brought her personal philosophy to Oma’s:  organics, native plants, and sustainable designs. Check them out for garden talks, too.

On tour, we head to Wharton for another fabulous story.

Diane and Ludvik Matula

After Diane and Ludvik Matula renovated their old house, Diane set her eyes on the yard they’d salvaged. Although the new healthy lawn was better than mud and weeds, Diane’s a gardener. One day she took a shovel to a back corner. And then kept on digging.

Diane Matula Birdsong Inn

One of their dreams was opening a bed & breakfast. When Ludvik found the perfect old building to move next door, they named it BirdSong Inn.

Birdsong Inn

It’s hard to say what Diane enjoyed more: turning it into a cozy getaway or a chance to add more to the garden!

Diane Matula, BirdSong Inn

If you’re like me and have killed a cactus or succulent with too much (water) love, Cindy Arredondo from Desert to Tropics shows how to salvage them.

Desert to Tropics succulent care

I thank everyone, including Annie at The Transplantable Rose, for an ID on my spider shot at the compost pile.

spinybacked orb weaver

Sure enough, according to Wizzie Brown, it’s a spinybacked orb weaver.  It’s a first for me, so thanks for your input!

If you’re out planting this weekend, you won’t miss a CTG thing online at

Until next week, Linda

  1. 7 Responses to “Winter fun, trip to Wharton, spider ID”

  2. By Pam/Digging on Nov 19, 2009

    I do like your Salvia madrensis and flax lily combo. It sounds like most of the Austin bloggers growing the madrensis are not giving it enough sun. Too true in my case: too many live oaks!

    What a cute inn/house in Diane and Ludvik’s garden!


  3. By Bob Beyer on Nov 20, 2009

    Hmmm, Saratoga gold Yaupon – very interesting. I wonder if the berries turn a true yellow or remain as pictured. I knew there were orange and yellow berried forms of the Yaupon but maybe this cultivar just ramains a golden hued – nice to have variety. I tried her website link and it wasn’t working. You know me, how I’m always looking for the unusual in the plant world.

    Did you know that spider comes in white, yellow and orange colorations as well as the more common red! I’ve seen all those color variations in Houston, but have yet to see this particular spider in Austin. You must be lucky :-)


  4. By mss @ Zanthan Gardens on Nov 20, 2009

    I just got a passalong Salvia madrensis from Renee and managed to get it planted before the rain. I love it’s yellow flowers.

    Love your line “Countdown to brown.”

    As for the spinybacked orb weaver, the rainy cool summer of 2007 they were all over my yard. But I’ve never seen them before or since. Glad your little fella survived the drought. Maybe he’s eating your mosquitoes. I still have loads.


  5. By Annie in Austin on Nov 21, 2009

    Just watched the show, Linda – all of it was enjoyable, but you had me in stitches with Cindy’s Succulent Rescue section…it seemed more like an intervention for overwaterers ;-]
    I loved the masterful way Cindy showed the plants who was boss.

    So we ALL have Salvia madrensis? Mine’s been in 2 seasons and reached 8-feet tall. The mass of bloom proves it has enough sun but in trying to escape from my neighbors’ 9-foot wax ligustrum it leaned so far it nearly fell over and had to be tied to the fence. I hope Santa arrives ready to prune, letting your Salvia grow straight & tall, Linda!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose


  6. By jean-Paul Asselin on Nov 24, 2009

    Is there any mosquitoes in southern Texas
    in january and february . My wife Micheline and I ae going to Orange Texas on Holidays
    this coming winter .

    Thanking you .

    I Am .

    Yours Truly

    Jean-Paul Asselin

    5118 Perron Street

    Montreal QC Canada


    jean-Paul Asselin reply on November 24th, 2009 7:56 pm:

    Thank you . Jp Asselin


    Linda reply on November 25th, 2009 4:53 pm:

    Well, Jean-Paul, it depends on the weather. If south Texas gets a freeze, the mosquitoes won’t bother you. If it stays warm, bring repellent! Have a wonderful trip, and please bring some snow with you!


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