Express Yourself + Pond from Swimming Pool

May 1st, 2014 Posted in Vines, bees, garden art, garden structure, habitat, house plants, plant propagation, ponds, water features, wildlife | 6 Comments »

Like the paint and furniture we pick inside, gardens are snapshots of ourselves. I like bold surprises, so am thrilled that Amaryllis ‘San Antonio Rose’ joined the bulb parade this week.

Amaryllis 'San Antonio Rose' Austin garden

I wish I were indeed bold enough to paint my house the color of passalong Byzantine gladiolus.

byzantine gladiolus austin garden

I was surprised when this winecup turned out white. I didn’t plan this scene with pink evening primrose, but I sure appreciate it.

White winecup with pink evening primrose austin garden

My latest find is a little picture in a pot: ‘Little Pickles’ (Othonna capensis), a succulent from South Africa. I mixed decomposed granite into loose potting soil for a container that won’t need much water this summer. Grower Tom Peace confirms cold hardiness to 0°.

‘Little Pickles’ (Othonna capensis) succulent

Every fall, I get emails asking about the vibrant coral pink flowers trailing over fences and climbing skyward on any available host: Queen’s wreath/Coral vine (Antigonon leptopus).

Queen's Wreath Coral vine on Austin fence

Queen's Wreath vine on windmill Antique Rose Emporium

This week, Daphne explains how to grow this perennial vine (though usually winter dormant) for traffic-stopping flowers in late summer through fall. It’s a traffic jam for bees and butterflies, too.

Bee on Queen's Wreath vine austin texas

And I positively adore this little frame at Paco’s Tacos.

Queen's Wreath vine on Paco's Tacos pacos galvinized fence

Native plants express themselves to attract pollinators, like Baptisia bracteata that Kimberly Wieberg spotted near Houston. I hit up Houston award-winning author and blogger Cherie Colburn for the ID.

baptisia bracteata wildflower

Indoors, we accent that furniture and paint with strategic houseplants. This week, John Dromgoole shows how to propagate your favorites.

propagating house plants John Dromgoole Central Texas Gardener

And check this out!  That pencil actually rooted. We didn’t get a good shot, so Brandi Blaisdell at The Natural Gardener took this for us.

Pencil rooting in soil picture by The Natural Gardener Austin Texas

To excite our imagination with garden art, Chris Smartt from Sol’stice Garden Expressions in Dripping Springs joins Tom this week.

Tom Spencer and Chris Smartt, Sol'stice Garden Expressions

At Sol’stice, his mom Irene Anderson runs the nursery, selecting mostly locally grown plants that defy drought and deer.

Garden art Sol'stice Garden Expressions

She also selects gorgeous hand-made jewelry and other accents to express your “ensemble” and your home. Chris presents garden art from renowned designers, along with his custom crafted bird baths, fountains, sculptures, gates, tables and fire pits, to name a few!

Fountain from recycles by Sol'stice Garden Expressions

Fountain from recycles by Sol'stice Garden Expressions

Artistic steel design to hide AC by Sol'stice Garden Expressions

Artistic gate by Sol'stice Garden Expressions

He shows us how to power up a view.

Hanging garden art heart Sol'stice Garden Expressions

And how his kids’ discarded CDs inspired a trip back to the shop.

Recycled CD garden art Sol'stice Garden Expressions

The trick to garden art, he tells us, is selective placement to enchant. Fun backyard room from recycles Central Texas

Colorful backyard patio room with handmade fire pit by Sol'stice Garden Expressions

Chris designed this fire pit.

hand-made fire pit Sol'stice Garden Expressions

He crafted this charming totem from recycled finds.

artistic totem by Sol'stice Garden Expressions

He reminds us that the super trick with recycled finds is to give them credence with a place and personality of their own. One object can be clutter; a scene enchants.

Recycled garden art patio Sol'stice Garden Expressions

Oh, about art on trees: this week Daphne answers Nancy Smith’s great question, “Can we put a nail into a tree?” Find out why Daphne says it’s perfectly fine on a mature tree.

put nail in tree central texas gardener

On tour, Irene Anderson got fed up with the maintenance-hog swimming pool that came with her house in Wimberley. She even told husband John McMillan that she wanted to flat out move to get away from it.

swimming pool turned into pond

Instead, her son Chris Smartt and business partner at Sol’stice Garden Expressions had an idea: turn it into a native habitat pond!

swimming pool turned into pond Chris Smartt design

swimming pool to habitat pond Central Texas Gardener

John’s daughter Sarah McMillan and husband Clinton Robertson, biologists for the Texas Parks and Wildlife River Studies program, guided its self-sustaining design.

swimming pool turned into native pond central texas gardener

Chris and his kids gently caught native fish for the natural ecology.

swimming pool to native pond

After they covered the concrete surround with rocks, Irene tucked in low-water plants.

swimming pool to native pond

Tucked against native plants for wildlife, Chris added subtle, yet never-dormant art handmade art.

swimming pool to native pond

This mushroom is acid-stained concrete with bits of recycled glass.

garden art concrete mushroom recycled glass

Here’s another mounted on cedar.

garden art concrete mushroom on cedar

Take the whole tour now!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week for hot popping summer color. Linda

Wild Ideas for You + Luci & Ian Family Garden

April 24th, 2014 Posted in Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Techniques, Tours, bees, children, destinations, lawn replace, native plants, wildflowers, wildlife | 6 Comments »

We’re not all so lucky to have a wildflower front yard scented with acres of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush!

Bluebonnets Indian paintbrush prairie restoration central texas

At least I get a wildflower pop driving home every day past the Mueller prairie strip along I-35.

Wildflower Thelesperma I-35 Mueller strip

Wildflower Thelesperma I-35 Mueller strip

Most of us can’t have our very own prairie, but we can go a little wild in our gardens.

Wildflower Indian blanket and Thelesperma Austin Texas
At Mueller, I spied spikes of lavender Texas vervain (Verbena halei) among Indian blanket and Thelesperma.

Wildflower Texas vervain Thelesperma Indian blanket austin texas
I used to have some vervain until things got too shady. Now I have a sunny spot where I’ll seed next fall.

I’m tempted to try Erodium texanum, since it’s growing only a mile from my house.

Wildflowert Erodium texanum central texas mueller wildflowers
Then, garden artist Bob Pool told me, “It’s also called fillaree by almost all Texas ranchers. It is already growing by fall in a low, ground hugging manner and is the most important plant in the Hill Country for a lot of wildlife. It is the highest in protein, about 17%, of any plant in the Hill Country.”

That sounds great, but I’m on flat Blackland Prairie, not on a scruffy soil slope. But I do qualify for purple prairie verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida).

glandularia purple prairie verbena Mueller Austin Texas
I’m not the only gardener on the block who’s made a fatal mistake in assuming that “native” translates to “my garden.” So, this week, Daphne answers, “What is a native plant?

Indeed, what’s native to rocks or sand is not native to my soil. Many are adaptable, like Engelmann’s daisy.

Engelmann's daisy native plant for wildlife
Calylophus berlandieri isn’t the best choice for me, but it works where I’ve given it extra grit in the looser spots.

Black-eyed Calylophus berlandieri Austin Texas
After a few misses, I found a perfect spot for spring-blooming Salvia roemeriana.

salvia roemeriana austin texas
I finally figured out where columbine is happiest for me, here joined by really really happy Widow’s tears (Commelina erecta).

columbine and widow's tears shade garden austin texas
I rely on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s native plant database to keep me on track. Also, the City of Austin’s Grow Green program now has a fabulous searchable database by soil type.

We’ve all learned that some plants simply move themselves to the right spots. That’s the case with my Gulf penstemon, a busy bee right now. Aside from conserving water, wildlife is tops on my list to choose natives when I can.

gulf penstemon bees

Bees love wildflowers, even the seed heads on Indian blanket!

bee on Indian blanket Mueller prairie

bee on Indian blanket seed head Mueller prairie

I’m totally impressed that Matt Jackson snagged this shot of a bee heading to Mexican buckeye on an energetic park romp with his young children!

bee on Mexican buckeye photo by Matt Jackson

In the right spots, native plants will increase their population without our help. To up the ante, this week John Dromgoole shows how to take cuttings.

cuttings from native plants with John Dromgoole

10 years ago, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center launched its Mother’s Day weekend Gardens on Tour to help us visualize native plant designs in our gardens.

Chris Levack sculpture Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Gardens on Tour

This week, Director of Horticulture Andrea DeLong-Amaya joins Tom for a preview of this year’s May 10 tour.

Tom Spencer and Andrea DeLong-Amaya Central Texas Gardener

Put on your walking shoes, grab your camera and get the details!

The Wildflower Center is on the tour, of course, and you don’t want to miss the new Luci & Ian Family Garden that opens May 4.

Luci & Ian Family Garden Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

15 years in conception with lead designer W. Gary Smith, it’s an adventure in imagination and fun with “secret” messages on watershed care, water management, and native plant wildlife connections.

Here’s director Ed Fuentes taping Gary as he installs intricate tiles in the spiral based on plants with spiral flowers or forms. Plants like Turk’s cap and ferns with furling fronds complete the theme.

W. Gary Smith landscape architect installing tiles in the Luci & Ian Family Garden

spiral at Luci & Ian Family Garden LBJWC

The garden extends Lady Bird’s mission in a garden where kids can run, explore, and play.

Cave at Luci & Ian Family Garden

Grotto at Luci & Ian Family Garden

Instead of instructional signs, Gary’s designed interactive elements to inspire the powerful childhood transformation that sticks with us as we grow up and buy our first house and make our first garden.

Watershed lessons at the Luci & Ian Family Garden LBJWC

Gardeners can frolic and wander, too, while getting plant ideas for sun, shade, and rain gardens. Lots of volunteers recently finished planting, so it’s a great way to connect to complementary textures and spacing for brand new plants.

native plant designs Luci & Ian Family Garden

Take the tour now!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week for garden art. Linda

Creative plants and gardeners |Master Gardener Tour 2014

April 17th, 2014 Posted in Tours, drought, garden art, garden bloggers on tour, garden structure, lawn replace, master gardeners, recycling, water features | 3 Comments »

There’s certainly been a buzz about the maroon bluebonnets at the UT Tower!

maroon bluebonnets at UT

I don’t understand the uproar at all. Most certainly this is a fluke, not a prank. And, the color won’t last as long as the historic A&M/UT rivalry, since the dominant blue gene will take over in time, according to Horticulturist Greg Grant at Stephen F. Austin University.

maroon bluebonnets UT

Here’s how he and Texas A&M Extension Dr. Jerry Parsons discovered this natural occurrence and developed ‘Texas Maroon’, a Texas Superstar plant.

Now here’s a charming tale for you, “The Legend of the Pink Bluebonnet.” Years ago, an elderly woman spun Greg this story about why white bluebonnets turned pink in honor of the blood shed by brave Texans during the Texas Revolution.

This week, Daphne answers: what is the connection between botany and horticulture? Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’ is another that Greg Grant brought into cultivation after finding nature’s botanical invention in a dry land cemetery.

Henry Duelberg salvia

For sure, it’s a weather prank behind my usually early bird Lady Banks and April’s Buff Beauty roses blooming together!

Lady Banks late bloom to join Buff Beauty rose

Thanks to Lady’s late arrival, it’s a first for me that yellow bearded iris and Gulf penstemon bloom along with her.

Yellow bearded iris with Gulf penstemon

Also on the bulb parade: golden Spuria iris.

golden spuria iris austin garden

William Glenn from Garden-Ville explains how natural minerals like basalt and greensand assist our horticultural endeavors by adding nitrogen, iron, and magnesium.

natural minerals for the garden William Glenn Central Texas Gardener

Horticulture in all its creative renditions is what the Travis County Master Gardeners’ “Inside Austin Gardens” tour is all about. This week, Tom joins Master Gardeners Maggie Tate and Wendy Buck to preview the May 3 tour.

Tom Spencer Maggie Tate Wendy Buck Central Texas Gardener

Meet DIY gardeners to see how they took out lawn, tackled shade, drainage problems, irrigation and deer.

vegetable deer protection photo by Bruce Leander

Pond and patio Austin Texas photo by Bruce Leander

removing lawn Robin Howard Moore Central Texas Gardener

Really, it’s a tour of unique expression. Find your style and take it home with you!

creative fence and curb Austin Neal Austin Texas gsrden

Bicycle shade garden plants Robin Howard Moore

Woodland and art garden Jerry Naiser Austin Texas

Meet Daphne, Augie and Master Gardeners at the Travis County Extension demonstration gardens, too.

Travis County Extension demonstration garden

Get all the details and check out upcoming workshops that teach us all year long!

Our video tour takes a closer look at one of the gardens. At Lori Daul’s, see how she dumped grass in her first home.

No lawn front garden Austin Texas

She calls her blog The Gardener of Good and Evil for the problems she faced and how she fixed them. On a budget. And what could fit in her car.

Patio pavers replace lawn control drainage austin texas

Thanks to her artistic eye, you’ll get great ideas for plant combinations in sun and shade, structure, and stylish whimsy.

plant structure in shade garden austin texas

structure plants and birdbath austin texas garden

fun garden water fountain austin texas central texas gardener

best bottle tree ever austin texas

cute garden mirror and prisms austin garden

She’s made some dramatic changes so don’t miss it on May 3. But take our tour right now!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week as I preview the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center tour. Linda

Good aggressives, bad invasives

April 10th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

First, update on freeze report. Before you shovel out that “dead” plant, hang on a bit, since we’re getting lots of surprises like chile tepin/pequin.

chile tepin emerge after freeze austin texas

Birds spread the wealth, but it’s a bonus for all in part shade.

chile pequin austin texas

Lady Banks didn’t let me down after all.

lady banks flowers after hard freeze Texas

Bulb parade: late Dutch iris is a bonus! Here with native heartleaf skullcap reaching for the sky. That heartleaf will be all over the place next year. Good!

dutch iris lavender with native plant heartleaf skullcap

12° plus  drought didn’t offend my yearling native Salvia roemeriana.

salvia roemeriana native perennial

Yes, some people consider native salvias “invasive,” too, but they’re actually considered “aggressive” if they find the right spot. It’s all in your perspective. I say: the more the merrier to attract wildlife.

Some gardeners even yelp about “invasive” bluebonnets and California poppies. Well, everyone’s entitled to their opinion! These are certainly prettier in this front yard than lawn, that’s for sure.

bluebonnets california poppies front yard instead of lawn

Native pink evening primrose walks over everything in its path, but attracts so many beneficial insects.

bee on pink evening primrose

It’s a kick for me to see how they’ve moved around my garden to find their happy spot in sun: here where I took out grass.

pink evening primrose replaces lawn

Native baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) finds its happy spot in part shade. I lose it in spots that get too much shade, but it moves itself!

bee on native baby blue eyes annual

native baby blue eyes with pink oxalis for bees

What a lovely combination with columbine.

native columbine with baby blue eyes part shade garden

Quite a surprise to find native prickly poppy growing in this east Austin garden! Usually you see them in fields.

native white prickly poppy

prickly poppy with cow central texas wildflowers

So why do we run for the shovel when milk thistle settles in our garden? I like the variegated foliage all winter. This year, I got a bee bonus, too.

milk thistle flower central texas

As gardeners, if exuberant plants take over, we can thin to pass along to friends who hanker for them. But when invasive species like ligustrum take over, it can take an army of volunteers to eradicate them from natural areas where they smother wildlife habitat diversity. Animals can’t live by ligustrums alone!

invasive ligustrum berries

This week, Jessica Wilson from the City of Austin Watershed Protection Department joins Tom to swap invasives for much more appealing native plants that do the same job. For example, native cherry laurel instead of ligustrum.

Tom Spencer and Jessica Wilson Central Texas Gardener

My house came with many on her list, like Japanese honeysuckle and ligustrums. We cut down our ligustrums for a mountain laurel hedge (from seed, no less) to hide a chain link fence. I planted crossvine to hide the fence until the mountain laurels grew up. Now we have a solid hedge and the crossvine is still there, even though it gets no extra water from me. I’ll tame it off the mountain laurels (along with passion vine), don’t worry.

crossvine in mountain laurel hedge

Jessica picks options for elephant ears, nandina, vitex and devilish catclaw vine.

invasive catclaw vine

Find out more about invasive plants.

In case you missed it last year, Daphne explains why it doesn’t really take 100 years for a century plant to bloom.

At Mayfield Park, these yuccas are sending out their flowers. But they’re not dying; just losing their leaves as they trunk up.

yucca blooms Mayfield Park austin texas

Along with dumping invasives, the best thing I did for my garden in clay and even “red death sandy loam” was to pile on leaves, compost (some bought, some made) and mulch. Over time, there are spots where I can dig with my hands.

Any compost is good, but this week William Glenn from Garden-Ville compares the options, including biosolids.

compare compost Garden-Ville on Central Texas Gardener

On tour, Laura and Andy Stewart worked with David Mahler of Environmental Survey Consulting to rescue their in-town hillside from invasive invasion.

hillside habitat restoration austin texas

Now, treasures like rock penstemon can breathe again.

rock penstemon hillside habitat restoration austin texas

Miró Rivera Architects beautifully melded their house design into the hillside in a total indoor/outdoor experience.

Miró Rivera Architects hillside home austin texas

rebar patio cover Miró Rivera Architects hillside home austin texas

Take the tour now!

Thanks for stopping by. See you next week as we preview the Master Gardener tour. Linda