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Spring has sprung in the garden…

It feels like spring here in Central Texas, with sunny, 85-degree days dotting our early February weeks.  That might sound  more like summer to gardeners far north of here, but it’s heavenly spring for us.

The Japanese Quince has been blooming since the cooler, late-fall days, drawing butterflies to the sole flowers in the winter garden.  I’ve had a few white cemetery irises bloom and the peach irises opened up this week.  When I checked early this morning, I did detect the faintest sweet scent in the peach ones.

A few daffodils have opened.  A labeling failure two years ago is to blame for my not knowing each variety, since I do collect new ones each year.  But I recognize the Tete-a-Tetes and they’re starting to open in different parts of the garden.

Then yesterday, the Mountain Laurels burst forth.  I’d been eyeing the buds for several days, and trying to catch a whiff of the grape Kool-Aid aroma they dust on the breeze.

I banned myself from Facebook this morning because it’s been eating my mornings.  So, what do I do then?  I take the scissors outside and look for blooms to bring indoors!  I tried to put a peach iris with this little posie, but it was too big and didn’t work with these delicate little flowers, so I put it in its own vase.

Now, spring has sprung in my kitchen and it smells delicious — just like grape Kool-Aid!

Plants that shine in the winter garden…

After a few days and nights at 21 degrees, my Central Texas garden took a serious hit last month.  But, we were due.  Last year it didn’t freeze at all in my garden, so you can imagine how huge some of our perennials were by the end of 8 seasons of growth!

Our typical winter includes a few freezes, but the temperature dips to around freezing for a few hours and then climbs right back up during the day.  Not so this year.

I’m leaving the last of the fall leaves in the beds to help protect the plants and provide habitat for bees, so you are going to see the good, the bad and the very ugly.  It’s an all-exposed tour.  Viewer discretion is advised — you may need to avert your eyes in some parts!

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While the ferns and the bletilla striata are dormant, he dry creek pathway is lined with hellebores, a few sedges, a few cephalotaxus prostrata.  Mostly out of view on the left are two leatherleaf mahonias.

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The brilliant yellow berries on the mahonias add great color to the garden on gray winter days.

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In drought years, the foliage of the hellebores disappears in the summer garden, and reappears in fall and through the spring.  I have a collection of different varieties.  Below is a winter photo of my favorite – ‘Phoebe,’ from several years ago when we had snow.

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Isn’t that a gorgeous bloom?

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Where the path diverges, a few more sedges and a standard Japanese aralia and a variegated Japanese aralia add a pop of green.  The squid agave in the Artemis statue head was unfazed by the cold.  Farther back, a small clump of cast iron plant draws the eye.

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I’ve had this aralia for a long time.  It’s been through drought and covered in ice in bad winters, but nothing seems to slow it down.

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This fall I planted another aralia variety – a variegated one.  I was a little concerned that it might be more tender than the other, but it has held up beautifully.

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In the front bed, the one we jokingly call the hideous bed, natives and other well-adapted plants are hanging on.  Catmint, skullcap, Mexican feather grass, a whale’s tongue agave, salvias, Mexican sabal palms and a Spanish dagger yucca are all going strong.

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Across the driveway, more xeric plants are showing off, like the Jerusalem sage, a Texas sotol, a sago palm,  and some salvia Greggii.

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You’ll find Jerusalem sage in many parts of my garden.  It’s unusual color makes an intriguing contrast — and its fuzzy leaves make it completely deer-resistant.

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Another variegated fatsia Japonica is keeping a squid agave and a mountain Laurel company.  Sadly, the dianella in the background looks like it’s toast.  I’m hopping it was established enough to come back from the roots quickly, once spring arrives.

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A bright edge yucca, several more hellebores and a few almost hidden heucherellas are peaking out of the carpet of leaves.

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Bright edge definitely earns its name!

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I added a few new compact shrubs to the front beds last year.  These ‘Flirt’ nandinas make a beautiful middle-layer, evergreen addition and their added burgundy tips coordinate well with the larger loropetalum.

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One of my favorite plants for winter/spring interest is Japanese quince.  It’s sculptural and almost-bare branches are sporting a flush of gorgeous, salmony-pink blooms.

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The butterflies are so thankful that at least something is blooming out there!

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And no matter what the plants are doing in the garden, we can always count on at least a few cardinals on our many feeders in the wooded area.

While these aren’t the prettiest pictures of my garden, they allow me to see the true bones of the landscape, and evaluate the beds to determine what projects I’ll want to undertake in the spring.

Enchanting Lyndale and Como Park gardens at the 2016 Fling

As is always the case, there is much to see at a Garden Bloggers Fling, and our 2016 adventure kept us going at a fast pace.

I fell in love with the explosion of color where this beautiful beehive beckoned in the Lyndale Park Garden. I waited quite a while to get a solo shot of this amazing sculpture in the garden, as all the other flingers were as enthralled with it as I was. (You can see I didn’t quite let the last person get out of the frame. Tag yourself if that’s your elbow!)

This garden was a creative combination of formal beds with this refreshing fountain, and some unique displays of a wide variety of pollinator plants.

I was smitten by this display of Verbena bonariensis as the focal point in the midst of this checkerboard of annuals. I know this took a great deal of work to achieve, because my Verbena bonariensis is like a naughty child in the garden — it never stays put where I’ve planted it!

It was interesting to see so many plants thriving here that we can grow back in our gardens in Zone 8b in Austin, Texas, like the catmint and lamb’s ears and rudbeckia.

Blue can be elusive in the garden, so I was drawn to this monochromatic display filled with so many of the plants I love, like salvias.

This is the perfect example of how repetition in garden design packs a powerful punch.

And then I found the pink bed! Between the hot sun bearing down on us and the profusion of pink and lime color contrasts in this display, it wasn’t easy to get a great photo. But the Zinnias, Hibiscus, Fountain grass, Cannas and Cleomes were begging to have their photos taken. I had to oblige them!

Oh, and now I see that they were joined by Guara as well.

I grow cleome in my garden as well, although it gets a little weary of the heat about this time of year.

We also visited the Como Park Conservatory and gardens, where I have visited many times, as I lived in the Minneapolis – St. Paul area for four years, from 1988 to 1992. Conservatories always capture my fancy.

I first visited the Conservatory’s Sunken Gardens in the Spring of 1989, when snow still blanketed the grounds outside but bulbs brought spring indoors. This picture of my son was taken when he was 5.

He’s 32 now, and that is still one of my favorite photos of him. Visiting the park brought back many wonderful memories of our time there.

A pond of stunning water lilies greeted us as we approached the entrance.

The Sunken Gardens look so different at this visit. Purples and lavenders and limes seem to dot every surface of the space.

To see other posts of fabulous Fling gardens, check out my overview of Wouterina De Raad’s mosaic sculpture garden and the Eloise Butler Wildlife Garden and Bird Sanctuary.

Zilker Garden Festival is a must-see event …

If you didn’t get to the Zilker Garden Festival yesterday, you will have all day today to check out this fabulous annual Austin event.

We were there when the doors opened at 10 yesterday, wagons trailing and cash in our pockets, ready to enjoy the beautiful Zilker Botanical Garden setting of this festival.  My parents and I have been going for the last 24 years – I only missed one of those for the flu. When Dustin was little, he would go with us and he and Dad would go off on their own and shop for a Mother’s Day gift for me. We took Kallie with us when she was a toddler, too, but she’s outgrown it now and the Mom and Dad and I love having this special time together.

It combines two of my favorite things — gardening and shopping!

I bought plants, of course, and several other little garden goodies.  I came home with some herbs – more Cuban oregano, lemongrass and lemon balm.  I also added some beautiful hand-made pottery  mushrooms to my collection, a teensy glass chicken and dog for the fairy garden, and some very cool and unusual succulents from East Austin Succulents.

After eating lunch down in the beer garden while listening to a live band, we wandered down to the lower part of the gardens, checking out the veggie demonstration gardens…

…the rose garden…

…and the shady garden path that winds back up the hill.  We were wowed by this gorgeous brugmansia and the aloe bloom just in front of it.

Those are some beautiful, big blooms.  Almost as big as Dad’s head!

A little posing for the camera-toting daughter.

Ahhh, we finally made it back up the hill … now it’s time for a little rest by this peaceful pond.

We didn’t check out the Hartman Prehistoric garden this year, since I was just there last month, but we did venture to the edge of the Japanese garden, which is where Jeff and I were married almost 14 years ago.

I also bought some beautiful cloth dinner napkins with bluebonnets and strawberries on them, a medium-sized Staghorn fern from the stunning It’s About Thyme booth, and a begonia and an epiphyte and a lovely stretchy headband for keeping my hair out of my eyes during the serious gardening chores!

It’s a gorgeous day today, if you’re anywhere near the Austin area, you really should drop everything and head over there.  One of my good blogging buddies even came from Louisiana to go to the Festival yesterday.  It’s the only fund raiser for the park, so drive, bike or walk, but get there. You have until 5:00 today!

By | April 3rd, 2016|Blog, Sharing Nature's Garden|0 Comments

Garden Design Workshop full of DIY tips and techniques to create a beautiful landscape yourself …

Don’t miss my garden design class this Saturday from 8:30 to 12:30 for creative garden tips & techniques to help you transform your own garden. Comment now to register & I’ll honor the pre-registration price of  $199 at the door!

It’s at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites, 4892 Highway 290 West, on the westbound 290 access road between Capitol of Texas Highway and Brodie Lane.

Come learn all about the basics — plant combinations, color coordinating, xeric gardening and garden style.
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We’ll have drinks, snacks and prizes…and, most importantly, lots of inspiration!

Hope to see you on Saturday.

By | March 24th, 2016|Blog, Sharing Nature's Garden|0 Comments

Spring wildflowers make for a beautiful garden…

Happy Wildflower Wednesday.  Spring is in full force here in Central Texas.  In fact, we’ve even had summer-like days already, getting up to 94 once or twice.  We love our wildflowers, especially our Texas Bluebonnets.

I wanted to bring some of my pretty flowers – wildflowers, perennials and others, into the house to enjoy today, so I made a little bouquet for my small bluebonnet creamer pitcher.

Now, they aren’t all wildflowers — can you name everything in the vase?  Give it your best shot!

Thanks to Gail, of Clay and Limestone ,who brings us our Wildflower Wednesday celebration. WW is about sharing and celebrating wildflowers from all over this great big, beautiful world. Join us on the fourth Wednesday of each month.

Happy spring!

By | March 23rd, 2016|Blog, Sharing Nature's Garden|0 Comments