Bottle Brush tree

Cottage garden entwined with beautiful edibles highlight of Houston trip

We saw lots of interesting, beautiful and creative gardens when my friend, Pam, of Digging, and I visited Houston for the Garden Conservancy’s Open Day Tour two weeks ago.

My very favorite — a cacophony of color, texture and layers so entwined that taking it all in was a project in and of itself.  But a delightful one, not to be missed.

It wasn’t on the tour; it was recommended by Pam’s sister.  We had high expectations for the house at 605 Peddie Street, and we weren’t disappointed.  The owner, landscape consultant, Terry Gordon Smith, was hand watering the garden with a hose when he found us oohing and ahhing over  his creation.  He was very welcoming and proud of his garden and we enjoyed learning about the garden’s evolution and the weather and conditions in his Houston garden.

No lawn in sight, this garden is filled with evergreens, perennials, annuals, fruits, vegetables and herbs.

The bottle brush trees were pruned very high, making a dramatic statement towering over all the other plants.

Up close and personal – I almost can’t count how many plants are encapsulated in this close-up photo.

With so many plants filling the garden, the view from every angle is unique.

The delphiniums were gorgeous.  I love blue in the garden and there just aren’t that many good choices for us to incorporate it into our gardens.  I’ve had delphiniums, but the deer thought they were tasty!

Even the edibles make beautiful examples of perfect color combinations.

Tight shots like this make the veggies look like abstract art.

 Pam’s working on some of those close ups, too.

 Love the color combo of the delphiniums against the brightly colored house.
This was a delightful garden and, like the garden at 1514 Banks that I posted about, helped to give us a broader perspective of Houston gardens than just those one the tour.  Our weekend was totally garden-licious.  More to come soon about another cool destination nursery and restaurant combo.

Bottle brush blooms are amazing…

As I was making the rounds through the garden this evening, I was struck by the uplighting into the bottle brush tree, Callistemon rigidus.

I have been overwhelmed by the healthy, growth and year-round blooms on this tree.  With a growth habit of 10-12 feet, it is drought-tolerant and attracts bees, butterflies and birds.

This is the freeze replacement tree from Bottlebrush tree #1.  Then the next bad freeze came and wiped this one out.  Or so I thought.  It came back from the roots after last winter and I let it grow like that for a little while to determine what the trunks would look like.  Then I began to prune it up like a small multi-trunked tree, instead of a bushy shrub.  It’s worked out really well and I think I like it even more than the original single trunk.

I like the softness of the flowing bottle brush next to the structural rigidity of the blue agave.

A peek as the blooms first begin to emerge from the buds.

The buds look a little like alien fingers reaching out to you, don’t you think?

Just look at all those blooms. I did have to share space with the bees while I was taking pictures.

Then a last shot of the blooms up against the eerie color of the sky at dusk.

Spring garden projects…

It’s spring. Well, okay, it’s not quite spring yet, but it’s spring here in Central Texas for all intents and purposes.

It’s time to start the vegetable garden, to amend the soil, to pull lots and lots of weeds. And, it’s time to start planning those garden projects that have been nagging at me all winter.

Let’s be clear, every single bed has a project of some sort. There are holes to fill where the drought decimated plants we thought were indestructible. There are holes to fill where the 3-day below freezing cold snap the winter before killed things or stunted them so much they were never the same last summer.

There are a lot of holes to fill.

But this is an entire area that need revisiting. In the bed above, I actually started out with a plan and a vision of a tall, beautiful bottle brush tree with it’s deep red, wispy blooms set against the strong, structural contrast of a smooth blue agave with deep purple ‘May Night’ salvia scattered all around.

The best laid plans…

Three winters ago, I lost the first bottle brush tree and agave to an abnormally cold freeze. I’d planted the tree in the fall and wondered if it hadn’t had enough time to get established before the cold. So I replanted — another agave and a bigger tree — and I planted them in late spring.

Then we had another unusual cold snap and I lost the second tree. And the deer messed with many of my little salvias.

Early last summer, the bottle brush began to come back from the roots. After a few months I had a nice shrub…the same size as the agave. Not exactly the contrast I’d envisioned. In the meantime, a few irises I’d plopped in there began to grow and spread. And I hated the bottle brush shrub, but I didn’t want to kill it – it offends my gardening sensibilities to kill a plant with that much will to live.

A few weeks ago I pruned the bottle brush back into tree form. Multi-trunked, but still pretty and growing like crazy. The agave looks bad after one or two light freezes this winter, and it needs pruning. It’s also been taken over by the irises. (They are stunning right now) But they don’t go next to the agave – the form is too similar, their colors don’t work together…I could go on and on.

Further up the bed toward the house I originally had a dwarf crape myrtle in deep burgundy. It was literally cut in half by my guys on a pruning #fail. Some transplanted loropetalums didn’t survive there and there is one pathetic knock-out rose left hiding there.

This will be my first spring project. The bottle brush? Gonna keep pruning – it stays. The agave? I’ll prune it and think about it. The irises? They will move when the time is right. May night? Nah – something tougher will take their place. Some grasses might find their way there. I’m still hooked on the burgundy, deep purple, silvery gray color combo. Indigo spires would be delightful, but that’s a very windy spot and at their height, I fear they’d be whipped around like crazy there. But I know what I want there, so it will come together if I take my time.

I might even treat myself like one of my clients and draw out a plan.

Or not…

Stay tuned.

Two more beds to go…but I’ll save them for another day.

What’s your first garden project for this spring?

Botanical Garden displays…


Seriously, I thought I was in Texas when we toured the Botanical Gardens in Madrid (except for the rain that is). This beautiful Yucca recurvifolia one of many US plants.
Mediterranean style abounds in the flora and fauna of Madrid, but many of the plants we saw were Xeric varieties well know to Central Texas.
This Nolina was even labeled as the Texana variety and attributed to the USA.


This beautiful bottle brush tree reminded me again of how I lost two of these at home in the last two winters!
An entire section of the display gardens was dedicated to grasses.

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This Coreopsis gradiflora loves this climate as well as ours.

The timing of their gardens is also similar to ours — the irises were almost all done blooming, and other bulbs were also going dormant as the grasses and summer perennials were coming into their own.

Next post, some of their beautiful palms.

Summer keeps hanging on in the garden…

It’s December 15th, and it’s not beginning to look even a little bit like Christmas here in Central Texas!

Unseasonably warm days have my garden confused.

Many summer plants are still thriving, or even putting on a second bloom.

While we’ve had a few close calls, I haven’t had a real freeze at my house yet this season.

Some plants had a few leaves turn and die but the lowest temperature I have measured is 33F.

I love living here — where we can garden almost 12 months a year. Sometimes that means the plants and I don’t get a long winter’s nap.

Having lived several times in much colder climates, I would like to see a little snow in the winter.

That’s why there are airplanes!

The dogs, Tanner (the tan one!) and Dakota, don’t mind one bit. Indian summer suits them just fine as they enjoy watching me work in the garden.

In the cutting garden, I’ve had these daisies blooming for months.

The Katy Road Carefree Beauty rose is very happy and producing wonderfully fragrant blooms.
Mexican Oregano is flourishing and has bloomed non-stop since the Spring.
The fall-blooming Mexican Mint Marigold, which began blooming in September, is also experiencing a long bloom season. I normally have fewer Fall-blooming plants in the garden, but this year, the Mexican Mint Marigold has had to compete for the spotlight.

This creeping Wegelia perennial groundcover, whose bloom is winding its way through this variegated grass, seems to come into it’s own very late in the summer and doesn’t last long. I’ve seen more growth than ever this year with these warmer days.
My Black and blue salvia was overshadowed by other growing plants this summer and had virtually died back. This brand new shoot came up from the roots a few weeks ago and burst into bloom.
Exotic red blooms cover my Bottle Brush tree, blowing in the breezes above a blue agave.
And, the ever-reliable button mums just keep coming back year after year to put on a big Fall show.

For a garden tour of what’s blooming all over the world, you can visit Carol, at May Dreams Gardens, where she hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th of each month.

Still going strong for Bloom Day…

It’s been a strange year in the garden.

We had a cold, rainy winter, a wet spring and a late summer.

My garden was at least 3 weeks behind for the better part of spring and summer.

As we head into fall, things are still not quite right.

Some of our native sun-loving plants just aren’t performing the same this year.

And some of my plants are showing the stress of several hard rains in the last few weeks – a real anomaly for September here.

Their feet were very wet and they don’t like it.

This Double Purple Datura has fought off caterpillars or grasshoppers all summer.

I’ve had few blooms and holey leaves, but when it does bloom – it blows me away. It’s like a beautiful ballgown.

This isn’t technically a bloom, but a Magnolia bud – but I wanted to share it with you because it’s just so wonderful. Doesn’t it make you want to just reach out and touch it.
Second set of blooms down low on this Echinacea — the tops have already gone to seed which I am leaving for the birds. It got a slow start too this spring. The deer ate the first TWO sets of blooms before I got to see them.
But the second set is barely holding onto it’s petals.
This is a happy Blackfoot Daisy. Hermine killed two others that were this wonderful until last week. They REALLY don’t like the rain.
The Moy Grande Hibiscus is stunning again this summer – some days sporting 8-10 plate-sized blooms. It has a few yellow leaves, but it liked the rain and is blooming profusely to say thank-you.
The rain also prompted a second set of blooms on the Bottlebrush tree.
And it’s the season for the out-of-control, totally invasive, I-swear-I-will-never-plant-again Cypress Vine. Of course I will never need to plant it again because it comes up all over my garden every year — especially where I don’t want it!
And the amazing ditch lily brought to me by Lori, of the Gardener of Good and Evil, is STILL blooming. Seriously. I love this plant.
The morning glories that were invisible for most of the summer have started to pop out all over the place. There’s just something about them that just makes me smile.

Special thanks to Carol of May Dreams Gardens for inviting us all to share what’s blooming in our gardens on the 15th of every month. It’s like we’re all chatting together over the garden fence!

Happy Bloom Day!