japanese quince

Itching and inspiration in the garden…

It’s that time of year when I’m just itching to get into the garden.  Our yo-yo weather has vascillated from 90-degree days to drenching and seemingly endless rain.  My spring flowers are performing as predicted and I’m enjoying the bright blooms of Japanese Quince, daffodils, and bletilla.

Japanese Quince

The ornamental cabbages in the giant pots by the pool have never looked better, but I’m already eager to get started on starting the summer container plants in there.  I’m suffering from that in-between indecision about the timing of out-with-the-old and in-with-the-new.

Bletilla Striata – Ground Orchid

And the wisteria is starting to bloom on the back fence.

Wisteria

A few days in the 80s and even 90 and the variegated shell ginger and esperanza, Tecoma stans, are growing by leaps and bounds.  It won’t be long before they will form a beautiful wall along the pool and cabana walkway.

 Variegated shell ginger and esperanza

Daffodils dot the landscape like pinpoints of summer sunbeams.

Daffodil

Daffodil

I’ve also been planting on these gorgeous days.  I’m eager to see the structure that these new Mexican tree ferns will add to this mostly shady spot.

Mexican tree fern

The promise of spring and foreshadowing of summer energize me to dig in the dirt now, while the days are warm and welcoming.  So many projects…so little time!

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.

Some color in the winter garden…

The sun came out today and I took a tour around my garden, basking in the warmth.  As I passed each plant, mental notes began to form. 

Cut this one back in a month…this one fared really well in the last freeze…oh no, I should have covered that one…and, best of all…hey — this one is blooming!

Against the backdrop of grey and brown, several bright spots dotted the landscape.

 If you were a bird, wouldn’t you love spending the winter here?

 Although the roses have turned to hips, the tips of the branches remain alive with budding color.

 Apparently, the cold weather agrees with my viburnum.

 My absolute favorite spring bloomer, Japanese Quince, has begun showing off bright flowers against it’s spiny, sculptural branches.

 And next to it, the primrose Jasmine is bursting into blooms and buds as well.

 The variegated ascot rainbow spurge has been transformed from the lime and yellow stripes it sported in summer to this rich, dark green and burgundy. 

And the sight of yaupon holly berries brings the woods to life with their shiny fruit.

While I’m certainly eager for the budding days of spring, it brings me a sense that all is right with the world as I watch the garden unfold across the seasons, as it is surely meant to do.

Beautiful blooms in the early spring garden…

Even though we officially have to practice 45 more days of gardening patience until we reach spring, Central Texas seems to be unaware that it’s winter.

We’ve had a two or three freezes at our house – barely – but it’s been a warm, dry winter.

And last week we were in the 80s, breaking a winter high record at 81.

But the garden perseveres and plants know what day it really is.

Reliable like clockwork, my Japanese quince (Chaenomeles japonica) is the first harbinger of spring in my landscape.  Dotted with compact pink buds and a few blooms that have already freed themselves, it’s a pop of brilliant color in a subdued and mostly dormant garden.

What’s exciting you in your garden today?


Fall color in the Central Texas garden

The fall color in my garden this week isn’t from autumnal leaves on trees, it’s from a nice 1.5 inch rain last week and a few days and nights of cooler temperatures.

These zinnias have a whole fresh set of flowers.

All the perennials shrubs and wildflowers are flush with blooms.  Not just fall colors – all colors.

The firecracker gomphrena I planted just a month ago is spreading and has made the transplant with flying colors.

I guess the change of seasons is making them happy and giving them some relief.

These wildflowers just popped up in my cutting garden.  They reseeded from somewhere into a mass clump of perky yellow blooms.

My carefree beauty rose is dotted with pretty pink blooms and the deep purple indigo spires make a lovely contrast.


I was surprised to find the Japanese quince in bloom – it must have happened over night when I wasn’t paying attention.

The lackluster purple hyacinth bean vine, which has struggled all summer long – is finally showing off.

The change of seasons makes me happy, too.