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Gardening trends in my landscape

I’m always fascinated about the transformations in the garden each year.  From month to month and season to season, small adjustments often result in big changes.

Here are some of the new plants and hardscape changes in my landscape this year.

January:  We enjoy watching the animals that wander, fly and hop into our garden.  My husband keeps about 10 bird feeders full.  We regularly see cardinals, titmice, sparrows, scrub jays and blue jays, wrens, mockingbirds, road runners, woodpeckers, finches, doves, cliff swallows, and every couple of years, a painted bunting.  Several birdbaths and birdbath fountains provide water for sipping and bathing.

February:  Last year, spring came very early, and the nurseries were full of beautiful plants at least a month ahead of schedule.  If they are selling them, we should be buying them, right?

I didn’t count how many trips I made to our independent nurseries in Austin.  Several times a year, I make all the rounds and come home with the SUV full of flowering friends.

 

Orders I placed over the winter also begin to arrive, ready to join the garden.  The slew of catalogs, full of vibrant photos of unique plant specimens give us visions of plants as we settle in for our long winters naps

They provide promise as gardeners experiment with new colors, sizes and varieties.

March:  I was delighted with the spread of my ground orchids this spring.  The Bletilla striata finally began to naturalize in the woodland garden, making the shady path pop with brilliant fuchsia blooms.

April:  When writing about Central Texas gardening, lush is a rarely used adjective.  But, it was the perfect description for our beds after a unseasonably warm spring and much-needed rains.

May:  This month marked the return of the Rio Grande Leopard frogs to the garden.  We often find them resting in plants in the morning, showering in our accessible fountains during heat of the day, and skinny dipping in the pool at night.  Fletcher runs around the pool in the dark, flushing them out from the neighboring plants so they jump into the pool.  He whines and paces around the perimeter, frustrated that he can’t get to them.  No worries, they can jump back out of the on their own.

June: With most of the garden filling nicely by the onset of the heat, I often shift my focus to decor, pots and creative elements in the landscape.  This piece of aged cedar inspired me to place a few bromeliads in the shade bed.  They had to come in later in the summer, but they added a nice touch for a while.

 July:  By now, the veggie garden provides us with an ongoing  variety of great fruits and vegetables.  Sadly, it is also the time for stink bugs and leaf-footed bugs to attack the tomatoes.  Almost impossible to eliminate, I get depressed about the impending demise of my tomato crop. They multiply so quickly, it’s impossible to control them by hand squishing or spraying them with the hose.

 

 

August:  The dog days of summer are also prime time for many of our native and adapted tropicals.  Pride of Barbados, Caesalpinia pulcherrima, is bursting with blooms by now, like electric orange fireworks all over town — and along the sides of our pool.

September:  This month marked the beginning of my major landscaping project for 2017.  The removal of the playscape paved the way for a new garden.  Eager to create something different, I settled on a pie-shaped parterre garden.  Using the same Oklahoma flagstone in the existing garden path, I had my crew create a rough-edged set of symmetrical beds.  To save money and recycle, I kept some of the pea gravel from the playscape area to build the pathway.

October:  More progress on the parterre.  We revised the existing left path to the vegetable garden, taking out the decomposed granite, flagstone steps and river rock.  This path was a continual source of frustration and weeds.  In spring, it brought forth a profusion of bluebonnets and winecup that were stunning.  But the remaining 10 months of back-breaking proved too much.  We then created a mortared flagstone path, leaving a few periodical spaces for plants — a guarantee that they wouldn’t be able to spread.  I added another path to reach the new parterre.

November:  Fall also brought forth blooms from the newly planted Phillipine Violet, Barleria polytricha.  My first experience growing this plant, it was awelcome addition to the tropical garden.

 

 

 

Finally, we finished the parterre and paths.  Well, almost.  I still need to add one more rose bush and all the accompanying border plants in the beds.  I filled the planting holes in the pathways with purslane. You can be sure I will post after pictures in the spring when the beds are full and blooming. To complete the focal points, I added a center birdbath, a wooden framed mirror on the back fence to provide interest and give the space more dimension, and a floral-themed bench to sit on and enjoy the growing garden.  If you look closely, you can see my taking this photo in the mirror. Once those elements were in place, I sat on the bench and marveled that I have never really looked at my garden from that vantage point.  It’s a wonderful and reflective place to sit and I’m so pleased to see my vision come to life.

December:  This month shocked all Central Texas gardeners with a surprise snowfall.  Not the dusting and melting immediately variety of snow we occasionally see, but a solid inch of sticking snow.  It turned the garden into a southwestern version of a winter wonderland.

Luckily, the blanket of snow insulated the plants and we were spared the worst possible damage of the unseasonably early freeze.

Winter has officially settled in and January feels like January, just colder than normal.  Seed catalogs sit by my chair as I cozy up to the fire with my hot tea, dreaming of garden plans to come in 2018.

What were your favorite garden additions in 2017?  New plants, new beds, new hardscape — what rocked your garden last year?

 

 

 

 

Stunning L.A. garden’s lovely vignettes delight at every turn…

We discovered a rustic paradise among the gardens we visited in L.A. last weekend (you can see the other garden I’ve already blogged about here).  We drove around and around to the top of a steep hill with spectacular views of the mountains, where our generous hosts, Joy and Roland, welcomed us.

A large, sleek kitchen, entertaining and living area became part of the outdoor experience, with huge floor-to-ceiling glass doors that opened entirely. As the inside intermingled with the outdoors, multiple seating and viewing vignettes were scattered around the fully cleared top of the hill.

After some wine and appetizers, we headed to the path to make our way down the hill.

 Sumptuous succulents filled containers, nooks, and crannies at every turn.

 A whole host of focal points shine at strategic places winding down the hill.

 These succulents spill off of the hill as you approach the house from the driveway.

The Joy and Roland have added layers and pathways over many years, creating mini beds and spots to sit and appreciate the view different vantage points.

 This is a collector’s garden – filled with a wide variety of succulents and other plants, adding interesting contrast, color and texure.

Carefully crafted stonework with unique designs defines the slope — a artful masterpiece in itself.

The attention to detail is so striking.

 More nooks and crannies flank the entrance to the spectacular wine cellar.

 Cut into the side of the earth, the cellar was mercifully cool on a 100+ degree day.  I felt as if I had stepped back in time – with cool stone and rows of bottles inside – offering just enough room for an intimate wine party.  A long hallway will soon be connected via tunnel to just outside the house, the next major project already planned and waiting to be implemented.

This would be my favorite seat in the garden.  Close up and far away, both views equally enchanting.

 Empty on the way down, but by the time we came by again, someone had taken up residence in my spot.

Fully content and unfazed by visitors to his garden, the dog, Domino,  thinks this is a great spot, too.

In front of the bench, a delightful pond filled with koi provides entertainment as the Koi dart around under the shade of beautiful plants.

A statuesque heron stands guard over the koi, who also have many deep areas to hide for predators, just in case the heron falls asleep on the job!

Don’t forget to look up.

I could sit for hours and watch the fish and the view; electronic devices have nothing on this.

Another outdoor room awaits.

More vertical gardening — these mid-century modern hanging planters from Potted bring color and contrast to this magical hot tub oasis.  (More posts to come, as we visited both Potted and the home of the store’s owner on this fabulous trip.)

Rustic and natural, this hideaway brings outdoor living to a new dimension.

 I also saw these planters in the garden of a fellow blogger in Seattle who blogs at Danger Garden.

The echo of a subtle orange glow on the tips of these succulents is an artful planting design touch.

Another view up the hill, filled with interesting plants, containers and found garden art that Joy has collected over the years, like this sweet deer statue.

The mostly mild California climate yields big, beautiful plants like these aloes.

 The repetition of these gorgeous anemones creates a dramatic ridge along the hillside.

I’ve tried to grow these in Austin with no success.  But I’ve see them used as stunning elements in LA, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle gardens.

Nestled ear the top of the hill, this greenhouse is home to garden tools and pots now, and awaits more delicate plants as the weather cools.

By the end of our visit, Domino tired of us and went back to his own bed to take a break from the sweltering heat.

A huge thanks to Joy and Roland, for your hospitality and for opening your home and garden to us. The garden is magical, and masterfully crafted and I loved spending time in it and I’m pleased to be able to share a small part of it with others through this blog post.

Delightful garden tour on a challenging slope …

It’s a treat to get together once a month with other Austin garden bloggers to share stories, enjoy each others’ gardens, eat, drink and pass along plants at our plant swap.

On Saturday, we were treated to double the fun.  In addition to our monthly gathering at the stunning garden of David and Jenny of Rock Rose, we also ventured nearby to their neighbors and were given a guided tour of another beautiful garden.

Located on approximately one and one third acre, this garden’s hills and vales are interwoven with ribbons of rock and drainage solutions that blend into the landscape. 

As we walked into the back yard, I was immediately drawn to this line of dramatic whale’s tongue agaves.  They sit perched atop a river rock berm, surrounded by softer foliage that draws the eye far out into the garden.

Here’s a longer shot of how they are incorporated into this first layer of the overall landscape.

A closer look at the other plants reveals a cottage-like aesthetic, complete with a bird bath, gazing ball and obelisk to serve as focal points throughout the space.

The blend of sun-loving plants crosses traditional garden style boundaries in some areas, making the garden more intriguing.

Then the path evolved into a more desert-like garden, filled with sculptural cacti and agaves and garden art.

As dry as the garden appeared, it was hard to imagine the torrential rains that must have swept through these beds only days before.

As you keep meandering through the back of the garden, you wind your way through a shadier, wooded pathway.

Just as the garden becomes sunnier again, so does the garden decor.  Brilliant pops of orange and cobalt blue are sprinkled throughout this section of the landscape.

Hot garden plants fill the brightly colored planters.

A single orange slice of wall acts as a backdrop for this dramatic planter, home to either a sago palm or a dioon edule.

More beautiful tropicals.

This is a view from the garden back to the house and a covered patio area. 

Another painted wall houses this creative trellis displaying an array of cacti in terra cotta pots.

Just past the driveway, this colorful rooster seems to be peering through the salvia to spy on our group of gardeners.

This chocolate mimosa makes a striking statement against this dark wooden gate the the bright limestone.

This Asian-style bench welcomes visitors as they near the front door — and just beyond — this imposing soldier seems to be guarding the entry area as well.

The garden was spectacular — I loved not only the collection of plants, but also the fascinating garden sculpting to address drainage issues.

Special thanks to the homeowners for inviting us to share in their beautiful space.