Bletilla Striata

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?





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.


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.



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!

Eagerly awaiting surviving bletillas in my garden …

When we had the icy freeze last week, one of the things that panicked me was the potential damage to the emerging bletilla striata, or ground orchids.

I bought them several years ago after falling in love with them in my dear, departed friend Eleanor’s garden.

The three plants each put up one bloom the first two years.  Last year I had about two blooms each.  But this year, I’d already seen about 10 stalks peeking out of the ground – waiting to wow me with fabulous blooms. 

And even though most of the newbies were burned in the freeze like this one in the foreground – take a peek behind it at that newer, smaller lime green shoot. 

Thank goodness.  I think covering the plants with a blanket that miserable night probably helped those that were just at the surface, even though the taller ones didn’t survive.

It’s amazing what Mother Nature can do — both good and bad. 

Now I am eagerly awaiting some of these blooms in the garden.  And I know that I will appreciate them even more this year. 

Beautiful spring blooms and bulbs brighten the garden…

Isn’t she lovely? Isn’t she wonderful?

My bletilla striata, also known as ground orchids, burst into bloom suddenly this weekend and I almost missed them. I love their exotic form and stunning color.

These little blooms are jonquilla “baby moon” and are less than an inch in diameter. About 8 inches tall, they are miniatures in every way. Their stems are like long, thin, round blades of grass. They bloom last of all my daffodils, but they are my favorites because of their delicate form.

Although I’m saddened to mark the loss of some of my cilantro, thanks to the early and unseasonably warm temperatures, I do think the blooms are sweet.

This is an oops bulb. It must have come in a bag of daffodil bulbs that I ordered, because that’s what’s blooming all around her. But I love the swirling red, white and pink color combination.

These tulips were intentionally planted. My neighbor brought me bulbs back from her trip to the Netherlands in February and I promptly put them in the ground. They were up in no time, much to my surprise. Because I’m not willing to dig up tulip bulbs and replant them every year (which we have to do in our hot climate because we don’t have enough chilling hours), I don’t have tulips in my garden. But I might have to dig these up for sentimental reasons. They have special meaning for me — they were a gift from a dear friend, and I lived in the Netherlands for four years when I was a young girl.

The bright lime green of these daylily leaves make a pretty contrast against this purple salvia — sadly it didn’t come with a good tag when I planted it, so I have no idea which of the 200+ salvias it is. I just know it’s colorful and hardy.

This is hellebore ‘winter wren‘. It and ‘Phoebe‘ are both blooming. They were sad when the weather first warmed up and I thought the summer heat had zapped them. Then all of a sudden they had a growth spurt and put on a show.

The bluebonnets are bringing great color to my cutting garden (although I never cut them!). They also spread their seeds all over Kallie’s play scape. Those plants are a few weeks slower growing than these, so I hope to have fun pictures of them soon. They clearly love that pea gravel.

My Japanese Maple was miserable last summer, but is happy with this wet, temperate spring.

Are any of these beautiful blooms putting on a show in your garden yet this spring?

Got a little garden bling?

I love bling.

I loved bling when bling wasn’t even cool.

Don’t know what I’m going to do when clothing styles change, because I’m taken with the swirls and the sequins and the glitter that are so popular right now.

Then I got to thinking, I like a little bling in my garden, too.

And I don’t mean gazing balls (I’m not so fond of them, actually).

Like this ginger I recently planted — it’s kind of like bling in my garden.

What’s garden bling, you ask?

You know — it’s those one-of-a-kind specimens, the exotic plants or the plants that perform amazingly. The plants you and your gardening friends ooh and ahhh over time after time.

So here is an overview of the plants I think of as bling in my garden. For starters, there’s this Carara Ginger — a tropical perennial with reddish bracts with pale purple to greenish tips. It blooms for several months and like part shade. It’s new to me, and I don’t know if it will do well here, but it called my name at the nursery.

This “Phoebe” hellebore is another delicate favorite that is a shining star in my garden. It never ceases to amaze me that she almost disappears in warm months, but comes back in the cold of winter like a pale princess.
Even though the foliage is less than attractive at times, when it blooms, this Night-blooming Cereus is stunning. Sadly, you have to catch it late at night or first thing in the morning to enjoy its one-night bloom.
The cassia, with their tall, exotic structure and candle-like blooms is always a thriller in the garden. Especially the year before last when they didn’t die back in the winter and grew to be about 12 feet tall in its second season.
Then of course there is the Moy Grande hibiscus — phenomenal blooms as big as plates. On a mid-summer day, there were as many as 12 giant blooms open at once. It’s a real show-stopper.
These irises are really exotic, but I’m so enamored with the color that I eagerly await their bloom every spring. It’s a Louisiana iris, “Professor Neil” and one of my favorites.
The Bletilla Striata, or ground orchids are defnitely bling. Just the thought that I have “orchids” growing in the ground amazes me!

The plumerias definitely are exotics, but they love it here. It’s been a particularly good year for them this year. They’ve liked the extra moisture in the air.
But on the same note, I’ve had to pull this Desert Rose out of the rain many times this summer because I wants to be dry, dry, dry. And it rewarded me with these great blooms.
These? No exotic at all, but the giant patch of wine cup that completely covers my rock path each spring is another jaw dropper. I walk around the path for months, because I can’t bear to cut it back one little bit!
And this ia a perfectly ordinary Wisconsin ditch lily, brought to me in a bucket by car by Lori, the Gardener of Good and Evil . Hemerocalis experts frown at these common ditch lilies, but this amazing plant bloomed for me ALL summer long and at times had a dozen hot tangerine blooms at once.

I had a hard time limiting my choices because there are so many plants in my garden that I think are special. So, these are just a few of my favorite things.

Which plants are the bling in your garden?

Blooms bursting out…

This Bloom Day, the Bluebonnets are bursting forth here in Central Texas. Even though we are behind in our blooms this spring, it seems things are finally waking up this month. All those fall rains are finally paying off. You can thank Carol, of May Dreams Gardens, for inviting us all to share our beautiful blooms with our friends on the 15th of each month.
My Tangerine Crossvine is absolutely out of control.
I’m very excited that I finally learned to plant Spiderwort INSIDE the fence so the deer don’t eat it and I get to enjoy it’s lovely blooms.
This pretty purple Vinca won’t be around long…it’s leftover from the previous owners (and we’ve been in the house almost 7 years!) and keeps popping up where I don’t want it – in my Abelias. But it is pretty…maybe I will try to move some…
I bought this perky Hinkley’s Columbine at the Wildflower Center Sale last weekend. I hope I have better luck this time – I’ve been unsuccessful with columbines so far.
My ‘Maggie’ rose has a hundred blooms on it, easily. And they smell heavenly — can’t you smell them?
Okay – back to the Crossvine – see how out of control it is? It’s climbing from the ground all the way to the top of this big oak tree.

These two photos are the Carefree Beauty or Katy Road Rose. It’s full of blooms, too and is competing neck and neck with Maggie for the best scent ever!

These sweet little Cosmos are in the cutting garden. They’re only a few inches tall. My last Cosmos were the tallest ones – probably 3 feet tall!
Here’s another little Spiderwort.
The Damianita are starting to bloom and this one of several little pups that I’m going to dig up and move to expand my collection! I love it when I make new plants in my own garden — well, not me personally, but my plants.

One of many different colors of Alyssum…
Texas Primrose sundrops are so perky in the rock path.
The Homestead Verbena is a sea of purple in the path.
Carpet thyme in the path.
More Alyssum…
and more…
My tall winecups are blooming, too. The foliage is up to my knee.

The profusion of Maggie Roses again.
The Desert Rose is so happy with our nice spring weather.
The Phoebe Hellebore is still blooming – all the blooms have turned from pink to green now, but sadly, none of the other plants have any blooms. Next year.
I have lots of Dianthus scattered around the beds for winter filler — the deer don’t eat them and they perk up the garden when everything else is brown.
One of several salvias I didn’t label (bad blogger, bad blogger!).
The Four-Nerve Daisies are all blooming like crazy right now.
The itsy-bitsy, teeny-weenie Daffodils are still blooming. The stalks are like standing pieces of twine, they are so thin and delicate.
The first blue Salvia bloom opened today in the front garden by the driveway. This is Mystic Spires – which is a compact, clumping form.
Another Salvia…
A leftover Tete-a-tete Daffodil – I will definitely plant more of these in the fall – loved them.
This was supposed to be Homestead Verbena — hmmm…someone (not me) was color blind. I just made the mistake of buying them with no blooms and trusting the nursery owner!
The infamous Cleome Senorita Rosalita, made famous by Pam of Digging‘s trial and rave reviews last summer.

Louisiana Blue Phlox & Dianthus
Phlox – pink something or other!
Primrose Jasmine.
Potato Vine.
Mexican Flame Vine – I am trying a new one. First year I had one it did great, then I think Mexican Mint Marigolds stole its water. Gonna make sure it gets a little more this year.
One of my favorites – Blackfoot Daisies.
A volunteer Bluebonnet that seeded across the driveway from last year’s plants.
Diamond Frost Euphorbia. Look quick – I have 3. One has been eaten to the nubs. One is on its way out. This one’s days are numbered unless I rush out and move it to the back!
Prairie Verbena that I got at the Wildflower Center last weekend.
Something I planted and didn’t write down — rats!
Another something I planted and didn’t write down — rats!
Bletilla Striata – I now have 3 of them dotting the shade along the river rock bed and it is just beautiful.

This unusual spring has enabled me to inter-plant early and late spring/summer plants and to see where the holes will be when bulbs and early bloomers die back. For me, this is the biggest challenge — keeping the garden going year round with seasonal bloomers and interest.

Happy GBBD!