spring bloomers

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!

Brilliant bluebonnets brighten the spring countryside in Central Texas…

It’s a banner year for Texas wildflowers.  Just the right amount of fall and spring rain has bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, Indian Blanket and a slew of other wildflowers cover Central Texas.

This burst of blooms even made the national news; I was delighted to see it on Monday night’s NBC Nightly News.  We’re so proud of our wildflower displays that have their roots in the beautification efforts started by Lady Bird Johnson while her husband was president.

Lady Bird wanted to clean up Washington D.C. and the country’s highways by regulating billboards, junkyards and other unsightly displays that she felt marred the natural beauty of our nation’s countryside.

President Johnson announced the America the Beautiful initiative during his State of the Union speech in January 1965, saying:

“I want to make sure that the America we see from these major highways is a beautiful America.”

Thus followed  Highway Beautification act that called for control of outdoor advertising and other items along Interstate or primary highways and encouraged scenic enhancement of our nation’s roadsides.

On her 70th birthday in 1982, Mrs. Johnson founded the National Wildflower Research Center, a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the preservation and re-establishment of native plants in natural and planned landscapes.  She donated 60 acres of land to establish the Center. In December, 1997, the Center was renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in honor of Mrs. Johnson’s 85th birthday.  Mrs. Johnson was chairman of the Wildflower Center’s board of directors until her death in 2007.

I remember well her passing, as the people of Texas lined up for miles along her funeral procession route, the hearse coming through Oak Hill on its way to her final resting place beside her husband at the family cemetery at the LBJ ranch.

She accomplished so much in her lifetime, and she left us an amazing legacy by raising awareness of the importance of preserving natural and native beauty in our nation.

Bluebonnets against the backdrop of the Hill Country.

The bluebonnet show is just as dramatic in contrast to Indian Paintbrush.

In my own garden, bluebonnets blanket my stone and granite path and my daughter’s play scape pea gravel, taking their place with another of my spring favorites, winecup.

Up close or as distant blur of constant blue along the hills of Texas, bluebonnets herald the arrival of spring like no other.

Dazzling color in the spring garden…

We all love the spring garden — the awakening of plants that herald the arrival of spring and provide a foreshadowing of more  to come.

As the sun shifts in the sky and the breezes begin to warm up, I’m enjoying some rejuvenating time in the garden.

I bought these sweet glass daffodils to bring a pop of color into the garden before the daffodils were ready to open up.

The ‘Kate Izzard’ irises are loaded up and several of them are opening every day.  You can tell that I should have divided them last fall, which I fully intended to do, but I seriously need to do that this fall.

Just gorgeous.

Even though traditional tulips aren’t in our Central Texas plant palette, these species tulips, cluisana ‘Lady Jane’ are sweet substitutes in my garden. 

This little patch of phlox disappears entirely in the head of summer, but I can count on it to emerge in spring with loads of little blooms.

My cemetery irises are also popping open all over the garden.  Our winter clearly made the irises happy.

Bluebonnets are covering my decomposed granite path, and even Kallie’s playground filled with pea gravel.  Fletcher enjoys a peaceful moment with them here.

While most of the buds on my monster wisteria were frozen in our last freeze, there are still some opening up and draping delicately from the fence.

And then there is the homestead verbena.  What a powerhouse.  In the cooler spring and fall, they thrive and liven up any spot in the garden.  They will shrivel and look poor in the heat of summer, but just shade your eyes and pretend not to see them until they return again in the fall.  Even though many of our bloomers start now and run through the fall, homestead verbena is well worth it’s little summer break.

Now that the threat of freezing is past (I have my fingers crossed as I type this), it’s time to fill in the rest of the garden with new and exciting plants that will herald the summer.

Winter garden blooms – the hellebores are back with a flair…

Balancing precariously on the see-saw of spring weather in Central Texas (yesterday it was 77, today’s high will be 57), this season’s garden bloomers have to be tough.

Did someone say ‘hellbore?’  These prized beauties are the perfect antidote to the cold and windy weather blues. 

 This blazing beauty is called ‘stained glass.’

I found only one plant blooming last week.  Today there are 3 in bloom and 3 more have new buds, eager to open.

 This one is ‘winter’s wren.’ 

Aren’t they wonderful?  Also known as Lenten Roses (though they are not related to roses), hellebores are frost-resistant and most are evergreen.  In my garden, they sometimes disappear in the heat of summer, but always come back reliably when the real chill of fall arrives.  They are known for their drought and neglect tolerance and their exceptionally long bloom period from late winter through spring.

I misidentified this as ‘winter’s wren’ last week.  I just went through my plant notebook and now know that this one is ‘green gambler.’  (And then I just spent 30 minutes looking through the notebook and adding plants that I planted last year but didn’t record…rabbit hole!)

These are in a mostly shaded spot and I give them a periodic extra hand-watering with the hose.  A few houses down, my neighbor’s are beautiful and she does no supplemental watering.  They are fine in dry shade but they do like decent drainage.

It’s sometimes hard to see their downward-facing blooms, but they make me feel like a kid again in the garden.  I find myself rushing out to check the plants for new buds and blooms, happily rewarded when I find a shy new flower hiding under the canopy of leaves.

If you’ve got an empty spot or two in your dry shade garden, try a few of these.  Different varieties have different zones, so check closely, but they range from zones 4-9.  Hellebores, a must-have for your winter/spring garden!

Signs of spring in the garden…

Like all gardeners, I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of spring.  While the calendar won’t declare it spring for some time, here in Central Texas, the signs of spring abound with the recent above-average temperatures.

 These aren’t new spring plants popping up, but I love the color in the winter garden.

 If you look closely, you can see the buds forming on the Mexican plum tree.

The new bark is emerging on my lacebark elm tree.  Beautiful bark is a wonderful sculptural element in the garden.

The bluebonnets are growing quickly now – getting ready to put on a real show in my crushed granite path.

My loropetalum has hundreds if not thousands of teeny tiny buds, waiting to turn into pink fringe flowers.

The hellebores are starting to bloom.  I have to go out and lift them up to see these delicious drooping flowers. Even though I can’t see them easily when walking down the path, the lure of these mysterious blooms makes for a fun garden game of hide and seek.

This one’s in full bloom.  It’s limey-green petals camouflage this flower even more than the others.  Helleborus ‘green gambler,’ is a fast grower and usually has some burgundy spotting, veining, or picotee on each bloom.   The picotee is the edge that is a different color than the flower’s main color.

These are very special little specimens — muscari golden fragrance. Unlike most muscari, these are not the tell-tale purple, but rather a soft yellow and they have a wonderful scent. They are very low to the ground – about 5 inches high – so I literally have to get down on the ground to get a whiff of them. But it’s worth it!

The primrose jasmine is about to burst forth beautiful yellow blooms.  This one is about 5 feet tall, so it will be brilliant when it’s covered.

These little daffodils are looking good.  Soon it will be time to blow away the blanket of leaves and let the flowers shine.

The deer have been checking things out in the almost-spring garden as well.  It’s ok, maybe they pushed down my newly planted bulbs since I know I probably didn’t plant them deep enough. (I don’t really worry about that, though, since they seem to come up and perform regardless of my late and lazy planting!)

My cemetery passalong irises are already blooming.  I believe these came from my garden blogger buddy, who blogs here about her garden, which is filled with many kinds of iris.

The loquat tree is sporting new foliage.  I love this tree and the lime-colored new growth that contrasts with the glossy, established dark-green leaves.
And, one last bloom – I bought 3 lovely glass daffodils at the nursery last week and put them next to the emerging real ones.  I wonder what the growing daffodils will think when they come up to find these imposters in their garden.
What’s coming up in your garden today?

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.