tropicals

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?

 

 

 

 

Take a step back in time at Hillwood Gardens…

It felt as if we stepped back in time when we toured the lovely grounds of Hillwood Gardens at the 2017 Garden Bloggers Fling in the Northern Virginia/D.C. area.  The grounds of the estate offered something for everyone.  From the formal areas to the cutting garden, Japanese garden and the pet cemetery, the patchwork of styles was delightful.

Filled with traditional and eclectic statuary, the grounds were dotted with whimsical touches.  This pair of sphinxes, half woman, half lion, drew many stares from visitors.

Across the lush lawn from the mansion, a flagstone patio marks the edge of a balcony overlooking the hilly lawn below.

I did not venture down the hill; my dog took me down on the street in our neighborhool 9 weeks before the Fling and I spent the entire trip hobbling around with a broken foot in a boot!

It was very manageable almost everywhere.  There were only 3 hilly gardens that I either couldn’t or chose not to navigate.  And I brought baggies to make ice packs for my foot every night.  The kindness of my fellow bloggers was astounding.  I believe that every single person asked me at least once or twice about how I was doing and asked if there was anything they could do for me.  It really touched me how kind and generous every one was.  Thank you all for your help and support.

In the midst of many formal garden elements, I found this border dotted with tropical plants and bold color contrasts a delightful surprise.

The Japanese garden lies down the path to the right of the patio.  The hillside garden winds through rocks and holds an extensive collection of Japanese style statuary. The stunning color combinations almost take your breath away and the varying textures and forms create fabulous contrasts.

What Japanese garden would be complete without a water feature, a pagoda and an arched wooden bridge.

The water feature brought an element of calm and cool to the garden, in spite of the heat of the day.

Down the path to the left of the patio a pet cemetery honors the furry family members of Marjorie Merriweather Post.

We enjoyed a delicious lunch and then I found my way to the cutting garden.  Filled with beautiful blooms of every size and color, the flowers were also given a helping hand with stakes and a a full length grid.  About a foot high, the grid allowed the flowers to grow straight up through it from early on, ensuring nice, straight stalks.

One of my favorite plants for its exotic look and structural shape, there was a big patch of Eryngium.

And, a few more whimsical statues to close out this blog tour.

Back to the work at hand, we shoot each other at the same time!

Another wonderful garden experience on our Capital Region Fling.

Tropical plumeria has a sweet surprise in the greenhouse…

If you ask me to envision myself in my happy place, you’ll find me on a beach somewhere, enjoying balmy breezes with a book in one hand and an umbrella drink in the other.

So when the weather warms up, I spend my time creating a similar happy place in my own garden.  Around our pool, I plant things that are lush — some tropical, some native.  The tropicals typically live in very large ceramic pots that overwinter in the greenhouse.

For many years, I’ve been growing plumeria, or frangipani.  I’ve been given some by my parents, who brought them back from Hawaii, and from friends who have passed along pieces of theirs.

And, I’ve bought a few at the annual Zilker Garden fest from a vendor that has has an array of exotic plants that I am always enticed to bring home with me.

A deciduous shrub, Plumeria spp is a tropical plant native to parts of Central America.  Most of mine are yellow, though I do have one or two pink varieties.  The yellow blooms fill the air with the most amazing lemony goodness. 

Mine are all still in the greenhouse, thanks to our late cold spells.  While I was watering in there this afternoon, I discovered two giant seed pods.  I haven’t seen them forming because this pot is in the very back corner of the greenhouse and I have to step up on some step stones to even see it.  They are the two elongated brownish pods going to the left and up of the main green stalk and then down to the right, cutting the photo diagonally.  Cool, huh?

The plumeria tree blooms in the summer and features waxy, showy flowers consisting of five petals in a funnel shape. When the flowers begin to wither, they are replaced by long, slender fruit. A nonedible seedpod, the plumeria fruit reaches lengths of between 6 to 12 inches. So, I must have had a bloom in the greenhouse over the winter that I didn’t see and now … voila!

You can propagate a new plumeria tree from seeds stored in the ripened fruit. It takes 9 to 10 months for the seedpods to fully ripen.  Then you can pull  them from the tree and harvest the seeds.

So, if you think you’re in the market for some plumeria seeds in about 7 – 8 months, leave me a comment here!

Winter warm up — hot colors in the garden…

Even here in Central Texas, our winter’s freezing temps and cold, damp, grey skies are hanging on.  I’m done with it.  And  I know my gardening friends to the north are exasperated by the volume of snow that continues to plague them.

At the Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland last spring, I was struck by the overwhelming use of color in the gardens there.  Plants, pots, furniture, you name it, vivid colors perked up each and every garden.  With a climate filled with its share of grey days, these pops of color  their gardens not only brightened up the space, they brightened my mood. 

As I’m sure they were consciously or subconsciously intended to do.

So for everyone who is exasperated by the lingering blanket of winter that covers our souls and our gardens this year, here are some of my favorite photos of tropical style gardens, plants and decor.

A little garden statuary can help to enhance your garden style.

Even if you’re in a drought, a pretty rain chain can make it seem like you might be having a late afternoon tropical shower.

With only a few exotic-looking plants and the right leaf shapes, textures or forms, you can create your own resort-like retreat in your back yard.

Hot, contrasting colors embody the tropical style.

Bananas, crotons and coleus are true tropical plants.

Even if your design doesn’t include many tropical plants, you can add some pops of color with garden art and decor.

While most coleus are shade plants, there are new sun-loving varieties that you can use in sunny spots.

Texture, second only to color, typifies traditional plants of the tropics.  Big, bold foliage with exotic patterns and texture abound in this section of the world.

Elephant ears can set the mood in your island oasis.

Giant planters filled with eye-popping color can seem tropical, even if the plants in it aren’t. 

Tropical style is all about big, bold design that packs a punch.  Simply looking at these hot colors warms me up and gives me the itch to garden.

A gardener’s wish list of styles, all in one Portland garden

Last month’s Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland offered something for everyone.  There were many different gardens, ranging from cottage style to tropical.

The Old Germantown Gardens found its way onto my favorites list because it was one-stop shopping.  (Well, not literally shopping, though we did a lot of that on the Fling, too. ) Winding paths, perennial beds, a rock garden, ponds, a dry hillside garden, tropical plants and a collection of seating areas were scattered about the 2-acre property. A mere 23 years in the making, the gardeners brought the design and their plant collections together beautifully.

 The vista from the front of the house beckons you into the garden.

 Winding paths entice you into the diverse gardens and vignettes.

In spite of the broad swaths of color and texture and form, stunning individual blooms reached out to me in many places throughout this garden.

Something new and unique waited around every corner and down each path.

Ah, a lovely place to rest and enjoy the garden.

 But I didn’t dally here – too much more to see!

The woodland garden was a treat for me – the cool, shady path provided a welcome relief from the hot sun and in Austin, Texas, a garden like this is rare.

 I’m always delighted by the conifers in the Pacific Northwest.

Another path leading to more garden goodies.

I saw these plants in the nursery in Portland and on someone’s blog post.  The color combination absolutely wowed me. 

And there were daylilies everywhere.  Tall daylilies, short daylilies, bright daylilies, pale daylilies.

Then there was a drier garden, fille with plants that I recognized.

And some tropical colors started appearing in the garden.

Doesn’t everyone need a waterfountain in the middle of the garden for a refreshing drink while you are weeding?!

Ah – Eucomis – I have one at home and bought one at the nursery the previous night.  Love them.

And another familiar sight – cacti with beautiful blooms.

 And then there were the real tropicals – love these hot, popping colors.

 And a greenhouse full of special plants.

It was a delightful garden with so much to see and enjoy.  The best kind of garden for a tour – one in which every path leads to a new garden adventure.

Beautiful Austin gardens on Wildflower Center tour inspire with details and structure…

One of my annual Mother’s Day treats — the day before Mother’s Day — is to spend the day on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s annual garden tour with my garden blogging friends. 

This year’s tour included exceptional gardens that were previously featured during past tours.  Since I had previously seen three of the gardens,  it was a great opportunity to see how they had evolved over time. 

Our first stop was an early invite to catch the morning sun in Tait Moring’s garden before the crowds arrived.  Situated on a hilltop with an amazing canyon view, this garden is always a treat to visit.  It includes classic elements and eclectic focal points — finely-honed view corridors and magnificent vistas.  Several water features and a range of plants from xeric to native to tropical fill garden rooms with unique appeal.

This beautiful iron gate – which matches several others around the property, is the gateway to the beautiful view.

Strategically placed pottery and other objects serve as focal points around the garden.

Pots decorate patios, too.

I remembered the wonderful sculptural pruning of this pittosporum and after several more years of growth – it was even more beautiful than before.

 More simple, understated pots with lush plants made a perfect match with the clean lines of the house.

Along the side of the house, these dramatic pots planted with yellow hesperaloe grab your attention.

In another vignette – this hardscaping elevates these pots with oversized agaves, both in height and in interest.

This ornate gate mirrors the other iron work on the property.

This wall was created with stones from Moring’s childhood rock collection and other memorabilia and art.

Pieces of glass are interspersed with the rocks in the wall, and a trio of pots adds more color to the display.

 We couldn’t decide if this carving was Aztec or Southeast Asian in origin — but it was very cool.

 And a field of native plants and wildflowers cascades down the hill.

 Wonder what my tour mates are laughing about?  I know!

 This fence was definitely not meant to keep these beautiful blooms on one side of the fence or the other. 

Pops of spring color.

I’m not sure this guy paid for a tour ticket!

This hammock, hidden down in the woods, called to my blogging buddy.

 Intricate raised stone beds in the potager were filled with vegetables and flowers.

 Artichokes on tour.

A small pocket of sun in a secret sitting area in the woods illuminates a blooming cactus.

After a long trek down the hillside and through the woods (no river), we found a beautiful Texas madrone tree.  The Texas madrone is known for is its distinctive exfoliating bark. When the older layers come off, the new bark is smooth and can be white – like this one – or orange or even red. The madrone needs a xeric climate and very good drainage.

Another addition since our last visit – a beautifuldark-bottomed swimming pool.  Subtle and simple, it fades into the backdrop of the garden.

A collection of tropical plants lines the stone wall and wood fence that serve as the backdrop for the pool.

This made me feel like I was in the Yucatan!

A delightful and fascinating garden, I left feeling peaceful and inspired.