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?





Delicious garden kale — it’s what’s for dinner

While I was out in the garden this morning figuring out what to do about the impending freeze and miserable weather, I decided to bring in some things from the veggie garden for dinner tonight.

I covered a few things – the lettuce and the chard that I just planted. 

I brought in some parsley and sage and lettuce and the whole head of red Russian kale.  (Kind of liked thinking of the punitive theme for the Russian in my garden.)

Isn’t it just gorgeous?  I admit, I plant this one year after year because of its colors.  I looks beautiful in the garden.  The red colors disappear when you cook it, though.

I sauteed a little bit of onion with a smidge of bacon drippings and then just steamed the still-wet leaves after cleaning.  They cooked for about an hour on low heat with the lid closed.  I seasoned them with truffle sea salt, pepper, a little poultry seasoning and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar upon serving.  Delish!

Oh – and notice my pretty new ceramic olive oil bottle and spoon rest – birthday gifts from my Mom and Dad.  It was all color coordinated on the stove tonight!

What are you eating out of your veggie garden right now?  Any kale on the menu?

Shopping for veggies for the spring garden…

A quick trip to The Natural Gardener today yielded a treasure trove of goodies for the spring garden.

I went in search of three little things:  potatoes, sulfur and seed starter mix.

But I came home with so much more, including:

  • a few magazines,
  • a decorative hanging bell with a cord of glistening glass beads,
  • a fairy garden turtle on a leaf for my daughter, who recently asked if she could have a turtle,
  • seeds,
  • strawberries,
  • beets,
  • lettuce,
  • cauliflower,
  • spinach,
  • chard,
  • daikon radishes,
  • all blue and red pontiac potatoes,
  • sulfur,
  • and my friend Amy Stewart’s book, Wicked Plants.

I got it all into the car and then realized I had forgotten the seed starter mix.  It’s funny how a trip to the nursery can turn your world upside down and make you forget things.  I ran back in and grabbed a bag.

Now it’s time to get busy planting!

Winter vegetable harvest — grow delicious kale

Vegetable gardening feeds my desire to buy and grow unusual plants. I love watching interesting varieties of common plants put on a show in my garden. 

This year I grew kale for the first time — Red Russian, which boasts beautiful red leaf stalks and tender twisting intricate green leaves, and Red Ursa — which is red all over and has tight, tiny curls like a perm left in too long!

If you’ve been wanting to add edibles to your perennial landscape beds – these varieties are the perfect addition.  If you don’t have to worry about deer or other critters getting them, that is.

They look so pretty in the garden.

And even better picked an in a bowl ready for washing!

I sauteed a leek from the garden with a little bit of bacon drippings, then added the washed and wet kale.  I put a little salt, pepper and chicken base in the pot with a little extra water and covered them and let them steam for a while — maybe 30 minutes. 
They were delicious.  I think we can get another meal or two out of the plants before I pull them to make room for the four tomatillos biding their time in the greenhouse until our danger of frost has passed.
What are you eating out of your garden now?

Cauliflower harvest makes delicious dinner…

The winter vegetable garden came bearing gifts yesterday.

I ventured out into the rain to harvest our first cauliflower.

It was big and beautiful in the garden — and it had been calling to me for several days.

With a nice roast, mashed potatoes and roasted beets waiting as accompaniment, I brought it in.

Of course, we took a few pictures of it first.

I cut it up and put it on a baking sheet with some olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Then I sprinkled a little shredded Parmesan cheese on it and topped that with some bits of garlic from the garlic press. After 30 minutes at 425 it was a nutty, cheesy, crunchy batch of yumminess.

Jeff checked online and learned that the beautiful leaves that I cut off of the cauliflower are also edible like greens. I cut and cleaned them and set them aside. Tomorrow I’ll steam them and toss them with some bacon, onion and sea salt … maybe a little balsamic vinegar, too.

There are three more heads of cauliflower growing in the garden, but they have a few more weeks to go so we have something to look forward to.

Broccoli brings back blogging…

After my holiday hiatus from blogging, reading blogs and pretty much anything that didn’t have to do with a kid birthday, Thanksgiving & travel, a holiday party for 160 for which I cook, company for New Year’s, and another kid birthday, I’m baaaaaack!

And this broccoli brought me back. This pretty, fresh and delicious green goddess adorned our dinner plates last night. Only a few of the winter veggies I planted actually survived our fall attack of the critters. Specifically, 2 broccoli plants, 1 green cabbage, 1 red cabbage and 1 cauliflower. The broccoli was the first to ripen.

I know sometimes there isn’t a lot of difference in the flavor of a few of the home grown vegetables and those you buy. But for some veggies, it’s a world of difference — like tomatoes, or last night’s broccoli.

And that was it. All gone. Makes me mad at the critters all over again.

But it sure was tasty.

And it makes me want to plant some more winter veggies this week…and blog about it!