Friday, April 29, 2016

First time blooms on my favorite plants for April.

I've been in various stages of the flu for about two weeks now.  Got the flu shot, not a covered strain.  I'm recovering slowly now and when I do get a chance to go outside I've been surprised at how amazing everything in the garden looks.  The biggest surprise are blooms on plants that rarely bloom or have not bloomed before.  On the last Friday of each month Lori at Danger Garden posts her favorite plants and asks garden bloggers to do the same.  Since these rare (for my garden) blooms caught my eye this week I'm putting them together for my favorite plants for April.

First up has to be Callistemon 'Little John' or dwarf bottlebrush.  One of the first plants I put in the garden back in 2010, I had given up on it ever blooming.  A big freeze the first year knocked it back to the ground and over the years it has basically been a foliage plant.  Too much shade?  Not enough water?  Hard to say what it was, but now this....

Definitely a "bottlebrush".  I was always fascinated by these blooms,

Funny thing is that several years ago I decided I didn't want red blooms in the front garden.  Now I might change my mind since these usually look best in groups.  Nope it won't get moved.  I tried transplanting one Callistemon from here to more sun and it died so I'm glad I left this one in place.

Creeping Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys) with purple blooms.  It's the same plant shown in my blog header photo, but I never told you it had only ever looked like that once--until now.  As it grew and spread it just never bloomed.  Must be something about this year, rain with intermittent sunshine, that has brought out the blooms on this and so many others.

Another first time bloomer is Bauhinia mexicana or Mexican Orchid.  We may have had a couple of sporadic blooms last year, but this is the first time for full bloom.  It needed three years to recover from a deep freeze the same year it was planted.

Supposedly deer resistant, the deer still nibble and so it gets a cage which allows it to bloom.  I think that as it grows taller (up to 8 feet) and stronger it might be okay.  A great understory tree for our area, I wanted this one for its white blooms which I hope to enjoy in the front garden from spring to fall each year.

This was labeled Hardy Red Amaryllis though it looks more pink to me now that it's blooming.  I had kept it in a pot for several years while trying to decide on a permanent spot.  Guess it prefers to be in the ground.  I bought this before I learned that good old Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) from the big box store is hardy here.  Now all my holiday Amaryllis go outside for reblooming.

Opuntia humifusa, a groundcover prickly pear cactus covered in bright yellow blooms.  Neal had to remove a bunch of wildflowers so I could see them. Gorgeous!

It's hard to tell but this reblooming orchid has three stalks blooming at once and it's at least the third rebloom.  Best advice is to treat it like a houseplant with good light and don't fuss.

Last but not least is the silvery twist leaf yucca out by the street.  If my track record with yuccas stays intact, the center will die out but there seem to be plenty of pups on this favorite to hold down the spot for a few years.

Creamy bell-shaped blossoms are always a standout.

Those a just a few of the plants that have been cheering me up as I venture into the late spring garden.   It's a good thing I took time to get photos today as we just had a hail storm.  Not big enough to do a lot of serious damage but I imagine some of these flowers will be knocked off in the morning.   Check out Lori's favorite plants for April and come up with a few of your own for May.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Friend's Gardens: Linda and Alan

When I posted about my great yucca quest, I mentioned my friend Linda volunteered to drive 150 miles round trip to Austin to pick up two large yuccas in her truck.  I asked Linda if I could post on her garden and she agreed!  A native of upstate New York where water is plentiful, Linda has embraced the San Antonio style of watersaving gardening since moving here in 2007.

Linda and her husband Alan purchased their new home in north central San Antonio in 2007 and started with a blank slate.  I think it's interesting to see how no-lawn gardening works in their newer development with smaller lots.  Linda is a garden designer who has written several articles on gardening with native plants.  The current Spring 2016 issue of the Native Plant Society of Texas magazine News includes her article on interesting Texas native plants not commonly sold in nurseries.

One of the biggest challenges in writing any blog post is what to leave out and, as usual, I decided to include as much as I could fit in.  We'll begin at the sidewalk with a sweep of raised-bed gardens filled with colorful native and adapted plants.  No deer problem means she can plant roses in the front yard.

Linda's neighborhood is high on a hill at 1500' elevation where the terrain is even rockier than mine which is 500' lower and just minutes away .  Resisting the urge to plant every inch, Linda mulched the rounded center space.

Guests are greeted by a table of succulents.

A single sculptural Anacacho Orchid holds court in a narrow raised bed.

Three Agave leguchilla accent the front corner.  Jasmine clambers up the front column.

A crevice garden for succulents anchors the driveway corner.  Linda's skilled placement of stones and plants is on full display.

Succulents are still filling in this fairly recent installation.

Large corner rocks were moved in place by a skid steer while most of the other rocks were collected on site and placed by Linda and Alan.  Bluebonnets naturally find their way into small gravel spaces.

Prickly Agarita, a native berry bush, makes a great burglar deterrent against the front windows.

This channel below the windows keeps garden soil off the brick.

Pretty vignettes enhance views.

Cool details among the rocks.

Lantana and salvia soften low stone borders.

Linda inspired her neighbors to keep on going up the block by planting their parkway strips.

The neighbors down the block are inspired too.  An Agave ovatifolia which was already there when Linda and Alan moved in anchors the far corner.

Linda solved the blank concrete wall problem on her deeply sloping lot with a wire trellis of Jasmine.

Just inside the back fence we are greeted with a blooming Peggy Martin or Katrina Rose.

Before we continue our tour of the back yard, here's a look at what they started with in 2007. That's Alan pondering the task ahead.  Feel free to scroll back up to this photo as we tour.

Below is a similar view taken last week.  Citrus, Pomegranates, Figs and all manner of wonderful plants.  A vine will soon cover the screen in front of that ugly green box and neighboring homes have nearly disappeared.  Typical lawn stretching between fence-hugging borders wouldn't provide the same sense of privacy at all.

All those rocks from the "Before" photo were put to work defining raised beds and dry creeks.

Water in these runoff channels sometimes reach whitecap stage during our legendary rain storms.

Getting into the Texas spirit "Javier Javelena" guards a Dasylerion wheeleri and blooming Pomegranate.

A rarely used firepit became a gravel garden over time.  Some of these plants were collected on hikes in West Texas.  Linda has become a fan of the desert and its plants since moving to Texas.

Originally a "ringing rock", this piece of native limestone lost its ring when it chipped but it still decorates a fence along with Kokopelli.

Bunny ears cactus looks cute and bubbly in a tub.

Low water, low maintenance is Linda's goal in her garden which is watered only to get plants established.

I don't remember a ladybug on a cactus before.

Wildlife appreciate special touches for their benefit.

Alan's favorite view from the side gate.  Lush, no lawn garden with bluebonnets and fruit trees.  Instead of gravel, they use mulch and allow fallen leaves to compost in place.

Linda with her bounty of Meyer Lemons which she gives as gifts to family and friends when she visits New York in winter.

Linda is planning to open her garden for a future Watersaver Landscape Tour.  Since we live in the same part of town, she's convinced me to open my garden on the same day.  We're not committing to a date yet, but stay tuned.

Thank you Linda and Alan for a fun tour of your garden!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

April Garden View

This past Saturday I volunteered at our local Watersaver Landscape Tour.  The gardens were exceptional and we had a great crowd.  I'll show you my view of the tour in future posts but first I like to tour my own gardens at the same time to see how it would go.  The landscape tour, usually held in October, was moved to April this year due to weather.  It's been a while since I took you on a walk around my own gardens, so let's see what visitors would see if they toured my garden over the weekend.

Bright yellow Damianita makes for a cheery welcome at the front walk.  Damianta blooms like this several times a year and is evergreen which is why we replaced 'New Gold' Lantana which fell short in both departments.  My new Yucca rigida is settling in nicely.

I'm adjusting my usual tour pattern and starting with the star of my front garden today in honor of Moby, Pam Penick's Agave ovatifolia, which has sadly begun to bloom.  Agaves bloom just once and die.  Following Pam's "Moby" posts on her blog Digging inspired my own interest in adding one to my garden.  You can follow Moby's bloom daily on Pam's Facebook page or see her post at Digging.

So here's to Moby going out in a spectacular way.

While most information on Agave ovatifolia states that it does not offset, I was surprised to find an offset in the nursery pot back in 2010 when I planted mine.  We carefully separated and nurtured that precious pup for five years before planting it out in the front gravel garden last year.  Now about six years old, it's to the left of the large white stone as a "spare" against the day when mine goes the way of all Agaves.

Look closely to see our neighbor's Agave americana is sending up an enormous bloom stalk.

Now we'll step back a bit to take the long view from the street where we usually begin our tours.

Moving across the front for a different view.  I think I should add a few Damianita to repeat the color across the landscape.

Yucca rupicola bloom stalk has emerged and is beginning to set blooms.

Jerusalem Sage in the island bed is producing multiple blooms for the first time.  Planted three years ago it seemed to take forever to grow into a mature plant.  It's sure to become a favorite since it needs zero attention to look like this most of the summer.

Yucca 'Color Guard' pups have replaced larger ones which died over the winter.  I'll have more on that story in another post.  Opuntia 'Santa Rita' blooms bright yellow against that gorgeous purple hue.

The shady front garden functions as a courtyard walled in by silvery shrubbery.

 Not many flowers here by design though there is a Canna blooming.  I've begun to bring out non-hardy plants in pots for summer display.

Through the fence to see the buffalo grass is greening up

The tank garden filled with Larkspur blooms.

The crevice/gravel garden fills with yellow Greenthread flowers each spring.

We've added a firepit in the only space with no tree canopy.

Rock-lined paths lead through a cactus garden in the sunniest part of the yard.  One of the new yuccas looks stressed but it's fine.  Some of the leaves were damaged in transporting and planting so they've turned brown and we'll cut those off as new ones grow in.

Looking through the gate on the south side of the house with those arching trees.  Sedge on both sides of the path beginning to fill in nicely.  I would tidy up the pot ghetto before a tour and clean out the dry creek which requires lifting all the rocks and raking out accumulated leaf litter.

That's the tour for April and it's good to see our hard work paying off now in our 6th year of gardening here.