Monday, June 20, 2016

Garden visits: Cliff's Garden

While browsing through NextDoor, a neighborhood website, I spotted a familiar name sharing photos of his beautiful garden.  Cliff volunteers at Warrior and Family Support Center gardens and Gardening Volunteers of South Texas (GVST), so I see him both places.  Of course, I asked to visit and was off to see his garden about 10 minutes away.  As usual, find the street and look for the best garden from the curb.   I knew this was the right place with their very own street sign.


About that curb appeal.


Beautifully spilling out over the sidewalk.


Intense sunlight was already streaming down and the air heating up quickly, but I enjoyed spending time in Cliff's garden.  Originally from Wisconsin, he's been gardening here since 1990 when he and wife Mary decided to stay in San Antonio after retirement from the Air Force.  He told me they drove a couple thousand miles around town looking for the right house only to find it just a few doors down from where they were renting at the time.  That magnificent live oak is about all I would need to see!


Beautiful -- better than a sculpture.


Yes, a great centerpiece for any garden.


An adjacent natural area isn't his property but it works great for extra plants from his garden.  Datura is native to our area so it grows well in this spot.


Deer are a problem just like most of north San Antonio.


Pigeonberry grows well under a tree and looks great compared to my smaller patch.


The birds will soon be after these berries.



Lorence Creek, the same creek that runs behind my house, is just past that wall.  It's called a "seasonal creek" which means dry most of the time and a torrent of water in a rain.  Cliff built the stone wall to help keep floods at bay and added a row or two of stone after water went over the wall in 1998.


More of those old oaks, stone walls, and a look across at his gardening neighbor's place,



With the intense sunlight washing out some of my photos I borrowed a few photos (like the one below) from Cliff.  He has posted many more at OneDrive here.  His composting operation uses leaves collected from nearby neighborhoods, including mine.  I'm always disappointed to see leaves set at the curb for collection and good to know someone else is putting them to good use.

Photo by Cliff Bingham
Cliff formed this great birdbath from concrete and attached it to a redbud tree stump with a piece of rebar imbedded in the bottom.


Pretty yellow iris.  Some of his iris are repeat bloomers, can't remember if this is one.

Photo by Cliff Bingham
Tomatoes!  If you knew how challenging it is to grow tomatoes in our climate, you'd be impressed too.

Photo by Cliff Bingham
Amarcrinum, I'd heard about this hybrid of Amaryllis and Crinum recently and enjoyed seeing the blooms.

Photo by Cliff Bingham
My favorite plant in Cliff's garden was the Peroskia.


Peroskia is a member of the cactus family and hardy in our climate.  I returned home with a cutting from one of his plants and look forward to seeing these amazing arching stems over my garden in a few years.


You can see why Cliff is so much in demand as a volunteer for worthy gardening causes around San Antonio.  Thanks again for the tour, Cliff!

Friday, June 10, 2016

New Plants!

What's even more fun than new plants?  Getting those plants for free!  These last of my spring plant acquisitions have found their place in the garden and, even better, they were all free of charge.


My haul across the top:  Bauhinia mexicana with unique pink bloom, chocolate plant (Pseudaranthemum alatum),  two native Salvia farinacea, Asclepia tuberosa milkweed, a very cute begonia with dotty leaves, and nicely variegated tradescantia.
Bottom row:  Native snapdragon vine (Maurandella antirrhiniflora),  a new larger blooming variety of pink turk's cap (Malvavicus arboreus),  cuban oregano,  native pink rock rose.

All for free?  Yes, most of the plants came from the City-Wide Plant Exchange at Festival of Flowers where just over 1,750 plants were exchanged during this year's event sponsored by Gardening Volunteers of South Texas (GVST) annually.


I simply took in a cart load of extra plants, turned them in for tickets, then exchanged my tickets for new plants brought to the exchange by someone else.  Just a little work on my part to dig and pot up extras from my own garden and I get to bring home new and different plants.  Each year I find a few special native plants on the tables and those are the ones I scoop up first.  This year I snagged a new variety of pink turk's cap, similar to Pam's Pink, except it has a larger bloom.  I'm giving away a secret here, but sometimes plants from the GVST plant sale booth end up mixed in with exchange plants.  GVST propagates plants for sale at gardening events throughout the year.  Their plant sales booth is just visible in the back right of the photo above.  The GVST propagation team works with Texas Agrilife extension service to introduce new varieties so most are plants you won't find at retail nurseries for a while.  That new variety of pink turk's cap was set out on the tables to help "seed" the exchange for early arrivals.  Best to arrive early anyway before the "cart park" fills up.  My cart is out there on the back left of the photo.  If you plan to participate next year, please read (and follow) the rules on the link.


While there is a $6 admission charge to Festival of Flowers, you will get back so much more than that in access to vendor specials and informative seminars.  My new native milkweed plant was free at the door as a giveaway from our San Antonio Water System (SAWS) so if you stop by their table you've already cut your admission in half.

I volunteer a few hours of my time answering questions at the show so my admission is free.  That's me on the left with Laura Rogers and between us we answered some tough questions from local gardeners.  The stumpers were descriptions of plants without photos.  Our advice is snap a photo and bring it with you--so much easier to ID a plant that way.

Photo courtesy of Anne Schiller, GVST
I was so excited to win a rare pink blooming Bauhinia mexicana or Mexican Orchid as a door prize at the Gardening Volunteers of South Texas meeting in April.  I can't wait to see those delicate pink blooms.  I know the bloom in the photo below looks white, that's because it's a young plant that's been in the shade.


Next up is Agave cornelius.  Just look at those ruffled edges and great color.  As a bonus, it's cold hardy and forms a neat rosette instead of throwing out pups on long runners like most Agave americana varieties.



That was free too?  Sure was, I used a gift certificate sent as a "thank you" from GVST for volunteering at the Watersaver Landscape Tour back in early April.

Did you notice a common thread with all my new plants?  It's Gardening Volunteers of South Texas (GVST).  If you've been thinking about getting more involved in San Antonio gardening, joining GVST is a great way to get started.  Gardening Volunteers of South Texas holds classes at The San Antonio Garden Center from noon to 3pm on the third Monday of each month.  For a five dollar donation you get lunch, a lot of great information on gardening in San Antonio from two knowledgeable speakers, and a chance to win great door prizes.  So come on out, I'll see you there.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Wildlife Wednesday June 2016

Wildlife in the garden during May brought a couple of special butterfly sightings and a few other amusing wildlife antics.  Wildlife Wednesday hosted by Tina at "My Gardener Says..." presents bloggers an opportunity to share wildlife in the garden on the first Wednesday of each month.

Butterfly identification can be challenging as with this striking white butterfly.  At first I thought it was a Cabbage White Butterfly, but it lacked the dark edge on the forewing and has distinctive bands instead of spots.  After searching I'm going with male Checkered White Butterfly (Pontia protodice) which is so much better since Cabbage White Butterflies are not native.  Interestingly, they both use members of the cabbage and mustard family as host plants.  I could not find any information to confirm whether these butterflies consume the invasive weed Rapistrum rugosum or Bastard Cabbage which has been decimating our native wildflower fields.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day 2016: The Traveling Wall

It's been 33 years since The Vietnam Memorial Wall was dedicated on the Mall in Washington, DC.  We visited just a few weeks after it opened and standing in front of all those names on the wall for the first time was a somber experience so very different from the usual carved statue or plaque.  Sculptor Maya Lin's controversial design had forever changed the way we experience memorials.



My other striking memory was of all the memorabilia left by family and friends.


For those who haven't seen the memorial in our Nation's Capitol, there is a traveling wall which was on display at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio last fall and the photos in this post are from that exhibit.


As an 80% replica there are differences--the names are smaller and you won't see your reflection among the names as you do at the permanent memorial made of granite.

Visitors to the traveling wall leave mementos just as they do at the original in Washington, D.C.


So many things are left that a warehouse in Maryland catalogs and stores over 400,000 items.  A virtual tour of some of the items is available here.  Of my visits to the wall some of the things I remember most are the notes, also beer, dogtags, and there are always candles.  The most expensive item in the collection is a custom Harley-Davidson motorcycle left by a veteran's group from Wisconsin.


If you have a chance, the Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall is currently on display this week in New Braunfels, just a forty minute drive from San Antonio.  The wall is open 24 hours and veterans are there to assist in finding names.  A wreath laying ceremony is planned for this afternoon.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Fences (and a few gardens) along King William Street

Some streets are meant for walking and King William Street in the heart of the King William Historic District is just such a street.  In my last post I shared a corner garden anchored by a striking morning glory vine.  I mentioned that I kept on walking along the street to take a look  The house next door had a nice fountain full of plants but that was about it for gardens.


Since the gardens weren't all that fascinating I enjoyed checking out the fences and gates.


A good fence is a necessity with frequent walking tours, street festivals, and parades along King William Street.


Two homes on the street are open as museums--Villa Finale and The Steves Homestead.  I didn't take photos of either but you can find more on their websites.  King William was the first designated National Register historic district in the State of Texas.  

Scrolled ironwork fence with roses


These photos are not necessarily in order as I walked back and forth across the street to take closeups and long shots.



Once farmland for Mission San Antonio de Valero, known popularly as The Alamo, the neighborhood was first divided into lots in the 1860s.



Shrub roses add privacy to a large garden.



Not all roses, fuchsia Bougainvillea drapes a side street fence.


In the early 20th Century most of these homes were divided into apartments and boarding houses.  The neighborhood became quite rundown until the 1950s when restoration began returning these homes back into single-family residences.

If I remember correctly the porches were literally falling off this home just a few years ago.  Now freshly restored it awaits a garden (we hope).


Here's a garden to check out along the street.  No lawn with easy care plants in a very casual streetside planting for such a formal style house.  Their little wire fence is not so sturdy as most.


Topiary on the porch adds a touch of formality.



Nice, except for the clouds of invasive Nandina and red mulch.


Oh well, we can always take the long view.  It's a beautifully done restoration.



That concludes my walking tour of King William Street.  If you are visiting San Antonio and looking for a break from the River Walk, it's an easy walk from town.

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Pam Penick is set to speak tomorrow at Festival of Flowers at 10:45 am.  Her talk is "Hold the Hose", a presentation on saving water in our gardens.  After the talk Pam will have her latest book  The Water-Saving Garden and her first book Lawn Gone! available for purchase and signing.  Vendors from all over our region will be there so you get a lot of access for the low admission price of $6.00.  Look for me attending Pam's talk, volunteering at the SAWS butterfly garden display, shopping for plants on the vendor floor, and/or taking part in the City-Wide Plant Swap!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Morning, Glory

After visiting Chris Park I headed into town by way of the King William Historic District with no plans to stop...until I spotted a bright morning glory vine in full bloom on a corner fence.  I haven't seen many morning glories around San Antonio.


Two-hour free parking is easy to find during weekdays and guided walking tours are common so my taking photos attracts little if any attention in the neighborhood.


A few moments observing a busy solitary bee at work.


Intense color with blooms beginning to close as the sun arrived.


I'm inspired enough to try planting a few seeds on the east side of my garden next year.


What about the rest of the garden?  I knew you would ask so I took more photos.  Casual and fun with great plants were my impressions.  South of downtown and near the river provides an ideal growing environment for a garden.



Purple echoes morning glory colors.


"Tin Man" next to Strelitzia and I'm pretty sure that's a floor lamp way back in the patio area.


Papaya ripening on the tree.


The house looks like a small cottage from the front.  The front walk features a nice gate and a bit of lawn edged with tufts of flowers.  I'd enjoy visiting this garden if it were on tour.


Picking up the color theme is a curbside planting of Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida) in combination with one of our native tradescantia or spiderwort.  It's interesting to see this happens in gardens other than mine.  The purple heart plant is native to Mexico and usually planted intentionally while the latter (green leaves with blue flowers) just seems to show up wherever the purple is planted.


Intrigued, I continued walking and I'll have more photos in my next post.

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Pam Penick is set to speak at Festival of Flowers on Saturday, May 28th at 10:30 am.  She'll present "Hold the Hose", a presentation on saving water in our gardens.  After the talk Pam will have her latest book  The Water-Saving Garden and her first book Lawn Gone! available for purchase and signing.  Vendors from all over our region will be there so you get a lot of access for the low admission price of $6.00.  Look for me attending Pam's talk, volunteering at the SAWS butterfly garden display, shopping for plants on the vendor floor, and/or taking part in the City-Wide Plant Swap!