Monday, April 30, 2012

Ragna's Garden Part Two: Xeriscape Front Yard

My friend Ragna's Texas style cottage garden back yard was the subject for a recent post and her garden has so many unique features that it could not be covered in one posting.  Many of you have commented about how much you enjoyed seeing her back yard garden, this time I'm showcasing the front yard which is xeriscape, San Antonio style.  

Ragna and her husband Bob replaced their lawn with gravel mulch a few years ago.  After fifteen years of water restrictions and the last two years of drought, more and more San Antonians are going with similar low water use alternatives to the traditional lawn.  I personally find these yards are so much prettier and more inspiring than the dead brown lawns they replace.  That's certainly the case with this inviting front yard.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Foxtail Cactus Blooms

This appears to be the week all our cacti decided to bloom and it's been a banner year.  They seem to be competing with one another, and the latest is this Escobaria vivipara with multiple bright pink blossoms.  It was relocated from my brother-in-law's place near Tijeras, New Mexico, just east of Albuquerque.

It's known by several common names, but my favorite is Foxtail Cactus.  We have been happy to have these in our yard for nearly three years now.  I know it's definitely hardy as it gets far colder on the east side of Sandia Peak than it does here.  

Also note the unusual spiral cactus in the background which remains unidentified.  The cactus collection is growing quickly now since the drought increased my appreciation of cactus in the garden.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cactus Flower Beauty

This beautiful red cactus flower opened Monday measuring four inches across and four inches tall.  Quite a feat for a barrel cactus just over six inches tall.

Anticipation began a few days ago when this small barrel cactus produced a surprisingly large bud.  On Sunday the bud began to show off a deep red color.

Monday morning it opened revealing a gorgeous dark coral flower with striking proportions. 

The color and beauty of this bloom was a surprise since we had just recently planted this one.  It was marked simply "cactus" at Walmart.

The color works beautifully with the Hesperaloe parviflora now blooming and the form plays nicely with the Agave Ovatifolia.

By evening the bud had begun to close up

I checked on it Tuesday morning and it had already started its decline.  As with most cacti their blooms are short lived.  But there are two buds showing so I will be anticipating more blossoms soon.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Plant ABC's - H is for Hesperaloe Parviflora

I'm continuing my ABCs of plants in my garden series with Hesperaloe parviflora.  You can view the others in the series on my sidebar.

This Texas native is one tough plant.  These hesperaloes were here when we purchased the house in 1995.  I wrote about reworking the original plants in this earlier post.  They have survived in direct sun for up to 10 hours a day in summer without supplemental water for most of the 20 years in this spot.  They are cold hardy in zone 8 and don't seem to mind our occasional torrential rains either.

Commonly called Red Yucca it is actually a member of the agave family.  Soft arching leaves resemble ornamental grasses and are not as pointed or sharp as most agaves.

The plant spreads and is easy to divide and transplant, hardly missing a beat.   When we recently planted them in the new landscaping along the driveway we simply divided the existing ones for free plants.

It's hard to see them here along the driveway because the deer have snapped off the blooms even though they don't eat them.

Although they do best in sun, Hesperaloes can take a little shade but will flop over toward the sun and not bloom as well.

Though it does take on a nice violet hue in winter, the summer bloom season is when this plant really shines.  The coral flowers have a yellow edge and attract hummingbirds.

The flowers open in the sun and close in the evening

The green seedpods will turn to brown and are unattractive so I remove them by cutting the stalk.

The weather this year caused some of the dropped seeds to sprout along the edges of the bed.  I haven't seen seedlings here before and I will dig them out to transplant or share.

Self-cleaning like many xeric plants, the dead leaves eventually fall or can be easily pulled from the plant when they turn brown.

Hesperaloes are available in at least two other colors-- yellow, which looks great against a wall and the bright red 'Brakelights'.  Since we already had so many of the coral, I decided to stick with the same color across the front but might add the others in the back where I enjoy mixing it up a little more.

There's a Giant Hesperaloe available.  You need a lot of room for it as here at The Antique Rose Emporium.

Several years ago I considered replacing them.  That was before two years of drought changed my mind.  Hesperaloe parviflora is a great landscape plant for those hot, dry spots.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Inspiration and Imagination in Ragna's Garden

Some gardens pull you in and set the imagination going.  Such is the case with my friend Ragna's garden here in San Antonio.  I hope these photos can begin to provide some sense of how wonderful it feels in person, although they seem all too inadequate. 

Native Texans enjoy comparing how their families came to Texas and how long ago.  Ragna wins hands down every time, since her ancestors were sent to San Antonio by the King of Spain in 1713.  Perhaps that explains the classic touches mixed with Texas style charm of her garden.

Her garden is such an inspiring place to spend an afternoon.  Every plant and object in this garden has a story.  When I'm there I love to walk along the grassy pathways and talk with her about the garden.

She loves roses and the garden is designed around her many rose plants.

Her David Austin roses are stunning

Jude the Obscure

  Abraham Darby

Similar in style to The Antique Rose Emporium display gardens, the roses are combined with perennials and annuals to beautiful effect.

I enjoyed reading stories set in gardens as a child and the gardens I pictured in my mind were very much like this one.

A hint of mystery

Pathways enveloped in flowers

Vine covered arbors and gates to hidden spaces

This spot behind the gate is where her grandchildren loved to play when they were little.  She's a great-grandmother now and her great-grandson will play here too.

Mock Orange -- gorgeous!


Ragna doesn't hesitate to add agave, cacti, and other succulents to the mix.   It's not easy pick a highlight or a favorite spot because I love it all.  Like this pot with metal frogs and a googly-eyed crane.  There's a metal toad back there on that wonderful blue pot too and this is just one small vignette.

This building was a home for doves, now it's an outdoor art gallery.

A mirror and an old rake holds vintage tools.  I'm copying this idea!

One of the most fascinating pieces here is a table created by local faux bois artist Julian Sandoval as a wedding gift for his granddaughter who is Ragna's friend.

So beautiful!


I have so many lovely photos!  You would think the garden covered several acres, but it is only a typical suburban back yard.  This is just the first of several posts featuring Ragna's inspiring garden.  Her front yard is a collection of cacti and xeric plants.  She has been a big influence in my adding cacti and succulents to my own garden, and we share an appreciation for native plants as well.

I hope you enjoyed this initial tour of my friend's garden and much as I enjoyed putting it together.  When I visit it is hard to leave because this unique garden is so intriguing.  Stay tuned for more....

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What a Weekend! New Plants and Creepy Bugs

After a fun day of plant swapping on Saturday, I was busily getting the newbies settled into their nests (who's this "I"?, DH would ask).  The action was frenzied, and that's when this guy appeared from under my bag of potting soil.

That's a six inch long Giant Redheaded Centipede - Scolopendra heros

Just for the guys, here is another gratuitous icky bug photo

Sometimes I am into the potting soil with both hands.  I understand that a bite from this creepy crawler won't kill you but is very painful.  This encounter was close enough to remind me to be safe in the garden, always.

The centipede wasn't the only giant bug visitor to the garden that day.  When we were digging a hole for a new plant by the shed, the shovel turned up this Texas Brown Tarantula. 

Tarantulas are not at all dangerous and are very gentle creatures -- they just get a bad rap from the movies.  And they are not nearly as creepy as the centipede, but I still wouldn't want to be surprised by it crawling across my hand unexpectedly.  This is only the second Tarantula we've seen here.  We found this guy a new home under the shed.

So where did I get all these new plants that are keeping me busy?  From the plant swap I attended on Saturday.

Plenty of plant sharing and lots of good plant talk

I brought home plenty of new plants for all those beds we've been building. DH was pleased to see all my new plants (hahaha).

Thanks to all you generous and fun-loving San Antonio gardeners!

Oh, and stay safe out there in the garden!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Foliage Follow-Up April 2012- Funny Face

Foliage Follow-Up is sponsored by Pam Penick at her blog Digging.  On the 16th of each month garden bloggers follow up Garden Blogger's Bloom Day with a post sharing foliage from our gardens.

For April I'm featuring my face planter.  This spring I planted her with color guard yucca and cordyline for a colorful tropical look.

When I spotted this face planter last fall at Hill Country Gardens I just had to have it.

Before deciding how to fill it I had a little fun trying out a few different hairstyles.  The first thought was that an ornamental grass would be fun in there so I tried a few.

Pine Muhly

Phormium, New Zealand Flax

Definitely boring, not what I had in mind.

I kept a pot of pothos in there for a few months.  Looks like a silly take on the classic laurel wreath or a giant chia pet.

Speaking of laurel, the bay laurel tree.  Different.  Hmmm, there's a problem though.  The back of the planter slopes so the wine cork mulch would roll off.

No wonder tropical color was the winner which is currently in my front yard, adding a bright spot and not matching much else there.

I originally purchased these plants for other spots in the garden and will need to transplant the yucca eventually. What's next?  Could be flowers in her hair or a many possibilities.

Join Pam at Digging and other garden bloggers as we share foliage from our gardens.