Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Heart of the City: San Antonio|The Saga

We recently spent a beautiful December evening enjoying the holiday lights and exploring downtown San Antonio.  In my last post we were awaiting a special event on Main Plaza.  With a crowd gathered in anticipation it was time for the main event -- San Antonio|The Saga.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Touring the San Antonio Lights from La Villita to Main Plaza

[Now for] A few more sights from our tour of lights in downtown San Antonio, you can see my first two posts on the River Walk and Alamo Plaza by clicking the links.  From Alamo Plaza and the River Walk we [made the short walk to] headed to La Villita, a village of shops [near the convention center] {and which was quiet with the shops closed for the evening}.

Sunday, December 28, 2014


It's not easy for us to surprise each other with gifts.  I'm not good at waiting for a special occasion to buy something and neither is he.  This year was an exception.

"This will instantly make your blog better."  He handed over the box and I paused wondering what it could possibly be.  He was so certain.  I couldn't think of what it would be.

It's a new camera lens.  An 18-135mm which will provide more versatility over a broader range of distances, including doubling my zoom while out and about.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Alamo Plaza Lights Up for the Holidays

A trip downtown to see the lights just wouldn't be complete without strolling on over to Alamo Plaza to check out the tree and a few minutes of people watching.

The tree is different each year so it's always fun to see what they've come up with.  This year it's waves of colorful lights blinking to Christmas music.  H-E-B, a locally based grocery chain, sponsors the tree.  Like the nearby River Walk it's a constant flow of activity on Alamo Plaza.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Strolling the Paseo del Rio at Christmas

There's no place like home for the holidays.  In San Antonio, with its unique Paseo del Rio or River Walk featuring thousands of lights draped over the Bald Cypress trees lining the river, that's especially true.

We recently took a stroll along the Paseo del Rio to enjoy the holiday lights in the 100 ft. tall trees.

I've been away for a while
But it still brings a smile
When I think of the way that it goes
Now I'll sing it to you
Just so we both can do
That 'ol San Antonio Stroll
(San Antonio Stroll, Peter Noah/Tanya Tucker 1975)

Local tip:  Less crowded south of Commerce Street, free parking downtown Tuesday after 5pm.

My previous holiday photos of the River Walk have been mostly from the bridges above since it was crowded down on the the river. See that little peninsula to the right of the passing barges?

This is the view from that spot.  I especially enjoy the reflections on the water.

The view from the bridge framed by cypress branches and lights.

A group preparing for a dinner cruise under the lights, most restaurants with river access will cater a cruise.

Merry carolers floated by singing Feliz Navidad. The Ford Motor Company sponsors our holiday river parade the Friday after Thanksgiving, then makes the parade barges available at a reduced rate to groups during the holiday season. 

Most of the buildings downtown are hotels with this one adding a holiday backdrop to the scene.

The next sequence shows fascinating changes in the water reflections as a barge comes through.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cruising the San Antonio River Part 3: Paseo del Rio

The third in my series of our San Antonio River tour covers the most popular part of the San Antonio River Walk and the area you've probably seen or heard about even if you've never visited.  You can read about our cruise through the Museum Reach north of the city in Part 1 and Part 2.

The Paseo del Rio is the 2.5 mile loop through downtown lined with hotels and restaurants serving our biggest industry--tourism.  We host 26 million visitors a year, that's a lot for a population of 2 million.

On this early November day we are heading under the flood gate which diverts flood water into the bypass channel during times of heavy rains.  The channel protects the businesses along the Paseo del Rio from flooding.  Annual pansies are in place for the cooler weather.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Agave "Blue Aglow" For Foliage Follow-Up

It's been two years since Christmas 2012 when I first wrapped a strand of blue lights around the Agave ovatifolia in the front garden and posted this photo as Agave 'Blue Aglow' for Wordless Wednesday.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day December 2014

So many blooms to share this beautifully mild December.  If we hadn't had a freeze in November there would be even more blooms.  I'm joining Carol at May Dreams Gardens and many more garden bloggers in posting what's blooming for December.

Devil's Tongue Cactus bloomed late last week.  Usually an October bloomer, this one was a surprise.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Cruising the San Antonio River Part 2

In my last post we cruised the Museum Reach section of the San Antonio River from The Pearl to the Locks and Dam at Brooklyn Avenue just north of downtown.  Today we'll continue the cruise from Brooklyn Avenue to the beginning of the Paseo Del Rio tourist area.  To see my walking tours of this area go here and here.  The comparison of the walking tour with the view from the river gives a very different perspective.

The doors to the locks open and we cruise south from the locks and dam.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cruising on the San Antonio River Part 1

We plan our garden club outings well in advance and most of the time our weather is quite nice even in the winter.  Every once in a while it turns out to be a very cold day combined with an outdoor event that can't be cancelled.  That's how we ended up going for a cruise on the San Antonio River with the temperatures down in the 40's and a brisk wind making it feel even colder.

The hardy among us bundled up and boarded the barge (the boats are technically barges) on the north end of the river at The Pearl.

Yes, it was that cold!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sources of Inspiration: Lee May

"I once had an editor at the LA Times who was known for reminding writers to refer to important people at the top of our stories. "Names make news!" he would bark. Well, with wildflowers, names make good reading. You sure did educate this reader with this post. Boneset. I love it."

That comment was left by Lee May last year on my post about native boneset and I consider it one of the most inspiring comments I have received.  Lee May passed away last Wednesday after a brief battle with cancer.   He covered the White House, Presidential campaigns, and all manner of events around the world as a journalist for the Los Angeles Times and served on the editorial board of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  He was a wonderful and witty writer and that's why his comment meant so much to me.  If Lee May thought I had composed a good post then it must have been very good indeed.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wildlife Wednesday December 2014

The first Wednesday of each moth I join Tina at My Gardener Says.... to post about the wildlife visiting my garden.

The hummingbird moth Hemaris diffinis or Snowberry Clearwing was enjoying our Clammy Weed a couple months ago.  I previously posted about a white lined hummingbird moth on the Stachys coccinea and this is a similar but very different type.  The distinctive yellow and black markings make it easy to see why it is called the Bee Hawk moth in Europe.  This is the first and only time I've seen this type of hummingbird moth in my garden.  They are about three inches long, so they are quite a sight to behold as they nectar on flowers.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

My favorite plant in November is Muhlenbergia capillaris

When it comes to native grasses in a Texas garden it's hard to beat the muhly family.  Many of them are native to Texas or nearby areas and they seem to thrive in our hot, dry summers and freezing winters.  I'm linking with Loree at Danger Garden to feature my favorite plant for November.  All during the year the muhly grasses provide a green, grassy anchor throughout the garden but it is in the fall when they truly command the most attention.  The Muhlenbergia capillaris aka Pink Muhly along the driveway are November standouts in the garden.

Out near the street this stand of cotton-candy puffs wave at passersby during November.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Leuchtenbergia principis is my favorite plant crush

"Cactus, party of one"  describes Leuchtenbergia principis best.  It's the sole species of the genus Leuchtenbergia which is a species of cactus.  The leaves, known as tubercles, are triangular and resemble agaves which is why it's commonly known as Agave Cactus.  I'm joining Loree at Danger Garden to post "My favorite plant" and Hoov at Piece of Eden who asked this week about our current plant crush.  This Leuchtenbergia principis is the one for this week.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Let's Go To.....

"Haven't been there in years.  We're going right by it...so we should stop."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Preparing for the big freeze

Will it freeze or won't it?  We've been playing that game for the past few days.  The predicted Saturday morning freeze didn't happen, then Monday morning we had a light freeze that wasn't predicted.  Yesterday afternoon with predictions of a freeze headed our way I decided to go ahead and cover my most vulnerable plants.

The preparations are pretty simple.  With most of the container plants already stored in the garage we pull out old sheets purchased super cheap at the end of an estate sale.  You can see why they didn't sell early on.  The winds that blew in ahead of the cold front have died down so the sheets stay put. When the wind is blowing we have plenty of rocks available.  Sheets bring up the temperature just a few degrees but it's enough for most of our usually light freezes.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Foliage Follow-up November 2014

While I was out yesterday getting bloom photos I decided to go for two and capture the mist on my foliage plants for Foliage Follow-up sponsored by Pam at Digging.  Those of you who live in perennially damp climates are probably laughing yourselves silly by now.  We average about 30 inches of rain a year which usually arrives in downpours just a few days a year and within a few hours it's dry out there again.  A series of rainy days or a light mist/drizzle day is rare.  Even if you find my misty wonderment hilarious I hope you will enjoy these views of my garden.

The shiny droplets on the Yucca recurvifolia look almost frosty in the chilly mist.  A predicted freeze last week never arrived.  We have another freeze warning for Tuesday morning and it might happen this time so the tender plants are protected.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Rainy Bloom Day November 2014

It's Garden Blogger's Bloom Day and we have rain!  It's a light rain but the forecast was for only morning drizzle so we'll take it and join Carol at May Dream Gardens for a damp and chilly GBBD. We've been about 20 degrees below normal for most of the week but we haven't quite reached freezing yet so let's see how the blooms are faring ahead of a predicted freeze next week.

The inflorescence from ornamental grasses are standouts when droplets from the light mist make them shine.  This unknown Penstemon seeded over from the neighbor's landscape several years ago and has made itself at home.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Touring the new Tobin Center for the Performing Arts

Exploring San Antonio is one of my favorite things so I jumped at the chance to tour our new Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.  In my Veteran's Day post I wrote about the history of the original Spanish Colonial Revival style Municipal Auditorium built as a WWI memorial.  For this post we'll tour more of the outside and also head indoors.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A unique WWI Memorial is preserved in San Antonio

San Antonio is known as a military town so it shouldn't surprise me when I come across something special in honor of those who served.  In October I was invited to a tour of our newly opened Tobin Center for the Performing Arts built on the site of our old Municipal Auditorium.  I learned that the original building, which has been partially preserved during construction of the new center, had been built in 1926 as The Municipal Auditorium and dedicated as a memorial to those who died in WWI.  While there are a number of buildings and stadiums around the country dedicated to war veterans I don't know of another quite like this beautiful Spanish Colonial Revival structure.  It's fitting to feature this special memorial as remembrances of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI are underway.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Walking in the rain

Hurricane Vance brought rain all the way over the Sierra Madre from the Pacific coast of Mexico.  We've had a lot of rain and it has been fun watching it pour down since Tuesday evening.  The rain gauge says 4" but it seemed like even more.  That wiped out half of our annual rainfall deficit in a couple days.  Thursday morning the rain stopped enough to head out with the camera and get rare shots of the garden all wet.  Plus it's been a while since I took you on a garden tour.

Peeking out the front door.  We don't see a lot of puddles since most rain either runs off into the creek or soaks in quickly.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wildlife Wednesday November 2014

It's time for Wildlife Wednesday hosted by Tina at My Gardener Says..... on the first Wednesday of each month.  November is for the birds.

Oh when the red, red Robin comes bob-bob-bobbin' along....

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The day after Halloween

It's time to put away the costumes and Halloween decorations, but not in San Antonio where the celebrations continue with Dia de Los Muertos or Day of the Dead observances.

Looking at these photos you might think we have taken a trip to Mexico but this fountain-turned-altar is set up at Maverick Plaza in La Villita or the little village along the San Antonio River Walk.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Happy Halloween

Meet Patches the neighbor's cat.  She's a hairless cat which gives her an awesome Halloween costume. Oh, those eyes!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Visiting Wildseed Farms for Autumn Fun

In early October I joined members of my neighborhood garden club for a trip to Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg just over an hour away from San Antonio.  Wildseed Farms is the largest working wildflower farm in the country and is well known as a mail order source for wildflower seeds.

It's a beautiful facility designed to match its surroundings of historic Fredericksburg.  We were greeted by John Thomas, President and Founder of Wildseed Farms, who guided us on a detailed tour of the main buildings.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wildflower Wednesday: Texas Native Plant Week

Wildflower Wednesday hosted by Gail at Clay and Limestone on the fourth Wednesday of each month also happens to fall in the middle of Texas Native Plant Week.  This makes it fun to post about both at the same time by taking a tour of the Texas native wildflowers in my garden.

We'll start with Clammy Weed (Polanisia dodecandra).  These native annuals provide a succession of blooms through our hot summers.  As one group fades and goes to seed another takes its place.  They are prolific reseeders and I look forward to having them in the garden for years to come.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Texas Native Plant Week: Madrone Nursery

It's Texas Native Plant Week and my posts this week will reflect that theme.  First up is a visit to Madrone Nursery which doesn't just specialize in Texas native plants--it's the only kind of plant they grow.

Madrone Nursery is located in San Marcos an hour's drive northeast of San Antonio and half way to Austin.  Founded by native plant expert Dan Hosage, it is open by appointment only.

Last March I joined a field trip with friends to Madrone Nursery and enjoyed a day of shopping for native plants.  The Texas Bluebonnets were just beginning to bloom around the sign along the road when we arrived.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Garden Tour with Reality Check

When I attended the San Antonio Watersaver Landscape Tour as both volunteer and tour goer last weekend it was with the idea in mind that my yard might be on the tour next year.  We've turned down requests the last two years and it does seem my gardens are getting closer to where I would feel comfortable opening them to the public.

The big challenge is the timing, the first Saturday in October makes it tough to prepare a garden for the tour.  San Antonio gardens are usually still recovering after hanging on through the August heat and September is often too hot for plants to do any serious blooming or for the gardener to get much done.  My garden is at its autumn best later in October or early November.  To see how things might look this time next year I took some photos around the tour date as a reality check.

The narrow driveway landscaping looks good even without the sage in bloom.  There are no guarantees on these blooms since they need rain to bloom and sometimes that doesn't happen for months.  Pink muhly grasses are just now sending up a few tentative plumes which will not blow open for a few more weeks.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

October 9th 2014, Before and After

One of my first posts on this blog back in 2011 was a "before and after" look at my front yard.  The choice of October 9th is entirely due to the existence of previous year photos on the same day.  There are not as many photos taken prior to my blogging days as there are now.  The October 9th post has become a tradition now.  To see the starting points from October 2011 click here.

The front view taken this morning

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Three Years and Readers Like You

Today is the third anniversary of this blog.  Three years, 403 posts about my garden and gardening adventures and three hundred thousand pageviews from Readers Like You.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wildlife Wednesday October 2014: Bird Visitors

Wildlife Wednesday is an opportunity to share wildlife visitors to the garden and I'm linking to Tina's post at My Gardener Says... which appears on the first Wednesday of each month.  This month I'll focus on special bird visitors to the garden.

A big surprise in September was watching a pair of Baltimore Orioles trying to pry open the hummingbird feeder.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

LEGOS in the garden

Years ago (okay it's been decades) we took a month off and booked round trip tickets to London.  From London we flew to Copenhagen to begin a tour of northern Europe.  At the time it seemed Denmark was all agog for a place called LEGOLAND and I remember wondering how an entire theme park could be based on a plastic brick.  I began to get the idea of just how flexible those blocks could be a few years later when a LEGO store opened in the mall near our home in Virginia and featured awesome constuctions of local landmarks and Star Wars vehicles.  Now there is even a LEGOLAND in California.

Recently I had an opportunity to see what an artist can do with LEGOS during a visit to the San Antonio Botanical Garden's display called Nature Connects: Art With LEGO Bricks featuring 27 sculptures made with almost 500,000 LEGO bricks by artist Sean Kenney.  The LEGO sculptures are built on a structure of steel rods and plates for stability.

The tour begins with an Eastern Swallowtail near the entrance to the gardens