Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Best Post of the Year

It's a blogger tradition to wrap up the year with a look back at favorite posts or expressing wishes for the year ahead.  This year I'm doing something slightly different by highlighting just one post.

Remember when I toured Haven for Hope started as a means to help homeless veterans and now helping all homeless people here in San Antonio and mentioned that Andrew Waring could use a little help in the garden?

Andrew tells me the phone has been ringing.  A lot.  More than even a previous newspaper article had done.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Tree of Memories

For a number of years we had two different trees each year--one reserved for fox ornaments with white lights and another more colorful tree decorated with collected memories from our travels through life.  Recently I've been alternating years with just one tree and, since last year was for foxes, this has been the year for memories.

Before packing it all away I'll share a few of my favorites.

We add more ornaments each year.  At the beginning of December I posted about lighting this year's tree in the colors of the French flag and realized we needed an Eiffel Tower ornament.  I ordered one from eBay--my favorite source for almost everything.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

More Hotel Emma fun on tour

Okay, so we're just a teeny bit obsessed with Hotel Emma, the new boutique hotel creating buzz well beyond San Antonio.  I recently joined friends for another look on a guided tour and we were wowed once again while learning much more about the hotel.    If you haven't seen my original post, this post takes up where that one left off.

Not your typical hotel lobby.  Machinery left in place underscores Hotel Emma's lobby is the former machine room of the Pearl Brewery which operated here for more than a century.   Concrete floor tiles reproduced from originals found on site add to the distinctive look.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas!

This year's greeting is also my entry for the Poinsettia Challenge over at Danger Garden.  I hadn't planned to enter until my friend Melody gifted me with a tiny Poinsettia plant.  After several tries to surround it with unruly reindeer moss I grabbed some red glitter cord to tame the moss and then it hit me that this was perfect for Kokedama, the artful Japanese method of displaying a small plant simply.  I couldn't find a plain background suitable for hanging so it's been set in an antique silver candy dish against the red entry wall.

Merry Christmas to all!

Governor's Mansion Holiday Tour

I've seen the Texas Governor's Mansion in Austin from outside the fence many times since it was close to where my grandparents lived.  But I'd never been inside until last week when my friend Melody invited Neal and me along on a holiday tour of the "Mansion".

Built in 1856, it's the oldest continuously occupied executive residence west of the Mississippi.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Seasonal Celebrations: From Fall to Winter

Fall colors usually arrive much later in San Antonio than in more northern regions.  This year it seems later than ever so we can combine fall color with holiday cheer.  Last week I attended an event at the San Antonio Botanical Garden and found both in abundance.  I'm linking with Donna at  Gardens Eye View for Seasonal Celebrations to show off how we enjoy two seasons at once.

The Carriage House entrance is ready for the holidays.  There are many changes in the works for the San Antonio Botanical Garden and construction is underway for a new entrance that will accommodate larger crowds.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Enjoying Fall Foliage of Kumamoto En

Attending an event last week at San Antonio Botanical Garden, I spotted bright foliage peeking over the bamboo fencing of Kumamoto En, the Japanese Garden.  Would it be possible I had arrived at that brief moment when Japanese Maple foliage peaks in San Antonio?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

GBBD December 2015

December has been amazing for blooms this year with warmer weather and plenty of rain early in the fall.  Since many gardens in North America are dormant for a few months, it's a good time to share December blooms from my Zone 8B garden for Garden Blogger's Bloom Day.

Unnamed Hibiscus shared as a passalong plant is gorgeous and will be stashed in the garage when the weather turns colder (eventually).

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A fall visit to the Japanese Tea Garden highlights changes

A trip to the Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio was one of my first posts on this blog.  Since it's been so long and I had the opportunity to visit twice in the last few weeks, it's time to share a few more photos.  The gardens were built as the Japanese Tea Garden on an old quarry in the early 20th century by Japanese artist Kimi Eizo Jingu who also lived on the property with his family.  The "Chinese Tea Garden" gate was completed after World War II during a time when the gardens had been renamed.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

¡Feliz Navidad Y’all!

It's December so let's get this party started with a visit to Mi Tierra, a San Antonio icon for 75 years.  Wow, they go all out for the holidays don't they?  Not exactly, the restaurant looks like this year round which means we can have Christmas in July or whenever.  A huge panaderia or bakery spans one side of the lobby.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Wildlife Wednesday December 2015

When I first began posting for Wildlife Wednesday I figured it would be easy to come up with a few bird photos each month along with butterflies during the summer months so I dove right in when Tina at "My gardener says..." started up this meme.  Now each month I'm amazed to see the range of wildlife attracted to my increasingly urban garden setting.

Let's see what's been visiting my garden the last few weeks.

Foxes have been sighted more often as we get deeper into fall.  I walked past the kitchen door and saw her looking in at me, grabbed the camera and ran outside.  By then she was under the deck.  When she heard me she jumped out and ran away after a moment or two of curiosity.  Foxes run with all four legs in unison so they appear to skim across the ground and can run about 30 mph.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Je suis....

Our red, white, and blue tree, a tradition we began in December 2001, has been changed up a bit for 2015.  Instead of the usual five stripes there are just three and it's bleu, blanc, rouge.  We still have wonderful memories of celebrating a special anniversary in Paris nearly 20 years ago.   Overlooking the City of Light from the Eiffel Tower at midnight  was an unforgettable moment.

Lady Liberty, a gift from France.

NYC skyline on the other side.

So, here's looking at you Paris, may those lights continue to shine.

Joyeux Noël

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Keeping "Pace" with The Pearl

Our beautiful city just keeps getting better.  New urban re-use projects are creating great outdoor spaces beyond the famous downtown River Walk.   In my last post I brought you a tour of the intriguing new Hotel Emma.  Now I'll take you back a few weeks when we toured the newly opened plaza on the east side of the hotel.

The Pearl is named for the former Pearl Brewery which operated for over 100 years until it closed in 2001.  The site was purchased by Christopher Goldsbury and his Silver Ventures investment firm.  Mr. Goldsbury--one of six billionaires who call San Antonio home--made his money from Pace Foods, the company which helped make salsa America's number one condiment.  Now that The Pearl is coming together, I am amazed by his vision and community investment which has created a wonderful urban destination for locals and tourists.

Let's get walking around the new plaza.  The Second Empire style former brewhouse built in 1894 is now a guest room tower at Hotel Emma.  Photos of guest rooms show those awesome curved windows from the inside and the cupola is now a two-story guest suite.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Supper for Lunch at Hotel Emma

In San Antonio where the tourist industry is our top private employer, the opening of a new hotel rarely creates more than passing interest.  Hotel Emma, newly opened at The Pearl, is a notable exception since it has garnered more interest in the national press than usual and this excitement also extends to locals.  The Pearl is a destination for shopping, dining, and entertainment on the site of the old Pearl Brewery along the north end of our famous River Walk.  Named for Emma Koehler who ran the brewery in the early 20th century, Hotel Emma promises to be the anchoring jewel in a rapidly growing area of the city popular with tourists and residents alike.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

This sweet Fox planter was a gift from my friend Jeannette.  I immediately planted it up with succulents and placed it on the sill above the sink.   It's been a few months so I just replanted it and, since a bright window is not the best background, we went for a walk together in the garden!

It's been good weather this fall and there are still plenty of nice blooms in the garden.

This week, as everyday, I'm thankful for my many blessings.

Wishing all my friends a Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Garden for Hope and New Beginnings

Since beginning this blog I've toured many gardens and they are all special for different reasons but usually it's the plants or design or both.  The garden I toured on Friday stands out for reasons having little to do with gardening.  I joined my friends from Gardening Volunteers of South Texas (GVST)  to tour Haven for Hope, a place that shelters and feeds homeless individuals and families while providing a place of "transition and transformation" for those who are ready to take that step.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Fall vist to Yeya's

I took the opportunity to stop by Yeya's Antiques and Oddities recently.  The "yard" as Mario calls it gets very hot during summer months so I especially enjoy going once the weather turns cooler.

Lets see what's new; oh boy, a recently arrived stock of sign letters lining the aisles.  Can you spell F-U-N?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Warrior and Family Support Center gardens on Central Texas Gardener!

Most Tuesday mornings I can be found volunteering in the beautiful Healing and Therapy Gardens at the Warrior and Family Support Center on Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio.  We enjoy serving those who have given so much.  I've written several posts over the last two years since I began volunteering there and back in June I wrote about the team at Central Texas Gardener visiting us in the gardens to tape a segment for the show.  We had a wonderful time working with the crew and the resulting video is awesome.  I'm so excited to let you know the show is now available online and you can find the link and more information at Linda's GTG blog.  The video is on You Tube which should be available anywhere in the world.  Of course, if CTG airs in your area you'll want to tune in to your local PBS station to see the show.

Now for a few photos from the last two weeks in the gardens.

Monarch butterflies were busy preparing to complete their journey to Mexico.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Wildlife Wednesday November 2015

It's Wildlife Wednesday and time to share wildlife photos from the garden.  For the past few Wildlife Wednesday posts I've posted photos of a Barred Owl which had become a regular visitor to my garden.  During October the owl continued to visit the water dishes we placed on the rail for birds.

Saturday, October 31, 2015


Last year for Halloween I posted about our neighbor's cat Patches.  Patches continues to visit the garden and this year I have a few more photos that are just too good not to post.

She's at the back door trying to look scary.  Looks scary?

Friday, October 23, 2015

Texas Native Plant Week 2015

Each October we celebrate Texas Native Plant Week sponsored by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and for 2015 it's this week, October 18-24.  Native plants are especially important to gardeners in Central Texas due to our extremes of weather and soil conditions.  Basically, the best plants to grow are the ones that already grow here and, fortunately, we have a good range to choose from.

It's been a tough year even for native plants and I've featured a number of my favorites in previous posts which you can find by searching on "Texas natives" in the search box to the right or clicking on the label at the bottom of this post.  I'll highlight two standouts which are currently blooming for the first time in my garden.  A cause to celebrate for sure.

Texas Crag Lily (Echeandia flavescens) blooming is especially sweet since I've had it for several years and have never seen it bloom.  That's because the deer consistently chewed it down to the ground.  Now that the deer are fenced out, I can enjoy pretty foliage and a bright yellow bloom.    Talk about extremes, it grows from South Texas all the way to the Panhandle.  It can also be found growing in New Mexico and Arizona.  It is also apparently quite tasty.  

Striped foliage is nice even when it's not in bloom.  It blooms from June to September but we've been warmer so it had time to recover this summer and bloom this week.  There's not a lot of information on this plant but I read that it is clump forming and that would be nice to see happen now that it's safe from deer browsing.  

A delightful surprise to see this bloom as I had forgotten what it was.  According to the Native Plant Database the Texas Crag Lily closes up in the afternoon and reopens in the morning.  It's been cloudy today so the blooms were still open late this morning.

Another first time bloomer and welcomed sight in the garden is White Heath Aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides) which is native to most states and Canada.  It's a nice addition to the fall garden.  While the Gomphrena in the background are not native the bright yellow-orange Zexmenia were found along the creek which runs along my back fence.  In the foreground you can just get a glimpse of Dalea greggii's delicate gray foliage and purple blooms.

How pretty!

Camphorweed (Heterotheca subaxillaris) also showed up in the circle garden and has been popular with bees.

While it was nice to have something to offer pollinators during the heat and drought of the last few weeks, its dandelion appearance is too weedy for this part of the garden so I'll try to find it a new home next year.

That's the roundup of new native plants in my garden for Texas Native Plant Week.  For excellent ideas on how to get started with native plants in your garden I'd highly recommend this post by Tina at "My Gardener Says..."

Friday, October 16, 2015

Visiting Mission Espada

This weekend San Antonio celebrates the designation of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park as a World Heritage Site.   We recently stopped by Mission Espada for a walk on a very nice day.  Five Spanish Colonial Missions along the San Antonio River make up the park and Mission Espada marks the southernmost point while the Alamo anchors the northern tip of the park.

Originally established in 1690, most of the current buildings date to 1745 when it was known as Mission San Francisco de Espada.  Espada means sword or blade in Spanish.

Mission Espada was the only mission along the San Antonio River with a brick works to manufacture bricks.

The bells of Mission Espada are often used (along with the Alamo) as a symbol of our city.  Esperanza is commonly known as Yellow Bells so it fits nicely here especially since Esperanza translates to Hope in English.

The stonework around the door is original to about 1731.

Inside the sanctuary is quite austere.  It's still an active parish with mass in both Spanish and English.

A piece of history continuing to serve its congregation today.

These lovingly tended container gardens along the arcade are a surprise.  Given that the mission was established in 1690 near an existing Indian village, we can assume gardening has been going on for quite a while at this site.

Why a such a personal garden in a National Park?  Since Mission Espada is still an active parish the garden must be tended by the staff who use the offices in this building.  In the midst of visitors from around the world the original work for which this mission was established goes on.  Imagine this as your office door.

Moy Grande Hibiscus developed at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens by Mr. Moy for our climate.  Beautiful!

It still looks and feels remote as if we have arrived on horseback.

Modern signage helps though it is not too intrusive.

The arcade used to have two levels.  The buildings on the left burned and only the outline remains.

On the wall is a white flag with red cross on white known as Cruz de Borgoña

During the Spanish colonization of the Americas the Cross of Burgundy served as the flag of the Viceroyalties of the New World(Bandera de Ultramar)[1] and as a recurrent symbol in the flags of the Spanish armed forces[2] and the Spanish Navy.[3] Nations that were once part of the Spanish Empire consider "las aspas de Borgoña" to be a historical flag, particularly appropriate for museum exhibits and the remains of the massive harbor-defense fortifications built in the 17th-18th centuries. At both San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico, and at Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in St. Augustine, Florida, the Cross of Burgundy is daily flown over the historic forts, built by Spain to defend their lines of communication between the territories of their New World empire. The flying of this flag reminds people today of the impact Spain and its military had on world history for over 400 years. It was also used by Spanish military forces.

Ancient mesquite trees anchor the courtyard surrounded by stone walls.

Detail of the rock work out toward the parking lot.

A beautiful, serene place to visit and an important part of our history.