Sunday, March 19, 2017

Winter Walk-Off 2017

Getting in on Winter Walk-Off 2017 just under the wire.  Winter Walk-Off is hosted by Les at A Tidewater Gardener.  The rules are simple.  Leave your house for a walk and take photos.  You can drive there or ride a bike as long as you don't show your own garden.  Then post and comment on Les' blog A Tidewater Gardener.

This year's walk seems like same thing different year.  Last year my sister-in-law from Dallas joined me on my walk.  This year, just as I was thinking of joining Winter Walk Off, she called to say she was on her way to San Antonio again.  She's a flight attendant and even though she flies a lot it's rare that she gets a San Antonio layover long enough for a walk so this is a special treat.

We begin along the San Antonio River south of downtown just below The Guenther House Restaurant (on the left with green trim) about where we left off last year.


The Guenther House is part of Pioneer Flour Mills and is a museum, restaurant, and gift shop.  Nice for brunch.


At first the walk is similar to other parts of the River Walk.  Lots of concrete mixed with landscaping.


That look quickly gives way to a more natural setting near the Blue Star Arts Complex.


What was for years basically an icky drainage ditch has been restored since 2009 with native plants and features like this stairway flanked by old concrete columns.



Steps across the river are more challenging than they look.


Especially since I stopped to take photos in the middle.


A look down the middle of the river.


Painted Ladies!  We exit the river into Southtown to take a closer look.





"Make Tacos Not War" started here in San Antonio, the artist now lives in New York.


Maybe the old trim was electric pink?


Southtown is becoming more popular as the neighboring King William District we explored last year gets pricier.


Yard art is big in Southtown


It would be fun to know the story of this fanciful architecture.


Dish garden as travelogue.




Take out a pen and change that to "los perros".


And also in English just in case.  Nice fence.


We're moving on.  Never, ever mess with the chihuahua.



River entry points have nicely designed plazas with benches and pedestrian bridges


The faux bois work of local artist Carlos Cortes is featured all along the river.  The San Antonio River Foundation raises private funds for art on the River Walk.



Bike stations located along the route make it easy to enjoy all 15 miles of the trail.


Bike repair stations just in case.


Among the wildlife we spotted this trio of turtle, heron, and cormorant all enjoying a sunny day along the river.


We walked under a railroad trestle which appears to still be in use.


This was cool, it's pretty rare to walk under a wooden railroad trestle on a public walkway.


The terminus of a flood control tunnel which diverts rainwater under downtown to prevent flooding in tourist areas.  I like the retro Deco style of the building which was completed in 1997 though it looks much older.



Cormorants have staked out their fishing spot.


Bikers pay attention here.  This portion of the walkway ends in the water.  If you were zipping along this could be a problem.  But there's a way up to street level.  Debris on the sign shows how high the water has been with all the rain this spring.


Ducklings under mom's watchful eye


Dad's too.  He didn't flinch even though we got close.


Native agarita blooming near the bridge.  This is prickly stuff.


Those gates are debris catchers which can be opened if there's serious flooding.  Most of the time the trash is cleaned out before the water heads about 200 miles south to the Aransas Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf of Mexico.  The city could have left this looking like a bunch of pipes with grates, but they did this instead.  


The River Walk continues another nine miles though we end this walk at Roosevelt Park across from the old Lone Star Brewery which is undergoing renovation into a mixed use complex similar to The Pearl on the north side.


That's a very different look at my town for the Winter Walk-off for March 2017.  Thanks to Les for hosting again and I look forward to seeing all the other entries.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Touring the Post-Winter Landscape Reveals Positive Changes

A frequent gardening question regards how to plan a landscape to look good year round. That's exactly what I had in mind when I planned our landscape nearly five years ago.  My landscape not only needed to look good in winter it also had to brave our brutal summers.  With an emphasis on native heat and drought tolerant plants the summer garden has been working well for a while.  That still leaves those winter freezes to figure out and with so many evergreen (or ever silver in my case) native plants to choose from it's pretty easy to put together an interesting winter landscape.  Over the years I've tweaked my original ideas to make it look even better.  Back in February, after a three-day freeze, I took a photo to document how the front landscaping looked after what passes for winter in South Central Texas.  As I was taking these photos a neighbor walked by and commented on how good my landscape looked.  Then she added that it looked the same as any other time of year.


I thought so too until I took at look at the same angle this week in mid-March.  What a difference.  Plants are greener and bright yellow Damianita blooms highlight the front beds.  Still I'm happy with the way things look in the first photo too.  It can't look like this every day even if I used fake flowers which would fade in our heat anyway.


Our average last freeze/frost date is March 2nd so we're well past the average danger zone though I remember losing some plants to a late March freeze just last year.  The safe date is March 20th and it looks like we'll make it without a late freeze this year.  That's also the first day of spring so it's time to take stock of the landscape before it arrives.

Damianita was a recent addition to the landscape and replaced existing Lantana 'New Gold' which looks terrible in the winter.


Lantana looked so awful during winter months that I couldn't find any photos to show.  The best I could do is that brown heap of sticks in front of the palm is how Lantana usually looks in winter.


I much prefer Damianita (those green shrubs in front of the agave) which remain green all winter and cycle their blooms from spring to fall.



Damianita also braves summer heat next to a south-facing driveway and only needs water once a month even in July and August.


Damianita also replaced lantana in the island bed.  Deep green foliage adds color in winter.


Damianita brightly blooming this week with Yucca Rostrata in the background.  I've been impressed with the quick growth of the yucca since I purchased it two years ago as a small one-gallon plant at the big blue home improvement store.



While we're at it we'll tour the rest of the garden since it's been a while.  I was surprised to see red barrel cactus blooming.  It's younger than my golden barrels which have not bloomed yet.  The orange flowers don't open wide, this is about the most they open even on a sunny day.  Each flower opens in succession around the ring.



Four-nerve Daisy sporadically blooms atop long stems.



Golden Barrel and Agave Cornelius picks up golden color echoes.  Agave Cornelius added just last fall produced a pup which will eventually be transplanted to replace Color Guard Yucca which looked great along the driveway but are short-lived.  Pups don't range far from the parent plant making this compact (3'-4' wide) variety of Agave Americana a good choice for landscapes.


Then there are those cute ruffly edges I carefully chose by looking through every plant the nursery had in stock.  Agave Cornelius has made it through with just a few spots due to a rainy winter.  I mounded it up slightly which worked out well for drainage which all agaves need and drainage has been a problem in this spot.  Native twist-spine barrel cactus in the background.


Dotty African Hosta foliage invites close inspection in the shady garden


Into the back yard where dormant Buffalo Grass is waking up.


Texas Bluebonnets are in full bloom along with Prairie Verbena.



I just love having wildflowers in the garden.



Bored yet?


Some are going to seed already.


Checking out the circle garden where native Muhly grasses stay green and soften rocky edges.


Tazetta 'Golden Dawn' narcissus planted in fall of 2015 have multiplied and returned much to my surprise, well not exactly a surprise since they are marketed for this climate where most bulbs tend not to make it through our summers.  Blackfoot Daisy on the left.


Another view from the tank garden.


Behind the deer fence Belinda's Dream Rose has been covered with blooms this spring.


Belinda's Dream in full bloom


Grandma's Yellow because every Texas garden should have a yellow rose, especially in San Antonio.


What's a yellow rose without a cactus near?  I planted spineless Opuntia around the base.


Painted Petals, shared by my friend Melody and blooming here for the first time.


Abutilon unknown variety.  One stem has variegated leaves and the other is solid.


Yucca Rigida planted just a year ago is blooming.


Bloom just emerging earlier in the week.


Just a few days later it's moving quickly to produce its stalk of bell-shaped flowers.


We're just getting over leaf drop season and the back yard remains buried in live oak leaves.  Eventually we'll get them all raked and moved behind the shed to compost.


That view of squiggly live oaks over the fence shows where I still have the most work to do sprucing up the container plants and moving them around to their summer spots.


That's the tour for late winter as we head into spring.  I'm happy with the changes made to brighten up the winter landscape and how the garden is shaping up all around.