Sunday, July 31, 2022

Honoring Mary Irish

The San Antonio Garden Center has established the Mary Irish Memorial Scholarship Fund. Mary Irish, a noted horticulturist, author, lecturer and gardener passed away in August 2021, leaving a list of accomplishments that included 10 books on southwest and Texas gardening with an 11th book currently at the publisher. Mary and her husband Gary spent many years in the Phoenix area where she was Director of Public Horticulture at the Desert Botanical Garden. After 25 years in Arizona she and Gary retired to their native Texas and settled in Castroville just west of San Antonio. She embraced her new gardening adventure by creating a Tex-Mex border of locally native plants and even turned up to purchase plants from a Castroville gardener during their city-wide garage sale. Mary appeared on Central Texas Gardener and the show's producer, Linda Lehmusvirta, wrote a wonderful tribute to Mary containing excerpts from her books.

I met Mary several times while attending her fun and informative talks, and while picking up plants at the sales she conducted for the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. She was an advocate for growing locally native plants and enthusiastically sold me on one of her favorite South Texas native plants, Mexican Plumbago, which I still enjoy in my garden. As an excellent teacher her talks went beyond basics to explain details such as how certain plants survive drought. She was also entertaining as a speaker, and I remember she showed a hanging basket of Agave americana pups which elicited amazed laughter from the audience since we all knew how quickly they would grow to massive size in our climate. She was on the editorial board of the American Horticultural Society and among her most interesting projects was her stint as lead horticulturist on the gardens at Sunnylands in California. What a fascinating experience that must have been!

Photo from Central Texas Gardener

Mary had many fans in San Antonio, and local garden designer Charles Bartlett has provided an initial investment in a scholarship in her honor through the San Antonio Garden Center. As a board member and co-chair for their annual scholarship luncheon, I enjoyed the chance to do something special for Mary who had inspired me and so many others. The Mary Irish Memorial Scholarship Fund, with the generous initial donation from Charles and anticipated follow-on contributions, will award annual scholarships to local students majoring in Horticulture, Botany, or Environmental Science. We believe this is a fitting tribute since Mary was especially interested in encouraging women to pursue STEM careers. Applicants should email their interest to Contributions may be sent to The San Antonio Garden Center for the Mary Irish Memorial Scholarship fund.

I thoroughly enjoyed working with Charles to establish this scholarship to honor Mary Irish in a way that we are sure she would have approved.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Merry Christmas!

The San Antonio Botanical Gardens (SABOT) hosted a new Lightscape holiday light show  which originated in the UK and is now presented at botanical and public gardens in North America.  It was well done, and so my photos and videos are presented for your enjoyment.

Stars of patterned light greeting visitors on the entrance walkway sets a festive mood.

A beautifully lighted Live Oak near the entrance is a traditional holiday sight in San Antonio.

The gardens at SABOT have been decorated for the season in past years but have not been open for night tours until this year.  I am so familiar with the gardens that it was fun to see how different they appear at night.  The culinary garden just inside the entrance is typically not so colorful and I loved the feeling. 

Attention to detail is fascinating with stars showing the way in transitioning between areas along the one mile trail.

SABOT's iconic conservatories are even more striking in colorful lights.

Through a lighted arbor

Colorful plants spotlighted under a full moon have me taking notes for our future holiday displays.

Techy modern light patterns lead into the conservatory courtyard.

Fire gardens are a specialty of Lightscape and it was a wonderful experience.  The courtyard features a large pond surrounded by walkways and glass conservatories so it's the perfect spot for fire in the garden.

All the displays feature music and this was so beautiful with Silent Night playing quietly in the background.  

And the view from above.

More lighted plants featured throughout the show.

Cacti getting the dancing light treatment.

I must not have noticed this gazebo before since I don't remember seeing it previously.  

Lights sweeping the lake to the sounds of "Christmas Time is Here."

And a San Antonio crowd favorite features thousands of  twinkling Bluebonnets in front of the Auld House log cabin.

George Strait appropriately singing "It's Christmas Time in Texas."  "There many not be snow in San Antonio...."

Nice touch with white tops detailed just like real ones.

Bluebonnets reflected in the cabin windows.

Back to modern with lines of light dancing across a huge hillside and highest point near downtown.

We stood for quite a while watching lights dance across the hill.  Very well done and, like most of the displays, best viewed as a video with audio.

#LIGHTSCAPE for social media posts.

Musical fountains as well

Stars again leading to the grand finale. 

The majestic Winter Cathedral is a signature piece for all Lightscape shows.

These stars were intriguing in that they maintained their shape and detail across the plantings.

Back out past the live oak and more traditional trees near the gift shop.

We were gifted "Family and Friends" tickets by Marjesca Brown (@woodswanderinggirl) and Michael Eason (@texas_flora) as thanks for our support of her efforts to save one of the last bits of natural area in a city park.  Michael curates the rare plant collection at SABOT.  Thank you both so much and we enjoyed every minute!

#Lightscape runs through January 2nd and will return to SABOT for the next four years.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Return to Windmill Meadow Farm

When Paul and Nancy Person invited me back to Windmill Meadow Farm in April, I jumped at the chance to see how the farm had changed in the two years since I last visited. The place has a magical quality about it, yet it is so absolutely Texan. It's surprising for me to realize it had been two years since I visited Windmill Meadow Farm, but then we did basically lose a a whole year in 2020. Come take a look at what my friend Melody and I experienced on our tour.

The old red pickup truck had been moved closer to the restored wooden windmill which serves as the farm logo and adds a nice welcome. If you follow their Instagram feed you'll also recognize this as the backdrop for photos of their guests with the stunning flower arrangements they create at the farm.

Native Live Oak trees were still recovering their foliage from the devastating freeze we experienced in February.

Since I last visited, they have added farm tours and floral workshops by appointment. Our first stop was the onsite shop where we inhaled the amazing fragrance of masses of fresh flowers.

Behind the workshop we checked out seedlings in progress like these Zinnias for summer arrangements. Since they grow most of their flowers from seed Paul keeps a detailed list of planting dates.

Then it was out to enjoy a tour of the flower fields which have been expanded since my last visit. Row cover protects plants in the winter so there are plenty of fresh flowers in spring.

So many blooms!

Melody enjoys growing plants from seed and Paul was ready with answers to her many questions. She's growing Dahlias this year which are also Nancy's favorite.

While Paul and Melody chatted I took some time to explore on my own and talk with Nancy while she worked.

An unusual variety of Snapdragon with open florets.

Ranunculus in soft colors

Poppies for Spring!

Rows and rows of Poppies!

They even have flowers with my name on them! Foxgloves are a favorite and a challenge to grow in San Antonio.  We treat them as annuals so it's wonderful to see them here. Fredericksburg stays a bit cooler in the summer, especially at night.

With all those flowers to arrange they need a few non-flowering fillers for color and contrast. My favorite is Bells of Ireland with its bright chartreuse color. 


Curly Willow leaves will be stripped leaving just the curvy stems to place in arrangements for interest and texture.

A pause to enjoy native Antelope Horn milkweed in bloom. Milkweed is an important food source for the Monarch Butterfly and essential to keeping the population healthy along their migration route.

We enjoyed a break in the new cedar gazebo and a nice chat with Paul and Nancy about their life with flowers.

Cedar Cobweb bracket adds a special artistic detail.

At the shop we relaxed and watched Paul made custom arrangements for us to take home. As he worked he talked about the language of flowers.

Windmill Meadow Farm offers flower deliveries to Fredericksburg and nearby towns by request or subscription. If you live in the area you can arrange to pick your own flowers at the farm. A new gazebo near the shop will be the site of floral design workshops.

With one last look at the beautifully restored wooden windmill we headed home with our flowers arranged by Paul.

Back home Melody placed her gorgeous flowers in her own vase on the kitchen island. So pretty from all sides that just one view won't do!


And of course I turned mine into a slide show/gif. Gorgeous!

Following Paul's instructions I changed the water daily and made fresh stem cuts every 2-3 days. I also inspected and removed any stems that turned mushy so most of the flowers looked beautiful for a week.

Thank you so much to Paul and Nancy for another wonderful visit to the farm and we especially enjoyed visiting with them and learning more about the business of locally grown, truly fresh flowers. 

Windmill Meadow Farm is open for tours and floral classes by appointment daily. You can find Paul and Nancy at the Farmer's Market in Fredericksburg every Thursday from 4-7 or at other events throughout the year. Follow on Instagram to see the beautiful floral arrangements either their visitors create or they deliver to the many B&Bs and other venues in beautiful historic Fredericksburg.