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.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Inside Austin Gardens Tour 2015: Death Defying and Flashy Natives.

We're previewing the Inside Austin Gardens Tour with a sneak peek at two more gardens.  The tour, sponsored by Travis County Master Gardeners, is held every 18 months alternating between spring and fall.  The tour theme is "By Gardeners. For Gardeners."  This garden called "Death Defying Natives" is one I can easily relate to.  Drought-tolerant plants requiring minimal water use are the focus on this corner lot.  A low stone wall dividing the large front yard gives a sense of separation from the street.

Charming vignette at the front door.

Potato vine in both purple and chartreuse with bright pink roses line the house.

Potato vine in bloom, mine have never bloomed so this was fun to see.

Bright red Oxblood or Schoolhouse lilies were in bloom.  A special treat since they bloom for only a short time after a rain in the autumn.

Along the curb a bed of native plants provide buffers.

Minimal care and minimal water use are good principles during our summer heat and drought.  The streetside bed continues around the corner.

Yellow Mexican Bird of Paradise combined with orange Pride of Barbados screen the garage and driveway.

The family dog eagerly waiting to greet us.  This porthole is such a great idea.

Inside the back fence we see masses of waterwise plants surrounding a seating area ready to gather family and friends on just a small circle of Zoysia lawn.

Italian Stone Pine is one of the few pines or conifers which will grow well west of I-35 in Central Texas.

The next and final garden we visited on our tour was "Flashy Natives" and a very apt title with its bright beds of flowers and grasses.  A large Ashe Juniper surrounded by planting beds with just enough lawn to walk through.  Beds are lined with smooth Baja stone in contrast to our typically sharp native limestone.  I've thought of placing a few of these in strategic spots in my own garden and seeing these reminds me to make a trip to the stone yard.

Everything looks so good despite the heat.

The key is heat-loving perennials.

Another large purple pennisetum.  After seeing this earlier on the tour in Pam Penick's garden as well, it's going on my list.

Shady seating area out front to enjoy the garden and neighbors in the evening.

Around back a set of rain barrels.

More of that pennisetum.  Love it!

Curved beds with bump-outs help reduce the overall footprint of the lawn.

Mexican Flame Vine blooms always a treat.

Sweet cat enjoying the garden

Nice raised bed garden set off with a picket fence.

Rusellia makes a nice fern-like container plant.

Great gardening socks!

These two gardens along with the other four gardens featured in my preview series will be open this Saturday, October 17th, during the Inside Austin Gardens Tour.  It's a short drive from San Antonio to Austin so if you're looking for good ideas for your garden this fall it's well worth a day in Austin to enjoy the tour.  You can see my preview of "Shady Natives", "Cottage Natives", "Oh! Deer!", and "Sunbathing Natives" by starting with this post.  In addition to the six gardens on tour, the Native Testing Grounds at the Travis County Extension Service will be open to visitors so you can explore possibilities for replacing that water-guzzling lawn and get good tips from the Master Gardeners.  Visiting the testing grounds is a good way to kick off Texas Native Plant week too.

To see more blogger previews of the tour visit:

Rock Rose
Sharing Nature's Garden
Garden Ally
The Shovel Ready Garden
The Gardener of Good and Evil

Be sure to check out Central Texas Gardener for more on the Inside Austin Gardens Tour.