Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day 2016: The Traveling Wall

It's been 33 years since The Vietnam Memorial Wall was dedicated on the Mall in Washington, DC.  We visited just a few weeks after it opened and standing in front of all those names on the wall for the first time was a somber experience so very different from the usual carved statue or plaque.  Sculptor Maya Lin's controversial design had forever changed the way we experience memorials.

My other striking memory was of all the memorabilia left by family and friends.

For those who haven't seen the memorial in our Nation's Capitol, there is a traveling wall which was on display at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio last fall and the photos in this post are from that exhibit.

As an 80% replica there are differences--the names are smaller and you won't see your reflection among the names as you do at the permanent memorial made of granite.

Visitors to the traveling wall leave mementos just as they do at the original in Washington, D.C.

So many things are left that a warehouse in Maryland catalogs and stores over 400,000 items.  A virtual tour of some of the items is available here.  Of my visits to the wall some of the things I remember most are the notes, also beer, dogtags, and there are always candles.  The most expensive item in the collection is a custom Harley-Davidson motorcycle left by a veteran's group from Wisconsin.

If you have a chance, the Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall is currently on display this week in New Braunfels, just a forty minute drive from San Antonio.  The wall is open 24 hours and veterans are there to assist in finding names.  A wreath laying ceremony is planned for this afternoon.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Fences (and a few gardens) along King William Street

Some streets are meant for walking and King William Street in the heart of the King William Historic District is just such a street.  In my last post I shared a corner garden anchored by a striking morning glory vine.  I mentioned that I kept on walking along the street to take a look  The house next door had a nice fountain full of plants but that was about it for gardens.

Since the gardens weren't all that fascinating I enjoyed checking out the fences and gates.

A good fence is a necessity with frequent walking tours, street festivals, and parades along King William Street.

Two homes on the street are open as museums--Villa Finale and The Steves Homestead.  I didn't take photos of either but you can find more on their websites.  King William was the first designated National Register historic district in the State of Texas.  

Scrolled ironwork fence with roses

These photos are not necessarily in order as I walked back and forth across the street to take closeups and long shots.

Once farmland for Mission San Antonio de Valero, known popularly as The Alamo, the neighborhood was first divided into lots in the 1860s.

Shrub roses add privacy to a large garden.

Not all roses, fuchsia Bougainvillea drapes a side street fence.

In the early 20th Century most of these homes were divided into apartments and boarding houses.  The neighborhood became quite rundown until the 1950s when restoration began returning these homes back into single-family residences.

If I remember correctly the porches were literally falling off this home just a few years ago.  Now freshly restored it awaits a garden (we hope).

Here's a garden to check out along the street.  No lawn with easy care plants in a very casual streetside planting for such a formal style house.  Their little wire fence is not so sturdy as most.

Topiary on the porch adds a touch of formality.

Nice, except for the clouds of invasive Nandina and red mulch.

Oh well, we can always take the long view.  It's a beautifully done restoration.

That concludes my walking tour of King William Street.  If you are visiting San Antonio and looking for a break from the River Walk, it's an easy walk from town.

Pam Penick is set to speak tomorrow at Festival of Flowers at 10:45 am.  Her talk is "Hold the Hose", a presentation on saving water in our gardens.  After the talk Pam will have her latest book  The Water-Saving Garden and her first book Lawn Gone! available for purchase and signing.  Vendors from all over our region will be there so you get a lot of access for the low admission price of $6.00.  Look for me attending Pam's talk, volunteering at the SAWS butterfly garden display, shopping for plants on the vendor floor, and/or taking part in the City-Wide Plant Swap!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Morning, Glory

After visiting Chris Park I headed into town by way of the King William Historic District with no plans to stop...until I spotted a bright morning glory vine in full bloom on a corner fence.  I haven't seen many morning glories around San Antonio.

Two-hour free parking is easy to find during weekdays and guided walking tours are common so my taking photos attracts little if any attention in the neighborhood.

A few moments observing a busy solitary bee at work.

Intense color with blooms beginning to close as the sun arrived.

I'm inspired enough to try planting a few seeds on the east side of my garden next year.

What about the rest of the garden?  I knew you would ask so I took more photos.  Casual and fun with great plants were my impressions.  South of downtown and near the river provides an ideal growing environment for a garden.

Purple echoes morning glory colors.

"Tin Man" next to Strelitzia and I'm pretty sure that's a floor lamp way back in the patio area.

Papaya ripening on the tree.

The house looks like a small cottage from the front.  The front walk features a nice gate and a bit of lawn edged with tufts of flowers.  I'd enjoy visiting this garden if it were on tour.

Picking up the color theme is a curbside planting of Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida) in combination with one of our native tradescantia or spiderwort.  It's interesting to see this happens in gardens other than mine.  The purple heart plant is native to Mexico and usually planted intentionally while the latter (green leaves with blue flowers) just seems to show up wherever the purple is planted.

Intrigued, I continued walking and I'll have more photos in my next post.


Pam Penick is set to speak at Festival of Flowers on Saturday, May 28th at 10:30 am.  She'll present "Hold the Hose", a presentation on saving water in our gardens.  After the talk Pam will have her latest book  The Water-Saving Garden and her first book Lawn Gone! available for purchase and signing.  Vendors from all over our region will be there so you get a lot of access for the low admission price of $6.00.  Look for me attending Pam's talk, volunteering at the SAWS butterfly garden display, shopping for plants on the vendor floor, and/or taking part in the City-Wide Plant Swap!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Basil Fest!

On Saturday morning I headed out to Basil Fest at the Pearl Farmer's Market.  While the Farmer's Market is open every Saturday, Basil Fest is an annual event held in May.  This year the beneficiary of funds raised by Basil Fest was the Healing and Therapy Gardens of The Warrior and Family Support Center where I volunteer each week.

Basil Fest is one of two events sponsored each year by the San Antonio Herb Market Association.  Their other event is the Herb Market held in mid-October.  First stop was the Nature's Herb Farm plant sale and this year I picked up a very nice ruffled purple basil.  Nature's Herb Farm, with their huge operation located in San Antonio, supplies herbs for most of the state of Texas.

Nature's Herb Farm also grows succulents.  These wood succulent boxes were planted up and ready to go.  You might recognize the rusty tanks planted with prickly pear from my previous post on this plaza at the Pearl.

Expert talks on growing and cooking with basil were just one of activities available.  It was also fun for me to see this park full of activity on a Saturday since I'm mostly here on slower weekdays.  When I posted on this space last fall it was nearly empty and the contrast is quite striking.

During breaks I took a walk around the Pearl Farmer's Market held each Saturday morning.  With live music almost every week and streets closed off, it has turned into a huge event.

Chalking up the street is fun!

So are balloons!

Never tried goat milk soap.

I took a few minutes to drop into Melissa Guerra, one of my favorite shops in San Antonio.

Primarily a cookware shop, Melissa includes all kinds of fun and colorful items in her shop.

Now that's a sun hat!

Milagros in all sizes

Down the way, Adelante Boutique displays a "Y'all" pillow in the window.

An exquisitely handmade gown from Fiesta court is on display in another window.  Fiesta is our annual city-wide party held each April since 1891.  Over the years it has grown from a one-day celebration at the Alamo to events across the city for most of the month of April.  You can see more of these elaborate gowns on Pinterest here and look at the second row on this link to see the gown worn in the pageant.

Entirely hand beaded with crystal flowers and covered in sequins these dresses take a year to make.  Reflections make it tough to capture the incredible details.  Quite obviously the gowns are heavy to wear so they are mainly worn standing on floats in Fiesta parades where special platforms hold the train.  Scroll down to the second photo in this link to see.

Back at Basil Fest "voters" are lining up to sample basil dishes and vote with donations for their favorite .  Despite intermittent rain, we had a great turnout.

And the winner is Chef Tony from Fratello's Market and Deli!  Fratello's served a delicious basil filled cream puff and a sweet roll with pesto topping which were both excellent.  Their tough competition included cranberry bread with goat cheese/pesto spread from Chef Jenny Mattingsley of Oblate Theological Center and (my favorite) guacamole with basil and bacon from Chef Jacky of Broadway Daily Bread.

Basil Fest raised just over $750 for the Healing and Therapy Gardens.  That's Wendy Martinson, Executive Director of Returning Heroes Home, presenting the award to Tony.

Thanks so much to The San Antonio Herb Market Association for a great event and making my favorite gardens the beneficiary of your fundraising this year.


Pam Penick is set to speak at Festival of Flowers on Saturday, May 28th at 10:30 am.  She'll present "Hold the Hose", a presentation on saving water in our gardens.  After the talk Pam will have her latest book  The Water-Saving Garden and her first book Lawn Gone! available for purchase and signing.  Look for me attending Pam's talk, volunteering at the SAWS butterfly garden display, shopping for plants on the vendor floor, and/or taking part in the City-Wide Plant Swap!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Basil Fest is helping out my favorite garden this year!

Basil Fest is set for Saturday morning, May 21, at The Pearl.  We're excited that the Healing and Therapy Gardens of the Warrior and Family Support Center at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio will be the beneficiary of money raised by local chefs this year.

Monday, May 16, 2016

"A place of beauty, contemplation, and joy"

A tiny (one acre) park on the edge of downtown San Antonio, Chris Park is a memorial of love from a mother to her son.  Chris Goldsbury died of a drug overdose in 1997 at the age of 24.  Chris Park was established by his mother Linda Pace and dedicated in 2005 just two years before she died of breast cancer.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Watersaver Landscape Tour April 2016

Water conservation is a must in south Texas, so each year our San Antonio Water System (SAWS) sponsors a tour of watersaving gardens to inspire customers to replace water-guzzling lawns with more drought tolerant plants or hardscape.  The tour was held in the gated community of Inverness on the north side of San Antonio and a bus was provided from a nearby staging area.  Since I was busy volunteering on the tour, I handed off photo duties to Neal for the day so many of the photos below are his.

Our bus dropped us off at the start of the tour route and picked up return passengers near the last of six gardens. The garden at the first house starts off nicely, blending into the neighborhood with a mix of lawn and swath of foliage plants under sculptural oaks.  Very fitting for the tour goal of encouraging lawn replacements.

Quercus fusiformis is such great name for our variety of Live Oak.

We were directed around to the backyard and quite a contrast for it was filled with garden art and lots of interesting potted succulents.  A good example of hardscape and groundcover replacing lawn.

Bright colors are a change from the mostly monochromatic scheme out front.

The swinging hammock purchased online was popular and the owners said their grandchildren enjoyed it as well.

Colorful art was also visible inside through the glassed-in porch windows.

Whimsical touches to match the theme of this garden were evident throughout.

Neon profile on the oak is visible from indoors.

Amusing art pieces.

Double the interest with back to back staghorn ferns.

A swag of succulents decks out the bright red pergola.

These succulent arrangements were show stoppers and Pam Penick at Digging figured out they were created by Abbey McKenna Succulent Designs.  Abbey usually has a booth at Festival of Flowers in May so you can see more of her work.  Before or after Pam's talk and book signing that is!

A fun way to display such a common plant as Sanseveria and a fun way to replace your lawn.

The next garden actually not on the tour was a standout for its array of blooming society garlic.

House 2 demonstrates how just a few plant choices can make a nice no-lawn watersaving garden.  The dry creek is functional during rainstorms.

Maybe not for everyone, but some good principles were employed for a low maintenance landscape.

Another garden not on tour but a nice example of house and landscape.  I think Neal took this photo as a reminder we want to do something similar with a rock out by our driveway.  We have the numbers, just need to get the project done!

Along the way Neal spotted Heather Ginsburg (l) from SAWS.  Heather blogs at Xericstyle though lately she's been writing more at SAWS website Garden Style San Antonio.  Neal mentioned to another SAWS employee that he was waiting to say hello to Heather.  "Everyone knows Heather!" she said.   (I don't know the other names, but I'm sure Heather will supply them when she reads this.)

Home 3 is where I volunteered during the morning shift, you can see a more detailed take of this garden on my blog post from last fall.  My friend Cheryl was stationed near the front gate which meant she got stuck saying "Berkeley Sedge" several hundred times!

To the right of the walk a Pineapple Guava was in bloom.  Back in October I wasn't even sure what the plant was.

A great non-linear entrance

Leuders limestone pavers replace typical concrete sidewalk.

Native trees left in place

The back yard was my station for a few hours.  Those teak benches were attention getting and we had numerous discussions about what appears to be two different sedges.  I concluded that some of the sedge is not Berkeley Sedge but possibly a native Texas Sedge.

The buffalo represents the owner's roots in Manitoba, Canada.

Lush and restful.

If Cheryl said "Berkeley Sedge" numerous times, then I said "Aloe" just as many.  This blooming soap aloe was quite a hit and many folks were skeptical the bronze leaves below it belonged to a Kalanchoe.  I also pointed out many times over that no one buys soap aloe in San Antonio, it's a passalong plant!  The Bay Laurel on the right was also a surprise since so many people do not know you can easily grow your own bay leaves in our climate.

Outside the back gate, another garden not on tour caught our guest photographer's eye.

On to House 5 which I also profiled previously on my blog.  The tour route took us around back first so we'll start there with Horsetail Reed and Sticks on Fire.

Horsetail Reed, newly planted when I was here in October has filled in beautifully.  This is a perfect spot to keep it contained and show off the great lines of this plant.

Artfully hiding utility boxes

Silvery gray on gray, I like this a lot.

Repeating orange accents.

A view over those orange Panton chairs to the pool

Sticks on Fire and Knophia stand out against the gray and rust.

A glass sculpture tree had been added since my last visit.  Underneath is a holding tank for air conditioning condensate used to water plants in the garden.

Nolina nelsonii standing out on this corner reminds me of the newly planted yucca in my own yard. Now I wonder if this is where the idea began to form.

This cutaway of underlying rock gives an idea of what it takes to build a house and garden in our area.

Nice bench in a neighbor's courtyard.

The last house on tour featured a naturalistic landscape with groundcover and foliage plants under the native live oaks.  The goal of the tour is to encourage SAWS customers to remove lawn and save water and this garden is a good example of a simple, natural lawn replacement.

A dry creek channels downpours away from the house and through the garden.

The side courtyard garden was more formal and quite relaxing to tour.

Trimmed hedges provide a contrast to the more natural plantings outside the walls.

My guest photographer missed one house, but it was mostly a swimming pool courtyard with tropical plants so I think you've seen the best of the tour here.