Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from San Antonio!  Our wedding anniversary is during the week between Christmas and New Year's and it's always fun to celebrate this time of year.  Downtown is festive and fun all year round, but especially so at holiday time.

The view from our table at Bohanon's, an excellent place to celebrate a special occasion.

After dinner we strolled around town for a bit.  Perennially one of America's favorite Christmas towns, San Antonio never disappoints this time of year.  This seemingly random spot along the sidewalk sports a decorated Christmas tree.

Very cool window displays in an empty storefront are part of downtown revitalization plans.

Two different windows facing across the building entrance with color changing lights.

We skipped the Segway tour and kept on walking.

The lights are still up along the River Walk for a few more days.

 Outdoor heaters blasting with temps in the 50s.  Nice for walking, a bit chilly for dining.

Trees filled with cascading, twinkling light.

I'd heard a new Biergarten had opened up downtown. View from above, the River Walk is below street level.

Candy cane stripes on the main city tree at the Alamo.  It's different every year.  I like this effect which might be fun to try next year at home.

Giant ornaments.

There's always a crowd.

Tree lights blink to sounds of the season as carriages roll by.

The Alamo at night looks quite surreal.

Across the street, not so nice.  The usual Guinness World Records Museum, Ripleys, Tomb Raider....we keep hearing that changes are coming to Alamo Plaza.  It's going to be less commercial, more historic.  Maybe, I'm pretty sure my grandparents heard that too...back in the 1920s.

There's always that great view back across the street.

It never gets old.

2017 rings in the countdown to San Antonio's 300th year celebration in 2018 and a year-long fiesta.   New Year's Eve we'll have dinner at home and watch fireworks from a nearby church.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas to all!

Does it feel like Christmas?  The current temperature reading is 75F on Christmas Eve.  Yes, it feels like Christmas, especially inside where I go all-out for holiday decorating.

The fire was on for a few seconds and the weather is chilly enough at night to have a fire.  I made the beaded tree on the mantle this year.  Vintage ornaments on the chandelier were from my grandmother.

Tis the year for our Fox Tree.  We welcomed two new felt foxes from West Elm, picked up at 75% off before Christmas.  Another new addition is Slinky Fox, a gift from Peter the Outlaw Gardener in Tacoma.  Thank you Peter!

As beautiful as the tree is, the coffee table has been the conversation piece with holiday visitors.  The original glass had seen better days so Neal cut a piece of strong plywood and we covered it with batting and stretched calf hide. 

Rusty Angel and galvanized reindeer purchased on Facebook, a first for me this year.  ReBlinged, the seller, sent a bonus gift of galvanized ornaments which I placed in a basket of pinecones collected over the years.  The angel wings on either side of the fireplace in the first photo are also from ReBlinged.

Outside is cheery with lights too.  Agave neomexicana in green, Agave ovatifolia in blue snowflakes, and Opuntia Santa-rita in purple (of course).  The LED stars have a shooting effect and our oaks make natural candy canes.

We can even see it all from inside looking out.  I love this effect through the front door.

And so from our house to yours A very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Rainy Day fun at the zoo

My garden club plans events for the second Wednesday of each month during the school year.  Rain or shine, we rarely cancel for weather.   In early November, on a rare rainy day, we gathered for a horticultural tour of the San Antonio Zoo.  The heaviest rain held off and we had a great time.  I'd never visited this zoo and I was so impressed I'm sure to visit more often now that I've seen the lovely lush gardens and fascinating animal exhibits.

Zoo Lights holiday display was set up and ready to welcome visitors each evening.

Despite the cloudy, damp look to these photos, the weather was cool but not cold making our visit very comfortable.  Since we were here to see the plants, we were properly welcomed by agave, sotol, yucca, cactus and a big cat sculpture just inside the entrance.

Panther, cougar, jaguar?  All can be found in Texas though sightings are rare.

A good caution necessary for visitors who may not have experienced what our sun can do to metal.  It can get very hot visiting the sights of our city in the summer so it's nice to be here on a somewhat cooler day.

Nicely done, we're off to a good start.  Watch out for the Coral Snake in the sidewalk though.  A few real ones have been spotted in my neighborhood recently though I haven't seen one at my place yet.

Setting the holiday mood with cyclamen in a container display.

The reptile house is all decked out.

 Tropical gardens benefit from the zoo's in town location where microclimates can be warmer.

Butterfly attracting Tropical Milkweed dominates a border.

Reindeer awaiting the big holiday show.

More cyclamen, one of my favorite sights around town during the holiday season.

Beautifully landscaped all around.  A gift shop doubles as the North Pole.

The North Pole looking especially tropical this year.

No bananas but with last year's mild winter there should be some fruiting bananas around.

Bright spots of color on a cloudy day.

The Mays Family Plaza is now home to the Johnson Family Light Show made famous after their appearance on ABC's "Great Christmas Light Fight" a few years ago.  As you might imagine, the attention the show attracted became too much for their neighborhood and they've set up at the zoo this year.

I don't remember the name of this Dr. Seuss looking tree but I think it's from Australia.  It's not cold hardy and we've had some freezes this year so I hope it's okay.

Our tour guide zoo horticulturist John Strickland and the group.

This exquisite carousel was added for "Zootennial" in 2014 and features local Texas animals like a Whooping Crane, Horned Toad, Whitetail Deer and Jackalope.  The bird's nest spins.  We were here on a weekday, I can imagine it's quite busy on weekends and holidays.

Hibiscus mutabilis flowers turn from white to deep pink as they mature.

Porterweed, makes a nice shade plant.  The wire tree is part of the light show.

Around the other side of the flamingo pond.

Lush and tropical with Philippine Violet (right) and Esperanza in bloom.

A garden parterre.

Get Dirty!  Zoo School, a full-time preschool on site gives children an opportunity to spend 50% of their day outside in the zoo.

Callistemon, tree form.

I like this, don't know the name though.

Frosty should be more at home this week.

Faux bois window trim stands out on this vintage stone building.  The placement of the front window indicates it might have been a ticket office.

Salvia cascades over "rocks".

In one area ornamental grasses dominated along walkways.  Native muhlys with the same pennisetum I'm pulling from my garden.

Pennisetum grasses were reseeding and taking over just as they do in my yard.  At least here they are contained by walkways.

A friendly serpent mosaic.

Nice job of repurposing what appears to be an unused exhibit into a sunken gravel garden.

Drainage is key and there's a runoff spot to one side.

Aloe World across the way on a small hill.

Heading over to "Big Cat Valley" our arrival coincided with opening day of a new lion exhibit.  Thick glass walls replace railings and moats.

Wow, that lion just walked right up to the glass and it was an amazing experience which I was too mesmerized by to take a photo.  There's a spot in the wall where you can play tug-of-war with the lions.

Next door a tiger dozes in the conventional enclosure which will likely be replaced as well.  The new lion exhibit cost $1 million so they may need to do a little more fundraising first.

Natural looking rock formations in the background courtesy of The Kleberg Foundation.  The Kleberg family owns the famous King Ranch and have given generously to projects all around South Texas for decades.

On to Australia and kangaroos

But what is that thatched shrub over to the left?

It's a sleepy bird, looks more like an emu instead of an ostrich.

Speaking of Australia, I've been enjoying wildlife posts from Sue at My Wild Australia.  Among my favorites are her posts on Rainbow Lorikeets and I was delighted to see these charmers in an aviary at the zoo.

Families can interact with the birds under zookeeper supervision (not pictured) by purchasing food in a small container which the birds are quite adept at opening.

It was a day of firsts since a new Jaguar mom was showing off her cubs to the public for the first time.  Her enclosure has the same thick glass as the lions.

Faux bois planter boxes along a walkway near the reptile house.

Chameleon inside and lots of big snakes too.

Another look at the spiky entrance garden.

A fun day at the zoo combining a tour of the established plants and new exhibits.  One member of our group returned in December with her family for the Zoo Lights show which they enjoyed very much.