Tuesday, August 22, 2017

After the rain

I've learned to count on these sage blooms.  We had just over 5" of rain from August 8-9 and ten days on the nose later, they burst into bloom.  It happens every time we get rain in late summer.  We don't get a lot of rain events so it's easy to predict these blooms.  Known as Cenizo or Texas Ranger Sage its botanical name is Leucophyllum frutescans.

It's a stunner running the 100' length of our driveway.

During their full bloom, which lasts just a day or two, I spend a lot of time outside enjoying their mild fragrance and cool deep lavender blooms.

The warm pink autumn sage (Salvia greggii) is also blooming which may not be the best combination, but...

I planted white Salvia greggii to compensate.

See, that helps along with pink muhly grass which is not in bloom but adds another color pink to the mix.  When all three pinks are in bloom at once it's quite a cacophony of color.

Then again, just about any color looks good with them like this bright orange and yellow Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) below.

Another after the rain bloomer are Hill Country Rain Lilies (Cooperia pendunculata)When I first saw these huge bright white and fresh lily blooms I thought I must have planted summer bulbs but they are native to my area and simply popped up in several places around the front and back yard.  The seeds are large and easily transplanted for more and more plants.

Some insist these sage blooms predict rain because they are also commonly called "barometer bush".  So do we have rain in the forecast?  Yes, there's a tropical storm headed our way eventually.  When these blooms first popped out over the weekend we had a 20% chance of rain today (Tuesday).  Then the rain was moved to Wednesday with a 40% chance.  Now that chance has evaporated.  No rain today and little chance of rain Wednesday with possible rain later in the week.  I've heard it said the plant does predict rain as long as you don't specify when, exactly, that rain will arrive.  Come to think of it, that does sound like our local TV weather forecast.

Ah, everything looks better after a rain.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Garden Conservancy Open Days San Antonio Preview

The Garden Conservancy Open Days tour returns to San Antonio on October 14th.  Held annually in cities around the country, most cities hold Open Days every other year.  The Garden Conservancy raises funds to preserve special private gardens such as Peckerwood Garden in Hempstead, Texas.  In San Antonio we have missed a few years and it was time to bring Open Days back.

 This year Gardening Volunteers of South Texas partnered with the Garden Conservancy to present six outstanding San Antonio gardens.  A full year of planning behind us, the countdown begins for real with just two months to go.  You can read detailed information about each garden on the website so I'll present this preview with some of my own observations.

First, the Peterson's self-designed garden in Colonies North was a huge hit on the Watersaver Landscape Tour three years ago and a clear choice by the committee.  Elegant, relaxing and inviting it's always a pleasure to visit this garden.  Also featured on Central Texas Gardener and on SAWS website GardenstyleSA.  Even if you toured this garden before, you'll want to see it again to view the updates, and for those who missed it the first time, here's your chance.

The Gilliam's Terrell Hills home looks as if it has been here for decades even though it was just completed in 2016.  With architecture based on the Spanish Colonial style of our historic San Antonio Missions it's a beautiful setting for formal gardens surrounding the house.  The Gilliams have lived and traveled in many parts of the world so they looked to their travels and relied on a design by John Troy, ASLA, to pull their collection of garden objects and ideas together on a triangular shaped lot.

Even though the garden is newly planted, we thought the house and garden special enough to include on the tour.  The spectacular front door surround was inspired by historic buildings in downtown San Antonio and faces a formal courtyard.

A brick labyrinth is just one special feature of the front garden.

The back garden, with stone walls inspired by at the Alamo, is all about family with a fun ivy-covered troll and Cinderella mosaic to delight grandchildren.  Below the garden wall sports a fountain inside a half-round opening.

Also in Terrell Hills is the Fisher's garden designed by Austin based garden designer and writer Scott Ogden.  Texas native plants, especially grasses, take front and center in this small garden.  The sunny front slope contrasts with a shady back garden which features a large flagstone patio.  

Next up is the Ware's estate garden in Hill Country Village.  The Wares have also lived and traveled extensively abroad and their garden reflects their experiences.  You'll enter through gorgeous custom gates passing a wildflower meadow on your left and olive grove with table for al fresco dining on the right.  Below is the European-style parterre featuring a beautiful faux bois table set.

On the pool terrace you'll find "Cow Tex" from the cow parade some years ago grounding this garden firmly in the Texas Hill Country.

When Bob Coopman built his house in the popular suburban neighborhood of Deerfield just over 30 years ago he spent an extra $300 to have the developer site the house to save as many trees as possible.  That extra effort paid off many times over the years with these Texas Live Oaks surrounding the house.  Low groundcover ensures those oaks stand out in the landscape.  We loved the wrap-around stone wall and flagstone steps on the corner lot.  Designed by Brian Hough, flagstone pathways guide us through those magnificent oaks both front and back.

Pristinely maintained with almost no lawn, beautiful specimen plants including a mature Japanese Maple (nearly impossible to grow in San Antonio) and a variety of seating areas to enjoy it all had us wanting to move right in.  It's not all green so you'll find colorful perennials accenting the green throughout and especially along the driveway.

The Tupper Beinhorn home in historic Monte Vista features an artistic garden.  Holly Tupper is on the board at Artpace (a contemporary arts foundation) and her wonderful style shows throughout the gardens surrounding their 1929 home built in the Spanish Colonial Revival style.  Originally from New York, Holly wanted to enjoy every bit of outdoor space surrounding their home.  The sunken seating area shown below is in the front garden and they found a way to bring privacy with hedges along the street while still conforming to the historic restrictions of their neighborhood.

In the back garden vines surround original hand painted tile work.  The wall was concrete block which they had stuccoed and wattle fencing added to the top of the wall for privacy.

This resort style pool surrounded by lush tropical plantings is so inviting.  Don't miss the cut-brick "rug" around the pool which is based on one Holly and husband Will Beinhorn, a native San Antonian, saw at a hotel when they lived in Singapore.

The tour is set for October 14th from 10am-4pm, tickets are $36 for six gardens or $7 each and may be purchased at each home on tour day.  You may also purchase advance tickets and find all the addresses online at The Garden Conservancy Open Days San Antonio.

San Antonio Water System (SAWS) has also signed on to sponsor all the gardens  so if you're in the bonus point program you'll get points for visiting those gardens.  Be sure to look for the sign-in sheet at each garden.

See you there!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Wildlife Wednesday August 2017

Wildlife Wednesday is hosted the first Wednesday of each month by Tina at "My gardener says..." Let's take a look at wildlife visitors during July.

We've had the pleasure of hosting a Crested Caracara or "Mexican Eagle" again this summer.  Caracara is an onomatopoetic name if ever there was one with "Cara-cara" cries coming from the treetops along the wooded creek behind our house.  As members of the Falcon family they are raptors which feed on snakes and lizards.  Caracaras are mostly found in Mexico, Central, and northern South America.  They are also observed as year-round residents in Central and South Texas, Southern Arizona, and Central Florida.  We only see them in summer so they must head south when it gets cold here.


A Red Paper Wasp on Painted Poinsettia (Euphorbia cyathophora).  Our native poinsettia is a cousin to the more famous holiday poinsettia native to the tropics.

Not exactly in the garden and I probably should be embarrassed to show this but I'm not because it is
so pretty.  After spotting this web glistening in the sunshine I left it for a day before removing it.  The spinner never returned and nothing was snared in the web.  Spiders are generally ushered out and most bugs that make it inside aren't as lucky.

While watering potted plants one morning I was startled to see the eye of a newborn fawn stashed here by a protective mom.  Fawns have no scent and are safer from predators if mom leaves them for hours at a time.

She may have been trying to push the little one through the fence.  We've had that happen before.  Spots are obviously for camouflage and work quite well.

Mom was nearby and intervened when the fawn had enough of my attention.

Scampering off to safety.  You have only to look at their tails when they run to see why they are called White-tailed deer.  You'll also notice that this is a suburban neighborhood and not out in the country.

The next day they were back.

Watchful mom resting in the shade.

Water in the birdbath must have been the draw.  With almost no rain since May, water for wildlife is important.

Oh so cute!

If you noticed all the wire cages and upturned baskets, those are attempts to protect plants.  Yes, she has been eating my plants!

We've put a tub with water out behind the back fence for the rest of the herd.  A huge 10-point still in velvet stage for antlers.  Eventually the velvet will itch and bucks will rub trees to remove it.


There were several bucks back there in July.  They know to stay in the trees to camouflage their antlers.  They'll be fighting soon as mating season starts up again in fall.

For more wildlife in the garden check out Tina's post on her blog.