Sunday, June 24, 2018

Garden Blogger's Fling Austin 2018: Still Getting There

I have been posting about my Big Trip to The Garden Blogger's Fling in Austin, and I began with a post showing my first stop at Fling sponsor The Natural Gardener as a preview.  It was a good thing I took so many photos since it was pouring rain the next day when our group of 90+ garden bloggers arrived there for lunch and garden shopping.

My next stop along the way to the Fling was at fellow blogger Jenny Stocker's house to drop off native Poinsettia (Euphorbia cyathophora) seedlings.  You see I was packing a lot into my trip up to Austin even though it is only 75 miles from my house. 

Even though Jenny, who writes the wonderful Rock Rose blog, was expecting all of us for a tour the next day we agreed I should drop the seedlings off on the way up so I wouldn't have to carry them on the bus all day Friday.  I tucked the plants in behind a planter on her driveway and quickly tiptoed away so as not to disrupt their preparations for the Fling tour.  Of course I snuck in a few photos of their spectacular front plantings which looked very different from the last time I visited when Bluebonnets were in bloom.

After Jenny's I stopped by another Fling sponsor, Barton Springs Nursery, to see if they had Sparkler Sedge (nope) and pick up a few of my favorite plants.  Barton Springs Nursery is an excellent stop for Texas native plant fans especially since they carry many varieties in 4" pots so you can give them a try without a big investment.

Then we stopped for a walk through the beautiful Texas State Cemetery just east of downtown.  Interesting that things worked out this way since it was through discovering Pam's post on this cemetery at her blog Digging while doing family research that I first realized garden blogging would work for me.  It will take another post to fully cover this part of my trip.

Whew!  After a long day of stops Neal finally dropped me off at the hotel in downtown Austin and I checked in.  Just one of the many items of Fling swag were beautifully decorated cookies.  I chose Texas.  Looks like that heart might be on San Antonio.

The view from my hotel window amazed me.  I was born a few blocks from here but it didn't look like this back then!

Our first Fling event was a social and Fajita buffet at the new Austin Central Library designed by San Antonio's Lake|Flato Architects.

Their architecture is always stunning and evokes a special sense of place not present in the surrounding glass towers.

Our main sponsor for the opening event was Hortus TV, a subscription service for those of us who find the limited selection of good garden shows in North America a challenge.   With Hortus TV you can watch great gardening shows from England and even Australia whenever you choose.

Fling planners Pam Penick, Laura Wills, and Diana Kirby welcome bloggers to Austin.

After dinner we all headed to the rooftop garden to explore and socialize.

Check out that view.

Fantastic place to read.

And there is a garden way up here.

Lauren Lindsey of Ravenscourt Gardens chats with Jim Peterson of Garden Design Magazine.

So much high-rise development in what used to be a low-rise city!

On the way back to our hotel we stopped at the Congress Street Bridge to await the famous emergence of nearly 2 million Mexican free-tailed bats from the largest urban bat colony in the world.  It's worth pointing out here that the largest bat colony in the world with 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats is Bracken Cave just down the road in San Antonio!

Apparently this was not their night and we left disappointed after sunset.  Maybe with a front blowing in they decided to stick closer to home under the bridge.

All in all a fun day and the Fling had just begun!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Spring Projects 2018

Our mild winter and nice spring weather in San Antonio makes it the best time to complete big outdoor projects.  This year was no exception as we finished up several large projects and a few small ones.  Now with all that nice weather giving way to another hot summer I'll share some accomplishments.

By far our largest project this year was refurbishing the existing deck.  The before photo below shows our tired old deck with faded red stain, missing skirting and especially the deck surface needed serious attention.  Just one original criss-cross lath panel remained on the far right hand side after the rest fell apart.  Fortunately the deck structure was in good shape but did need to be leveled after 25 years in place on a slope.

After leveling and adding new supports we covered that dated red with gray opaque deck stain and it was ready for new skirting.

The finished deck looking much better with a horizontal skirting of cedar fence boards which will eventually fade to silvery gray.  These are standard dog-eared fence boards with the dog ears trimmed off.  We also added a hose bib and electrical outlet for convenience.

Topside we flipped existing deck boards over and stained them a lighter gray.  For another spring project Neal replaced the broken seat boards on this Texas star thrift shop bench then I compiled my collection of green pots and turned the bench into a plant stand.  The red wagon bed was a recent find at Yeya's and fits nicely under the bench to hold small terracotta pots.  Those cacti and succulents get plenty of afternoon sun under there.

A low tree branch interfered with access to these stairs so Neal moved the stairs out five feet and replaced the treads.  This corner faces southwest so we didn't want to remove any shade.

Currently with Turk's Cap filling in the bed.  We need to remove and stain the last few deck boards under the heavy planter this fall.

Neal did a great job on the stair skirting.  The left piece is removable for storage under the stairs.

The original deck was built around this tree.  A shelf will go in that niche as a potting area.

Our second big project was a brick walkway on the other side of the deck between the screen room and the house.  It was just a boring gravel path which needed work.  First we shored up the side with concrete block and used the opportunity to run a water line across the yard to the far fence.

This is the only part of the yard with soil so it wasn't as hard to dig as some places.  Still there was a lot of dirt to remove and backfill.

I'd been collecting locally made D'hanis bricks from Yeya's for while.  We combined those with bricks donated by our former neighbor who is a landscaping contractor.

After several test layouts we settled on a pattern.

And here is the finished pattern reminiscent of a bordered rug.

D'hanis has been making brick, roof tile, and pavers at their plant southwest of San Antonio since 1883 so they're a natural for San Antonio gardens.  

In this current view the grass grew back nicely over the water line.  The new brick path is on the right where the wheelbarrows are placed to catch expected rain this week.

The bed along the north wall (shown above) was the first area planted in the back yard about 10 years ago.  Even though the area presents a nice green stretch along the wall it lacked color and interest when perennials weren't in bloom.  This year I added colorful Talavera pots and other objects to make it more fun and interesting as this is a main path from front to back when I'm out working.

Potato vine nearly covers the bright Talavera now but there's still a nice shot of color near the gate.

My new hose bib against the fence at the end of the new water line.  Now I don't have to drag a 100' hose around and for some reason the hose pot makes me want to put the hose away.

And the third and final project completed this week just in time for summer is a natural rock fountain in the front garden.  If you think it blends in that's what we were going for.  We had a pond here originally but it turned out to attract deer and other animals to the yard plus the tree roots were growing in and pushing up the liner.  We converted it to a recirculating fountain and went through a number of different ideas before settling on a large karst stone from the back yard.

Most prefab fountains and ceramic pots would have looked too contrived here and stacked rocks didn't quite look intentional enough so we set the rock on a concrete base molded in an old plastic bucket.  

Simply nice and I enjoy watching the water run through all the holes in the rock and onto the darker stones below. 

Now as spring turns to summer and the days get shorter (yet hotter) we'll turn our attention to indoor projects for a while.

Happy Summer!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Garden Blogger's Fling 2018: Getting There

About the time I first discovered garden blogging in 2008 a group of bloggers gathered in Austin for the first Garden Blogger's Fling.  They had so much fun they decided to keep it going and continued to meet in different cities every year since.  In 2011 I began my own blog and in early May I joined 90+ garden bloggers for the 10th Annual Garden Bloggers Fling in Austin.  It was my first fling and I was excited to experience one after several years of reading about all the fun.

Planning a trip to Austin seemed a bit odd at first as the hotel is just over an hour from my house and I've been traveling between the two cities since childhood.  There were still a number of decisions to make.  Parking at the hotel is expensive so we decided Neal would drive me up.  Driving presented its own challenges on what to take (pillow or boots?) and what to leave behind.  There's plenty of room in the car but I would still need to get all that stuff up to the room and store it all day Sunday after checkout.  I brought my boots and left the pillow.  In retrospect I should have brought the pillow too.

When I was a kid it seemed to take all day to drive between Austin and San Antonio.

In a way it still does.   With that in mind it's going to take a lot of photos to share the trip up to Austin before the Fling even begins.

We'll start in my driveway with Yucca Rostrata planted last year and blooming for the first time.  I paused to take this in case I got homesick or anyone asked about my garden.

Now on to Austin.  First stop was The Natural Gardener, a Fling Sponsor and local nursery, where we were to have lunch on Friday in the big "Revival Tent."  I usually head toward the Hill Country style garden just below the tent.

Thinking it might rain during our Fling visit (it poured) I tried to get photos of what we would see the next day.

It's always a treat to visit The Natural Gardener and I noted everything looked especially nice on this day before our scheduled tour.

Owner John Dromgoole's ride.  I saw him getting into a vintage red truck several years ago so that's a clue this is probably his car too.

After the Hill Country Garden I usually walk over to the Labyrinth.

The staff was busy fluffing as if they were expecting lots of important visitors.

So we walked on through to the Willie Nelson tribute garden.

The guitar's name is Trigger and you can't quite see it from here but there's a worn spot just below the sound hole.

I don't usually like tire planters but this rustic scene caught my eye.

Enchanted Walk is new to me and an improvement over walking back to the front entrance along a service road.

Artfully designed bug hotel.

Wooden sundial

Metal version of our ubiquitous grackles

The back gate with red wagons used for carts at the nursery is certainly cool.

Plants!  They always have an awesome selection.

Lots of cool stuff for the garden.

Herb garden designed by Lucinda Hutson whose garden we were to see later in the weekend.

Some areas are left natural with wildflowers.

A favorite stop in any season is the Butterfly Garden

I see something new each time like these cute caterpillar hedges of  Dwarf Yaupon hollies.

A good way to dress up a fence.

Butterfly chair in the butterfly garden.  Get it?  Sometimes cliches are mandatory.

Back to the nursery which is always fun to visit.

My favorite spot is the ever-changing perennial section where all manner of special native plants are sure to turn up.

We received a nice coupon for 20% off any one item the next day and I seriously considered an agave but it seemed to hard to carry on the bus and up to my room so I selected a Euphorbia rigida instead.  Nice selection though.

A practically constructed bridge that wouldn't be too hard to copy.

Hill Country pond and waterfall surrounded by colorful plants is a nice way to end our tour.

The Natural Gardener is just off 290 on the south side of Austin and fairly convenient as a day trip from San Antonio.  It's a fun place to walk around and enjoy their extensive display gardens. 

I'm so glad I got these photos before the rain to show you how it would have looked.  This was just my first stop on Thursday and the Fling hasn't even begun yet!

More Fling fun on the way in future posts.