Friday, September 28, 2012


How do I feel about red?  Well, actually I love it!  I know a lot of gardeners that won't have it in their garden - too garish, too bright, not pastel!  I've heard so much talk about pastel gardens that I tried to add a pastel area to my garden.

And what is in my pastel garden?  Well, some pastels, of course.  Whites, creams, pinks, blues:

But, look closely - what do you see in the background?


Red sage.  That was all that was on the plant tag when I purchased this plant.  It wasn't special.  It had no fancy name to it.  It was red.  It was a sage.  Red sage.  That was it.

I bought it on a whim, and when I got it home, I had second thoughts.  This was surely a big mistake!  In the thrill and excitement of buying an unplanned purchase, I had forgotten - this was supposed to be a pastel garden!  Oops!  Who has ever heard of adding red to a pastel garden?  I was deflated, but I planted it anyway.  What else could I do?

Who would have thought that a plant so common, so non-pastel could look so wonderful here?  This little plant, labeled so simply, and purchased so thoughtlessly, really is special.  The butterflies love it.  It blooms with profusion.  It has spread to fill in this area nicely.  It brings the butterflies joy, but even more importantly, it brings me joy.   It is a lovely addition, even to my pastel garden.

Now I can't imagine this bed without that touch of red.  It brings a touch of contrast, but doesn't clash - perhaps because I have so much red in all the rest of my garden areas.  Or perhaps because of our harsh sun.  Maybe it's just the right shade of red.  Whatever the reason, this little bit of red looks natural and beautiful to me, even here.

This is probably some form of Salvia greggii, also known as Autumn Sage, a perennial in zones 7 through 9.  It grows to around 2 ft tall and wide, and loves full sun.  It also comes in a wide variety of colors.

But I love it in red.  Even where it's not supposed to be!

Do you have a pastel garden?  Do you have red in it?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Problem with my Penstemon

I planted a penstemon this past spring.  It was the first penstemon I had ever planted in my garden.  And I kept looking at it, and looking at it, and looking at it.  Something was wrong.

Yes, yes, it's pretty enough.  And the butterflies love it.

Oh, how the butterflies love it!

But, there was a problem.  Each time I would pass by, it would catch my eye.  And I knew something was wrong.  Was it the penstemon?  Or was it me?

What was the problem with my penstemon?

Penstemon 'Elfin Pink'
Finally, it dawned on me.  The problem with my penstemon is that it is one penstemon, not a lot of penstemons.  This little penstemon is pretty enough, but it doesn't make an impact.  I tried to get by with less.  I tried to save some money.  I skimped.  And it shows.  It just looks skimpy!  One is definitely not enough.

I had been wondering if I should just dig up this penstemon, but actually, what I need to do is the exact opposite.  I need to plant more.

What was I thinking?  One of the first rules of garden design (for non-accent plantings) is to plant in masses, or drifts.  I have just proved to myself why that's important.  Usually, the larger the bed, the larger the grouping should be, and the smaller the plant, more are required to make a visual impact.  This area will look wonderful with another five or six penstemons.  That will make a nice grouping.  And the butterflies will appreciate having more of them, too.

Then there won't be a problem with my penstemon anymore.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sticks, Not Stones

Last year about this time of year, I was thrilled to see a praying mantis.  But this year, I'm even more excited because I saw the very first Walking Stick insect in my garden!  At least, the very first I've ever seen in my garden.

He is upside down in this picture.

Actually, he wasn't in my garden yet.  He was on the neighborhood crime watch sign in front of my home.  I don't think he cared if he was trespassing.  He was on a mission!

Why do I think he was a he and not a she?  Because he has the male pinchers that act to hold on to the female when mating.

But that's not the end of the story.  The next day I saw this Walking Stick again.  And this time, he was not alone.  He had found a she!  Mission accomplished!

Walking stick insects mating

So, there's at least two walking stick insects in my garden!  And from the looks of it, there's going to be more.  I wonder how far he traveled to find her.  Can you see how he has his legs wrapped around her?  What a sweet hug!

Here's some interesting facts about these insects you might not know:

1.  They only eat leaves and stems.
2.  They have a special joint that allows them to easily break off a leg if it becomes necessary in order to escape a predator.
3.  Females don't really need a male to reproduce.  She is able to reproduce asexually, but those eggs will only produce females.
4.  Some species of these insects are as small as 1/2 inch, while others are as long as 21 inches.
5.  There are over 3,000 species of stick insects, and there is thought to be many more that have yet to be discovered.
6.  Because of fact #3, there are some species in which scientists have only found females, and think the males are extinct.

Maybe next year I'll be lucky enough to see some of the children of these two lovers.  Do you have Walking Stick insects in your garden?

Monday, September 24, 2012


I've been working on my Fall To-Do list.  And I've been doing some tweaking.  One area in particular has been giving my imagination a work out.

Actually, I have two areas like this.  Boxwoods form a C shape around - well, nothing now.  Before, as you can see above, I had a rose standard in the middle, with dianthus planted as a groundcover underneath.  But the standard had been going into decline for some time (the cats have been using it as a scratch post), and the dianthus was covered up with dichondra.  I found it impossible to get rid of the dichondra without pulling up the dianthus along with it.  (For those that don't know their dichondra from their dianthus, the dianthus is the pretty, pink, flowering groundcover above, while the dichondra is the low, round, creeping groundcover (weed!) below.)


So, that's what I did.  I pulled it all up.  All of it - dichondra, dianthus, and the standard, too.  And all I was left with was a blank spot.  A fresh start.  A new beginning.

What to plant... what to plant... what to plant...

I thought of another standard.  But why not do something different?

A tree?  No, that would be too tall, and too close to the house.

How about a tall, thin pot with a climbing miniature rose cascading down the sides?  I really liked this idea, and if cost were not a factor, I may have ended up with this.

But, I decided that something small would look just right (and fit in my budget, too).  Something that would surprise and delight anyone coming down the walk.  It would be a small treasure hidden inside the C-shaped boxwood hedge.  And so, I began to think about a small plant that could fit inside this boxwood treasure chest.

I have an Apricot Drift rose in another area.  I have been very impressed with this rose.  It makes me smile each time I see it blooming - which is seemingly constantly.

Sweet Drift

So, I decided upon a Sweet Drift rose here, and an Icy Drift rose in the other C-shaped boxwood area (they don't need to match, as they are not both seen at the same time).


Drift Roses grow to around 2 ft tall, and spread to around 3 ft wide.  They are very disease resistant, and hardy in zones 4 through 11.  I think I'm going to like this area even better than I did before!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Games Gardeners Play

Shadows can be very tricky, and it may take gardeners a year or more to learn about the particular shadows in their own garden.  You see, most houses are a rectangle, or a square, or a number of these shapes put together.  And as you begin to garden, the shadows from your home will become very important.  Very important indeed.

This hosta gets just the right amount of sun and shade.

As the earth rotates on its axis, the shadows lengthen and shorten with the seasons.  If you plan your garden in winter, the shadows (or the sun) that you plan around may not be there when you begin to plant!  Depending upon your landscape design, these little pockets of sun and shadow can make planting difficult.  The shadows are moving now - have you been noticing them?

Shadows made from your home can also work to your advantage.  I have a gardenia and a rose planted next to each other, thanks to the shade from my home that gives the gardenia shade all day except for early in the morning.  The rose, although it is next to the gardenia, is planted at a different angle, and it gets shade only in the late afternoon.  I can not tell you how tickled I am to have a rose and a gardenia blooming next to each other!

The rose in front and the gardenia in back will soon be blooming together.

In another area of my garden, I have a rose planted next to a hydrangea.  The rose receives morning sun, but is shaded in late afternoon by a tall tree some feet away from it.  Here in the south, hydrangeas need protection from the sun.  So, the hydrangea is actually shaded by the rose in the morning, and by the tree in the afternoon.  Planting shade loving plants and sun loving plants together have become like a little game to me.

And if you have a difficult area to work around, try to be creative.  My hardest area to plant was an area that received full shade until late afternoon.  Too much shade for most sun loving plants, yet the setting sun would burn any shade loving plant to a crisp!  My solution?  I planted a tree in front of that spot, and the sun's blazing rays are blocked.  No more crispy plants!

A tree planted in front of this fence protects
the plants in back of it from the harsh afternoon sun.

Gardens are greatly affected by shadows.  Look for them.  Maybe you will be able make a game of the sun and shadows in your own garden.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Garden Book Reviews September 2012

Do you dream of growing roses?  Do you want to learn more about roses?  Well, I have just the book for you!

The Rose Bible

by Rayford Clayton Reddell

The Rose Bible does a very good job of covering almost all you might need to know about growing roses.  It covers the history of roses, different types of roses, purchasing, planting, and pruning.  A list of sample roses is given in each rose category.  I found that I had very few of the roses listed, but I still enjoyed looking at the pictures, and reading about each rose.

I wish there had been more pictures showing entire rose bushes.  This would have been very helpful to see the difference, for instance, between an Old Garden Tea and say, a Floribunda rose bush.    He also lists what he considers fifty immortal roses.  I hope everyone that reads this book realizes that roses perform differently in different areas, and his immortal roses may not become immortal in your own particular garden.

If you have grown roses for some time, you will probably know most that is in this book.  Still, for the amount of general information given about rose growing, if you are a novice rose gardener, this should be a must read.  It would also make a great gift idea for anyone interested in starting a rose garden.


Now it's your turn!

Please join in on the 20th of every month with your own garden book review (any book with a garden influence qualifies).  And be sure to visit the other participants, too!  :)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

It's All About the Asters for Bloom Day

There's a change in the air, and in my garden.  Autumn is coming!

Sure, all the summer flowers are still blooming.  But there's a new bloom that has come to my garden.  It's the asters.  Can you see them?  They are under the cannas:

In just this past week, they have gone from this:

To this:

They're the stars of my garden right now.  And they bring the promise of cooler weather.

Sure, there are lots of blooms in my garden.  Roses, of course.

The sedum is turning pink.

Even the vegetable garden has blooms!  Aren't these sweet potato vine blooms sweet?

Water lilies have been blooming all summer, and will continue to bloom through fall.

While the beautiful crape myrtles blooms will soon be over until next year.

But it's the asters that I run outside to see each morning.

In my garden, for now, and for this Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, it's all about the asters, and the promise of autumn's arrival.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Pressure is Lower

Once, I had a Professor ask me in front of the entire class, "When a cold front comes through, is that bringing low pressure or high pressure"?

I sat there, stunned.  What a simple question, and yet I had no idea.  A sense of desperation swept over me.  I began to blush.  There was no way out.  I had to venture a guess: "high pressure?"

Well, the answer is low pressure.  Being humiliated in front of my peers has etched that into my memory.

Our summers here are hot, and dry.  A high pressure ridge usually sits right over us, and it takes either a hurricane or a strong cold front (low pressure) to push it away.  My garden is under a high amount of pressure during the summer, too.  The grass gets crunchy.  The blooms get smaller, and fewer.  Just keeping plants alive becomes the goal.

But when autumn comes, so, too, (usually) do the rains.  My garden breathes a sigh of relief.  We have had cooler weather this week, but no rains.  Still, the stress is lower.  Fall blooming plants are waking up.   The rose blooms are bigger, and more abundant.  The grass is softer, greener, and growing again.  I can breathe a sigh of relief.

If you've lost your love of gardening over the summer, now is a great time to get it back.  Autumn is a lovely time to work out in the garden.  There is less tension, and less stress.

All because the pressure is lower.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Generations of my family are buried in the old cemetery down the road.  My great-great-grandfather's headstone is tall and stately, and his grave is shaded by tall cedars and crape myrtles.  But it is the stone next to him that gives me pause each time I am there.  This headstone marks the tragic and unexpected passing of a young boy, only 16.  He was my grandmother's brother.

It was in the early 1900's, and my grandmother was not yet in her teens then.  Her brother, Lionel, was a healthy, strong, determined young man.  He worked hard on the farm.  He went to school.  But that day, there was something other than work or school that had his attention.  An air show was coming to town!  An air show!  Something new, something different, something thrilling!

This new invention held his curiosity, and he wanted more than anything to see in person these flying machines.  Could he go, could he go?  Please, please, please?

His mother only said "No".  She didn't trust these new machines.

"No."  What a disappointment that must have been for Lionel.

Unfortunately, he did not obey his mother that day.  The lure of seeing something spectacular was too strong.  Instead, he chose to go with his friends to the air show.  I can imagine his excitement as he walked, possibly skipped, to the field.

What happened that day?  The pilot made a mistake, and the airplane swerved into the crowd.  Lionel was killed.

Of course, that wasn't the only memory she had of Lionel.  But it was this story of a strong, healthy, young man being struck down so senselessly that shocked us.  Almost more moving was the way that Grandma wiped a tear from her eyes when she told it.

My grandmother has now passed on.  She is buried in that same cemetery, along with her husband, her parents, her grandparents, and her brother.  And we remember and tell the stories, not only of Lionel, but of all our loved ones that have passed on before us.

These stories are our heritage.

Heritage rose

The rose pictured is the Austin rose, 'Heritage'.  It is fragrant, almost thornless, and grows to 6 ft tall and 4 ft wide, in zones 5 through 10.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

August Harvest

I have not talked much lately about the vegetable garden.  There's a reason for that.  It's HOT in July and August in Texas!  I love my roses and will sacrifice some sweat to go tend to them.  But the vegetables, I do not love.  I love to eat them, but I don't love them enough to go outside and tend to them when temperatures reach triple digits!  So, most of my vegetable garden has died.  I will start over again when the temperatures cool down.

Since I didn't have a harvest in July, I didn't expect a harvest in August.  But, the plants had different plans!

These tiny, little tomatoes came from some volunteer seedlings that grew outside my small vegetable area.  Somehow, they were never pulled up by me, and never mown over.  I guess they were in just the right spot between the grass and my pathway.

I don't like these little types of tomatoes very much.  Although they are sweet and good to eat, I prefer larger tomatoes to can.  These were run through the juicer for homemade tomato juice.

I also had some jalapenos to harvest.  I have had loads of jalapenos all summer long.  I have had more than enough.  The jalapeno plant is still out there making more, and I wish it would just stop!  I gave these away.

These purple hull peas were another surprise.  I had already picked all the peas - I thought.  I had plans to discard these plants to make room for my fall garden planting.  I just hadn't gone outside (because of the heat) to pull up the plants yet.  So, they decided to take advantage of my laziness and grow more pods!

These I have shelled and dried, and put in Ziplock bags.

Thanks to some tough plants that just wouldn't die, I'm joining The Gardening Blog for Garden Bloggers Harvest Day!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Coloring Outside The Lines

Coloring between the lines supposedly encourages eye-hand coordination.  My older sister, however, always encouraged us younger siblings, and later on, her own children, to color outside the lines.  She read that it encouraged creativity.  Therefore, growing up, we never colored between the lines!

I suppose now is the time to tell you that I have no eye-hand coordination, but I do have lots of creativity!

And so, when it comes to making new garden beds, I don't always put the edges in first.  I color first, then put the edges around the picture.  For example, the east bed:

I started this bed last winter, not really knowing how it would end.

Almost the same view - but notice the new edging now!

I knew I wanted three raised beds for roses, and put those in first.  This bed has very few evergreens, so the boxwoods around the raised beds will give it some winter interest.  Then I filled in around the raised beds with more roses, companions, shrubs, transplants, and few impulse purchases.  Golden euonymus surround a crape myrtle tree and the air conditioning unit in a semi-circle.  The hope is that in a few years, you will not be able to see all the mechanical elements in this bed, but service will still be accessible.

Let's walk around this bed.
It begins when you emerge through the arbor.

All this time, I really didn't know where the line would be drawn.  I had to put the arbor up in order to tie it into this bed.  And I wanted this bed to also tie into the foundation plantings on the other side.  So, finally, this summer, I was ready to edge.  I had drawn the picture and needed to put a line around it.

Southernmost raised bed.  Filled with Cupcake, Glamis Castle,
Charles Darwin, and La Marne roses

That's what I've been doing all summer.  Edging.

It's going to be nice to have an edge to this bed, finally!

I had several beds that needed the lines drawn.  In total, I've put in almost 400 ft. of edging this summer, with over 100 of it surrounding this one bed.

This is what you see from the gazebo.  It doesn't look large here,
but this bed is over 60ft long, and almost 40ft. wide at the center.

As you look at the pictures, you can tell that I have not finished getting the weeds and grass out near the edging.  I will be doing that over the next few weeks.

The middle raised bed holds Lion's Fairy Tale, Cream Veranda,
and Inocencia Vigorosa roses.

Donna at Gardens Eye View asks us to tell what Seasonal Celebrations we will be looking forward to this autumn.  I look forward to completing this part of my garden.  Finally.  Just a little more weeding and mulching, and I will be officially done.  Maybe it's not exactly the type of seasonal celebration one normally looks forward to, but it's one I will certainly celebrate.  I look forward to a bit of cooler weather to complete my project.  I look forward to sitting in the gazebo, drinking tea, and watching the butterflies.  And since the roses will be putting out their fall flush, it will seem as if they are celebrating, too.

The Northernmost raised bed holds the same roses as the Southernmost bed,
in mirror placement.

Beth at PlantPostings asks us to tell the Lessons Learned this past quarter.  Well, I think it's harder to put the edging in last.  From now on, I am going to try to put the edging in first.  I have worked hard this hot summer putting in edging that should have been put in this past spring, or even the spring before!  Sometimes the right way to do something is the right way because it truly is the easiest way.

Outside the raised beds, I've planted more roses, companion plantings,
shrubs, and yes - even a fig!

So, when will I be putting in another new bed?  I'm not sure.  It was suggested that I rest for one year, and not put in a bed next spring.


At first, I resisted this idea.  However, after some contemplation, I think a year of maintenance, weed removal, and tweaking might just be what my garden needs.  Plus, I need to finish the catenary bed, directly across from this bed.

But, somehow, I just can't get over the feeling that it'll be a year of coloring between the lines.

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