Friday, July 13, 2018

What I Learned - Planting Without Beds

It's not quite as ridiculously hot anymore, and last weekend, there was a big clean up in the garden, so it looks very neat right now. While I bask in the fact that all the weeds (well, most of them) are gone, here is the next lesson i learned at the Fling. Pictures of the cleaned up garden will be coming soon - hopefully before the weeds move in again!

The next thing i noticed when looking back at my pictures of the Austin Fling is almost the opposite of the clean and orderly mulch & gravel I mentioned before - plants growing every which way they wants.

At the Lady Bird Johnson Wild Flower Center, there were desert-y plants spilling out of their bed:

And poppies blooming where they wanted
At Mirador, even though most of the garden was more structured, there were still exuberant plants going where they wanted
Manfreda in the vegetable garden
i think this is russelia equisetiformis - growing in the corner of the stairs
I think that part of the reason this worked so well was the consistency that the gravel mulch gave everything. I noticed a similar thing in Jenny Stocker's garden:
Aloe in the gravel
Wider shots of Jenny's garden show that "english cottage-y" style she has perfected. While it looks like plants are just growing everywhere, there's obviously a lot of thought that goes into which ones stay where. And some great structure with those walls.
repetition with color, form and plants everywhere
Three areas in particular in Jenny's garden caught my eye as great examples of 'garden beds without beds' - this first one features a big opuntia. In my garden, opuntia can sometimes look messy because it gets so overgrown.
here, the combination of room to grow, and other plants make it fit in beautifully
This next piece was in one of the "hallways" between garden rooms - plants were sitting in the gravel walkway.
it's obviously well maintained, but still very free


The last picture is of Jenny's fish - here in a sea of mexican feather grass. I would have been so tempted to add a border/edge right there in the front, but this is so much better. It looks like the fish could just swim off into the gravel.
and again, the same gravel as everywhere else. 
Thoughts on how to apply this lesson to my garden:
  • This is a bit cheating, since this is a style that i already have a lot of in my garden!
  • Like with the poppies that plant themselves in the DG - but i think i should apply some more of Jenny's editing (especially of the actual weeds!) to make it look a lot nicer. 
  • Plants spilling out of beds is something that happens naturally in my garden, since i never seem to think about how big the plant gets. 
  • I should remember that even if a plant plants itself, i should still take care of it & prune it back when needed. I have oceans of mexican feather grass. Since the older plants don't look as good, i should remove some of them. 
  • While all these gardens have plants outside of beds, they don't have weeds. I should weed more to make sure the pretty plants stand out from the self seeding weeds! 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Palo Verde & Wind & Gophers, oh my!

It's ridiculously hot today, so let's go back a few weekends and look at my palo verde... so i remember when i was (semi-) smart and got that taken care of before this heat wave!

I have two Palo Verde (both cercidium hybrid 'Desert Museum') in my garden. Palo Verde's are not totally uncommon here, although Gerhard's updates on his trees were a big part of why I tracked down 'Desert Museum' in particular.

One of the trees is a major part of the front garden. However, when it was first planted, and even later (the picture below is from last year, about 2 years after it was planted), it always looked unbalanced, with a very skinny trunk, and a huge canopy.

even here (from May 2017) you can see it leaning
 So it wasn't really very surprising to come home from a trip about 2 months ago and find this:
tree fell over!
The thing that was weird was that there was no ground disturbance (like roots coming out) or break in the trunk. Nor did the tree seem to mind that it had fallen over, it went right on blooming. I called my landscaper to see if they could fix it - after a quick inspection, they thought they could pull it up with guide wires.

However, a week later, i came home to:
no tree!


No tree at all! While the wind was the biggest reason it fell over, it turns out that gophers had done a number on the roots. That combined with the skinny trunk/large canopy meant the poor tree really couldn't be stabilized. With the tree removed, the front garden looked "wrong" - there was no vertical interest point left. So, after some back and forth (i wanted to try Mariosousa willardiana, my landscaper preferred to not have to find yet another weird tree for me) there's now a new 'Desert Museum': 
new tree!
It's more of a multi-trunk look, which should help with the wind, and at about 6ft tall, a bit short, but it will grow fast enough. Once it gets taller, and i can see how it grows, i'll probably remove some of the lower branches. It also has no wires or other supports, so hopefully it will grow to better withstand the wind. I can wait to see how it looks this time next year!

And the stupid gophers are dead. I'm sure they'll be back, but c'est la vie...

Saturday, June 30, 2018

What I learned: The Power of Consistent Mulch!

Oddly, one thing i really noticed during the Austin Fling is probably "Garden Design 101". But somehow, the ability of humble mulch, applied consistently, to make the garden look even better, really struck me during all the garden tours.

One place i noticed it was in  Diana Kirby's garden - where it made the spring beds look finished, even in the rain:
and i assume helped to keep the rain from washing soil away
this was in the front garden - so neat!
Stone mulch also featured in a lot of gardens - here again in Diana's:
and it's the same size/color gravel everywhere - such a beautiful backdrop
At the Natural Gardener, it was pine needles that were mulching the guitar garden. So clean!
and fun to walk on!
Mirador was a poster child for consistent gravel mulch - so gorgeous!
the same gravel was used for walkways and mulching the planting beds
even in the less formal parts of the garden, the same gravel was used. 
so clean!
In the back garden, consistent ground cover was used in a similar way
In Pam Penick's garden, the look was a bit more loose, but still orderly, and a clean background to all her beautiful plants. I may have poked in a few places to see how deep the gravel was as well.
clean mulch & gravel
she also used consistent ground covers as mulch in some of her beds. I imagine this combination below looks really amazing in the summer.
Pam's limestone paths/rocks were gorgeous back drops as well
At B. Jane's garden, the mulch went a step further and was the same in both the planting beds and the containers.
why did i never think of this?
Lucinda Hutson's very colorful garden had equally colorful (but consistent!) mulch:
pottery shards
Tait Moring may not be impressed that I picked this picture, out of the 200 or so I took in his garden, to post here, but it's so neat! Also, i want to know where everyone in Austin gets such large quantities of very similar gravel...
so orderly!
Thoughts on how to apply this lesson to my garden:
  • I'm not sure i want the same mulch in the beds as the hardscape (that would be DG). But certainly consistent cedar mulch is something i can do in the not-cacti beds. 
  • For the cacti/succulent/agave areas, rocks would be better. I'm not sure i can approach Mirador levels of consistency there. I like the more natural, desert-y look of different sizes of gravel. 
  • For the gravel paths, or large expanses of the dry stream & pond look, I can be a bit more consistent. And use a deeper layer. 
  • I could use the same DG as my outdoor container mulch - that would make a lot of sense. 
  • If i can get some of the ground covers from the back garden to grow in other areas, that might help with consistency as well. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Austin Garden Bloggers Fling - Everything Overview

In early May, I joined the Garden Bloggers Fling in Austin, TX for 3 days of fun, gardens and awesome people. I had a great time, and took a ton of pictures. I've loved seeing everyone else's posts come up in the 2 months since!

Now that it's two months later (oops - bad blogger!), I've finished looking at all my pictures, and it's too hot during the day to garden, I figured it would be a good time to go back to Austin and look at what I saw, learned and took home with me.

There are lots of garden-specific posts available on the Fling website, and all those people did a much better job than i ever could of capturing what made each garden so special. For my blog, i wanted to start with an overview of everything we saw, and then look at some specific things I learned, and then plants i now want (of course!) and some special vignettes from all three days. So it will be a bit random, and a bit long, but hopefully it will help me remember all the fun from those 3.5 days!

The whole itinerary is here. After a great dinner and intro at the Library on Thursday, we started on Friday at the Lady Bird Johnson Wild Flower Center.

so cool to see this tower in person!
If it seems that that i have a lot of pictures under a threatening sky, but mostly dry, that would be because i was very bad and wandered around the garden before the rain started, and missed the group photo! The rain started in earnest after i wandered around for about 30 minutes, which was a whole different kind of cool for this Californian... i saw more water fall out of the sky this day then i had in years!

After running back to the bus, we went to Diana Kirby's garden, where the rain made everything shine nicely:
this makes me want to hang rain chains off my trees - if we had rain (or big enough trees...)


Diana was gracious enough to let us shelter, and her garden was gorgeous even with the weather. After leaving her place, we ended up at the Natural Gardener for lunch and walking. The rain started to let up some...
not that i would let the rain stop me from finding Willie Nelson's guitar!
From the Natural Gardener, we went off to Mirador Gardens, which was stunning!
making heart eyes at those hesperaloe funifera...
Mirador also had the most impressive (and gorgeous!) water harvesting system I've seen in a while. And it was working very well that afternoon!

Next was a garden i'd been looking forward to since forever - Jenny Stocker's garden (as seen on Rock Rose):
i took so many pictures my phone died... 
There's not enough words to describe how great Jenny's garden is, and seeing it in person was inspiring. A great way to end the first day!

The second day started drier, and with a garden I've wanted to see as much as Jenny's:
Pam Penick's garden! Of course i had to use this picture...
Pam's garden as seen at Digging is one of the gardens that first got me interested in gardening in the heat. Seeing it in person was awesome! And she fed us tacos!

Saturday's second garden was designer B. Jane's personal garden, and it was like stepping into a fancy malibu resort...
pretty as a picture!
Up next was Colleen Jamison's garden - very different, and gorgeous as well.
the shade was starting to be welcomed!
Then back on the bus for a drive to Hutto, to visit hippos at the Donna Fowler garden:
this one was the cutest, i think!
They also fed us lunch, before sending us on to Tanglewild, the last garden that day.
which had so many parts, it was hard to capture them all...
Sunday started with more great weather, and Lucinda Hutson's gorgeous garden.
featuring her giant gingko tree - one of the first in Austin!
We left Lucinda's colorful paradise for Ruthie Burrus's purely Texas garden.
this in particular just screams "Texas" at me...
From Ruthie's great views, we drove down to Margie McClurg's garden, which is home to these three stunning yuccas:
along with a whole host of other gorgeous plants!
Then it was off to lunch and touring at Zilker Botanical gardens:
including their prehistoric garden, which was awesome.
Once again, the shade was very welcome. Thankfully, Tait Moring's garden offered shade, a gorgeous view, and an even more gorgeous pool to cool off in!
sphere's hiding in the grass
Then we were off to the last garden - that of Kirk Walden. This was a garden that captured my imagination in an unexpected way.
starting with that view... 
We finished the day (and the Fling) at Articulture where we got dinner and drinks, and music!
their space was gorgeous!
And then it was back to the hotel for a night cap with new friends, and a very early wakeup time. I had a great time at the Fling, and really have to thank all the organizers and sponsors that made it happen!

After this overview post, i'll be diving deeper to remind myself of what i saw and learned, and want to take to my own garden. I'll be collecting all my posts here. If i have to hide from the heat outside, thinking about the Austin Fling is definitely the way to do it!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Six on Saturday - 6/23/2018

Six things in the garden today, to distract me from the heat and long to do list...
Mangave kaleidoscope approves the mulch matching it's stripes!

Lots of soft plants!

balanced with spiky agave shawii (I think)

Eucalyptus macrocarpa new growth is pretty

Butterfly bush perfuming the patio

These little cacti keep jumping in my cart...

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wednesday Vignettes - Poke!

Apparently, my agaves and opuntias are fighting... Maybe the agaves are upset they haven't been shown on the blog in a while?
Poked in the back!
That's agave ''Snow Glow" doing the poking. Maybe I should consider moving them slightly further apart...

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Opuntia Flowers 2018 (and one cheat!)

Sometime this spring, i realized i have a lot of opuntias. And while they have their downsides (ugh, glochids!) when they bloom, they are so pretty! Here are all the mature flowers I got this year, plus names, as best i know them...

opuntia microdasys 
very pretty but covered in glochids. teeny tiny ones that bury their way into your gloves...
opuntia ellisiana (pretty sure this is "burbank spineless" 
one of the first i planted, and producer of many tunas each fall!
opuntia basilaris var. brachyclada

 one of the prettiest flowers, i think , for all that it is pink!
opuntia engelmannii 
 I got this one years ago in a plant exchange with Loree from Danger Garden! Gorgeous flowers and fruit!
opuntia sulphurea
 This one has huge white spines - and a pretty peachy flower color my camera did a bad job capturing.
opuntia macrocentra
 This one makes a bazillion flowers, but no fruit. It also has the longest black-and-white spines that hold on to the Palo Verde flowers forever (ask me how i know!)
optunia littoralis var austrocalifornica
This one bloomed for the first time ever this year - and such a gorgeous orange! I wanted an orange flower for the longest time... now it just needs to bulk up!

I have one more opuntia that flowers each year, but i just missed getting a picture of it this year. Here is a shot from last year:
opuntia basilaris
Yes, it's really that pink, and no, the camera cannot capture how bright it is...

You might think that's enough, but somehow, i ended up with three new plants this year (because i shouldn't be allowed near a nursery, apparently). None of them have bloomed yet, but maybe next year we'll see:

  • Opuntia 'Orange Chiffon' (in the front garden bed, next to the yucca)
  • Opuntia 'Pina Colada' (currently in a container on the top of the hill)
  • Opuntia polyacantha erinacea (also in a container on the top of the hill)

There's also one mystery opuntia that's never bloomed (yet):
any ideas?
It came from a Berkeley University plant sale a long time ago - i'm hoping i can figure out what it is when it blooms.

Someone referred to opuntias as "lotus of the desert" - and i can totally see that! Now i just need a red one. This seems like a never ending collection!