Monday, December 28, 2009

front yard transformation: 2001-2009

True confessions. I wasn't too interested in gardening until about 10 years ago. But once husband Kurt and I decided we WERE interested, especially because we had a blank slate front lawn with which to work, we were motivated. Methodical and slow, but motivated. We vowed not to buy a lawn mower, although we did pay a guy to mow parts of the lawn for several years. Not the most thrifty move but a matter of principle for us at the time.

Our mission was to transform our flat, plain, grass-and-weed-covered front/side yards (we're on a corner lot) to a xeriscaped, lawn-free front yard garden without pesticides. Our side yards are still a work in progress. It's taken eight years, but here are the before and after photos (with no photos of the years of plastic-covered grass-killing).

fall 2001

spring 2002

late fall 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

more holiday cheer (not gin this time)

In person, I'd seen Christmas balls hanging from large agaves and liked the look but didn't feel good about piercing my plants with those hooks. Then I stumbled across this idea online somewhere and did my own version. Cheers again, y'all!

I had a few leftovers, so I added them to the light pole/fire hydrant corner agave.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

foliage follow-up to bloom day

our huge old sycamore

Pam at Digging now invites us to start celebrating our foliage the day after Carol's monthly garden bloggers' bloom day. I agree that blooms shouldn't get all the spotlight!

my neighbors' huge old sycamores

gray santolina and rosemary

potted olive tree with rosemary and Mexican feathergrass


Like the olive tree, santolina, and lavender, softleaf yucca is in the gray/blue spectrum of greens, but those cool tones don't seem to make me feel colder on gray chilly days like today.

Although the purple fountaingrass has faded for winter, it's still a nice contrast to some of the cooler toned evergreens.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

garden bloggers' bloom day

Austin's had two freezes in the past few weeks (!), so many salvias and other perennials look rather brown and mushy at the moment. Mine are all fairly established and should bounce back fine in the the Spring. That said, I only have a few things currently blooming and some of them are repeats from last month. I'm still happy to have any blooms right now. Be sure to check out other gardeners' bloom day posts on Carol's May Dreams Gardens. Thanks for hosting, Carol!

miniature rose 'Red Cascade'

paperwhite narcissus blooming early

trailing lantana


blackfoot daisies and silver ponyfoot--a little ragged but hanging in there

pansy 'Black Prince'

lettuces and parsley: colorful enough to count as blooms?

Also blooming now are a few marigolds, more pansies, a snapdragon, a bit of Turks Cap, a bit of verbena, and phlox.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

holiday cheer: favorite gins

I try not to stray from gardening, house, or trial topics here, but my gardener/landscaper friend Jackie and I were comparing cocktail notes yesterday and she thought my gin comparison information was blog-worthy, so here goes.

Husband Kurt is actually the bigger gin fan, but recently he put me to a blind taste test and it turned out my favorites were the same as his. Junipero, from Anchor Distilling, a small batch distillery in San Francisco, is our favorite. Junipero is a very strong, yet traditional dry gin with complex herbal/botanical/citrus notes.

Number two is the "earthy" gin, Plymouth (England), but I don't have any to photograph. Plymouth is best for a Bloody Mary and, for some, the Paez. There is also Plymouth Navy Strength for those who need to light gunpowder.

Number three is Miller's (England/Iceland), which is similar to Junipero but less complex and maybe better for mixed drinks.

Number four is Hendricks (Scotland), which is lighter, with cucumber and lots more floral notes--a little "girly." Citadelle (France) is probably our number four (very similar to Hendricks but less cucumber), but I don't have a photograph of that either.

Kurt really enjoys a good martini after a day at work, so the choice of dry vermouth is particularly important. Vya (Quady Winery, Madera, California) vermouth is so tasty and smooth that we occasionally drink it straight on ice or mixed half and half with Vya's sweet vermouth. Really, it's that good!

I know many people think Bombay Sapphire is the bomb, but I think it's rot gut. I know, tell us how you really feel, Iris. Cheers!

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any of these gin or vermouth companies and have not received anything from any of them for free. I have bought all of the products listed on my own.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

first season's freeze preparations

I was skeptical yesterday when the weather people said we might get two inches of snow tomorrow, and now they've revised their forecasts to "up to a half inch" of snow tomorrow. Sounds like MAYBE a few flurries to me. I'm much more concerned about tomorrow night's predicted low of 25 degrees (F)! It took me almost two hours today to cover the vegetable beds and a bunch of assorted other plants.

One especially good thing to come out of the freeze preparation is that I was forced to harvest some chard and kale and finally thin some of the baby carrots because I was running out of row cover (not true farmers' row cover, but the stuff I got at Breed and Co.) Stay warm, ya'll!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

vegetable garden update

romaine (Parris Island Cos in front, Freckles in back)

Except for my broccoli, whose leaves are being eaten by some worm I can never catch, my fall vegetables are doing well. My lettuces are particularly happy. I still have jalapenos and anaheims producing, too. I already harvested a bunch of my basil and froze it, but I still have plenty going strong, at least until tomorrow night when it is supposed to get down to the low 40s. Today's weird weather is perfect for harvesting lots of those lettuces: heading out!

leaf lettuces (Red Sails, Oak Leaf Blend)

butterhead lettuces (Speckles, Marvel of Four Seasons); leaf lettuce (Tango)

chard (Five Color Silverbeet, Bright Lights) and kale (Italian Lacinato Nero Toscana)

cauliflower (Chef's Choice Blend)

carrots (Scarlet Nantes, Purple Haze, Carnival Blend) that I need to thin

beets (Early Wonder, Gourmet Blend, Detroit Dark Red)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

experiment in cuttings

I'm brand new at propagating plants from stem cuttings, but I'm game. Several days ago, I gently stuck some cuttings from my potted Persian Shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus) and Pineapple Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides 'pineapple') in seed starter soil mix and placed them in a mostly shaded spot (above photo). They got some rain Friday, so I decided today was the time to put baggies over them to keep them moister and warmer.

I brought one inside to see if it fares better or worse than the outside group. If they root and survive, I'll transplant them into pots and bring them inside for the winter. With luck, they'll survive, and I'll put them back outside in the spring. Maybe I'll be daring and even plant some in the ground!

tented cuttings with their parent plants below

Sunday, November 15, 2009

garden bloggers' bloom day

Silverado sage, Mealycup Sage (Salvia farinacea 'Victoria Blue'), silver ponyfoot and blackfoot daisies, Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha)

The weather here has been beautiful lately. Two months ago, I couldn't have imagined we'd finally get moderate temperatures and enough rain again to bring our front yard garden back to life. And positively lush, too! Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting bloom day on the 15th of every month.


Forsythia Sage (salvia madrensis) from Renee at Renee's Roots

paperwhite narcissus blooming two months early

miniature rose 'Red Cascade'

ornamental pepper 'black pearl'

Persian shield and pineapple coleus: I know they're not blooms, but the colors and combination are so cool, I had to include them.

loropetalum and plumbago

Also blooming today are indigo spires salvia, Mexican heather, Turk's cap, lantana, marigolds, pansies, rosemary, ruellia, and black dalea.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

unusual blooming timing

paperwhite narcissus

I don't know if it's the combination of our drought and recent rain, but several of my plants are blooming when they normally don't.

This paperwhite narcissus (fighting the lantana) didn't bloom until mid-January last year.

Red Cascade miniature rose (currently my only rose because it seems foolproof) usually blooms in the Spring.

This Provence lavender sometimes blooms in November but not this profusely.

The black dalea has bloomed this time of year before, but like the lavender, not as profusely as this year.

Bees are all over the black dalea.