Saturday, October 31, 2009


Halloween, Hallowed my second favorite holiday. First, is Thanksgiving. Autumn, the season, tone, lighting everything about it, my favorite time of year...and my first daughter's name, Autumn Sage, as in Salvia-greggi...the flowering shrub that grew wild on the cliffs of my midwife's property in Santa Barbara, and the plant I always include in a plan because it comes in every color and is a predictable bloomer. I digress...again... backup costume has always been a witch. I was about 11 the first time someone told me I looked like Elizabeth Montgomery and that only stopped a few years ago, when my blondest of highlights seemed to turn white overnight. Still, I keep my floor length, tight black velvet dress and pointy hat in case my imagination fails and I have the need to pull out my inner-witch. Last night spouse and I went to a fab party in the hood, he went as "Brew Man," donned a stripped towel as a cape, and I decked out in all shades of green, wrapping a new-shoot green colored towel around my head in the shape of a "bud," wand in hand, boinging up and down on spot, being introduced as the magic ingredient...Hops. A Faerie. It was fun, mostly because we made people guess...interaction is part of the plan. I have to come up with something to say, they're not gardeners and I'm able to bore the crap out of them talking about what I do, which has always been "who I am" and it's hard for me, seriously, to get excited about the likes of football, new purchases (oh, unless we're talking plants, mulch n' garden stuff) or church activities. I've learned to shut my mouth about politics, the hard way and have to walk away when the subject of health comes up, because I do my own research and refuse to be either 'fear motivated' or a Guinea pig...I'm sure you know what that means.

Austin Bat clinging to my gateway entrance. (The scary part of this picture is the damn window unit and tacky black foam that I'm constantly trying to figure out how to hide from my bedroom view.)

Devils Tongue cacti under attack!

Hops, the faerie is too kind for the evil going on in my garden. There has been some terrific slaughter, death and decay...rampant, and my inner witch is wearing a horrific grin!

This adorable little snail....whack, landed in my neighbors yard...(insert witchy cackle here.) Somehow he survived the holocaust of "Miller Light" free-beer night in our culinary garden. I usually use Budweiser products... according to Colorado State's study on beer preference of slugs, Kingsly Malt Liquor comes in first, than all the Buds', but...Miller Light was on sale and I'm not spending more for my IPM than I have to. The bar was open for two nights and we took out close to 300 of the buggers. Still, they chew...

I had this fantasy, unfulfilled mind you...of growing those giant pumpkins, like the ones they grow in a two month Alaska summer for the garden tour...then, I was going to invite the neighbor children over for a monster-pumpkin carving party. I planted a whole package of seeds and watched the vines first get this white powdering looking mildew, which freaked me out. Then the slow march of decay climb its way up the vine taking out each leaf one by one...

Death of a vine.

Here's the soggy base emerging from the soppy ground. Did it rot? Was it the blasted snails or some other horror?

One of my 'giant' pumpkin's silent scream as it's taken down by some horrific pink and black mold? There goes my fantasy.

Or how about this nasty bit of death...the hummingbirds long gone. The sugary water draws and captures curious and hungry flies.
Will this long dead branch of my old Sycamore tree come crashing down on us this winter? My how many scary things are lurking!
Tonight we've got 2 more parties to attend. Brew Man wants to go as Dr. Who, which leaves me with the slutty assistant garb...I think he's sick of my gardening attire. I hope you're enjoying this delicious Autumn-chill...Happy Gardening...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


My favorite herb, bar none is Sweet Basil. Until Sunday I had 9, 2 1/2 foot bushes. Then came harvest. With a home brew in hand, hubby demanding silence because he had a 10 page paper due and me unable to stifle my giddiness about the tour...I set to work in the garden and make my favorite herb dish...Pesto. I don't care how pastorial it is, I love it...on just about everything.
Here's the bounty, plus fixins...minus the 'secret ingredient' which changes with my mood. Basil, garlic, extra virgin organic olive oil, pine nuts (though I will substitute walnuts, almonds or pecans) sea salt, black pepper (not pictured) and secret ingredient...also not pictured.
This is "Brownie" the butterfly. I think she may be a Fritillary, but I still don't have a confirmation. I have 3 Passion Vines, which are it's host plant right where she decided to join me for a spell...and she's desert brown...that's about where my knowledge fails. Anyway, I was busy cutting back the basil when she decided to land on my arm. I was amazed and excited for awhile, I hollered at hubby inside to look and still...she stayed. Then, I decided that I needed to get back to work harvesting, so I did...and to my surprise, she just hung on. I gathered my bucket of herbs, went inside and still...she stayed. Hubby got the camera and we went outside for a photo-shoot. I slipped my finger under her feet and she hopped on. I started shooting and turning my hand around and she just walked a bit, tasting the dirt and salt on my finger giving me a good tickle.
After about 7-8 minutes she'd had enough, and off she flew. It was magic. I believe that the garden faerie in me has returned. Once the pressure from the tour lifted, the magic was back!
Secret ingredient hidden by large Pomegranate Mimosa.

One of two rescued caterpillars dining on Sweet Basil, heaven knows how many ended up in my Pesto as...secret ingredient.
Several hours later...3 mimosa's down...good grief this takes a lot of time. But, this is the 3rd harvest this year!
9 plants, 9 jars. 3 harvests x 9. Not bad, not bad.
Happy Gardening!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Day After

I barely slept last night. I had to get up and have a bath in the middle of the night to try and help me relax...I'm still buzzing this morning. The last two days have been magical. It was a shear delight to have so many people in my garden, gardeners...most of them, taking the kind of time I had intended visitors to take. The grass this morning looks pretty trampled, but nothing a little seaweed treatment plus rain can't cure...and the only thing lost are the hundreds of names and faces flitting in and out of my consciousness. I've been fighting off a cold or allergies or both for the past week or so, that plus hubby's home brew have helped amalgamate the dream-state I'm in.

The Datura pods are all gone now, but dozens remain on the two volunteer moon flowers left in the yard.
Leah, my newly acquired Americana Chicken gave us a scare on Friday and we spent the better part of an hour with friends hunting her down. We found her hiding behind the Rooster mural in the coop. She stayed there all day Saturday, and is still there this morning. It's been
a very hard week for her, clearly she's exceptionally shy. Last week I had two Road Island Reds removed to the country. I'm going on 5 years with my coop and I'm still learning about the girls and their nature. The Red's were my first 'adult' purchase. All the other birds I've had came to me as pullets from friends, or I raised them from day old chicks. The Red's I got from Callahan's. They've been trouble from the beginning. They bonded and began pecking each other, then everyone else. Over the summer, they pecked two little Japanese Silkies to death. The little white one I have left, Blanca, had been in shock, brooding since then. When the Red's left, she got down on the ground and started right in on a dirt bath and gorged herself. She hadn't forgotten how to be a bird, nor had she forgotten what she'd seen them do, apparently.

A few years ago I heard Ira Glass's interview on "This American Life" about the chicken lady that invited him to her home because of a "bird-brained" comment he'd made on the air. She challenged him to stay with her and spend some time with her birds to dispel his 'ignorance.' He went, and shortly after the visit, became a vegetarian. I'm currently not a vegetarian, since July...but have given up meat more times in my life to count and was able to do the vegan plan for just under 2 years, before my girls were born. Dorothy, my Boston Terrorist killing machine was the impetus for the last time...I figured if I stopped eating chicken (and all other meat) I could sort of make up for her terrier nature. I couldn't bring the girls back, but between my abstinence and our aggressive tactics I was attempting to balance the scales...don't ask me why I engage in such frivolous mental gymnastics...what else am I to do while working hours at a time in total silence involved in the sometimes numbing monotony of pruning and weeding? I digress, back to Leah, and what I've learned...they are all unique. Each bread and each bird. The reason I got a Road Island Red is because of a friend who went to School in Providence insisted that they are the coolest, and without checking...because I hadn't had a mean bird yet, got the first one that came my way...then what the heck? Got her a friend to boot! The young boy of 10 that took them is in 4-H, he has 40 hens, 3 roosters, ducks, turkey's and Guinea fowl. He assured me that Reggie, his big Road Island Red Rooster, would straighten my girls out. His mother blushed, and we all knew what that meant. I'm an urban hobby-farm girl, I could learn a lot from this young man. I wonder if he'd like a 44 year old apprentice?

The Beer Garden survived the hoards of fondlers, I was genuinely afraid that one of the bottle-cap snakes would come down on someones the wind will sometimes cut one loose and crush a tender green below. But nay, all went well. Whew.

The little hub-cap caterpillar on the fence isn't' as long as I had hoped it would be, but I only started collecting them road-side a year ago...hopefully she'll stretch the length of the cyclone fence one day.

This is the gateway to my Visual Playground, where I allow my inner child to romp and giggle. Most of the folks I spoke to enjoyed this area the do I.
This is the only shot I got at the beginning of the no time were there less than 50-60 folks in the garden! I wish my girls would have been home to see it, people loving the yard that exasperates them. I guess it's my fault for assigning 'poop-patrol' and 'compost duty' though occasionally they'll come out to have hot-chocolate and sit by the fire.
Randy had the forethought to print out a 'before' shot of his garden for folks to see. Well, here's mine. The wee girl with the pink hat now towers over me and I'm pretty sure those who came can see the difference Conscious Gardening, for 13 years now has made.
Okay, I'm going to grab a mimosa and head out to harvest my garden...there is pesto to be made, beans to be snapped, jalapenos to be pickled and a new winter plan to undertake!
A million thanks to the visitors and especially the Travis County Master Gardeners awesome group of Volunteers for helping me pull this gig off!

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bloom Day October 15, 2009

It's been a few months since I joined in the monthly GBBD, as inspired by Carol of May Dreams Gardens. The summer, for those of us in the heart of Texas was miserable. I am on the Master Gardener "Inside Austin Garden Tour" in 9 days. This has been a year long project that has kicked my ass. We had a record-breaking drought--more over 100 degree days (not consecutively mind you) than ever on record--as if that matters to a rose. I spent my days fretting over my garden, and the two I manage here in Austin, the Green Green garden at Zilker Botanical Gardens and the other demonstration garden in town, Howson Library. You could find me, disgruntled, miserable, holding a hose and cursing like the Bukowski fan that I am. I was ready to quit, until...the rains came.

Randy's Rose
I don't' know her real name. She was a gift from my friend and fellow blogger, Randy Case who is also on the tour. She is stunning in the morning light...isn't she?

The bees were amazing this morning. I didn't' get stung but was warned several times to stay clear of the flowers. This is "Old Blush" the tried and true "Earth Kind" rose of Texas.

Hello Martha, Martha favorite tough as nails bloomin' lady.

And the marvelous Cecil Brunner, she smells as a rose should. I have her on a huge trellis going into my backyard and if you pause beneath, it's like being in a rose yourself!

The come back gal, Peggy Martin...they are thinking of changing her name to the New Orleans Rose, as she was the first to return after Katrina. I have two of these beauties!

Knock out! A gift from my friend Tom, who took a snipping at a Mall and propagated the stick.

I had so hoped Belinda's Dream would be pretty for the tour...but she's pooped out.

Mexican Mint Marigold

The lasting blooms of Red Yucca.

Mexican Sage, foreground and David...something? Cuphea in the back

Obedient Plant


Plumbago, Bulbine and the Artichoke is back!

Trailing Rosemary with bees, always.

Pink Skullcap

It really is a Batface Cuphea.

There's a little bee on this Bulbine, in the background the Russian Sage is blooming.

I planted Nasturtium seed, and they didn't come up. So I planted some Viola's then the Nasturtium decided to come up.

Blackfoot Daisy

Giant Pumpkin blossom...we'll see what Autumn brings.

Purple Cone Flower, with some funky Dog Vomit fungi on the Aloe Vera in the back.
Butterfly Weed getting ready to flower.

Four O'Clocks...too early to show off, and Gregg's Mistflower.

Autumn Mums
Datura Metal bud.


The white flower is Philippine Violet and the fuzzy blue...I don't know why my camera can't focus on a Morning Glory.

Mexican Sage with all kinds of stuff around it!

I just had to show some of the wacky mushroom colonies growing!

Magic beans, well...they look magic.


Some Bridal Wreath in a bag...from my friend Ila, I need to plant these....

Sweet Pea

Look up in the tree...that's Desert Willow Vine climbing up the Possumhaw Holly. Below are the blossoms up close.

Fall Aster

Below:Majestic Sage, I think...I keep getting different names. Whatever it is, it's a Sage and the color is in fact Majestic...also it's about 4 feet wide and 3 feet tall, in one season from 3 4" pots.

Lantana, confetti I think?

Turnera with some happy bees.

This is a wild corner...Pavonia, gone to seed, Turnera, Esperanza, Mealy Blue Sage, a little St. Johns Wort and a volunteer Butternut Squash.

Garden Phlox

Wild Cosmos, I don't know where they're coming from. I plant pink ones between myself and my east-side neighbor yearly in honor of our cat, that died on the spot...the yellow ones are a mystery.

Pigeon Berry, for the birds.

It may be hard to see in this image, but what I'm trying to show is the sole Purple Hyacinth Bean plant that grew out of 20 some beans that I planted. I had hoped to cover the ugly cyclone fence at the back of my property in lovely blossoms...only one lived through the summer of hell and it grew over the fence up through the neighbors Legustrom to the light.

Shrimp Plant

Butterfly Bush with Tropical Sage in the background.


Several pepper plants are blooming right now, this is a Tobasco chilli.

Autumn Mums

This is one of the Canna's in the back that has allready bloomed and gone to seed, which I think is very interesting and textural.

Salvia Greggi, or Autumn Sage blooming around the bird bath.

Fringe Flower


Desert Rose
For the record (well, my records) here are the things that are blooming now, but didn't smile for their picture:
White Lantana
Mexican Oregano
Golden Lantana
Firecracker Fern
Brugmansia (actually, she lost her last bloom this morning...but has buds)
Purple Lantana (becuase I'm sick of photographing it...)
Tropical Sage
Lions Tail
Patricks Abultilon (it was too dark in that corner)
Chocolate Plant

This last shot is of my front door. Happy Halloween everyone, notice the blooming purslane in the planter!

Happy Gardening!