Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Driving Force that is Emily Wilson

As you can see by the date, I started this posting some time ago. The holidays always wear me out...trying to be up, all the time, making sure that I'm not forgetting anything/anyone...and of course I always do...but still. So the new year is here and I've got several loose ends to tie up (a stack of Christmas Cards that has yet to be mailed for instance) before I get back into full garden mode again, and it seems that the weather is helping to drag the season out with the lowest temperature prediction coming up this next week. My list of garden chores keeps getting longer and I've managed to put on my blinders walking to and from the car or the chicken coop without looking at all the slimy brown goop and crunch tips...I really should rake but the compost is full and it's too cold to muck around in it so it'll just have to wait a bit longer. Meanwhile, Ms. Emily...full of ideas and motivation works on.
Emily Wilson of Crestview
I met Emily two summers ago on one of our weekly Crestview Garden Tours, set up by Ms. Paige Hill...story will follow. She introduced herself and after hearing my name, told me that she'd been following my blog. At that time, I had no idea anyone was paying attention, I didn't have a counter and only a few comments from friends. She asked for a card and well, that was that. A few months later she called to set up an appointment. She was my first client, an ideal client, really. She's a 'real' gardener, she loves it. She has a romantic idea of cottage gardens with fond memories of her grandmothers place and she's fearless. We banged out a plan in one morning and I left her house elated and terrified. What had I just done? I kept telling myself "let it go, let it's her project now."

Lovable Kat, another great asset to Crestview.
It was several weeks before the phone rang again, a few clients here and there. I was in no hurry to have my business take off and was deeply involved in the Master Naturalist program and had taken on the job of Green Gardener at Zilker...a little bread and I was enjoying the writing and working on my own yard. Sometime later that year I ran into Emily walking her dogs and I pulled over in my car and asked her how she was and how her garden was coming along. She was glowing and told me that she loved the plan and was following it to a "T." I could hardly believe it! We talked for a few minutes longer and I went around the block to drive by her place and check it out myself. Sitting in front of her little cottage, I was amazed. She really was doing the plan, and it looked fantastic! She was happy, so I was happy.

Hedrich, gardener and community enthusiast!
I've since been over to Emily's house several more times for follow-ups including to spray paint the path on the ground before her guys took out the St. Augustine and layed the stone. She's extended the original plan and taken off on her own in several areas...using natives and designing with lovely flair! But, this isn't about Emily's yard...lovely as it is, it's about what she did after that. The Watershed Department printed out a booklet entitled "green neighbor" that we handed out last spring at the Grow Green Festival at Zilker Park. A few months after that, while on another Crestview tour, I announced that I had a box of these books and did anyone want to check them out? Emily grabbed a few.
Emily and Lori putting suet on pinecones.
I really had no idea that she'd read the information and taken it to heart...which was the plan but I'd become a little jaded working with the church across the street, trying to get people to care about the environment. So, I took a step back and decided to just live by example and not worry about it so much. I heard through the grapevine about her distributing the green neighbor guide, which I'd given to my neighbors without a peep and that she'd organized a sign campaign putting protection signs on the drains throughout the neighborhood (I would have helped with this had I known before, rather than after the fact.) At some point there was a CNA (Crestview Neighborhood Association) meeting about all things green, then came the Brentwood park project which she and Hedrich organized encouraging folks to come out and mulch all the trees and the footpath and she got taco's and coffee donated by some of our local entrepreneurs to feed the helpers. It was freezing that morning, but there was a terrific turnout! The mulch was delivered by the city, and there were over 20 of us who worked for the better part of a Saturday, my girls were reluctant to get out in the cold, but actually thanked us for making them help and said they enjoyed meeting new people and had fun!

My family at the sign-in station for the Friends of Brentwood Park workday.
We love Brentwood Park, both my daughters attended Brentwood elementary, and when they were little we went to the pool almost daily and to play for years. Today we mostly walk the dogs through and attend the Violet Crown Festivities that are there occasionally.

Working on the path.
Shortly after the workday, Emily organized a nature activity day at her house. Some of the photos of that day are above, we made several different kinds of bird ornaments with peanut butter, cornmeal, seed and nuts (suet for the birds.)
Mud path, before.
It was fun! And, I got to meet some other neighbors and left with a box of goodies for the birds in my yard.

Mulching the 'stick' trees.
As I sit here writing and glancing through the Green City Challenge that is the green neighbor booklet I'm wondering what it is in one person versus another that touches them and sparks the activity needed to promote real change? For me, I was a Girl scout, my mother was the troop leader and I attended Lutheran church several times a week, this is where I believe my civic mindedness comes from . My mom was the driving force behind getting us outside in nature, be it the Black Forrest or visiting National Parks...she was the one who pulled over to read the historical markers and understood that the journey was the goal and being outside was healthy, not a big gardener but someone who appreciated beautiful places.
Loving spouse attacking a mulch mound.
My girls are not involved in scouting, and the struggle to get the church across the street interested in caring about their property, and the neighborhood has left us all bewildered about modern Christian Stewardship...regardless my oldest daughter got involved on her own with Eco-Texas, removing invasive species from Brightleaf Preserve and her little sister will soon be the youngest person in Travis County to complete the Master Naturalist Program. They got the bug...most likely from me, but in the larger picture...where does it come from?

Hedrich, in red. The path, nearly finished!
That's the query...and I'm looking for some answers.
I'm so happy to live in Crestview and know these amazing people, clients, friends and ultimately kindred spirits. In the coming year I plan to feature our neighborhood projects and people who make a difference. I'm probably preaching to the choir here...then again, who else would read something called "Conscious Gardening" but someone who finds the word conscious compelling and this is a gardening blog...and Gardening is the link that's brought us nature lovers together.
Yay Emily Wilson, we are well on our way to becoming an official Green Neighborhood because of YOU...and she's asked me to help with the grand plan for Brentwood Park...I am honored. When I asked Emily why she got involved or how she views herself in all that's being done, she said that she admired all the people in the neighborhood that were doing plantings and growing their own food, essentially making a difference and when she thought about it she realized that we are all just regular folk and that she had something to offer as well. She views herself as more of a project manager, or 'tallyer' the person who'se collecting the data and helping to raise awareness. She's done much more than that, but imagine a world of Emilys? People caring for their neighbors and neighborhoods and doing what they can...Thank you Emily!
In the meantime, I must try to muster up the strength to attack my garden again. Two years without a hard freeze had me believing that climate change had officially come to central Texas...
hah. I've got entire beds that will need to be re-thunk (is that a word?) and so much clearing to do I really should build a new compost bin. Ho hum. The days of mild temperatures and spring wildflowers really aren't that far off!
Happy Gardening!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Randy and Cheryl's Nursery Crawl to Georgetown

Randy and I had to drag ourselves outta town last Thursday to try and cure the post garden-tour blues that have left us twiddling our thumbs...our soft, supple green thumbs that haven't touched so much as a hoe (pun intended) in weeks. The weather got nasty and I will say that it feels great knowing that all the work we'd put in to gussyin' up our plots actually made it winter ready as well. That fluffy mulch that looks so lush is actually doing it's job keeping things wet n' warm. So, off to Margaritaville...via dry, dry Georgetown. We chose two nurseries...both suggestions from Bob Pool, of Draco Gardens.

The crew was busily putting the soft greens into the greenhouses so we strolled the grounds.

All the usual stuff...the smell inside was refreshing though, cold clean dirt and fresh greens.

Row upon row of freshly murdered trees for the upcoming holiday. We put up our perfect fake-tree Saturday with a "snow-bird" theme. Each year we do something different in spite of the beans arguing for 'sameness.' Last year we did a "Blue Obama" theme that everyone could get behind...we all believed change was right around the corner. I haven't given up hope but I do feel like a lot of the idea's have flown south for the winter...farther south than here.

When we first saw the pond mold, we thought we'd missed something...but no, they're for special order. The good thing is that they can get them in within the week. McIntires is family owned since the 70's and the staff was very kind...and honest. "No" it's not all organic, and they had row upon row of poison to prove it...but they also had everything for the organic gardener. Which reminds me that there's a dermatologist in Quebec, June Irwin who has successfully removed pesticides from the city and there is now a new documentary about her David and Goliath story called "Hudson: A Chemical Reaction." The best news I've seen lately though is about France suing Monsanto for lying about the product, Round Up. I know so many gardeners who think they can't live without it (Randy) and we didn't get a whiff of info about the suit here in the US but they lost and you can't get it in France anymore costing Monsanto a pretty penny(check the BBC.) I'm all for boycotting Monsanto there are sooo many reasons why and now that I know that it does leach into the soil, I'm going to have to go the urine route on killing unwanted saplings...well, spouse will. Apparently male urine is more toxic.

Here's the sad demo of the one pond they did have, reminding me why I haven't gone this route yet. Of course, that was before we'd seen Bob's place.

Ah-ha! I love this little plant and could never remember the's Huernia confusa! It's so pretty when it blooms...tiny velvet, burgundy, star-shaped flowers.
We decided to take a drive around town before hitting our second destination...who do you suppose collects the mail from the top box? Big bird?
I love these old County Seat Courthouses! The downtown was dolled up for Christmas and very, Victorian charming!
Randy contemplating spending his last 120$ on cigars to blow after the Margaritas! You gotta love a man who lives large!
What the*^%(#@*? Georgetown is supposed to be dry? Well, it was early in the morning and the place wasn't opened but what's the buzz?

I love the deep blue of a freezing fall day juxtaposed with the beautiful reds of our beloved Texas Red Oak...I wish it wasn't so over planted. I'm trying to decide on something for my front yard, the Sycamore doesn't have many years left.

The corner shop, which has a "G" atop the side wall...mmmmm perfect for my studio...dreamin'.
There must be some kind of ordinance about the facades on the square because each building was detailed out and seemed to have been freshly painted.
Another stunning old movie house showing "Annie." Fantasy home numero uno for me is an old turn-of-the-century Church, second is a warehouse, third is an old movie house like this one. Wish we had time to catch a show...well, if it wasn't Annie.
Just look at the ornamentation...then notice most of the buildings are empty.

Studio "G" niiiiiiice. Though I fear that with the view of the square my work might take on more of a Norman Rockwell style than intended. Nothing against Rockwell, but his idyllic view of America hasn't been my experience.
Now that's a creative bike rack...I wonder if Bob made it? Well, I forgot to ask.
Bob...what's the scoop?
Nice bench outside the coffee house...too cold to sit on in this weather!
After checking out the university (from the car) and cruising by the Odd Fellows cemetery...we headed out of town onto Forever Gardens, which is easy to miss!

The entrance is charming with hand painted signs and luscious vines.

This Thryallis has the trunk of a tree.
Upon entering the grounds you can see Jon's creative hand. Forever Gardens is owned by Tricia and Jon Martin and was moved to this site some 7 years ago. Tricia the "plant lady" is married to Jon, who according to her "has the vision and builds the walls."
This should clear up any questions about pricing. Nice, simple idea.
They carry plenty of chachkes for the whimsy in you
more whimsy...
They carry some very interesting yard furniture and a few local artists sculpture. The hanging bird feeders are lovely.
My favorite piece of useful whimsy...there must be some formula to explain 'good' vs. 'bad' whimsy, like function plus funky...or some such thing.

This is one fired up Tricia, and she is delightful. Randy and I thought we had the place to ourselves when suddenly we heard a huge crash and some lively yellin'.
Tricia had hit the gas instead of the break on the golf cart propelling her little gang over the garden bed and into a sculpture.

These next few images are works by a local artist who'se name has slipped my sorry!
I think they have a lovely child-like freedom about them.

The plantings around them make them seem folkishly magical.
Here are a few Orchid Peppers that Jon gave to Randy, knowingly so...Randy is a wiz with seeds...I tend to collect the ones that are pretty, then forget what they came from. Apparently these are some of the hottest to be found. We didn't try 'em, I want to taste my Margarita.
The arbors, paths and garden beds are organic and moving.
The arbor covering the steps is covered with Evergreen Clamatis and Cross Vine. All of the plants are Native and Organic...Thumbs up Forever Gardens!
A nice place to read a book.
This huge Rootbeer plant looks lovely under the liveoak. Something I'd have to have seen because the colors aren't different enough, but the size and texture make it interesting.

This is the vine on the entrance arbor, Tricia pointed out the fruit, it's from the Morning Glory family, only evergreen and blooms white.
We had a wonderful time and it's worth the trip. Because of the forecast, most of the plants had been put away...but I'm putting this on my spring list of places to visit. The grounds are gorgeous and the Miller's are devoted! Great place to go!
Now, here's Bob's door. Which he made, along with the Christmas Decorations...those aren't cans...they're bells as ordered by Lynn...Bob's project inventing wife.
This is one of the things I came to see. Bob is the author, artist, gardener of Draco Gardens...a fellow blogger and just all around amazing guy. I think I'm doing all the good with my puny 4 water collection sites at my house, and Bob's saving 24,000 gallons out at his house. Enough to supply all his gardens and tide them over if their well runs dry. The way he bargained for the units and set them a story he'll have to tell, or you can check out his blog.

This is the view from the side of his gorgous cabin in the woods...which he and Lynn built themselves.
True blue as Bob is, here's his Blue Lacy, the official dog of Texas...the highly distracted Miss Bonnie. Randy spent the rest of the visit cracking himself up, teasing poor Bonnie because she's super sensitive about reflection. This is 'before' the ta-kill-ya.

So here's Bob's...not pond, but pond system, rather, a portion of it.
Randy and Bob on the wrap around porch.
Bob says this is Arrow Plant, or some such was beautiful. He's promised me all the pond plants I want...what I really want is for him to come build me a pond!

It was hard to take the whole place in...and all the while Bob is talking a mile a minute about how he and Lynn, did this and that.
I wonder how his Shrimp Plant survived the freeze, mine melted.
A view of the veggie beds from the porch. It's early December and there were beans to last through the month plus an assortment of greens.
Drip irrigation...rainwater, that is. It's hard for me to imagine the planning, labor and time that's gone into everything we were looking at.

Another view of the beds from the pond(s).

Bob build this cleaver gate, you can't really tell but even the Prickly Pear has metal spines on it. He really can do anything he wants with metal!

Here's Bob Pool! As mean and honery as he pretends to be... is a real gentlemen. I asked him where he got the name "Draco" as it's the name of his business as well as his blog, and he told me that he stole it off a sign up the road. Apparently, it's an Indian word which means a good place to camp or be. I concur.

So, Bob planned the crawl, down to the resaurant Corona Jardin. It's been quite awhile since Randy and I agreed on Margs n' Mexican Food and Bob had never been here himself...on account of, he's a beer drinker! Well shoot...ain't we all?

Jackpot. Biggest, bestest, strongest Margarita I've had in central Texas. That's Bob there, sippin' tea, like it was the middle of the day on a Thursday or something?

Well, we were having such a good time listening to Bob spin tails that we had ourselves a second. The drive back to town seemed like a Monet, and the cactus juice must have been top notch because I woke up the next morning with energy. I almost feel like gardening again,
naaaa. Not yet, I think I'll make myself a pitcher and draw me up a pond!
Thanks for the company Bob! Randy and I had a real nice time!

Happy Gardening!