Monday, July 20, 2009

In a Round About Way...Nursery Crawl #8

We were on our way to Johnson City to pick up another load of cedar pickets for my fence but we made a roundabout drive because Randy wanted to visit Blanco and see a nursery there. We had a discussion some time ago about visiting all the county seats in Central Texas to see the courthouses and whatever else these little towns had to offer by way of the gardener and foodie aficionado. I love the courthouse in Blanco, and see it all the time on the wood cut print that is the label for one of my favorite beers, Blanco's own Real Ale Brewery's Full Moon Pale Ale.
But, on the way there we stopped at The Lions Share which is just outside Dripping Springs on the West side of the highway. We'd been before but this time we met the owner and found out that they are planing on closing. They've been in business for over a decade and have reasonable prices. We bought a few things and were on our way...since then, Randy has been back and found out that they are having a 30-40% sale on everything and that they plan to close the first or second week in get on out there if you like metal art and whimsy.

They carry lots of two and three dimensional work as well as headboards, planters and patio furniture. Inside they have imported object d'art and kitsch collectibles.

I really wanted this rocking turtle in the foreground, but don't have a flat surface in my children's yard to put it on.

So I settled for the tiny chairs and have since painted them lavender and chartreuse!

The highlight of the inspirational side of the day was definitely Solstice, owned by Christopher Smartt and his wife. I've passed this place over and again meaning to stop and finally did, it's on a deep lot and much larger than it looks.

Chris was working in the outdoor studio and told us to mosey around and check back with him if we had any we did just that.

I ended up taking tons of photos because there was just so much to behold; what sticks with me now...two weeks later is still the beautifully crafted gates and water fountains.

The artful feng-shui of the property makes it a delightful stroll, shopping or not.

This water feature was not running but you could see how it worked on the brochure inside, they are amazingly cleaver and the sound is dreamy.
There were several one of a kind pieces like this.

The spaceship was just hysterical and I nearly missed it as it was hung very high in a tree!

Another lovely gate.

There were several of these kinetic sculptures by more than one artist, some were organic vs. geometric in style.

The back part of the property had tons of garden statues, concrete, ceramic, metal and glass.

This is Christopher Smartt, and Solstice is his dream and vision. Solstice has been open a little over 2 years, they represent several artists from Texas and elsewhere in the U.S. and also have unique, organic plants and containers. Inside is a small gallery of 5-6 rooms with paintings, dried herbs and flower arrangements, lighting, sculpture and products as well as jewelry and personal affects. One of my clients had an arbor designed by one of the artists here and is very happy with it so I must mention commission work; it's always exciting to be part of the creative process! Check out their website SOLSTICEGARDENS.COM It's worth the drive and you'll have a lovely time!
By the time we got to Blanco Randy was starving so we set out to find something nummy. We couldn't find the place we'd been referred to and it isn't that big a town, so we stepped into several hot spots along the main avenue across from the courthouse and it must have been Sr. citizens day out because everything was packed...and being the green city-snob that, well...that I can be, was mortified by the two feet of cigarette smoke hanging down from the ceiling and the gawking silence that fell over the places...gees.

Luckily, The Rockin' R Steakhouse was virtually empty, smoke free...still not sure why, and smelled like heaven, even for a vegetarian. It was our best bet so we took a seat.

Nice ambiance no? I caught Randy in several photos texting his sweetheart which I reminded him was a social faux-paux unless you were a teenager...You can tell how serious he took my reprimand. After several texting failures he just stepped outside and mistakenly left me with the pitcher of beer! Ha! There is justice in the world.

We forgot to catch our photo of a double thumbs up which hasn't happened since last Autumn. I had, hands down the most delicious portobella mushroom sandwich and home fries I've ever had. I was expecting, bland...but nutritious and was blown away! Randy scarfed his burger down in minutes flat and after two pints plus a pitcher of Real Ale's Firemans 4...we were not quite ready to drive, but hey...this is Texas, and our destination was merely a right and another right into the parking in sweltering heat with a healthy beer buzz, we went garden shopping...because,'s what we do.

Ah yes, makes me thirsty just looking at it! Not as thirsty as the lawn, especially sloshing around as I was that miserably hot afternoon...but still! The style reminds me of the old Addams Family mansion, sans elaborate entryway and lush greenery of Westfield, New Jersey.

If there are other garden centers in the area, they don't come up on the google search...this was it...Blanco Gardens it's right on Main street leading into town and is small and charming.

The prices were pretty low and the plants looked healthy, if not thriving.

For a small nursery they had a well rounded selection of natives and succulents in several sizes, layed out pleasingly with a dove cote and collectibles indoors.

We didn't get a chance to speak with the "C.E.O. of diddley-squat" but I get the feeling she's a
pretty nice gal.

We drove around town a bit looking for the Real Ale Brewery, even though they only have tours on Friday we thought we'd try to talk with someone but we couldn't find the place! There's always next time, and it will be on a Friday! So, we decided to head on over to Johnson City and this time we stopped at Whittington's Jerky & General Store. The service was exceptional and we got an ear full about the history of the Whittington's family (well...I got an ear full, Randy was helping himself to each sample flavor of the beef jerky) and the original business which was a meat processing and locker plant. The new Whittington's store, this location, has only been around for 8 years where as the original business began in the 50's. I love old places like this because of the decor and soda fountains...which they didn't have! But, it was lovely and they carry all kinds of gifts and central Texas edibles and chachkies.

Nice sign.

Since it's on the way, we stopped into Pieces of the Past to check in on Kathy and see what new goodies she'd found. Her place is located right on highway 281 in the center of Johnson City...she had a place in Austin for over 10 years but has since moved to the hills.

Isn't this awesome! She used to be a school teacher but now she travels all over hunting down adorable antiques and yard art. I always find something I can't do without!

She's always got a huge selection of rusty patio furniture as well as some reproduced favorites.

That hummingbird sign is now in my garden:)
It's best to call or e-mail ahead of time because she's a free roaming spirit!
Next stop was Haynes Ceder to pick up my 3rd load of 5 foot pickets for my fence. It's just up the road and they are very nice spite of sending us to "The Cupboard" for a to eat elsewhere in Johnson City.
Our last stop was Texas Hills winery on account of the beer buzz wearing off. I'm not a big fan of Texas wine ever since I took a viticulture class and learned about the mold issue here and about how much fungacide is needed to bring a grape to harvest in the hill country. I've got trouble with the asthma and sulphites and am none too keen on adding more chemicals than necessary to tax my liver for what...oh yea, necessary I shelved that bit of knowledge and went in ready to taste!

It was stone still and hot as hell but it sure is pretty in pictures.

The winery was created by the rammed earth method, using the soil removed for the foundation. This is a very economical and green way of building and is traditionally done in arid areas lacking trees. It takes up to two years for the walls to cure but they are practically rock hard and it's like living in a cool cave, which is ideal winery storage.

The grounds are lovely and the grapes were planted 15 years ago. The winery is the 8th largest in Texas and is owned by Gary and Kathy Gilstrap. It's located one mile East on FM2766, just outside of Johnson City on a lovely country road.

As usual, we had a great time visiting with the hostess who was raised in Johnson City and has worked for the Gilstrap's for years. We sampled everything she suggested and more! We ended up leaving with a few bottles each and I got these snazzy little port-wine sippers and put that bottle away in no time! Delish.

Here's the smoking Buddha-baby dashboard guide in Randy's truck that leads us home. We had a great time and were anxious to get home and rifel through our goodies. Man I wish I could do this everyday! Thanks for day-trippin' with us!
Happy Gardening

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What's Left to Survive...BloomDay July '09

I got married the second time in my backyard, 8 years ago it was a very small private ceremony with just family and close friends. We rented 7 round tables and for centerpiece decorations we put terra-cotta pots with hot peppers and wrapped some twisted hay in a bow around the pot. We were barefoot and my old college friend John and his buddies, "The Waller Creek Boys" played bluegrass and I think it was a lovely day with peek-a-boo showers and saturated color. Peppers always remind me of my wedding and this year I decided to repeat the overwhelming pepper parade and it's added some lovely spice to our cooking and in this dire hot as hell summer is bringing me much joy.
I must give a shout out to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for her terrific idea of doing GBBD, over the next few days I'll be browsing the list of participants, as it seems to get longer all the time.


Thai Pepper

Ornamental Pequin

Crown of Thorns

Flame Acanthus

Datura Metel, Double Purple Frill

A gift from my girlfriend Elizabeth before she moved away...I've never been much of a Geranium fan but I must admit they are much hardier than they look, and I really enjoy the fragrance of the leaves.

Yellow Bells or Esperanza, the orange variety is twice the size as this one but doesn't bloom so regularly. Seems that this is a perpetual bloomer no matter how hot it gets.

First time I tried growing these babies...Lions Tail and they are doing great. I planted a whole bunch of them out at Zilker and they've grown together in one lovely mass.

This is one of 3 Plumaria stems that my dear friend Randy brought back from Hawaii! They smell like the old Island Tropic Tan Lotion I used to douse myself with in the 70's!

As you can see the monarch has won the battle here. This morning there were 7 on this single Butterfly Weed plant...they don't seem to be bothered by the aphids but wish the Lady Beetles would come soon.

Purple Cone Flower, still blooming away!

Red Yucca

Thyrallis, my first bloom! I planted this gal last fall and she's been unremarkable until now.

This was a gift from my friend Linda and I can never remember her name! I was surprised that she came back this year though, after almost dieing back completely.


This is quite a surprise blooming because there is partially ripe fruit on other parts of the little tree. The blossoms are so sweet and delicious, unlike the tart fruit.


Mexican Honeysuckle

The Turks Cap

Such a sweet and hardy wildflower that was here when we moved in and it's spread to several areas of the yard. I'm not sure about the terms invasive vs. aggressive...but either way, it's a welcome little treat. Now that I've uploaded some of the stuff in my yard that's blooming I guess things aren't as bad as I thought...the carnage is so discouraging that it's a good thing to take the time to photograph what's right.
Hope you're staying well hydrated, Happy Gardening!