Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanks for the Lessons Learned! So Long!

I fell into this little part time job almost two years ago after finishing the Travis County Master Gardener course. 1/3 of my volunteer hours had been spent at the Green Garden, I have a deep interest in native plants and responsible ecology so I put my time in at the Watershed's demonstration garden for the city, which was created to help teach people about clean water conservation. The following summer I took over that garden from the woman I'd been volunteering with, another Master Gardener who had taken the job for the very reason I was interested in learn how the natives respond throughout the year and for the experience of managing a large public garden. That was the first of two record breaking summers of drought and heat. The second part of the job I didn't know about, was also tending the Howson Library garden in Tarry Town. Watershed had decided to locate the second water-wise garden where the highest water use in the city occurred annually. My girlfriend Elizabeth Drozda had designed the garden so I was very excited to carry on her legacy, as she is one of the people who fostered my knowledge and love of plants since moving to central Texas some 13 years ago. So, I found myself in a position that I knew virtually nothing about and I was thrilled to have the challenge. That first summer was trying. At both locations there seemed to be endless problems with the water systems and I quickly learned that neither location was a 'priority' considering it was supposed to be "Low-Water." Well, as those of us who have survived the summer of hell #2 know, even water-wise plants need a little water and TLC when dealing with triple digit temperatures. Still I soldiered on, naively transplanting and taking chances on small plants, I never did get a budget but figured out that if I spent less than $100 at a time, no one seemed to take notice. So I puttered on, fixing the sites as I saw needed. I fell in love with the roses at Howson Library. Justin, the rose-man at Zilker, who I'd met years before at the former beloved Howard's Nursery on 2222, helped me understand natural rose care with the 8 Martha Gonzales and 1 Mutabilis rose. I am now, no longer afraid of roses...but love them and put in 5 rose beds at my house and a huge rose garden at the church across the street last year. This is one thing that I learned and will carry with me from now on.

The first thing I did at Howson was dig up these signs, clean and re-paint them!

The hell-strip at Howson.

When I got there, the previous gardener had put in a hand full of Leadwort plumbago that were hanging on. I transplanted Bulbine from Zilker to compliment the deep blue and help stop the bus traffic from trampling the beds...they look lovely now! I also added Katie Ruellia, not knowing for sure if it would be able to stand the heat and Gregg's Mistflower for some height. Surprisingly, the Ruellia is thriving in full sun, against the road.

This is the semi-circle of Martha Gonzales' Roses...the toughest Rose I know!

After taking the City's Green Garden Certification class, I happened to be at Howson when the project manager showed up to visit with the roofer. I asked if a water collection system was in the plan, which it was not, and so began a long discussion about having one set up. I feel very proud to have pushed this through, even though the construction and choice of material were not mine, the project is in place and collecting water presently! This makes it easier for the new gardener who should have plenty of water to last through the winter, when the city shuts the water off.
This is the Children's Meadow, well...that's what I call it, next to the empty birdcage in the Green Garden at Zilker. I was told that the land had previously been an Indian burial ground, though I was unable to find any real documentation of such...and was probably told to me to avoid lending a hand. Never the less, with that in mind, I didn't remove the rocks in the area but put them in 3 mounds for interest. The planting was to highlight the new plants on the New Grow Green Guide released last Christmas.

Here are just a few of the very dedicated volunteers that helped clear, plant and tend the little meadow...which was inspired by my then, 2 year old niece. The layers and textures when filled in should be a textural wonderland to a young child standing around 3ft. high filled with butterfly's and bees.

Notice the size of the Lions Tail and it's hard to make out, but at the base of the upper rock mound are 3 tiny transplants of Polygunum that I pulled up from the floor of the Master Gardener Green House.

Here's Suzie putting down compost and mulch in and around the mounds.

The biggest plants came from my garden at home, the Blue Agave in the glass mulch rings. The glass comes from the city's recycling plant off Todd Lane in South Austin.

After several tries, the only thing that has thrived in the full shade of the entrance sign is Tropical Sage.

This is the meadow now, the Polygunum suffered through the summer, but I was there 2 and 3 times a week fighting for the little starts that were planted the previous November.

I lost one Gulf Muhly, otherwise, the Little Meadow is filling in beautifully.

A view from the entrance walkway.

Engleman's Daisy, Firecracker Fern, Polygunum, Gulf Muhly, Aloe Vera and Spanish Dagger in the corner away from tiny hands.
I passed this job onto a dedicated volunteer who has been working with me off and on for a few years. It was a lot of work, and the main thing I learned is that I don't want to be someone else's gardener. I'm too sensitive and care too much for each and every plant and tree that suffered or was lost. I disagree with the idea that Natives aren't important because other plants have a higher dollar value...especially considering what it takes to keep exotics alive in a virtual desert. I believe they are the most important plants because they are sustainable to our wildlife and the deep roots of the grasses hold down the soil. In the long run native plants cost less because they generally use less water and are better adapted to the climate so they should need less care by way of pesticides and fertilization.
It was an honor and privilege to work in these public gardens, they are beautiful places to visit and learn about responsible planting.
Thank you to all my wonderful volunteers and Happy Gardening!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

November Color, GBBD

The Autumn colors are more evident in the photo...but mostly because loving spouse raked the leaves this morning before the Rosedale Garden Club convened on my front lawn for a tour, bringing with them scones and coffee...such a very nice group of people! I had sat next to Amy at the monthly Chica's Verde meeting a few months back and when she attended the Inside Austin Gardens Tour...we firmed up the plan to have her club meet here. Chica's Verde is a group of environmentally motivated women all working in 'green' fields...some of us literally.

The Autumn Sage is blooming around the birdbath, as is the Oxalis along the path.

Not a great shot of Belinda's was so dark that the flash kept going off on it's own.

Bridal Wreath's delicate blooms.

Tropical Sage, Trailing Lantana, and Dianthus in the hanging basket blooming around the chicken coop.

More Trailing Lantana, Butternut Squash, you can't see the blooms under the giant leaves...but they are there, along with 3 nice sized vegetables. This is the former location of my compost pile and I always get volunteers...such a blessing. Esperanza or Yellow Bells is looking great but my orange variety hasn't bloomed in a month.

Patrick's Abutilon...has never had more blooms than now...this must be it's season, though it's been blooming since the rains came.

Turk's Cap has a few blooms but is mostly covered in fruit.

Sweet Pea

The Lavender is still hosting dozens of bees.

The local gardeners can't seem to agree on the name of this vine. I got it from my South Austin friend Julie, she didn't know what it was but I was told that it was Desert Willow Vine because the blooms are the same as the tree. I've also heard it called African Trumpet Vine, or just Pink Trumpet Vine. I had it planted on the east fence and it grew into my neighbors yard...east. So I moved it and propagated it, putting it on the chicken fence (above) and the west fence and both times it grew east, again. I think that's interesting.

When the purple Fall Aster is long gone, the native white is still hosting lots of insect activity...the snout nose butterfly's seem particularly fond of her.

Echinacea, Purple Cone Flower

Marigold, a variegated ornamental Pepper, Banana Pepper and gourd surprise...which means it's a volunteer and I have no idea what I'm getting, but it has a it counts!

Predictable bloomers in November here in Austin: Copper Canyon Daisy, Cuphea and Mexican Sage...every year...since I planted them they've come through!

This is my blooming New Gold Lantana with Silver Pony's Foot that looked horrid this summer but has now come back with a vengeance!

Knock Out Rose next to the Katrina Rose, formerly, Peggy Martin.

Onion and Martha Gonzales Rose.

Datura Metal...I love this beauty!

The Rosedale Garden Club enjoying the monstrous Philippine Violet. I must give a shout out to Carol of May Dreams Gardens for her brilliant idea of having folks post what's blooming in their yard on the 15th of each month, Thank you Carol! Go to her site for the blogroll, and to check out gardens around the globe.

Here's the full list of what's blooming today in my 8b central Austin cottage garden:
Front and side yard:
Desert Rose
Gregg Dalea
Pink Skullcap
Salvia Greggi
Magestic Sage
Belinda's Dream Rose
Copper Canyon Daisy
David's Cuphea
Mexican Sage
New Gold Lantana
Native Fall Aster
Firecracker Fern
Blackfoot Daisy
Fall Obedient Plant
Mexican Mint Marigold
Russian Sage
White Lantana
Butterfly Weed
Purple Cone Flower
Trailing Rosemary
Datura Metal
Four O'Clocks
Gregg's Mistflower
Miniature Pomegranate
Philippine Violet
Martha Gonzales Rose
Knock Out Rose
Peggy Martin Rose
Sweet Pea
Shrimp Plant
Purple Vitex (bush)
Desert Willow Vine
Trailing Lantana
Tropical Sage
Mexican Petunia (purple...the pink hasn't bloomed in over a month)
Pigeon Berry
Turks Cap
Chili Pequin
Banana Pepper
Several ornamental peppers have both flowers and fruit
Bridal Wreath
Blue Mealy Sage
Turnera has buds
Lions Tail
Butterfly Bush
Brugmansia has 3 buds
Purple Hyacinth Bean
The day is gorgeous...and I'm going to get out there and plant some onions before the rain!
Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hammered! Whoooot Whoo!

If you could see me now, I'm giddy and smiling ear to ear. The Violet Fern of rural upstate New York "hammered" me with The Honest Scrap award...I hardly know what to say...OMG, this is too cool! I had seen this once before and felt, like I do most of the time...out of the loop. Not knowing the history of this award, I'll just say that it's passed on from blogger to blogger with a specific set a rules which I simply copied and pasted below. Apparently some folks aren't into this sort of thing, phooey. I'm one who likes to have control over my 'selective memory' and so I make an effort to forget the smarmy looks, snotty remarks and flat out "in your face" insults and embrace whole-heartily compliments and loving gestures. I've received one other award since I started blogging over a year ago and it was too early on for me to know what to do about it...I couldn't get back to the gal that left it, didn't know about the "Blog-roll" yet and probably hurt some feelings out there in the great-wide blogosphere. So, the first thing I did was rush back to that person to check their site and...blow me away...she had just been Hammered too, down under. So, Catmint, of Australia who blogs at Diary of a Suburban Garden, since you've already been Hammered...consider this another nail. I love your blog!

(Copy and Paste if you've been Hammered!)

Here are the rules:
1. Brag about the award.
2. Include the name of the blogger who gave you the award and link back to that blogger.
3. Choose a minimum of seven blogs that you find brilliant in content or design.
4. Show their names and links and leave a comment informing them that they were prized with this award.
5. List at least ten honest things about yourself.

The easy part of receiving this award is passing it on...there are so many wonderful bloggers out there that when I get going I can blog-hop for hours and not realize the time. The hard part is coming up with 10 honest things to say, mostly because I keep powerful secrets which makes folks who don't know me, believe that I'm an open book. Choosing what to reveal (and the fact that I'm a virtual computer moron) has kept me from posting this sooner.


1. Wabi Sabi Home & Garden is my favorite new blog and Michelle is a new friend. She lives in my neighborhood, Crestview in North Central Austin and she has an edgy-quick wit. I love her photos and sense of wonder.
2. Gardening at Draco with Bob is inspiring because he's a fierce environmentalist with a wicked moustache!
3. East Side Patch blows me away! Man I wish I had them mad photo shop skills and his cultural iconic-connective tissue.
4. Meadow Sage is my genius friend Dana who up and left Austin and moved to 21 acres just outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma. She's been working on cataloging every plant on her property, and making tinctures and her own medicine from what's she has bees, and chickens, and her husband is an old college friend of mine who plays music (his old band "The Waller Creek Boys" played at my backyard wedding) and brews beer. I love them both, dearly.
5. Garden Porn my favorite blog name (2nd place goes to Gardening while Intoxicated) need I say more...check it out, you'll love it!
6. The Garden Posse is the site of Austin Guerrilla Gardeners, I love rule breakers!
7. Kiss of Sun is Bonnie's site, Bonnie...who lovingly answered all my nagging questions when I started blogging, who was the reason I started blogging and who devotes her time to Master Gardeners and her children and school a civic wonder!
If I had more places to give away, I'd be adding the rest of the Austin Garden Bloggers group who I check on regularly and derive much inspiration from! But how often are you allowed to just give awards away to who you see fit? This is also a great Honor and great fun!
Now for the uninteresting part of this post...10 honest things about me...
1. I think the drinky-winky hour should begin at 11:00am.
2. I got caught at the airport sneaking seeds out of Africa and told the agent it was for an art project, and got away with it!
3. I dye my eyebrows, they're really white.
4. I have 3 tattoos, each with a flower..a Sunflower, California Poppy and Strawberry, one of them has rarely been seen.
5. I don't have a TV, not because I judge those who do, but because I know that my life would be wasted if I did; I'm too easily distracted by synchronized moving color and sound.
6. I enjoy sophomoric comedy because I'm emotionally stunted, Why? None of your business.
7. I love my dog Dorothy Belle to pieces and keep an eye on those who say nasty things about "little dogs." I make up silly names with rhyming songs about her insane nature and sing to her when no one is around, I'm sure she understands me. She's killed 11 of my chickens over the past 4 years (we now have the coop behind a fence) and I've tried to give her away, but can't...partly because no one will have her but mostly because she is honest and true to her nature and I respect that.
8. My daughter Autumn Sage is named after the flower that was blooming all over my mid-wife's property in Santa Barbara when she was born. The house she was born in is where I planted my first Salvia Greggi atop her first home, my placenta. I include this reliable plant in each design I create. When I moved to Texas I realized how common it was, but still love it dearly.
9. I can't wait to be a grandmother...and am honored to be a goddess-mother to two fabulous little girls: Noomi who lives in Sweden and is the youngest daughter to one of my oldest and dearest friends Evalena, and Sabra who lives in Moldova and is my only niece.
10. My favorite flower is an Orchid and I can't grow them for beans...and that's the Honest Scrap about me!
This has been an honor and a blast! Now I must go let those who have been Hammered know about the good news!
Happy Gardening!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nandina? Way Out Here with the Mushrooms?

Early last Sunday morning Christopher Fritel, Patty Collier and I set out to take part in one of the many CAMN activities and, in my opinion one of the most fun and that is Invasive Specie Removal. It may not sound like fun to you, but being out on pristine protected land where natural wonders appear at every turn, is my cuppa-cuppa...essentially I feel like a kid all over, exploring the woods only this time with a real mission. Christopher is our guide. He has attended all of the training classes and has the GPS to track and record our findings, and he knows the combination to the locks making him also, the proverbial gate keeper.

Christopher and Patty leading the way.
You must have permission to be on the land, and you want to make sure you do that because on other tracks of the Balconies Canyon land Preserve (BCP) this weekend they were wild hog hunting.
Small Palafoxia (Palafoxia callosa) In bloom alongside the road was glowing in the morning light.
Corn on the ground just inside the hog pens.

You can see the tracks in the soft mud leading into the trap. They disperse the corn all around and the trip lines are actually quite a distance from the gate so that when it's triggered, the hogs can't get out before the door shuts. We found tracks throughout the morning that were fresh, but didn't see or hear them...or the hunters for that matter.
We hiked in about 20 minutes before finding the plot of land that Christopher has been clearing for some time now.
He's showing me here where we are, and half way across the map, where we were going to Track AA.
The forest floor was cover in moss and flowers, the sunlight playing on the insects made it seem like a faerie world.
Mushrooms and various fungi were everywhere. I searched for a name for this beauty and was getting frustrated until the same name kept popping up: Tom Volk, a mycologist and professor from Wisconsin. It seems that mushroom identification is one of the most difficult endeavors...considering there are over 70,000 species and more are being discovered all the time. What I wanted to know though, he had neatly written in a list of 10. Here are the 10 edible mushrooms...according to Dr. Volk:

Morchella esculenta ("morel") -- This unusual pitted grayish to yellow mushroom is many people's favorite collectable edible. It is one of the harbingers of spring and is usually found in May to very early June. A good place to look for them is near dead or dying elms.
Grifola frondosa ("hen of the woods") -- This delicious edible typically grows at the bases of oak trees where it forms large clumps resembling the many-layered feathers of a hen. The ``feathers'' are usually grayish-brown with white pores underneath.
Agaricus campestris* ("meadow mushroom") -- This is a wild relative of the common white mushroom found in stores. It can be recognized by its ring and its free gills which are pink when young darkening to chocolate brown in age. It is a firm, meaty mushroom with a white to brown, smooth to fibrillose cap. Typically, it grows in grass and the large smooth caps can often be seen poking out of the ground in yards or along curbs.
Cantharellus cibarius* ("chanterelle") -- This is a golden-colored mushroom with a flat to sunken cap and blunt ridges rather than gills running down the stalk. The odor is distinctive and mellow fruity, somewhat similar to apricots. Chanterelles frequently start to fruit in July.
Coprinus comatus* ("shaggy mane") -- This is one of the distinctive ``inky-cap'' mushrooms whose gills and flesh darken and dissolve into an inky-black mess. Before this happens, though, it is a beautiful white mushroom with shaggy upturned scales. It is commonly found in grassy areas in the fall.
Pleurotus ostreatus* ("oyster mushroom") This is a large, fan-shaped, moist, whitish to tan mushroom with little or no stalk. The widely-spaced gills jutting straight out from high up on a tree trunk often make this mushroom a beautiful spectacle.
Hydnum repandum* ("sweet tooth") -- This is a firm, compact tooth fungus with a buff to orange cap that is often flat-topped and with paler white to yellowish teeth.
Hericium coralloides* ("bear's head tooth") -- This is also a tooth fungus, but does not have the usual stem-cap form. Rather its teeth hang from a cluster of white fleshy branches. It grows on decaying wood.
Leccinum insigne/aurantiacum *("scaber stalk") -- These are pored, bolete-type mushrooms with orange-brown to reddish-brown caps and dark projections or scabers on the stem. They are usually associated with aspen or birch trees and are quite common. A related species which is also edible is the light gray-brown-capped L. scabrum.
Flammulina velutipes* ("velvet foot" or "velvet stem") -- This is a small firm mushroom that grows in clumps on wood. It is noted for its sticky reddish-yellow cap and dark-brown velvety stem and for the fact that it often can be collected even in cold weather when there are no other edible mushrooms around.
Now to find images and learn them...and hunt them...and find them...and eat them! I love mushrooms!
This may be hard to see, but if you look closely the barbed wire is stretching some 12-18 feet up through the tree. It must have been a sapling when the fence was first erected.
I've had a hard time trying to identify this fungus, what I've learned is that it's a shelf-fungi and that fungi grow in a range of organic material - soil, live trees, dead trees, and scat. The fungi that grow in coniferous trees differ from those growing in deciduous trees. Saprotrophic fungi feed on dead organic matter. Parasitic fungi feed on living organisms and I can't remember if I even looked up when I took this picture. There was so much more going on down below and this was only about a foot from the ground.
This is a fungi growing out of a nurse log. That's just a dead log or a wound in a tree where decay has started and some fungi have taken advantage of the location.
I had some of these pop up in my garden after applying mulch this fall, I love to catch the sunlight through the gills.
Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) which is a bracket fungi which is another name for fungi that grow off of a tree or log. The portion you see of this type of fungi is like the "flower" while most of the tissue, or tail extends into the host. Turkey Tails grow from May to December and can last several years. They are also known to grow from wounds in trees, mostly oaks.

This bumpy dry...mushroom? Was growing out of the rock in the road.
Well...Patty and Christopher found 5 Nandina domestica and 3 Pyracantha coccinea...I managed to walk away with some cool photos of mushrooms and some rusty stuff that may find its way into some yard art soon. It's amazing to me that stores like Home Depot and Lowe's are allowed to sell plants that are taking the resources from the land, creating a dense growth the sun cannot penetrate, crowding out natives while altering habitats.
It was shocking to find so many Nandina thriving on the forest floor. I have two area's in my yard that I still need to remove, but until I plan out the removal and replacement I cut off the berries and throw them in the trash. They are a beautiful plant, especially now when the new growth creates a soft burnt orange umbrella above the rest of the plant and the red berries are very cheerful. I used to cut them and display them they just look evil.
Christopher is super dedicated, as is Patty but we took the rest of the day off. After lunch Christopher got with two other volunteers and went out again. When I see baby Nandina anywhere, I do a double take and yank it out...the problem with that is that no-one knows about it, therefore funds for such projects as Specie Removal don't get the benefit...and the biologists don't have true accuracy with citizen volunteers collecting data. There in lies the dilemma, to yank or not to yank? What do you think?
Happy Gardening