Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What has flowers on it right now?

I'd like to break the dry spell in this garden blog with the simplest of topics:

Plants That Have Blooms On Them Today.

I have no commentary, just springly, slightly fuzzy photos.

Crossvine / Bignonia capreolata 'Tangerine Beauty'

Altas pear

Nun's orchid / Phaius tankervilliae

Cherry laurel / Prunus lauroceracus

A precocious little Meyer lemon

Cilantro going to seed

Carolina jessamine /Gelsemium sempervirens

Monday, February 9, 2009

Yes, The Alamo is in a garden

You just can’t miss an opportunity to go to San Antonio for a vintage Airstream trailer rally with friends. So I went. But while in town, I also stopped in at the former Mission San Antonio de Valero, better known as The Alamo.

I had a personal reason for wanting to visit. Boning up on genealogy I recently learned that some of my antepasados married there. Although I came 285 years too late for the wedding, I enjoyed taking in the botanical garden feeling of the Alamo compound.

A succulent bed of many textures, all of them prickly. My phone's camera did its best with these images but it was an overcast day.

Cherries flowering by Sabal palms…an odd mix. They used a mulch of pecan shells in this bed:

A closeup of the pecan shell mulch. I like the stuff. It looks good and useful to me.

The sleek trunks of Texas persimmon, Diospyros texana, below. Native Texas trees had a strong showing in the plantings.

An historical acequia, also known as an irrigation ditch, makes a water feature complete with koi. That is Yucca rostrata looking like a couple of Ziggy Stardust wigs. An out of focus Erythrina is behind it.

A well photographed cactus beside the chapel. After I took this picture, I noticed other tourists aiming their cameras at it, too.

Despite the arid impression given by the gravel and succulents in the photos, the overall feel of the grounds is to me one of lushness. Ancient live oaks shade hidden patios, and varieties of palm trees punctuate the planting areas. Never mind that I was at the site of a desperate battle and military shrine--I just wanted to sit down on a bench with a good margarita and raise a glass to my ancestors.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Rock out

Now the pile of piles is sold, sorted, donated, restacked elsewhere, gone. This load of limestone blocks is the last thing to go. Those blocks made mighty good bed edging in my old garden, and I brought them along when we moved here. I am a bit sentimental about them.

An elderly lady who gave me these blocks said they were from the demolished Houston High School. The name suggests that at one time this megapolis of Houston had a single high school. Now that is a mental exercise to contemplate! Unfortunately it's not hard to grasp that the school building was demolished—that is just what we do with our public buildings in this city.

An old photo of the Houston High School building can be seen here.

The historic rubble is still with me, in the new, relocated pile of piles. It may well sit there hosting a succession of geckos for another geological age, but I am hoping it becomes sculpture or garden bones again soon.

I kicked little animals out into the cold

Over yonder in the yard was a pile of piles which I called The Quarry. It was full of good useful stuff--salvaged bricks, leftover stone—but it looked bad and it sprawled across my best garden real estate. (A new neighbor saw it once and burst out laughing, ‘You said you were a landscape designer?’) Sure, the quarry was a blight, but it was full of potential and had actual dollar value.

It was also habitat. I didn’t realize that until one cold day I started dismantling the pile to sell and donate. I evicted:

An unhappy cold skink rudely awakened from hibernation. Immediately after the photo he and his kin won a vacation at the balmy compost pile.

A miserable leopard gecko. All geckos were compt an upgrade to the crawl space under the house. They share the accommodations again with numerous toads, unphotographed.

Earthworms. (Not pictured: slugs, wood roaches, all sizes)

A little frog. Where did it go?? It jumped, apparently into the ether. I could not find it again to bring it to safety. Remorse.

Since that cold day I began on the quarry, I’ve continued the sorting and dismantling on the occasional warm afternoon. Yesterday I finished! A great swath of future garden has been revealed. I hope the little animals will reposess it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

What's Growing in the Wall?

It’s a maidenhair fern/Adiantum capillis-veneris, and a number of otherwise nice people have offered to yank it out for me. They don’t know marvelous when they see it.

I used to have big pots of maidenhair fern on the porch where they could get shade and, on principle, water. Whenever I came or went from the house I had to pass them and give them water when the soil was less than damp.

That was the theory, but in practice I would tear off to work, noting the pitiful state of the garden as a whole, and then drag back home after dark.

When the maidenhair had dwindled to a few pale fronds begging for merciful death, I composted them and transplanted walking iris into the pots for instant success. They sit on Prairie Style brick pilasters bookending the porch steps, and one of the pilasters has a big crack in its concrete topper. When the iris pots are watered, moisture seeps through the concrete.

This is a lot like the dripping cliffs of central Texas which are the maidenhair fern’s natural habitat. So, naturally, a fern has grown out of the mortar. It’s not a home maintenance error, it’s a marvel.

Unearthed treasures

Years ago I volunteered in Turkey to help build and landscape a bus shelter on a roundabout. Loads of sand were brought in by dump trucks, and the junk in the loads fascinated me. There were ancient bits of tiles, glass gone iridescent with age, and chips of colorful marble. It happened that the volunteer organizer was an archeology student. I would bring her some little treasure for diagnosis. She would say ‘Hmm. Byzantine’ and chuck it over her shoulder.

When I am digging in Houston, I think about the Turkish archeologist when the shovel gritches against something buried. ‘Hmm. Rebar…from last year’. As my house was built in 1923, there actually are several decades of possible treasures to find. I use the term treasure very loosely here. I am easily pleased.
A buckle (with staghorn fern / Platycereum bifurcatum mugging in the background)

Aluminum fence post finials

A fossilized gas heater decoration

Pot stand from a rangetop. It can still be a pot stand, for terra cotta pots on the patio.