This post, “2015- MAY KARLA’S GARDEN DAY” was written by Annie in Austin for the Divas of the Dirt blog.

Central Texas near the end of May 2015 was awash in storms and floods – bridges and dams washed out or over, people and houses swept away by the raging Blanco river and historical flooding in San Marcos, downtown Austin and Houston. Although the rising waters almost entered the front doors of a couple of Divas, in the end those storms hadn’t damaged any of us too badly. But life itself brewed storms for many of us – health issues & hospitalizations, financial issues, sad farewells to loved ones, family troubles and more.

Rain was once again predicted on Karla’s day, but she decided to chance the weather and hope we could help her cut back, weed, compost and mulch everything we could see. Sophia couldn’t be there but the rest of us would do our best. No matter what, we wanted to be together.

A beautiful red daylily bloomed near in the parkway where it had good drainage – and this spring at least- plenty of water.

The border with Karla’s big Abelia at center needed some tending, but the shrub was in full bloom, with its flowers a favorite of bees and butterflies.

In Karla’s dining room the table awaited us, the combination of colors and flowers elegant and welcoming.
A big bowl of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and oranges looked refreshing next to the gluten-free coffeecake.

The simply terrific breakfast casserole was a baked blend of mushrooms, sausage, eggs, peppers and cheeses.

Looks as good as it tastes!

The morning view looks pretty good already, but we are sure we can make it better. The Divas wander around, looking and deciding what part they’ll work on today – we all know this front garden very well by now.

Ooooh, look – don’t remember this plant from our last visit. It’s that red-flowering Rajin Cajun Ruellia often talked about in gardening columns. Well, this side of the entrance looks good.

But the straggly artemesia is just not working on the other side of the entrance. It wants sun! This area is shadier and drier than it was when Karla first made the bed. We’ve tried many plants over the years and some worked for awhile, but the conditions in this spot are quite challenging.

Out in the parkway a rosemary plant is so happy that it’s blocking foot traffic on the sidewalk – it needs to be taken back quite a lot.

Plants in the fence border are doing well but the edge had been lost… Mindy soon sharpened it up.

A friend offered free stones to Karla and she said “Yes!” Now a good-size stack of stones and rocks awaited those Divas who took on the drive bed – Karla hoped for a stone border all the way around that bed and it soon began taking shape.

Here’s a view of the partly done bed from another angle.

Maybe this will work in that difficult entrance bed? A large pot with a giant liriope, surrounded by variegated Aztec grass. Simple, with some structure, and in our experience, plants like Liriope and Ophiopogon are amazingly tough and drought-resistant after they’re established.

Ah – here’s the done fence bed, some transplants, some weeds out, things cut back and all composted and mulched.

Diva Sugar had to leave, but for the rest of us it was time for a lunch buffet set out in Karla’s breakfast room. At left is a colorful salad of Pepper strips, cucumbers and garbanzo beans. Center is a green salad with strawberries and lemon-mustard dressing. The casserole at right was a delicious combination of rice, chicken and black beans.

The lunch looked colorful and fresh, tasted great and since it was gluten-free, could be shared by all. With so many things happening in all our lives, instead of small talk, our conversation changed to deep talk and it was a very emotional meal. Brownies with vanilla-flecked ice cream added a sweetness that we all needed that afternoon.

The threatened rain didn’t arrive so we went back out and got more done. Although Mindy and I had to leave by 4:45pm, the other four Divas stayed on, with Buffy setting stones while Mattie, Annie and Karla spread mulch in the back yard. Karla sent photos of the done project.

The stone border, reset plants and mulched center looked really good!

So did the entrance border…  mulch really made those variegated plants pop.

And the long fence border has its graceful lines back.

See you next month at Mindy’s house!

This post, “2015- MAY KARLA’S GARDEN DAY” was written by Annie in Austin for the Divas of the Dirt blog.


2015 - April and Early May Flowers

This post "2015 - April and Early May Flowers" was written by Diva Glinda/Annie in Austin for her Divas of the Dirt blog.

Remember the 2014 Cactus Removal project at Mindy's last year? When we Divas of the Dirt left there was a large sweep of cleared ground in the front of her house. Mother Nature filled the vacuum in spectacular fashion, as you can see in the photo from April 2015, with Mindy's metal horse sculpture surrounded by an enormous patch of bluebonnets that sprang up in the empty space.

The 2014 Iris Box project at Glinda's house was a success, too... in April 2015 these happy iris obviously appreciate their new home! These grape-scented beauties are passalong plants, shared by Sophia back in 2006.

There was no Divas of the Dirt garden day for April 2015 - unforeseen illness interfered with well-made plans. But there were still beautiful flowers!

In early May Diva Annie's overachieving Abutilon reached for the roof, dangling beautifully veined bell-shaped flowers above our heads. This variety is named for garden designer Patrick Kirwin.

And the leadball tree planted in Sophia's revamped side-drive border had settled in well, popping their golden orbs in early May.

This post "2015 - April and Early May Flowers" was written by Diva Glinda/Annie in Austin for her Divas of the Dirt blog.



This post, 2015-MARCH  MATTIE’S GARDEN DAY, was written by Annie in Austin/Diva Glinda for her Divas of the Dirt blog.

Before her March garden day, Mattie emailed some information on what her project would be and asked that we bring any unwanted cardboard, newspapers and phone books to her house to fill the under layers of her planned Keyhole Garden. Mattie was intrigued with the idea of building a Keyhole Garden after meeting Deb Tolman - who brought the concept from Africa to Texas - at a conference. These gardens are especially useful in dry places with thin soil – sure sounds like parts of Texas! 
But instead of using recycled concrete, stones, heavy cement pavers or bricks, Mattie decided to buy a kit with a frame and corrugated sides. After we saw her idea photo, we were intrigued, too!

The weather for Mattie’s project day was pleasant but the Divas were not in top form. Sophia and Annie were so sick they decided to stay home and the rest of us were feeling creaky for a variety of reasons. As we’ve learned over the years, we often feel better once we’re working together, all talking and laughing. Of course that euphoric effect can sometimes be temporary so we might feel even worse after we stopped!

On the way in from the street I was floored by the sight of Mattie’s Peach Iris in full bloom. A few divisions shared in spring 2012 and planted in good organic soil with lots of sun had spread into a 5-ft sweep of beauty, form and fragrance. These were very happy iris!

Inside, tulips announced the season and pretty cupcakes promised a sweet reward after the project was done.

Mattie had made both a Spinach-Mushroom Quiche and a Broccoli-Pepper Quiche, a huge Berry-fruit salad with grapes, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries, and a nostalgic surprise – homemade Corned Beef Hash.

 In the hall we saw a very large box destined for the back yard – could an entire keyhole garden fit inside?

We looked at the big front border – the plants looked pretty healthy for March but where had all those Nettles come from?

Grass is invading this bed and the winter-killed tops of plants need to be cut back.

The lantanas have died close to the ground, but little leaves at the base are ready to grow. Let’s cut them back and get another crop of nettles out of this border!

Tree seedlings and weeds have invaded the little path by the entrance but they’ll soon be banished.

We split up into two teams… Karla, Sugar and I stayed in front to move along the ground tackling weeds, cutting back the tops of frozen perennials and reclaiming the edges of all the beds. (Mattie snapped this photo.)

Mattie, Buffy and Mindy took their tools into the back yard to start the layout and assembly of the keyhole garden. After some time they were pleased to see that the frame looked like the instruction manual.

Many more parts sit ready to be used in the next stages – will it all fit together eventually?

Tada! After a few glitches, the keyhole garden is assembled with wire basket tower ready to go!

The Divas roamed back and forth between front and back yards, visiting, kibitzing and working. Some finished the weeding, edging and cultivating of the beds. Other Divas sawed out pesky saplings that sprouted along the fence line, then cut up the pieces and layered them into the keyhole garden.

Many more layers were needed - branches, phone books, leaves, newspapers and any organic material we could gather, including piles of cardboard boxes brought by those Divas still in the midst of kitchen remodeling projects.

 “Time for a lunch break!” says Mattie.

Although we all like to cook, sometimes the wisest and most efficient choice is to let an Austin restaurant cook. This month Mattie chose Rudy’s BBQ. Their brisket is fine but Rudy’s turkey is my personal favorite. With salads and beans it was quite a feast.

Some Divas decided to leave the traditional white bread (and its gluten) in the bag. Rudy’s tastes as good as it looks.

Time for those cupcakes!

We went back out and worked for awhile longer. Lucky Mattie had a family member in East Texas who had access to bags of what gardeners consider as treasure: bags of pinestraw mulch. We used the fallen dry needles mixed with partially decomposed leaves over the soil in all the beds and borders.

Now the entrance bed looks good.

The big central bed looks good and the iris look even better with the weeds gone.

And the long front border sweeps smoothly across the front of the house again.

As to the keyhole garden – Mattie continued to rip cardboard and add to the interior of the doughnut-shaped enclosure and then added soil to the top so herbs and a few smaller vegetables could be planted. She still hunter-gathers organic material to keep the level up and it’s provided some food all year. When Diva Annie and I were at Mattie’s house last November, Mattie was still picking cherry tomatoes from her Keyhole garden. 

This post, 2015-MARCH  MATTIE’S GARDEN DAY, was written by Annie in Austin/Diva Glinda for her Divas of the Dirt blog.


2015-February BUFFY'S GARDEN DAY

This post, 2015-February BUFFY'S GARDEN DAY, was written by Annie in Austin/Diva Glinda for her Divas of the Dirt Blog

Our Divas project in February 2015 was a "just in case" kind of project. Buffy was considering a move to a different house, so just in case, we came over to weed, rake, clip, clean up and mulch.

The weather had been mild and Mark Murray told us that Saturday would be in the 70s F with a chance of a shower. Since ice and cold weather was predicted for Sunday night/Monday morning, it seemed best to concentrate on cleaning and mulching - not planting.

As part of her just in case plan, Buffy had ordered new garage doors. That meant a lot of the garage collection had to move into the dining room and the Divas of the Dirt would gather in the living room instead. 

Buffy made fillings and prepared toppings for breakfast tacos. She also tried a new recipe - the baked oatmeal was a hit.

But she ran into some trouble with the baked bacon. The fire alarm went off over and over. Each time it started up, Buffy's three small dogs Luci, Lynda & Fredric, and Mattie's visiting social butterfly Barbie became howling furballs. The baked bacon didn't look all that great, but it tasted pretty good!

The scrambled eggs came out perfect for breakfast tacos.

And so did the sausage.

The fruit salad was just right to start a warm February day.

Everything is on the island counter - we're ready for breakfast!

Buffy's lovely bouquet shocked my camera with its vivid colors so I hope you can tell how pretty it was.

We went outside and gave everything in sight what my mom used to call "a lick and a polish" - not trying to redo anything, but to spruce up everything.

Here's the main front view before, complete with photobombing Barbie.

There are good wildflowers mixed in with those lawn weeds... one reason to do it by hand instead of with chemicals.

The parkway is usually a bright spot all year, but it looks awfully tired and overgrown right now.

While we were outside a few members of Buffy's family stopped by and said hello.

Eventually we stopped working and went in to a surprise lunch - well - is it still "lunch" at 4:30pm? Buffy had ordered BBQ from local chain PoK-e-Jo'S Smokehouse.  We loved the turkey, brisket and sausage, potato salad, coleslaw, beans, onions, pickles and jalapenos.

And for dessert? Secret recipe Buttermilk Pie... so delicious. We can't say a word about which restaurant secret fell into Buffy's hands, but we sure hope she doesn't lose that recipe!

I didn't get a photo of the strawberries for the top, and also didn't get a photo of the Italian Cream Cake from Upper Crust Bakery. Guess you'll just have to go down to Burnet & 45th to see it for yourself.

I didn't take this photo but am glad Mattie had her camera ready to catch Mindy having a heart-to-heart with Fredric!

Out in the yard we'd managed to get a lot done.

The bluebonnets that had seeded in the lawn were now free of smothering weeds, ready to bud and burst into bloom. 15

Weeds were banished and straggling plants cut back and mulched in all three parkways.

And after much clipping, pruning, weeding and mulching the large central border looked good again.

We'd had a day of work with great food and best of all, a chance to share updates on home remodeling projects, work problems, accidents & mishaps, pet illnesses, new car purchases, family squabbles, family good stuff, new exercise and diet ideas and not-so-good health news. There had been so many ups and downs in all our lives that it was kind of a group therapy session with gardening. Some things would eventually work out and some remain unresolved, but at least we got to be together.

We were tired, but whether or not the move happened, knew we'd helped Buffy and made a difference.

This post, 2015-February BUFFY'S GARDEN DAY, was written by Annie in Austin/Diva Glinda  for her Divas of the Dirt Blog