Friday, October 06, 2017

2016, May 14 - Sophia’s Garden Day

2016, May 14 - Sophia’s Garden Day was written by Annie in Austin/Diva Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt Blog

With the ground softened by rain a few days earlier, six Divas of the Dirt met at Sophia’s house, hoping to get some weeding, clipping and planting done for our friend. Sugar and Mattie were both out of town with family.

Assorted health issues meant our group was kind of wobbly (Buffy was using a cane after leg surgery) but we’d do our best.

Sophia’s table was festive but not fussy… ready for a wonderful meal. Since this was Sophia – even breakfast had an appetizer. Apple strudel appeared while she worked on the main breakfast recipe.

The recipe was “Nonna’s Eggs”, a special dish that had been handed down from Sophia’s grandmother. Eggs were separated and the egg whites beaten into peaks. The whites were piled onto toast arranged on a baking sheet, then a little hollow was made in the center so a yolk could be slipped in. After a sprinkle of salt and pepper, they were baked in the oven.

Simple ingredients somehow combined into unexpected textures with great flavor.

Strawberries, blueberries, grapes and bananas made a delicious salad.

Here is the fruit salad, fried potatoes and Nonna’s Eggs – oops – didn’t get a photo of the chicken breakfast sausage.

 Out in the front garden we noticed the native Inland Sea Oats were doing extremely well. Sophia’s Shell Ginger/Alpinia zerumbet 'Variegata' looked bouncy, too. Obviously she had remembered to bring it into shelter last winter.

Eight months previously the Divas had helped Sophia and Roger with a sod-laying project. The replaced lawn looks as if it has settled in well.

Under the large Cedar Elms the Cast Iron Plant reigns. In some years it needs a lot of snipping by Divas, but it looked pretty good today.

The parkway did need Diva help – it was full of grassy weeds and cedar elm seedlings, and some plants had bailed from too much rain.

We Divas of the Dirt like to share so Annie brought Salvia ‘Black & Blue’, Obedient plant/ Physostegia virgiania and some fall aster AKA Symphyotrichum oblongifolium. I brought the yellow-flowering Salvia madrensis. Karla decided that we could use more of that useful fall aster and zipped over to her house to dig more. 

Things moved along pretty well – that’s fall aster wrapped in newspaper, ready to plant. We got everything going pretty well.

The bed along the driveway need some weeding too –but who even sees weeds when a beautiful small native tree like Golden Leadball Tree is in bloom? ( Call it Leucaena retusa if you want to be precise.) 

Drizzle started up and we ignored it at first, but a crack of thunder with lightning sent us inside for a while.

Not long after we went back out there was a surprise. As if hosting a garden day was not exciting enough,  that afternoon was also New Pre-Owned Car day for Roger & Sophia –  this gleaming auto arrived like a kiss of sunshine. Wow! It was gorgeous.

The rain held off long enough for us to weed and clip the front groundcovers area but we didn’t get to finish the job. Heavy rain drove us back into the house in mid-afternoon. (Total rain for this weekend “event” was about 4 inches.)

Before quitting, Mindy insisted on making sure the parkway and front edge of the main yard got mulched.

Sophia served a feast for our late lunch: Salad of mini kale, spinach and chard with Feta cheese, grape tomatoes and artichoke hearts, Greek olives and ginger dressing.

Sophia let Costco make the Chicken Alfredo  -  I don’t want to sound like an ad, but it was really good! 

The dessert was also a Costco treat – have you ever seen such an enormous Cherry Pie?

We hadn’t really done enough garden work to deserve those lovely meals, but that is the chance we take in Central Texas. Unpredictable weather is always lurking, ready to sneak in and spoil the most well-made plans.

2016, May 14 - Sophia’s Garden Day was written by Annie in Austin/Diva Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt Blog

Monday, March 13, 2017


This post, 2016 – APRIL ANNIE’S GARDEN DAY, was written by Diva Glinda/ Annieinaustin for the Divas of the Dirt blog 

We Divas of the Dirt won’t work in non-stop downpours but we can still get some gardening done if the showers are brief and intermittent. That’s what happened last April when Diva Annie had her turn as hostess on a day that mixed sun, drizzle and rain.

Six Divas of the Dirt - Mindy, Karla, Mattie, Buffy, Glinda and hostess Annie sat down for breakfast at this pretty table. Crystal cups holding tiny pots of succulents paraded down the center surrounded by lovely vintage plates in floral patterns.

Diva Sophia was at a meeting and would arrive later.
Although Sugar was out of town, her two pups Junior and Skeeter were staying at Annie’s house. Since Annie also has two dogs (Chip & Dale) and Mattie’s dog Barbie came along to visit, the canine element was well represented! Here are Chip and Skeeter.

Annie made yummy Baked Muffin Eggs – a layer of hash browned potatoes was topped with ham, sauteed peppers and crowned with an egg before popping them in the oven.
She also served waffles – with a choice of regular or gluten free batter.

A big fruit bowl held strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and pineapple and Annie also gave us a choice of three kinds of juice.

What a lovely breakfast - how we enjoyed visiting with each other while disappearing the goodies that Annie had made for us!

When we went out to work after breakfast we had to take time to look around – the relatively mild weather meant that the Mexican Honeysuckle continued to bloom while Crossvine blossoms hung in colorful swags near the gate. And the Anacacho Orchid was already in full bloom.

We worked in small groups at first – branches from the Arizona Ash were overhanging the porch and house - Mindy and Glinda decided to go after some of them with the pole pruner.

Annie and Buffy were ready to clip and weed the central bed where Phlomis AKA Jerusalem Sage and Cyclamen were in bloom.

The front triangle and median bed also needed clipping and weeding so Karla and Mattie took on the assignment. Soon Sophia arrived and as we progressed, just about everyone worked on the beds in the parkway – Annie has a lot of Mexican Honeysuckle!

Yard bags of debris were soon marching down the driveway, awaiting pickup. At one point we were chased in by lightning to wait for the weather to clear a little. We went out again and were just getting back in the rhythm of work when zap! More lightning chased us inside again and Annie declared that it was time for lunch.

The fiesta that Annie unveiled was great – chicken tacos, shrimp tacos and black beans. Annie cooked and peeled seasoned shrimp. She cooked chicken thighs, then ingeniously used a hand mixer to shred the cooked meat.

For toppings she had two kinds of sauce, tomatoes, cilantro, queso, shredded lettuce and  avocado – all on corn tortillas.

Even the beverages were festive – delicious Italian sodas in citrus flavors, found at the local HEB.

Dessert was almost decadent. Annie followed a Martha Stewart recipe for flourless chocolate cake, topped with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

Dear reader, I wish you could taste this delicious cake …

We went outside again and this time had a good dry spell. Soon more of the Arizona Ash was pruned away from the top of the fence. We snipped a little at the Vitex/Chaste Tree but could see that it had expanded beyond the scope of our tools – taming that tree called for a chain saw. The loppers worked well to remove dead wood from the interiors of the Almond Verbena and the Texas Mountain Laurel.

Some new plants went into beds, borders and containers, including violets, scabiosa/Cushion Flower, Kangaroo Paw, Baptisia and skullcaps.

We made a lot of progress but only had time to begin to spread the bags of mulch.

By the time our day ended it was dark and the rain had restarted. We were tired and our hostess was even more weary than we were, but Annie is indomitable! She’d promised to take part in the CAP 10K the next day and she got over that finish line in less than 2 hours.

This post, 2016 – APRIL ANNIE’S GARDEN DAY, was written by Diva Glinda/ Annieinaustin for the Divas of the Dirt blog 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

2016 Spring Flowers

This post 2016, Spring Flowers, was written by Annie in Austin /Diva Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt blog.

The temperatures from January through April of 2016 were much milder than usual – barely dipping into the upper 20s F - so that when spring came, the blooms were spectacular.

In 2015 seeing freeze-dried Texas Mountain Laurels made gardeners sad, but in 2016, Austin exploded in a lavish display of the beloved grape-scented blossoms. Texas Mountain Laurels can range in size from small shrubs to shrubby trees.

Mindy went into a happy spin when her tree looked like this

and the shrubbier forms glowed purple like this!

Glinda rejoiced when her Texas Mountain Laurel turned the back yard into a fragrant party (AKA known as Mescal Bean and botanically it’s Sophora secundiflora).

Mattie delighted in the white blooms of her native Philadelphus inodorus/ Unscented Mockorange. This shrub was so small when it was planted in February 2013!

And Mattie’s bed of fragrant peach iris near the street was in full bloom by the end of March, sending spring greetings to walkers and those who drove past.

Glinda’s garden was full of white roses, butterfly roses,  poppies, iris, mockorange and bluebonnets. Usually Glinda has to buy new small plants of Million Bells/Callibrachoa for her baskets in spring, but in 2016 the mild weather meant plants from the previous year were large and in full bloom by April.

Mattie was pleased when some recently transplanted Sisyrinchium/ Blue Eyed Grass settled in and bloomed right away.

Sophia just had to take a photo of this clump of bluebonnets in mid-April.

What a pretty spring!

This post 2016, Spring Flowers, was written by Annie in Austin /Diva Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt blog.

Sunday, February 05, 2017


This post, 2016 – MARCH GLINDA’S GARDEN DAY, was written by Annie in Austin/ Diva Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt blog

Five Divas arrived on a windy cool morning in March for Glinda’s garden day – Annie, Mattie (with pup Barbie), Karla and Buffy were ready to go… Mindy would come later but Sophia was out-of-town and Sugar not able to come. Glinda hoped the Divas could help her clean up, and clip the messy front yard.

 In February the front garden had been bright with daffodils and gaura
Those yellow flowers had faded now and it was time for last year’s leaves to leave.
With the date the third weekend in March, Glinda couldn’t resist using a St. Patrick’s Day and St. Joseph’s theme for the food!
The table was definitely Irish – carnations & baby’s breath in shamrock vases.
And the breakfast dishes were at least sort-of Irish, with suggestions and recipes gleaned from various Irish websites. Going clockwise from the big yellow begonia we have fresh pineapple and mandarin orange sections, next a Limerick Cheddar pie with a Boxty crust.  A Boxty is a kind of Irish potato pancake, here used to make a gluten-free potato crust. At the bottom we see grilled tomatoes, then grilled mushrooms. A bowl of mixed strawberries, blackberries and raspberries is at the far left, a platter of gluten-free muffins combining carrots, zucchini and apple, and in the center – a pile of bacon.
We watched the windy cool day through the window and did not rush outside. The back yard is always warmer than the front, so instead of heading to work in the front, we first strolled the back. The winter had been incredibly mild and the garden was full of buds, blooms and new leaves.

An Amethyst bearded iris bloomed with unfrozen Mexican Honeysuckle in the background
A small-flowered southern favorite was in bloom. This is Magnolia figo, often called Banana Shrub for the fragrance of the flowers.
Another fragrant blossom opened on the Meyer’s Improved Lemon Tree. It takes a long time for a pollinated flower to become an edible lemon… with luck there will be a few ready at Thanksgiving.
Another iris, this one a fragrant peach variety, blooms in many Divas of the Dirt gardens because we like to share! Self-seeded Salvia coccinea blooms red in the bed.
While we were in the back, Mindy and Warren arrived. Now in the front yard we can see that the relatively new corner bed needs a lot of help! The rosemary plants are out of control. Karla appoints herself as curator of this corner.
Within a few hours, the central butterfly bed was already much improved
Mindy and Buffy set to work on resetting the tile base for the Mahonia pot, so it was once again standing straight.
The big mutabilis rose (AKA Chinese butterfly rose) had spread out so the ground underneath was unreachable and not enough light was getting to the center. It took a while, but things are better now in the mutabilis bed. 
The long parkway bed looked way better after Annie and Mattie let it know who was boss. Many of the plants needed thinning and heading back so there were lots of starter plants available for any Diva that could use Salvia madrensis, Salvia 'Hot Lips', Pavonia/Rock Rose, Purple verbena or the small iris called Blue-eyed Grass.

By late afternoon we were ready to move from Ireland to Italy for lunch. We started with a salad of spinach and baby greens, mushrooms, avocado dressing, then moved on to Baked Polenta with Roasted Red Peppers and Asiago Cheese.
Then the main dish, Beef Braciole. When Glinda was a kid, her dad used to make these-stuffed beef roll-ups in tomato sauce for a special dinner. Glinda made the stuffing gluten-free for this special lunch.
The finale was a ricotta, chocolate and almond confection called Geppetto Pie. The original recipe called for a cinnamon graham cracker crust, but this crust was made of gluten-free chex cereal, instead.
We went back out and worked a while longer, but the wind never died down so we didn’t try to spread mulch. Oz and I did that a few days later – it looked great and was easy to do after all the work by the Divas of the Dirt!
Karla told us she had some extra edging rocks available – leftovers from a neighbor. Oz and I (Glinda) drove over and filled up the trunk.
Karla had done most of the work on the corner bed – now the rocks she offered to us were perfect to line the path separating the main border from the corner bed. Thanks, Karla!
Happy first day of spring! 

This post, 2016 – MARCH GLINDA’S GARDEN DAY, was written by Annie in Austin/ Diva Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt blog