Monday, June 29, 2009


Sophia's garden day looked like a tough one:
"... just looked up the temp for Saturday-97 degrees! ...All I can offer is a little shade, cool beverages, and ... vinca to pull out (the sequel to (Mindy's) Bermuda Triangle!) We will be working in the front yard on the bed close to the house and ... in the sidewalk strip, make a bed there and top with decomposed granite... will have breakfast ready by 8:30 so we can get out there early enough for a cool breeze or two to hit us-ha!"
Diva-Annie was at Sophia's door when I pulled up - the scents from the kitchen were enticing! Sophia and her husband Roger were ready for the Divas of the Dirt.
We'd worked on the back garden for Sophia's 2008 project - doing the preliminary work on replacing the unhappy grass with a granite path leading to a seating area. The completed path looked great and I snapped a few photos in the morning light.

We'd worked back here in 2006 and 2008 - what fun to see this pretty, functioning shady patio garden unfold over the last few years!
The oatmeal pancakes were delicious and the hearty Potato-Egg dish enticing but the compote of fruit totally amazed us - Roger had combined fresh figs, peaches, blueberries and prosciutto in a killer combination with one of his special vinaigrettes.

Out in the front we agreed with Sophia - some of the grass in the parkway needed help and some of it should be torn out and better plants installed.

Grass didn't grow on the front edge - time for a redo - the Divas decided that although the separate, smaller beds with established plants looked pretty good, one large border surrounded by stone edging would be even better. Luckily Sophia and Diva-Annie had collected a wheelbarrow full of freebies because it was time to Rock this Bed!

Mindy's diamond hoe flew so quickly it looks like a blur as weeds and Bermuda grass disappear from the center area of the bed where the new plants will go.
All the tools are ready for turf-removal (some of it will be transplanted to the North end of the parkway), digging and mixing in amendments.
A garden hose outlines the interior shape of the new unified border. Sophia's front yard is overhung with a few large Cedar Elms - sometimes a pain for pollen and leaves - but their filtered shade lets in enough light for foliage plants and flowers while shielding the garden from the worst of summer's sun. With a little breeze even a day in the nineties was tolerable.
We weeded existing beds and Diva-Annie took on the task of digging up many square yards of invasive Vinca major which had started out as a rooted cutting from a friend but now had overwhelmed the fern bed near the front porch. Sometimes Annie had help, sometimes she worked alone, patiently working in the tangle, determined to free the ferns from captivity and make space for the beautiful caladium plants that Sophia had bought. Caladiums can usually take heat if they are in shade and Sophia has that! She also bought a couple of gorgeous hostas - if anyone can make them thrive in Austin it will be Sophia.

Everyone is a gourmet cook at this house! We'd been spoiled by Roger's culinary arts at previous meetings...this time he started the banquet with Caprese salad and a luscious Cantaloupe soup. Next came piquant pasta salad paired with Sophia's homestyle stuffed peppers. We were thrilled to hear that Sophia's son Mark had made a Tres Leches Cake for dessert. It seemed impossible that the amazing chocolate cake Mark made for us in 2007 could be equaled or surpassed, but his Tres Leches belongs on a pedestal...wonderful!

Mindy had suspected that the reason everything died in the parkway was the soil - what's put in by contractors is frequently the sandy loam nicknamed "Red Death" by gardeners. Her idea was to dig in amendments and raise the bed before making a new flower bed in the center of the parkway and replanting the far end with turf that was removed when the beds were joined together. We hope the resprigged parkway can make it.

On the other side of the walk the Divas used our new Mantis tiller to make everything ready, then built a cool foot path before adding plants. You can see the caladiums sitting ready in their pots near the front porch. This kind of shade is just perfect for those Aspidistra/Cast Iron plants near the tree trunks

At the South end of the unified bed are two 'Mutabilis' roses which had a rather drastic pruning. Taking out some of the oldest rose canes might let the adjoining Bauhinia regain its shape and the pruning should encourage the roses to rebloom in late summer or fall.
Before we left at 7PM that night we'd placed the caladiums but not planted them. I went back a few days later to take "after" photos and with the Divas' cars and tools removed from the view, saw a transformed landscape.
The new layered look with rock edging seems to work well for Roger & Sophia's front garden from the new parkway bedto the outlines of the new unified bed
to the shady area of ferns, hostas and caladium near the front door

There's a whole colorful world for Sophia and her family to enjoy!


  1. oh my divas are amazing!! i can only imagine how gorgeous it all looks in person with how beautiful the photos are. i am so happy i happened upon your blog. you guys are really inspiring!

    and the food sounds like it was divine too!!

  2. Hi Cat - you commented fast! I didn't even get a chance to tell the other Divas that the new posts were up ;-]

    We might be glad to have the photos as mementos of our work if this heat and drought keep up - let's hope the promised storms really appear.

    Thanks for coming and commenting.



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