2010 APRIL, SOPHIA'S GARDEN DAY
March 2010 was fun, but it was not a Garden Day
Glinda's turn (that's me) was scheduled for March. Stacks of collected rocks, bags of mulch and compost and some new plants awaited a redo and rejuvenation of the Pink Entrance Garden. The other Divas of the Dirt arrived at my house. We shared a Soyrizo, eggs & red pepper casserole, blueberry muffins, corn muffins, berries & pineapple and lots of conversation, but thunderstorms and more than one inch of rain changed the gardening plans. At one point the rain let up enough for us to stroll through the wet garden and some of us headed off to an estate sale, then came back for Chicken Salad and Cheesecake. Some good suggestions came out of our conversations but there was no project for March.
APRIL 2010 - The DIVAS FINALLY GET TO PLAY IN the DIRT!
We wondered if Sophia's April date would also be a washout - scattered storms wandered Austin that weekend but although clouds threatened, it never actually rained at her house - yay! A real garden day at last! We'd arrived as usual on Saturday morning, glad to sip hot coffee and snitch bites from Apple-Cinnamon scones while waiting for the full group to gather (Edit April 23: the scones came from Phoenicia Bakery & Deli on Burnet & shortcake came from Central Market on Lamar). Sophia is a fine cook, but today Roger had taken over the kitchen and produced an Emeril-Inspired Mexican Breakfast Casserole with roasted poblanos accompanied by lovely melon slices.
After breakfast we went outside where a new project awaited us - if it went quickly we planned to weed, add plants and compost the front flower & shrub borders, too.
Sophia had a problem area in the front of her house near the garage - one shared by many of us who garden on small suburban lots in established neighborhoods. This spot gets quite good sun (that can be rare in our tree-laden yards) but it also has soil where nothing seemed to grow. And underneath the soil were buried utilities making digging & amending soil quite tricky.
Sophia and Roger wished for vegetables but previous tries at growing them in the back yard were disappointing. Could small raised beds for edibles in the front yard be a solution? Our April project was to give it a try. Sophia had found pre-cut-and-drilled kits for the frames at Home Depot and cotton bur compost for the front flower garden at Hill Country Nursery. A few days before our meeting Sophia and Diva-Annie drove down to the Natural Gardener's soil yard and filled bags of Hill Country Soil mix to fill the vegetable frames. She also went a little nuts buying vegetable and flower plants all over Austin!
Sugar volunteered to use the electric screwdriver as she and DivaAnnie began to put the wooden frames together- this went quite smoothly with many hands ready to slide the corners together and hold the sides stable.
All visible vegetation was weeded from the surface and lightly dug over then the frames were set in place and layers of newspapers arranged over the ground. Buffy & Mindy have been using this biodegradable-barrier technique for years.
Bag after bag of Hill Country Soil was carried over and dumped in - it's amazing how much soil these 4 X 4 frames hold!
Under Karla's direction we used twine to divide the area into squares.
Sophia had so many plants! The cast for this Veggie Play was changed several times as we tried to decide which plants had the best chance of success. The herbs could trail over the corners.
The second frame had larger squares for tomatoes and peppers
After a lot of rearranging the beds were planted. We filled other large pots with soil & compost to hold some tomato & pepper plants that wouldn't fit into the frames
. The two fennel plants went into the flower beds (the swallowtails find them no matter where they're planted) and Mindy thought Sorrel could grow in a patio container in semi-shade. Go little beds, go!
We checked out the rest of the front yard - most of us had lost all our bulbine plants in the harsh winter, but Sophia's bulbine was not only alive - it was blooming!
Sophia wanted the spiky plant in the pot (maybe Cordyline?) moved to shade but she didn't want us to disturb the stump of her Blue Clerodendron. It looks dead but in other years it's come back late so there is still hope.
We left the Clerodendron alone and moved other plants around. Mindy added one of the leftover herbs - Comfrey - to the bed.
The parking strips planted last year were quite established looking - just a little weeding and swapping plants around was all they'd need.
Sophia had a new flower ready for the long parkway bed - she'd fallen in love with Supertunia® Pretty Much Picasso™ and brought this Proven Winners introduction home from Countryside Nursery. If more PMP's can be found this plant will be appearing soon in other Divas of the Dirt gardens!
We moved the potted foliage plant to the large shady bed under the cedar elms and began weeding and adding compost to the whole area. We may never get rid of the hated Asiatic Jasmine but we keep trying and maybe we are winning! The photo below is from 2007, when the vine had taken over.
Sophia regrets listening to the person who told her to plant it a few years ago - Asiatic jasmine can be useful in formal or commercial applications where confined by concrete, but in a woodland setting like this it's an aggressive, invasive plant.
Sophia bought several beautiful Japanese Painted Ferns and many colors and patterns of Caladium for the front shady bed.
Another request was that we'd prune the enormous redtip photinia in the center of the photo above... we warned the redtip that We'd Be Back, and answered the summons to lunch.
Phoenicia Bakery rolls and rosemary bread were perfect with deli ham, capicola and turkey -lots of cool stuff like olives & cornichons and multicolored bite-size tomatoes, tabbouleh and an incredible fruit salad with coconut - Roger's take on Ambrosia Salad.
We thought the fruit salad was dessert - but Sophia then presented a Chocolate cake from Central Market with three flavors of gelato!
We went back outside. Sophia's two large Mutabilis roses were still in bloom and she was happy to see new growth on the Bauhinia - another favorite plant that had been looking iffy after winter. Karla & DivaAnnie made a beeline for the redtip, soon joined by Sugar. The vague instructions from Sophia were to make it look like a tree in a Japanese Garden. (Redtips really ARE Asian trees which are forced into shrub forms). If it died in the process - too bad... she'd buy something better. Soon limbs were visible where there had been a blob of green. Up in the front corner Mindy & Buffy had already divided and reset the daylilies - not the best time to do it, perhaps - but work must be done when there are hands ready. Mindy liked the way the existing Purple oxalis looked with the silver ponyfoot and Lambs ears - she decided that the Purple Shield originally intended for the Caladium & fern bed would give a lot more pop in the front corner. She and I teased some of the Lambs ears out and reset them to extend the silvery band.
Persian Shield/Strobilanthes dyerianus is a popular plant in our Diva gardens but most of us had lost our Persian Shields over winter. Sophia found this one at Shoal Creek Nursery - complete with blooms, which seemed quite unusual!
A new vegetable/herb garden and a refreshed front yard were how the Divas of the Dirt said Happy Spring to Sophia and Roger... and guys... when you start getting some yummy produce, just remember that we helped!