Tuesday, November 20, 2012


The heat had already begun by mid-April and the day was off to a very late start. We Divas gradually straggled in and found Buffy still engulfed in her ambitious menu. The table looked lovely!

We wandered outside to check out the garden. Mattie had brought Barbie along, hoping she and Libby would have fun. Aha! Finally a photo with a pretty dog instead of a Barbie-shaped blur.

Breakfast arrived at the table at 10:45 am. Here a basket of crescent rolls & blueberry muffins complements spicy fresh ham from The Noble Pig (This small restaurant near the corner of El Salado & FM 620 has garnered a huge amount of buzz since opening in far Northwest Austin!)

We are in for another treat today... Buffy has made Eggs Sardou, gently poached eggs, cradled in artichoke hearts, nestled on a bed of spinach and covered in Hollandaise sauce -

The berries & pineapple missed their photo opportunity but here is Loquat Jam from a local Farmers Market. Buffy & I both have loquat trees - maybe our 2012 crops will be abundant enough to make some loquat jam, too.

When we went out we saw that Buffy had turned the remains of her 2011 project into art for the front bed... remember how we struggled to get this ex-Texas Sage out of the driveway border?

The drive bed plants had done amazingly well in the drought - here we see Buffy showing her helpful nephew Jimmy how to deadhead flowers while Libby supervises.

Buffy had more ideas for that drive bed this time but her main project was to turn another part of her parkway from not-happy grass into a water-wise planting. After a lot of work, the bed was stripped of grass and turned with the tiller, but oh, my!

The soil was fill dirt - brought in during construction and full of small, chunky rocks. Buckets and buckets were sifted out from just this small strip.

Meanwhile in other parts of the yard Divas pruned the barberry hedge, worked on the gateside bed and pruned, weeded and tidied the center bed

Divas redid the original parkway planting and even worked on the edge of the lawn. 

Back at the hell stip #2, another power tool mixed in amendments, including expanded shale.

After more hours of work the bed was done with rock edges in place. The plants included Blackfoot Daisy, Damianita/Creosote shrub, Rosemary, Lychnis coronaria, 4-nerve daisy and a few plants Buffy had bought without tags. This job was approved by Libby.

Then the bed we redid in 2011 was clipped & groomed and new plants were added, including white iris, a Yellow Knockout rose and several Salvias from Barton Springs Nursery (our guess on ID is 'Wendy's

We finished that bed then began pruning and clipping yaupons and other shrubs and trees but we avoided making any cuts on the live oaks in Spring. The experts advise that the safest time to prune live oaks to avoid oak wilt is in late winter.
By the time all the front beds were in good order it was 4:45 pm - we were ready for a fabulous lunch! Buffy surprised us with Steak Salad - ribeye on the grill cut in strips to top mixed greens

With lots of wonderful extras to top that salad and soft breadsticks on the side

Steak salad is quite attractive when assembled!

No Pudge brownies with more toppings were the sweet end to the meal, but you'll have to imagine those brownies... we were laughing so hard when Barbie decided to sit at the table with the Divas of the Dirt that I forgot to snap a photo of the dessert

I did catch one more picture of the stunning floral arrangement - thanks for a fun day, Buffy!

Posted by Diva Glinda/Annie in Austin

Friday, September 14, 2012


Written by Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt Blog 

On this warm March garden day, Mattie set her table with a special collection of dishes from her sister Patti. The dishes arrived piece by piece, traveling from country to country and from state to state. The result was sentimental as well as spectacular, crowned by a centerpiece of beautiful, densely-petaled roses in an unusual color. Mattie and Mindy said they were Rio roses, but Rio seems to be the grower rather than the variety.  

Egg & vegetable fritattas were almost ready to serve with sides of guacamole, turkey bacon, juice and fruit salad with grapes.

 Topping the menu was Blueberry French Toast, a dish with a personal connection for Mattie: 
The recipe came from Panache -  a beautiful cookbook that Mattie's niece helped to create for a hospital fundraising project  Link to Panache Cookbook

The temperatures were already warm when we went out to hear about the day's project and check out the plants we'd use. Mattie had chosen two roses, 'Julia Child' and 'Cinco de Mayo' along with a bronzy-red crepe myrtle, a good-sized pomegranate with developing fruit, silver ponyfoot, yellow lantana, gaillardia/blanket flower, bicolor sage, white Gaura, Salvia 'May Night' and tropical Butterfly weed/Asclepias currasavica. Passalong plants brought by the Divas included a huge clump of Setcreasia/Purple heart, White iris, Peach iris, Mexican mint marigold, a big sack of Salvia 'Black & Blue', White Salvia coccinea, and a small clump of Blue Mistflower (botanically either Conoclinium greggii or Eupatorium greggii )

A front yard with one tall tree trunk centered in an empty square of thirsty grass was not working for Mattie! The canopy on the tree had been raised so high that instead of connecting the house and garden and lessening the impact of the street, the trunk added a harsh vertical bar to the landscape. Our project would be to add a shorter, leafy tree - the new pomegranate-  to anchor a new border with a mix of plants. 

For the second part of the project we would add another bed where the lot met the curb. Making grass grow in a spot like this takes a lot of water! Mattie would rather use this precious resource on plants for birds and butterflies.

The Divas of the Dirt used a garden hose to lay out the long kidney shaped bed, with much discussion by Buffy, Sugar, Karla and Mindy as to where that line should go!

The tiller is always handy to dig up the bed and mix in amendments but Mattie had another job for it - rather than simply moving it along, she held it down in one spot, harnessing the power to excavate large holes for the pomegranate tree, the crepe myrtles and the shrub roses.

Diva-Annie took on a separate task - removing the stones that filled a bed near the entry. Mattie had plans for that bed and Annie's work would get it ready. Things were progressing.

We hadn't realized how large the project would be or exactly what we'd be doing... we needed a lot more compost! We needed rakes! We needed compost & soil sifters! Since Buffy had already planned on a quick trip to take her son to work, she offered to make a tool & supply run. I felt about 100-years old that morning, so volunteered myself as her assistant.

While the rest of the Divas soldiered on in the 90°F heat we went off on our hunter-gatherer mission. We picked up tools from Buffy's house, stopped for more at my house, made a third stop at Sophia's and then headed to Countryside for bags of Revitalizer Compost. A special sale brought in customers and long lines. Eventually Buffy moved her vehicle to the loading area and we stacked bag after bag in the back.

We returned to Mattie's house, sure that with that compost the plants would have a better chance of survival and that the tools would make it easier to get the borders in shape. It was amazing how much progress had been made already. Some plants from existing borders were transplanted into the new bed, and the plants in containers were set in all over the garden.

By late afternoon everyone was delighted to hear that lunch was ready. We deserted the Dirt for the Dining room.

 Mattie had a second feast ready for us - delicious tomato-basil soup

Crab cake salad with garlic toast

and Cherry Cobbler with Bluebell Ice cream.

Can you see a dog in this photo? Barbie is a sweetie but she's so alert and responsive every Diva Day that most photos have been blurs! Maybe next month.

After we went back outside, the project moved toward completion- stones were sifted out, amendments mixed in, edges cut and recut. We paid careful attention to placing the plants where they'd not only look good but would have a chance at survival - Texas summers are brutal.
Long slow deep handwatering settled them in and mulch gave the borders a finished look, held in moisture and insulated the roots against the heat.

The large pomegranate border looked pretty cool!

The curb bed was going to be a knockout once it got going! Better give that native Blue Mist plant plenty of room!

And Mattie's plan for attracting wildlife was already working - check out the dragonfly that appeared like magic!

A few months later Mattie sent this photo of that tiny piece of Blue Mist plant - now very happy, greatly expanded in size, and spangled with Queen butterflies.

Written by Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt Blog

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Written by Diva Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt Blog  

Any garden day at Sophia's house is guaranteed to deliver both a satisfying gardening experience and an overwhelming dining experience but this time there was something extra... Sophia's mother Hazel and her sister Gina had been traveling the US by train and they would be here in Austin for Sophia's garden day. We looked forward to meeting her family and to helping Sophia get her garden back in shape after winter.

Oatmeal nut muffins and banana muffins were piled up on the beautiful table (I do covet that bird tablecloth!), and a compote of berries, pineapple and nectarines looked wonderful. 

Sophia decided to bake something she hadn't made before - two delicious quiches - one with broccoli & turkey and another with ham & bacon.

It was fun to see Sophia & her mom Hazel standing side by side, ready to take on the day!

Shade and careful watering by both Sophia and Roger had kept most of their plants alive through 2011 (still referred to Austinites as the Summer from Hell), but late fall and winter rains had made some of the surviving plants a little too happy. The weather channels had warned that rain was still a possibility on Sophia's day  but we thought we could get most of the work done anyway.

Much of today's project could be described as outdoor housekeeping - we had zillions of cedar elm leaves to rake and many yard bags of sticks to pick up

We pulled weeds from beds and borders, removed a sea of henbit and chickweed and got the vegetable squares ready for planting. Some of the Divas figured out a new configuration for that area.

In other parts of the yard Divas were pruning crepe myrtles, cutting back wild branches of buddleia, snipping out dead leaves on the large sweep of Cast Iron Plants and taming the out-of-bounds Mutabilis Rose... but who could cut off a flower that was brave enough to bloom in February?

There was a bit of a cold wind and the air was damp - something was sending pollen out to irritate the allergic among us, but the satisfaction of getting everything ready for Spring was stronger than momentary discomfort. The front garden was looking good!

In truth, our reward was much greater than the work we did - three cooks, Sophia, Hazel and Gina - had prepared a feast! I stopped taking photos of weeds and tools and aimed the camera at the wonderful food.

 The Big Salad with Bacon started us off with a crunch. 

We all love Sophia's Signature Dish of Italian Wedding Soup, here joined by Hazel's Signature Dish, A Rice, Sausage & Noodle Casserole.

The Three Cooks had made delectable Carmelized Onion & Mushroom Tartlets, some with walnuts and some without walnuts (recipe HERE)

We were treated to Olive Bread and we all got to try Lupini beans. (If you want to make these beans yourself and can faithfully attend to them daily for a few weeks, HERE is a recipe.)

 We didn't get dessert ... there were THREE desserts!

A trio of gelato for starters: Pistachio, White Chocolate and Tiramisu

Gina's Signature Dish was this spectacular, genuine, made from scratch Italian Cream Cake (one of the best cakes I have ever tasted... The Italian Cream Cake recipe is at the Divas of the Dirt Recipe Blog.)

It was followed by Gina's amazing second "cake" - less a cake than a Confection (go Here for Recipe), assembled from Oreo cookies, Cool whip, Chocolate fudge topping, Instant Pudding and Ice Cream Sandwiches and frozen - ultra rich and quite delicious.

We talked and laughed, heard stories, were amazed to see Mattie's pup Barbie waltz into another Diva house and steal the hearts of  Sophia's pooches Tedster & Chukster. We even got a little more work done that day, but you can't see it... I never took another photo after sampling those three desserts.

As usual, we had Too Much Fun at Sophia's house!

Written by Diva Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt Blog