Sunday, June 23, 2013


This post written by Annie in Austin/Diva Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt Blog

Six Divas of the Dirt met at DivaAnnie's in November - Sophia and Sugar couldn't be there, and they missed a pretty fantastic day!

Annie's table looked lovely! White plates in basket weave chargers looked so pretty ranged on either side of a bird-patterned runner. Bird napkins complemented the vintage bird figurines.

DivaAnnie tried a new recipe for eggs, sausage, peppers and mushrooms baked in muffin tins - delicious!

The zucchini bread and a fruit salad of blackberries, grapes, strawberries and pineapple were perfect.

Annie wanted a redo of some overgrown beds and she hoped we could get the ted the entire front garden mulched. But before starting to work we wanted to look at all the wonderful plants she is growing.

Up in one part of the curb bed a riot of flowers were in bloom - red Gomphrena, Blackfoot daisies, lantana and more... maybe that yellow daisy is Zexmenia.

Annie's Podranea ricasoliana/Port St. Johns Creeper has really taken off & blooms well. It's planted inside the gate near a Rose of Sharon but has been successful in sprawling its way over the fence. According to Dave's Garden, other botanical names for this vine are Pandorea ricasoliana, Tecoma ricasoliana and Tecoma Mackenii and other common names are Pink Trumpet Vine, Zimbabwe creeper and Queen of Sheba.

This Mexican Flame vine/Senecio confusus is also doing well - what a bright, autumny flower! This vine is borderline hardy for Austin - luckily for DivaAnnie, her garden is in a warmer part of Austin.

Near the porch the Shrimp Plant/Justicia brandegeana has really settled in, with a huge number of shrimpy-pink flower heads ready to greet visitors

Some beautiful plants are doing a little too well, like this enormous Duranta erecta, also called Golden dewdrop. The problem is that the Duranta grew so large that it had engulfed anything in

the surrounding area - that bit of foliage peeking out from the Duranta's sweeping Ballgown skirt is a stunted White-flowering Russelia equisetiformis/Firecracker Plant.

And some horrible plants are doing well, too - the hated Bermuda grass has invaded this bed, threatening Giant Squill bulbs planted here.

Although some parts of the front parkway were beautiful, the center just looked bedraggled.

Soon Divas of the Dirt were digging out weeds and setting stone blocks and a larger stepping stone in place.

Weeds disappeared and much transplanting followed. It didn't happen quickly, but the white Firecracker/Russelia, some May Night Salvia, a dwarf Lion's Tail/Leonatus, some Four Nerve daisies, and the herbs thyme and Oregano found new spots. I hope the sweet little native Snake Herb (Dyschoriste linearis) will make it!

This front bed is now done and mulched so the native Anacacho Orchid, Argentinian Butterfly Bush and Cape Honeysuckle have a better chance to make it through winter and to bloom again next year. 

Time to head in to the bird table again, this time for lunch! Oh, look! DivaAnnie has also made petite framed pictures for each of us as a memento of our day together

Annie has set the buffet with barbecued brisket, Hawaiian bread, Corn-Potato salad and coleslaw with nuts

For dessert she has baked a fabulous Clementine Chess Pie

We didn't rush through this lovely lunch but we did want to get a little more done before it got dark.
A flowering Senna tree once dominated the right side of the long center bed, but most of it was now dead. The Divas took out the dead wood around the one small live sprout, weeded and mulched the whole bed.

Some Mexican Honeysuckle was transplanted from the established part of the parkway to the newly cleared area and all was mulched.

The established plants in the parkway looked lovely on our workday but I couldn't catch a decent photo. When DivaAnnie and I went to the Empty Bowl project a couple of weeks later I remembered to take photos. Here is the beautiful Mexican Honeysuckle /Justicia spicigera

DivaAnnie's Lion's Tail/Leonatis are so full and flowery!

Two weeks after our project, the mulch looks good, and it contrasts well with the plants in photos, but we discovered that the dark color did not happen naturally, but was added to the wood. While we worked, the black dye got onto our hands, knees and shoes. And it looks as if the mulch didn't stop all those weed seeds from sprouting - more weeding ahead!

This post written by Annie in Austin/Diva Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt Blog

Thursday, June 20, 2013

2012, OCTOBER Flowers

Mattie was pleased with the way the plants were settling into her new borders - she sent a few photos.

The former rock trough next to her front walk was full of happy plants

In the front border, one overly-enthusiastic Lantana decided to climb through the boxwoods up to eye-level

With the blooming bed near the walk as background, the new central bed looked great! A dark blue Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue' softened the area to the back right of the old tree, while the other side was brightened by tropical Butterfly weed (Asclepias curassavica). Iris foliage added some spikiness, Rosemary added needled green density. Salvia 'May Night' popped out violet-blue blooms, the white butterfly-flowers of Gaura lindheimeri floated in front separated from the dark foliage of Bicolor sage (Salvia sinaloensis) by silvery Lamb's Ear (Stachys byzantina).  The Silver ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea) spread and flowed around the taller plants.

Karla's more established garden was showing off fall flowers, too - the Barbados Cherry shrub (Malpighia glabra) makes these delicately scented blossoms and in a good year the flowers produce small red fruit beloved by birds.

A favorite plant of the Divas of the Dirt is Fall Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium ) - here growing in Karla's garden

And Fall Aster is also looking very bouncy tucked into this corner of Diva Annie's garden

This Blue and orange combination grows in Glinda's garden, but both the Blue Butterfly Clerodendron* and the Hot Orange Firecracker plant (Russelia equisetiformis) arrived here as small divisions from Diva Sophia's garden. They've settled in quite well! Backing up this pair is a creamy white Salvia greggii and golden yellow Mexican Mint Marigold (Tagetes lemonnii).

We had no meeting in October - the next gathering took place at DivaAnnie's garden.

*When Sophia gave me the Clerodendron the usual botanical name was Clerodendrum ugandense. But now Dave's Garden lists the preferred name as Rotheca myricoides 'Ugandense', along with 5 other synonyms.  

Posted by Annie in Austin/Diva Glinda

Friday, June 07, 2013

2012 - September GLINDA'S GARDEN DAY

The story of my September 2012 garden project actually began about 30 years ago when whoever lived here at the time planted an Arizona Ash at one end of the front yard, quite close to the front sidewalk. This fast-growing tree was very popular in new subdivisions, and its shade surely did make summers easier to live with, but its short life span and many problems means that planting them in Central Texas is no longer recommended. The Arizona Ash tree grew and at some time a Live Oak sapling was planted between the Ash and the house. The trees grew on, fighting for rights to the sun.

Now skip ahead to March 2012 when the Ash tree is no longer an asset but has suddenly become dangerous, dropping enormous limbs without warning right where kids walk to school, neighbors park their cars and runners and bicyclists pass all day long. We immediately called Austex Tree Service and said "Help!" The tree guys took away the fallen limbs, took down the tree & ground out most of the stump - not an inexpensive job, but we had peace of mind after the tree was gone.

In 2004 the Divas of the Dirt helped me begin a woodland garden in the area between the live oak and the house, with a native Beautyberry and a 'Forest Pansy' redbud replacing sun plants that had been shaded out by the growing trees.

The Forest Pansy & Beautyberry grew a little every year

Over the years more and more grass was removed, native and adapted plants went in under the oak canopy and the existing liriope border was moved to encompass the new sections. I wanted the footprint of the ash to become part of the woodland garden too, but the ground needed to mellow. The area where the tree had been was covered in mulch, given periodic deep watering during the long hot summer and left alone.

Our garden day was set for late September - a better time to remake a bed & transplant liriope.  We had mulch & compost ready along with a small pile of free rocks and a few plants in containers. Enough rain fell overnight to soften the ground - a good thing - but would the day be dry enough to work outside?

The table was set - some storebought flowers joined  'Julia Child' roses and dwarf Greek myrtle cut from the garden.

A friend shared a favorite recipe for a breakfast strata made with Italian bread, spinach, shallots, eggs and Swiss cheese ... but before she'd turn over the recipe she made me promise to buy shallots, no cheating by substituting onions! I'd made a zucchini- currant bread to go with the egg dish.  I used one of my grandmother's bowls to hold pineapple & grapes and another one for strawberries.

It was still dripping and drizzly when the Divas of the Dirt began to arrive but we no longer cared whether the weather would cooperate... this happens quite often! Once the Divas of the Dirt begin laughing and talking, the project fades in importance and just sharing time together becomes our main goal. The new recipe worked out perfectly (Thanks, Ruth! ) and we enjoyed our breakfast.

Suddenly Mindy said - look! the Sun is coming out! Let's see what we can get done. The original woodland garden looked pretty good.

Soon the hose was used to define a newer, more expansive woodland bed and the liriope border was on the move again. Liriope is not native but I have a lot of the clumping type that doesn't run but is easily dug, moved and divided. This plant can live through record cold, record drought, record flood and record heat, as long as it has some shade. Using one kind of plant to edge all beds in the shady parts of the yard adds that necessary element of repetition to the overall design. The liriope border makes it clear that the new section is part of the woodland garden.


Already growing under the oak canopy were white Fragrant Mistflower, a purple Aster, a flourishing Turkscap/Malvaviscus in bloom and this dark blue perennial Plumbago

In pots ready to plant were some red Salvia greggii, a red & white-flowering Salvia 'Hot Lips' and a struggling Barbados Cherry. The Divas added compost and added the plants but avoided digging near the oak roots. They transplanted an unhappy Texas Palmetto from another part of the garden and divided some purple aster to bloom on the opposite side of the oak. They used the rocks we'd collected to slow down the flow of water when we had a thunderstorm. We do not want to stop the area from draining, but sudden storms tend to run off without helping the trees and garden. We want to give any rain a chance to soak in instead of run off.

My friends also neatened the central bed and the parkway - digging out some kind of weed tree that had seeded in the middle of a Rock Rose colony.

I forgot to snap a photo of our lunch - some of it homemade and some of it storebought. I made Pimiento cheese with Pequilo peppers, picked up Rotisserie Chicken salad from HEB, along with a salad box of baby Greens, cut up tomatoes and made an Avocado dressing with Greek yogurt. We sipped Hibiscus tea and coffee, and for dessert had a choice of Key lime bars and/or Chocolate layer cake with Chocolate frosting. What a fun day!

The new section of the woodland garden is a few months old now - not yet established but promising to be lovely some day.

This was not the first failure of an Arizona Ash in our yard - after I wrote a song about losing the first one in 2007 it was made into a semi-comic video. Semi-comic because we do like our trees and we're sad, even when it's time for one to go.

Posted by Annie in Austin/Diva Glinda