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

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