Thursday, May 19, 2016


This post, 2015 - SEPTEMBER  SOPHIA'S GARDEN DAY, was written by Annie in Austin/Diva Glinda for the Divas of the DIrt Blog
2015 - September Sophia's Garden Day

The abundant rains of May and June 2015 stopped as suddenly as they had started. July and August straggled along, hot and dry. Although September brought no relief, Austin weatherfolk assured us of El Nino moisture ahead so people who had been putting off garden work were once again making plans and starting projects. 

In early September, Sophia sent this photo of her Schoolhouse Lilies (AKA Oxblood Lilies) beginning to bloom.

 A clump of my Schoolhouse lilies bloomed a week later, after I encouraged them with a drink from the hand-held hose.
 Sophia's Garden Day dawned with the daunting prediction for a high temperature of 97°F. I live closest to Sophia and was the first Diva of the Dirt to arrive - what did I see in Sophia & Roger's driveway? Two pallets of grassy sod...
 And about 4 yards of amended soil! Luckily we'd be working in filtered sun from the small-leaved Cedar Elm trees.

The calendar said this was Talk Like A Pirate Day, but the only Sea we'd be dealing with was a Sea of grass.

Over the years, we’ve removed large amounts of lawn from almost every Diva yard to make beds and borders and reduce water needs. but we also know that in some places, a little lawn works best. Sophia's request was that we redo the space between the front beds and groundcover borders, making a semi-shaded, cool grassy area for visiting grandchildren to play. The area now alternated between mud and dust – not a good choice for the kids.
 Mattie and Annie arrived soon after I did, with Karla pulling up next. When Buffy drove up, she brought the electric tiller. A few years ago, we Divas of the Dirt chipped in and bought this handy tool so it could be ready when we needed it.

Breakfast would be ready soon but Sophia (being Sophia!) offered a first course of coffee and two fruit breads from HEB - how can you choose between Peach Melba Bread and Triple Berry Bread?
 Mindy and Sugar couldn't be there for breakfast but would be coming later. So six of us went in to admire the autumn decor of the dining room. I can't wait for those beautiful berries but please hide that candy corn!

Oh, my - maybe it was a mistake to have tried both kinds of fruit bread... Sophia made Cheese Grits?

There was a big bowl of Blueberries, Strawberries and Grapes, there were juices, there were scrambled eggs and Jimmy Dean pork sausages, too.

Who could not love a bouquet of big, friendly-faced golden sunflowers?
 Breakfast was almost over when the three-member canine crew made an appearance. Mattie had brought Barbie to visit Sophia's two dogs. Luckily we were already sitting down because they so excited they began running laps around the dining room table. That brown blur at left is Barbie (seen often in previous posts), the handsome grey gentleman in the middle is Chukster and at right is Miss Magnolia, the young-black-Lab-who-thinks-she's-a-Bichon Frise. Magnolia has a sweet temperament, but she is sure that she can fit into the same spaces she did as a puppy!
 Once we went outside, it was time to get any weeds or grass out, to dump the amended soil where the sod would go, to rake it over the area and to then run the tiller - this process would take a very long time.

Here is Mattie raking the dumped soil, spreading it out so the tiller can work.
 Sophia took the first turn at running the tiller.
The soil in the designated area was gradually amended and mixed.
We alternated tasks and worked on other beds and borders. The soggy spring followed by a too-dry summer meant death to rosemary plants all over Austin. Some of the goners were large old plants in Sophia's parkway.
Other unhappy plants were the two Mutabilis roses - usually one of the toughest roses in Central Texas, but not this year. It would take some time to get all the dead wood out – and we had to watch out for the thorns.

The tiller works best with a rotating crew. Some of the Divas of the Dirt were up for operating the tiller, some of us knew we couldn’t handle it. This time it’s Karla as the tiller driver.

Although she broke one garden fork in half while doing it, our Buffy got that dead rosemary out of the parkway.
 We took time to admire the plants that were thriving, like this combination of Blue Plumbago, Burgundy-leaved Oxalis and Northern Sea Oats.
 Before the sod could be set into place, the advice from the sod company was to soak the ground first. How could we do this without walking through mud while we worked on adjoining patches?  And exactly how should the squares be laid? What kind of pattern and direction would work best? As you can imagine, this part of the project took a long time, requiring a lot of discussion and some trial and error.
 Sugar and Mindy had both arrived to help, and soon different sections of the front yard were in different stages of progress  – soil dumping, soil mixing, watering and sod laying happening at the same time. Mindy and I filled the wheelbarrow over and over, then she steered it to the next spot to dump it.

Some Divas used the dolly or the wheelbarrow to move the sod squares around – other Divas liked to just grab a couple of pieces off the stacks. Diva Annie joked that we still had enough sod for a green sofa.
 Sophia had been busy inside - a wonderful lunch of Challah bread, herbed pasta with veggies, baked crunchy chicken fillets, and a huge green salad with choice of dressings was on the table by 3:15pm.

Sugar, Buffy, Karla, Mattie! Come on in and have lunch!
 I don't know how Sophia makes that chicken, but it is amazingly delicious. With a salad for healthy crunch, great bread and yummy pasta, who could want more?
 But you know there will be more - do you see what's in the bakery box?

Sophia conjured up a chocolate Italian Cream Cake (think it was from Upper Crust Bakery) with our group's name on the top.
 The afternoon temperature topped out at 96°F and while the number of squares on those pallets had been greatly reduced, there was still a lot to do after lunch - including fitting the edges along the driveway.
 We also had a lot of finishing to do with the edges along the front sidewalk. We Divas did what we could before we had to leave, but Sophia and Roger will have to complete more of the project tomorrow.
Saturday night is the official night for running hose end sprinklers – watering will be necessary until the promised rain arrives. Goodbye for now from the Divas of the Dirt! Grow little front lawn, grow and thrive.

This post, 2015 - SEPTEMBER  SOPHIA'S GARDEN DAY, was written by Annie in Austin/Diva Glinda for the Divas of the DIrt Blog

Monday, May 16, 2016


This post, 2015- June Mindy's Garden Day - was written by Annie in Austin/Diva Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt blog.

Although nobody was happy about the floods and destruction from the rains of May and June 2015, one welcome effect of all the rain was watching the reservoir lake levels rise with every new report from the LRCA.

On May 25th, 2015 Lake Travis was only 56% full (658,461 acre-feet) and Lake Buchanan stood at 40% full (352, 969 acre-feet).

But by June 7th, Lake Travis was an amazing 81% full (914,669 acre-feet) while Lake Buchanan had inched up to 51% full (443,606 acre-feet).

After another sideswipe from Tropical Storm Bill, the Divas of the Dirt gardens in central Austin locations were very squishy. But keeping the planned garden day would not be a problem on Mindy's hilly, well-drained land. Her requests were weeding and clear-up, redoing the front path and other beds and borders, and pruning the crepe myrtles near the house so Warren could walk around in his yard and mow without ducking.

Sophia, Annie and I arrived together, followed by Karla and Mattie. Sugar had a planned day with her out-of-town family and Buffy would be coming a little later. On the way in we checked out the entrance bed and path and knew what we'd be doing in a little while!

The interior of Mindy and Warren's house had been redone - new floors, colors, paint and accessories, with all popcorn banished from the ceilings. In the new dining room, the table was set with wildflowers as the centerpiece.

The buffet had been painted and updated but was still in the same place and still held Fruit, Beautiful Fruit.

The new kitchen took our breath away - what a beautiful space!

For breakfast Mindy had made a casserole with asparagus and prosciutto casserole, using gluten-free bread for the base.

Sausage and sweet potatoes added some down home flavor to breakfast.

The blend of colors and textures made for a very attractive buffet meal.

Now out to the garden - first things first... lets get that path and entrance border back in shape.

Most of the Divas work together on that side of the walk.

On the other side of the walk there are some rather pretty perennials hidden in a mini-grove of live oak sprouts.

Good sport Mattie decides to go after the live oak sprouts, a never-ending task.

During the day different Divas of the Dirt worked on the two beds down by the gate, on the paisley-shaped bed and on pruning the crepe myrtles to raise the canopy.

A lot was done before Mindy called us in to lunch.

A wonderful assortment of breads, huge tomato slices and Cape Cod Chicken salad (a Costco favorite) awaited us.

With broccoli salad, bacon and pickles on the side. Delicious.

Mindy and Warren have a big family - one of their nephews was visiting and this nephew liked to cook... he used a gluten free cake mix from HEB to make the dough for quite an impressive Peach cobbler.

We weeded, clipped and tidied many areas, but the 'after' photos somehow didn't happen. Instead, let's take a look at some of the interesting plants at Mindy's ranchette.

A kind of spiderwort called Purple heart AKA Trandescantia pallida is a perennial, but those colorful caladium can be grown as annuals or brought inside for winter.

Malvaviscus is a plant we all grow, a favorite of both gardeners and hummingbirds. Here's a white version of this plant, also called Wax Mallow or Turkscap.

Salvias grow well in Central Texas - Mindy grows different varieties in this Hill Country setting, including this Salvia greggii.

There had been a bit too much rain for the Jerusalem Sage/Phlomis fruticosa -still kicking and getting ready for a bloom session, but with leaves showing that this plant had not enjoyed staying wet for so long.

Lots of hot weather ahead! We Divas of the Dirt will see each other over the summer, but we won't have another project day until September.

This post, 2015- June Mindy's Garden Day - was written by Annie in Austin/Diva Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt blog.