Thursday, April 22, 2010


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.


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!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


It's already the end of March and we haven't completed a single Divas of the Dirt project!

The planning breakfast at Z-Tejas on 6th Street worked out fine with no more than the usual conflicts in dates. But we've had rain twice when we should have had a meeting. And it's been a very hard winter in our Divas of the Dirt gardens - this January we saw temperatures in the lower teens - not what we or our plants are used to- so our gardens need help!

Buffy had the Divas visit her house at the end of January - Mattie has taken a leave of absence for the time being and Diva Sugar, one of the original group of Divas, is now able to return to the group. It was sad to see that some plants - like Buffy's Staghorn- didn't make it
Others looked delicate, like Buffy's Acanthus AKA Grecian Pattern Plant, but came through the cold just fine

These succulents took a hit - guess some will grow again and others need to be replaced.
Sophia's magic microclimate of a front garden amazed me (Glinda) and Diva-Annie when we visited her in March -

Sophia's Four-Nerve Daisies were already to bloom

And Sophia's Yellow Bulbine - a plant that froze to black ribbons all over Austin - was alive, unfrozen, and budded for Spring. How does she do it?
Oz and I were ready when the Divas came here couple of weeks ago, but the heaviest lifting was done with a fork - we had a Soyrizo, Red Pepper, Potato, Cheese & Egg casserole, Corn Muffins and Blueberry muffins - accompanied by a thunderstorm and a downpour of more than an inch.

So no work - but we still enjoyed being together.

Fingers crossed for April!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Buffy played hostess this year - and the theme she chose was Mexican Fiesta: The Divalicious Christmas Luncheon is upon us! Next Saturday at 11:30. I will be making Enchiladas Suizas, half with crab and half with chicken. Let me know what you all want to bring. Y'all stay warm and safe! I'm making a make-shift green house out of my rose arbor. I hope we get some real snow!

We had no problem coming up with contributions for this menu!

Karla has some great squash recipes: I will bring a side dish - Calabacitas (small squashes). Looking forward to Christmas cheer with everyone!!!

Annie had a plan: I'm bringing a side dish, think some sort of black bean and rice combo.

Mindy had one, too: I am thinking a ceviche or campenchana which would be a cold appetizer--I promised Buffy I would bring a great sangria also.

Buffy replied: Wine is good too, if you would like to bring a bottle. I also have some Proseco and Champagne.

After a few years of just visiting, Founding Diva Sugar was ready to return to active membership: I can make a salad along the Mexican theme & I can make an appetizer, as well. I'm really excited to be back w/ you girls -have missed working w/ all of you tremendously.

Sophia offered to make Cream of Jalapeno Soup, Mattie had a favorite recipe for creamy Corn bread and I (Glinda) wanted to make Tres Leches Cake.

We gradually arrived and gathered in Buffy's charming kitchen

We had no timetable - just had fun hanging out, with some Divas arriving with ingredients, preparing their dishes as we chatted and sipped. Sugar's Chips and queso and Macky's campechena were delicious and so was the sangria.

When it was time for the main courses, Buffy's dining room and table looked fabulous

Let's take a closer look at Sophia's Cream of Jalapeno Soup:

And how cute are these Gerbera Daisy centerpieces with herbs?

We always feel relaxed at Buffy's house!

Sugar's salad came next, then Buffy's Enchiladas Suizas with Sour Cream Sauce. Annie's seasoned Black Beans & Rice, Mattie's Creamy Corn Bread and Karla's spicy Calabacitas went together perfectly:

Pink Champagne and Prosecco flowed and somehow we found room for Tres Leches Cake...

After we ate it was once again time to play the Gift-stealing game.

Inside that rooster box was a copy of Julia Child's famous French Cookbook - you can bet it was stolen!
A Diamond hoe was a great present - but not too easy to wrap! We all went home with cool gifts and we all went home with fun memories of this Holi-Diva Day, another special luncheon with our friends:
My food photos came out okay but if Sugar hadn't brought her camera we wouldn't have such good people photos in this post - thanks, Sugar!