Welcome to our home sweet home. I was fairly miserable when we first moved here, leaving behind our acreage and the gardens we'd worked so hard to create. But family, friends, and gardening reconciled me to the new space. It's been six years and I've enjoyed house and garden more each year. The garden has been so much fun.
There are actually four oak trees squeezed together in our front yard. I cut two out of the photo so as to protect our neighbors' privacy. There's not a lot of distance between our homes. And, see, it looks quite basic from the street. I'm sure passersby must wonder why I'm always crawling around. But if you are a gardener, you know why. There's a lot going on.
Aside from the maroon and pink Ti plants, there are pops of color all around the front garden -- the welcoming garden. The azaleas I planted last summer and fall are working. And our new curbside beds, constructed because oak roots make grass impossible in some areas, are wonderful hosts for almost anything. I planted azaleas and annuals in them to start with. See the foxglove and snapdragons in the first photo, top left?
Salvias, Turks Cap, and Indigo are happy under the oaks. Cone flowers are coming up, too, and herbs such as lavender, bottom right, and rosemary are also at home in the poor, dry soil under the trees. Our house is south-facing, so they get enough sun despite the mini-forest overhead. When we moved in, the Ti plants and asparagus fern were already in place. They wouldn't be my first choices, but I'd feel churlish pulling them up. And you can see that we don't mulch. I'm working really hard at filling these beds with enough plants that mulch isn't necessary.
On the other side is what I call my East Texas garden. There was already a crape myrtle (not native, I know) and a palmetto (native). I added American Beautyberry, a weeping yaupon holly, Turk's Cap, and all sorts of bulbs, both native and non-native. I also planted a variety of indigo which the nursery worker thought was native but which I've come to think isn't. I still like it, though, right along with my azaleas. They might not be native, but they have relatives that are, and they're not hurting anyone.
There's althea and happy, healthy camillas, too, and a host of other things. Enough to keep me crawling around weeding, digging, rearranging from sunup to sundown if I have the desire and enough insect repellant. I have a long bed on one side, too, between our property and our neighbor's. We created it because we liked the idea of flowers and a maple tree better than lawn. I'll share that one next time. In the meantime, can you see the wandering jew, tradescantia pallid, in three of the four photos below? My husband keeps sneaking in clippings here, there, everywhere. I know. It's his garden, too. But I'm keeping an eye on the situation.
You can see that there's more than a neat row of hedges. There's actually very little that's neat about our welcoming garden. I like to think of it as "interesting". And that's to say nothing of the garden variety wildlife, which provide us with almost constant entertainment.
I do love gardening and gardens.
Typical of spring, the garden is beginning to explode with blooms. I finally harvested what was left of the root vegetables -- a nice, big basketful. It's time for the nightshade family -- in my case, tomatoes, peppers -- and cucurbits. For me, once again, that means mostly cucumbers. I'm not even going to consider pumpkin and probably not even squash. In between the vegetables, I'll tuck some herbs and ornamentals. Can we ever have too many?
I could make room for a squash plant or two, and the same goes for beans, eggplant, and okra. I could even use pots if necessary. But small though my garden might be, that's not why I'm restricting the variety and quantity. I know my limitations and I am somewhat familiar with the plants' limitations. Our very hot, humid, buggy summers take a special kind of wherewithal. Sometimes I can hack it, sometimes I can't, and the same goes for garden vegetables.
I might be tempted by a seed catalogue, though, especially Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Have you seen their catalogue?
Wishing you all to be well and safe. Happy Gardening!
Left to right, top to bottom: lemon balm, culinary sage, rosemary, marjoram, mints, lavender
I love herbs. We also have oreganos, basils, and thymes -- several varieties of each -- around the garden. Most are still small. I'd pulled a great many because they were looking a bit old and worn. We also have tarragon, pineapple sage, and lemon verbena coming up from their roots.
Purslane, which is lovely in salads but not EVERYWHERE in the garden, is returning with a vengeance. I'm trying not to panic about it. If I thought that panicking would help, I'd go for it. But I don't think it will.
And sad to say, the cilantro's bolting became uncontrollable. I tried to keep it in check, but I finally had to give up. The weather was simply too warm for too long. I pulled it all and have some baby herbs, such as dill, in its place.
I didn't have any luck with parsley this past mild winter, even with soaking the seeds. I'll try again this spring, though. I'm also going to replant lemongrass if I can only figure out where it won't get in the way, and I can hardly wait for borage. That's such a gorgeous herb.
We use herbs a lot. I've already thought of several others we have growing, but I do realize that no one needs my list. But they're such lovely plants, adding fragrance, beauty (bolting cilantro aside), and usefulness to the garden. We add them to salads, cooked foods, and teas. It's convenient to have fresh herbs a few steps away, ready to snip as needed. They don't need much care, either. The Mediterranean herbs hardly even need water.
Whether your space is a large yard or a balcony or somewhere in between, they are worth the space and effort. I'll leave you with a shot of our sweet bay "shrub". It's only a few years old and the leaves are wonderful in gumbos, stews, and soups. They're not bad in hot tea, either.
Do you remember how annoyed I was with my garden in February? If not, for full effect, you might glance at my previous post. Half of my veggie beds were almost empty. With winter almost over, I went ahead and sowed some seeds of almost every cool season vegetable that I had. I figured I had nothing to lose by trying.
I'm here to report -- with a big smile -- that it worked! And it worked fast! Endive, spinach, fava beans have shot up. Kale, early and late plantings, has grown generously, my few cabbages are gorgeous, and that one happy bed is producing glorious root vegetables and greens. Oh -- and we have enough lettuces for more than one household's dinner salads. What more could a rookie vegetable gardener hope for?
Herbs are looking pretty spectacular, too. I want more, of course. My current aim is to have a thoroughly Mediterranean garden this summer. Can there ever be too much rosemary, lavender, basil? We already have an olive tree, some citrus, even a fig tree. But herbs -- I want them everywhere.
More soon! Be well and safe. May your garden be a source of peace and pleasure.
I noticed a FB post from one of my favorite nurseries. They have tomatoes, hot peppers, and other warm season vegetables for sale. I understand that lots of people like to get an early start on the spring season. It works, especially around here, and probably especially if you put them in pots (since we often get that singular, late, killing frost). But given the current state of my vegetable garden, it annoyed me.
Where are my lettuces? I sowed so many! I suppose it’s possible – dare I say, likely -- that I raked the seedlings out with the weeds, even though I tried to be careful. There were just so many weeds. They were practically popping up over night.
It’s not that early tomatoes don’t sound nice. They do. But the days are still cool. I’m just not ready to give up on beautiful salad greens.
So, in a fit of rebellion, I pulled out all stops. That is to say, I pulled out all of my seed packets. Decided to throw caution to the wind. What does it matter? I’d might as well try a little of everything. I sowed seeds I didn’t sow last year, some not since 2016, when my little garden was new. I sowed generously – endive, mesclun, romaine, oakleaf lettuces. I planted fava beans where cabbage failed to grow. I sowed more sweet little radishes. And what happened to the kale, which I certainly did sow in late fall? I scattered a different variety. And my leeks didn’t come up, so I sowed more of them. Now, I curiously wait to see what will happen with both the garden and the weather.
And I do have the one happy veggie bed.
Sooo… it’s true that I don’t have quite as much outdoor space as I used to have. One of the first things we did when we acquired our last property was to plant a small orchard of around forty fruit trees and a long fence line of blackberries. When we moved to our current home, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to bother growing much of anything. But the gardener within was stealthy, sneaking in flowers, herbs, and trees a little at a time.
When my husband built raised vegetable boxes for me, my interest was renewed. I began experimenting with herbs, then sowed vegetable seeds, and was thrilled to enjoy some success. In our tiny garden, just steps from the kitchen door, we now have fresh herbs and vegetables year-round. Then we planted a couple of loquat trees. And then a Meyer lemon.
Then I went crazy and purchased a fig tree, which we truly do not have space for. And then someone gave us an olive tree – we’ll have to give it a few years before we know if it will produce.
Our grandchildren love gathering food from the garden. Loquats are our granddaughter’s favorite. When their season was over, she was so sad that I rushed out and bought blackberry and blueberry bushes.
The two blueberry bushes are my first healthy ones ever. They are lovely plants, gloriously red at the moment.
And now I want more blackberries. Suddenly, I want as many food plants as I have ornamental and I definitely want as many as I can fit into our garden.
But of course, it’s not really sudden. My enthusiasm is born from a little simple success and the great satisfaction of growing fresh produce. And – perhaps most of all – our grandchildren's pleasure in picking loquats, pulling up carrots, and clipping fresh herbs for our salads.
In the past few months, I’ve added a pineapple guava and a grape vine. Last week, I bought a dwarf mulberry. I have a shopping list for January/February: persimmon, astringent until ripe - 1, Moro blood orange – 1, Meiwa kumquat – 1, Tropic Snow peach – 1, more blackberries, a dwarf peach, and a dwarf blueberry. And maybe one more grape… And a jujube.
I’ve even considered planting a pear tree. practice a little espaliering. How much space could it take if it's flattened against a wall? But somehow, I don't think my husband Joseph would be very enthusiastic. You see, I'm very reasonable where my garden is concerned. Like all gardeners are.
In the meantime, we have vegetable seedlings at long last. So much fun!
Fall is a busy time of year for me. Let me say that again, just to make sure I remember it. Fall is a busy time of year.
Every October, I tell myself to start preparing my vegetable boxes for the cool season. But here in southeast Texas, it’s still hot in October. Whatever plants survived August are still fruiting away and it seems a shame to yank them. And then we get busy or go out of town.
And then bam! It’s November and truly lovely weather finally arrives. And where are my sweet little seedlings? In my head, of course, since I haven’t sown any seeds yet. And I have such a wonderful selection this year.
Our weekend looks busy, as it so often does. But maybe I’ll manage to get in a little gardening time. Sow my radishes – lovely, French radishes – or purple dragon carrots. Or leeks. Something. Anything!
Oh… ugh! We came home from a two-week trip to an alarmingly over-exuberant garden. Most of the plants, largely natives, were robustly healthy. But even the vegetables, which weren’t healthy at all, were attempting a coup. Can you see that one pumpkin shoot disappearing into the hedge? It had made it through and was peeking into the neighbor’s garden!
Much as I would like to think otherwise, I don’t believe I’m meant to have a pumpkin patch in this garden. And yes – sigh – my husband told me so. I didn’t realize that ALL pumpkin patches are pumpkin FIELDS. And it’s not as if he ever grew pumpkins! And I might be exaggerating a little – about patch = field. Fact is, I’m just not sure. But that’s only two plants and they were sending roots down into the grass. And I had trimmed everything back to the raised bed before leaving.
We have three little pumpkins that will never grow to their lovely potential because I need that bed for my winter crops and, well, let’s face it, this just isn’t working out. I’m sure I would have had lots more pumpkins. Yes, it's the greatest pumpkin patch that never was. But I’d cut lots down while trimming -- repeatedly. It’s not that I treasure the little bit of grass so very much, but some minimal amount of walking space is necessary if I’m to care for the rest of the garden. I have no doubt that a talented gardener, possibly a square-foot gardener, would have those babies climbing trellises to the sky, but I just don’t have it in me. And, as I said, I need the space for more versatile crops. It’s time to sow salad greens, which we enjoy from fall and/or winter through spring.
In the name of full disclosure -- our garden really isn’t all tragedy, but it does offer enough drama to keep me on my toes – I will show you some of the scary stuff. Then, it’s off to the garden for me. I need to clear it before my brother sees it. He would be merciless with his teasing. Brothers are just that way.
The weather is oh-so-hot. Last week, we hit triple digits. With our humidity, that’s saying something. In our garden, some plants are a little stressed, but most are taking it far better than I am.
We’re having problems with a few of our azaleas. Those planted around the most oak roots seem to be struggling despite water and shade. Whether or not they survive, we’re thinking to build some low boxes, fill them with a good garden mix, and probably sow or plant a nice variety of annuals with shallow roots.
But most of the little azalea plants still seem happy. Besides r. indicum and the Encore azaleas, we have three Robin Hill varieties and they are mostly fine. We also have several of one Glenn Dale hybrid named Fashion. If azaleas could glow, these babies are glowing. And to think, I bought them by accident, thinking they were the orange macranthas (I’d clearly been out in the sun too long by that point).
Glenn Dale is an interesting story. In the 1930s, Benjamin Y. Morrison, Director of the National Arboretum, began a hybridizing program. His goal was to develop cold hardy azaleas, especially for the Washington D.C. area, with large flowers and an extended blooming season. He went on to name and register 454 cultivars. 454!
The name “Glenn Dale” came from the USDA Plant Introduction Station at Glenn Dale, Maryland, founded in 1920. As the last century advanced, the station fell into a state of neglect. Thanks to the Azalea Society of America, the Glenn Dale Preservation Program officially began in 1982. Glenn Dale and the Azalea Test Area have been restored with much success.
At the National Arboretum, there is a walled azalea garden named Morrison Garden, after Benjamin Morrison. There is also Glenn Dale Hillside, which is said to be spectacular in spring.
There’s so much more about Glenn Dale and the azaleas. Below are some links that you might want to check out.
I plot and I plan. I work under dangerous conditions. I am frequently under assault. At times, I might drop everything and run for cover. I strive to work towards the greater good.
Gardening in southeast Texas can be brutal. Heat, humidity, and potentially disease-carrying mosquitoes are problems for more than half the year and a dangerous combination in summer. That’s to say nothing of fire ants and other biting, stinging insects. Snakes, too, although they only make a rare appearance in my little garden. Poison ivy and oak are common and birds sow both generously.
Despite some uncomfortable conditions, I feel very protective of the wild in my garden. It’s important to know friend from foe, for example, venomous from nonvenomous snakes. Even then, it’s often not necessary to engage. As for the bugs, it is not fine with us to hurt the good with the bad. Pesticides are banned. So are herbicides. Our beds, whether food or ornamental, are organic. And while our garden isn’t entirely native, we do have plenty of native plants that please the local wildlife as well as ourselves.
While every garden is different, they all offer challenges, pleasures, time with nature. Much like people, they have their good days and bad days, high seasons and low; and they can all be fun and beautiful if you love them enough.