a Bloom Day mystery

A mystery plant for your bloom day this month.  (No, I’m not a garden blogger, I just pretend to be on the 15th of each month… if I remember… or have time…)  What the heck is this?  No, not the Henry Deulberg sage in front.  Not the desert willow in back.  Not the purple coneflowers on the right.  Not the… um… other coneflowers on the left.  There, in the middle.  That giant thing that I DID NOT plant.

I know that this is a cigar plant, cuphea.  It really struggled all summer.  I think my soil has way too much clay for the poor thing.

This is the lovely Russian sage, which I was skeptical about since anything named after a place near the Arctic circle could not possibly do well here.  I was thankfully wrong.

Same with the Tropical sage.  I assumed it would need more water, but it just keeps blooming.  I did trim it back mid-summer, which it seemed to love.

I know lantanas are so last decade, but man, are they easy.

Dutifully spilling over into the path, as per my plan.

The mistflower bush is about to explode.  I’m a little bit giddy with anticipation.  Apparently it will smell lovely and attract a zillion butterflies.

My fall asters are bursting, as if trying to make up for the copper canyon daisies next to them that are withering away.  (I blame the cat)

And I love the guara, although mine have decided to lay flat.  Today I propped them up with rocks at the base. That’s a bit pitiful, really.

Fortunately, you can’t kill blackfoot daisy or bulbine.  Believe me, I’ve tried.

The moss verbena require nothing of me…

…which is more than I can say for our other resident gardener.

This is her latest project from the Green Classroom.  Black-eyed peas, she says, taunting me with her knowledge.

I, however, still have a mystery plant.  It sprouted up right next to the base of the Henry Duelberg sage, confusing me into thinking that was common Henry behavior,  and soon towered over the desert willow tree right next to it.

In fact, it looks similar to the desert willow, but is thinner in the branches and leaves.

When it bloomed, I knew for sure I had an entirely different plant on my hands.

But WHAT IS IT?  I’m going crazy.  Someone tell me.

While I wait for the responses to pour in, I will clean up the garden wreckage from the summer.  Only then will I take some wide angle shots of how our backyard has changed since the Big Reveal.

Coming soon…. ish.


Moonlight Float: guest blogger

Hey!  I’m a guest blogger over at LiveMom.com this week.  Check it out!


“So you’re an Austinite.  You’ve seen the bats.  You’ve seen live music.  You’ve canoed Lady Bird Lake.  But chances are you’ve never canoed under the emerging bats while listening to a floating band.  Thanks to the Moonlight Float, you can.  And support a good cause while you’re at it…”

 (Read more here>>>)


3rd and 1st graders

city plan, part 8: The Big Reveal

I’m sorry, this is a long, long post.  But it’s the culmination of almost two years of planning and work.  And more work.  And lots of work after that.  So you WILL scroll to the end.  Besides, this is the best part.

Behold, the big reveal:

I know it looks like a lovely lush lawn from certain angles, but that is an illusion.  It was green for about two weeks out of the year and at least 75% sticker-burs and weeds.

Oh, back when we still had three chickens.

This is where the new hammock lives.

So there you have it, the photos I sent in to the city yesterday.  The project is done.  Did you make it to the end of the post? What do you think?

city plan, part 7: granite, lots of granite

A couple weeks ago I did the final 50-billion calculations (yes, Dad, you were right, I am using math in real life) necessary to order the crushed granite.  It was delivered on a Thursday, whereupon Violet and Graham immediately claimed the mountain…

…in the name of Kitty-tania.

I spent Friday doing the final clearing and pinning of landscape cloth.  There was, however, one small section uncovered.  Dreading yet another trip to Home Depot, I had a brilliant idea: paperwork.  There was a box of paperwork that needed to be shredded sitting in the garage.  Why not use that as weed blocker?  After all, they do say using newspapers 6 layers thick will block most weeds, at least to a manageable level.  And so, congratulating myself on my frugality and multi-tasking prowess, I set to work laying out the paper and soaking it to keep it from blowing away.

That evening, I was settling down to watch the kids chase fireflies in the front yard when an ominous cloud rose up in the north.  This was the edge of the storm that caused all those tornados in Oklahoma and the panhandle.  It was on us literally in minutes with 50 mile an hour winds and torrential rains.  By the time we got inside and looked out to the backyard, the place was a mess.  Despite being heavy and waterlogged, the papers were flying everywhere.

“ARG!  All my work!”  I wailed.  Rob saw the bigger picture.  “Um… so basically all our financial records are flying all over the neighborhood right now.”


We ran outside, dodging lightning bolts (slight exaggeration, but the thought did cross my mind) frantically piling wet papers into a muddy mountain that we wedged under a stepping stone.  In 30 seconds we were soaked to the skin.

And here is where having kids finally paid off:  When we finally flung ourselves onto the back porch, there was Violet standing in the doorway, waiting for us with dry towels.  Give that kid a puppy, or something.

This is what we had to deal with the next morning:

We spent the next two days shoveling and wheelbarrowing (mostly Rob), and raking and stomping (mostly me) crushed granite.  Because it was Mother’s Day weekend, and that’s what I wanted.

Coming up: the big reveal

city plan, part 6: planted

Is this becoming a gardening blog?  Am I going to have to start learning the botanical names for plants?

Well, considering how terrible my Spanish is, for now I’ll just have a minor garden-geek-out and report on The Planting.

David Verity cuphea (Rob’s request), lamb’s ear (texture-crazy Violet’s request) and calylophus.

Coral honeysuckle vine, Mexican honeysuckle bush, tropical sage and society garlic.

Santolina, rock penstemon, and Russian sage.

Coral honeysuckle vine (to meet the other honeysuckle vine over a trellis leading to the hammock corner), mistflower, blackeyed susan (Graham’s request), and dwarf ruella.

Moss verbena, fall aster, pink skullcap, primrose, and copper canyon daisy.

Purple coneflower, desert willow tree, Henri Deulberg sage, eyelash sage, and Mexican hat.

And in my last-minute side-yard bed, I planted potato vine, mexican feathergrass, Carolina jessamine, and wisteria.  Truthfully, when I got home I realized I accidentally bought an invasive species of wisteria.  Since all of my plants must be natives for the city plan reimbursement, this is a no-no, but I figured no one would notice.  That night I dreamed my wisteria took over the yard, so, the next morning, I ripped it out of the ground and replanted with some passion vine that had been randomly growing in the Corner of Shame.  I’m not sure they’ll survive the transplant, but at least I’ll be able to sleep.

Yes, I know it’s hard to see the teeny-tiny little plants and imagine them filling the beds and overflowing into the paths. I could have bought larger pots, but they were at least 3 times more expensive than the 4 inch pots.  It’s worth the wait.

So there it is.  This is the first time I actually planned out garden beds.  I was always an impulse shopper at nurseries. I tried to find the right spot for a plant instead of finding the right plant for the spot.  And this is also the first time I actually thought about how the plants would fill the space: height matching, groupings, colors, bloom times.  Hopefully it will turn out somewhat cohesive instead of schizo.

Next: granite, lots and lots of granite


Wordless Wednesday: uh-oh… already?

city plan, part 5: rocks, lots of rocks

I know, I know, I’m supposed to be posting progress on To-Do Tuesdays, and it is now Wednesday.  My only excuse is that I got sucked into the nursery yesterday, hunting down plants.  Because….

…the beds are ready.

We literally moved a ton of limestone this weekend.  And fitting the pieces together was like a puzzle.  A very heavy puzzle set out in the blazing sun.

I also finished one of the beds next to the porch.

Bulbine, big red sage, creeping germander and blackfoot daisies.

Trying to keep costs down as much as possible, I lined the bed with broken cement chunks from a neighbor’s fence project.  Free is a very good price.

The end is in sight.

I think the rainbow is a good omen, no?

city plan, part 4: hardscape

Surprisingly, when I tell most people that we’re getting rid of our lawn, I am met with confusion and what seems like vague anger.  I think that many of us have been raised with this idea that children need lawns and a the large expanse of green is somehow tied to our American Dream and to rip it out is unpatriotic or bordering on child neglect.  And while they are imagining me as a terrible mother or possibly a traitor to my country, I am imagining my revenge plan.  I do try to explain this plan and start enthusiastically talking about paths and raised beds and trees and hardscape and so on until I realize that my audience has a glazed look not unlike the one I assume when Rob is talking about Javascript.  So I decided I should probably post the sketch I sent to the city.

Clearly not professional, but I least I took actual measurements.  There have been some changes to the original design, but this is the basic idea.  A backyard oasis, I say!

So the playground is finished and the dry creek beds are done (one extra added).  Right after we pulled up the lawn I made two more raised beds, double dug them, and laid out landscape cloth where the paths will be.

Behold, the chaos.

Next week: Rocks.  Lots of Rocks.