Thursday, August 26, 2010

St. Stephen's Green

If ever you are in Dublin, Ieland, be sure to take a long walk through St. Stephen's Green.
It's a lovely 22-acre park (the second largest in Dublin) with lots of color and large green expanses. It's just across the street from the Shelbourne Dublin Hotel, a beautiful place to stay. It also borders the popular Grafton Street Shopping Centre.

Here are a couple of shots I took when there this spring.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dublin flowers

When I was in Europe this past spring, I was impressed with the use of flowers in landscaping and as art.

In the Shelbourne Dublin at St. Stephen's Green Hotel in Dublin, Ireland, the lobby was filled with a fantastic arrangement. Since the hotel is across the street from the famous St. Stephen's Green Park, which is magnificent, it seemed fitting.

Here's what greeted us as we walked into the lobby.

Tomorrow, I'll post photos from the garden.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August birth flower - the gladilous

Yes, I know I am a bit behind talking about the birth flower for August. You would think a month planted right in the middle of the hottest time of the year, when the days last so long you think they never will end, would crawl by. Not so this month, at least for me.

As a child, I loved glads. My grandmother always had a row of the tall, cheerful blooms along the side of the chicken house. I especially liked that they had so many blooms, one opening to help ease the loss every time an earlier one died. That held so much comfort to a child who mourned the death of anything that crossed her path, no matter how insignificant to others, from a dragonfly to a flower.

I've always had this thing about holding up a flower petal and studying it through the back light of sunshine. I know, I am weird. It's not as if I haven't heard this all my life. I much prefer to think of it as an insatiable curiosity about the magical properties of all living things. so much of life goes unseen, and I don't want to miss a single moment of beauty.

Despite the fact that I have seen far too many glads standing tall near a casket of someone important to my life, I forgive them. They didn't choose to become a "funeral" flower, no more than carnations did.

My two favorite glads couldn't be any different. I cannot resist the luminous white blooms that fill the vases at the Macaroni Grill in Houston. They are so showy and lovely. My other favorite is the modest hardy gladiolus that springs up around old homesteads. The blooms are much smaller, but their vivid fuchsia color more than makes up for it. I have been tempted many times to "liberate" some from an empty field, but have yet to do so.

This pretty member of the iris family (Iridaceae) represents strength of character, sincerity and generosity, all traits to be admired.

Click here to see a great shot of the hardy glad on Dave's Garden web site.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Go Texas!

Cool Fact of the Day

When the grounds-keeping team that manages the grass field used for the World Cup in South Africa needed a fast-growing grass to rescue their soccer field, they chose a turfgrass bred and developed in East Texas.

The Panterra turfgrass was developed by Texas AgriLife researcher Dr. Lloyd Nelson, who said Panterra is great for sports fields to keep them green during the winter.

Go, Aggies!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


All the recent rain left a new theme garden on our lawn - mushrooms. These big white 'shrooms are so pale in the afternoon sun they seem to glow. They are about 4-5 inches and stand on tall, strong stems.

In a corner of the rose bed, small yellow mushrooms have popped through from the wet mulch.
Although I love mushrooms, I know enough not to eat something I can't identify as edible - and safe. Some mushrooms are toxic - and who wants that?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fertilizer 101

As part of our volunteer work, Jefferson County Master Gardeners record brief radio spots on gardening. Here's one we did on Fertilizer 101 - a basic tutorial for those new to gardening:

Every plant requires nutrients to grow and thrive. Three of the primary nutrients – carbon, hydrogen and oxygen – come from air and water. Gardeners will need to provide the other three – nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium .

The three numbers on a bottle or bag of fertilizer stand for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. in that order. The numbers also indicate how much of each is provided by weight.

Nitrogen helps plants produce protein needed for new tissue. Give a plant too much nitrogen and it will produce great foliage but no fruit or flowers. Plants can take up only so much nitrogen, and the rest leaches into the soil and can reach ground water. Give a plant only as much nitrogen as it needs.

Phosphorus stimulates root growth, aids in setting buds and flowers and increases the overall vitality and seed size.

Potassium helps make plants strong and vigorous and more disease resistant.

The best way to choose a fertilizer is to do a soil test to see what nutrients are lacking in your yard or garden. Many gardeners use far more fertilizer than plants need, which creates a serious problem for the environment through runoff.

An all-purpose, balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 will provide the needed nutrients. If you need more of one nutrient and less of the other, you can choose a mix that fits your needs.

When you apply fertilizer, consider foliar feeding. Plants can absorb nutrients up to 20 times more efficiently through leaf surfaces than through their roots. You’ll get the best results applying the spray during critical growth stages such as immediately after transplanting, during bloom time and the period right after a plant sets fruit.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Blessed rain

It's raining! For the past two weeks, while my friends in Nederland, Port Arthur and Beaumont have been getting relief from the long period we've had without rain, it's been dancing all around us.

Yesterday, we got a decent rain. Now, it's raining good and hard and the dusty field next to us that our neighbors just cleared to make way for planting hay looks like a lake. Of course, it's just a thin layer of water waiting to soak in. Within a half hour, it'll be gone.

There's nothing like rain when you haven't seen it in a while. I love the smell of the air just before and after a rain. It provides delicious anticipation and blessed thanks. And I love sitting on our porch and watching the heavy drops fall from the leaves.

Today, I give thanks for life-giving rain.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Summer garden meals

It seems my recollections of shelling peas and my family’s recipe for cooking up a mess of purple hull peas was a hit (see comments below). I decided to write my column on it this week, with a slightly different approach. Look for it Sunday in The Enterprise.

Now I have a question for all of you. What is your all-time favorite home-cooked meal using fresh veggies/fruit from the home garden?

Here’s mine: Crowder peas, fried okra, corn on the cob, cornbread, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and onion (salted and marinated in vinegar and a touch of sugar), peach cobbler and iced tea.

1.Jane, would you be my wife? I love country cookin

Comment by jesse — June 14th, 2010 @ 11:36 am

2.Brings back memories.

Comment by PJ — June 15th, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

3.Jane, all those purple hull peas need is, some hot pepper seasoning .

Comment by john — June 15th, 2010 @ 9:09 pm

4. Jane….those delicious purple hulls only need some fresh pods of okra simmering on top—until they are deliciously slimy…… Might I suggest fresh tomatoes and cucumbers as condiments? Sure works for me!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Flowers in art

If you enjoy seeing art that uses flowers as inspiration, check out the exhibit "Blooms: Floral Art in the Stark Collections" at the Stark Museum of Art, 712 Green Avenue in Orange. The exhibit was supposed to close earlier this month, but has been extended through much of the summer. No specific closing date has been given. If you visited the exhibit already, you have a chance to see new works, since the museum has rotated out the images shown so far.

The exhibition also provides an educational area for families with interactive learning elements (matching game, reading area and flower drawing station). Admission is free. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. For more info call 409-886-2787 or visit

Shown here is "Dahlias, Asters and Various Flowers" by Joseph Henry Sharp (1859-1953)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ladybug Vs spider

Ladybugs and Dill

I was excited to spot four or five ladybugs on my dill this morning. I'm not sure if that's good - because the ladybugs are feeding - or bad - because the ladybugs have something to feed on. Either way, I'm happy to see them. I have plenty of pests in my wild-leaning, limited pesticide gardens, so I'm surprised that I don't see the sweet bugs with red and black bodies more often.

Ladybugs eat aphids, those soft-bodied sucking insects that can wreak havoc on everything from ornamentals to herbs to even hardwood trees.
A single ladybug can devour 5,000 aphids during their adult life. That's efficient bug control!

Check out the cute video about a ladybug.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Purple Hull Peas

This past week, I sat down at the kitchen table to do something I haven't done in years. I shelled peas. I grew up with a grandmother who plowed with a mule and had corn, several kinds of pole beans and peas, turnips, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, greens, cucumbers, squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries and more.

I hated shelling peas and beans and snapping and destringing green beans, but I loved the time I spent with my grandmother and my aunts while doing so.

Peas and beans are satisfying vegetables to grow in a garden. Give pole beans a little support and they take off. Keep bush beans watered and they will reward you with vegetables that taste NOTHING like canned ones.

Here's how my family always cooked a "mess" of purple-hull peas: Shell, pick over and wash peas thoroughly. Cover with lightly salted water, bring to a light boil, turn the heat down to a slow simmer. Dice some smoked bacon finely (the amount depends on your personal taste and cholesterol levels) and saute in a pan until browned. Pour off most of the bacon grease and add diced onion to the pan. When the onions turn translucent, add them to the simmering peas. Pepper to taste. Don't overcook the beans. Keep the simmer slow and test to see when they are tender. Serve with buttered cornbread and fresh tomatoes from the garden.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Love Those Lizards!

We've always been blessed with an abundance of lizards at our house. I've posted before about how their favorite place used to be on the broad, tall leaves of the hardy amaryllises that once lined a bed beneath a bedroom wall. We eventually moved those plants to another bed, and the lizards followed.

When I took the Jefferson County Master Gardener short course last July, I intensified my efforts to build nice ornamental gardens at our house. I discovered how important planning is (I've always been haphazard, spotting a plant I loved and bringing it home from the nursery thinking I'd find a place for it, rather than planning a bed and buying the plants specifically for it). I also learned how many plants I've put in the wrong place.

While working on the gardens. I began noticing fewer lizards. This all began about the time a new stray cat decided our house was the perfect feeding station. Blue Bell is a master hunter, much to my dismay, and lizards are among her favorite targets. I can't tell you how many I've rescued from her sharp claws and teeth. Every week I see at least one lizard with an ultra-short tail. Hmmmm.
Here's a shot of one lizard that has escaped the black and white terrorist - so far.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Spider in the house

I'm not one of those people who scream and grab a broom when they see a spider. While I certainly don't want them crawling on me, when it comes to harmless spiders, I have a mostly live and let live policy. There are exception, of course. I kill poisonous spiders and any that are so big they intimidate me. I try to keep the house relatively spider-free, because they freak my grandson out. But a few little spiders, like this unknown spider that has been hanging around the kitchen for the past few days, are safe.

I'm not sure what kind of spider this is, but he's fascinating. He's tiny, moves quickly and can jump effortlessly. But what's most interesting are his eyes. They are two tiny orbs elevated above his face and they are constantly moving. They go in circles (rotating 360 degrees) as if he's scanning his surroundings at all times. He must be accustomed to seeing me by now, because he let me get close enough to take this photo of him hugging the side of our kitchen island/worktop bar.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lotus and Bamboo Festival in Port Arthur

It's Friday - Yeah! Treat yourself by taking in the 12th Annual Lotus and Bamboo Festival at Buu Mon Buddhist Temple,2701 Procter St in Port Arthur. The festival is 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. If you've never been, you'll discover a peaceful place with beautiful bamboo and lotus gardens.

The Texas Bamboo Society will be on hand to share information and sell plants, Artist Carole Meckes of Austin will bring her bamboo work and the temple will provide walking tours of the gardens and the temple. Assistant Abbot Bhante Kassapa will give a presentation of the preparation and enjoyment of tea, the Buu Mon Meditation Group will sponsor food and arts and crafts booths and will offer traditional Vietnamese cuisine. The festival is a great way to learn about the history of the gardens, Buu Mon Buddhist Temple and Buddhism in general.

Don't miss the performance of the and Dragon Dance Troupe at 4 p.m. on Sunday. For more info, visit or call Bhante Kassapa at (409) 960-8369 or the temple office at (409) 982-9319.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

June Birth Flower: the rose

Ah, June - the month for weddings. How fitting that the birth flower for June is the rose. Roses are considered by many to be the most perfect flower, with their delicate petals, sweet scent and long stems. What woman doesn't enjoy receiving a bouquet of roses?

The color of the rose has its own symbolism: white stands for purity, red connotes passion, yellow indicates platonic friendship and pink stands for grace or gratitude. Legend says Cleopatra lured Antony into a room filled with rose petals knee-deep. As for the Greek symbolism, here's a description of the rose's origin taken from

"Flora, the deity of flowers, was walking through the forest and found the body of a beautiful nymph. Sorrowful at the sight of the lovely creature dead, she decided to give her new life by turning her into a flower whose beauty surpassed all others. She called on Aphrodite to give beauty, brilliance, joy and charm; Zephyrus, the west wind, to blow away the clouds so that Apollo, the Sun, could cast warm rays upon it, and Dionysius, the god of wine to give nectar and fragrance. When the new flower was complete, Chloris placed a crown of dewdrops over her and named her the Rose, Queen of Flowers. Aphrodite presented the Rose to her son Eros, the deity of Love. The white rose became the symbol of charm and innocence and the red rose the symbol of love and desire."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Old-fashioned daylilies

Gardening is a constant endeavor to find plants that are attractive, dependable and low-to-maintenance free. If ever a plant fit this description, it's the standard daylily (Hemerocallis) When we bought our now 100-plus-year-old house 28 years ago, it had a long line of established daylilies along the fence. They are the classic yellow-gold-dark brown varieties. They've been growing so long I think they have hybridized, since one of the gold blooms starting developing a brown throat.

While they don't bloom as long as new varieties, such as Stella De Oro, I am quite fond of these old lilies. The leaves look good year-round, and I look forward to the long scapes spiking toward the sky before bursting into bloom.

Daylilies are native to Asia, but American and British enthusiasts began hybridizing them in the 1930s. At that time, only three colors existed, yellow, orange, and fulvous red. Now, they come in numerous colors and combinations, single, double and ruffled. For more information, visit The American Hemerocallis Society at

Even our 7-month-old Goldador, Barley, appears to approve.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Growing clematis

When it comes to vines, I've had my share of learning experiences. Flowering vines are a beautiful addition to a garden, but care should be given to choosing the right one for your needs. When we moved into our 100-plus-year-old home, the yard was rich with established plants. The first spring, we found the back fence line covered with wisteria. By year five, we were constantly fighting to keep it under control. It went up trees, across the yard and started new vines with wild abandon. We also had an abundance of star jasmine that was equally invasive. I've been fighting both vines for 20 years.

When LOML (Love of my Life) Joel built us some new, small arbors, I planted moon vine (which was spectacular until it died) and a Peggy Martin rose, which is looking promising. This week, I added clematis, which my Aunt Shirley loves but I've never planted. I bought a vivid purple and a pastel lavender. I'm still debating where to plant them. I have at least three choices.

Here are some guidelines for growing clematis, taken from the American Clematis Society(

Light: at least 5 to 6 hours of sun (pastel varieties will not fade as badly if given some afternoon shade)
Site: Critical to long-lived clematis. Dig a hole 24 x 24 and fill with quality topsoil that has been amended if needed. Cut the container to avoid damaging the plant. Sink the base of the plant's stems 3" to 5" below soil level. Keep the stake in place the first year to give support.
Mulch: 3" to 4" of soil amendments or peat moss over root zone. Keep mulch 8" away from the stem to avoid stem rot.
Feed: Clematis are heavy feeders. When spring buds reach 2" long, feed with Gro-Power Flower 'n' Bloom. Alternate feedings every 4 to 6 weeks with Gro-Power All Purpose Plus. Use 2 tablespoons per plant every feeding until the end of September.
Water: Water regularly, thoroughly and deeply during hot summer months. Don't keep too wet, especially in dormant winter months.
Support: They will climb on an arbor, a trellis, other shrubs, a fence, or other structures.
Disease: Susceptible to stem rot or wilt, but it's not usually fatal. Cut off all diseased parts and discard in trash bag. Don't forget to disinfect clippers after use. The ACS recommends Physan 20.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Olive Barn is not closing

Oops. When I said Olive Barn was closing, I was wrong. What I should have said is that Olive Barn's Outlet & Warehouse in Houston is closing. Olive Barn still is very much alive and well online at They have some unique and interesting items and are worth checking out.

Thanks, Jacqueline, for calling that to my attention.

Easy to use gardening tools

For gardeners, the older you get, the more important it is to find the right tools. Gardening is physical labor. Digging, weeding, hoeing, planting - all can take a toll on the back, shoulders, arms, legs, hand and feet. While the exercise is good for the body, sore, painful joints and unnecessary callouses are not.

A couple of years ago, I found a set of hand tools at the Olive Barn in Houston that looked promising. They have become my favorite tools. They're made by NRG and have large, round handles that are ergonomically sound and easy to grip. They are not cheap (in any sense of the word), but the quality is excellent. When I retired from The Enterprise, my friend Torchy gave me a set at my going-away party because she knew I loved gardening. We lost Torchy to cancer not long ago, but the tools - along with countless other things - remind me of her energy, sweetness and joy of life when I use them.

I have lusted after NRG's large tools ever since I found the small ones, but hesitated because of the cost ($40 each). Well, the Olive Barn is going out of business (sad face) and have the tools on sale for half price. Joel splurged and bought me the weeder, spade, fork and bulb planter. They are wonderful. I'm doing some major flower bed work right now and they make it much easier.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What happens when you don't water

It seems I picked one of the driest months around to be out of town. While I was gone from mid-April to mid-May, my sweet husband tried to water all the plants, but not being the one who usually has water duty and unaware of how many plants we have and how potted plants need more water than those in the ground, well ... let's say I came home to some seriously damaged plants. When I saw the brown, shriveled up lime tree and herbs, I figured I might could save some of the herbs, but the lime tree probably was a goner.

Well, while the top of the tree still is brown and shriveled, new green shoots are coming out half-way down the tree. I'm not sure if the damage was severe enough that I should pitch the tree and start over, but I think it deserves a chance to prove itself. I have a hard time throwing out a plant, even when I should. I will discard diseased plants, however.

I'm going to give the lime tree a couple through summer to see how well it rebounds. It needs pruning, but not having experienced this before, I'm not at which points I should begin the pruning. I hate to take the top third out, but that might be exactly what the tree needs.

What do you think?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tuscan mystery plant

One of the many plants I saw during my three weeks in Europe that I'm not familiar with include this colorful succulent. The yellow, orange and green combination is striking. It was always growing in full sun and though I didn't break a leaf off to check, it looks like other succulents I've seen.

The plants in Tuscany all seemed somehow brighter, more vivid and color-drenched than most. Perhaps it just seems that way because of the more neutral tones of the stone, brick and rock of the 300-year-old bed and breakfast where we stayed.

Do you know what this plant is? Please share.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Grandma's Yellow Rose

There's something about yellow roses. As a young woman, I fell in love with a beautiful climbing yellow rose that spilled along a neighbor's chain link fence. The color was vivid, yet restful. Even on cloudy days, it seemed to pull all the light onto its petals. When I moved, I missed that rose. As an adult, when my friends got a dozen red roses on Valentine's Day, I always secretly wished for a dozen yellow ones.

When my first marriage was falling apart and we separated, my soon-to-be ex sent a dozen roses to my office. They were yellow. I couldn't believe it. Seven years of marriage and they were the first such roses. I threw them in the trash. All these years later, I can appreciate the too-late gesture (and remain on good terms with the ex, who found the right woman for him and is happily married) but don't regret what I did.

I've never planted a true yellow rose in my yard. I think it might be time to remedy that. The latest rose to be added to the Texas A&M List of Texas SuperStars is Grandma's Yellow Rose, shown above. The rose is the first of five plants that will be named in 2010. The blooms are not the usual short-stemmed types found in most home gardens, but a true long-stemmed "Valentine's Day Rose," the Texas AgriLife Extension Service horticulturists say.

The researchers named the rose after Dr. Larry Stein's grandmother, Tillie Jungman, who loved the rose and helped test it in her garden near Castroville. Stein is an AgriLife Extension horticulturist and one of the developers of Grandma's Yellow rose. The new rose produces successive flushes of blooms from spring until frost and so disease tolerant that fungicide sprays seldom are needed.

Miss Tillie died in Nov. 2005. Her pallbearers each wore a yellow rose bud in their lapels.

Texas AgriLife Extension Service photo by Robert Burns

Sunday, May 16, 2010


For the past four days, before hitting the gardening duties/pleasures, I've been getting up early and sitting on the deck to enjoy a few minutes of the few crisp, cool hours of the day May brings in Southeast Texas. I sip tea from this lovely cup (complete with a strainer and brewing lid) that Stephanie gave me for Mothers Day. It looks like you, she said when she gave it to me, along with a beautiful earthenware pot filled with a citrus-scented candle.

I've been home only a week since my Trip of a Lifetime to Europe. While there, I drank hot tea every day. With perfect 60-degree weather, I grew to love the hot brew with biscotti or biscuits (of the afternoon tea European kind, not my grandmother's breakfast delights). I plan on keeping up this daily routine until the heat of summer makes it less appealing. Then, it's back to cranberry juice or iced tea.

How blessed I am to have a daughter (and son and daughter-in-law) who spend time looking for gifts that "look like me." Speaking of Chris and Sheila, they gave me a Lily, the first Asiatic lily to go into my garden. It's potted right now, but will be planted this fall when I find the right spot.

Speaking of finding the right spot... I have a lot of catch-up blogging to do. I missed the prime spring gardening days from Mid-April to Mid-May, so I'm working hard to make up for that. It's hard to complain about not being here when I was on the T.O.A.L.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

So where have you been?

I've been getting that question a lot lately. If you're a regular reader, you've no doubt noticed a looong absence of posts. There's a good reason - I've been on the trip of a lifetime.

My sister Gloria and I spent three weeks in Europe. Our travels took us to London, Paris, Rome, Tuscany, Edinburgh, Dublin and across south and west Ireland. It was fabulous. You'd think at least one thing would let you down, but other than being stuck for two extra days in Tuscany because of the Iceland ash cloud (not exactly a hardship), everything was more than we could have expected.

I saw lots of new plants, several gardens (although time didn't permit touring Kew Gardens in London, much to my sadness) and the greenest green you can imagine in Ireland and Scotland.

I'm sorting through the 1,750 photos I took (seriously) and will post many of them here later. We'll start with these lovely irises at the fabulous B&B Agriturismo Il Rigo, San Quirico d'Orcia in Tuscany (

Of all the places we stayed, this was one of my two favorites. If you are traveling to Tuscany, I can recommend this B&B without reservation. It is a 500-year-old farmhouse that sits high on a hill in the Tuscan countryside. It's minutes from several lovely villages. Everywhere you look is a picture-postcard perfect view, with lots of flowers and gardens.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Don't give up

For the next couple of weeks, postings will be slim, but don't give up on me. I'm not giving up the blog; I just will be busy with other things. I'll try to pop in once in a while so you don't forget me

Happy gardening!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Home-grown Strawberries

In her Arkansas garden, my grandmother never was without several rows of strawberries. In the summer, Sunday dinner usually was topped off with strawberries and cream (her poor-man's version was cold Pet milk and sugar whipped together). I still can taste those plump, ripe berries, best when still warm from the sun.

My little pot of strawberries is coming along nicely. I took this shot yesterday of the first ripe berry. I've been looking at it each day, waiting until it's perfectly ripe to pick. This morning, I went outside. salivating at the thought of that perfect berry - only to discover that a #%^@ 'possum or raccoon beat me to it! I'm thinking it probably was the 'possum I saw having a good time in the back yard and on the back porch yesterday. I am not happy. I'm not sure where I can put it that a critter can't get to, since I've seen them scale metal table legs to reach the tabletop.
Maybe a net is in order.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pecan trees budding out

OK - it's official. Spring truly is here - the pecan trees are budding.

Pecans are the prudent sisters of the tree family. They don't want to take any chances in being trapped by a frost. If they are leafing out, they are pretty confident that no more cold (not cool - cold) snaps are coming.

The pecan orchard across the highway from us is coming to life and our two old pecans are following suit, as this photo shows.

Now I'm hungry for pecan pies!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dill is easy to grow - right?

Dill is easy to grow. Even new gardeners know that. Look it up and you'll learn that all it needs is full sun and well drained soil and watering when dry.

So why do I have so much trouble with it?

I'm on my third attempt to grow dill. The first time around, it grew, but did not thrive. The second time, it turned brown and died. This time, as you can see by the photo, it's turning brown around the edges. Again.

I've read that dill does not like to be transplanted. Maybe that's it. I don't see any signs of pests.
Is there something I'm missing?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Tulips in bloom!

Although this isn't a good photo, you can at least see that the tulips I planted now are starting to bloom. I scattered them around the annual bed, so it's hard to get a photo showing more than one. Next time, I will plant them in mass for more impact. Yes, there will be a next time. I've decided the payoff is worth the investment.

When I first saw the tulips fully open, I thought, boy, that was short-lived, That afternoon, the petals folded up and the next morning, they opened again. I'm anxious to see how long the blooms last before finally fading.

Ah...the joys of gardening. Each day is a new discovery.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Carnations (Dianthus Caryophyllus)

These are the pink carnations I picked up last week. They are companions to the pot of African daisies and the pair bring a nice spot of color to the gray of the weathered deck and the blue/gray siding of our house. I've never grown carnations before and thought I'd try them in a pot and see if they appeal to me the way other dianthus do. They are not florists carnations. These small carnations as the wild ancestor of the garden carnation. They are herbaceous perennials that produce sweet-scented blooms. Give your carnations at least 6 hours of full sun. Deadhead to produce more blooms.

An interesting note: One Christian legend says carnations first appeared when the Virgin Mary shed tears as she watched Jesus carry the cross to his crucifixion. The carnation has come to symbolize a mother's love, helped along when Anna Jarvis chose it as the official flower of Mother's Day.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

African daisies

I found these pretty African Daisies at Home Depot this week and thought the shades of violet/pink would make a nice contrast to a yellow pot that needed a new plant. As a companion, I bought pink carnations (coreopsis) for the second pot. They add color to the gray deck near the side door.

If you Google African daisies you'll find lots of references to the annual Dimorphotheca. These African Daisies I bought are osteospermum. According to, the name comes from the Greek osteon (= bone) and Latin spermum (= seed). This member of the daisy family sometimes is called South African Daisy, Cape Daisy or Blue-eyed Daisy. The label on the plant might say annual, but they are half-hardy perennials, which means they won't survive multiple frosts but will survive if protected.

Give your African Daisies plenty of sun, water frequently and feed weekly with a general fertilizer of your choice. Be sure to deadhead to prolong flowering. If you need to prune for tidiness, go ahead. They will send up new shoots.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tulips from Amsterdam

These are the tulips Stephanie brought back from Amsterdam. She also brought back a box of pink ones for herself. She waited a week or so before planting hers, so we are anxiously awaiting their appearance. They should be lovely.

If you plant tulips in Southeast Texas, understand that they are annuals here, even though they are bulbs. Instead of digging them up, storing and replanting next year, as you can in cold climates, you might as well toss them after blooming.

Tulips are classified by their bloom time: early spring, early to mid-spring, mid-spring and late spring. The ones Stephanie brought back are late-blooming, since in Southeast Texas, the usual time to plant tulips is late December or early January. By mixing bulbs of different bloom times, you can enjoy the beautiful blooms longer.

For her birthday each February 10, I gave Stephanie a vase of purple irises and yellow tulips for several years. They make a striking combination, with the yellow tulips bringing out the yellow in the irises' throats. If you're looking for an elegant arrangement, try it I like them simple, with no added greenery, in a tall, cobalt blue vase. The tulips droop gently, creating a wreath around the tall iris stems.

Planting tulips

I've always loved tulips but never planted any. Why? I'm not sure. I guess it's because they are a one-shot thing. You plant them, they come up, then die and never are heard from again. Also, they are kind of expensive when compared to annuals.

When my daughter, Stephanie, came back from a business trip to Amsterdam, she brought me a box of tulip bulbs. It wasn't easy, since she had to get tulips certified to be disease and pest free and had to get them stamped, so I was doubly grateful for the gift.

They already had been pre-chilled and needed to go in the ground right away, so I got busy and added them to my annual bed. Within a week or so, the first tiny green tips poked through the soil and now, they show promise of being nice-sized tulips. I'm really excited to see them in bloom.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Gloxinia Revenge

If you ever doubt the inexplicable ways of plants, consider this.

After I blogged about a gloxinia having one beautiful bloom season and being too difficult to get to bloom again, I went to water my gloxinia and found an ENTIRE new set of leaves coming from beneath all the droopy, damaged and dying leaves and brown buds

Sure, it said. Diss me and I'll show you!

Time will tell if that new growth will sustain blooms. Until I find out, I'm treating it with the respect it evidently demands.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Shamrock

Happy St. Pat's Day! Did you know that the shamrock - an Irish Christian symbol of the Holy Trinity and the registered trademark of the Government of Ireland - is the old, three-leaved white clover? Yes, indeed - and that means I have little patches of my ancestral home in my back yard! Legend says the shamrock was a sacred plant to the Druids of Ireland because it has three leaves - and three is a mystical number in the Celtic religion. If you want the true Irish shamrock, the botanical name is Trifolium repens, a bulb that can bloom (white flowers) around St. Patrick's Day. Keep your shamrock plant healthy by cutting it back a couple of times a year and storing it in a cool, dark place to allow it to reset. Shamrocks are dormant in Ireland during the winter.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Loropetalum 'Burgundy'

Joel and I bought this Loropetalum (chinese var. rubrum 'Burgundy') a number of years back from a clearance sale at the garden shop Rhette Browning used to have on Calder in Old Town. It was on clearance because it was root bound and leggy.
We planted it in one of the first beds we built in an "L" alcove of the house. I didn't prune it much because I liked the tree shape, rather than the squat form. It obviously loves the spot, since it's now 10 feet tall or more. I prune it only when two branches rub or it encroaches too far into the yard to make mowing easy.

It rewards us with the most amazing, neon fuschia blooms, like these. Click on the photo and look at the dark branch at the lower left. It's the true color. As long as our tree is happy, I'm letting it have its way.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Old chinaberry tree finds new life

The really old chinaberry tree on the south side of our house has taken some serious hits in the last 25 years. It went from a sturdy trunk with a wide, airy canopy to a storm-damaged stick of a tree. As it aged, it began rotting on the inside, yet the outer ring of wood continued to send up new limbs each year that provided dappled shade for the bed beneath. When it became too unsteady, I finally agreed with my husband that it should come down. Oh, I hated that. I always loved the fringed leaves, pretty lilac blooms that covered the yard like elegant confetti each spring - and didn't even mind the berries. When we chopped it down, I dug into the center cavity and found decomposing organic matter. Joel and I both had the same idea: why not turn it into a planter? I mixed some potting soil and expanded shale to help retain moisture and filled the cavity with Louisiana blue phlox and a lovely purple verbena. The stump is now a bright spot in a bed that was turned ugly by the freeze this winter and has become a focal point for what will be coming up around it.

Photos, photos, photos

My camera is back! They shipped it to my husband's office since we have a P.O. Box so I won't have it until late this afternoon, but the moment is back in my hands, I'll be outside taking lots of photos of the latest changes in the garden. The past week has been a whirlwind of activity around here. We pulled out an old chain link fence that was an eyesore (and full of mature poison ivy vines), finally got the iron wall of ginger dug up (it took a chain hooked up to a truck to dislodge it, despite all the recent rain!), trimmed back the climbing rose over the arbor, made a small bed for roses now that the area is clear, and planted lots of herbs.

I was reminded of the importance of taking photos of your garden as I looked back through old ones that showed how different our yard is now. I have photos of the big bed in front of the game room when we first built it. It was a neat bed with a few small plants and a small water garden. The water garden now is gone, the small African irises now are huge stands and we have a narrow walkway of flagstone that leads to the fountain we put in a couple of years ago. It's so nice to have all the changes documented. This photo is an old one of the climbing rose in overblown glory. Later, fellow gardeners...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Gloxinias - one time glory

I believe that part of being a gardener is knowing which plants to give up on - and when. For me, an obvious example is the gloxinia. It's such a beautiful plant, but trying to keep one alive and getting it to bloom again once it's lost its florist glow is futile - for me, at least. I recently spoke to a group about my book, "Grace, Gratitude & Generosity" and as a thank you, they gave me a beautiful gloxinia in full bloom with lots of buds. It touched me because the gloxinia was one of my grandmother's favorite flowers, but she never had one. Now I know why. They are next to impossible for all but the most dedicated gloxinia fans to propagate, grow and get to re-bloom. I wanted to make mine last, so I researched what it takes. The answer? More than I'm willing to do. Time is a gardener's best friend - and enemy. As with most things in life, you have to choose were to place your priorities. If you have so many hours a day to garden, which would you rather do - spend lots of hours on one or two plants that likely won't survive, or spend those hours on plants you also love and know will produce with much less care. Obviously, there are exceptions. Many people prefer to specialize in tough, demanding plants. They are successful in their pursuit and enjoy the challenge. But for the average novice gardener, coaxing a lovely bed of blooms is reward enough. What do you think?

Monday, March 8, 2010

March birth flower - the Daffodil

March is a wonderful month for gardeners, and special to me for several reasons. In March, the first bulbs already have made an appearance in Southeast Texas. The paperwhite narcissus have bloomed and gone, but the March Birth Flower is bringing vivid color to yards and pastures. The cheery yellow trumpet and petals of the daffodil announce that spring truly is here. Daffodils symbolize hope, modesty and faithfulness. At least six of my family members have birthdays in March, beginning with my sister Billie, then my sister Anita, followed by my nieces Lisa, Tracy and Katie, then my mother. My grandmother always had daffodils in her yard, and they still faithfully return each year to my dad's homestead, despite his absence.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Cameras in the garden

If you've noticed a slowdown in posts with photos, there's a reason. My camera has been acting up for a while. I did some online searching and found it was a known flaw in a component that should be able to be replaced. So I shipped it off and have been camera-less since. It's been miserable. Here we are when buds are forming, cold-hardy annuals are re-blooming and everywhere I look I see potential shots. I am anxiously awaiting news of my camera's return. Until then, I'm inviting any gardeners who have photos to share to post them or email them to me with a brief description, your first name and city. Photos are an integral part of this blog and I like to use original photos. Send yours in. Even when I get my camera back, I'd still love to see your photos.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Beekeeping Seminar in Orange

This is the flyer for the Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center beekeeping semiar on March 9. For more details, visit

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Have a Gardening Question?

If you've got gardening questions, Master Gardeners have the answers. Master Gardener interns take an intensive course on everything from integrated pest management to lawn care and landscape design. After a year of volunteering in the community, they earn their Master Gardener Certification. Since the main focus of the MG program is education for the community through volunteers who assist county AgriLife agents, what better way than to answer questions from area gardeners? While a Master Gardener might not have the answer, he or she knows where to find it, with extensive training and research materials.

You can ask a Master Gardener your question every Sunday through March 21 from 2-4 p.m. at Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center in Orange. Certified Master Gardeners, Interns or Trainees from around the State of Texas will be available. The event is free to the public (does not include garden tour). Tours are available for regular fees. If the Master Gardeners don’t have an answer readily available, you can fill out a question card and they'll get back to you with the answer. Shangri La is at 2111 West Park Avenue in Orange and is open Tuesday through Sunday. For more information call 409.670.9113 or visit

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pheonix tomato

Southeast Texas vegetable gardeners have a passion - bordering on obsession for some - for home-grown tomatoes. They eagerly watch for news of new varieties that show promise that they can add to their tried-and-true favorites. Here's such news.One of the top varieties of tomatoes tested in field trials in spring, 2007 and spring 2008 by A&M for Texas gardeners is the Phoenix. It's a hot-set tomato that performed July through November. The Phoenix is a "medium-maturing variety that produces good yields of large and extra-large fruit. The fruit was firm, had no cracks and had a good-to-fair taste. The fruit shape and color were good. The plants were medium to large in size and had good to very good foliage," the Aggies say.

The Phoenix is the 2010 "Rodeo Tomato."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lady Bird Royal Blue Bluebonnet

Every time I see a field of bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush and other wildflowers, I think of Lady Bird Johnson. Her passion for wildflowers and for her home state created a legacy that will be enjoyed for generations to come. How fitting that a new variety of bluebonnet has been named after her - and was chosen as the "Rodeo Flower" for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The Lady Bird Royal Blue bluebonnet is a spectacular shade of blue.

Dr, Jerry Parsons of A&M and Micah Meyer, Jefferson County AgriLife specialist, have written a guide for successfully cultivating bluebonnets. Some of the tips are: Choose the right location. It must be sunny - at least 8-10 hours a day. If not, don't expect a good show. Bluebonnets will thrive in any soil or potting mix as long as it is well drained. Keep the potting mix or soil slightly moist - not overly wet. Once plants become established (two or three weeks after planting), they are relatively drought tolerant and one of Texas' toughest natives. Bluebonnets form ground-hugging rosettes, only several inches tall, but with a spread up to dinner-plate size. The plant will not grow rapidly (no matter how much you water or fertilize) until warm spring temperatures prompt flower stalks. Beneath the rosette of leaves, a large mass of roots has the ability to form nitrogen-fixing nodules called Rhizobium which are filled with beneficial bacteria that can take nitrogen from the atmosphere and feed the plant. Fertilize sparingly unless plants are pale green/yellowish. Use a water soluble fertilizer (like MiracleGro) when watering. Be careful not to place transplants too deep. The crown should not be buried; the plant will rot.

Photo credit: Dr. Jerry Parsons

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Vegetable Seminar this Saturday in Beaumont

The Texas AgriLife folks are presenting a gardening seminar this Saturday that you won't want to miss if you love tomatoes, wildflowers or both. Dr. Jerry Parsons, whom I've heard is a great speaker, will present the program. Parsons is a vegetable specialist from Texas A&M, and you can be sure the seminar will be applicable to Southeast Texas gardeners. Among his topics will be two new selections available to gardeners: the Lady Bird Royal Blue bluebonnet and the Phoenix tomato. I will blog on those individually the next two days.

The seminar will be 9 a.m. - noon (Feb. 27) at the Texas AgriLife Extension Service Auditorium, 1225 Pearl Street, Suite 200, in downtown Beaumont, across from the courthouse. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. The cost is a very reasonable $10 per person. Insider info: a few of the new bluebonnet and the new tomato will be available for purchase. The program is conducted by Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas. Persons with disabilities who want to attend and need auxiliary aids or services can call Cary Erickson, Jefferson County Human Resources Director at (409) 839-2391 five working days prior to the meeting so appropriate arrangements can be made. To pre-register or for more information,call 409-835-8461 or e-mail: jefferson-tx@tamu.eduAs usual, there will door prizes.

Friday, February 19, 2010

First iris of the season

Spring is soooo close.

Here's the first iris to bloom so far.
Lots more to come, I hope...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Master Gardeners radio spots

Here's a shot I took a couple of days ago when the Master Gardeners went down to KVLU at Lamar University to record some public service spots in conjunction with the Texas AgriLife folks. That's Master Gardener Intern Kathy Attaway on the left and Master Gardener (and past president) Micah Shanks on the right. Intern Cecil Hightower didn't make it into the shot. Sorry, Cecil - I'll catch you later, maybe in your fabulous garden.

The spots air during the early morning on KVLU National Public Radio, 91.3.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New local water garden blog

John Cooper sent an email asking if I would pass along information on his new blog, Southeast Texas Ponders, which is geared toward water gardens. Here's the message:

Hello, I live in Beaumont, Tx and have started a forum for Water gardening and Koi/Goldfish Ponds. I'm trying to create a place for people of setx to share pics of their ponds, water gardens, container gardens and to ask for help, share ideas and trade/sell plants. Free-to-join url is
Nice name for the blog, John

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How to Grow Plumeria

To become a full-fledged Master Gardener, we intern newbies are required to volunteer a certain number of hours to the community. As part of my volunteer hours, I, along with others, write and record "Out in the Yard with the Master Gardeners," brief radio spots broadcast on KVLU Public Radio. When I do those spots, I share them with you on the blog. Here's one on plumerias.

If you are charmed by the lovely flowers and heady fragrance of plumerias, spring is a good time to try your hand at growing this beauty. Plumerias are perhaps most closely identified as the flowers used in Hawaiian leis, although they are native to Mexico and Central America. As a tropical plant, it will require protection from frost or freeze in winter.

Plumerias will need at least 4 hours or sun to flower well. Although they can be grown in the ground in a sunny, sheltered spot with an overhang, planting them in a pot allows you to take them inside a garage or other sheltered spot when the temperature drops below 40 degrees.
Plumerias spend almost half a year in a dormant state, so don’t be surprised when they begin to drop leaves and turn into bare sticks. Water your plumeria to duplicate what it would experience in its native lands: a wet season followed by a dry season. During the growing season water frequently, especially during the heat of summer, but don’t let the soil stay soggy. Let it dry slightly between watering. When it starts to drop leaves in the fall, stop watering.

Plumeria seedling take 3 to 4 years to bloom, so unless you are patient, buy an established plant. Feed every other week with a fertilizer high in phosphorus, but stop feeding in September to allow the new growth to harden off before winter. Plumerias root easily; take cuttings sometime between February and May. Allow the new cutting to callous about 10 days before potting. Dip the cut end in a rooting hormone, place in potting soil and keep moist. Too much water can cause the cutting to rot, so pay attention to the moisture level.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Free Pancakes

Want to support a good cause and enjoy some tasty pancakes?

Feb 23 is National Pancake Day and IHOP restaurants are serving free short stacks of pancakes (7-10 a.m.) to help raise awareness (and money) for Shriners Hospitals for Children. IHOP has set as their goal donations of $1.75 million. They've already raised $3.25 million over the past 5 years through the National Pancake Day fundraiser. When guests are given their pancakes, they are asked if they would like to donate to Shriners Hospitals for Children (22 pediatric hospitals that provides all services free).

Shriners does great work, helping children get top-notch medical care when they otherwise might not be able to afford it. So go enjoy some pancakes and make a donation for the kids.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Trade leaves for trees

Shangri La Botanical Gardens in Orange continues to have innovative and relevant events for Southeast Texans. This Saturday, they will offer a double chance to help the environment; get rid of leaves that would go to a landfill and get a free tree. Here's the announcement, taken from their website:

On Feb.13, Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center will swap trees for leaves. Participants may bring one or more bags of leaves to Gate 4 at Shangri La and receive a tree. Gate 4 is located approximately one block west of the entrance of Shangri La on Park Avenue in Orange. The address for this entrance is 2140 Park Avenue. Signs will show the entrance. Trees will be swapped for leaves between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and Noon. Anyone who would like to receive a tree to plant on their property can bring one or more bags of leaves to swap for a native tree in a one-gallon pot. Bags should contain only leaves, no trash, sticks or limbs. Most of the trees available are a variety of oak and only the first 200 participants will receive a tree. Please, only one tree per participant. If participants would simply like to donate their leaves, they are not required to take a tree.

Leaves from this project will be composted and used in Shangri La gardens. Workers will be available to unload leaves and load trees. This is an excellent way to help save landfill space and provide needed composted materials for Shangri La. For additional information, please phone (409) 670-9113.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Weed - or wildflower?

The sticky weed that clings to clothes, skin, fur, or anything else that brushes against it is cleaver (also known as stickyweed or gooseweed). Cleavers (Galium aparine) are wildlfowers that are reported to have some medicinal uses as a tea or poultice.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What is this weed?

This weed can take over quickly if not contained persistently before it makes seeds. It starts with a base of broad leaves, then sends up tough stems with little yellow flower clusters at the base of the leaves. Those flowers turn into sticky balls that cling like Velcro to everything, spreading voraciously. The stems aren't strong enough to support the leaves and seeds, so they cling to other plants, fences, or any other vertical surface.

What is this plant, photographed in my annual bed, which is reported to have medicinal purposes? I'll post the answer tonight.

Friday, February 5, 2010

How to prune roses

Rose fanciers traditionally prune roses on Valentine's Day, so if you need help knowing how to properly prune your roses, now is the time to learn. Fortunately, each year the Golden Triangle Rose Society performs the honors for the beautiful rose gardens at the historic McFaddin-Ward House in Beaumont - and they invite the public out for a free demonstration. This year, the event is Saturday, Feb. 6, from 10 -11 a.m. Members of the rose society will be glad to answer questions. If you'd like, you can take home some clippings and try your hand and propagating a new bush.

Meet at the back gate of the house on North Street between Third and Fourth Streets.
Bring good thorn-proof gloves and newspapers for your cuttings. The McFaddin-Ward carriage house also will be open (free) to go on a self-guided tour between 10a.m. - closes at 4 p.m. Tours of the main house are $3. Call 409-832-2134 for a reservation. For more information, call (409) 832-1906