from darkness to light

hello dear friends.

i know, it’s been a long time since i’ve posted, but life’s been busy. mostly with things that so quickly fill idle days that they spill over into restless nights. thankfully, as a dear friend once said, tomorrow’s another day.

speaking of, it was an unseasonal 80 degrees in central texas today(!), yet the snow is once again falling here at grow where you’re planted. if nothing else, the animated pixels help to remind me that no, it isn’t the time for donning halloween costumes but to trim trees, plug in the sparkly lights and bask in the warm glow of an oven filled with sweet and savory treats.

in a few days the winter solstice will be upon us and the hours of daylight will balance those of darkness. it brings to mind a song and animated short i’ve twice now seasonally featured, the winter song, sung by sara bareilles and ingrid michaelson. (pardon the short ad)

i’ve appreciated the story it tells, that spring will once again triumph over winter. this time however, listening to the lyrics immediately brought to mind the recent tragedy in connecticut… i couldn’t help but let the tears well up in my eyes and fall on my face, particularly to these lyrics

this is my winter song / december never felt so wrong / because you’re not where you belong / inside my arms

i watched the animation, and again, the tears fell during those lyrics. but watching the little girls play in the woods, looking for any signs of life and finding a heart emerging from the snowmelt made me wonder as if there might be hope afterall… hope for more nurturing… for more care and compassion… for more time discovering and celebrating the tiny miracles that constantly surround us… amid so much darkness, fear and pain.

this is my winter song to you / the storm is coming soon / it rolls in from the sea / my love a beacon in the night / my words will be your light / to carry you to me / is love alive

this past weekend we heard eliza gilkyson sing & play with her band at the austin armadillo christmas bazaar. while looking up her albums afterward i coincidentally stumbled upon a song she wrote in response to the 2004 indian ocean tsunami, requiem. i recall connecting to it when i first heard the duet she performed with her daughter. since then it’s been performed by various groups in response to several challenging moments we’ve since experienced… for katrina… and japan… perhaps it’s already been shared for newtown. i don’t think she played this song at the bazaar – if she had, there wouldn’t have been a dry eye in the room. it’s a song that allows one to grieve and lament, but to also be embraced and consoled. i find comfort in these particular lyrics

mother mary, full of grace, awaken

mary, fill the glass to overflowing / illuminate the path where we are going / have mercy on us all

oh mother mary find us where we’ve fallen out of grace / lead us to a higher place

in the dark night of our soul / our broken hearts you can make whole

oh mother mary come and carry us in your embrace / let us see your gentle face, mary

here’s a link to an npr story where eliza talks about writing requiem – and where you can listen the original arrangement sung with her daughter – and another link by craig hella johnson who collaborated with eliza on a choral arrangement for conspirare.

may these songs bring us all a little comfort as we transition from darkness into light.

(almost) spring garden view

spring doesn’t officially land on the astronomical calendar until march 20th, but the garden, in response to the seemingly warmer than typical temperatures of late, is telling me otherwise this year.

front yard garden view of Foeniculum vulgare 'Purpureum' (bronze fennel), Salvia gregii 'Raspberry' (sage), Pyrrhopappus multicaulis (texas dandelion) and friends...
a few steps closer to Rosa 'Knock Out' (rose), Punica 'Red Silk' (pomegranate), Salvia x fruticosa 'Newe Ya'ar' (sage) and Prunus 'Methley' (plum) ... and some slime mold on the leaf mulch, yay!
a close up of pretty Prunus 'Methley' (plum) blooms that burst into flower this morning. even mr. grwhryrpltd stopped to enjoy them before heading to work this morning

isn’t it all so pretty? you should see it from the other direction, when the late afternoon sun and early evening sunset light up the newly emerging foliage like rubies.

talk about a knock out... Rosa 'Knockout' against Punica 'Red Silk' (pomegranate)
newly emerging pomegranate leaves... little rubies they are...
especially when back lit. this is what i call the ruby glow...

and i’ve got a little extra glow because i was awarded this the other night:

2011 brazos county master gardener of the year

gardening is a labor of love, no matter where you’re able to do it… happy march everyone.



the monarchs have returned, bringing slow fluttering movement to the fall garden. it’s a joy to see several of them breakfasting in the morning, just as the sun warms plant nectar to what i imagine is near ambrosia, and again in the evening, when soft light filters through their fiery wings. i’ve taken the monarch’s migration through our area as a welcome sign of autumn, and delight in the visual harvest they offer for all to see.

heading down to houston for the quilt festival. see you on the return.

winter walk off

while it’s felt quite summer like here lately, with blue-bird skies full of sun and daytime temps in the 80’s, tomorrow is the first day of spring. my blog buddy les at a tidewater gardener is hosting a blog challenge entitled “winter walk off.” the rules are simple. to walk off the doldrums of winter, post an entry describing the things you see in your neighborhood while walking it, on your own two feet… photos from your yarden are not permissible. here’s what i came across in my relatively newly constructed suburban neighborhood this past thursday evening.

edelweiss gartens park
a wheel-crushed (and most likely harmless) snake
fences and clipped hedges. Photinia, in my opinion, looks better unclipped.
roofscape, fencescape & crapescape, with hacked-back grasses.
Quercus (oak) icon. Lagerstroemia (crape myrtle) icon.
park rules. no exercise boot camps allowed witout a permit.
detention pondscape. makes for a good kite-flying hill.
infrequent stormwater, more frequent excess irrigation water outflow
culvertized rapids, with debris.
sediment flow
the lone standing Quercus stellata (post oak)
culvert to catch basin
catch basin, with trash
bridge over culvert, with "every morning you greet me" geocache
Pyrus callerana 'Bradford' (Pear) trees that i've pruned into (better) shape along the walking path
suburbia's home run
invasive bamboo, with trash, along the continued stormwater out flow
field of Allium wildflowers (turf weeds)
sighting of cedar waxwing flock
intermittent stream side
boardwalk through the woods, with "little long bridge" multicache
emergent Quercus marilandica (blackjack oak) along lighted path

my camera battery ran out soon after this, and i was only half way through my walk. however, a neat thing happened that i had to capture in my mind’s eye instead. after rounding another woodlot corner, i came upon an open lot with a little boy in navy and a little girl in magenta playing amongst the weeds, glowing with the backlight of the setting sun. the same wild onion “weeds” labeled a few pictures above. they were gathering them for their mom, or each other, or perhaps for themselves. the smiles on their faces were so sweet, especially when i overheard the little boy say, “gathering these flowers smells SO GOOD!” about that time he saw me walk around the bend, and even though we were 25 yards apart, he raised his full fist of garlic to me, as if in a greeting of passersby. while my images may not capture the best my neighborhood has to offer, at least i know there are good surprises to be had when i’m not even looking for them.

thanks for the challenge les. happy spring!

the bluebonnets are coming…

this is just a quick post to let you know i haven’t completely fallen into the compost heap… spring is right around the corner and outdoor activities are starting to fill my days (YAY)! here’s a few pretty photos i took at last week’s DIG work day at the brazos county master gardener’s demonstration garden. in this part of the world, bluebonnets are the floral harbingers of spring, signaling that the prettiest time of year has just begun.


Lupinus texensis (bluebonnet)
Lupinus texensis (bluebonnet) in the rose garden
another Lupinus texensis (bluebonnet)

what harbingers of spring do you look forward to seeing?

winter in the bcs

here in the b/cs we’re experiencing our second (third?) seasonal bout of winter. today’s chilly temps and frozen precip mix made for questionable driving conditions, mostly because my rear-view mirrors were rendered useless due to a lack of proper ice removal tools (my kroger plus card could only do so much). last week the university closed due to four inches of predicted snow (i think we only got about an inch) but we all know it was really due to black ice. while that phrase brings to mind many motherly winter driving warnings, it’s nothing to joke about around here, where road preparations involve seeding the overpasses and high LOS intersections with cinders, gravel and ash. while those ice-preventing amendments may function in a more environmentally sensitive way, i prefer my roads salted.

i wasn’t inspired to capture any frozen moments today, because frankly the light just wasn’t shining on anything, but here are a few images of our second bout of winter, less than a week ago. perhaps i’ll get a few opportunities to capture today’s frozen animation tomorrow…

sadly, this clump of frozen Narcissi won't be able to flower now...
it's a crying shame...
the droop of a frost-damaged brassica
here comes the snow...
this will surely test our texas hardy garlics
but we might as well make a snow kitty or two while we can
and breathe in the cool, crisp & refreshing artic air while we can...

bundle up folks. i mean, i hope you have your cold-sensitive plants bundled up. it’s supposed to get down to 19°F tonight (wind chill 5-10°F). while they’re not looking too good (and that’s an understatement…), i hope the citrus, mangave and agave can hold on for the 68°F and sunny sunday forecast…

p.s. of the three winters we’ve been here in tejas, it’s snowed at least once each year. and you know what? it wouldn’t be winter without it.

p.p.s. all this talk of weather inspired me to add a wx page to the blog. check it out.

save the mangave

it’s january 15th and time to start another year of garden blogger’s bloom day.  seeing that the blooms are lacking even here in balmy central texas it’s difficult to have much to say, let alone have a picture show for.  it’s actually been cool and gray here lately, with temperatures dipping nostalgically into the 20’s for a couple of days in a row…  brisk enough to bring out my favorite hand knits for their seasonal airing.  but i digress.

ice droplets captured on brassicaceae

freeze damage was limited in part because i didn’t really have many sensitive plants to protect this year.  of those that needed some extra t.l.c. were small, somewhat tender fall transplants that i buried in shredded leaves.  seemed to do the trick.  the one plant i have babied is the x Mangave ‘Macho Mocha’ (a cross between a manfreda and agave) that i acquired at peckerwood garden’s may garden conservancy open day.  here’s what it looked like when i finally planted it (with lots of expanded shale) in the garden:

x Mangave 'Macho Mocha'

before the holidays i was pretty judicious in covering it with a cardboard box on evenings that dropped into the low 30’s as mr. fairy, of peckerwood gardens told me to do.  but after we got back from the holidays i heard there was a few evenings below freezing while we were away, and even though i buffered the Mangave leaves with shredded leaves, signs of a freeze were evident:

x Manfreda 'Macho Mocha' with frost/freeze damaged leaves

notice how the lower left leaf lost its purple freckles?  its texture and density was also altered, most likely due to cell rupturing, but thankfully it wasn’t completely turned to mush.  don’t ask me about the mealy, powdery mildew-like fuzz at the upper leaves… i have no idea how they got there, nor how they survived the cold spell… anyhow,  to avoid further frost/freeze damage to this sweet little Mangave that i hope eventually becomes a garden focal point, i built on the cardboard box theory:

save the mangave, part 1
save the mangave, part 2
save the mangave, part 3

a little extreme, but i think it worked!  i don’t have an image for the shredded leaves piled high around the base of the boxes, but they’ll only help to insulate soil moisture levels.  since i won’t move the leaves away, they’ll amend the soil over the long haul too.  yep, it’s a labor of love folks, and yes, i can seem to have too much time on my hands, but you know what…? it’s all about the little things that we can help save along the way, like purple freckles.

save the purple freckles: x Mangave 'Macho Mocha'

happy bloom day everyone. go check out carol at may dreams gardens for other winter bloom watchers.

p.s. i do have something blooming indoors, even though someone wants nothing more than to be outdoors…

burro tail Graptosedum 'California Sunset' and one kitty desperado
tiny white flower of Graptosedum 'California Sunset'



we’re bracing for cold weather here in central texas, and to celebrate the low 20’s we’re predicted to drop down to tonight i’d like to highlight one of my favorite families of winter-hardy plants, brassicaceae.  these beautifully blue-green, magenta and purple edible ornamentals give a lacy shot of wow to our otherwise dreary landscape of seasonally deprived color. relegating these jewels to the vegetable garden wouldn’t do so i have them planted throughout the gardens.  since they love cool weather, and even improve their flavor with a dose of frost i’m not going out of my way to protect them this evening.  but with tonight’s crystal clear & starry sky, we’re getting more than just a frost… i hope old man winter doesn’t prove me wrong.

oh the brassicaceae...!

here’s some full-sized images of my favorites:

Brassica that survived from fall 2009 planting... !!!

stay warm out there friends…

where the wildflowers grow

one of the benefits to living in central texas is the show of spring wildflowers.  while driving in bryan, tx today i came across the boonville cemetery and just had to stop:

boonville cemetery, awash in Castilleja sp. (indian paint brush)
Quercus stellata (post oak) and Castilleja (indian paint brush)
Juniperus, Quercus and Castilleja

upon closer inspection there were other wildflowers in bloom:

yellow Tragopogon dubius (goatsbeard)
yellow Tragopogon dubius (goatsbeard)
blue Lupinus texensis (texas bluebonnet)
purple Phlox divaricata (wild blue phlox) and white Chaetopappa bellidifolia (whiteray leastdaisy)

i even grabbed two geocaches while i was at the cemetery. it was a good day.

the sun shines on boonville

for more info on the wildflowers shown here, head over to the lady bird johnson wildflower center’s website.  it has a boon of info for the wildflower and native plant enthusiast.

sweet spring

the surprises of spring are still sweet…

sweet narcissi

i discovered this sweet narcissi the other evening while watering the last of the weekend’s plant fare purchases… the tiring effects of the day’s incessant wind finally calmed down enough to peacefully enjoy the sunset, the rays of which happened to catch these lemony yellow petals previously shaded by umbelliferae.

spring still has surprises for me, and i am grateful.