i’ve been a bad garden blogger

if it weren’t for my insistent friend ms. slotharium, i’d probably never get this post up. i know, i’ve been a really bad garden blogger lately, but i just haven’t been able to spend  (i.e. distract myself) for a minute longer at the computer as this is the time of year to be outside in texas! surely you understand, so i won’t waste anymore time giving excuses. besides, it’s the bloom day before the garden bloggers meetup in asheville, so i really need to post something or else the powers that be might not let me participate.

here’s the prettiest blooming thing in the garden, bespeckled with the day’s constant drizzle. it sure makes me smile.

Hemerocallis ‘Big Smile’ (daylily)

no time to post photos of each individual blooming plant right now, so here’s the larger view what the front yarden is looking like. a little wild, yes, but over the past couple of months it’s been host to dozens of metamorphosing butterflies, color shifting anoles and even a few molting snakes seeking refuge.

driveway garden view
garden view to left of driveway
right side garden view
view from the top of the driveway

moving along towards the back yarden, here’s a little project mr. grwhryrpltd put together to support our enthusiastic grapevine.

new grape trellis over the garden gate. concrete footers and enlarging the gravel threshold are all that’s left to do (until i overhaul the gate itself ).
one bountiful cluster of Vitis labrusca ‘Black Spanish’ (grape). this is its first year of fruit production.

speaking of bounty, we’ve been harvesting plums the past few mornings from the front garden. they’re so tasty. i’m going to attempt to make plum jam this evening.

Prunus ‘Methley’ (plum)
beautiful and delicious!

oh right… we were heading to the back garden. here’s what it looks like with somewhat frequent rains (every 10 days or so).

a chair full of drying coriander, now probably lost to the rains it just sat through. oh well, i bet cilantro will be growing here come fall.
a nice place to sit with a glass of wine in the evening, particularly when the cushions are dry
while the vegetables haven’t been too productive this spring, the “native” sunflowers sure have shot up like a rocket. they’re everywhere, but i don’t mind too much. it gives the neighbors something to look at over the garden fence.

i’ve limbed up the sunflower’s leaves as they grow to support the tomatoes, tomatillos and peppers growing underneath them. the upper leaves should provide a bit of shade to get the veg through the heat of the day as well. the patch of sunflowers in front of the raised bed was a little experiment to see how big they’d get under competition from bermuda and st. augustine grass. they doubled in height after the last rain.

did i mention we’ve been visited by critters lately? here’s a few of the highlights.

a handsome anole on Pennisetum ‘Princess Caroline’ and Fig
a non-venomous yellow bellied racer or yellow bellied water snake (i think? snake id is not my forte), unfortunately found dead in the garden. i buried him/her and s/he’s now growing a hearty patch of zinnias.

scare ya? ha! only a gardener would pull a (confirmed dead) snake out of sedges to see just how long it was – 10 wine bottle width’s worth. i wonder how many more might be sneaking around.

now, onto the critters for more gentle souls…

Danaus plexippus (monarch) caterpillars denuded this Asclepias (butterfly weed). it’s since recovered and ready for the next batch of larvae.
a freshly spun monarch chrysalis. you can still distinguish the caterpillar stripes on it.
another monarch chrysalis. safely located under the fence stringer for protection from weather, with lots of room for wing development available underneath.
a monarch chrysalis ready to break open…
she’s free!
even the kitties got to see the butterflies hatching. creaker johnny max (our +1 kitty) didn’t even bat a paw.
first year we’ve had Polygonia interrogationis (Question Mark) butterflies. guess it takes having a few Buddleia (butterfly bush) on hand, but somehow i don’t think these shrubs will survive the texas summer heat.
the Buddleia also attracted these Junonia coepia (common buckeye) butterflies. they may be “common,” but i find them stunning.

on the domestic critter front, the kitties have been, well, kitties. i’ve been playing nurse to puma for the past several weeks as she got into an altercation requiring surgery. while healing from that (with plastic cone collar on, of course) she went downhill fast due to another mysterious reason (stroke? aneurysm? tumor?), to the point we thought we were going to lose her. it’s a looong story, but she’s doing fine now and we’re so glad she’s still with us! dude and max did their best to avoid her, lest they catch what she had.

ms. pretty paws (puma) and mr. fence jumper (dude)

how’s that for an update? i could go on, but i’ve got some things to tend to before taking off for asheville. looking forward to catching up with the garden blogging community while there; and for those of you not going, oh how i wish you were! i probably won’t blog from there, but check out my twitter/instagram feed for pictorial updates enroute.



it’s a seattle fling

2011 garden blogger's meetup

tomorrow i’m heading to the pacific northwest for the garden blogger’s annual meetup. last year we were in the happenin’ garden metropolis of buffalo, ny, made popular by the twitter hashtag #buffa10. this year we’ll be in the cool climes of seattle, wa. surprisingly, i’ll be one of the rare bloggers without a laptop, netbook or tablet, as all i have is an android phone. i’ve blogged from it before, but i have to admit it’s a pain in the arse. i’ll post a photo here and there, but you’ll have to wait for a full report upon my return. until then, follow us at #seattlefling. i’m looking forward to some respite from the texas heat, tours of fabulous garden estates like bloedel reserve, knitting on the water taxi to bainbridge island, and catching up with my fellow gardenerds. i’ll also get to see a dear aunt of mine, so this trip is packed full of purpose, connection and inspiration.

upstate update: buffa10

earlier this month i headed back to the cooler climes of upstate ny to, among other things, attend the yearly garden blogger’s meetup in buffalo, or buffa10 as it fondly became known that week.  our fearless hosts jim charlier and elizabeth licata planned an outstanding four day garden-city tour for 70 fellow bloggers to oogle the highlights of the nation’s largest garden walk.  while we didn’t get around to all 350 garden walk sites, we were fortunate to preview several residential garden districts, a private club, olmsted-designed parks including the botanical garden and conservatory, an annual trial garden on the marina, a cooperative retail nursery, a commercial retail nursery and gourmet restaurants along the way.  with connections like that i felt i was amongst the the inner sanctum of the garden cartel…

having lived in upstate ny prior to moving to tx, i found myself drawn to the architectural history, diversity and color that many of the buffalo garden districts showcased:

livery ruin in cottage district
gnome, temple and ruin in one garden
alley garden view of livery ruin in cottage district
colorfully painted houses on summer street
gorgeous window triptych with wavy glass and painted brick patina
orange and purple painted beauty
chamaecyparis blue and 'aurea' green combo
a patriotic street side
periwinkle purple with chartruese trim...!
mellow yellow
pink and purple...!
a most handsome butterscotch facade with matching awning (my favorite of the houses we saw)
a blue carriage house turned garage... needs more plants...
a cool colored entrance
a stately gray lady

next, we visited urban roots, a community garden center in the cooperative style.  not only do they offer plants and products for sale, they reach out and embrace the community with educational events and workshops, lead beautification and urban renewal projects, and offer various employment and volunteer opportunities.  five points bakery is literally next door, which helps to create an inviting gathering space for the local neighborhood.  my neighborhood could sure learn a thing or two from these guys… if only we had an independent book/music store, yoga studio, fabric/yarn store, wine bar and design studio near by… but i digress.

urban roots cooperative and bakery
a garden shed made of reclaimed lumber with greenroof planting at urban roots

it was raining pretty good when we were at urban roots, so i didn’t get many pictures there… our next stop was along north parade avenue, a street fronting mlk, jr. park, one of several olmsted-designed parks managed by the olmsted parks conservatory.  this once preeminent street was was chosen for a front yard garden contest by the western new york state nursery, in the style of extreme house makeover, but this time the home’s landscapes received the makeover.  thirteen local landscape contractors volunteered their time and materials to renovate all 19 homes along the street, in the time span of one week (during the heat-wave week, of course).  the public got to vote on their favorite renovations during garden walk.  see the national garden walk blog to read all about this great project that proves how gardens and landscapes can do wonderful things for a community.

one of the extreme makeover gardens with house of green and white... even the planted pottery match the trim color
one of the extreme makeover gardens...
another extreme makeover garden...
this extreme makeover house and garden is a labor of love... winner of the people's choice for large garden award!

while perusing my photos, i realized i didn’t take many plant photos… but here’s a few detail shots that caught my eye:

dogwood tree with porch lights strung in the background
a handsome porch with colorful railing pots
hell strip turned into a cottage garden
i loved the stained glass window set into a cedar fence... will try to incorporate this detail at home
a lovely copper pot planted with coral bells, lime green hosta and a purple leaf birch
a pretty plant combo of cimicifuga and hosta
a yellow lily

our next stop was the buffalo and erie county historical society where we were surprised with a celebration ceremony in anticipation of the re-dedication of the japanese garden at olmsted’s delaware park.  even buffalo’s mayor, a ny senator(?) and sister city representatives from kanazawa, japan were there…!  too bad we didn’t have time to stay for the full celebration of events.  read here for more info on the garden’s history and renovation.

dedication ceremony
japanese dancers - too bad we missed their performance
original garden dedication stone
recently installed japanese garden on mirror lake - how i escaped without an image of the lake defies me... go see other blogs for their pics!
a split rock at the japanese garden on mirror lake

after all that touring the bloggers were tired and needed watering, in spite of all the rain that was falling on them… and wouldn’t you know, jim and elizabeth have connections to gardeners all over buffalo, and somehow convinced gordon ballard and brian olinski to open their overflowing garden, complete with cantina, to our ravenous bunch…  you guys did not disappoint – thank you, thank you!

garden gate with metal arch detail on top
garden party complete with cantina/tiki bar
our gracious host gordon serves up a tasty beverage

on saturday, our tour started at the erie basin marina university trial gardens.  this display garden highlighted the latest and greatest annuals in the horticultural industry.  ball, proven winners, and all-america selections were some of the growers with plots there.  we were even given five flags to mark our favorite plant for each grower represented in the trial gardens.  don’t you know you’re not supposed to ask a horticulturist what her favorite plant is…?!

trail gardens along the erie basin marina
erie basin marina trial gardens
trial gardens
a striking yellow Dahlia with almost black foliage
Astrantia major 'Roma'
a lightly blue hued Ageratum patina 'Delft'

the buffalo and erie county botanical garden and conservatory was our next stop.  located in olmsted’s south park, this victorian tri-domed glass, wood and steel conservatory is a national historic site (although i couldn’t find it on the national register), was designed by lord & burnham and built in 1897-1899 for the 1901 pan-am exposition.  over the years it has understandably deteriorated but has thankfully withstood many repairs and renovations to keep it available for public enjoyment and learning.  read more about its history here.

conservatory entrance
conservatory facade
under the 67' tall conservatory palm dome
a well weathered conservatory patina
a HUGE, chandelier sized staghorn fern caught my eye
a goofy photo pose of garden blogger friends...
mature copper beech trees (Fagus sylvatica var. atropurpurea), originally planted by olmsted, provided inviting shade
light filters through the copper beech trees
a quiet fountain located under the beech trees, with bench nearby to rest and enjoy the view

after this tour we headed to lockwoods greenhouse, a well stocked retail nursery in hamburg that reminded me of the caliber of nurseries i used to have nearby… they had lunch for us and offered tours of their facilities, but i at that point i tucked my camera away to take it all in.  the tour would go on to more gardens after this, but lynn and i packed up and headed back to ithaca, for i had a wedding to attend that evening on the shore of cayuga lake…!

i had a wonderful time exploring the gardens of buffalo, but more importantly, enjoyed meeting so many fellow garden enthusiasts… it was great to be able to put a face to a blog, a voice to writing style, and make a physical connection by handshake or embrace across the technical abyss of the otherwise well-connected blogging community…

a BIG THANKS to everyone involved – all the sponsors, individuals and participants – who helped made buffa10 possible!  had i been there till the end i’d give you a standing ovation too!  here’s looking forward to seattle in 2011!