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Soul of the Desert


Batches of Wildflowers

yellow primrose

Yellow primrose looks like egg yolks dropped across the lawn just before dusk. Their bright yellow color is an echo of the sun.

pink primrose
Pink primrose are open during the day. The are often in large clusters along the highways in the Hill Country of Texas. In my yard and in the park they are more like a scattered bit of decorative wrapping tissue waving in the wind.


I’m not certain of the correct name, so I call them wild violets. They are such a gorgeous purple, just little jewels at the ends of thick blades of grass-like fronds.

Update!!! Kat over at the Armies reading group tells me these are, in fact, Spiderworts!!!! I am very happy to have the right name! Now if that one last type of wildflower comes up this year, I’m going to post it and see if I can find out the name of it!!!

wine cup

Last, but not least–the winecup. What a delightful flower. The color is so intense, and only a few cups grow together. When driving, you see a quick spot of brilliant color that makes you want to go back–what could possibly be such a rich, reddish purple? These beauties seem to mostly spread by creeping, but the flowers are about a foot apart and grow perhaps six inches high. They are a wonderful spot of color anywhere, but stand out in fields of bluebonnets and paintbrush.

Posted: April 22, 2008
Filed in Flowers

Beans In

Time to plant beans in Texas! It’s going to be a warm week, which will heat the soil enough for the seeds to germinate. Any type of bean can go in now–soy, snap peas, snow peas or green beans. I soak my seeds and put them directly into the soil Most beans don’t like to be transplanted. Look over at the gardening menu on the left if you are looking for more information about pests or mildew.

I also finished putting in my lillies and dalhias. It’s the first year I’ve tried these. It might be early for the dalhias, but any freezes that we have coming aren’t likely to be more than a few hours during a night, and I mulched over the bulbs pretty heavily.

The daffodils are coming up and I’m just starting to see the hyacinths peeking through the soil. I just love the signs of spring! I can’t wait for the smell of those flowers. They are my favorite!

Of course, with spring comes some additional work. I also had to trim back bushes, including the crepe myrtles. I haven’t tackled the oleander yet. That thing looks like some sort of monster out of a movie. I’m afraid to walk by it. If it grabs me, I could disappear inside that bush forever!

Posted: January 6, 2008
Filed in Flowers, Snap Peas/Snow Peas

Blue Bonnets and Paintbrush


I usually have quite a field of wild flowers in the back, but this year, the flowers are a bit scant. There are more Indian Paintbrush flowers than bluebonnets this year. The rain came at a good time for the paintbrush, but wasn’t plentiful enough for the bluebonnets. Still, they are a pretty landscape and I enjoy them!

indian paintbrush

In Texas, these bright orange flowers are known as Texas Paintbrush. Of course!

This week’s Reads

This week’s reads are actually “Listens.” I drove to Houston this weekend and took along some podcasts. Two were quite good and made the trip go faster–both happen to be from Clonepod (I had some other podcasts from another station, but they weren’t remarkable enough to mention). These two spun along, working their magic:

I Have A Daughter by Catherine Edmunds is a bit of a love story–and a deep wish that we could always protect our children.

The Poisoned Chalice by Brian Stableford is an interesting little elf tale. It’s an adventure, but it’s also got a lot of “consequences” in it. I enjoyed this one a lot.

Posted: April 15, 2008
Filed in Flowers

Botanical Gardens at the Smithsonians

We hadn’t intended to visit the botanical gardens in DC. I mean, you can pretty much put up a garden anywhere, but when the museums didn’t have enough to hold our attention…

Turns out the garden was one of our favorite places. Granted, it was pouring rain outside so we probably stayed longer than we otherwise might have, but it was orchid season! There were other flowers there too, of course, but the gallery below is pretty much dedicated to the orchid room. The last flower in the picture is actually from a tree that was along the Potomac basin. I don’t know what kind of tree it was, but the flowers were just gorgeous. Only about half of the flowers in the botanical garden were marked so if anyone wants to write in with a name, I’ll add a caption. My favorite was the purple flower with white lace lines through it–there was no marker, but what a lovely, lovely orchid!

Click on the pictures to see larger images.

Posted: May 3, 2008
Filed in Flowers, Washington DC


crocus1Will you look at this???  I planted these last fall and had given up on them!  They are supposed to be very cold tolerant and early.  My hyacinths have long since bloomed, along with most of the daffodils.  The spot where I put the crocus bulbs?  Barren.  Until today!!!  This little beauty was staring up at me out of nowhere.  Once I looked carefully, I could see a few more green twills peeking out.  Okay, so it’s nowhere near the 15 bulbs I planted, but what a beautiful flower.  It made my day.  That’s the great thing about bulbs.  You put them in the ground and then one day, Surprise!

I think the lack of rain is the main reason I won’t be seeing too many of these bulbs.  I did water the spot, but with all the other watering I do, I’m pretty conservative with the water, so this area didn’t get a lot.

The variety I planted are just colorful and cute as can be.  They aren’t tall–I happen to love a short, neat flower.  I am hoping to eventually plant the crocus variety that produces saffron (Crocus sativus).  Saffron is a spice made from the orange staman that you see inside the purple flower.  It takes something like six or seven flowers to get enough saffron to make one dish.  I’m not even certain I like saffron as a spice, but since it is so expensive, I figured the only way I’d get to try it was to grow my own.  We’ll see how it goes.  I had planned on ordering the bulbs in the spring–but it turns out I have to order them in September.

Meanwhile, I’m pleased to have the flowers from these beauties!

Posted: March 4, 2009
Filed in Flowers

Easter Weekend 2008


Freesia–these are lovely flowers, although they kind of lay down out in the yard. I don’t know if that is the way they are, or if I didn’t plant the bulbs deep enough. Either way, I love the flowers. They have a fresh scent that reminds me of soap–clean, flowery and just a hint of spice. Beautiful! So far the mixed bulb pack has yielded white, purple, red/yellow center, yellow, pink-red and sort of a fuscia with yellow centers.

The rain barrels worked very well even without a gutter system up! Between the two barrels I probably got almost a quarter of a barrel. Used some of the water on my garden this morning. I’ll need to get cinder blocks and raise them up to make it easier to get the water out and we’ll work on gutters this weekend! It’ll be great to have the extra water–assuming it rains!

Best Read of the week: Flash fiction over at Abyss and Apex, a very short story by Desmond Warzel: wikihistory

Posted: March 20, 2008
Filed in Flowers

First Rose

pink rose

A few years ago I was visiting a friend of mine here in Austin. She had a beautiful garden–several rosebushes with lots of colors. I’d always wanted a true red rose with a great smell. My grandmother used to grow them, and I helped her take care of them. I loved the big blooms, and I could stand there smelling them for hours while I watered. My friend had a bush that reminded me of grandma’s. She said she could produce a bush from a cutting.

A few months later, she brought me my rosebush. I couldn’t wait to get it in the ground. Then I waited and waited for it to bloom. When the blooms started, they were suspiciously…light. White really. Would they darken? Hmm. I certainly didn’t remember roses starting out so…white. And the thing was getting tall. Very tall, much like a climbing rosebush that grandma had, a rosebush that my father hated because he was constantly having to trim it…

The tips were sort of red. Well, pinkish really…

My friend was growing a starters for three people. I ended up with a white/pink climbing rosebush! *Groan* Almost like grandma, but the wrong memory! I have roses…that I am constantly pruning back to keep the driveway clear!

It didn’t end there either. I only became more determined to get a nice red rose. My friend had moved, leaving her bushes behind…so I had to look elsewhere…Check back for more in the next couple of weeks as more rosebushes bloom!

Rain Barrel Update When last we checked in, we had one full rain barrel. The overflow barrel had just a little runoff, but we noticed a problem. The full barrel had sunk into the ground by an inch or two because of the water weight. It was now below the barrel where the runoff was to go! Since the one barrel was still mostly empty, we lowered it slightly so that if it rains again, the runnoff will “run downhill” into the barrel. Each barrel is 70 gallons. I used about a quarter of that to water my veggies this morning. So each barrel is a good for three to four waterings (I’ll use more water the further it gets from rain days). Two-tenths of an inch filled the one barrel–a half inch should come darn close to filling them both!

Watering via gravity is more work. I can’t use my leaker hose effectively, not even the new nylon one that I bought. I’d hope the nylon one would leak more water, but it doesn’t leak fast enough. I’ll probably be able to use it to water the lawn. I can leave the nylon hose hooked up for several hours or overnight when I want to water the lawn and drain the last of the barrels.

Posted: April 7, 2008
Filed in Flowers, Gardening, Tales from the Mother-In-Law File


yellow lily

I was going to do wildflowers because quite a few have popped up, but I haven’t put up the ones in my garden either! I hope the tomato plants do as well as the flowers this year, because I’ve had a great crop of colors. There’s probably six to ten tomatoes out there, but the largest is about the size of a golf ball–excepting the single grape tomato that is about, oh, not even pea-sized yet!

The cucumbers are just starting and so are the zuchini. Of those the zuchini grows the fastest. I expect the first one might be ready by the end of the week.

It rained last night–and both rain barrels are full! This will keep me going for at least the week. After they are empty, we might raise them just another six inches or so. The higher they are, the better they drain.

red amaryllis

Posted: April 18, 2008
Filed in Flowers

No Joke

It’s April 2008 already. Don’t ask me where the time goes!

The lilies are looking great and there are more colors to come. Even without any planning on my part (I just pick flowers I like) I’ve managed to have flowers coming in as others are going out. It’s been a great flow and I’ve really enjoyed the spring this year.


Best read of the week:

What if you went missing? Would anyone find you? What if your body was found? Could anyone identify you? Sometimes the authorities don’t have the manpower to do everything. That’s why this story about a bunch of volunteers that try to help was such a great read.

Garden Update
The currant tomatoes are, uh, well, getting big. Okay, they are the size of small peas–which means they will turn red soon! That’s the good news. The bad news? I’m starting to see dreaded Spider Mites. Time to get out there and spray whatever works best. I actually use a special spray for spider mites. No, it is not organic. I’ve tried organic for these pests, believe me–lady bugs, organic herb oils, neem, etc. The neem oil works best, but it can burn the plants. It would probably be my second choice, but I’m lucky. I still have some of Green Light’s stuff that is specific to spider mites. I don’t think it kills anything except mites (it might kill spiders too.) At any rate, I’ve never found anything that works better. I spray twice at this time of the year and then I’m done. The only plants that have tomatoes at all are the currant tomatoes–which means that none of my fruit will get any of this nasty stuff on them.

In past years when I tried to use soap and water or neem oil–I’m out there spraying for a lot longer, fighting a lot harder, and sometimes the whole year. Frankly I wasn’t up for it this year. I did it completely organic last year, and I was wiping spider mites off the leaves every single day just to keep up.

Posted: April 1, 2008
Filed in Flowers

Ready, Set…Rain?

Well, here they are, all installed:

rain barrels

I got the rain barrels used, almost free–but it cost about 60 dollars to put up gutters, spouts, cinder blocks and replace some of the hosing…so much for my virtually free water. Then there’s the other small item needed…rain! Not a chance today or tomorrow or until next week! You can bring the barrels, but you can’t force the rain!!!

Here’s the freesias outdoors. They are doing very well. I will be getting more of them and installing another flower bed next year!


Posted: March 26, 2008
Filed in Flowers
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