Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's official -

I’m a Master Gardener!

I'm a Master Gardener!

Words and photos © 2009-2012 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Autumn's end - gone to seed

As autumn winds down, the colorful flowers of my Austin garden turn in for a brief winter's slumber under a cozy brown blanket.

All the perennials and summer annuals have gone to seed.

salvia greggii
Salvia greggii


blackfoot daisy
Blackfoot daisy

damianita seedheads


Gregg's mistflower
Gregg’s mistflower

fall aster seedpods
Fall aster

As I wonder, "Where are the blooms for Bloom Day?", a fluttering movement leads my eye to a handful of blue plumbago flowers – and the Giant Swallowtail feeding on them.
Giant swallowtail on

The butterfly leads me to another late bloomer – flame acanthus – before flying off.
Giant swallowtail on
flame acanthus

The only other blooms I could find were on the Pacific chrysanthemum,

and the ‘Silver Arrow’ cactus.
'silver arrow' cactus

Happy fall, happy holidays, happy week before winter solstice!  What's blooming or gone to seed in your garden?   Fill me in - then visit May Dreams Gardens and share your end-of-fall tales with gardeners from all over the globe.

Words and photos © 2009-2012 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A posy for a friend

This is a little posy I put together for a friend's memorial celebration a few weeks ago, with flowers from my garden.
posy with ribbon

She was a Master Gardener (among many other things) and all the flowers at the memorial were brought in from her friends' gardens.

It was really something to see - the wide variety of bouquets with flowers and foliage of all shapes, sizes and colors, each arranged with love and remembrance - much more personal than something from the florist.

It was a fitting tribute to a very special woman that touched many lives and hearts through her grace under pressure, her wonderful sense of humor, her commitment to equality and social justice, and her many passions: gardening, skiing, travel, photography, politics.

Almost any flower will work as a cut flower, with perhaps the exception of a Mutabilis rose or a Mexican petunia.  Herbs and evergreens work, too.  I tucked in a few sprigs of boxwood, but I'd wish I'd added a few herbs.

Arranging flowers is a nice way to remember a friend.  Too many friends lost this year...

Words and photos © 2009-2012 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Is this spring or fall?

Here's what's been blooming in my garden for the past two weeks. It seems more like spring than fall.   The weather's been fluctuating between hot and cold, wet and dry.   The plants are really confused.  The bur oak is leafing out and putting out catkins, the lime tree is setting fruit, and both fall asters and sunflowers are blooming.  If you would like to know the names of any of theese plants, click on the photo to go to its Flickr page.

Gregg's mistflower,  Conoclinium greggii

Lantana, mistflower, agave

Autumn sage, Mealy Blue Sage, Esperanza

Thyrallis, Mealy Blue Sage, Esperanza

Rock rose, thyrallis, Mealy Blue sage, esperanza

Cherry sage, Indigo Spires

Damianita, blackfoot daisy, salvia

Fall aster

Mexican sunflower, Mexican Bird of Paradise

Herbs and cacti

Bearss lime


'Two Lips' salvia

Roses and salvia in bloom

Japanese eggplant 'Ichiban'

La Marne rose

La Marne and Old Blush rose

Words and photos © 2009-2012 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Preview! 2012 Inside Austin Gardens Tour

On Tuesday, I joined a dozen Austin garden bloggers for a preview of the Inside Austin Gardens tour which is happening this Saturday, October 20 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  This year's theme is "The Edible Garden." All the gardens feature water-wise gardening techniques and wildlife habitats, and demonstrations and educational sessions will be held at each garden. Here's just a tiny taste - get it? taste? edible? - of what's in store.  You can see all seven gardens for $15 with advance purchase via PayPal ($20 after October 17) or see a single garden for $5.

Hill Country Heritage Garden: Carolyn and Michael Williams 
10205 Aqua Verde Court, 78753
Carolyn Williams' herb wheel garden
This garden is gorgeous, inviting and incredibly well-researched; nearly every plant has a connection to Texas history or to the Williams family heritage - or both!  I love this circular herb garden with its antique rose arbor.  Many of the native plants are "passalong" plants from relatives and friends.

Carolyn Williams on her cottage porch
This garden also features the most adorable German-style stone cottage.  You simply must see what's inside - it's a Texas gardener's dream!  Master Gardener Vicki Blachman will give a seminar on herbs and herb vinegars at 10 a.m., and Master Gardener Velia Sanchez will speak on Native American medicinal herbs at 1 p.m.

Hill Country Rural Home: David and Jennifer Phillips
6316 Thomas Springs Road, 78736
David & Jennifer Phillips' entrance
This garden greets you with a riot of native and adaptive plants near a stone-and-wrought-iron entrance gate, then guides you down a country road lined with prickly pear, broomweed and blackfoot daisies toward a striking and modern LEED-certified home.

David & Jennifer Phillips' Hill Country home
Don't miss the dried juniper-and-artichoke accent in the stock-tank vegetable garden, the GINORMOUS rainwater collection tank, the metal dog and bird sculptures, or the lush vining plantings near the front porch.  Among the educational sessions offered at this garden will be a 1:00 p.m. talk by Master Gardeners Ratna and Venkappa Gani on how to grow a fruit forest in your Central Texas garden.

Neighboring Gardens: Ann and Robin Matthews, and Donnis Doyle
6303/6305 Berkeley Cove, 78745
Neighboring Matthews & Doyle gardens
These neighboring gardens offer dozens of enchanting vignettes along inviting paths, accented with brightly colored garden art and seating areas nestled among native and adaptive perennials.

Ann & Robin Matthews' herb garden
I love this circular herb garden in the Matthews' back yard with its cobalt blue arbor, the lighted bottle tree centerpiece, the hewn wood benches, and the garden shed adorned with a red rooster weather vane.  Must-sees are the pictograph wall, the raised vegetable garden beds, and the multiple rainwater collection barrels throughout the garden.

Donnis Doyle's back patio
Next door, Donnis Doyle's modern patio is both open and private, thanks to its corrugated steel privacy fence.   (Check out the back of the fence when you tour- it's cool, too!)

Donnis Doyle's front path
Follow this Zen-like front path into the colorful front garden, then check out the stock-tank veggie garden in back and the giant aloe on the back stoop - even the carport is tons of fun!

A most unusual and entertaining demonstration is scheduled at this garden at 11:30 a.m.: Unconventional Landscape Snacks - Collecting and Cooking Insects with Texas Agrilife Extension entomologist Wizzie Brown. At 1:30 p.m., hear all about edible landscape planning from Master Gardener Sheryl Williams, who was on the tour last year.

Eat My Sidewalk: Renee Studebaker
912 E. 39th Street, 78751
Renee Studebaker's front porch
I'll admit it.  The garden of this former Austin American-Statesman staff writer was my favorite of the day.  Don't you just adore her Victorian-style front porch?  I love everything about it: the high beadboard ceiling, the green-and-cream-colored paint scheme, the copper-colored porch bench, the sun wall art above the front doors, the curlicues on the screen doors, the potted ficus and foxtail ferns, the natural wood floor - swoon.

Renee Studebaker's garden
Renee's garden is a veritable food forest, with apples and grapes and pears and figs and herbs and vegetables galore.  Flowering plants and a garden pond attract birds, bees and butterflies. She's got an exceptional talent for giving new life to recycled materials and found items as garden borders, yard art and structural accents.  Don't miss the recycled brick path, the steel rainwater cistern, the backyard performance stage, the white garden, the passionvine trellis, the stone firepit, and most importantly, the two sessions she's giving at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Growing Your Own Garden Party Appetizers - the woman makes a mean ratatouille, loaded with eggplant, tomatoes and herbs she grows herself.

The Inside Austin Gardens Tour is organized by the Travis County Master Gardeners Association in association with Texas Agrilife Extension Service, and is sponsored by many local businesses and nurseries you know and love.  As many of you know, I'm finishing up my internship to become a certified Master Gardener, and toward that end, I'll be collecting tickets at Renee Studebaker's garden on Saturday afternoon between noon and 4 p.m., proudly sporting my "Intern" name badge for probably the last time - so come on out and say Howdy!  You can find more tour information at the Inside Austin Gardens Tour website, including the two gardens not previewed here, a list of all the demonstrations and talks at each garden, and a map.

Words and photos © 2009-2012 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fall bulbs in bloom

There's lots of fall flowers in my garden right now, but fall bulbs in bloom are a special treat.

My little patch of fall crocus (Sternbergia lutea) is blooming splendidly.
fall crocus

Earlier in the month, my three-year-old patch of oxblood lilies (Rhodophiala bifida) bloomed for the first time.
oxblood lilies

And with the rain a couple of weeks ago, I enjoyed a handful of rain lily blooms (Zephyranthes).
pink rainlily

I don't have many rain lilies, but they're forming nice plump seed pods, so I'm hoping to have more of them soon!
rain lily seed pods

What blooming bulbs herald fall's arrival in your garden?

Words and photos © 2009-2012 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Autumn really is coming...

...and I have the proof!

59 degrees in Central Texas!

I just ran around the house and threw all the windows and doors open! Now I'm thinking about making vegetable soup and wondering if my sweaters need laundering.

What's got you thinking about fall this morning?

Words and photos © 2009-2012 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Joys of a late summer cool front

A dry cool front came through this weekend, and knocked our 100+ degree temps down about 10 degrees. It actually feels pleasant outside, and the mosquito population appears to have dropped, too. Since oak wilt beetle activity is past its peak, I pruned the little red oak tree in the back yard, and finally decided on a spot to plant the American beautyberry bush I won at the Trowel and Error gardening seminar two springs ago.

Here's what caught my eye as I puttered around in the garden, this weekend and last.

blackfoot daisies

Blackfoot daisies

blackfoot daisies

horseherb and oxalis
Horseherb and oxalis

texas sage
Cenizo (Texas sage)

Dwarf ruellia (Mexican petunia)
Dwarf ruellia

salvia coccinea "coral nymph"
'Coral Nymph' 'Teresa' salvia greggii

mealy blue sage
Mealy blue sage


flame acanthus
Flame acanthus

'Bright Edge' yucca and 'Pot o' Gold' lantana
'Bright Edge' yucca and 'Pot o' Gold' lantana

What's catching your eye in your late summer garden? I'd love to hear about it!

Words and photos © 2009-2012 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.