Saturday, July 18, 2009


This is just a quick post on my new-found love of succulents. Before recently I associated succulents with desert settings, Las Vegas back yards and rock gardens ... none of which I found appealing or wanted to have any of in my growing mixed border approach to my home garden.

I was really having a hard time with certain containers around my home. They would dry out so fast and if I missed them for just a day at times they were wilting and turning brown. This was really getting annoying and I had to think of something new or get rid of the containers that were causing me too much anxiety.

I then ran across a few succulents at my local garden center and had an ah-ha moment. I would group succulents together to look like not succulents. Okay, that grammar is horrible but that is exactly the way I thought about it. My first two attempts are below. Although they are still succulent-like, they are really something I am enjoying quite a bit. I barely water either of these containers and they have NEVER wilted or turned brown or ... well, anything but stay just the way they are. I am seriously considering trading out all of my containers for succulents. I just need to run across (a) a good place to get nice sized succulents in my area -- Houston -- since they grow quite slow and (b) discover different varieties that look so not succulent-like.

Below is a container that I have in front of my home on the walkway leading to my front door. The exact duplicate of this container is three feet away to the right on the other side of the walkway. I planted these containers three weeks ago and have watered them once. I LOVE IT!! The spiky plant is a yucca that had the word "soft" in its name referring to the soft spikes that droop more like a grass than an agave. The other little plant is a variegated sedum (not sure of the name.)

Okay, below is my pride and joy. This is the gate that opens up into my side garden leading to my backyard. All that is in this container to insulate this wire basket is a plastic bag covered with bagged moss and some potting soil. Before I could not water the plants in this rigged setup often enough. They ALWAYS looked horrible after the first week of planting. I have no idea what the names of these plants are, besides the agave, but they are always in the succulent aisle at Home Depot and Lowes. The picture -- I am not good at photography or zooming pictures, etc., on my computer -- does not do this justice. It is really a beautiful container!!

If anyone knows of a good place to get really great succulents in the Houston area, please let me know. I am in love with these things and want some nice sized plants for my other containers.

Thanks - Vikki

Long Borders Update

Although I have not posted for a while, I have been out a bit in the back garden working on the Long Borders. I have to admit, however, that I am ashamed for the amount of time and effort that I have put into this project. It is H-O-T here!!! I am from the Gulf Coast and every winter I dream of sunny days and flip flops and working in my yard. This summer, however, either it is really a lot, lot, lot hotter or I am getting older. It is probably both. So, when I look at the progress in the borders, I am going to try not to be too hard on myself by telling myself, "It is too hot for plants to survive a transplant in this heat" or "It is better to be patient and let the garden be and contemplate your next idea" when, actually, it is just too HOT and I find it hard to go out there at times these days. I took the following pictures this morning though. After a couple of days of wonderful sporadic downpours that my mom who lives two minutes away did not get, I ventured out with my camera to document the progress as of today.

Front view of Long Borders back in April.

Long Borders from almost the same view today.

Before I looked back at the beginning of the Long Borders pictures -- see, this is why journaling is important -- I was thinking that there had been absolutely no progress to speak of. However, when I do compare the pictures, there are definitely changes and progress has been made. I guess when you are the kind of "yard person" that I am, unless you are there all the time tending to and planting and rearranging and buying new, it feels neglected and dull. When I look back at the first pictures, though, it does teach me that I do not have to spend day after day tending to something and can take a "weather" break every now and then and it's okay!

Below are some other various photos from this morning of the borders with various new plantings.

This is to side of my garden building. The miscanthus that is partly covering the door is one that I dug out of Cindy's yard from My Corner in Katy.

This is an up-close view of what is left of my wildflowers I grew from seed this year and a brand new thyralis that I just planted a couple of weeks ago.

I am definitely wanting to still place a river birch at either the front left of the Long Borders or the back right (looking from the house at the borders). Initially I felt that I wanted two river birch trees but I am thinking it could be too much. Just not sure yet. I definitely need to add some evergreen material before winter. Almost everything I have planted is deciduous and in the winter it is going to really look barren.

Wow - It's Been So Long!!!

Well, I had actually stopped blogging -- it seems before I really even got started -- because I was having a major time management issue. I could sit at the computer and read other blogs and try to compose blogs and time went by fast. I am really feeling that I want to record and journal specific things and I am going to REALLY REALLY TRY to manage my time accordingly. Uh, we'll see, though.

Another new thing for my blog is I do want to also start including the interior of my home and the transformations that I am looking forward to. I have started several projects and have several ideas that I am trying to pull together for my home and maybe some people out in blogland could help me if I post what I am trying to accomplish, et cetera. Who knows?

Either way, I am looking forward to having a place to come back and look at my progress in my garden and home and laugh at my mishaps -- anyone who knows me know there will be plenty -- and maybe learn more by being able to reflect back. I know with my children -- a 17 year old boy and a 3 year old daughter as of today's date -- I have thought a million times that I do not need to take a picture of a specific moment or write it down because I will always remember it and ... well, I don't.

I hope so.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Miscanthus from Cindy at "My Corner in Katy"

Here's one of several beautiful grasses that I dug up from a fellow master gardener's yard. Her blog -- "My Corner in Katy" -- is a great inspiration for anyone gardening in the south. It's much more impressive in person though!

April blooms

This salvia greggii is doing great now that I moved it and gave it more room.

The violas and pansies are still doing great. I have been trying to think what I will replace them with when the weather warms up for real.

Blooming in April

I read that hardy geranium -- this is Rozanne -- does not do well in the humid south. I am hopeful that this is not true for my yard because it is an awesome plant to have! The Iceberg rose above is my best repeat bloomer. It has been fairly disease resistant and during the very hot months I spray neem oil on the new blooms to keep the thrips away. I have eight of these, including one climbing -- see the picture of the copper trellis my father built -- and would recommend this rose for anyone in Zone 9 as long as it gets six full hours of sun, preferably morning.

Blooming in April in Zone 9

The Indigo Spires salvia, plumbago and mandovilla here are all survivors of Hurricane Ike in September. I just finished planting nine new Indigo Spires salvias in the front beds for a mass effect and will publish the photo when the begin to fill out. A GREAT addition to Zone 9 gardens. As long as the plumbago is cut back a third every now and then it will bloom all year for me. I have read that mandovillas are an annual for Zone 9 but mine never die back. They also bloom for me all year. They also have thrived in very hot afternoon sun.

What's Blooming in my Zone 9 Garden in April

The "Senorita Rosalita" cleome was just planted in the beginning of March. I purchased several of these Proven Winners gallon plants at Home Depot. I am amazed at how fast they have taken off and am always, always pleased with any plant that I put in my garden that is a Proven Winners plant -- of course, assuming that it is placed in the proper growing conditions!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Love the windows, too ...

The way that the windows open on the building is not something we see very often here in the south. They definitely add the charm factor to the building in a big way.

The Cupola

The cupola on top of the garden building. Almost tried to save money and not get this and am so thrilled I did!

My Garden Building

Here is my garden building that sits in my backyard. It is right to the side of the new borders that are going in and I am working on the garden that will surround it. I purchased this building late last year from and never regret the insane amount of money that I spent getting it built and getting it here from up north. It is awesome!

Here is looking back at the house.

Long Borders - View from the House

Here is the view that will be of the long borders from the house.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

New Long Borders - The Beginning

This is the first stage of a pair of 50 foot borders that I have just begun. I hope, hope that they come out the way I am envisioning. I stole this idea from Gordon Hayward -- my favorite garden design author -- in his book "The Intimate Garden." His borders are in Vermont and I am trying to figure out good substitute plants for Zone 9 to get the same look. I had my landscape crew come in and dig out the sod and they added about two inches of good garden soil. Need more soil though. Will be adding a few river birch trees at the front of the left border and the back of the right. I am planning on filling the borders up with various ornamental grasses, shrubs, small trees, perennials, annuals and bulbs. Would love any suggestions! Eventually I will have a bench at the end of the borders and/or a gazebo that I will have my father build. Stay tuned! Vikki