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Showing posts from 2014

High Anxiety

Now that it's aired, I will confess that my little suburban garden was recently featured on Central Texas Gardener .   Months of freaking out with every deep freeze, every plant that suddenly died, every arbor destroyed by freakish winds - in other words, every event that might naturally occur in the garden with the changing seasons -  all that nervous panic is finally over and I can go back to simply playing outside.  Why a "confession", rather than being pleased as punch?   Something about having my garden on CTG feels like bragging.  And i n my eyes my garden is messy, my own personal playground - not something worthy of a segment on that wonderful program.  It's where I go to test out new skills, like digging a pond ,  building a rainwater harvesting system , creating an  insect hotel , making a vermicomposting bin , or putting together a greenhouse with the help of a few friends.   Having my garden "go public" temporarily destroyed its tranqui

An Orb Game in Portland

Thankfully, we and our gardens have survived the worst of a summer and are moving into the cooler days of fall, and still I haven't posted about the amazing Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland I was fortunate to attend back in July.  As always, the writing and photography of our talented group have captured the best of our annual gathering so well I've preferred to simply relive the fun through their posts.   However, I do want to play a little game with the many orbs I kept seeing in the various gardens.  Some were split open to form fire pits or planters or rain basins, some were stuck on fences or poles, and others simply sat on a table or on the ground.  Oddly enough, one of the plants I brought home was Cotyledon orbiculata var. orbiculata - yet another "orb"!  There were so many, it became a game for me to find them.  Here's just a sampling.    Look up against the fence for the smaller one, too! If you

Tiny Dragons and Bottle Trees

The winter of 2013 affected my four "orchid trees" in different ways, not surprising as they were different varieties originating in very different climates.  Our native variety,  Bauhinia lunarioides , commonly called an Anacacho Orchid, lost tender branches (about 2 to 3 feet of each limb), but has since fully recovered.   The Bauhinia blakeana,  which produced enormous pink blooms that really did look like orchids, died to the ground.   A fourth, Bauhinia fortificata commonly called the Brazilian Orchid tree, also died.  I had high hopes for my favorite,  Bauhinia mexicana , a tiny shrub with delightful split leaves, as it had survived freezes in other years.  But evidently our pattern of freezes alternating with high heat followed again by late season freezes was just too much -  and it too died.  The "native is better" movement may have gained support here.  Even so, we gardeners probably all have our guilty little collection of plants from some remote place

The Little Things

Funny how the smallest things in nature can give us so much pleasure.  This past weekend I noticed that one of the new metalwork items in my garden had been blessed by the addition of  a line of lacewing eggs.    If you're not familiar with lacewings, click here to see the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension page on this fascinating and welcome garden visitor.  Delicate in appearance, they're fairly voracious and consume a long list of undesirable garden pests.   Fun fact, that little "stick" from which each egg is suspended is likely designed to prevent freshly hatched baby lacewings from eating each other! All material © 2014 by Vicki Blachman for  Playin' Outside .  Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Ligustrum Lament

If you want to get a gardener talking trash in Austin, just bring up the topic of ligustrums.  The botanical name is Ligustrum japonicum , but you may also know it as Japanese privet or Wax-leaf privet.  We just love to hate these highly invasive shrubs!  They easily grow from small plants into tall trees, crowd out local plants, and form dense thickets by developing tasty berries to entice birds to "drop" seeds miles away.   What we don't want to remember is that bees and butterflies (particularly Red Admirals) love their fragrant white flowers and that their trunks can be truly beautiful when pruned and tended. Our yard was home to a fully mature specimen when we purchased the house about 10 years ago, and I've constantly apologized for my ligustrum ever since.  Yes, I tried to be responsible by pruning immediately after it flowered so those little purple berries wouldn't form.  But challenged by how I might quickly replace a tall architectural element