21 April 2014

Spring in the Pocket Prairie

This is the second growing season for some of the plants in our tiny front yard pocket prairie. Last year, we planted grasses like sideoats grama, little bluestem and blue grama.

We also planted firewheel, purple prairie clover, antelope horn seedlings, and standing cypress. Many of these are filling in and some are just about to bloom.

There are also some plants coming in that I can't yet ID. One might be a Black-eyed Susan. Remains to be seen. We did have some Rudbeckias out back several years ago that never took. Perhaps this is seeded from that - with some delay.

It's a stretch to call this a pocket prairie. Prairies are large complex grass-dominant ecosystems. This is just a wild planting using some prairie plants. It's our one little spot of sun, and I'm using it more like an experimental plot than anything. Just seeing what makes it.

Here's a gratuitous shot from the other side of the world, deep in the shady part of the garden.

08 April 2014

Texas Blue Grass

I have a small stand of Texas blue grass, Poa arachnifera, and it is just amazing right now. If I wasn't such a fan of biodiversity, I'd plant my whole yard in this grass. It is a cool season grass, remaining green all winter, only to shoot up these fantastic fuzzy, soft flower heads that wave in the breeze.

22 March 2014

Red Columbine

I love it every spring when my small bunch of red columbines, Aquilegia canadensis, blooms. 

These are volunteers from who know where, and they decided to grow hugged up against the corner of the house far out of regular view. They thrive in alkaline soil, so perhaps they benefit from the cement skirting around the base of the house?

I've been tempted to transplant these to someplace I want them, but always decide they are better off where they want to be. And it doesn't take much effort for me to visit with them in their place anyway.

08 March 2014


While in Rio de Janeiro a few weeks ago, I made a point to find a few spaces designed by Roberto Burle Marx, a very influential Brazilian modernist landscape designer, including his landscape at the Petrobras and BNDES building downtown, and Parque do Flamengo. One of his famous designs is that of the wavy sidewalk patterns on the Copacabana Beach, which was based on Portuguese pavements. Various black and white pavement patterns are now found throughout Rio.

Once again I didn't make it to his personal gardens south of Rio in Guaritiba, which is now a national historic site and apparently amazing. But I was lucky enough to have a long lunch with a woman who lives down the street from the property and who used to go to many parties and visit with Roberto.

First stop: Petrobras.

The gardens at the Petrobras are very subtle and symmetrical, almost underwhelming in a way. This is especially true because the water features have been drained to prevent mosquito breeding and disease. However, there were a few notable design elements.

The photo at the top of this post shows his pavers spaced inside of lawn. I think I learned somewhere that his use of this in designs inspired North American landscape designers to do the same. I see this all around Austin in modern landscapes.

The patio below has a wonderful pattern. Notice how none of the pavers come together to make four corners. That kind of symmetry would stop your eye and cause dissonance as you experience the pattern. We used the same design rule for our back walkway.

Here John and I are in front of a planting bed. The hill behind us is also a large Marx corporate garden at the BNDES building, which I sadly didn't get any photos of but did see a giant hummingbird with a forked tail there.

Below you can see a beautiful stone patterned patio and walkway that connects the Petrobras and BNDES buildings, with the Petrobras building on the left and the Metropolitan Cathedral on the right, evoking a Mayan pyramid.

Next stop: Parque do Flamengo.

This is one of the largest urban parks in the world, and was steps away from our apartment. It has more than 150,000 trees of 300 different species. 

I didn't take too many fotos at Flamengo, but here's one of a wavy pavement patterns specific to this park.

The same walkway with Pão de Açucar in the background.

The view from Urca which is a mountain that is halfway along the way up to Pão de Açucar. Flamengo beach and park can be seen in the middle left.

And below a couple of beautiful flowers that were blooming in Parque do Flamengo (uh, not sure why my camera decided to focus on the background instead of the foreground in that first one...dang!).

02 March 2014

Hasta Luego Agaves

We planted the three agaves above when we first moved in to the house about 8 years ago. All three were hand-me-downs from friends. They provided great structure for our early garden, but they have worn out their welcome. The middle one in particular is a variety that just has never looked good in my opinion. It's hella spiky and always kind of floppy from not being in full sun. Plus, the pups drive me crazy and have started coming out of cracks in the wall and in the paths.

I've been thinking about removing them for a while now, but always balked in the end. Well, this weekend, I got to courage to go for it.

Too bad I don't have a tequila making operation in the garage. 

In the end, I couldn't bring myself to get rid of all of them and left one as a specimen, for now. I'm not sure if I'll like to keep it there, but will do so until spring blooms forth and I can see how everything works together.

After I get a haircut, I usually look in the mirror a feel like I look weird for a day or two. It's kind of the same thing with removing plants. 

That said, I'm looking forward to filling this space left by the agaves with more zexmenia and other flowers plants that will attract butterflies and birds. It's hard to tell from this photo, but the front garden has plenty of other spiky yuccas and things, so I don't think the agaves will be a great loss.

I'll be pulling up pups for a while yet, and that one agave left in the ground will continue to send them up too, but hopefully less so than three of them together.

I'm late getting to trimming all my plants for the spring season, but that was a good start. Today, I'm thwarted by rain and cold weather. Meh. Still need to get out their an trim, prune, plant and transplant before spring hits in earnest!

25 February 2014

Transition to Spring

Things have begun their transition to spring here in Austin. Mexican plums blooming. Ageritas perfuming the air.

Here's a possumhaw full of winter berries with new leaves peaking through.

Bluebonnet rosettes and verbena greening up this planting with lovely tan winter grasses in the background.

Golden groundsel beginning it's show in the understory before the trees leaf out.

Carolina jessamine glowing yellow.

A wonderful time full of anticipation!

(All photos taken at the Wildflower Center.)