photo: rose Souvenir de la Malmaison
‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ March 31, 2008, in a light mist…coming down with a case of powdery mildew.

March 31st, 2008
Rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’

I love the cyclical nature of gardening. I’m amused to find myself taking photos of ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ as I did exactly one year ago. I wish I could put her on pause because today all her flowers are in full bloom and by tomorrow the petals will be scattered on the paths. And I really wanted Carol to see her. Ephemeral beauty. She’s bloomed non-stop all through March but she won’t make it to April. Fortunately ‘Blush Noisette’ is waiting in the wings to take the spotlight. Thus I am consoled.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bouldin Creek cottage
2008-03-29. Bouldin Creek cottage with front lawn of wildflowers.

March 29th, 2008
Kate's Gentle Plea

Thanks to all of you who wrote such sweet things about my wild garden. I’m very lucky to live in an equally wild neighborhood where unconstrained exuberance is celebrated rather than regulated. I took some photos today of some of my neighbors’s gardens so that you can see that mine fits right in.

Bouldin Creek cottage
2008-03-29. Bouldin Creek cottage with larkspur and decorated car.

In particular, Vive’s comment struck a chord. I didn’t approach making a garden with any set ideas; that is, I didn’t have a vision starting out. Unlike Margery Fish I didn’t really set out to make a garden at all. I just liked puttering around in the dirt among the plants. The concepts I developed over time grew along with the garden, grew out of the garden. They are still evolving. I use this blog a lot to work out my ideas, to mull them over out loud. Discussing my ideas with all of you helps me clarify my thoughts. Visiting your gardens via your blogs inspires and encourages me.

I was a writer long before I was a gardener. So I’ve actually given much more thought to the problems of finding (and keeping) my voice as a blogger. However, nothing I’ve ever written has matched the eloquence and good sense of the post written by my friend Kate in her Gentle Plea for Chaos.

I write this post specifically to my readers at Blotanical who will not find Kate’s post there among the Picks because I want you to know that although Blotanical is a wonderful introduction to the world of garden bloggers, there is an entire universe beyond it. Take this moment and click through to read Kate’s post. Now isn’t that something to think about? I can’t think of much to add, except maybe…

Find your vision. Celebrate who you are. And be.

Bouldin Creek cottage
2008-03-29. Bouldin Creek cottage with fairy circle.

Zanthan Gardens Wild
The baby blue eyes took over the back border, smothering everything in their path. I find them beautiful in their own right and let them have their way.

March 28th, 2008
The Weed Garden, My Garden Wild

At Diana’s yesterday, with Bonnie and Pam, stuffing welcome packets for the Garden Bloggers Spring Fling, I realized how comparatively few garden plants I have in my garden. I decided I’d better set expectations for any Spring Fling visitors who are stopping by before Friday’s dinner at Matt’s El Rancho. (Anyone on the Friday dinner list is invited. Let me know if you need directions.)

Noted Austin landscape architect, Ivan Spaller said of me and my garden, “[She] spends her days toiling away in a weed-infested garden…”

And so I do. My garden is big and my budget is small. So I rely heavily on weeds to fill in the empty spaces.

Zanthan Gardens Wild
Visitors are often drawn to the bright fleshy leaves of the false dayflowers, Commelinantia anomala, only to recognize them close up and say in disappointment, “Oh. It’s that.” But I love how fresh and crisp the foliage looks and who can resist a flower with a face like this?
Commelinantia anomala

I also rely heavily on the false dayflower’s cousin, the spiderwort. It was in full bloom when I first saw this house and, in part, is what made me fall in love with this place. I try to confine it to the mini-woods but it insists on popping up in the meadow, the lawn, and the vegetable garden.
Commelinantia anomala

The cilantro, which I grow to eat, has taken over the meadow. It bloomed a month before the larkspur this year and makes an excellent filler.
Zanthan Gardens Wild

I do manage my garden of weeds, edit it. In order to give it some semblance of a garden, I think it’s important to clump like weeds together–a drift of cilantro, or baby blue eyes, or spiderwort. I will pull the lone larkspur out of a clump of Love-in-a-mist. I transplant self-sown plants where I want them rather than where they’ve come up. Imposed order is what differentiates the garden from nature. And yet, in a wild garden one must have a light touch. I was made very happy when two different people asked me if my violas had self-sown (no) because they were not planted in the typical straight lines of bedding out plants.

Zanthan Gardens Wild

I think I’ve always been guided, unwittingly, by a poem I wrote when I was seventeen–before I ever imagined myself a gardener.

I am a garden wild;
Growing thriving,
Reaching leafy green tentacles
In curious search.
I am, they say, haphazard, untamed,
Existing most improperly
in a world full of gardeners.

Aloe vera

March 24th, 2008
Aloe barbadensis, aloe vera

Like fellow Austin gardener, Rachel @ In Bloom, I’ve been enjoying the spiky blossoms of aloe vera this week.

They come as quite a surprise to me. I never knew that aloe vera bloomed. For years they did nothing but form more pups. Ever since my friend Dana shared a few pups with me, I’ve kept potting and repotting them until I had three pots so heavy that it took both of us to lug them indoors each winter. I’d read they were frost-sensitive.

In the summer of 2006, however, a construction worker knocked his ladder into one of the pots. I didn’t have another large pot for the three biggest plants so I stuck them in a empty bed until I could get one. I never got around to it. The aloe survived in a dark, dry place where nothing else grew. I liked their spare geometry.

Aloe vera

So I left them. I thought winter would kill them off but as I still had plenty of pups, I didn’t mind treating these three as annuals. Winter did not kill them off. Neither did a second winter. Both winters were mild and the aloe vera have the advantage of being planted in front of a stone wall which reflects heat. Had they been elsewhere in the yard I think I would have lost them. In places, the leaves took a reddish cast from cold damage. Earlier this month they sent up bloom stalks and finally last week the yellow flowers started opening.

Aloe vera

I quickly did some Google searches on “aloe, yellow flowers” and discovered that they are aloe vera (which is their common name), Aloe barbadensis being the botanical name, although there is a trend to use aloe vera for both.

Before I dragged the pots of aloe outside this week, I cut off two of the biggest stalks and stuck them in another dark, empty spot near the front fence. The pots have gotten too heavy for me to lift and the aloe seem to prefer being in the ground.

Update: 2016-11-05

The red-flowered Aloe arborescens is said by some to be the “true” aloe, the one with the most beneficial medical properties.

Rumford Gardener mini-rake

March 21st, 2008
I’m No Hoe

…though I’m known to be a bit rakish.

Heidegger says that one way being asserts itself is when we notice the absence of something. Presence is being ready to hand, handy. Absence is being missing. When my hand rake went missing about a month ago, I felt its absence keenly. I didn’t know how much I relied on, how handy it was, it until I lost it. I’ve been using various tools in its stead; I even bought a hand cultivator but nothing has worked as well for me as my old hand rake.

I’ve shopped around town for a replacement and finally found one today at Breed and Co ($9). It is from The Rumford Gardener, their Oxford Series Mini-Rake. (How could I go wrong with a tool named after AJM’s university?)

Now some of you, (Carol!) may find it inconceivable that I do not use a hoe. I’m more of a hands-and-knees gardener. I don’t feel comfortable gardening at a distance, standing up. I’m really in it for the dirt.

I find this mini-rake perfect for getting in between the annuals in the meadow and breaking up the crust in the mulch after a hard rain, for uprooting small weeds and pulling out leaves (especially those stuck in the agaves). I don’t know if it is my favorite tool, for I could not do without my Fiskars pruners or my trowel either. But I really missed it and I’m happy I found a replacement.

spiderwort Tradescantia
2008-03-15. A bee zooms toward a spiderwort flower on this Ides of March.

March 15th, 2008
GBBD 200803: Mar 2008

Carol at May Dreams Gardens invites us to tell her what’s blooming in our gardens on the 15th of each month.

March 15, 2008

If, as Carol quotes Emerson, the “earth laughs in flowers”, then for this fleeting moment at Zanthan Gardens we are ROGL. March is typically the month that I have more types of different flowers blooming than any other. I’m not saying the garden is drenched in blossom here. Quite the opposite. In fact, a visitor just this week remarked that the most overwhelming color in the garden right now is spring green. But as early spring flowers give way to late spring flowers, March provides a greater variety of plants in flower than at any other time of the year. Often it is just a stem of this, or a couple of flowers of that. April will be the month of masses of flowers but with less variety.

New for March

Beginning in March, I can find something new blooming in the garden almost every day. The paperwhite narcissus have given way to the jonquils. My only large cup daffodil, ‘Ice Follies’ bloomed between GBBDs. After that came the yellow daffodils, ‘Trevithian’, ‘Hawera’, and then the Quail.

Trevithian
Narcissus jonquilla Trevithian

The jonquil ‘Trevithian’ began flowering on March 3rd and three flowers are still open. They always come back but they never flower vigorously in my garden.

Hawera
Narcissus triandrus Hawera

Three diminuitive triandrus ‘Hawera’ nod their heads. They are so small and delicate, I think they must be fairy flowers. They began flowering on March 10th.

Quail
Narcissus jonquilla Quail

One stem of the other jonquil ‘Quail’ opened on March 12th with three flowers. Notice the brown edges caused by the 95F/35C degree heatwave that hit Austin yesterday. I saw it lying flat on the ground yesterday. Luckily some cold water and cooler temperatures today perked it up in time for its GBBD photo.

Cilantro
Coriandrum sativum

The meadow is filling in. The cilantro, Coriandrum sativum, has been rampant this year. It looked very weedy for awhile but now that it is flowering all is forgiven.

False Dayflower
false

The cute little faces on the false dayflowers, Commelinantia anomala, always make me smile. I’ve spent ten years selecting the bicolor flowers and weeding out the solid dark blue ones.

Rose ‘Ducher’ and Bluebonnets
rose Ducher

My new ‘Ducher’ rose likes is much happier than the one I lost, probably because I put it on the opposite side of the yard where it could receive sun all winter. I’ve never seen ‘Ducher’ bloom like this. It looks like it’s on steroids, but it’s just Dillo Dirt. In my experience, ‘Ducher’ prefers cooler weather and blooms best for me in early spring.

More bluebonnets, Lupinus texensis are opening. Most of the flowers are still on the plants that oversummered, but a few fall-sprouted plants are beginning to flower, too (although not very profusely).

Baby Blue Eyes and Cilantro
Nemophila insignis

In stark contrast, the baby blue eyes, Nemophila insignis, seem to be on a quest to take over the garden.

Grape Hyacinth
Hyacinth
A few blue bottles, Muscari racemosum/neglectum just opened this week. I noticed them already flowering at Pam/Digging’s almost a month ago.

First Larkspur (Opened Today)
Consolida ambigua

The blooming of the larkspur, Consolida ambigua marks spring, part 2 at Zanthan Gardens.

Rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’
rose Souvenir de la Malmaison

The last two weeks, ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ has been putting on quite a show. She beat the shade and the little green worms. She is one of the roses I stripped in February.

Rose ‘Blush Noisette’

‘Blush Noisette’ has just emerged from the shade of the Texas Mountain laurels and put out a few flowers. I forgot to get a snapshot of them today though.

Anemone coronaria ‘The Bride’
Anemone coronaria The Bride

This was the first year that I’ve ever grown anemones. They were both more successful and less successful than I had expected. More, because they flowered at all, even after the raccoons kept digging them up. Less, because I should have planted them all together en masse to get a nice effect rather than dotting them here and there. I always make this mistake.

Bridal wreath spiraea
Bridal wreath spiraea

About six years ago this spiraea had huge white sprays like some giant floral fountain. Then I came very close to losing it. This year, a couple of stems are making a comeback.

California Poppies ‘Mikado’
Mikado

More California poppies are blooming.

This has been a pretty good year for the flowering trees, except for the Mexican plums. However, many plum seedlings are popping up. I think few fruit usually mature but because it was cool and rainy last summer a lot more did. The rainy summer of 2007 has had a dramatic effect on all the other small flowering trees. The cherry laurel, the Texas mountain laurel, and the redbuds are heavier with blossom than I’ve ever seen them.

Texas Mountain Laurel
Texas mountain laurel

The sickly sweet grape soda scented Texas mountain laurel, Sophora secundiflora is in full bloom right now. 2008 has been a spectacular year for Austin’s Texas mountain laurel. I think this was due to last summer’s extra rain. I don’t think mine have ever had this many flowers.

Texas mountain laurel

Cherry Laurel
Prunus caroliniana

The flowers of cherry laurel, Prunus caroliniana are not as showy or scented as Texas mountain laurel but the bees seem to like them just as much.

Viola
viola

Although the violas have been blooming since November, I’m putting in this shot of them because this yellow one popped up among the white and purple Sorbet ‘Coconut Duet’. It is the first hard evidence of violas self-sowing in my garden. I don’t know if this is from this year’s seed which reverted or from last year (when I had yellow violas).

There are diminuitive flowers on three other plants that I didn’t even bother to photograph: the lavender, Lavandula heterophylla ‘Goodwin Creek’, has one spray; in the oxblood lily nursery, I noticed the pretty pea-flowered common vetch, Vicia sativa; and the potato vine, Solanum jasminoides, is twining its way through the chain link fence.

Carol said we could count potted plants and two began flowering this month.

Meyer Lemon
Meyer lemon

I’m relieved that the Meyer lemon has staged a comeback. I was afraid that it would hold my neglect last year and subsequent rough treatment of it during repotting against me. When I repotted it on February 10th, I cut it back by two-thirds, hacked off a lot of potbound roots, and stripped all the leaves off it because they were covered in sooty mold. Now, a month later, it is putting out new buds and leaves like never before.

Butterfly Amaryllis
Hippeastrum papilio

Two flowers are now open on the butterfly amaryllis, Hippeastrum papilio. I realized that the close-up shots I took the other day don’t show how large the flowers are. These are by far the largest flowers in bloom today.

Still Flowering

The four types of oxalis that I grow bloom off and on all year. I don’t think I’ve photographed them for GBBD before, so here they are.

Two varieties of Oxalis triangularis
Oxalis
Oxalis

Oxalis crassipes
Oxalis

Oxalis pes-caprae ‘Scotty’s Surprise’
Oxalis

Also still flowering from previous months are viola, pinks, sweet alyssum, and the redbud tree.

Complete List for March

  • Anemone coronaria ‘The Bride’
  • Bridal wreath spiraea
  • Cercis canadensis
  • Citrus x meyeri (potted)
  • Commelinantia anomala
  • Consolida ambigua
  • Coriandrum sativum
  • Dianthus chinensis
  • Eschscholzia californica ‘Mikado’
  • henbit
  • Hippeastrum papilio
  • Lantana montevidensis
  • Lavandula heterophylla ‘Goodwin Creek’
  • Leucojum aestivum (summer snowflakes)
  • Lobularia maritima
  • Lupinus texensis (many plants now in flower; first plant now flowering since 12/15)
  • Muscari racemosum/neglectum
  • Narcissus jonquilla ‘Quail’
  • Narcissus triandrus ‘Hawera’
  • Nemophila insignis
  • Oxalis crassipis (hot pink)
  • Oxalis pes-caprae ‘Scotty’s Surprise’
  • Oxalis triangularis (both purple and white)
  • Prunus mexicana (Only a couple of flowers left.)
  • Prunus caroliniana (cherry laurel)
  • Rhaphiolepis indica (had a few very early flowers, then stopped blooming, now about to kick into high gear)
  • rose ‘Blush Noisette
  • rose ‘Ducher’ (full bloom)
  • rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ (full bloom)
  • rosemary (Very few flowers)
  • Solanum jasminoides (potato vine)
  • Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel)
  • Tradescantia (spiderwort)
  • Viola cornuta ‘Sorbet Coconut Duet’
  • Vitia sativa (common vetch, a pretty weed)

strawberry
On March 12th, we harvested our first and only strawberry.

March 14th, 2008
Strawberries, $5 a Bite

Last fall I read an article that Austinites could grow strawberries as annuals, planting them in the fall, pinching back all runners, and picking off flowers until mid-February. We were not to expect them to survive the summer but must be prepared to replant each fall. So when Margaret and I were at Gardens last October, I was so excited to see strawberry plants there that she bought me five plants (at $1.99 each).

Seeing the catalog prices for strawberry plants since then has made me realize these strawberries were quite expensive. However, they were the plants that were available here last October, ‘Sequoia’ variety grown in Texas at Gabriel Valley Farms.

So from our tiny strawberry patch of 5 plants, we just harvested our first strawberry. A $10 strawberry. (The more we harvest, the more the price will drop, but for now that is the cost of this harvest.) I waited until evening when AJM came home from work and we harvested it together. Then we carefully cut it in half with our sharpest paring knife. We each popped our share into our mouths and simultaneously exclaimed, “Mmmmm!” Wow! I think fresh from the garden strawberries might even be better than fresh from the garden tomatoes.

I hope our silly little strawberry patch graces us with more fruit. Now I have wild dreams of expanding my planting next fall but I will have to find a cheaper source of plants.

amaryllis papillio
2008-03-12. My butterfly amaryllis finally rebloomed. It’s been a long, long wait.

March 12th, 2008
Hippeastrum papilio, butterfly amaryllis

The butterfly amaryllis is quite striking. I would say that it has been worth the wait, except…more than seven years! I’d love it just as much if it bloomed every year. Really, dear, I would.

amaryllis papillio

A native of Brazil, my butterfly amaryllis has never gone dormant, although it looks a bit ratty after a long, hot Austin summer. I’ve heard some advice that Austinites can plant them in the ground as we do our more hardy Hippeastrums, the St. Joseph’s lilies. I don’t think I’ll bet against the Texas weather.

Garden History

2000-11-05.
At Gardens buy the amaryllis that I first saw and liked in the Garden.com catalog. [2011-01-24. Maybe I actually got this from Dutch Gardens. I find a label for one with this description. Or maybe Gardens was carrying bulbs from Dutch Gardens.]

“Brightly striped maroon and ivory petals with a chartreuse background.”

2000-11-09.
Pot it, after soaking the bulb in sea weed mix.

2000-12-10.
First flower opens completely.

2000-12-17.
Last day of bloom.

2006-09-06.
Divide the butterfly amaryllis into two pots. It was incredibly pot bound. I’ve heard that they prefer to be pot bound, but I don’t think they mean like this. I had to rip out a lot of roots to separate them.
amaryllis papillio
2006-09-06. The butterfly amaryllis and three daughters sit on top of the pot they were in.

2008-03-12.
First flower.

Springs Preserve

March 11th, 2008
Springs Preserve: Garden Design 101

Whether I love something or hate it, a strong emotional reaction piques my desire to explore why. I immediately fell in love with the gardens at the Springs Preserve and having grown up in the American southwest and seen many desert-themed gardens in my life, my first reaction was curiousity. How did the did the designers at the Springs Preserve do it? What’s special about these gardens? What makes them stand out?

Not being much of a designer myself, I’ve always cast the gardener’s dilemma as an either/or choice: some gardens sacrifice good design to the owner’s love of plants (the category I see myself in) and some gardens eschew plants in favor of good design. But the gardens at the Springs Preserve demonstrate that you can indeed have both. Containing over 1200 species, a true botanical garden, the Springs Preserve does not skimp on plant choices. Conversely, the designers did not set out the gardens in some boring, orderly way, grouping the plants in rows by genus and species as I’ve seen in some botanical gardens. They created plantings that “Wow!” the eye.

The gardens at the Springs Preserve are primarily educational. Run by the Water District, the purpose of the gardens is to teach water conservation to the many people who have retired to desert living after living in climates where water usage was something they didn’t think much about. A lot of people view any plea for conservation as a request to “do without”. The Springs Preserve demonstrates that water conservation does not mean having less or going without; a new climate is an opportunity to explore new and more appropriate ways to garden, one more adapted to the climate in which one gardens. In other words, rather than complain about a lifestyle that is lost, why not use good old-fashioned American inventiveness to explore new, more efficient ways of doing things? (This is what our immigrant forebears did; abandon the ideas of the old world and embrace the challenges of the new.)

The designers at the Springs Preserve did not just come up with a list of plants suitable for desert climates. They sought to educate the public on how to use these plants together to create striking gardens. One of the demonstration gardens is devoted to explaining and exploring 8 elements of good design: symmetry, line, color, balance, texture, proportion, rhythm, and harmony. In a circular display, 8 mirrored stations are set up with a mirror, plantings, and short explanation of each design element. The lesson I learned was that it is important to consider the relationships among all elements in the garden.

Below are the notes I took, with some of the example plantings.

Line

“In your garden, lines–the edge of a walkway, a curving plant bed, or a tree’s branches–lead the eye, too. Horizontal lines create a calm environment while zigzag lines are playful and lively. Vertical lines make a view look narrower. Horizontal lines seem to widen a view.”
Springs Preserve
The Springs Preserve uses lots of concrete edging and other borders and paving to define space. Like the square paving stones inside the circular walk above, they use a combination of shapes so the design isn’t boring. Many of the plants, like the palm trees, or the saguaro cactus in the background provide provide dramatic vertical lines.

Color

Do you like energetic contrast or a muted palette with few accents? Choose carefully because colors have a powerful effect on human emotion. Colors interact with each other so when you are choosing colors for your gardens, think about their relationships.

Like Japanese-style gardens, desert-themed gardens do not rely primarily on color but focus instead on the texture and forms of plants. However, when cacti bloom, they do so in neon colors that can’t be ignored. Color in the garden is not limited to flowers. The Springs Preserve used many different colors of mulches to create patterns. We should also consider the colors of our garden benches, sheds, pots, and other ornamentation.

Texture

You can feel texture or see it. Smooth textures are subtle, and rough textures create a more raw feeling. Contrasting textures can be very striking.
Springs Preserve

Proportion

“Your size is relative to what’s around you…Trees, plants, and pools should be in scale with each other and the environment.
Springs Preserve
I find it difficult to figure out proportions in my garden. First of all, those dang plants are always growing. And then, just as they reach maturity, we get a drought or a freeze or a flood that kills them off and leaves a hole in my planting. Lastly, I design too small, too conservatively.

Symmetry

“Symmetry in your garden creates a formal, orderly feeling. An asymmetrical garden, which is not divided down a visual midpoint, creates a more casual, natural feel.”
Springs Preserve

Balance

“Objects in a garden have relationships. If they are in balance, the garden will look and feel complete. A garden doesn’t have to be symmetrical but you should feel that the elements at any point balance out those around them.

Rhythm

“Repeating a shape over and over moves the eye moving along. Repetition can be boring after a while. Spice up your design by slowly changing shapes, colors, texture, or direction.”
Springs Preserve
Notice how the form, shape, and texture repeat and diverge in this hardscaped area.

Harmony

Springs Preserve
Somehow I failed to take any notes on harmony but I think the garden above captures it all. Look at the different colors and textures, at how the strong lines draw you into the garden, at the balance of elements and how they are in proportion to each other, the use (but not overuse) of repetition.

Now I’m going outside to examine my garden with new eyes.

Springs Preserve Las Vegas
Seminars on setting up water-saving irrigation systems are held at the watering can shed at the Springs Preserve, Las Vegas. This photo was taken just before sunset.

March 9th, 2008
Springs Preserve: Botanical and Demonstration Gardens

I make a trek to Las Vegas every couple of years solely because three generations of my family settled there. I never would have thought that Las Vegas held any interest for gardeners even though lot has changed since I went to high school there. All the new developments have a buffer of desert landscaping between the street and the concrete block walls that define each neighborhood. The new parks are all planted with waterwise landscaping. There is a lot more public art including some wonderful giant tortoises underneath the tangle of freeway near downtown. Even the cell phone towers are disguised as palm trees. Some people hate this but I think it shows a sense of humor and it looks better than a plain cell phone tower.

“Las Vegas” means “the meadows”. Ancient peoples and westward trekking pioneers found water and forage in this formerly bountiful valley. By 1962 the springs had been pumped dry and the original heart of Las Vegas languished. It’s now bounded by Highway 95 and The Meadows shopping mall. In 2002, Las Vegans voted to create the 180 Springs Preserve, overseen by the Las Vegas Water District. Not only does the preserve contain historical and archaelogical sites, the future home of the Nevada state museum, and an interactive exhibit hall, it is a model of instruction on how to live and garden in a desert. Las Vegas survives on borrowed water. It is not just an ecological disaster waiting to happen, it already happened.

The gardens at the Springs Preserve are designed to teach water conservation through water-efficient landscaping–to show that xeriscaping does not have to be zero-scaping (as my Illinois-born dad calls it). The Springs Preserve shows us when we stop taking our way of life for granted, we can tap into our creative potential and discover better ways to live.

Springs Preserve Las Vegas
The cactus gardens were designed by someone with a master’s eye for form, texture, balance, and harmony. All the plants are carefully labeled, as they should be in a good botanical garden. (I hate discovering a plant I love at a garden without being able to find out its common and botanical names.)

Springs Preserve Las Vegas
The variety of plants was astounding. Over 1200 species were moved from the original Demonstration Gardens to the Springs Preserve Garden Walk before its opening in 2007. The plantings at the Springs Preserve made even some of the English estate gardens I’ve been to seem rather prim and dull. After looking at these incredible textures and forms, don’t beds of pansies or tulips seem a bit tame?

Springs Preserve Las Vegas
I’ve never been a big fan of cactus gardens but that apparently because I’ve never seen a really well-designed one before.

Springs Preserve Las Vegas
I’ve never been a fan of palm trees either. And yet I stood amazed at how artfully the palm trees had been arranged. Again, this is first a botanical garden, so the main purpose was to show the great variety of palm trees available. (Compare my favorite, the Canary Island Date Palm, on the left, with the others.) But the designers went a step further and created a beautiful planting.

Springs Preserve Las Vegas
I fell in love with this Canary Island Date Palm, Phoenix canariensis, because of the texture of its trunk and the unique bulge at the top. (Should I buy one?)

Springs Preserve Las Vegas
After writing about my own maintenance headaches with rain gardens, I was happy to see a lovely example of a rain garden gone right. Hints: create rain garden away from trees and install waveform sculpture. (Isn’t it clever without being too cute?)