recycled glass
Mountain of glass bottles waiting to be crushed and ground into processed glass aggregate (the sandy looking stuff in front.)

October 29th, 2010
Recycled Glass Mulch

Friday Followup

This is one in a series of followup posts. We bloggers often write hopefully about new garden projects; I always want to know, “So how did it turn out?”

Dateline: May 4, 2008

Last Friday Vertie invited me along on her first trip to pick up recycled glass that the City of Austin has made available free to customers who want to use it as decorative mulch, for lining French drains, or to create a drainage layer under a raised bed.

I had seen pelleted glass mulch at the Springs Preserve and on the Travis County Master Gardeners tour and was interested in trying it–especially for free. The City of Austin doesn’t separate the glass by color so what you get is a mosaic of brown, green, and clear glass with the occasional blue shard and a lot of sand mixed in.

recycled glass

When we first saw it, we were both a bit surprised and disappointed. It seemed to be more sand than glass. We were told that over time the larger pieces rise to the top and the sand to the bottom. The photo below is how it looks two months later.

recycled glass

Although the glass has been tumbled in sand, there are still sharp edges. I hesitate to use it anywhere I’d have to weed and dig later (especially since I don’t wear gloves). I think in the future I will use it primarily in places I need to create good drainage.

The decorative glass mulch smells like a stale garbage can. A good rain should wash the scent and sand away.

How long do you think this will stay weed and leaf-free? At least when the revelers walking up from concerts at Auditorium Shores throw their beer bottles in my yard, it will blend in with the landscaping.

recycled glass
2008-07-05. The morning after Fourth of July celebrations at Auditorium Shores.

Followup: October 29, 2010

2008-05-02. I decided to put this batch along the front walk where I tore out the Spanish bayonets last January. I weeded the area and then put down weed blocker cloth before pouring about 3 inches of glass mulch on top. The yard drops sharply at one end and I rearranged the chunks of concrete I recycled when we remodelled our kitchen on the slope.
recycled glass

2009-05-03. A year later. The sand has settled and the large glass pieces risen to the top. I’m happily surprised that it does not collect leaves as much as rock mulch does. Generally it stays much cleaner looking.
recycled glass

2009-12-22. The agave is one of the most beautifully shaped ones in my yard. In the background, some recently-planted opuntia is already getting out of hand and flopping. Bluebonnet seedlings are salad plate sized.
recycled glass

2010-03-21. We had so much rain this fall and winter that the bluebonnets were spectacular. However, the agave was heavily damaged by the massive freeze Austin had in January 2010. It looks terrible and I’m so disappointed.
recycled glass

2010-10-03. The agave has recovered from the freeze damage ten months ago far better than I expected. The opuntia has grown and I’m now struggling to weed around the plants, put weed barrier down, put glass mulch around them. I know it’s much easier to put the weed barrier down first (really!); I just didn’t think the opuntia would be a permanent planting.

recycled glass

To sum up my experience, I like recycled glass mulch a lot. I’m no longer afraid of cutting myself on it. I use it to top off a lot of my potted plants. It has worn well and looks good even after a couple of years–which I can’t say for any other mulch, not even granite sand or decorative rock mulch.

How to Get Glass Mulch in Austin

Note: The location has changed since my original post.

“Color-mixed processed glass aggregate. Generated from the sorting of commingled materials picked up from the City of Austin’s curbside recycling program. Contaminants: Approx. 5%; includes paper and caps.”

1. Check out the website.

The City of Austin has moved the glass mulch from the Burleson Road location to the FM 821 Resource Recovery Center (south of ABIA). The city will load the glass mulch into a pickup for $9.64 per ton (no cash or credit cards, checks only). You can load it yourself for free.

2. If you are self-loading, be prepared.

Vertie and I brought every bucket and plastic container we could load into her car, our own shovels, and gloves. We brought a couple of containers that were almost too large for us to lift out of her car together when they were filled. Wet sand and glass is heavy! Also, we both foolishly wore our gardening Crocs. Wear tough boots! There is lots of large pieces of sharp glass all over the loading area.

3. Check in on arrival.

You will be asked to sign a waiver before entering the landfill.

Queen butterfly

October 27th, 2010
Queen Butterfly

Are butterflies like sergeants? the more stripes they have the higher their rank? From the top, to me this Queen butterfly looks like a Monarch stripped of its black veining. Both were all over the white mistflower, Eupatorium wrightii, with a score of other smaller butterflies and many bees.

Queen butterfly

Open Days 2010

October 20th, 2010
Open Days 2010: Part 1

On October 16, 2010, we visited the six gardens on The Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program in Austin, Texas.

The two gardens on the 2010 tour which, based on their descriptions, one could assume were the most alike ended up being the most different, visually and emotionally. Both are built on steep hillsides west of Austin. Both are gardens of means, obviously expensive to build and maintain. Both are filled with unique collections of garden ornaments. Both contain extensive hardscaping and terraces. Both have swimmng pools. Both have outdoor living spaces where one can imagine serving cocktails to elegantly dressed guests. Yet, to me, the David-Peese garden feels personal and intimate. The Jones garden feels impersonal and public. Why is that? I studied my photos to see if I could figure out the differences.

The David-Peese Garden

This was my third visit to the David-Peese garden. AJM and I arrived a little early and were ushered in and given the opportunity to speak to James David a few moments before the tour opened. He said that, like many Austinites, they had lost trees to the drought and that he was replanting with more water-wise plants.

Open Days 2010

Although the largest garden on the tour, the David-Peese garden is intimate; it draws your gaze inward and pulls you into it. The garden is filled with hidden delights.

Open Days 2010
Open Days 2010

Even the most formal plantings have a wonderful sense of rhythm and motion to them. These curvy box hedges look like whimsical doodles. I love the tension between the straight formal line and the curves. It reminds me of dancers lining up for the Virginia reel.

Open Days 2010

All this stone and gray concrete could have felt heavy and lifeless. The narrow limestone steps flow down the hillside like a mountain rivulet.

Open Days 2010

For the most part, the David-Peese garden completely ignores conventional garden wisdom about building wide paths where people can walk two abreast. I think a great deal of the intimacy comes that the paths are narrow and winding. A fresh discovery is waiting around every bend in the path.

Open Days 2010

The hardscaping forms an impressive foundation. The forms and the weight are so beautifully proportioned that they support but never distract from the planting.

Open Days 2010

Most gardeners self-identify either as plant collectors or spatial designers. The David-Peese garden is one of those rare gardens which excels in both. The spaces from every angle are so balanced and harmonic and alive. However, the plants are never treated as just living filler, the “green element”, of the design. The garden shelters so many cool, wonderful, unique plants that it would take days to see and learn about each one of them. I’m glad one of my favorite trees survived the drought.

Open Days 2010

The Jones Garden

The Jones Garden is situated on a hill which overlooks Austin and the Colorado River. With the a view like that, it’s little wonder that the garden is used to frame the view, to draw the eye out and beyond.

Open Days 2010

What a place to party! However, as a rather introverted, inward-looking person, I’m much more attracted to the promise of secret gardens.

Open Days 2010

I love the idea of something hidden around just out of sight.

Open Days 2010

AJM was drawn to this soapstone urn and the way it caught the morning light. My eye travelled immediately to the planting and I was disappointed. It would have been better with no flowers at all than half-wilted mums from a big box store. (They looked worse in real life than in this photo.)

Open Days 2010

We continued down the bend in the path, past the greenhouse and into the swimming pool area. I felt that the promise of my secret path had fizzled. We exited around the back of the house, and then….

Open Days 2010

…a walled garden. I gasped with delight at that curve of green. Unfortunately the sun was just coming over the house and the contrast between light and shadows meant I couldn’t get a good photograph. This little garden was circles and curves punctuated with a beautiful round pond in the center. The room that overlooks the garden must see nothing but cool, green relief in Austin’s horrible summers. Oh! How I dream of a 20 foot wall of green!

However, I just can’t connect to this garden emotionally. The spaces are attractive but they seem impersonal. They remind me of an expensive spa resort.

Antigonon leptopus. Coral vine is a monster that dies down to the ground after the first freeze and then returns to clamber over my neighbor’s cedar elms each year. No water. No fertilizer. No mulch. Bees love it.

October 15th, 2010
GBBD 201010: Oct 2010

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

October 15, 2010

Second fall is firmly entrenched in Austin. As September rolls into October, usually a front will come in from the north and banish the humid Gulf air for a month or six weeks. Then Austin gets a lovely October of intense blue skies, dry air, and temperature ranging from lows in the 50s to highs in the 80s. This has been one of those perfect Octobers; my only complaint is that we didn’t get the prelude of a good long rain. We’ve had a few sprinkles but the last really good rain came with Tropical Storm Hermine at the beginning of September. Hermine dumped six inches of rain all at once and some Austinites got twelve inches or more. It would be nice to spread these rain events out a bit. These are lovely October days but dry, dry, dry. And it’s so cool I become negligent in my watering.

The garden has some fitting golden yellows for October. However it is mostly a jarring clash of reds and pinks at the moment. It was even worse at the beginning of the month before the oxblood lilies and the red spider lilies died down. (And people wonder why I don’t paint my gray cement wall purple.)

Turks cap clashes with coral vine

Ipomoea quamoclit, cypress vine

Dianthus ‘Fandago Crimson’

Ipomoea nil ‘Chocolate’

The package art and description led me to believe that this ‘Chocolate’ morning glory would be a gentle mauve or dainty buff. Not.

Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Dancing Petticoats

I planted some cosmos in the empty larkspur beds thinking I’d get some nice fall color. I always forget that it is too dark for annuals until the pecan tree loses its leaves. This was the only tiny pathetic flower from the entire packet of seeds. All the seeds sprouted but the plants quickly got leggy and died when they were about a foot tall.

The two ‘New Dawn’ roses are covered with flowers. And so is ‘Blush Noisette’. You probably would never guess it from the rest of the garden, but I really prefer these dainty pastel pinks.

Rose ‘New Dawn’

October 15, 2010

The list of all plants flowering today, October 15th 2009, at Zanthan Gardens.

  • Abelia grandiflora (2010) full bloom
  • Abutilon incanum (2010)
  • Antigonon leptopus (2010) full bloom
  • Antirrhinum majus (2010) rebloom, survived summer
  • Commelina communis (2010)
  • Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Dancing Petticoats’ (2010)
  • Datura inoxia (2010)
  • Dianthus ‘Fandango Crimson’ (2010)
  • Duranta erecta (2010)
  • Galphimia glauca (2010)
  • Helianthus annuus (2010) wild
  • Hibiscus syriacus (2010) fading
  • Ipomoea nil ‘Chocolate’ (2010)
  • Ipomoea quamoclit (2010)
  • Lantana ‘New Gold’ (2010)
  • Lycoris radiata (2010) last day
  • Malvaviscus arboreus (2010)
  • Nerium oleander (2010)
  • Nierembergia gracilis ‘Starry Eyes’ (2010)
  • Oxalis crassipes (2010)
  • Oxalis triangularis (2010)
  • Pandorea ricasalonia (2010)
  • Parkinsonia aculeata, Retama (2010)
  • Pavonia hastata (2010)
  • Plumbago (2010)
  • Polanisia dodecandra (2010) one flower left
  • Rivina humilis (pigionberry) (2010)
  • rose ‘Blush Noisette’ (2010)
  • rose ‘New Dawn’ (2010)
  • rose ‘Red Cascade’ (2010)
  • rosemary (2010)
  • Ruellia (all three) (2010)
  • Salvia madrensis (2010)
  • Senna lindheimeriana (2010) mostly gone to seed
  • Setcresea (both purple and green) (2010)
  • tomato (2010)
  • Verbena canadensis (lavender wilding) (2010)
  • Vitex agnus-castus (2010)
  • waterlily ‘Helvola’ (2010)
  • Zexmenia hispida (2010)