chocolate covered strawberries

April 17th, 2008
Garden Bloggers are the Nicest People

Maybe that isn’t headline news but I continue to be overwhelmed by the sweetness and generosity of all the people I met at Spring Fling. Today, I opened my door to this incredible present from Robin @ Bumblebee. A dozen of the most luscious chocolate-covered strawberries you can imagine.

 Spring Fling Presents

And so many people brought lovely little pressies with them, so unexpected and dear. Kathy @ Cold Climate Gardening gave me the coolest gardener’s key chain. VBDB @ Playin’ Outside made lemon ginger jam and shared her recipe. Elizabeth @ Gardening While Intoxicated presented a copy of her Buffalo Garden Walk book. Dawn @ Suburban Wildlife Garden, Vertie @ Vert and Nancy @ Nancy’s Garden Spot all shared seeds. Pam @ Digging surprised me with notecards made from photos of her garden. Carol @ May Dreams Gardens took me to lunch. Annie @ The Transplantable Rose had me and Carol to dinner and shared her signature cookie (and sent a bunch home with me to give to AJM who decided I must be friends with Annie forever just to keep those cookies coming.) And Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings has some surprise in the works.

Actually it’s all a surprise. I never expected anything from Spring Fling except the chance to meet up with some of the people I’ve corresponded online with for many years. It was my pleasure to have you all. I’m so touched and overwhelmed by your generosity. I can’t really express myself very well…so I hope you just know. Thank you for coming to Austin. Thank you for visiting my garden and writing about it and taking photos. And thank you for making Spring Fling an experience so unimaginably delightful. Never in my wildest dreams…

The lawn at the David-Peese garden.

April 12th, 2008
Spring Flingers’ Secret Revealed

The Japanese have a saying, juu-nin to-iro, literally “ten people, ten colors”. Or to put it into less compact English, “Ask ten people a question and you’ll get ten different answers.” What has fascinated me about reading everyone’s Spring Fling posts is seeing something I experienced through other people’s eyes. One of the reasons I read is to learn to see the world through eyes more observant than mine, to think about things that would not have occurred to me alone. And so, to have almost forty different perspectives of a shared experience is revealing. It shows me how subjective the experience of a garden is. How much we take out of another’s garden is strongly related to how much we put into seeing it.

Some people focused on things I never gave a second glance. They peeked into niches and corners I didn’t notice. Others photographed the same grouping and created a striking composition where I just took a simple snapshot. All these eyes help me see what I missed. These different perspectives inform my own experience. Looking at them together I feel like I’m looking through the compound eye of some giant insect, seeing the world in a way I never saw it before.

For all the differences, there are some similarities. There are photos of bluebonnets and other wildflowers, of newly-made friends laughing as they pose with arms around each other. Many people tried to capture the dramatic descent to the pond at the David-Peese garden, or James David’s exotic voodoo lily, or a careful grouping of stones. I smiled in recognition and thought, “Yes. That appealed to me, too.”

However, one common photo on many of the posts seemed strange to me (although I snapped it myself), a shot of James David’s lawn.

For all our talk about tearing out lawns and replacing them with flowers or vegetables, why were we gardeners drawn to lawn. Did the lawn provide a sense of relief, to come up into the air and light after all our winding through the dark and narrow paths filled with exotics on a steep hillside? Did we need a dose of its strong lines and geometry to counteract the exuberant growth of the rest of the garden?

And yet we were drawn into the space only with our eyes. We all photograph it from the outside. Is there something forbidding about the lawn? something that made us all hang back at the entrance as if we were afraid to enter a sacred enclave? Perhaps a lawn as imposing as this one doesn’t need a sign saying “Keep of the Grass”. Or perhaps after admiring the clear swathe with its distinct lines and sharply cut borders, there was nothing to left to pull the gardener into it and we turned our attention elsewhere.

What do you think?

golden barrel cactus
Mr. Peeps enjoying the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

April 6th, 2008
Mr. Peeps Does Spring Fling

I returned from my recent visit to Las Vegas with a newfound love for cactus and succulents. I couldn’t resist bringing home a golden barrel cactus but the only one I could find that would fit into my carry-on luggage was this novelty plant from the discount plant table at Lowe’s. Although I originally intended to remove the plastic eyes that had been glued on to create “My Peeps, Cactus Buddies”, many people wanted to see a photo of it. So I decided to make Mr. Peeps (as I’ve named him) my Spring Fling mascot.

Mr. Peeps loved the first stop on our Spring Fling tour: the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. There he found all sorts of cactus and succulent cousins to hang out with. It also gave him a glimmer of hope that he might be able to survive in Austin’s humidity.

golden barrel cactus

However, when the Garden Bloggers visited the private gardens of James David and Gary Peese I was forced to leave Mr. Peeps in the car. I told him that the tropical climate of the garden wouldn’t suit him but the truth is that these gardens are just too upmarket for a lowly plant from the Lowe’s discount table.
James David Garden

During the cocktail hour given by Pam/Digging, Mr. Peeps may have had a few too many Mexican martinis. The next thing I knew he was cavorting in Pam’s stock tank pond swooning to the mariachi band.
golden barrel cactus

I know some of you other Garden Bloggers made friends with Mr. Peeps. If you decide to post any photos of him during Spring Fling, leave me a comment and a link.

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.