February 16th, 2008
Natural Gardener

Natural Gardener

We’ve watched the weather reports all week long as it threatened possible sleet for the weekend. The forecasted temperatures kept getting revised upward but predictions of severe thunderstorms, high winds, hail and even tornadoes amended our usual prayers for rain to something like, “Please let it rain (on my garden), but spare us the tornado.” By Friday it was muggy and warm, the air heavy with pre-storm moisture, and the clouds gray and roiling.

I’ve been working so hard these last few weeks with the chore side of gardening that I decided I needed a little treat before the bad weather set in. So I took myself to the Natural Gardener purposefully to buy some organic fertilizer but also just to see what I could fall in love with this year.

Natural Gardener

Most of the display gardens have been cut back and cleaned up. Some are being remade and it looks like there are some new ones in the works. Everything should be beautiful for our Spring Fling. The herb garden looks quite nice pared down to its bones, nicer than it did when MM and I visited last October. One of the things I notice about these boney geometric gardens–they are built on a flat surface. The other is that any trees are well beyond the perimeter. If I wanted a garden like this, I’d have to cut down all our trees and bulldoze my yard. Even if I had the money to do that, I’d be reticent. I’m trying to compromise with little terraces.

The garden I am really inspired by at the Natural Gardener is the winter vegetable garden (see photo at top). Look at the size of those cabbages! The hoops are for row covers during Austin’s occasional freezes. I do better with winter vegetables than summer ones because I have a lot more sunlight in the winter and because the temperatures are more temperate. A lot of vegetables, even heat-loving tomatoes, don’t like it when nighttime lows are consistently above 70F/21C. Also the winter vegetables don’t contend so much with insect and viral pests.

The Natural Gardener has a lot of new perennials in. I keep saying that I need to plant some shrubbery and I was very taken with a white viburnum. Still, I walked away. I couldn’t imagine it in my garden–it seemed more suited for a Deep South or east coast garden. It seemed like it would stand out unnaturally. I’m going to have to read up on them first.

Of course, I walked around the rose section three times visiting all my old friends. I’m clearing space where I cut down the chinaberry tree last fall for some new roses. I haven’t decided what to get yet although I’m leaning heavily toward replacements for ‘Sombreuil’ and ‘Gruss an Aachen’.

This trip I was most impressed with the seed section. The Natural Gardener carries seeds from quite a variety of suppliers near and far: Renee’s Gardens, Botanical Interests, Territorial Seed Company, Seeds of Change, Lonestar Seed Company, Thompson & Morgan, and Baviccchi (I think). As usual, I’ve been too busy to send of a seed order and now it’s so late. I was hoping I’d find some of the things I circled in the catalogs. I’ll have to bring my list and make another trip next week.

I didn’t walk away without making a purchase of course.

Natural Gardener

I spent $36.08 as follows.: $11.95 on organic fertilizer (this is mainly for the potted plants); $9.99 on a fancy new oxalis, Oxalis pre-caprae, ‘Scotty’s Surprise’ (rumored to be discovered by and named after Scott Ogden); $6.99 on blood dock, Rumex sanguineus, because I fell in love with the foliage and need plants for my future bog garden; $1.59 on a packet of borage seed; and $1.62 and $1.19 on some of last year’s sunflowers seeds marked down 40%.

I got home in time to plant the borage and the oxalis. At 4:11 p.m. the wind shifted to the north, relieving our muggy 77.4F/25.2C high with a blast of cold air. About 20 minutes later it began to rain. Between 3:57 and 4:57 temperatures dropped 12F/6.7C degrees.

Now I can enjoy this nice rainy weekend catching up on some inside work…like reading more blogs.

by M Sinclair Stevens

18 Responses to post “Natural Gardener”

  1. From bill:

    I was planning a trip to a nursery too, but the cold and rain got here first so its been delayed a little.

    I’m so happy that I live in a town where the nurseries are open all year round. You must have quite a drive to get to a nursery these days. — mss

  2. From Diana - Austin:

    Loved your pictures of the Natural Gardener – what a great idea to share with everyone. They are great.

    And how funny – I was at the Natural Gardener on Wednesday and came home with 3 roses! I walked away from the oxalis you bought, but I stood there staring at it for 10 minutes, it was so striking! Maybe I will come visit yours…then again, maybe I will go back one day and get one. What are the odds?

    Glad you got rain and no storm to speak of. I think it’s all passed us now. I hope tomorrow is a nice day. I have a 1/2 flat of some violas that need to go in two big pots on the front porch that are now full of dead “stuff.”

    Oooh. What roses did you buy? I’ll have to swing by your blog to see if you wrote about them. — mss

  3. From Kylee:

    Looks like a great place! I wish I was going to be there to see it in person. 🙁

    I have some of the bloody sorrel and I love its foliage, too. We have it growing in our ditches here, though it’s the native green. It’s still an attractive plant though and I think I’m going to add one or two to the garden this summer. Free plants are always good, too. 😉

    I am suffering sticker shock. It seems like plants this year are really expensive…which is no surprise really because transportation costs must be quite high due to the inflation of oil prices. But if I’m going to spend money on plant, I want to spend it at a local nursery not a big box store. I have my doubts about my impulsive purchase of the bloody sorrel. When I got home I read that it was a cool-weather perennial which likes constant moisture. I might as well be trying to grow moss in my drought-ridden garden. I can’t imagine why the Natural Gardener was even tempting us with such a inappropriate plant. — mss

  4. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    Love the fancy oxalis. Let me know how it does for you.

    The herb garden that you show here was designed by Lucinda Hutson, whom I “met” by phone last week. She told me that she’d been out there tweaking the design a bit. It looks great in your photo; it’s always one of my favorite little gardens out at NG.

    Cool to know who the designer of the herb garden is. You are very good at ferreting out this kind of info. The herb garden competes with the butterfly garden for my fave although it looked much better than the butterfly garden at this time of year. I like the Celtic knot design of the herb garden (is that what it’s called?). As for the oxalis, I saw them at Gardens the other day and by the time I got to the Natural Gardener I was open to a purchase. I’ve got four other oxalis in my yard (if I count the weedy lawn one) so I figured I wouldn’t kill it right off. I love the double flowers but the yellow might be a tad intense. — mss

  5. From Carol, May Dreams Gardens:

    What a nice little tease for the Spring Fling…this is on the program for Saturday, right? I can hardly wait. Who can walk away from a nursery like that without buying something? Do they ship?

    Hope you got just good ol’ rain and no strong storms yesterday!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

    Yep. We Spring Flingers will be going to the Natural Gardener after lunch on Saturday. As for the rain, yesterday, it was great. It was the first really good rain we’ve had since October and today was one of those perfect gorgeous days–sunny, calm, the garden rain drenched and alive feeling. I wish our summers were like this, too. — mss

  6. From Emily, Humble Labor:

    I bought borage seeds at the Natural Gardener last week, too. 🙂

    Neat. The little blue flowers are so cute in salads. — mss

  7. From Lori, Austin TX:

    I was at The Natural Gardener on Thursday and I, too, was sorely tempted by that yellow oxalis. I had limited funds and a shopping list, but boy, was I tempted. I love the delicate way that the flowers are held so far above the leaves. Had the flowers skewed any more slightly to the lemon spectrum of yellow, I wouldn’t have been able to resist.

    I love their winter vegetable garden, too. I think that it’s the most decorative of all times of the year– I have a weakness for purple and blue foliage. It’s too bad that I don’t eat more artichokes or cabbage, because it wouldn’t take much of an excuse for me to grow some. I did buy some bronze fennel, though, since I’m a sucker for the foliage and the butterfly larvae seem to love it.

    Oh– I was going to ask you about your experience with Souvenir de la Malmaison. Mine seems to be flopping and rambling rather than growing upright– does yours do this? I’m wondering whether it can stay healthy if it continues growing so close to the ground. Maybe I should invest in a rose tower or some sort of small trellis-y thing?

    I prefer a slightly more delicate yellow, lemon chiffon or iced yellow? ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ is a climber! Mine grows about twelve feet in all directions. Luckily the new canes are fairly flexible and easy to tie to a trellis. When you tie the canes horizontally, flower buds form all along the cane. — mss

  8. From Jenny - Las Vegas:

    Wow! Your garden looks great, and it’s only February! I’d love to see it in full bloom someday.

    I’ve put in a lot more plants since the last time you were here. You came that one cold miserable weekend we had in March unfortunately. — mss

  9. From ewa (Poland):

    I will pray as well to spare the tornados 🙁
    You have nice temperature now 🙂 here it is 0C currently and snow 🙂 so winter is showing her claws 🙂
    greetings from Poland

    We had a perfect rain with no bad weather. When the skies cleared and the wind calmed, Sunday and today are just perfect. The garden is washed clean of dust and pollen and all the plants were so grateful for a good soaking. — mss

  10. From Lori, Austin TX:

    Twelve feet?! Holy crap! I was under the impression that the whole bush would stay under 4 feet at maturity. I guess I’ll be buying that rose pillar after all. Many thanks for the advice. 🙂

    There is a bush form of ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison. Maybe that’s what you bought. I have the climber. However, if your bush it throwing out long canes, it might be the climber too. — mss

  11. From carolyn:

    I don’t know how many times I’ve said that prayer about tornadoes when I was a kid growing up in tornado alley Alabama.

    I’m on break in the sunshine state of Florida and the tornadoes seemed to have suddenly appeared all around me!

    We were lucky that the forecasters were wrong this time. Many times we get a bit of rain and then tornadoes form to the east of us, killing people in Tennesee and beyond. — mss

  12. From Layanee (Rhode Island):

    Those oxalis flowers are so large! Such a sunny plant! I have fallen for that Rumex in the past! Let the gardening season commence!

    It is the biggest oxalis I’ve ever seen. I have a feeling that the Rumex would be happier in Rhode Island than in Texas, though. — mss

  13. From KAT (California):

    That oxalis is a weed in our yard. It just started blooming this weekend, and it is very nice to see the drifts of yellow flowers. We have banks and banks of it. It must be well-behaved in Texas–here in California it goes beserk.

    Is it the same? About a foot tall? Double flowers? We have a small yellow oxalis that is a lawn weed here. But this is nothing like it. I hope it is a bit weedy. I need a lot more tough flowers. The purple oxalis I have, Oxalis triangularis, is tough but doesn’t spread around. –mss

  14. From Angelina:

    I love those rounded raised beds!

    Winter vegetables are wonderful. I’m hoping to be able to get brussels sprouts to grow for me next year. I had a ton of them that were grown locally and sold on the stock and they were the best I’ve ever had.

    What do you usually like to grow in the winter?

    I’ve only gotten interested in the winter vegetable garden these last two years. Last year I grew broccoli, snow peas (which we didn’t eat), radishes (which my husband hated), and cauliflower (which didn’t form heads because it got too hot too quickly). I try to grow potatoes every year but it’s hard to get seed potatoes at the right time of year for us. I usually have to chit some from the grocery store (luckily we have two major groceries which carry organic, unsprayed potatoes). I planted five strawberry plants last fall as a trial because I read they could be grown in Austin as winter annuals. They are just starting to flower. If I got the row covers, though, I could really expand the planting. However, I think lettuce and salad greens are the most cost-effective for us because they taste great from the garden and we eat a lot of salads. — mss

  15. From Mr. McGregor's Daughter:

    I was going to bring only a carryon bag to Spring Fling – now I think I’ll bring an empty suitcase so I can bring home any treasures I find at that great nursery!

    The Natural Gardener is fantastic. Here’s a list of some other Austin nurseries to whet your appetite. — mss

  16. From Nancy:

    HI, thanks for commenting on my blog…

    Oh, and the split leafed philodendron has survived snow and icicles forming on the tips. I did cover it when it was small…now I just stand back in awe.

    It is, however, in a somewhat protected area between the fence and the brick house. I suspect that, the composting leaves beneath it and the ash tree canopy over it may create a micro climate. I’ve another philodendron of the same type that’s older, but not as large. When we got the freezing weather last winter its leaves that were exposed to the wind did fall off, but it survived in a more exposed position.

    It’s always worth a try!

    I have a shady space under a pecan tree that needs something dramatic. I will give it a try! Thanks for the idea and the encouragement! — mss

  17. From gintoino:

    Oxalis pes-caprae is a major weed here in Portugal. I don’t know how it will behave there in Austin, but I suspect it might get invasive.

  18. From Green Horticultural Oil:

    Hey Sinclair Stevens, do you plan on posting pics of your bog garden in the future? Are you going to grow carnivorous plants? I think it is a great idea.