A Healthy Garden

The day we were in the community garden in Menard, butterflies were everywhere – one sign of a healthy garden.

gardenmenard6A Southern Dogface Butterfly is enjoying the Zinnias.

gardenmenard5Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia Leucantha) has a wonderful velvety texture and butterflies gravitate to them.

gardenmenardaA Pipevine Swallowtail also like the Zinnias.

gardenmenardbWhat is it about butterflies that is so spellbinding?  The fact that they are fragile?  Always in motion?  Or just plain gorgeous?

gardenmenardThis garden has many purposes besides looking pretty.  It provides raised beds for citizens to rent for growing vegetables.

gardenmenard1Some okra pods look ready to be picked.

gardenmenard7Our group of Master Gardener students was here specifically to learn about water conservation.  In a demonstration, Billy Kniffen pours water into four different plastic boxes on top of a rack.  The water then flows down into other boxes on the lower shelf that have drain pipes.  The purpose of the demo is to show how much water pours out of the pipe and how quickly it empties out.

What is planted in the ground makes a difference for water absorption.  The bin on the left has native prairie grasses growing, which allows the rainfall to soak in, and the long roots of the grasses leads the water further into the ground, replenishing the water table.

gardenmenard8The next container is turf sod or grass like what is used in most yards, which allows some runoff.

Then there is a container that has very little growing in it.  Bare ground becomes hard and doesn’t absorb water, which then washes away even more soil.

This shelter and some other small sheds have gutters that direct rainwater into water storage tanks.

gardenmenard9The last container has a house.  Sponges are placed around the house.  Once they have soaked up water, then it will gradually seep out.  He suggested having water permeable hard surfaces to prevent water runoff.  Replacing concrete with other materials like gravel would help.  There are products that have a strong enough surface for walking or even parking a car, but have holes that allow water to pass through.  Those have been in use in Europe for many years.

Manufactured permeable blocks that look like concrete are available, but are extremely expensive. Hopefully companies will come up with ways to produce more affordable materials.

gardenmenardcLarge ornamental grasses similar to the native prairie grasses hold water and are good choices for landscaping.

gardenmenarddAnd of course, every garden needs pretty plants like Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus drummondii).

Enjoy the butterflies in your garden now before cold weather comes.

“You can’t fix stupid, but you can vote it out.”  unknown

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Eden

A small town in the midst of scrub brush in flat West Texas has a garden, which was the result of one man’s labor.

eden01The Garden of Eden has some surprising elements.  It’s been two years since I last visited, and it has changed some.

eden1A large plastic tank has recycling water – nice soothing sound.

eden2An old milk can is used as the spout vessel.  I’m surprised that it hasn’t rusted out.

eden3Flame Acanthus (Aniscanthus quadrifidus var. quadrifidus var. wrightii) is scattered throughout the garden.  Once established, it’s very hardy.

eden4No surprise that hummingbirds and butterflies visit the tubular flowers.  It is drought tolerant and even does well in poor soils.

eden5Coral Honeysuckle or Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) has become a bramble beside the metal archway where it was originally trained to grow.

eden7A banana tree growing in West Texas.  Hard to believe that it can withstand the dry heat or the winter temperatures.  Yet, here it is producing bananas.

eden6This was a volunteer plant that came up and no one has been able to identify it.

eden8Lots of pretty grasses.  Although many ornamental grasses last only one year, this one must be perennial.

edenaNative Morning Glory grabs hold of lots of bushes and intertwines in the stems and leaves.  Here it is growing among Mexican Petunias.

edenbThe yellow flowers are Texas Yellow Bells (Tacoma stans), which is a beloved plant that is native to far West Texas in the Big Bend area.  It is a tall shrub with gorgeous flowers that is drought tolerant and abides limestone soils.

However, cold winters have done mine in.  But I keep trying to save one.

eden02Although this garden has been turned over to the city and depends on volunteers for maintenance, the man who planted it is still very much involved.

edencTypical agave with Mexican Petunias behind them.  Agaves are not all that cold hardy, so I’m surprised to see them here.

edendTangerine Beauty Crossvine (Bignonia capreolate ‘Tangerine Beauty’) is a perfect fit for this part of Texas.  It is cold hardy, endures the hot summers, and is pretty, to boot.

edeneTexas Sotol (Dasylirion leiophyllum) is a common sight in pastures and is extremely hardy.  It has sharp edges, so it should not be planted close to walkways.

edenfAnother hardy plant, Salvia Greggii Red Sage has a pleasant scent, especially when brushed as one passes by it.  It is a semi woody plant that is native to Texas and Mexico.  It thrives in the heat but does not tolerant wet feet.

edengAs a soft plant for touching, Artemesia in the Mugwort family is a wonderful choice.  They are grown for their silvery-green foliage and for their wonderful aroma.

edenhMore Yellow Bells

edeniFour O’clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) were grown by the Aztecs for medicinal and ornamental purposes.  They spread profusely.  Where each black seed falls, a new plant will spring up.  The seeds can be seen in the picture where spend flowers have fallen.

edenjPalo Verde Trees (Parkinsonia aculeata) are desert trees that have pretty yellow flowers in the spring.  Maybe the mild winters the last few years have allowed this one to get a foothold.
edenkA clever tin man that I would like to duplicate but finding the right size cans could be a problem.

Although most of the plants in this garden are what one would expect to see in this area, it seems lush with the paths winding through tall shrubs and full plantings.

“Knowledge is knowing what to say.  Wisdom is knowing when to say it.”  unknown

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Garden of Eden

Recently I visited a garden in Eden, Texas, with a gardening class. Eden is between Brady and San Angelo and has a population of just over 93,000.  That fact is a total surprise because we only made this one stop and drove on through it.  I thought it was probably smaller than that.

Here is a description of the town from their website:
“Founded in 1882, Eden is located at the intersection of US Hwy 87 & 83 where the Texas Hill Country and the rolling farmland of the southeastern extremes of the Permian Basin merge.

Eden is a scenic transition of cattle, sheep, and goat country, cotton fields, forage crops, oil and gas wells and some of the best hunting to be found in Texas.”

gardenofedenThis public garden used to be an abandoned lot that attracted drug dealers.

gardenofeden2A few people proposed the idea of a garden.  One man made it happen and continues to maintain it, mostly alone.

gardenofeden7He is a landscaper, and his skills show in the garden.  This rustic water feature used a cattle water trough, rocks, posts, and an old milk can.

gardenofeden3

gardenofeden4Very clever.

gardenofeden5It was a surprise to see Moon Flower there.  I don’t see it in many gardens.

gardenofeden6They are considered night bloomers.  I think this one is in the Datura species.

gardenofeden8The sun makes this grass pop.

gardenofeden9This Asparagus plant was new to me.  Makes me want to try it.

gardenofedenaThis gardener used lots of the same flowers scattered throughout the area.  He also wisely used reliable plants.  This is Esperanza (Tecoma stans).

gardenofedenbSurprises around every corner.

gardenofedendLantanas do extremely well in dry hot areas.  This New Gold Lantana (Lantana x hybrida ‘New Gold’) is an example of the spreading branches of Lantanas.

gardenofedencHis use of native stones enhanced the garden.  Especially liked the benches near the walkways.

gardenofedenfA migrating Monarch butterfly enjoying Lil Miss Lantana.

gardenofedeng

gardenofedenkNative wild Morning Glories.  They can be seen on barbed wire fences all across the central part of Texas.

gardenofedenlA nice job of mixing cacti and agaves with other plants.

gardenofedennAnother technique used was the placement of plants with the same colors together to create a large sweep of color.

gardenofedeno

gardenofedenpDuranta (Duranta erecta) is one of my favorite bushes.  This picture doesn’t do it justice.  For a better one, see other posts.

gardenofedenqCross Vine (Bignonia capreolata) is a popular vine that grows to massive sizes.  I’m not sure what the plan is for this one’s future – maybe to allow it to cover that rock structure.

gardenofedenrThe achievement of lush looking plantings can be difficult using our native plants.  But it’s possible by filling in with softer plants like this Dusty Miller or Artemesia.

gardenofedensThe garden is on the highway, but it’s winding paths through tall bushes allows one to feel lost in a secretive place.

gardenofedentBlue Potato Bush (Lycianthes rantonnei) is also known as Paraguay Nightshade.  It’s an evergreen that blooms repeatedly.

gardenofedenuThe flowers resemble those of Mexican Petunias.

gardenofedenvA walk though arch was covered with this Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens).  The vine itself looked pretty sad, but a few flowers still showed their stuff.

gardenofedenxThe shadows of these cacti create more interest than if they had been planted in the middle of other plants.

An impressive garden, especially since it’s the work of one man who works as a volunteer and in his spare time.  Sometimes the people in a community aren’t aware of the gift of time by some of their citizens.  Thanks to volunteers everywhere.

“When we stand back to consider the premise – that God owes us a good life – it is clearly unwarranted. If there really is an infinitely glorious God, why should the universe revolve around us rather than around him?”        Tim Keller