Bleak midwinter?

We don't have a bleak midwinter here in Houston...

Who will buy?

Seems as though poor August is all but a holding period - a no-man's land of gardening, of dormancy, where we all just wait for Summer to do its worst and be done with it so that we can come to September and begin dreaming for the Fall. Well, that's not entirely true, but it does seem that most of the folks I talk to or read about are tired of the summer and tired of the heat.

Not so for me! Yes, it has been hot, though not as hot as it could have been. Yes, I haven't taken nearly as much time outside as I would have wanted to. But there has been adequate rain, and there is plenty happening in the garden.

Growing okra for the first time ever though, I have marvelled at how we have been able to harvest pods, quite literally, by the hour. And I never thought of okra as being such an ornamental, dainty, beautiful plant. But it so is.

IMGP3627The seven plants we grew this summer produced abundantly enough for us to have a steady supply of okra once a week. Next summer, 3 more plants will assure enough to give away to a friend or two, as the real and true virtues of gardeners are to be found in their spirit of sharing.

IMGP4648Speaking of sharing, we have, this past year, discovered how very much indeed we can enjoy the bounty of the natural world through our senses. Feast your eyes upon the most recent sojourner in this garden - one of three hummingbirds who seems to have called this place home, for the time being. In the background are the dwarf okra plants, and in the foreground, are beans and the yellow pear tomato who has braved the entire summer and is fully seven feet tall now with no sign of stopping. But this little friend loves her/his little perch:
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And darts between the sugar syrup feeder and the tomato tree branch supports time and time again.IMGP4603
IMGP4664IMGP4665IMGP4666IMGP4667Being still, and screened by the bean vines scarcely 3 feet away, how thrilling it was to behold this happy little creature. Now I know what these hummingbirds who stay around our garden sound like - and hear them all the time. Once, bending down to pick some thyme for an evening meal, I not only heard but felt the incredible buzz of their wings as one swooped past me, above my head.

Such riches can't ever be bought.IMGP4668Sunchoke flowers and plants tower above us, well on their way past the roof of the house.

IMGP4651A bumblebee visits the eggplant flowers on this Wednesday morning.

IMGP4670Here, an anole rests on the spent stalks of the blue Agapanthus in the front garden.

IMGP4673The very first Echinacea coneflower has blossomed in the front. Little does this flower know how incredibly beautiful, precious, and transient s/he is.

IMGP4674And the tiny front garden bed is awash with colour from salvias blue and red, buddleia, pentas, malviviscus, rudbeckias, one single coneflower (can you spot it?) and pink gauras.

A Lepidopteran Love Affair

It's confirmed. My better half and I are have fallen in love with the butterflies we have chanced to see over the past year of living in our new house. I knew this to be true for myself - but wasn't sure about my other half until he asked me whether I wouldn't be bringing more caterpillars/eggs in to shelter. That's when I knew...

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A Sunday is for gardening

A Sunday is for gardening. Never mind the heat. There's just a hint of a breeze, and there's cool water, and there's wonder to be found outside!

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Christmas in July!

Following this post on planting a tree that's so essential to Indian cooking, I must go back in time a bit and tell you about a visit earlier this month to a dear friend's house in Missouri City, TX, just a few miles from us in Houston, who veritably loaded up our little car with plants she had been saving for us.

One of these days, I am going to do a blog post devoted to Malar's garden - but for now, see these lovely plants that she and her husand, Julius, gave to us:

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Meet, from left to right: Drumstick, Turmeric, Cardamom, Jasmine, Tequila Agave, more Jasmine, Bay, and Sugar Cane!

SO EXCITED!

Malar and Julius's garden is definitely and uniquely and beautifully theirs - it reminds me of India in its practicality and its choice of plants. And, they were so generous with their pots and digging things up for us (Gardeners tend to be such a great bunch of folks, I might add here). Here are some close-ups:

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This is the drumstick tree, Moringa oleifera, முருங்கைக்காய் -- Murungai, anglicized into Moringa, whose leaves and immature seedpods are used in cooking throughout the world. I had no idea that these leaves are highly nutritious, containing high levels of plant protein and other substances that are good for you. She's a rapid grower and a tree, to boot, so we'll have to think carefully about where in the garden to place her. For now, doesn't she look happy? I can't wait to harvest and eat some of her nutritional leaves.

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Next up is a swath of turmeric - auspicious to have, just for the sake of having, as I have been brought up to believe. She is such a beautiful plant - how can she not be auspicious? I look forward to brewing tea from the harvested rhizomes. She thrives in shade, and I've already planted most of these plants in the front courtyard garden, next to her cousin, Ginger.

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I don't know where Malar & Julius picked this lovely one up - a cardamom plant, also a relative of Turmeric and Ginger. We'll keep her in a pot in the hopes that bringing her indoors over the winter will enable her to flower - and fruit. For the first time in my life, I tasted fresh dill seeds this year - at the ripe old age of 35; I can't wait to taste a fresh cardamom seed! More on this in time to come, I hope.

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A variety of jasmine we Tamil folk know as பிச்சிபூவு - picchi-poovu. Intensely fragrant, delicate, umbrella-shaped jasmine flowers.

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A few bay leaf plants - yes, the ones to cook with!

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An incredible, surprise gift of sugar cane! My better-half is a planner, so many of these plants that eventually need to go into the ground are, for now, staying put in pots.

IMGP3713Another jasmine variety.

I've never felt as lucky in all my life as I do now. It's been just over a year since we signed the papers to purchase this house we now live in. There are a lot of things I'll never be sure about in my life, except for this one: going into debt to care for a piece of land and a garden was totally worth it.

See you in Arcadia!

A home is a plant is a home

We garden for all sorts of reasons known and unknown to us. For people like me, who have lived severally in place, gardening with plants from these special places becomes an extremely important link connecting ourselves, the plants, and that sometimes elusive place called Home. Meet Kari leaf tree, Murraya koenegii - the one plant that is most likely to be found in an Indian household, if any is to be found at all. Here she is, to the left, on our window sill in New York, in 2007:

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Hello, Maypop!

Twas in the merry month of June, I was driving home from...somewhere, and spied what I thought looked beguilingly like the cover of the River Oaks Garden Club's fantastic book, A Garden Book for Houston, and it turned out, yes, to actually be...

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Garden heroes of all stripes

As the over 90-temps approach, I found I've lost the gardening schedule I kept up during the Fall, Winter, and Spring. Now, we have to take considerable care to snatch whatever narrow window we have when the humidity is low, the death star doesn't beat down on us, or the mosquitoes don't use us as their all-you-can-eat.

I made the adjustment this morning, digging up a hole big enough to be the future home of Retama, the Jerusalem Thorn tree. More on that in a bit.

For now, I can't help but notice how very alive the garden is - with heroes and foes, mind, but it's the heroes I want to pay particular attention to today. Restoring landscape sustainably will invite them back, too, so we hope that they will indeed, take care of any foes we see in the garden.
In the garden, it becomes so clear: the fights directed outwardly are mere reflections of the same fights directed towards the self. There is an alternative. There must be!

Perspective is important. Trying to "think as Nature would" is necessary. Out there, nothing is wasted. No life is worthless, and there's a place for all who are charged with surviving. And here are some of the beautyful "alls" I've had the Grace to see recently.

[caption id="attachment_764" align="alignnone" width="625"]IMGP3463 Sage, August, and Blue.[/caption]

We are blessed to live in a place frequented by herons and egrets. These blue creatures sometimes land (rather awkwardly, might I add?) on the street side of our houses, and walk slowly, delicately, purposefully along the sidewalk. Strolling along the pavement for dinner at dusk.

Then there is this very amusing Native relative:

[caption id="attachment_765" align="alignnone" width="625"]Still life with Squirrel and Finches. Still life with Squirrel and Finches.[/caption]

That little rat and her/his avian friends remind me that I feed them - not for my pleasure (solely), but for their sake as well. All good. Everyone needs to eat.

But soft, what light from yonder window breaks?

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I see this and I think: Ancestor! Dragon! Fairy Chariot! They fly, and settle, and fly, and settle again, sometimes perching on the tops of the green onions.

[caption id="attachment_767" align="alignnone" width="625"]A scallion with wings. Will you take to flying away now, and plant your white roots elsewhere? A scallion with wings. Will you take to flying away now, and plant your white roots elsewhere?[/caption]

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But this isn't a magical moment from all perspectives; I'm standing about a foot away from this Dragonfly, and can hear quite the crunch it's making with its beautiful jaws as it lunches on someone that used to be, before lunch time. My magical moment is rather a sharp and painful one for that other creature.

Far more benign is this little, industrious, formidable friend:

[caption id="attachment_769" align="alignnone" width="625"]Red salvia looks like fun to forage from. Red salvia looks like fun to forage from.[/caption]

Whose companions are equally photogenic:

[caption id="attachment_775" align="alignnone" width="625"]IMGP3543 There's work to be done - and don't they know it.[/caption]

Or this dizzying companion to flowers:

[caption id="attachment_770" align="alignnone" width="625"]Called: Gulf Fritillary. Or, simply: Beautiful Called: Gulf Fritillary. Or, simply: Beautiful[/caption]

At every turn, there's someone alive doing something to stay alive.

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And being part of a plan is what makes all of this so beautiful.

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There may be suffering, but there is no damage that cannot be undone.

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Would that we animals could learn a thing or two from all of this.

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Call me morbid, but I should love to be buried, in the dirt, in a field I know will always be unsullied by human hands. Becoming a part of a wildflower, visited by one of just these sorts of bumbeleebees or becoming a part of a leaf sat upon by a baby anole: I can't think of a better way to spend the afterlife. Can you?

A wise old owl // lived in an oak //
The more he saw // the less he spoke //
The less he spoke // the more he heard //
Why can't we be like that wise old bird?

See you in Arcadia!

Gardening in June...

...We're batting down the hatches with lots of mulch for the plants (thank you, neighbors and your raked up oak leaves, which we went about collecting in the Winter and early Spring). My better half is discovering that he must stoop so low and buy a gardening hat. Right now he makes do with a towel. What can I say? In our burgeoning quest to turn our boring suburban garden into a cottage garden that invites the re-creation of a healthy garden ecosystem, we delight in colour - Cool colours here:

Everybody / Someone else

Everybody is already
someone else
An existential tag line

Justin Marks


Sweet lil somethin's

Two sweets and two carrots:

[caption id="attachment_732" align="alignnone" width="625"]Two of a few carrots we'll likely harvest this year! Two of a few carrots we'll likely harvest this year![/caption]

One lovely brother Anole, perhaps a relative of Kermit:
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Here's hoping you visit Arcadia today and always!

Butterfly birth!

We can't say we saw the entire mystery of their birth from start to finish. They landed, as Fate would have it, on the butterfly bush, and ate every single leaf off of that plant.

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There were eight of them.
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But then, as suddenly as they had appeared...
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...they disappeared.
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We thought they had packed up their hobo bags for greener pastures.
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Until today, when, purely by chance, we found one, looking rather different from our last encounter:
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I swear I had watered that amaryllis nearly everyday this past week and never saw that magical little butterfly in her golden castle, not even once.
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Before we could figure out logistics to get a plate of fruit out for this marvellous creature, s/he had flown up to the gutter, rested and stretched for a half minute, and then taken off - paddling in the air, until we couldn't see any longer.


Best birthday ever. Happy birthday, monarch.

May Blooms

In order to avoid the apparent exasperation my better half of 11 years seems to feel with my forgetfulness, I'm using this blog to document what's blooming when. Spring is such an exciting time - especially this spring, as we've had such true, spring-like weather. I rather like to think that Winter found Spring - and they started chatting - and Winter decided that s/he really didn't want to leave...but something finally convinced her. Maybe the Sun.

So. Here's what's in bloom in early May at the Coahuila Garden: Paradise is! Our infinitesimally small bit of it, anyway. In the fruit and veg. (err, and legume) department, you'd never guess what these classic little black and white flirts are:

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No idea? Fava bean flowers! Remember them little plants (scroll down)? Who would have thought these flowers would be so very simple and yet completely marvellous?

Sugar snap peas have been growing strong:
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And the pomegranate is covered in bright waxy reds reminiscent of Christmas:IMGP3147

Elsewhere, we have some wild and free things doing their thing, so beautifully, in the back corner by the Gate to Elsewhere:
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Lantana's about to launch into months and months of flowers:
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Oh Dill. We do heart you, and we hope the insects will, too!
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We picked up a few of these hybrid Gaillardia plants on sale at Lowe's. They've been a bit thirsty of late, but that might be just because they're not used to where they're at. Grand and sweet things:
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Out front, in the courtyard, the Lenten Rose is still holding on to its spent blooms, with just one tiny one poking through the base of one of the two plants:
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Jacobinia, a new plant for us, is starting to show us what's what:
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After acclimating to her new environment, the Mexican Flame Vine is starting to do fancy fancy here, along one of the front courtyard walls:
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Just like a little prayer to the sun:
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Just outside the courtyard, African Iris is still blooming:
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Tiny nasturtiums suddenly started to bloom a few weeks ago:
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Here's one of my tiny favourite places, with wild pink Oxalis and Salvia in the front bed:
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The pink guara we bought from Cornelius Nursery seems to be doing well here, too, teeny though she still is:
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I saved my favourite for last. Beneath the (Texas native) Bald Cypres tree in the back is a bed of Blue-black salvias. More than just colour, which is striking in and of itself, look at how delicate and graceful the stalks are:
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And then -
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I hope you find your way to Arcadia today!