The Daily Muse

A Garden Journal -- December 2000

December 8 - morning

Another cool and clear morning, perfect gardening weather. So much has been accomplished in the past two weeks it is hard to decribe the transformation my yard has undergone. The obvious place to begin though, is with the soil.

Years ago, when I was dreaming about my "next garden", and coincidentally, my "next home", I swore that I would choose it based on soil type. Gardeners do have their own sense of priorities. I wanted to find deep, rich soil that was loose and well drained. I guess I was planning on commuting from a creekside in the piney woods of East Texas or North Carolina. Instead, I find my self with deep, gunky clay in Central Austin. So, in order to accomplish my dream of "rich and loose" (sounds like the current version of the TV-American dream, doesn't it?) I had to bring in five dump truck loads of a soil, compost, granite sand blend. Now, all of that has been tilled into the existing soil. In addition, five truck loads of crushed granite gravel have been spread, creating a series of patio spaces. The long wait is over, and now I am in a position where the only person holding me up is me. A scary proposition in some ways, but, also very exciting.

There are many tasks ahead... Most of the infrastructure of the pathways, which will define the planting areas, remains to be done, and, I have to finish out the planting beds a patch at a time with more specialized compost and soil foods. However, by the end of this coming weekend, I will be planting the first three trees of my new garden, they are robust looking big tooth maples, which will eventually shelter the northern "wall" of my garden labyrinth.

So, my gardening brothers and sisters, keep me in your thoughts and prayers. Hallelujah! My little version of the kingdom comes!

December 10 - evening

What an exhausting and exhilirating weekend it has been. Yesterday, I spent the better part of the day preparing several beds for planting, and today, I put eight trees in the ground- the three bigtooth maples I referenced earlier, four weeping yaupon hollies, and one lacey oak. Three of the hollies are in a bed next to our pond, which is currently little more that a hole in the ground. When they grow, they will add an oriental feel to that setting. I have always loved weeping yaupon, they are very distinctive shrubs with branches that cascade downward, covered with bright red berries. In my former garden I had many scattered about, here, I have decided to group them together for a bigger impact. Even though they are currently small, only about two feet tall, I am already pleased with the result.

I planted the lacey oak at the foot of my brother's grave. It is one of the best five gallon specimens of that tree that I have ever seen. It has nice fall color showing on its gently lobed leaves and appears to be quite vigorous. Many of the "lacey oaks" that I have seen in nurseries appear to be hybrid crosses between lacey oak and escarpment live oak, or sometimes post oak, and are not true to the species. This one, however, appears to be the genuine article. I was deeply moved after planting it- I think my brother would be pleased to know of its unique features, and my efforts.

December 13 - morning

Gardening under ice! Last night we experienced a rarity here in Central Texas, an ice storm. When we awoke, there was a quarter-inch of ice covering our trees and the ground. Our high temperature yesterday was only in the upper twenties, so for the first time in about three or four years, we have had a true taste of winter. I am glad to report only minimal damage, one large tree limb down, a few wilted tropicals, but otherwise we came through this unscathed.

For years I resisted the temptation of having any tender tropical plants under my care. I just did not have a place to properly shelter them during cold weather, and I have little patience for wrapping plants up to protect them from frost. (Though, I have seen some very interesting "wrapped" gardens in my time.) Over the course of the past year or two, however, I have acquired a small collection of aloes and agaves that I am very fond of. They have spent the last few days under our porch roof, warmed by floodlights and votive candles. May Our Lady of Guadalupe protect you from the frost!

I know many people who disdain any tropical plant as a pestilent invader of our native turf. I am not that dogmatic. Some of the best garden plants for this area come from somewhere else. Even my beloved lacey oak, a native to the western Hill Country, is not native here, east of the Balcones Escarpment. I don't believe we should be irresponsible, filling our gardens with tender water hogs, but, neither should we overlook welcome additions to our plant palette. Our gardens are too precious to our spirits to start weighing them down with rules. Let's declare our gardens dogma-free zones, where responsible stewardship isn't encumbered with self righteous ice.

Continue to January 2001

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