Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Widely regarded

I'll be frank.  Except for the occasional blog header, I've hesitated when it comes to posting wide shots here.  As opposed to a carefully cropped closeup, wide shots are painfully revelatory.

In the spirit of full disclosure and determined to face down this reluctance, today I submit some shots of the front bed, along the curb on the uphill side of the drive.
I may be stating the painfully obvious, but I hadn't planned much in terms of an overall design for the view along the front.  I did have two goals.  The first was to remove all the St. Augustine lawn, and the second was to introduce more variety to areas that were overrun with a combination of two ground covers, Asian jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum) and Periwinkle (Vinca minor).

Within a strictly limited budget I began to work towards my goals. As a starting point I figured to use my own labor and a combination of self propagated and passalong plants.  Progress was slow but steady.

One of the two houses across the street from us sold.  After sitting empty for a few months it was completely demolished and then rebuilt from the foundation up.  The resulting noise and chaos drove the decision for our other neighbors across the street to put their house on the market as well.  After it sold the new owners stripped it to the walls and remodeled, top to bottom.

This meant for the better part of the past three years our side of the street has served as a construction zone parking strip, hosting an ongoing parade of pickups, semis and panel vans.

When it came to looking at our spaces from the street I was reduced to intermittent glimpses of the curbside beds when a few of the workers' trucks left at lunch.  Except for Sundays, I rarely had street access to the front beds, and a wall of thorny agaves hampered my approach from the house side. I threw in the trowel, rationalizing with that constant screen of vehicles in place, what nobody could ever see would never hurt me.

Weeks turned to months turned to years.  It didn't rain, it got really hot.  It didn't rain, it got really cold.   Visualize a montage of flipping calendar pages. Fast forward to the here and now.

Both house renovation projects across the street are complete. Without the constant presence of parked vehicles I face, along with the world, the full consequences of our devastating weather and my ongoing neglect.  Big picture?  Well.  It ain't pretty.

To varying extent, every one of the agave plants were damaged this winter. Two coveted narrow leafed green varieties (weberii? americana? they were passalongs in a box and if I was told I can't remember!) were reduced to mostly mush. The centers seem intact.  I trimmed away the rot and am fervently hoping they'll bounce back.

There are a few bright spots.  The sumac I transplanted and protected with a barrier seems to have survived the winter.  Branches are showing signs of terminal budding.  Other plants put in last Fall (salvias, marjoram, penstemons, grasses, ferns, mallows) wintered over with no discernible damage. Many died back to the ground but that is to be expected and they should show signs of regrowth as the temperatures rise.

After agonizing over placement I finally planted two recently purchased gopher plants (euphorbia rigida).  I put them where they'll enjoy good drainage in combination with what I hope is enough sun.   If I guessed correctly they will become well established and not only thrive but reseed.  If I can believe everything I've read, the gopher plants should fill in an approximately 2x3 foot space.  They reportedly survive extremes of heat and cold, drought and deer.  Go go gophers!
Gopher the First (center).  Hoping this will stretch out to eventually reach the curb.
Gopher the Second.  I was originally going to pot this up but instead filled a gap created by the removal of a large cold damaged agave.  
Then there are the bluebonnets.  Last October I tossed out a couple of spent plants with their seed pods still attached.  More intentionally I then spread seed for both white and maroon blooming varieties that, legends aside, were released by the mad horticulturists at Texas A and M.  So far there are a few blooms on each which I hustle to share with you before the deer decide they are deliciously different.

The "maroon" and "white" varieties will never replace their original blue cousins in my heart, but for now I'm enjoying the novelty.  I hear they revert to their original blue within a generation or two but the pops of unexpected color are fun while they last.

Oak pollen will drive me indoors for the next span of weeks.  Regardless, now that I at long last have unlimited access, the urge to address issues out front will find me stubbornly popping outdoors for brief spurts of work.  Several clumps of purple fountain grass were killed by the cold.  I'd like to find native replacements. I want to relieve overcrowding and take out damaged agaves battered by cold and deer.  I will hand water wildflowers if the rains don't come, and there is always work to be done pulling Bermuda grass and replenishing gravel.

And, just perhaps, taking a few more wide shots.  It will be good to regard the curbside area taken as a whole as I continue planning for the future.
Not perfect, no, but much much better than grass!
The good, the bad, and oh my yes, the ugly. Out front I've sure enough got it all.


Tina said...

I hate construction--messes with my qui. Photography is a great way to assess problems in a garden--it's amazing how differently the garden looks through the prism of a camera, from "real life." Actually, I don't think that front bed is as bad as you're thinking it is, especially considering the lack of access over the past few years. Keep us apprised of how the gophers perform for you--they are quite the 'plant of the moment' in the Austin blogging community. Best to you in dealing with your pollen problems--I know you want to get out and garden, garden, garden!

TexasDeb said...

Tina - thanks as always for your thoughtful comments. The shots for this post were taken after I'd already spent several days wrestling out entrenched agave colonies. There are more that ought to be removed but standing in my way are pollen repercussions, two trays of plant babies that want to be installed, and the fact that OW! Agaves bite!

Cat said...

I completely agree with Tina, your curb strip looks pretty dang good considering all the obstacles of the last few years - and especially considering the cold of this winter. Loved the wide shot of your white limestone and tin roof...can just imagine how lovely the rain sounds when it does fall. It's been an interesting perspective of the garden this spring with the lack of rain and extreme cold temperatures...mine's not looking so good so for now I'll stick to macro shots! I admire your gumption; maybe I'll pull back a bit.

TexasDeb said...

Cat - "gumption". Ha! I adore that word - and you for using it. Usually I'd deflect, but in keeping with trying to do things differently today I'm taking the compliment and running with it.

The rain does sound wonderful against the roof (at least it used to). It has been a weird trip lately, trying to garden in these parts. I'm sure glad to have company like yours for the ride.

Tina said...

I'm back! I was thinking about your garden while I was on a bike ride (so I can eat a guilt-free brownie later on...). Have thought about putting your agave into pots in that front area? It would still give than nice regional feel, while (somewhat) controlling the pup issue. Also, as you know, those agave get huge eventually and you can replace them more easily in the pot. Anyway, just a thought. It's a nice garden, despite your not having much access for such a long time.

TexasDeb said...

Tina - what an interesting solution to all the problems the agaves present. I'm going to have to give it serious consideration. Thanks for lending your problem solving chops!

Pam/Digging said...

I love those agaves! Luckily some of those big 'uns grow quickly, so even if you get winter damage you can replace them and see fast growth. Congrats on having your front garden back to yourself now that all the construction vehicles have decamped.

TexasDeb said...

Pam: It is so good to look out front and see plants rather than trucks! I have to get used to the idea of keeping tabs on those beds regularly again however. The construction went on so long I'm afraid I've gotten lazy out front!