The Spring Garden

I don’t often show photos or write about my garden as a whole–the wide views–as it’s often phrased. While I love the  macro of my garden–I’ve designed and implemented a connected set of gardens and pathways–I’m more interested in exploring and discussing the micro of a garden area: the big and small wildlife that make a garden truly a living space, as well as the specifics of plants–foliage, flowers, bark–the stuff of plant life. Also, I think a garden is a very personal expression and so I don’t necessarily seek discussion about whether a chair or shrub or some other garden accessory is placed in an appropriately designed spot; the chair (or whatever) is where I put it because it works for me and for my garden.   I should add that I enjoy looking at others’ gardens and appreciate what I learn from gardeners’ accomplishments. As well, I’ve certainly benefited from  gardening advice that I’ve received  when I couldn’t get past a troubling gardening problem.  I’m continually impressed with (and maybe a bit jealous of) the ingenuity and creativity displayed by gardeners, especially home gardeners, in the articulation of their outdoor spaces and the artfulness and technical knowledge that gardening requires and that these gardeners supply. For my own purposes in assessing whether my garden is what I want it to be, I photograph my garden–the wide views–usually once per season, to help me with that assessment.

Photographing a garden, or parts of a garden, is instructive. I’m fascinated at how viewing a garden–in any light–is different from viewing a photograph of that same garden–in any light.  More than once, glitches in my garden layout have revealed themselves through photographs, even when they were hidden from my eyes in real-time.

In the back garden, which is where I usually photograph, the early March garden bursts with spring green and early blooms.  A new fence, with trellis added, hosts three new Crossvine,  Bignonia capreolata, plants  which have bloomed and are growing rapidly. The vines should cover the trellis within a couple of years.  I hope.

Garden "stuff" seems to me too busy. Does some of it need to go?

Garden art makes the garden too busy. Does some of it need to go?

The back corner is an odd place:  full sun in summer, shady, or in and out of shade,  for most of the remainder of the year.

It's becoming clear that I must do something, SOMETHING, about the back fence. I guess a new fence is in order.

It’s become painfully obvious that I must do something, SOMETHING, about the back fence. I guess a new fence is on the garden menu.


The center part of the back area gets a good amount of sun most days, most of the year, though parts of the garden play hide-n-seek with shade from the trees and house.

Generally pleased with the central part of the garden, I'm constantly making amendments because of ever-increasing shade. Many plant choice mistakes have ensued.

Generally pleased with the central part of the garden,  I’m constantly amending because of ever-increasing shade. Many plant choice mistakes have ensued.


The narrow part of the back garden is given almost exclusively to shade plants, but there are bloomers in the mix throughout the long growing season.

A closer


Foliage and flowers flushed out as March progressed, filling in with diverse colors and textures.

Back to the central garden, I’m especially fond of the waves of grey-green Heartleaf skullcapScutellaria ovata ssp. bracteata  undulating through the main garden bed, supervised by newly-in-bloom Old Gay Hill Rose shrub and Martha Gonzales Roses, as well as white Autumn sageSalvia greggii.  Accents of spring bloomers like Spiderwort, Tradescantia,Tropical sage, Salvia coccinea, Purple coneflower,  Echinacea purpurea, Iris, and others, thwart monotony.   Deadheading spent blooms can be tricky as I trip over rock stepping-stones in the laudable goal of keeping things tidy. Summer flowers will appear in short order.

The Firecracker Plant (Russelia equisetiformis) blazes red and echoes the red chairs at the end of the garden, as well as other pops of red, here and there.

The Firecracker Plant (Russelia equisetiformis) blazes red beside the pond and echoes the red chairs at the opposite end of the garden.  There are other pops of red, here and there, throughout the garden.

A  longer wide


The back corner garden has been an early morning coffee retreat for me–and just for me. That’s about to change with two new sets of Langstroth bee hives which will soon find a home where the bench sits.  I’ll miss sitting here, but I can plop myself down on the walkway (with a pillow for my bum) to watch the bees.  The bench will be moved to a better bird watching spot.  And who knows–when I hire out for the new fence that I mentioned above, maybe a new sitting area will follow.


The “shallow end” of the back garden is in full spring mode,

…and there’s plenty for the pollinators and the gardener to enjoy.

Gulf Penstemon (Penstemon tenuis) spike in lavender loveliness during March and April.  Here, they’re accompanied by red poppies and soon these will be  joined by the flowers of my mother’s unknown variety of Amaryllis.


I rarely take photographs in my front garden.  During spring, there’s enough wind whistling down the street that attempts for bee or butterfly photos is pointless.  I also don’t have much maintenance in the front garden, except when it’s time to mulch or when I’ve decided to rip up a  garden and re-do it.  The main part of the front garden abuts the garage, which is bordered by an old stand of Burford Holly shrubs.  Birds adore the winter berries and bees the tiny white spring blooms.

By way of a mulched path, the garden opens to a sitting area with mostly, though not exclusively, shade-tolerant and foliage-dominant plants bordering the area.

The groundcover is Straggler Daisy (Horseherb),  Calyptocarpus vialis.

I mow the Horseherb as needed with an old-fashioned push mower. Yes my neighbors think I’m odd–nothing new there.

Spring bloomers like Columbine, Aquilegia chrysantha and A. canadensis, Iris,          Mexican honeysuckle, Justicia spicigera, and this year (due to our non-winter), both Firecracker plant and white Tropical sage, as well as some smaller groundcover-type perennials, add color and pollinator pizzazz to this garden.

This view is from the mulched pathway as it rounds the corner of the garage, headed to the back side of the house.


From the street, for now, it’s all about foliage and texture.  That will change when the Rock rose,  Pavonia lasiopetala, Turk’s cap,  Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii    Frostweed, Verbesina virginica, and Goldeneye, Viguiera dentata, begin their bloom cycles.  This corner is challenging: full shade, except for the last, blast of hot, west sun.  Additionally, this area fries in the summer with the reflective heat from the street and driveway.

Mexican Feathergrass (Nassella tenuisima) and Rock rose  smirk  at summer’s heat.

Down the curb from the corner, the colorful Purple Heart, Setcreasea pallida, is a welcome change from the ubiquitous green.


The “driveway” garden has undergone renovation and is still finding its footing.

There will be more blooming action during summer and autumn and when the Rock rose, Red yucca, and Martha Gonzales Rose grow to maturity. Some other perennials and shrubs here include Henry Duelberg sage, Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’ and Barbados cherry, Malpighia glabra.

The “upper end” of the driveway garden sports many of the same plants, plus a lovely young Texas smoke treeCotinus obovatus.

Along with the Smoke Tree are more Rock Rose, Turk's Cap, Goldeneye, Frostweed and Purple Coneflower.

Along with the Smoke Tree are more Rock rose, Turk’s cap, Goldeneye, Frostweed and Purple coneflower.


The Butterfly/Blackberry garden is weird.   From a “design” aesthetic, it doesn’t quite fill the bill.

This garden is much more attractive in real life than in photos. I’ve come to the conclusion that its lack of photogenic character is one of life’s mysteries that I’ll never understand.  I’ve stopped trying.

Seven Tropical milkweed,  Asclepias curassavica  grow here, though are currently looking poorly and mostly munched.  This spring the plants fed some Queen Butterfly larvae, which have pupated, and at least one Monarch larva, which also pupated. I’ve also planted scads of white Tropical sage because they seed out prolifically and the bees and I love them. There are also Purple coneflowers that haven’t yet hit their stride this season, as well as a culinary sage and some larger perennial shrubs, not yet active. The Brazos blackberry vine is weedy and thorny (ouch!!), but oh those blackberries are tasty as they come off in May and June.  So, it stays.

I like the front door garden–plenty of color and good structural plants to boot.

Soft Leaf Yucca is currently in bloom and Red yucca (in front of the window) is now sending forward its bloom stalks. This year there are four. Woo-hoo!!

There are other, smaller side and fill-in gardens nestled in my urban plot, but some are under construction and others, well, they’re just not that interesting or challenging and I’m not going to waste your time or mine with them–for the moment.

I plan to re-visit these same views in the summer.  The perennial mixed-border garden is one of organic change and seasonal interest.  There’s always, always room for improvement and new issues and trials to face.

If you’re reading this, you’re a gardener–and gardeners are never quite satisfied with what their gardens are.  Do you photograph as a method of looking at your garden spaces differently, or to find problem areas?  Are you open to advice from other gardeners? If you’re a typical gardener, my guess would be that you’ll answer ‘yes’ to both questions.

A garden is never so good as it will be next year.   Thomas Cooper