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These beauties can always be counted on in the middle of winter when nothing else is blooming!

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We have an abundance of Collard Greens this year, which is fine by me – they are one of my favorites. I have tried several recipes over time, and this is an adaption from one I found several months ago.

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Start with one large yellow onion and 5 strips of bacon. Slice bacon and cook on med-high. Once the bacon starts to crisp, lower heat to medium and add onion. Cook together until soft.

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Mix 4 cups of liquid. I used 3 cups of duck stock with 1 cup of water. I’ve also made this with just chicken stock. Add 1 tbsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 cup white vinegar to the liquid. Turn heat back up to med/high and add liquid to bacon/onion mixture.

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Once sugar and salt are dissolved add collard greens. I cut the collards into 2×2 inch squares. Lower to a simmer and cook for at least an hour.

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The collards will darken and soften during cooking, absorbing all the goodness. Add salt to taste if necessary during cooking.

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I served the collards with roast duck, and roasted duck fat potatoes.

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Desert Botanical Garden

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Growing up in the Phoenix area, I took the obligatory field trip to the Desert Botanical Garden in elementary school, but had not been back since. I really have no excuse, since I visit the area 1-2 times a year. After reading numerous posts from bloggers, I finally made it a priority. I invited my family members to come along, and 8 of us enjoyed the garden.

The desert garden is all about structure, and this one does not disappoint.

Cluster plantings also provided the wow factor.

There is also a natural trail, which shows the plants in a less formal setting.

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I loved this garden! It was a great way to spend the morning, and my membership to The WFC got me in free!

 

 

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Winter Wonderland

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Looking outside now it is hard to believe that the picture above was just this morning. It warmed up to a still-chilly 52 degrees today and melted away last night’s magic.

It started snowing yesterday evening when the temperatures were already dancing around freezing. It continued dusting us for several hours, enough to actually accumulate. That is quite a feat here in Austin.

The snow wasn’t predicted. Instead we were supposed to hit a light freeze. I covered the more tender of the veggies beds, but left the spinach, chard, and carrots uncovered.  I was a little worried at the scene this morning, but other than a slight burn on the chard, the veggies looked pretty good this afternoon.

 Scenes from the Frontyard

Scenes from the Backyard

Can’t forget the Yard Art

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Latest Front Yard Project

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A few months ago the front garden contained one large bed, one smaller bed containing pink autumn sage, and a smattering of fruit trees. Although the idea of fruit trees as a complement to the vegetable garden seemed great, the reality turned out quite different. In Austin we don’t get adequate water, so supplemental water is a must. In the summer I was watering each of these trees for nearly an hour each week. With water costs in the summer I found myself paying hundreds of dollars for a few pieces of fruit that I had to battle the squirrels for.

This summer I decided to rip out the fruit trees and go with native pollinator plants instead. Initially these plants will need supplemental water to get established, but eventually they could get by with water only in the warmest and driest of conditions.

Along with drought conditions, I also had to plant deer-resistant varieties. The bed varies from full sun to shade, which made plant selection both challenging  and fun.

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I spent August and September planning and prepping. The first step was to have the Austin Garden Bloggers over for one of our monthly Go-Gos. In exchange for brunch, these talented gardeners shared a wide variety of creative ideas – many of which I implemented. My prepping included rock borders and hand removal of the grasses. My mother-in-law spent several weekend mornings helping out. Thanks Mom! I left much of the ground cover (frog fruit, horse herb) in place and chose to mulch with crushed live oak leaves.

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My October weekends were spent shopping and planting, the fun part! Even though I planted all gallon-size pots, it will still take a few years to really fill out.

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One of my favorite suggestions was from Pam Penick at Digging. She recommended that I break up the large bed with a grass river. I loved the idea, and went with Mexican Feather Grass. Not only do I love the size and coloring of this grass, but it is also readily available. The river will slowly blend with Ruby Crystal Grass as well.

 

I’ve got a few plants in bloom …

 

The new beds are a combination of new purchase and garden transplants. Due to the large size of the bed, (20X40) I decided to plant in clusters. Aside from really large plants, I went with 3 or more of each.

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New Purchases : Blue Glow Agave, Flame Acanthus, Copper Canyon Daisy, Trailing White Lantana, Native Texas Lantana, Wedelia, Desert Willow, Pink Skullcap, Purple Skullcap, Shrubby Boneset, Russian Sage, Texas Sotol, Mexican Feather Grass, Black Mondo Grass, Pigeon Berry, Lyre Leaf Sage, Dwarf Barbados Cherry, Thryallis, Limoncello, Turks Cap, Black and Blue Salvia, Inland Seaoats

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Transplants from elsewhere in the my garden : Green Goblet Agave, Variegated Society Garlic, Betony, White and Pink Autumn Sage, Multi-color Irises, Chocolate Daisies, Russian Sage, Ruby Crystal Grass, Passalong Agave

Already Existing in Bed: Mountain Laurel, White and Pink Autumn Sage, Four O’clocks, Mexican Feather Grass, Damianita, Agarita

 

 

 

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Signs of Spring

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Aside from a few cold snaps, we have had a very mild winter. Things are starting to bloom ahead of schedule, and I am nearly a month ahead on my spring veggies. Of course, just when you feel that winter is behind you, a cold front moves in. This weekend was pretty chilly, with highs in the 50s/60 and no sunshine to speak of. I covered my tomatoes, hopefully for the last time.

I still couldn’t help but stroll through the garden and take pics, even though it didn’t feel at all like spring.

Veggies

 

Wildflowers

 

Bulbs

 

Perennials

 

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Peggy Martin Rose

 

The Pets

 

 

 

 

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Winter Garden Struggles

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This year has been my worst year of winter gardening since I started, just under 10 years ago.

Last winter we barely kissed freezing temps, this year we have already hit high teens to low 20s three times. I have row cover which adds 5 degrees, but that just isn’t enough for some plants.

I have lost all of the cabbage (napa/red/green), at least half of the broccoli, most of the cauliflower, swiss chard, peas, radishes and the kohlrabi.

My carrots have succumbed to caterpillars.

The survivors include spinach, kale, collards, romanesca cauliflower, some broccoli, garlic, and brussel sprouts.

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The broccoli that has been strong enough to fight the extreme cold is now bolting due to the record heat.

I have replanted the peas, recently planted onions, and scattered hairy vetch in the place of the vacated plants.

The winter so far has rotated from the aforementioned lows to highs in the high 80s. Most years I question why I even attempt a winter garden, this year I really have no answer. My only saving grace is that I planted everything from seed, so the money I spent was less than in recent years.

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