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Tulips have long been one of my favorite flowers, and when I learned about Dallas Blooms several years ago, it went straight on my bucket list. We don’t get cold enough here in Texas for most tulip varieties, but The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden combats this issue by planting 500,000 bulbs each winter! Spring is a difficult time to escape from my own garden, with so many tasks needing attention – and Dallas is nearly a 4 hour drive. This year I finally had a good excuse, with my daughter living in Dallas for 8 months, and I was more than happy to pay her a visit.

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Saturday morning we woke up bright and early and were in line at 8:45, for the gates to open at 9. We were warmly greeted outside the garden by bold primary colors.

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Once inside, you have a spectacular lake view as a backdrop to a raised bed vegetable garden. I’m always impressed with how tidy professional vegetable gardens look, so different from mine!

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As you make your way through the vegetable garden, this beautiful view opens up, teasing of what is to come.

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We were lucky enough to see these Saucer Magnolias in bloom, which my daughter nicknamed “Tulip Trees”.

This formal garden was bordered on each side by a mix of tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils. On the left the colors mirrored the bright colors of the garden entrance – on the right, more subtle colors of white, yellow, and blue.

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This garden contained a few surprised as well. Behind one of the borders was a pop of purple and pink hyacinths. I don’t think I’d ever put this color combination together in my own garden, but it completely worked in this case.

Every angle of the formal garden presented a different visual experience. It seems that every inch has been carefully considered.

As we continued our journey through the garden, I was amazed at the different color combinations.

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There was even an understated white garden.

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This was my favorite of the day, so beautifully designed!

A few more of my favorite pictures.

The garden was absolutely magical! I was so happy to share it with my daughter, who seemed to be as geeked out as I was.

 

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

Recipe – Collard Greens

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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.

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!

 

 

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

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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Summer means cicada season in Texas. If you look carefully you can usually catch a few as they’ve just emerged from their larval shells. Immediately after molting their wings are still wet and can be easily damaged, so they stay put until the wings are completely dry. I saw this one last weekend, a bit before sunrise.

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This morning I was lucky enough to find another one. I noticed that it seemed stuck in its shell, and as I looked closer something didn’t look right. There were spider webs all over the cicada.

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This small spider, a fraction of the size of the cicada was working on its next meal. I figure that it must have paralyzed the cicada before it went to work.

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Here’s another view of this crazy scene.

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I decided to come outside every half hour or so and check on the progress. My next visit made me question my sanity for a moment. The cicada was gone!

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I heard a squawk and looked to my left. One of the guineas was devouring both the cicada and the spider! It happened so quickly I couldn’t snap a photo.

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Here’s all that remained. I guess the shell wasn’t too appetizing.

Such is the circle of life!