What the Divas Did in 2008, Part 1

Divas of the Dirt Diary for 2008
Each year we’ve posted an online annual look back at what was done in our gardens and what fun we’ve had gardening together here in Austin, Texas. The “Annie in Austin” who writes the Transplantable Rose blog is called DivaGlinda here. That pen name thing started years and years ago – even our pets have noms de plume!

The Diva year begins with a planning meeting-breakfast in January. In 2008 the place of choice was Chez Zee, a family owned, Austin icon at 2222 and Balcones.

The food is always delicious and the décor is fun. Our group gets a little loud at times, so we were glad that our table was tucked around a corner.
Divasofthedirt,Chez Zee decor
Our original system of making a project schedule -drawing slips of paper with names of months – had failed. Some Divas drew the same month repeatedly. We’d try a new plan for 2008.

Karla: Hello Divas, Attached is a copy of the rotating schedules we discussed – see you at 9:00 Saturday at Chez Zee – with spreadsheets in hand!!!!

Divas Sophia, Annie, Mindy,Divasofthedirt,Sophia, annie, mindy Karla, Mattie,Divasofthedirt,karla and mattieGlinda & Buffy Glinda and buffyall hoped for a good year.

Mattie had to change the date set in January … what luck! Her original date could have been a Diva Mud Day but the new date was the kind of early spring day that can spoil an Austin gardener.

Mattie: Dear Divas, According to the weather, Saturday will be beautiful - 70 degrees and scattered clouds. I continue to vacillate about what project to do (there are no shortages!) so you can help me pick. I have purchased lots of compost, mulch and plants so I am overly ambitious and will probably have to continue working for weeks. Now, on to the menu… I think our normal start has been about 8:30 so, if there are no objections, that works for me. I am looking forward to seeing you all!

Before thinking about transplanting shrubs or redoing beds it was time to visit and enjoy quiches and fruit around Mattie’s elegant table.Divasofthedirt,fruit and quiche
Once outside, a Burford Holly was dug up, ready to relocate near some new hollies in a border. Mattie’s intention is to eventually have a green screen around the entire perimeter of the half of the lot behind the privacy fence. Mattie’s dog Bianca was interested in our project, too.Divasofthedirt,move burford
Here’s a photo sent by Mattie, showing the undeveloped area between gate & steps a couple of years ago. She’s made a lot of progress since then but this area still needed help.Divasofthedirt,old yard
Mattie wanted us to make it ready for ‘Knockout Roses’ and lilies.

Divasofthedirt,ready for lily
After removing unwanted plants, digging and amending, the Knockouts found a new home.Divasofthedirt,knockouts planted

Next the Divas pondered the placement of the Birdbath.
Divasofthedirt,ponder bird bath

This took both muscles and tools but Buffy and Mindy knew how to make that Birdbath stand level!Divasofthedirt,level bird bath
We found time for Mattie’s lovely lunch of different salads – Egg Salad, Potato Salad and Tuna Salad – served on a bed of greens with olives. It was perfect and crunchy and even more delicious when there was Blackberry Cobbler and Ice Cream to follow.Divasofthedirt,salad lunch
Then back out to dig and place the shrubs at the end of the pool areaDivasofthedirt, nellie holly spot.

Once planted and watered in, Karla tends to this ‘Nellie Stevens” holly.Divasofthedirt,karla and holliesOur first project for 2008 was a success – time to straggle home and let the birds find Mattie’s garden!

Mattie wrote: Dear Divas of the Dirt, You certainly deserve the name after yesterday! Whew…I couldn't believe how tired I was last night and sore I am today. Hope you all fared better than Bianca and I did. Today I watered and watered and marveled again at how much you did and how really wonderful it looks. It was a real pleasure to have you all over. I look forward to my next Diva Day when I can show you what it looks like a year later. If your hands are dry - use the lotion I gave you. It works really well. Thank you for a terrific day of sharing your company, creativity, experience and knowledge with me in my home. See you next month.


I could hardly wait for the Divas to help me with my project and sent an email:

From Glinda:
…just a reminder that we're aiming for 8:30 AM as the start time this Saturday. Buffy came over to scope things out and her advice was very welcome! We'll be working in front, enlarging the footprint left when the Arizona Ash was cut down. Then it can be a nice flowerbed! You might need sunscreen and/or a hat.

Mattie has a small crepe myrtle waiting for her. I can dig up shastas and already have lambs ears waiting. Also available are divisions of Crème Brule coreopsis…. Divasofthedirt,red rose in pink bedI'm kind of bummed about this rose - the flowers are lovely and the foliage seems healthy, but this climber was bought as 'Therese Bugnet', a pink Rugosa-type shrub rose. It's in the pink garden and the location needs a plant that can stand on its own…needs a trellis or wall or fence or something. There's no way it can stay where it is... is anyone interested in adopting it? See you on Saturday!

Diva-Annie answered back: Glinda, sounds like the weather will be perfect for your diva day, hopefully you will sing your newest salvia song for us! See everyone on Saturday at 8:30!

Divasofthedirt,st patrick tableWith a date in mid-March the table just had to have daffodils. The breakfast menu included Irish Steel-cut Oatmeal. Eggs in Ham Crisps, pears, pineapple, clementine oranges & blackberries and Irish Soda Bread with currants.

An immense Arizona Ash had been taken down in early spring 2007, the stump ground and the chips turned into the roiled-up soil. Soon after that Philo and I planted a small Cercis/Texas Whitebud off to the side. Then the area was covered with mulch and a few container plants set there while the wood decomposed and the soil mellowed. One year later it would be a sunny flowerbed.Divasofthedirt,b4 from veranda
The biggest job, as always, was getting rid of the St Augustine grass to enlarge the bed and give it a good shape. That took hours! Divasofthedirt,rip out grassThe birdbath had been toppled a few times – dogs, cats, raccoons? The Divas used a concrete stepping stone set below ground level as a pad for the birdbath base, burying it a few inches for added stability.Divasofthedirt,buffy sets base
Diva-Annie brought divisions of yellow bulbine to add in to a mixture of native and adapted plants I’d been gathering: Mutabilis rose, ‘Bengal Tiger’ canna, Native Gregg’s mistflower, Verbena bonariensis, lantana, ‘Labuffarosea rainlilies, bluebonnets in bud, Creeping Phlox and Flame Acanthus with orange flowers for hummingbirds.

Divasofthedirt,liriope B4A liriope border grew near the steps when we bought the house. The unwelcoming straight line had been bothering me for years, and it looked weird to have the planters outside the green stripe looked wrong. The Divas knew just what to do…and did it!Divasofthedirt,liriope after

Having a date in mid-March meant we got to celebrate St Patrick’s Day with traditional Irish-American food - Corn Beef, new potatoes and cabbage slaw with Harp Ale, Guiness Stout and country brownies for dessert.

The pink shrub rose that turned out to be a red climbing rose was dug up to go home with Mattie – now there was an empty spot where a pink-for-sure ‘Belinda’s Dream’ could bloom and grow.

Divasofthedirt,after from verandaThe view from the veranda next morning looked wonderful as I wrote to the Divas:

May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And the rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.

A traditional Irish Blessing on all of you for your help and hard work- I sure hope you weren't too wrecked last night. Removing St Augustine was a tough job but it makes room for flowers! Once the tools, hose, wheelbarrows, etc. were put away the new bed and entrance curves looked amazingly different to me.

Divasofthedirt,irish decor

Sophia answered: This was my first diva day since last year and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Everything and everyone made for a perfect day! I was inspired by the delicious meals so I had Roger prepare traditional corned beef and cabbage with homemade beer bread on the side in honor of St Patrick’s Day!

Karla chimed in: Thank you Glinda for the blessing – it just continues the enjoyment of your delicious Irish lunch/table-scape to the beauty of your garden – your new fountain and beds are beautiful. You definitely look ready for your April visitors!! Have a Happy Easter everyone!!

Diva-Annie said: Thanks for the Irish blessing! I'm glad you are enjoying your new view, I can just see you and Oz having one meal at the kitchen table to look at your fountain and then moving to the dining room for the next meal to gaze out at your front yard and the birds in the birdbath. Such a difficult choice! Enjoy them both as well as having a Happy St. Paddy's Day!!

Mattie replied: Hi Divas, thank you! loved the saying and the little trip back to the green isle (I'm Irish too). I think your front yard front looks great. I loved everything you gave me (thanks Sophia and Diva-Annie, too) and got everything in the ground Saturday night hoping for rain Sunday. No luck but maybe this week. Happy St. Paddy's Day to you all.
Divasofthedirt,front bed at 1 week
Here’s the new front bed one week later with the whitebud and bluebonnets in bloom.

The whitebud lasted a few years, but did not survive the "summer from hell 2011"... a new look for  the bed was the November 2011 project.  

What the Divas Did in 2008, Part 2


Emails helped when the original date for the April meeting needed changing and it let us share notes about spring and Zilker Fest.

Diva-Annie: Can everyone make the 12th? … Let me know and I'll give more details of the project soon!

Mindy: 12th is great for me too!!! Anyone going to the Zilker gardenfest tomorrow??

Buffy: The 12th is good for me too! The gardenfest was fun as usual and what a beautiful day! Some really interesting plants. I got 2 unusual orchids. Glinda, my iris bloomed and it has had incredibly beautiful peach flowers. My variegated iris is also getting ready to bloom and it looks like the flowers will be purple.

Glinda: The 12th is fine with me, Annie. Mindy, we went there today. As we left with our plants Buffy was coming in.

Mattie: The 12th works for me! Thanks.

Karla: Works for me, Annie…I forgot to tell you that I have 5 big peach iris blooms and a few more buds - this is the first year they have bloomed since I put them in – I think these are from you Glinda, but can't remember now …I'm really enjoying them!

Diva-Annie: Divas, Looking forward to Saturday, at this point it looks like great weather! Seems like we have been starting at 8:30 this year, so that will work for me too! Plan for this year.. is to re-fresh several of the existing beds (replacing some plants, composting, adding brick edging, etc) Cutting down that odd tree thing that is now completely blocking my sidewalk (any body with a chainsaw??) Pulling out the desert willow and planting an orchid tree, trimming back other trees? Have a great week and will see everyone on Saturday!

When we walked up the path to Annie’s house we nearly missed seeing the tree that she wanted removed - we were too entranced with the sight of a refrigerator sitting next to the sidewalk…was this a workday or a party?Divasofthedirt,frig and tree
The ride for Diva-Annie’s old refrigerator pulled up – she’d bought a new energy efficient refrigerator and was turning the old one over to Austin EnergyDivasofthedirt,austin energy truck
Whimsical ceramic frogs greeted us at the table – not just our pets for the day, but a sweet thank you gift to take home.Divasofthedirt,froggy table
We loved the shrimp and avocado omelets and the zucchini bread.
If you’d like to try them, find these recipes from Diva-Annie’s day at the Cooking With the Divas of the Dirt Blog.

After a while we moseyed outside and began to cut, dig, prune and generally try to make Sweet Annie’s garden behaveDivasofthedirt,tree must go – horizontal limbs at neck and eye level were targeted and the tree near the front side finally was banished.

Divasofthedirt,tree cut throughMy new Cobrahead tool, a prize from the Gardenbloggers Spring Fling, was given a good test run by Mattie – she found it to be very helpful when ripping up turf and weeds for the edges.Divasofthedirt,mattie and cobraheadWe enlarged one bed but with so much of the lovely front garden already in place concentrated less on digging than on pruning, transplanting, cutting back and maintenance to keep us all busy. For example, a very unhappy desert willow made way for an Anacacho Orchid Tree.

DivaAnnie had a theme for the day – lunch was an adaptation of a Martha Stewart Corn & Shrimp Pot Pie, with Corn Bread and a Mandarin Salad. Then she amazed us with perfect Petit Fours and sherbet.Divasofthedirt,sophia, annie, buffy
All the beds were cleaned up and dug over and some of the plants that had expanded a little too well were spread out. When we were done the main garden didn’t look drastically different – Divasofthedirt,new triangle bed with the addition of a new corner garden, it just looked one step closer to being the perfect Cottage Garden.

Annie liked what we’d done: …can't believe how much work you all did yesterday!! …Hope everyone (was okay) and were not in pain. I know they say "no pain, no gain" Well, I certainly gained in the beauty department of my yard, thanks to the DIVAS!! Walked outside last night and started to cut across the grass and realized I could WALK on my sidewalk, no tree in my way! All the beds looks great, the tree pruning and the yard, porch and sidewalks were cleaner than when you came!! Thank you so much for making my diva day such a great one!!

Mindy agreed: What a picture perfect day and so productive!!! Annie, you ARE the weatherluckiest Diva!!
This morning at the trail was amazing--the air still crisp like yesterday....I just drank in the moment and had … words flooding thru my head--I just have to share them:

Morning Trail

My feet carried me happily down the path with Buttercup leaping at my side.
I watched the wind have a conversation with the treetops, they replied with gentle bend and sway.
The morning sun smiled down on Lady Bird Lake and she sparkled back.

An April email conversation.

Glinda to Divas: Saturday, April 19, 2008
Subject: Central Texas Gardener
If you get a chance to see the TV show on KLRU either at 4 PM today or 8 AM tomorrow you can see an interview with Pam Penick and footage of her garden taken last October. She's the garden blogger who started Spring Fling. [link will open the interview on YouTube]

Sophia: Just watched the garden show this morning-loved it! I used to take my daily walk past Pam’s yard when I lived in town.


Hi Divas -
Well I hope everyone endured the rains, storms, and/or hail last night! It should make for a nice easy digging day on Saturday. (segue approaching…)

Since the ground will be soft, I would like to work on extending a bed and work on “the secret garden”-(secret being there is no garden). Don’t worry about having to dig up a lot of grass since I can’t seem to grow any in the back yard! I thought about trying (for the third time) putting some grass squares in, but I am up for suggestions-any and all ideas/suggestions are welcome!

Oh and Roger is home so we will get to eat-ha!
See you at 8:30-I guess I will go with the new time as well.

As always it was a treat to have breakfast in Sophia’s kitchen – a sausage and egg casserole greeted us, along with bagels and lemon curd, berries and pizzelle. Could we manage to work off this hearty start to the day so we’d have room for lunch? We didn’t know what it would be but knew it would be good!Divasofthedirt,pretty table
Sophia still had no secret garden when we left that evening – we all agree that it’s a cool idea, but we convinced Sophia that she could always work on that meditative, hidden part of her garden in future, but right then she needed the area outside the sliders and the adjacent patio and corner seating area to be connected, accessible and pretty, and also a little more dog-proofed both for Sophia’s own two pooches and for those brought by visiting family.

Sophia had tried so hard to grow grass back there – maybe instead of investing in St Augustine she could invest in some decomposed granite! She already had a quantity of gathered bricks and rocks and Divas love to repurpose building material. A sort of courtyard + pathway was laid out and bricks set in – granite to be added later!

Buffy and Mindy share a laugh as they haul bricks, dig and transplant.Divasofthedirt,buffy, mindy laugh

Diva-Annie takes on the sunny Canna CornerDivasofthedirt,annie and cannas

Karla rehydrates while testing the path for stabilityDivasofthedirt,karla tests path

Mattie redid the banana bed at the end of the patioDivasofthedirt,mattie and banana bed
Lunch was worth the work – homemade Cabbage rolls, salad, potato salad and Lemonade Pie – if Roger will give me that recipe it will go up on our Cooking With the Divas of the Dirt recipe blog!

Sophia: Thank you! After everyone left and as I was watering the yard, I was able to take in everything you all accomplished-simply amazing! The ideas were creative and artistic and you were able to work them all into a cohesive and flowing theme.

And to think I only had two side areas planned for yesterday!. This was definitely the correct way to move. You are a wonderful group of diva ladies! This week or next I’ll be getting the granite delivered and then my wheel barrow and I will begin the bonding…

Diva-Annie: So glad you are happy with the results. Last night I went back to the diva diary from May 2006 (yes, it was just TWO years ago) to look at the before photos again. To think that you started with one large bed in the middle of the back yard that was trampled by the doggies to where it is now, is simply AMAZING!! It is going to look so good with the new granite path. What day were you planning to work on it? oh yeah, have to work THAT night! Maybe I can come help next weekend! Thanks for such a great day filled with delicious foods! Yum, cabbage rolls!!!

Mattie: The food really was sensational and your yard is, indeed, beautiful. I checked out the before picture too. What a change!
I worked for hours in mine today and it was really hot. I was thankful for the better weather yesterday! See you all in three weeks.


A slightly sarcastic email arrived from Karla: Hello Divas, I heard the wonderful news of how nice and cool it will be on Saturday - it will be so pleasant - mmmmmm, sure hope I was listening to the local station!!!!

…we want to make use of any smidgen of bearable temps, so I will have breakfast on the table at 8:30, ready to eat… the later we wait, the hotter it will be. Oh no, now I've given you the impression that we will only work until it gets hot - how can I politely say that will not be the case - I'll work on that!!!

We will mostly work in back and side yard - I will definitely have a list and we can work through until quitting time and what is left will be moved until next year! … We will be digging, cutting some average to slightly largely than average limbs, pruning and replanting. We will also have open season on squirrels if any of you would like to bring the weapons - they keep destroying my work!
Have a good rest of the week - see you early Saturday morning - does anyone want ice in the coffee????

Glinda: Jeepers, Karla - first you complain about your MudPie March so we let you have June and what happens? Unprecedented heatwave. Are you in some kind of cosmic trouble that we don't know about? We'll do the best we can for you kiddo, and in return don't serve us any of those salmonella tomatoes. [Pole pruner and loppers, right?]

Karla: You just barely touched on it – I have cosmic, cosmetic and cognitive troubles – it’s a scary situation! If you don’t mind bringing the pruner – not sure if we need, but think we will. Thanks – see you Saturday – stay out of the garbage can!!!

Diva-Annie: Hey Karla, looking forward to Saturday too! Question, maybe I'm already fried from all the heat, but you said breakfast on the table at 8:30, is that when you want us to arrive or come at the old time of 8? Maybe we should all arrive during the middle of the night to work when it is cooler and then have breakfast! Anyway, hope you will allow us to run through the sprinklers if we get too hot! See everyone Saturday!!

Karla: My intentions were to have everyone eating at 8:30, so that we could be outside early enough to enjoy what little bit of morning coolness (using the term loosely) there will be - you are welcome to come at any time, but somewhere between 8:00 & 8:15 would be great!! However, if you are planning to work during the night, I will leave a key out front. See you in the morning!!

Divasofthedirt,grits and eggs
Tropical fruit, breakfast casserole and Cheese grits awaited us. We wandered outside, coffee in hand to survey the garden. Karla's patio looked so pretty that it seemed more like an After photo than a Before. “What in the world do you want us to do?” we asked.Divasofthedirt,yellow chairs on patio
Maybe that back corner needs a little pruning and cutting back and replanting and transplanting:Divasofthedirt,shady bed B4The decorative fence at the end of the patio stops the eye, but there is plenty to be done in the woodland garden on the other side:Divasofthedirt,north end patio
We managed to keep busy all day digging, pruning trees, shrubs and perennials, weeding, reforming edges, mulching and transplanting in that garden with “nothing to do”. The side of Karla’s house leading to the garden gate is an area that has swung from shade to sun and back again over the past few years – solely dependant on what the neighbors do to their trees. Instead of playing a constant guessing game Karla decided to make a permanent decomposed granite path. For us this meant removal of remaining grass, digging and leveling the area and getting a metal edge set in place (that part meant finding tools as well as using them!)

Last month we’d left Sophia with the basic work done for a new path – this month we’d do it for Karla. At some future time both Sophia and Karla planned to buy a load of decomposed granite – then theyd do the wheeling and spreading of the granite to make their two path projects complete.

If this were a rainy year like 2007 the cleared area could fill in with weeds and sprouting seedlings, but little rain fell in 2008 – the paths could sit and wait until the Divas were ready to fill them:Divasofthedirt,ready for granite
While redoing the pomegranate bed near the patio, Diva-Annie also raised up and reset some of the rock edges:Divasofthedirt,annie raise rocks
The day went on and the plants in one area after another got breathing space and mulch. We should get thanks from Lowe’s for all the times their yard bags appear in our photos!Divasofthedirt,progress and bags
The corner bed was tidy and serene, with the existing shrubs cut back. They’re not choice plants, but were already sizeable when Karla moved to this house. Since they are useful she allows them to stay, but within bounds.

Divasofthedirt,after shady corner
We broke for lunch part of the way through, enjoying a delicious Chicken casserole and cooling Skinny Cow Ice Cream Sandwiches for dessert – just perfect for a workday where temperatures topped out at 96°F. The food was wonderful but we sure hoped to be out of the 90's by the time we met for Mindy's September 20th project.Divasofthedirt, dining room
Karla: Dear Divas, Thank you so much for all of the hard work on Saturday and for sticking it out for the entire day – you guys ARE the best!!!! I watered a lot after you all left and everything (except me) was very perky on Sunday morning – I, on the other hand, was reaching for the ibuprofen bottle!!! …I am so happy to get so much done and know that when it starts to grow, everything will look beautiful!!! I can’t believe I can finally see the abelias from my patio. I bet that will be the last time you all say “there’s nothing left to do” when you arrive at my house!! I think Sophia and I should throw a granite party wkend real soon – JUST KIDDING!!

Again, thank you so much for the fabulous job and wonderful masterpiece you left behind!!!
PS Martha called and I am scheduled to appear next month with her – interview on my patio!!!

Diva-Annie: Yup, even Martha will be jealous and impressed!! Glad you are enjoying your new space… think it was the heat and humidity that really got to me… now you really don't have anything that needs to be done in the back, what will we do in the future? We could always come just to eat and sit on your adorable patio set…Enjoy your new back yard and ummm, think I'm busy the weekend you and Sophia are getting granite!

Karla: We can include some rock – Sophia, help me out here!!!!

Glinda: By definition a granite party must rock!

Karla: Obviously Annie, you have never been to a granite party – they are a blast – rethink your schedule!!!!!!

Sophia: Okay Okay!
I hear-tell of recent granite parties that definitely rocked…On one of the parties the wine (err…Gatorade) was flowing while garden club friends donned their best nature tees and khakis to make an appearance at the social event of the season. Nearby neighbors stopped by with wheelbarrows and shovels in hand just to be a part of this dramatic event. (Onlookers took numbers at the gate and nervously waited; hoping to join in the joyous experience.) Ahh…to be one with the granite…Truly a triumph of the human spirit!

A Bloom in July
Sophia: You should come by and see my tropical (orchid tree?) in the front yard-it has been blooming the last few days.

Divasofthedirt,bauhinia from SophiaGlinda: Look what I saw this morning! Whoop-de-do ~ you gave me a fabulous flower, Sophia. There's a pleasant light fragrance to the bloom.


Friday, September 5, 2008, 5:32 AM

Mindy: Hey there Divas…a quick line before loading up (for a trip) …I stepped out this morning to help Warren …and WOW!!! Fall is in the air:)
…I will be planning shade projects for the 20th, focusing on entryways, the naturalized area around the pond stream and any other shady areas we have time for. Texas plays Rice that day so expect the radio or television to be on w/in earshot if they play early!!
Usual tools…We are keeping an eye on the radar and hoping the families won't have to run from any more storms, so keep your fingers (and trowels) crossed for good luck to hold!! See everyone 8:30 on the 20th!!

September 07, 2008
Diva-Annie: …Looking forward to your diva day as it has been a very long time since we have all been together! Hoping for a cool Fall day!!

Then the Hurricane drew nearer to the Texas coast. Extended Diva families had been hit hard by Hurricane Rita in 2005, changing some lives forever. We all hoped for the best.

Glinda: My email is acting wonky so I don't know who'll get this, but you guys all seem to have someone in your family who lives where Ike is blowing and you're all in my mind tonight. At least Karla's mom is not in (danger) this time - hope Mindy's got her two moms tucked up somewhere close-by, too.

Some people in Sophia’s family decided to ride out the storm in Houston – after communication was restored she let us know they were uncomfortable but all okay – including the dogs. .

Mindy and Warren opened their home and kept some of their family safe in Austin but other relatives were trapped in the danger area on the Bolivar peninsula.

Mindy: …the end of the peninsula (across from Galveston) is annihilated. High Island is literally that--an Island--and no one will be able to get in or out for the next 4-5 days until waters recede. Utilities, roofs and cleanup for the next 3-4 weeks (and I'm sure beyond as has been the case w/ Rita).

I am thinking at this point of delaying garden club until the evacuees are gone and we have helped rebuild/return to home everyone. Can I claim a date in November?? Thanks again for keeping us in your thoughts & prayers…

Karla: So sorry to hear about the destruction and near misses, but so glad to hear everyone is safe. As life goes on in Austin, I can’t imagine what those in the path of destruction will have to face in the next few months. My friends in the Spring area had a huge pine tree go through their bedroom, so a lot of water damage with that … Mindy, postponing the garden date to November is fine and totally understandable…Thoughts and prayers for all you helping get those put back together…

Glinda: Oh, my - thanks for letting us know the status, Macky. This is like a bad rerun of Rita, complete with no rain for Austin. We'll try to work with whatever you have to do. Meanwhile, we have to water our gardens and the Chicago suburbs are flooding. It's all weird.

Mattie also had family in Houston – with no communication for awhile.
Mattie: ..didn't hear …until Saturday night. As with other millions, they are without cell service and electricity still. ..just moved into their new house a month ago. There are many limbs down and the top of a pine tree landed on the garage. I am just relieved they are okay.
November sounds fine, Mindy. Anytime works for me. Looking forward to seeing you all.

Mindy: High Island won't be back on line for another 2-3 weeks and the remainder of Bolivar Peninsula is indefinite at this time…home has damage but they won't be able to reach it for some time. (family members) thinking of relocating to someplace inland--Spring, TX or Giddings and (others) thinking Austin might be a nice place to relocate…looking forward to seeing everyone at Buffy’s garden gig next month:)

What the Divas Did in 2008, Part 3


Everyone but the hostess was emailing about the October Diva Day.

Karla: I have GC on my calendar this Saturday at Buffy's - does any one else have the same date?

Glinda: Yes, Karla! I was counting on it but haven't talked to Buffy in awhile.

Karla: Ok, I will count on it until I hear differently

Sophia: I have this Saturday as the diva date too. I’m sharpening the spade as I speak.

Diva-Annie: OK, it looks like we all are ready! What time Buffy?

Mattie: I will be there! See you soon.

Mindy: Hey Divas - I talked to Buffy this week & she said 8:30a.m. Saturday--was getting ready to email everyone (wonder if she's having computer problems again??) She also said we may have a special guest?:) I had to remind her that this weekend is RED RIVER SHOOTOUT weekend--I'll be wearing BURNT ORANGE w/ my gardening duds. See everyone Saturday!! Hookem'!!!

When we arrived we discovered that founding Diva Sugar was the surprise guest – we’re always glad to see her!

It had been a long and eventful summer, with all sorts of things happening in everyone’s lives, some funny, some important, some full of potential and some very sad. We had a very late start – finally sitting down to a delectable breakfast of fluffy biscuits, hash browns, two kinds of quiche and luscious fruit.Divasofthedirt,gerber daisies on table
Some of our work would be revisiting and tidying the central front bed and mulching everything well – these skullcaps are doing great!Divasofthedirt,skullcaps and asters

When Buffy planted these Greek Myrtles they were labeled as “dwarf” Myrtus communis 'Nana', but dwarf in plants doesn’t mean petite…it means they’re smaller than the usual species. I’ve seen photos of regular Greek myrtles shaped into trees and over 15-feet tall …guess Buffy’s 6-foot shrubs are still dwarf in comparison!Divasofthedirt,dwarf greek myrtles
Buffy had a renewal project in mind – it had been nearly a decade since the shrub border near the gate was first made, and it was looking tired. Sun and shade patterns had changed so some plants had become misshapen in a search for sun and others had become overgrown. Chopping and digging up roots takes time! We’d get as much done as possible today, but this wasn’t a one-day project – it would be an ongoing process.

Divasofthedirt,cut the roots
Libby likes to supervise but also likes to get underfoot! Luckily a peek-window in the fence let her keep track of what the Divas were doing without the chance of her running into the street. Yeah - she really is a cute dog!Divasofthedirt,Libby peek out

When we broke for lunch we found an indoor picnic awaiting us – deli sandwiches with great bread, an array of spreads and the traditional, always welcome Zucchini Soup.

Divasofthedirt,deli lunch

The border now had some new perennials planted toward the front with space for whatever new shrubs Buffy decided to buy in the back. Because we had moved to the rotating schedules in place of the randomly drawn garden dates, Buffy knew she would have Divas to help her in the spring.
Divasofthedirt,space to plant
Before we left we admired the metallic blue berries on the 'Spring Bouquet' Viburnum and rejoiced that the day’s temperatures this October had stayed under 90°F.Divasofthedirt,spring bouquet viburnum berries
Mattie: Sounds like you had a wonderful time. So sorry that I missed you. See you November 1st.

Glinda: Sure hope you're feeling better soon - see you in three weeks!
I put up a couple of photos on the Divas blog

Mattie: Thanks so much.

Diva-Annie: Sorry that you were sick and missed on a wonderful day with the divas, glad you are feeling better in time for work. Glinda, thanks for the updated photos on the blog! Have a great week everybody!

Sugar: i had so much fun hanging all day w/ you girls. i miss ya'll so much. i was pretty tired when i got home, but it was so good to be out…& it couldn't have been w/ better company! …thanks for the recipe. it was sooooo good so can't wait to make a batch.


Glinda: Just in case the cooler weather has anyone out working on their borders, I’ve been dividing some lambs ear and have extra if anyone wants any.

Sophia: I'm in for some. Thanks Glinda!

Mindy: RE: Lambs ears; I would LOVE to have some—could you please save some for my date next weekend?? This morning would be the perfect Diva day beginning, I can only cross my fingers and hope the cool fall temps hold thru next weekend w/o any downpours.

The basic plan will be to work the front entryway w/ the jungle of fig ivy to be tamed, and the naturalized area behind the pond & stream. IF there is any time left I may want to lay down newpaper & mulch to extend the bed by the back fence for a future planting next year (BTW—if any one has newpapers piling up in the recycle pile, please bring themJ
Mattie, I hope you are recovered and with us for next we—really missed you at Buffy’s. Breakfast will be at 8:30 next Saturday, looking forward to seeing everyone!!!

Diva-Annie: I’d love a bit of lambs ears too, as mine have all gone away!
Mindy, I’m glad you sent this e-mail, I was thinking that you had chosen the 1st for your date, I’ve got it right on my calendar now! And, I’ve got plenty of newspapers piling up, just hope I can remember to bring them!

Sophia: I had Nov 1 as your garden day too but next weekend will be good for me as well. Your plan sounds good-looking forward to seeing a different Austin terrain!

Glinda: Now I’m totally confused, Mindy!! When did it turn into the 25th of October instead of the 1st of November?
Since Mindy & Diva-Annie want Lambs ears, I’ll try to bring them to Mindy’s house…and get them to (Sophia’s) house soon.
Maker Faire was exhausting fun yesterday – new blog post and videos of the Singing Tesla Coils and Ring of Fire are up: Maker Faire Austin 2008.

Mindy: Yikes!! Sorry I confused everyone---it’s still on Nov 1st, my brain just got tangled up w/ all the appts between work, etc…jumped ahead a week!!! …looks like the focus will be on the fig ivy that has relatives in “Little Shop of Horrors”!!! A thousand pardons for the confusion---everyone have an awesome week and I WILL see you on the 1st!!!

Glinda: Thanks for the clarification, Mindy – (went on tour of two bloggers’ gardens) - lots of gravel and stone, bamboos, agaves, stock tank ponds, pathways all sorts of native and adapted plants and no grass in back at all. Very interesting. See you guys soon!

Mattie: Sounds very cool, Glinda. I’d love to hear more about any different types of plants…enjoyed a walk at LB Lake this morning. Saw lots of Four O’Clocks blooming along the trail. I used to have tons in my other yard. Have any of you planted them? I hope some seeds will be ready this Fall since we have had some rain. Can’t wait to see you all at Mindy’s 11-1. Have a good week

Diva-Annie: OK, the first of November it is!!! Have a great week everyone!!


Divasofthedirt,barbados cherry blossomsThe Barbados cherries were in full bloom as we gathered in Mindy’s kitchen, their trunks making interesting patterns against the stone of the house near the backdoor.

Divasofthedirt,barbados cherry trunksMindy stoked up with an Egg & Ham casserole, Hash Browns under a crust, and lots of Strawberries with other fruit. We caught up on each other’s news and heard how things were progressing for Mindy & Warren’s families in the aftermath of IKE. We were happy to meet Warren’s mom who was staying there for awhile.

Divasofthedirt,dining room
As we’d read in the emails, our project was to prune the Creeping Fig vine at Mindy’s front entrance….sounds kind of simple, doesn’t it?

We smiled at Rusty the metal horse as we walked down the sidewalk to the front door:
Divasofthedirt,rusty horse in bermuda grass
Then faced the monster that had eaten the front door, the timbered courtyard canopy, the walls of the house and was now trying to get under the roof. Divasofthedirt,arch under fig vineBelieve it or not there’s a stone housewall, a half-dead oak tree and an arch under that tangle of vines.
Divasofthedirt,cannot see doorsTwo 4”pots of Fig Ivy - so small, with such delicate leaves - had grown, and grown and grown, spreading and covering. The threadlike stems thickened, the roots moved underground as the walls disappeared and the wooden shade timbers over the entrance were engulfed. No wonder no one ever came to the front door!
Divasofthedirt,fig vine from below
At first Mindy thought we should just cut it back one more time, but seeing what the expanding fingers of the fig had done to the siding changed the course of the day… it was time to expose the house walls again, to make the entrance more welcoming. Bring on the pruners, saws, loppers and pole pruners ….oops, looks like one of the Divas lost her grip!

Divasofthedirt,gardener disappeared
It was fascinating to take off huge pieces with the structure looking like some kind of underwater coral.Divasofthedirt,rip off fig ivy
Sophia was in a ladder-climbing mood that day – she looks gleeful as she clips the house free.
Divasofthedirt,sophia on ladder
Mindy decided to climb, too – balancing herself on the courtyard timbers as we sent up encouragement and advice on where to make the next cut.Divasofthedirt,mindy in fig vine
Mindy had a reward waiting for us at lunchtime – fabulous cornbread with crawfish mixed in….really fabulous! Divasofthedirt,pretty tableThe cornbread accompanied a homemade Gumbo – think it’s a family recipe – both chicken and sausage and dark rich broth as intoxicating as any liqueur.

Divasofthedirt,apples for french tart
Dessert was a French Apple Tart – sweetening the realization that we had to go back and work on the fig some more!
Divasofthedirt,fig root grid
The walls were clear but it would take another session to get the courtyard ready to plant.

Divasofthedirt,malvaviscus pams pink
Mindy had bought one of the new Turks caps – Malvaviscus ‘Pam’s Pink’ - hope it can survive living with Mindy’s deer!

Divasofthedirt,sophia, karla, buffyWe had quite a day – time to go home…
Divasofthedirt,annie, glinda, mattie
and how much do you want to bet the Fig Vine will have popped up again to greet us when we come back next spring?

Dear Divas---

Thank you seems so insufficient when I look at the front of my house now—Warren and I see not only what we started with years ago, but so many new possibilities.

I hope everyone is recovering from the days efforts--I know I hit a wall on Sunday afternoon and didn't make it out of the recliner until bedtime. Karla, how is your wrenched back? (I hear a California mud bath cures anything:) Annie, hope the eyes are all clear again; Mattie, sorry for the cold shower!! Sophia, you’re probably looking for a climb up one of Austin's Moon towers!!!

You were all amazing as usual and I enjoyed such a spectacular result, thank you everyone!! Enjoy a great week and I'll see you at our Holidiva Day!!



Subject: Italiano Holi-diva-day!


It’s time for the 2008 “holidiva” holiday celebration! This year’s theme is in honor of my cultural heritage-Italiano.

I will be serving homemade lasagna.

Here are the categories:



Soup- Annie & Sophia (Italian Wedding Soup)

Main dish-Sophia

Side dish

Side dish



If you choose not to make an Italian inspired dish, feel free to bring whatever sumptuous delicacy you desire.

I am looking forward to having a holiday celebration with all of you!

Ciao! Sophia

Buffy: I can't wait!!! My mouth is watering!!! I will bring a salad. I will also bring a bottle of wine, how about a nice Chianti.
Y'all have a great Thanksgiving!

I will bring a side dish and a bottle of wine. See you then!!

Put me down for Appetizer--shall I bring the champagne cocktails?? Just got a new shipment of bubbly from California!!

See you Holidivas later!!! Have a Happy Turkey Day--gobble, gobble…

Don’t we eat the salad after the main course if we are going real Italiano??? But, I do think we drink the wine all day!!!!

You are right Karla! The salad should be eaten after the main course before dessert to cleanse the palate and wine before, between and after each course!!!

I'd like to make a Gepetto Pie for dessert unless your hearts are set on the bread pudding. I've been making it for twenty years and my husband and sons request this instead of cake for their birthdays. The recipe came from Gepetto's Restaurant in Washington DC.

Glinda: Sorry about that! Saw Annie down for soup but missed seeing her name on dessert. Thinking again....

…since Annie is making dessert, and I don't see an email from anyone saying they were bringing the bread, I'd like to use an old family recipe and make parmesan crescent rolls.

Hi fellow divas!

Hope you are all ready for a hearty holidiva day!

It’s been a very hectic week for me. One event was that Roger tore a tendon above his knee last week and has been in bed all week and/or on crutches. (Needless to say there are no outside Xmas lights this tear!l [now] Roger has pneumonia! He’s not contagious but we can lock him up in his media room anyway.
I’m not calling off the luncheon-talked with Roger and he is fine with everything. The Divas must go on!!
Mindy- did you say you were bringing champagne?

See you all around noon!

Divasofthedirt,christmas treeNo evidence of the hectic week greeted us when we arrived – all looked very ready for our annual holiday meeting. But we seemed to be arriving in a not-very punctual manner….what’s sometimes known as Diva Time! Sophia, Karla, Mattie, Annie and Glinda were present and accounted for … and we weren’t worried about Buffy since we hadn’t let her be in charge of the appetizers. But where was Mindy? And where were our hors d’oeuvres and poinsettia cocktails?

Ever the gracious host, even when barely mobile, Roger whipped up some Cosmopolitans – Annie approves!Divasofthedirt,annie

Sometimes a Diva has to be inventive …Karla discovered that her vegetable mélange on one of Glinda’s crescent rolls was a fine appetizer.Divasofthedirt,karla at counter

Yay – here’s Mindy with champagne and cranberry juice – Poinsettia time!
Divasofthedirt,mindy mix cocktails

Mindy also brought the sweetest little crabcakes with sauce – Matties says Delish!
Divasofthedirt,mattie tries crabcakes

Hostess Sophia already knows this will be a swell partyDivasofthedirt,hostess sophia

Ta-da! We love the brand-new dining room furniture and the revamped dining roomDivasofthedirt,table so lovely

With each place looking like a magazine cover photo
Divasofthedirt, christmas place setting

Bring on the lasagna, the roasted vegetables, the salad, the unbelievably good wedding soup and the wine. We started late and lingered long. The day was pleasant so between the main courses and the dessert we decided to take a walk around the block for fresh air, exercise and to get a good look at the holiday decorations around Sophia’s neighborhood.

Divasofthedirt,grab bag gifts
We played the steal the gift game with the grab bag treasures we’d brought and savored the traditional Amaretto Bread pudding.

Mattie: It was so nice of you to host the party, Sophia. I gobbled down the piece of delicious lasagna that I brought home (how could I have been hungry?) and thought about the great time we had. Happy holidays to you all. I look forward to seeing you in January.

Sophia: Ho Ho Ho Divas!
It felt so nice having you all over yesterday. Thanks for coming over for a fun afternoon! The food you all brought was just delicious!!!
I hope you all have a great holiday season and a blessed new year.

Karla: It was a very nice holi-diva day – thank you for hosting – everything was wonderful!! I think next year we need to hire a food patrol to measure what we eat – I believe I consumed enough calories to last till sometime after Christmas – of course, that has not stopped me from consuming more!! Merry Christmas everyone!!

Diva-Annie: Remember that commercial, "I can't believe I ate the whole thing", well we did and more!!! It was a delicious and a wonderful Holi-Diva gathering! Thanks for being such a great hostess Sophia! and thanks to Roger getting out of his sick bed to make cosmopolitians! Think that should be an annual tradition too! The happiest of holidays to all!

Looking Ahead
The Divas of the Dirt hope you enjoyed spending 2008 with us and look forward to more adventures in 2009!

Divasofthedirt,buffy, glinda, sophia, annieBuffy, Glinda, Sophia & Annie

Divasofthedirt,buffy, mattie, karla, mindyBuffy, Mattie, Karla and Mindy