What the Divas Did in 2001


For a couple of years, my friend Buffy has been telling me about her wonderful gardening group. A vacancy occurred this winter and the rest of the members suggested prospective replacements. Lucky me! The paper on which Buffy had written my name was pulled out of the pile. On a Saturday morning, Buffy & I went to breakfast at Elsi’s restaurant to meet several of the other women: Annie, Sugar, Mindy and Melanie. One missing member, Gail, was unable to be there. I hope I can keep up with them – their projects sound pretty ambitious!

We each drew a month when we will have a turn as hostess/project recipient. The first working meeting was set for Buffy’s house in mid-February, at 8 AM on a Saturday. We're supposed to bring shovels and pruners, because we're pruning crape myrtles and making a new flowerbed. After the organizational meeting, we ended up buzzing through 6 or 7 antique shops and an upscale fabric store just for fun.


The Divas met at 8 AM at Buffy’s house, where we were treated to eggs, cheese, chorizo & jalapenos combined in a breakfast casserole, along with hash browns, wonderful biscuits, 4 kinds of preserves and flavored coffee. The prettiest dish was a fabulous fruit salad with layers of blackberries, pineapple, pears, strawberries, blueberries, melon, etc. These funny, easygoing women have such great Texas voices!

We stepped outside into a perfect 60-degree day and started pruning every crape myrtle, lantana, salvia, and artemesia in sight, getting ready for spring in Texas. The Bradford pear trees are popping into bloom all over town. The redbud trees are swelling their flowers, ready to start, and little leaves are coming out on the twigs of the dormant shrubs and perennials. After we pulled up the weeds, removed sod, pried up rocks, and packed the debris into yard waste bags, we dug a flowerbed at the base of Buffy’s new rustic wooden rose arbor. Her future plans include acquiring a bench to be tucked under the arbor, shadowed by her heirloom rose. This rose is a single-flowered, pale yellow climber named 'Mermaid', that she found at Barton Springs Nursery. There will be flat rocks, herbs and fragrant flowers around the rose’s base. It took only 4 hours for us to complete all this, leaving time for a trip to a great local nursery, the Red Barn.

Buffy’s white stone, two-story house is only a few years old, with nice clumps of medium-sized live oak trees already growing in both the front and back. She had a wooden privacy fence built right away to enclose the back yard, with an attractive gate to the front, so her garden plan began with 'good bones'. In addition to her artistic talents, Buffy has great strength. The day she moved in she started digging beds, prying up boulders, and planting wonderful things. Her garden is already lovely, and being flat and fully fenced, is also safe from deer.

An exotic looking Asian tree called a loquat can grow here in Central Texas. It blooms from November through January. If the weather is decent at pollination time, a loquat can produce delicious and exotic fruits. Buffy’s 8 foot tall Loquat has the little fruits forming now.

My loquat is only 16 inches tall, still in a pot. It came as an unidentified six-inch tall discard from a friend. She’d been overwhelmed with plants from her mother, and didn’t know (or care) what it was. Maybe it will bloom some day?


The ‘we-never-met’ member Gail didn’t show up on the garden day. Apparently her life has taken some hectic turns, including an upcoming change of address. She has missed several meetings, and told the club to fill her space. After a lot of back and forth messages, the next person from the waiting list was able to join us. Her name is Karla and she’s Sugar’s cousin. Karla lives only a couple of miles from me, and it will be great to have another newcomer. Gail’s scheduled month was March, so more notes flew -we’ll be going to Melanie’s house next time.

MARCH 2001

Melanie’s email said we would be adding some perennials for color, planting new annuals, mulching, weeding the front and back gardens and re-setting the stones in the front beds. We needed shovels, garden claws, clippers, weeders, & gloves. She also asked for someone to bring a wheelbarrow for mixing the two mulches together.

Melanie’s stone ranch is the farthest south of the members’ homes. I think it is only a couple of years old. It has a nice floor plan, and is centered on quite a large lot, with a wooded area to the back. We were served scones and clotted cream, a new treat for me. Karla was introduced – she already knew some of the Divas. Anyone can see she is going to be a lot of fun. She and Sugar told some stories about themselves during their college days.

This day’s project involved weeding, transplanting and generally shaping up a large ‘natural’ garden in the front yard. My bluebonnets have to live in pots and hanging baskets on our deck, because the deer eat any they can reach. In Melanie’s garden they grew rampantly and had even seeded themselves into the centers of wanted perennials. It sure felt weird to weed out bluebonnets!

When we arrived, the ‘field’ in the deep front yard looked like a weed patch, but we left it looking like a meadow! This was a fairly short day, since Melanie had a late afternoon shower to attend. Some of the Divas headed off to the outlet malls in San Marcos since we were already so far south.


APRIL 2001

Annie had to cancel her turn as the hostess, when her mom needed surgery. The scheduling for this month had not been going well anyway. Some members had trips planned during the school break, Sugar was biking 150 miles for an MS Benefit Ride, and Karla was gone several weekends on business trips. We hoped to make up Annie’s session at a later time.

MAY 2001

Mindy’s turn was a warm and busy day. Her ranch style house is set on several acres of land in the far southwest part of town. There are many old live oaks and lots of rocks in a very picturesque and natural looking setting. There is a small separate building, a guesthouse, used when the extended family visits.

Mindy’s place is a kind of ranchette, but the herd is canine, not cattle! Mindy also has a deft hand with a power tiller, which speeds up many of our projects. There are lots of rocks in one corner of her land, and we went back and forth, ‘shopping’ for flat shapes, and hauling them over to the work area.

We were redoing the entry to the house. I guess it is technically the side door, but it’s used as the main entry. She also gets some deer coming to munch, but the dogs must make a difference, since she grows plants in her borders that must hide out on my deck.

Buffy took a lot of square stones and made edges for a path between the driveway and the door. The center of the path was cleared, then covered with layers of newspaper, and finally lots of wood mulch finished it. This was a technique I’d used for years in the North, so it was sort of cool to see that they did it, too.

The breakfast featured an asparagus, red pepper and zucchini frittata with waffles and blueberry sausage, unbelievably delicious. There was a fabulous chicken salad with tortilla chips for lunch, too. During the break, Melanie surprised us with the news that she is expecting a baby in late fall. What happy news!

On the way back we just had to stop at the nearby John Dromgoole’s Natural Gardener Nursery. It is one of the best in the area, but not close enough to my house to just pop in; it’s at least a half-hour’s drive from me.

JUNE 2001

My first turn as hostess was lots of fun! The Divas arrived around 8 AM and we caught up on the latest news over sweet potato pancakes, spinach quiche, fresh fruit and Canadian bacon.

I asked them to help me make two large beds, one surrounding a newly planted white crape myrtle, and another where the driveway meets the street. We also reworked an existing bed. The new plants include Rosemarys, Lantanas, Salvia greggii in purple, white and pale yellow, Salvia leucantha, Cenizo, Copper Canyon daisy, Santolinas in both the grey and the green, and several dwarf yaupons. Once established, this landscape should be fairly drought resistant and the deer should not find it particularly palatable.

The project only took us a few hours, so we had time for a swim, before a late lunch of chicken salad and salsa. This refreshed us enough to drive the 6 minutes to the Red Barn. There was some buying but even more looking and talking. On the way back home we stopped at two model homes - huge, stone McMansions that were open for viewing.

It was a long day, ending in tremendous satisfaction. A large section of the front landscape had emerged: dug, planted and mulched in one day. No more black plastic flapping around, no plants struggling to live in pots, and when we drive up to the front of the house, our yard no longer looks like the “bad house” on the block. The women are all so witty, and have such diverse lives, that the time flies by while we are working and talking.

JULY 2001

July is not a usual month for a working meeting, but the membership changes and business trips had complicated things, so we had a scorcher of a meeting. Thank heavens Karla has a shady front yard with some good size live oaks, and a bottomless cooler of bottled water and GatorAde. We arrived at 8 AM, enjoyed the lovely breakfast, and were soon outside working (with a lunch break and lots of stops for drinks), not finishing until after 4PM. The heat topped out at 98, but the shade helped, plus there was breeze from a bunch of women talking!

We were clearing out the area under a clump of trees in front near the drive, digging up all the tree seedlings, weeds and rocks and making it into a mulched, raised bed with shade plants and a rock edging, plus digging and leveling a path for a sand base with pavers on it. I just love the look of one of Karla’s new plants, a ‘Giant Liriope’.

The cool thing was to see a real eyesore transformed into a lovely little entrance area through one day’s work with your friends. Richer people can buy instant landscaping but so far, the stuff we have done looks better than the purchased work we see around town.

Karla sent us a note saying how much she liked the final effect:

“A great big THANK YOU girls for working so hard Saturday and making such a wonderful improvement in my yard…the guy next door was even out taking pictures of it. I know it was hot and miserable, but I had a great time and really enjoyed being with you all, as usual. At least, when you work in my yard, you really get a "before" and "after" difference.”


We had been thinking of September for a possible garden date in combination with a baby shower for Melanie. Then the events of September 11 pushed thoughts of a meeting aside. I did meet Sugar on one afternoon in mid-September. We wanted to go someplace that had kind people and natural beauty. We ended up at the Red Barn, where other gardeners strolled and spoke, also needing to see friendly faces, to smell the fragrances from the aisles of flowering plants, and to hear the classical music playing softly in the autumn air.


We had our first meeting since early July. The last project was hot, but this weekend was just right. We met at 8 AM, and enjoyed a breakfast featuring pancakes and venison sausage. Soon we were tearing into the flower borders at Sugar's 1954 one-story frame house. She moved into it around the beginning of this year, and has some rehabbing to do. The previous elderly owner was no longer able to do any yard work, but there must have been some kind of garden at one time.

We started poking around and digging - Whoa! We found piles of rocks, lots of bricks from a grown-over, decrepit path, a sea of monkey grass, and a grove of weed saplings with 15-inch tops and roots that were 3 feet long. It turned out to be a very long day, with a 3 PM lunch break. We didn’t leave until it was too dark to work. But what an incredible difference to Sugar’s landscape! It changed in a day from overgrown and neglected, to tidy cottage style. We filled 10 or 12 of those big brown paper yard bags.

Sugar had recently been to France, where she spent a week immersed in French cookery. The lessons took place at what sounds like a fabulous inn. We enjoyed her descriptions of the incredible flowers and the education in French cuisine, but have to wait for the photos. We should get to see them at the Christmas get together.

We had presents ready for Melanie’s new baby, but she wasn’t able to come. Mindy said she’d get the gifts out to Melanie’s house. I sure hope she makes the Christmas party.

Sugar had an idea for Sunday afternoon: “I'm ready to go to a movie baaaaad! I haven't been to see anything in soooo long I'm sure we can find something good. John Cusack is top on my list as well! What's the movie he is in now - Serendipity?? I'm game for that if you are. Buff, you up for it too? I always love a chick flick!!!!”

We met at the Arbor Theater & had a good time. The Divas will forgive the adorable John Cusack anything – even a silly movie like “Serendipity”!


The Divas’ annual Christmas party was held at Mindy's stone ranch house in the Hill Country. We’d worked on the entry when Mindy had her garden turn, making a new path to the door, and it was still looking good 7 months later. We’d hoped to see Melanie and maybe even her new baby daughter, but Melanie couldn’t make it.

Last May, we appreciated Mindy’s shaded porch, the salsa and the salads and the cold beer! Now in December, rain fell and the temps hung in the low 50’s outside, while we sat around the fireplace with Christmas music playing softly in the background.

As hostess, Mindy provided the main course of Cornish game hens (they were awesome), with the sides by everyone else - rice pilaf, a mellow butternut squash dish, mandarin salad, homemade rolls, and pear chutney. Sugar made scrumptious amaretto bread pudding. We were drinking Poinsettias, made by mixing champagne with cranberry juice. Then came the grab bag game, where you draw numbers & chose a gift from the pile. A high number is desirable, since one’s newly opened present is fair game for the next in line. It was too much fun, and Mindy had to push us out the door.

Buffy & I felt we needed to check out Cowgirls & Lace before heading home – found a few Christmas gifts there, and on sale, too!

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