What the Divas Did in 2006


[Photo-heavy and full of exclamation points, as usual!!]

JANUARY - Two Planning Meetings for 2006

Mindy jump-started the year: Happy New Year Divas!! I hope everyone enjoyed their black-eyed peas…Bring those calendars and we'll see you Saturday!!

Buffy suggested the Waterloo on 360 at 2222…

Wilma emailed, telling us that work and young children left her no time to garden with the Divas, suggesting that we again “throw some names into the hat”. That weekend we learned that Donna was also resigning, unable to fit Diva-days into her family’s schedule. We hated to see them leave, but have learned that gardening with the Divas is tough for women with young children. I wonder if women like our friends could form a different gardening group with a schedule built around school and soccer, rather than Saturday workdays?

We enjoyed breakfast at Waterloo with Donna, Wilma, and Karla’s fun-loving sister-in-law who was visiting Austin.

Before we chose the months for our projects, several names from the waiting list went into the watering can handbag, as Diva-Annie, who had nominated her friend Sophia for the third time, kept her fingers crossed. The new Divas were chosen: Buffy’s friend Candy would join us, and so would Sophia - both Sophia and the Divas were lucky!

With two new Divas to meet we had an excuse for a second breakfast date; Mindy, immersed in French lessons for a summer tour, knew just the place:

Oui!! Aux Chez Elsi's!! (just practicing)

Elsi’s large new location on Burnet had high ceilings and felt different from the cozy old building, but the migas and corn tortillas were just as delicious here. When Candy & Sophia arrived, we had one of those “It seems like we’ve known each other for years!” experiences, a good omen for the gardening year ahead.

The Austin Marathon is held each year around Valentine’s Day. Both Buffy and Mindy were running the half-marathon and I had family members in the event, so we planned the first meeting for the weekend after the big race.


This Saturday, rain or shine - if we can't work (outside) there is another project inside the garage…weather has cracked even more of the big terra cotta pots... help with transplanting three spireas into a small shrub border… Also the mailbox bed is bugging me…give me some inspiration! …See you soon! Glinda

Looking forward to seeing everybody soon, rain or shine… hoping more for the shine!! Anxious to hear about the marathon..brrr wasn't it COLD!! Diva-Annie.

The marathon had started out with ice on the edges of the road – would this weekend be any better?

The day was looming grey at 8 AM, and the downpour started as the Divas arrived. We’d get to my projects eventually, but we were still getting acquainted with our new members. By the time we’d enjoyed mango-peach juice, Egg & Cheese Strata with turkey sausage, and Ricotta & Cinnamon-filled crepes, the rain had tapered off.

Divasofthedirt, broken potI’d spent hundreds of dollars on large terra cotta patio containers as a new Austin resident, then watched in horror each spring as clay pots cracked and disintegrated. The heck with being a garden snob – my plants were going into plastic pots!

Divasofthedirt,oleander broken

The Divas redesigned a new large container on the patio, using a small corkscrew willow in the center, a treasure that had been rooted from my friend Barb’s tree back in IL. By putting the willow in with other plants that appreciated extra moisture they would all have a better chance to live on my Austin patio.

Divasofthedirt, pot fell apartDiva-Annie wielded a hammer to smash the old pot, as Sophia stood ready to catch the crinum-type lilies, dianthus and Hawaiian white ginger/Hedychium coronaria. Divas Mindy, Candy & Karla work on the Oleander container near the front porch.
Divasofthedirt,repotting oleander

The next task was moving three Bridal wreath spireas. Two smaller shrubs were jammed close to the East fence, growing flat on that side. A third Spiraea of a different variety was at war with our mailbox – we had to prune it back every couple of months so the mail could be delivered. Divasofthedirt, replanting spiraeasI wanted all three shrubs planted in a sort of triangle, as the ‘bones’ of a new bed in the side yard. Here they’d have room to expand into graceful blooming beauties with arching branches, the way they’re meant to grow.

Divasofthedirt,3 spiraeas The Divas wasted no time – they dug the Spiraea, hauled them to the new area, planned, dug & amended three large holes in the soil and planted them, which pleased me and entertained the neighbors. With the framework in place, this area could become a mixed bed, and since all the other beds in front were edged with long-established Liriope, I would divide and transplant some to this new bed, trying for unity in the front landscape.

Divasofthedirt,bat bed aprilHere’s the new bed a few weeks later, sod removed, but before the Liriope was added. It had already started to morph into the Austin Bat-shape Bed. This bed will take years to mature, but what a difference it made in the side yard last summer!

We ran out of outdoor projects and rain started as the Divas gathered inside. I’ve been writing garden songs for a few years and was bold enough to sing a couple of them for the Divas, then rewarded them for listening, by offering ham & turkey sandwiches, raw vegetables & dip. The finale was a Mexican chocolate cake with a lop-sided, frosting rendition of the half-marathon medal recently awarded to Buffy and Mindy. We ate the cake – and kept a photo of the medal.Divasofthedirt,half marathon medal


There was no rain for weeks on end in Spring 2006. We needed it badly, but what little rain fell, seemed to fall on the Divas:

Well, it looks like it may be another rainy one for the Divas. Unlike Glinda, I do not have any inside projects but a much bigger one…to make a new bed in the front yard… where the picket fence used to be!!…it has been composted and ready to plant. I have purchased some of the plants… Would also like to get a bed around the two trees in the front yard. let's just play by ear and see what happens … Karla

Hi Karla…Bummer...yet great joy! about the potential rain…Candy

…saw on news a 60% chance for Saturday …Frankly my dear, I am going to sleep and worry about it tomorrow. AKA Karla

Yes, we need the rain, but why on your garden date?? Hey, it's only 60% chance so that leaves us 40% without!! AKA Annie

Somehow we made it through Karla’s big project, telling ourselves every half hour that the rain was letting up, but that drip and drizzle continued for the entire day. Karla stoked her crew with a fabulous Fruit & Nut granola, yogurt, a layered cheese/egg/onion casserole, both pork and chicken sausage links, melon, pineapple, grapes and plenty of coffee.

Some previous projects that the Divas had done in other years needed maintenance or redoing. Karla missed taking her turn in 2005, as she dealt with the after effects of Hurricane Rita on her family. She’d had little time since then for gardening; we wanted to make this day count double, and did our best to help her.

Divasofthedirt, mulched parkway

The parkway was weeded, plants groomed, Shasta & Blackfoot daisies, and steppingstones went in and all was freshly mulched. Divasofthedirt, future long borderOur big job would be to remove all the grass where Karla wanted the new border, where the old wooden fence had been. After digging up the grass, we’d amend the soil, and plant shrubs and flowers.

Some unhappy ornamental shrubs had been trapped in containers for too long: hydrangeas, camellias, Abelia, Rose of Sharon, mealy blue sages, etc. Their chances were better in the ground than on Karla’s patio. Divasofthedirt, ready to plantWe also planted some dwarf Pittosporum in the bed along the front of the house, along with many red-budded impatiens plants, to bloom all summer long.

Divasofthedirt, deep in mud

Although the total rainfall measured mere fractions of an inch, the drizzle never stopped. Everyone was dripping wet and cold, until Karla came up with this plan: We would go into the garage every so often to laugh and talk and thaw, while our jackets, shirts and hats tumbled in the dryer. Then we’d put on the warm, dry clothes and go out to work again.

When we broke for lunch, we were served a wonderful Chicken and Wild Rice salad. Karla found this great recipe in an old Church cookbook, and it revitalized us for further sod removal, soil amending and planting.

Divasofthedirt Mud gloves

But our shoes and gloves were never quite the same again!

Divasofthedirt, Karla at door

Thank you! A huge thank you for doing such a wonderful job…while having to endure all the discomforts of the weather…my brother…said "wow, they are really a dedicated bunch" …I went out first thing this morning to make sure it was real, and there it was!!! …my friend wanted to know how she would find my house now - I told her to look for the prettiest yard on the street! see you on the 1st. Karla

Divasofthedirt, karla border done
Divas of the mud…Dedicated, you bet!! For the divas we will do things that we would not do on our own. No way would I spend a day outside in my yard in rain by myself. You all are the motivation! I'm so glad you are happy with your yard. It looks so different without the fence and the new bed. Thanks for the chicken rice recipe, can't wait to make it...It was SO good! …Looking forward to Marbridge on the first. Diva-Annie

DIVAS AT MARBRIDGE – April 1st was set for an appearance at Marbridge Nursery’s Old Time Planters Festival, a fundraiser for the Marbridge Foundation. Buffy took our logo to a local shop and paid to have it computerized, ready to be embroidered on matching caps – thanks so much, Buffy!! We were listed with the expert speakers, but we’re just experts on having fun in dirt! We hoped that some people would talk with us, and we wanted to see each other, and looked forward to rambles through the greenhouses, shopping for our spring gardens.

Good Morning Divas!!! I will be working at Marbridge today and will stop by the greenhouses this morning to get final details…the idea is for us to just have fun and share our gardening enthusiasm with everyone!!! Everyone enjoy your day!! Mindy

Divasofthedirt marbridge 1
April Fools Day was a gloriously sunny & windy day, but not the place for a CD player! We gave up trying to play our theme song, "We Are the Divas of the Dirt", over the snap & flap of the tent, and concentrated on keeping our display from blowing away. We loved how our new hats shaded our eyes.Divasofthedirt, marbridge 2
Candy couldn’t be there but six Divas had fun, talked to some nice people and bought wagonloads of Marbridge plants!Divasofthedirt, marbridge, hats


Mindy’s husband Warren had added a new structure to their large country garden. Using concrete, wood and plastic, he’d made a greenhouse. Today the Divas would help Mindy put new beds at the entrance, while making another new bed along a fence.
Divasofthedirt, mindy greenhouse
It promised to be a perfect day as Karla and I drove down MoPac – talking about her upcoming trip to NY, where she would see the play “Hairspray”. When we got to Mindy’s, we first checked out the new greenhouse. There were no plants inside, but Mindy had some pretty interesting decorations hanging from the rafters!Divasofthedirt, art in greenhouse
We went in to eat breakfast. Mindy makes lovely waffles, and she’d also made eggs with fresh basil, a perfect combination, served with blackberries and grapes. She told us about her experimental purchase from High Country Gardens. Two ‘gardens’ had been delivered, in boxes containing plans, planting instructions and many containers of small plants.

Divasofthedirt, hose bordersThe digging and clearing commenced, with garden hoses used to delineate edges for the new beds. Divasofthedirt, annie hauls rocksWe were shocked to discover friable soil after previous experiences with the concrete-like caliche in other parts of Mindy’s land. She had lots of topsoil and cotton bur compost to add.

Divasofthedirt, Buffy rocks the shed
We had the project well in hand by the time we broke for lunch, enjoying colorful mixed-green salad, Chicken tortellini, focaccia, and delicious Chocolate Silk Pie. Divasofthedirt, salviasWe wandered over the patio, deck and pond area. There were flowers blooming on the deck, ready for the hummingbirds, and the plants near the pond were beautiful, like this Salvia greggii, Rosemary, and Heartleaf Skullcap.

Divasofthedirt, layout garden bedThen came the fun of planting the deer-resistant assortment from the boxes: Lavender, Caryopteris, Achillea, Teucrium, Salvia, Thyme, Agastache and Veronica, and some Russian Sage/Perovskia added by Mindy. Divasofthedirt, new beds doneWe left two new garden areas for her to enjoy, and hoped the deer would spare them.
Divasofthedirt, mindy new border
On the way back, Buffy and I stopped to check out the Natural Gardener – it was too close to closing time to do more than look at the labyrinth, but I had time to find white Turks Cap and a ‘Black Knight’ Buddleia.


Hi everybody! Here is a map of my house…The plan is to build 1-2 beds in the backyard (which has sticks all over from the storm!)…that means taking out one bed the dogs jump all over and switching around a little. Buffy, thanks for coming out at “all hours” for a last minute consult! Looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow! Sophia

Sophia’s pets are sweeties, but they’d been ruling the back yard for too long. Sophia and her husband Roger were ready to stage a revolution, and we were thrilled when she gave us free rein to help her make it fun for people, too.

Buffy went to Sophia’s house ahead of time to make shrub & plant suggestions and advice on types and amounts of compost, mulch, soil & sod. Gardening with dogs means using canine psychology, building the paths where the dogs will use them and letting the dogs get to the perimeter of the property. Because they have a basic canine need to patrol the edges and see whatever is moving, one idea is to leave a corridor next to the fence, planting the shrubs further out where they can disguise the trail, shade the path, and give the dogs a sheltered hideaway.

Divasofthedirt, iris must go

The iris bed was located close to the patio, making the space seem closed in and smaller than it was. For Sophia’s project, the sun shone and the rain stopped. Soon the iris bed was removed, and we planned how to re-use the iris and Liriope.Divasofthedirt, long view bed

Sophia had pots of shrubs and flowers ready to plant, a pile of fresh sod sat ready, and we discovered all sorts of containers, portable garden furniture and interesting garden art, including a fanciful metal fish! Divasofthedirt, future fabThere were building stones, rocks, hangers and plant stands… the family had collected all the elements for a cool garden - now we would have the fun of putting it all together in new ways.

Divasofthedirt,karla surveysThe patio was extended, and a rustic step set in place; now it was easy to move through the spaces, with hardscape to step on when walking from the patio door to the gate or side yard. The new lawn would be placed out of the main traffic area, next to flowers surrounding a bench. This corner was slated to be a focal point by the end of the day – could we do it?

Divasofthedirt,luncheon servedWhen Sophia cooks for her extended family, she, her husband and her son work together, making large batches of wonderful homemade dishes – it was fun to be temporary members of her family, and we loved her retro dining area. Breakfast was a feast and lunch was lovely; from the time we arrived we savored basil frittata, fruit, homemade lemonade, boneless fried chicken, potato salad, pies, enormous bowls of watermelon and honeydew melon, and two kinds of pizzelle, including chocolate!

Divasofthedirt, candy places towerBricks and rocks became paths and steps and there were places to stage containers. Candy found the garden pillar unused in a storage corner, and made it the star of a bed near the house.

Sophia & Roger went for more sod and mulch, and hours later, the transformed vista pleased Diva-Sophia and Diva-Annie. The rest of us could not stop smiling as we looked around what had been a back yard, but was now definitely a garden.Divasofthedirt, corner garden

Barely a half-hour after the Divas sorted their tools and drove off, the storms came back in, settling the garden and watering the new St. Augustine lawn at Sophia’s house.

Sophia wrote: I woke up today, looked outside, and it wasn’t a dream!! Everything looks so good… Thank you all so much for your excellent vision and work…everything worked out perfectly with the weather!… the 5pm thunder told us enough is enough!

Buffy replied: So far this has been our best most dramatic conversion!!!! It is so beautiful, Sophia!!!

Diva-Annie agreed: Sophia, yours has been a wonderful transformation!! Hope the dogs aren't enjoying it too much. It was a good day and the food was simply delicious!!


Re: Gardening on June 3rd. Is everyone ready for this coming Saturday?!!! We will be making a new bed and cleaning and mulching some old beds. We will also (if we have time) put some decomposed granite down by my shed. I can't wait to see every one! Happy Gardening!!!

Mindy wondered: ...did anyone find my pink and white gloves and a pair of hand pruners after last project...if so just bring with you to Buffy's. The beds we put in are fairing well with only a few deer nibbles and keeping the dayflowers from emerging (those little creeping plants with the blue flowers).
I leave July 10th … I will definitely be here for Buffy’s planting--can't wait to see you again...I think I'm still braggin' to everyone in sight about Sophia's project:)

Divasofthedirt, buffy breakfastBuffy’s table was lovely, with melons, berries, fluffy biscuits, Mayhaw jelly, Hash brown potatoes, and an Egg Casserole from the Junior Forum Cookbook.

Divasofthedirt, garden suppliesBuffy works on her landscape all year, so we’re not usually called on for major renovations. If I may use an equine analogy – gardening at Buffy’s is not like breaking a wild mustang – it’s more like grooming a champion Palomino for the horse show!

But she does have many square feet of planted areas, so a great deal of grooming is needed and our days here are seldom short.

Divasofthedirt, gate b4Before her garden day, Buffy had a landscape person prune the Pyracantha way back [yay!], and now wanted to make a new garden gate bed in the freed-up territory. In the before-and-after photos of the redone area, the change is more subtle than dramatic, but edging, pruning and the addition of perennials and mulch makes the gate area blend better with the back garden as a whole:
Divasofthedirt, gate after

A bed near the covered porch needed attention. Divasofthedirt, messy borderBuffy had recently bought decorative metal fence sections, Divasofthedirt, coneflower doneand one of them looked good in the redone bed, while a shady area off the patio became a tropical garden with the addition of caladium and impatiens to the variegated ginger.
Divasofthedirt, shady bed

The lunch menu was suited to June in Austin – hot dogs on the grill, with so much sauerkraut and chili that you could hardly hold the bun, and potato salad on the side. We had an ice cream Turtle cake for dessert to celebrate the birthday of our friend Bill.Divasofthedirt,  bill turtle cake

Every time we come to Buffy’s house we revisit this front bed, belowDivasofthedirt, tidy front bedThis Diva project, done several years ago, has changed and evolved, as Buffy adds or subtracts plants and décor. With a little work it was beautiful again. This time we subtracted an Artemesia, which had grown scraggly and woody, and added Teucrium, also called Germander.

Divasofthedirt, shady pathThis birdbath area above, is in a quiet, sun-dappled part of Buffy’s back yard. It’s always beautiful, but it looked especially lovely that day. (That's Libby, Garden Supervisor, below)Divasofthedirt, libby supervises
In one part of a shady garden we planted a beautiful Variegated Turks Cap, also called Wax Mallow, or Malvaviscus. Divasofthedirt, sophia in shadeSalvias went in, too, and under the trees, Buffy had us add lots of Caladium plants, with colorful, patterned leaves.

What a pleasant day it had been, and we left a tidy, blooming garden behind as we went home.


We had plenty of planned excitement this summer – with some trips to be taken by Divas, as well as visits by friends and family members to Divas. Karla would be having fun with her niece; Diva-Annie & Chip went to the Texas coast; Mindy was off to France, a family reunion in Carolina was Glinda’s plan, and we all hoped to hear about close encounters with Rock Stars from Candy, who has a very cool job and was involved with Lollapalooza .

The summer was hot and dry – and world news was grim. In our lives there were surgeries, job changes, the ailments of aging parents, house projects, worries about children, problems with pets. But none of us were prepared for what happened in mid-summer:

Yo! Divas!! Julie Bonnin of the AustinAmerican Statesman is interested in writing about the Divas of the Dirt for a possible article…Do any of you have a problem with this or is it okay with you-all? Glinda

Well if a group of gals callin' themselves "Fishin' Chix" can make the Sunday morning TV, I guess we can start with the AAS!!!:) Mindy

We explained to Julie that we took off July & August before working in each other’s gardens again, and had September and October projects still to come. Julie planned to come and hang out with us, bringing a photographer. Divas Annie and Candy were the Divas with September and October turns, so we let them ponder what project would look good in print.

Divasofthedirt, Mindy in FranceMindy blithely took off for France, and had a spectacular time wandering through gardens as Lance raced to Paris on the Tour de France. Divasofthedirt, mindy in francaisShe sent photos from the Continent, and notes: Bonjour friends & family !!! Okay, it takes me awhile as usual...here is a chicken salad recipe I sent to a friend the other day …pix from the trip attached Mindy

Even though it was hot and horrible, I also went blithely off to meet with family in Carolina, mainly because Karla and Buffy were here in Austin, watering my plants. I can’t believe halos don’t show up when I take their photographs!Divasofthedirt, peaches & seashells

A word about those duplicate names: In June I began a garden blog, writing as “Annie in Austin”, a name I’d used for years. Posting to “The Transplantable Rose” has been fun, and through it I’ve met other Austin garden bloggers, and corresponded with many others.

But in a ditzy moment, I’d also used the name “Annie” for one of the Divas, while giving myself the name “Glinda” for the Diva website.

I wasn’t trying to confuse any theoretical readers – these names evolved separately, and after all, don’t we all have friends with the same names as we do?

Anyway - please don’t let my friend “Diva-Annie” get the blame for anything that I do as Glinda/”Annie in Austin”!


In August, Diva-Annie set up her date, choosing the Saturday in September that could fit in her schedule. But that date was impossible for Candy, since it was the Austin City Limits festival, the busiest weekend of her year. Coordinating the dates in our lives has always been the most difficult part of being a Diva of the Dirt, and as lives get busier, it gets harder for everyone. We just wished Candy could be with us, too.

With the presence of the reporter & a photographer confirmed, Diva-Annie told us: Well girls it looks like we are in for a different type of gardening day! …See everyone on Saturday. Plan on bringing usual garden tools to create, expand a bed, maybe make a new one. Anyone with access to some flat rocks that would work for stepping stones? (or know a source?) There is going to be tons of spreading blue shade ruellia up for grabs.

September was still summer here in Austin, and the day was warm and very humid. Going to Annie’s house is never ordinary! Her specialty is creating perfectly planned vignettes of hospitality – beautifully set tables with food that not only tastes great, but also pleases the eye, all done with artistic, hand wrought details. On this day, Diva-Annie’s settings for her two square tables were an expression of joy in being together in the garden. She’d used special tools to make flowers from fruit, choosing china and linens in color and patterns that came together to make a perfect picture.
Divasofthedirt, flower table
We may have acted a little more reserved once the photographer arrived and began taking photos, and were no doubt somewhat reserved when Julie arrived, notebook in hand. Annie served us German Apple Pancakes, using a Martha Stewart recipe, along with a Canadian Bacon Quiche, then encouraged us to dismantle the centerpieces and eat the pineapples, melons and grapes. Soon our inner Divas took over and we loosened up and had a fine time, except when the photographer clicked the shutter in mid-chew. But the breakfast conversation had to move outside so that we could get to work.

Divasofthedirt, suppliesDiva-Annie had her materials staged in the drive, and she knew how she wanted her new front bed to look. Divasofthedirt, ruelliaShe also wanted help removing some overly exuberant Ruellia “Blue Shades” in the Secret Garden; these spreading plants had grown from tiny divisions into a wall of green & blue that moved in every direction. Some of the pulled-out plants went home with brave Divas, and some were transplanted to the base of a Vitex agnus castus/ Chaste tree.Divasofthedirt, vitex and ruellia

A Chinese Pistache has grown well in front, and there are other small trees, including Senna and a Desert Willow. Over the years, the Divas have helped to make a flower border tucked in the front corner of the house, and another one near the driveway. The front of this cottage is charming, but the porch could only be accessed from the drive, with just a sea of grass between the street and the house.Divasofthedirt, too much grass

A flowery path would be a more appropriate approach to this Diva’s door.

Tearing up St Augustine is not easy –physically or emotionally. Even a small patch of green can be a solace to the weary eye in an Austin summer. But a lawn alone is not a garden - grass must be shaded by trees, and balanced with shrub borders, flowers, groundcovers and native plants. The new bed was delineated with the garden hose and tools flew into action, first the spades [that photo may be seen in the Statesman article] and then hand tools at ground level, here used by Diva-Annie and Buffy.Divasofthedirt, dig up grass
The photographer and reporter couldn’t stay for the whole project, because it us took hours and hours just to get the ground cleared, Divasofthedirt, bags of mulchadd bag after bag of composts to the soil, lay & level the brick border mulch the whole thing and arrange the stepping stones. Divasofthedirt, new pathBy that time, we were already feeling the happy buzz that comes when we’re creating something beautiful together.

Divasofthedirt, annie, cookDiva-Annie had more culinary delights in store for us – and a special surprise that astounded even those of us who have become accustomed to her skills. She had decided to go down-home Austin for lunch, with a barbecued brisket of beef, egg salad, potato salad, and a big bowl of addictive coleslaw with seeds and nuts. Divasofthedirt, Secret Garden CakeThen she unveiled her Secret Garden Cake, which Martha’s site had also inspired. Do you see those marzipan ears of corn and radishes among the candy flowers? Diva-Annie didn’t buy them – she made every tiny little carrot and leaf herself. And then encouraged us to not only admire this confection, but to pick up our forks and eat it.

Divasofthedirt, front bed
We returned to the new garden and installed the plants – some new ones, some unusual kinds from the plant nursery ‘rescue table’ that may not make it through winter, some hand-me-down plants from other Divas. Look around her front yard – you’ll see plants advised for Austin, like Rosemary, Lantanas, milkweeds, many varieties of Salvia, tough-as-nails Crepe Myrtles and native Penstemons. Divasofthedirt, view bedBut you’ll also see Bottlebrush, a Camellia, and a stand of African Foxglove as well as a Fig tree, cannas and Vinca. We planted daffodil bulbs and bearded irises, bulbine and rainlilies, Dietes/African Iris, heirloom daylilies and lavender, too. This is a cottage garden, so the individual plants will change constantly – some will live, some die, some reseed and many will be transplanted elsewhere within the garden.
But the path and the brick-edged bed remain constants, speaking to those who pass by, telling them that in this home there lives a gardener!Divasofthedirt, cottage like postcard Divas, Thank you for such a wonderful diva day!! The amount of work that you did yesterday was amazing especially in such hot humid weather. I LOVE, LOVE my new front bed. Keep wandering outside just to walk around it, my neighbors must think I'm nuts. Even ate my breakfast of leftover apple pancakes on the porch so I would just sit and enjoy the view…Divasofthedirt, annie and chip

Candy set the date: Hi all…looks like 10/28 will work...so that's the official date for my gig…Last night I finally solidified my plan of action. It's ambitious, but I'm not depending on y'all to do it all. I'll hire some help to do the infrastructure the weekend before. Then the Divas will help...make it pretty!

We'll be working in my front yard…. to help deaden the noise from the street … planning to make the wall around 4' tall, and kind of organic in style…we will rejuvenate existing… beds…and re-plant the plants on the street side of the wall…We'll see how much of this we can get done. I'm so thrilled to be tackling this project with y'all!

28th will still work. Candy, when you plan big, you plan BIG!! A four foot wall!! How big is your yard? … Looking forward to it - Diva-Annie

…we are all so fueled and floating on the euphoria of last garden gathering that we can't wait for yours next month - Mindy

…my editor is interested in getting more photos. When is the next Diva get-together… thanks - Julie Bonnin

Hi Julie, I'm the next Diva on the schedule… I'm using this opportunity to do some bigger projects in my yard…Some stuff is planned; some will kind of evolve organically. So if this still sounds interesting, stop by for photos or a drive-by at your convenience. Candy

[Friday] … plan on gathering at 9am…the weather is going to be FABULOUS so no need to beat the heat!…The only special clothing I ask that you wear is your THINKING CAP… I've got the wall up (and I like what I see!) but have not detailed out the re-vamp of the surrounding garden areas. I will be looking for insight and ideas…I look forward to tomorrow! Candy

Divasofthedirt, wall b4
As we drove up that morning the wall was easy to spot – not monolithic or forbidding, but definitely Austin looking, making a dramatic backdrop for the long beds along the street. Candy planned to rework the area, keeping plants that were tough, attractive and waterwise.

Divasofthedirt, xeriscape
The Divas were going to participate in a fascinating urban horticultural experiment, under the direction of an inspired, ecology-minded leader. We could tell that digging the stomped ground on the inside of the wall would be tough - but the results should be exciting.

Divasofthedirt, inside wall 1
This would not be an instant makeover, but on some future day, we imagined Candy looking out from the house, no longer seeing dry unhappy grass and a busy street, but an enclosed and protected flower & vegetable border, with the wall framing a view to the lively world beyond the greening wall, muffling the noise, but without excluding the funky, friendly neighborhood.

The Divas arrived in stages, and photographer Amber Novak found us ready for breakfast. Julie Bonnin the reporter came, and soon nine women were around the table, having conversations, planning photographs, taking notes and enjoying what Candy had prepared. There were two kinds of quiche, broccoli and bacon, so both meat-lovers and meat-avoiders were happy. She also served a Cranberry-raisin bread that was impossible to resist.

Divasofthedirt, table hostess
As the long, satisfying day unfolded, the grass was banished, trees and shrubs were pruned, and the ground dug. The mound of compost slowly disappeared, and the Divas considered where the plants should be set into the new beds.Divasofthedirt, Mindy and Karla

During this busy day we also enjoyed Candy’s healthy and delicious salad lunch - Olive Pasta Salad, Chicken Salad with Yogurt Dressing, and a mixed green salad, with berries and peaches as a finale. We were ready to tackle the rest of the project.

Divasofthedirt, fence top done
As the Cenizo waved magenta blossoms in the breeze, the heap of stones was transformed into paths, stepping stones led foot traffic through the entrance garden, and the soil-stuffed wall sprouted a froth of vegetable plants on the top. Divasofthedirt, inside wall 2Soon sedum was punched into the gateway section of the wall, and a nursery-run by Buffy delivered Creeping fig to climb up from the base, young plant-pioneers in what should eventually become a living wall of green.
Divasofthedirt, stone path
When Mindy & Candy realized that the punctured garden hose produced two sprays of water at once, they watered the new garden Diva-style, working together while having fun. Divasofthedirt, Mindy, Candy leaky hoseThis is one of our favorite photos, ever!

Hi everyone- I enjoyed working and learning today! What a great gang of folks you all are… Candy-Thank you for the wonderful meals-everything was great and the wall was definitely a new experience for me. Sophia

…I was so motivated by what the divas were accomplishing that I allowed myself to spend the afternoon moving stuff around in my garden and making little changes here and there. Thank you for the inspiration... Julie

Yes, yesterday was a great day! The weather was perfect, the food delicious. Only soreness is in hands from digging and pulling! Candy - hope you are enjoying your new front yard… Diva-Annie

A truly A-MAZING DAY!!!!… an absolute joy to discover and experience--you have such imagination!! Thank you so much for my Lacey Oak…enjoy a great fall week ahead, I hear the rain won't be here until Thursday... Mindy

Dear Divas, I love, love, LOVE my garden!!! And thankfully, it's not yet all done, so there's plenty of putzing around to do. Don't you hate it when you've been designing a project for a long time and then - BANG - it's over? Kinda depressing. I don't mind having continuing opportunity for evolution and embellishment. But the status quo is pretty dad-gum grand!!! Thanks you all for staying so late and working so hard! I will enjoy the fruits (and vegetables!) of your labor for a long time to come. Candy PS Mindy, I hope you had time to wash up before you hunkered down to cheer for the home team, because that game was quite the nail-biter, huh?! Whew!

Divasofthedirt, promo

We were pretty freaked when we saw this promo on Tuesday. Then “Digging, Dishing and Derring-do” appeared in the Thursday, November 16th edition of the Statesman and we had our 15 minutes of fame. This was not what we’d expected back in July! Instead of a small, plant-centered story on the gardening page at the back of the Saturday paper, we found ourselves pictured on the front page of the Style Section, and the focus had shifted to the way our group of Austin women had fun as we gardened. Julie had told our story well, and thank heavens, we saw no photos of us with food in our mouths at Diva-Annie’s. Instead there were Shelley’s photo of the cake, and her shot of the chorus line of turf-removing Divas. We loved our group photo, taken by Amber Novak at Candy’s.
Divasofthedirt, newspaper
I don’t know how long this link to the newspaper will last:


[no longer works in 2009]

Divas had phone calls from friends and family, and were hailed by neighbors who saw the story – then it was picked up by a few bloggers. The author of the Human Flower Project took our story and used it as a jumping-off point to talk about women’s gardening groups.

GardenRant picked up the story, adding their spin to our concept.

Before the article came out, my son & husband helped me make a YouTube of our song, We Are The Divas of the Dirt. I linked to the Divas website and to the various articles from a post on the Transplantable Rose blog: Annie in Austin - Read All About It

It was great fun for all of us.

DECEMBER – Karla’s Holi-Diva Day

Karla was efficient, planning the date before going to California for Thanksgiving…but things kept happening in the Diva world – changing work schedules, conflicts with work parties, serious parental illness and finally, Karla herself caught the bug that had hit her family. By the time we finally got together, we were six instead of seven – because Sophia’s schedule prevented her from being with us.

Although Karla had joined the Divas of the Dirt back in February of 2001, this was her first turn to act as hostess for the Holi-Diva party. Oh my, did she have fun with the tables!

Divasofthedirt, xmas tableKarla had turned her living-dining room into a sparkly, golden place for a party – with Christmas-patterned china that was perfectly coordinated with the whole room –actually with the whole house! Karla told us her secret – the china didn’t match the room – it was the other way around. She’d loved the pattern so much that these colors were the ones she used when first painting the walls and trim in her living room, dining room and kitchen, and when choosing fabric for the furniture and selecting accessories. No wonder everything looked so perfect!Divasofthedirt, Karla and treee

Perhaps we were in a continental frame of mind? No hurry, no rush – Mindy arrived first, as promised, with ingredients to make the traditional cranberry-champagne drink called Poinsettias. These, served in cranberry-laden glasses, went extremely well with the appetizer she’d brought – skewered fresh mozzarella, basil, and roasted red peppers, all marinated in herbed Olive oil.

Buffy eventually showed up with a new glamorous hairstyle, a salad and homemade rolls. Perhaps it was time to stroll out to the breakfast room, where our culinary contributions were served buffet-style.

As a first course, Diva-Annie made a wonderfully smooth and mellow Pumpkin Soup.

For the entrée, Karla presented a perfect Rib-eye Roast, garnished with apricots, pepper jelly nestled into their hollows.

Accompanying this were Candy’s Creamy Potatoes, studded with Broccoli florets – for both taste and nutrition.

Additional vitamins and calories were provided by Diva-Annie, in the form of Bean Bundles – whole green beans wrapped in bacon, secured with green onions and roasted.

Besides the Homemade Rolls, Buffy brought Arugula & Strawberry Salad, apologizing for the forgotten pecans. The salad tasted just fine without them, but if we’d seen the recipe ahead of time, we might have sent Buffy back for those spicy nuts!

Divasofthedirt, xmas buffet
Last year I’d made a pretty decent Trifle for dessert, but we all missed the Amaretto Bread Pudding made by Founding-Diva Sugar for four previous holiday parties. When Sugar made it, you could count this pudding as a dessert, or you could put it in the alcoholic beverage category, depending on how much Amaretto sauce was poured over the pudding on your plate. I followed Sugar’s recipe exactly, and had no complaints. It apparently has become our Signature Dish!

As we sat and talked, the shadows grew longer. Once or twice we commented on what a relaxed day it was, how we wished Sophia could have been there, and how much we were enjoying this respite from the holiday frenzy. We once again played the wacky present –exchange game. As we began to leave with our garden-themed treasures we discovered one reason for the feeling of calm – Buffy’s cellphone had slipped out of her bag when she toted in her stuff. It had landed on the floor of her car, which explained why we’d heard no ringing all afternoon.

Buffy had 13 messages, and we’d all had a banquet.

As we left, there was a sad note underlying our farewells. Once again we were losing a Diva, right when we’d been getting to know her. We’d learned that new directions for Candy’s career would make gardening with us not just difficult, but impossible. We liked her so much and we’d had so much fun working on her project! So this was very hard, and we intend to stay connected.

As Mindy could tell us, Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Or as Sally Field’s character says in Steel Magnolias, Life goes on.

We will go on. In 2007 we’ll meet a new Diva and get to know her as we spend another year of gardening with friends!

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