What the Divas Did in 2007

Glinda’s 2007 Diary for the Divas of the Dirt

Our diary, posted once a year, recounts the adventures of the Divas of the Dirt in their Austin, Texas gardens. If you’ve come here from the Transplantable Rose garden blog please note that “Annie in Austin” writes this diary for the Divas as DivaGlinda and that a different Diva of the Dirt is named DivaAnnie. Just for fun we all use pen names – even the pets!

DivasoftheDirt, CamelliaIt must be January – the camellias are blooming and the Divas are confused about the date for the planning meeting.

DivaGlinda - Did we make an actual date for our planning meeting?? The great food and fine wine apparently were too much for me - memory went blank.

DivaMindy – We were all smiling way too broadly by the end of the day, weren't we? Does next Saturday work for everyone?? And I think we decided to visit Elsi's new location...I'm hearing more rain for tomorrow!! Yea!!

DivaKarla – I drove up and down Burnett looking for it. I now know where it is, unless another move has taken place. Try not to confuse me…

DivaAnnie - Happy New Year to all! Any Saturday will work for me, are we thinking about 9 AM? Elsie’s sounds good.

DivaSophia - I just returned from beautiful downtown Lubbock …I will be able to attend the Sat morning breakfast-I’m free the WHOLE day!!! See y’all there!


Because our friend Candy had resigned from the Divas at the 2006 Christmas party we had a spot for a new Diva of the Dirt. Karla had thrown her friend Mattie’s name in the hat three times since 2002 without luck, then Mattie had moved out of state for a couple of years. She’d recently returned to Austin so we declared Mattie our new Diva by acclamation!

Elsi’s is a great place for huevos rancheros or migas - on a damp January Saturday we six returning Divas enjoyed a morning of food and conversation with our new friend. You see eight Divas in the photo because former DivaSugar popped in to visit. I can’t resist a little local namedropping – at a nearby table we saw Evan Smith and his family [he’s the editor of Texas Monthly and the host of “Texas Monthly Talks” on local PBS station KLRU]. After watching us take photos of each other a kind [and very cute] guy at another table volunteered to take this group portrait. Thanks!
DivasoftheDirt, Elsi's
We set up the schedule, each Diva reaching into the ‘hat’ to draw out the month she’d hold her 2007 project day.

Annieinaustin, Papyrus on IceA few days after our breakfast meeting all of Central Texas was hit by a major ice storm, breaking branches, bending trees and turning the leaves into shimmering ice sculptures. After the ice melted and the weather warmed again, we assessed the damage in our gardens.


DivaAnnie - As I had mentioned before, it is just going to be some general cleaning up of existing beds, mulching, staking or something for my poor ice ravaged mountain laurel, and maybe creating another small bed in the front around the other tree if there is time and desire. So plan on bringing general tools. Right now the weather is predicting a good weekend with temps in mid 60's, let’s hope that this holds!

DivaGlinda - Good thing it wasn't this past weekend! I'm wearing out the 'winter' clothes that I wear to Illinois in December - thank heavens for sweat pants. But isn't it nice to have cool nights with cozy quilts? It will be great to see all of you~

In the previous warm and muggy September of 2006 we’d laid out a long new front bed for DivaAnnie while a reporter and photographer from the Austin-American Statesman watched us work [and eat!]. On this beautiful sunny breezy day we’d be adding another bed to the front – but without an audience.

DivaAnnie presented a new dish for Mattie’s first meeting - “Wake Up Egg Cups” in addition to Waffles with Strawberries, Blueberries and Blackberries…we were six for breakfast – Sophia wasn’t able to come.

With good weather and a feeling of spring in the air we finished all the proposed tasks – did the usual spring cleanup, worked on the ice-damaged tree and made the new bed, too!
DivasoftheDirt, corner bed
The Durantas grow 5-feet tall each summer in a large bed between the driveways, but the tops die to the ground when the frost comes. They need a lot of cleanup each spring before new growth starts. The hardy Shasta daisies barely lose a leaf in our winters while Rosemaries and Lavenders also stay evergreen.
DivasoftheDirt, decide edgesThe Divas pondered the best size and shape for the new flowerbed, then used the old garden hose trick to define the edges so we could start getting out the grass.

When we began to dig we were amazed at how mellow and tillable the ground was. We divided daylilies, penstemon, bulbine and creeping phlox from the original ‘doughnut’ around the trunk and added them to the daffodils, lavenders and other plants in the larger bed – there were even extra plants for passalongs to the other Divas.

DivasoftheDirt,Sophora b4This bed was our major project for the day, but we’d also come prepared with stakes and cords. The weight of the ice on the evergreen leaves had tipped DivaAnnie’s Texas Mountain Laurel, partially pulling it out of the ground.

DivasoftheDirt, fix sopphoraThis was more than a hands-on task – it took shoulders, dug in feet and hauling on ropes to stand the whole tree upright – then we ran cords through pieces of garden hose around the trunk, ends firmly tied to strong stakes so the small native tree could get its roots firmly in the soil again. Sometimes called Mescal Bean, this tree is not related to the Eastern mountain laurels, but is botanically Sophora secundiflora.

DivasoftheDirt, prune vitexAnother task was the yearly pruning of the Vitex agnus-castus, sometimes called Chaste Tree or Monk’s Pepper. It produces long panicles in a lovely lilac color in late spring but can get out of bounds. The branches had grown so long and low that DivaAnnie could barely walk through that part of the yard.

Lunch was King Ranch Chicken Casserole, a Green Salad with Avocados and fresh Pears, and a Martha Stewart cake made with ground oranges and almonds…DivaAnnie even candied orange peel for this elegant presentation!

DivasoftheDirt, almost finishedIn the photo above we’re almost done, but the shadows are long and the garden is still dormant – better come back and take another photo when it’s summer! As we prepared to leave there was a minor glitch - one non-starting car…Buffy & Mindy handled that with ease.

DivasoftheDirt, upright LaurelHere’s a follow-up photo of the Texas Mountain Laurel in January 2008…that’s DivaAnnie’s Border collie Chip having fun after swiping a towel and taking it outside. The small tree survived the rescue mission, is bigger and bouncier than ever, and it’s growing upright.

DivaAnnie sent an e-card, thanking us for our help.

Diva-Mattie - Nice card, Annie. Thanks. Also, thanks to you for all the nice plants starts. They are all cozy in new pots. I can't wait to get my beds ready to plant them.

Diva-Glinda - Very cute card, Annie! It was such a picture perfect day, with such a delicious breakfast and lunch. So we should be thanking you. I hope Mindy & Buffy didn't have too much trouble getting the battery jumped.

Diva-Mindy - We all should know Divas rule! …Promise you'll take some pictures when the thalias (not dahlias:) and daylilies start blooming!!!

A bonnie fine beginning to the 2007 Diva year!! ….Sophia, we hope you are on the speedy mend and ready to enjoy Karla’s day next month!!!


Bring all of the usual tools - we will be cleaning out beds, composting, planting and mulching. No new beds this time - a real first…don't feel I'm letting you off too easy - there is some real clean up. If you want to bring your 22 rifles, we may have a squirrel party afterwards (just kidding!) - they are going crazy over here and will dig up anything that we plant. Glinda, please bring your pole cutter so that I can get the ligustrum off of the roof of the house.

Looking forward to seeing everyone - enjoy your week!

Unlike her March 2006 project, known forever more as the “Day of Mud”, Karla’s day in March 2007 was perfect… not too hot at the start, mild 70’s, sunny.

DivasoftheDirt, Karla tableKarla had enlisted her sister Callie to help serve a breakfast of Swiss Eggs, French toast with Orange-Apple sauce, huge strawberries and link sausages. It’s always fun to meet each other’s family!

DivasoftheDirt, long border B4Many times we do a fairly large garden project– then come back the next year to find that some parts just didn’t work. Sometimes the rescued-and-reused plants do wonderfully well… other times they never take hold and don’t survive.
DivasoftheDirt, border done
We tacked the front yard first. We’d been pleased with the general shape of last year’s border project, but there had been plant failures. We weeded, composted and removed an ex-camellia and a Pittosporum that did not make it. A new Pittosporum was installed, along with a containered Texas Redbud given to Karla by Candy the previous fall. I wandered around with the pole pruner, taking off some branches that were touching the roof or endangering windows.

DivasoftheDirt, karla parkway

Garden sites frequently refer to the area between street and sidewalk as the “Hell strip”. We redid Karla’s parkway a couple of years ago – this time some clean-up and a few more Shastas and lambs ears added to the Rosemaries and salvias was enough to make it look very “Austin”.

For lunch Karla made us happy by serving the wonderful Wild rice salad that was such a hit in 2006…the recipe is in the 2006 collection and if Karla wants to make it for us every year - that would not be a problem! Callie made a super tomato pie and kept us healthy with a big green salad. Then we finished up with Custard Cookies.

The front was looking good with new annuals added – lots of Karla’s favorite red and pink impatiens.DivasoftheDirt, annuals in borderMost of the borders we’d made for Karla near the back patio were doing just great, needing only clipping, grooming, thinning out of spreading plants and new mulch.

There were plant divisions for Karla’s friends to take home, including Salvia leucantha and Agapanthus/Lily of the Nile in addition to plants the other Divas brought to share.
DivasoftheDirt, supplies

As we left we took one more admiring look at the entrance garden.

DivasoftheDirt, karla's entranceDivaKarla - Thank you for all of hard work yesterday and for making my yard look so beautiful. It is just perfect, and with a couple of new plants in the back yard, it will be a garden party every night!! Of course, if I feel even close to what I am feeling right now, the party will have to take place in bed - with lots of medication. I am so sorry if the rest of you feel like I do …. Please tell me it was hard work and that I am not just wimpy…Glinda, I hope you are not too battered feeling this morning from your fall …all of the transplants were perked up this morning, looking as if they had been there forever. Annie, please send me the name again of the plants you brought… you know I have to see things in writing! Even the oxalis looked perky and happy!!

Again, thank you all so much. I will work very hard to keep it the way it looks right now (New Year's resolution).

DivaMindy - Well, as a matter of fact Karla, I was sore as heck & looking for the license plate number of the truck that hit me, but after a handful of ibuprofen and that trail walk a lot of my soreness is gone. Buffy & I were thrilled to get to see the collegiate women's rowing teams on town lake for the spring regatta---there were teams from Duke, University of Miami, Stanford and of course UT!! Hook em!!

DivaAnnie - Karla and the rest of the divas, I'm so glad to know that I too was not hit by a truck yesterday. Yes, yes, I'll say it aloud I too am a WIMP!! …just means need to work harder to get back into gardening shape….it was a wonderful day. All the food was simply delicious (my compliments to the chef!) The plants were: Grecian pattern plant and salvia guaranitica. Great start to the spring gardening season

DivaMattie - I had a great time as well and learned a lot. Karla, the food was delicious. I went to The Natural Gardener today and looked at all your suggestions and liked them all. I can't wait to get started on my backyard.
Thanks for all the plants. There were lamb's ears, cannas, Shasta daisies, oxalis and what else? There are two I can't identify. I look forward to planting a divas garden when the construction is over. Have a great month.

DivaGlinda - The arm was just a scrape, looks better already; my aging joints needed Ibuprofen last night, too, even though I was mostly pruning while you guys were digging and dragging bags of compost around. Meeting your sister was great…one major resemblance- you're both wonderful cooks!

An excited note came a few days later from Mindy - I was trying to take a pic of my pomegranate "twigs" … a male hummingbird tried to steal center stage!!! You can see the fan of his tail in frame #4! Enjoy this perfectly gorgeous Spring day!!!DivasoftheDirt, Mindy pomegranate


DivaMindy: Saturday--we should be needing only the basics everyone usually brings. No new beds this year, in fact, we shall be painfully visiting the bane of my yard’s existence--the bermuda patch in my front garden (wailing & gnashing of teeth:( Buffy, I still look forward to your suggestions on rearranging some existing beds), then if time is left, top dressing, mulching all existing beds. Everything is beautifully green and shooting up at break neck speed. I think we have had sufficient rains to keep what soil I have soft…oh, yeah, I do have a Chinese Pistache that I need help placing and a Curly Willow that may have been a mistake purchase, but I will have to think about that Saturday. I know for certain we will have pristine weather (thank you weather gods)…

DivasoftheDirt, Mindy tableIt was a good thing that Mindy sweetened us first with a big fruit salad, Eggs Faux-Benedict, Potatoes with red onions and plenty of coffee, because once we started working outside we knew we were in the Hill Country. Mindy’s big front garden is a sort of meadow with grasses, cactus, yucca, crepe myrtles and a few non-deerproof plants hidden among the less palatable Copper Canyon daisies, Salvia greggii and Salvia leucantha.

DivasoftheDirt, weeding bermudaThe Bermuda grass was awful, but as we moved around in the space, digging and moving rocks we had interesting close encounters with Mother Nature - she surprised us with scorpions, fire ants, small snakes and most exciting of all, a nest of infant walking sticks. They were adorable but tiny, fast moving and hard to photograph – can you see the vague outline in the center of the photo below?DivasoftheDirt, stick insect
Karla declared that we should install a Webcam on this garden – so we could call Mindy and send her out whenever any Bermuda grass showed up via our monitors.

Lunch was a delicious Mexican Chicken Casserole and salad with greens and mandarin oranges. Dessert – banana split cake – yum.

DivasoftheDirt, too many plantsAlthough we never got around to putting in the Chinese Pistache [and Mindy had no idea where we should plant it!] we did get some of Mindy’s many plant purchases into their allotted spaces.

DivasoftheDirt, beds nr greenhouseWe also did some revamping and replanting in the two front entrance beds down near the entrance gates and admired the gardens of native and butterfly plants that we’d made last year for the greenhouse and along the side fence.DivasoftheDirt, beds nr fence

DivaMindy -

Well SCHZAAM!!! Dearest Divas!
I know my garden date will be the most talked about for awhile to come (and not for all the right reasons); needless to say I owe all of you an eternal debt of gratitude for miraculous work in the "Bermuda Triangle".

DivasoftheDirt, bermuda grass triangleDivaKarla - Mindy, I forgot to get a catalog from you for the gardening company that had the plastic tubs/baskets. I must have been rushing out before another clump of bermuda grabbed me by the ankle!! Could you please send me the website?
PS Hate to be the first to mention it, but I checked the webcam this morning and thought I saw a piece of bermuda peeking out. I'll check later to make sure it is gone!!!!

DivaMindy - Warren & I stopped by Natural Gardener Sunday afternoon …Picked up 2 gallons of vinegar & more Liquid Deer fence...haven't applied it yet since the weather has been misting or outright raining since Saturday…when the weather clears, I will be spraying the cleared areas w/ vinegar, laying down paper and mulch (photos will follow--or you can catch on your webcams!!). Oh, I planted one of the window boxes, relocated the 3 Russian Sages to the triangle, and stuck the last germander in the front bed. How are the shared salvias & lilies doing? Lastly, here is the website for the colorful trugs ya'll were asking for... http://www.gardeners.com/Colorful-Garden-Tub

With sincerest humility & humblest gratitude…Mindy

DivaGlinda: Mindy, maybe we should just change the name from the Bermuda Triangle to the Bermuda Triathlon! You know how those sporting events go.... if you live through the experience, you have a sense of triumph, LOL. Many thanks for the Passalong plants which are okay so far. I'm glad you put the Perovskia in the triangle - they should look spectacular and add some texture. The deer never ate that one anyway – good luck with the Liquid Fence.

DivaAnnie: I'm glad we didn't lose anyone in that Bermuda Triangle, did we? everyone is well and accounted for, right? Well maybe not completely well as it was certainly a marathon grass pulling session. Hopefully, the vinegar will help keep it at bay and that the bed can become the beautiful entry area that was once envisioned. Mindy, the day was wonderful and the food DELICIOUS! I too want the chicken recipe… YUM!


DivasoftheDirt, Buffy tableIt’s always a pleasure to go to Buffy’s house and sit around the table in her beautiful dining room. Here’s a close-up of those splendid flowers-
DivasoftheDirt, buffy roses
As always Buffy served us a feast: omelets, hash browns, cinnamon rolls and sausage.

DivasoftheDirt, buffy parkway b4When Buffy drew a month in early spring she’s had us groom and tidy her lovely garden, but this year she had a new project in mind- turning her Hell Strip into a Heaven Strip. It can be a pain to grow grass in these narrow strips of parkway when they’re in full sun – keeping the water from going in the street is almost impossible. Buffy wanted some waterwise beauties instead of the non-thriving grass.

DivasoftheDirt, work bed 1

She also asked us to rework the nearby Grove Bed surrounding and connecting the front trees. Each year we do more tweaking on this big area, which we first changed from grass to flowerbed back in 2002. It’s become more interesting every year. It was warm as we worked on both of these front beds.
DivasoftheDirt, work bed 2

After a restoring lunch of Chicken salad, green bean salad and potato salad, with an Almond Bundt Cake for dessert, the hell strip was no longer in existence – replaced by a curbside garden. More lambs ears were added a couple of days later.
DivasoftheDirt, Heaven strip
And the interior of the Grove Bed was once again a complement to Buffy’s lovely house.
DivasoftheDirt, grove bed
On the covered porch Libby supervised the Divas from a comfortable and picturesque bench. Everything at Buffy’s house is comfortable and picturesque!DivasoftheDirt, libby
We marveled at the back garden and noticed that the ‘Mermaid’ Rose and the Loquat were engaged in their perennial battle over territory.
DivasoftheDirt, rose and loquatBut who could oust either one of them? Loquat provides shade, fragrant flowers and sometimes fruit, and Mermaid is so beautiful she must be forgiven.

DivasoftheDirt, Mermaid rose
Buffy’s email wasn’t working – so no funny after-workday notes this time!

June Windstorm – Mindy

I had to attach a few shots of our storm damage from Sunday nite…we worked like Trojans all day Sunday on the property--it looked like a park until the 70 mile/hr winds hit!!
DivasoftheDirt, Windstorm 1
Nothin' compared to the damage we've seen hurricanes do, but our little mess has kept us busy since Sunday. I guess there is an UP side to every adversity--my bedding plants will be getting a little more sun, and I knew they were wanting it. And I think I now have a free and clear space to plant my Chinese Pistache!!! Mattie, we will see you Saturday!! Diva MindyDivasoftheDirt, windstorm 2Hey Mindy - that storm dumped half a tree right on the entrance garden – we just finished redoing that bed!DivasoftheDirt, windstorm 3

DivaMattie - I am looking forward to having you over on Saturday. The plan is still evolving and I am hunting a few more bushes. We will be extending a bed in the front considerably so pray for few rocks. It looks like it will be nice but hot. If you dare, bring your bathing suits. Karla and I will jump in after it is over and I will commit that it will be by 4:00. I think it is good to set a time limit. Breakfast is at 8:30. Attached is a map to my house …Call if you need directions…See you soon.

It’s always fun to see a new Diva’s garden for the first time – but I was out of state and missed Mattie’s first turn as hostess and project planner. The photos and descriptions from those who were there show that everyone had a great time and got a lot done, in spite of the hot June weather. Mindy took these great photos – I hope she brings that camera along for our 2008 meetings, too!

Everyone admired the exotic orchids in the dining room - at least a dozen colorful wands were in bloom that morning
DivasoftheDirt, mattie tableMattie pleased her worker bees with an elegantly set table, ready for a breakfast of fruit salad, frittatas, slices of creamy avocado and croissants – no wonder the Divas have such big smiles in this photo!

DivasoftheDirt, new benchKarla was quite thrilled with her new garden bench but knew there would be little opportunity for sitting once the workday began.

DivasoftheDirt, karla bench
This front border was too narrow and tight up against the house – in the photo below, Buffy and Mattie consider how just expansive the new bed should be – containers of plants await their new location.DivasoftheDirt, plan border
The Divas outlined the new edge of the expanded border, marking it with the garden hose below. Next comes the tedious but necessary turf removal part of the workday.DivasoftheDirt, garden hose
Tilling and composting aren’t glamorous, but adding in those amendments seems to make a big difference in the way the plants grow. DivasoftheDirt, till soilWhile those blue garden claws aren’t useful for the actual digging of new beds – sturdy garden forks and spades are needed then – the stand-up-claws come in handy for mixing the various composts in with the soil.

DivasoftheDirt, buffy stone edgeAs usual, Buffy’s expertise with stones means she’s stuck with the job….maybe ‘stuck’ isn’t the right word, let’s just be thankful that Buffy is very talented with stone and rock! She has the right combination – natural strength, a precise eye, and the fortitude to back up, dismantle and start over to make the line flow from the beginning. Maybe she should run for office! We could use those qualities in government, too.

Time for a break and some lunch – including what DivaAnnie described as a HUGE Salad Nicoise, French bread, and a Key Lime pie with Raspberry Sorbet. Don’t get too comfortable on that sofa – you have to finish the job! Karla took this photo of Sophia, Annie, Mindy, Buffy and Mattie relaxing.

DivasoftheDirt, tired 5
Some of the plants used in the new bed were a ‘Spring Bouquet’ Viburnum, lantanas and a small crepe myrtle, as well as filler plants that Mattie had been collecting. A good layer of mulch finishes off the bed - Mattie’s was happy with the results.

DivasoftheDirt, border mulched
DivaMattie: Dear Divas, my front bed looks wonderful… the results far exceeded my expectations. You have really inspired me to do more with the front of the house and I plan to get additional plants tomorrow. After you left and Karla and I went swimming, my neighbors came over and raved about the nice job you had done.

The opportunity to join The Divas has been a real delight for me. Thank you for your knowledge, companionship and hard work. I hope we can get together in the next couple of months. If not, enjoy your summer and see you in September!

DivaSophia: WOWW! You have achieved so much in such a short time. How do you find the time to get so much accomplished? The pool is simply beautiful! If I had it I’d be there every day…swimming and lounging while sipping an adult beverage. Thank you for the wonderful hospitality on your diva day! The delicious food was very healthy and filling. How is our new photographer faring?

I hope the new front bed is working out. Have you added anything new? You should come over and get some shade plants from my front yard jungle! Hope everyone has a good weekend!

DivaAnnie: Yes, it was a wonderful Diva Day….a wonderful transformation! Hopefully, we can all get together sometime before September!

DivaMindy: Mattie, it was a wonderful first planting…thank you for the wonderful breakfast and refreshing lunch. Your previous pictures of the back yard are full testimony of the hard work you have put into your pool and surrounding plantings.
…Back to another coat of primer in the bedroom before the color goes on. Hope everyone got some of the showers--we have 2.5 inches in the rain gauge.

SUMMER of 2007

The Divas don’t schedule any projects in the hottest months of July and August but we occasionally get together – thanks to Mindy this July we met at a Southern Living seminar on outdoor entertaining at the Smith & Hawken store in North Austin. The seminar was fine and after making some fun purchases we took a photo with manager Zach before heading out to a new restaurant. Here are Zack, Mindy, Glinda, Mattie, Karla, Annie and Buffy - we had fun but missed Sophia.
DivasoftheDirt at Smith and Hawken
I stopped at DivaAnnie’s house for an in-progress photo of her front cottage garden, showing the relationship between the original bed and the new one at right. DivasoftheDirt, annie's cottageLook at the Senna tree in the center – it’s really grown since we worked on that front bed in February!DivasoftheDirt, Senna blossom

In August we were invited to meet some gardeners to the Northwest of Austin.

There is a yahoo group called the Central-Texas-Plant-Exchange …a few of us are meeting tomorrow …and I’d love to invite you to talk about Divas, how you started, pitfalls you encountered, and anything else that could be of benefit to us. We’d make sure you were well-fed and not too bombarded with questions, I promise!

Mindy and I went to meet these gardening friends - they call themselves The Garden Hoes! What a hospitable group, and what lovely food they served! Their group occasionally holds large-scale plant exchanges with many people participating. This is a great way for gardeners to meet each other -we wish them well with their projects and the friendships started through this members-only online community.

One of the items discussed when we met at the seminar was our need for a new way to choose the months for our project dates. In theory, pulling the name of a month from a hat should give us a range of months. For some of us the luck of the draw worked well, but Karla’s pattern had been July, April, March, April, March, March – kind of boring for her!

Buffy hadn’t had a fall month in years and several Divas needed to know about schedules in advance, rather than wait until January each year. We decided to give a rotating schedule a try in 2008. Karla offered to make up spreadsheets displaying schedules with different intervals for us to consider. Thank you, Karla!


DivaSophia - I’m hoping we can spruce up the front yard, nip and tuck I guess…okay okay-lots of nipping and lots of tucking!!

I don’t have any new plants to plant, just some overgrown ones that need to come out and maybe moved around and/or shared. There is a ton of giant ruellia and Katy ruellia and the Vinca has taken over! With all the trees in the front yard, the leaves are already scattered around. I was thinking about a small raised bed between the driveway and the road…but we’ll just have to see what evolves.

DivasoftheDirt, sophia tableSophia had lots of wonderful fruit for us - watermelon, honeydew melon and grapes for dipping into creamy yogurt. She’d supplied plenty of scrambled eggs, sausages and scones for breakfast and really good coffee.

DivasoftheDirt, asiatic jasmineWhen we looked at the front garden we could see why Sophia referred to it as her “jungle”. The rumor was that a path once ran across that front garden! Asiatic jasmine and Vinca major are takeover plants and some of them had to go. Other plants needed to be relocated within the front garden since the areas of sun and shade have changed since this garden was begun. A group of ferns could be a nice feature in the right place.

DivasoftheDirtm bad corner bedThe plants in the front corner were overgrown and some Copper Canyon daisies no longer bloomed as the shade had deepened.

DivasoftheDirt, at sophiasIt was a rather warm September day, but our group all showed up to rescue Sophia’s garden.

We slogged along, digging and pulling plants that were trying to choke each other –having lively conversations and deciding which plants looked better in which places. Sophia had shared divisions of a wonderful purple iris in March 2006 – this time I shared early white iris for an area near the sidewalk.

Sophia called us in for lunch – first with tortilla chips and dips as football played on TV, then charming us with an Italian deli meal. But Tedster and Woody have to make do with doggy treats no matter how endearing their pleas through the patio door.
DivasoftheDirt, sophia's dogs

We feasted on prosciutto, Italian cheeses from Central Market, olives, raw vegetables, dips and great bread.

Then came the incredible, totally handmade filled and layered dark, dense chocolate cake made by Sophia’s son Mark – it was heavenly!

We were pleased with the way the garden was coming along and there were lots of passalong plants stacking up in the shade.

DivasoftheDirt, path doneSophia was right – there was a path running across the front from the porch entrance to a pretty bench on the far side of the garden. Now that path could be walked on again and iris in the sun and ferns in the shade may do well once they’ve caught hold.

DivasoftheDirt, corner doneThe corner bed holds a reduced-but-still-large group of Inland Sea Oats, gracefully arching over blue Plumbago, silver foliage plants and some plants with purple leaves. More Setcresia/Purple Heart and purple oxalis appear in other places near the drive and walk adding unity to the garden. The main shade comes from Cedar Elm trees – deciduous natives that are leafless in winter. They weren’t blooming in September, but the ‘Mutabilis’ roses near the front sidewalk put on quite a show last spring before the elm leaves expanded. Buddleja lindleyana, a species of weeping butterfly bush, has made a small thicket at the right side of the garden with long fragrant flowers suspended from the branch tips in late summer to fall.
DivasoftheDirt, ferns doneNow the fern bed looks cool and inviting – and ferns in the ground joined with ferns in the hanging baskets also give a sense of unity to the front garden.

DivasoftheDirt, KTB ornamentThe keepsake ornaments we’d previously ordered from Keep Texas Beautiful had arrived – this 2007 tribute to Lady Bird Johnson was especially lovely.

DivaSophia - Thank you! Thank you! Another extreme makeover!!

You all worked so hard yesterday and the results are amazing! No longer do I have the jungles of the Amazon in my front yard! …The neighbors who worked outside next door yesterday came over last night and commented on how great everything looks and mentioned that you all were a humorous group of women. They must have heard some conversations! …Have a great week-

DivaAnnie: Just saw the before and after photos, and it was an amazing transformation, didn't at first think that we did all that much, but it really looks good thinned out and with the ferns up front and center. Enjoy your yard and next weekend with your family. Did you tell Mark how MUCH we enjoyed his cake, we were all scraping our plates.

DivaGlinda: It was exhausting but fun, Sophia - and looking at the B4/After photos is quite satisfying! We didn't believe you at first when you said there was a path running from sidewalk to bench. Mark rules! Last year's Pizzelle were wonderful, but he surpassed that dessert with this year's Chocolate Cake.

My turn was coming up soon, and I had something special to pass along to the Divas. One of the Austin Garden Bloggers offered us a chance to be part of her plan to share an especially beautiful plant with other Austin gardeners.

DivaGlinda - Have any of you seen the red Schoolhouse lilies that were in bloom in older parts of town in the past month? They're also called Oxblood lilies and the botanical name is Rhodophiala bifida. They're pretty easy to grow, part sun or light shade, occasional watering and were tough enough to go through both the droughts of the last few years and the floods of this summer…. MSS who has the Zanthan Gardens blog divided a large established group from her garden and she offered to share some of hers with the Divas.

DivasoftheDirt, Oxblood LiliesMSinclairStevens has passed some of these bulbs along to Austin gardeners, hoping the restore the Oxblood Lily’s traditional role as a symbol of Austin. As you can imagine – this offer was accepted with many thanks – it will be fun to see them bloom in Diva gardens next September.


DivaGlinda - Hello Divas, Our last project of 2007 is set for my house this Saturday. The weather looks sunny and not terribly hot, thank heavens. The project will be in back - expanding and reworking this border.
DivasoftheDirt, fence B4The photo is from a few months ago - Ozz & I already moved that Abelia [at lower left] to the front …we'll need to start with one of our favorite activities - removing grass. It's just an 18" strip so it shouldn't be that bad! We'll amend the clay and do some transplanting of perennials, etc. … with the days becoming shorter [sunrise about 7:30 AM now] - would an 8:30 AM start make more sense?

DivaMindy - 8:30 will be my choice for start time also…Warren & I are going to sit out on the deck this evening & enjoy this cool change of temperatures--see everyone in the morning:)

DivaKarla - 8:30 sounds great as long as we don't have to eat less just to get outside in time!!!! I will enjoy the extra 30 minutes of sleep. Looking forward to seeing everyone!

DivasoftheDirt, sunflowersAfter everyone arrived we had breakfast tacos with potatoes, eggs and chorizo sausage. The fillings were ready and thanks to Ozz who drove to our nearby Taco Cabana the tortillas were fresh and warm. We also had fruit salad and a loaf of Pecan bread. DivasoftheDirt, pecan breadNut bread in itself may not be unusual, but this was made with pecans from our own trees – the first time they’d produced a harvest since we’d moved here.

The Divas set to work expanding the long fence border – keeping the edge straight and parallel to the triangle bed with the help of sticks, string, measuring tapes and a carpenter’s square. Eighteen inches can make a big difference in a small garden and the wavy edge on the too-narrow border had been bothering me.DivasoftheDirt, stake border
A few small snakes appeared, but nothing too hard to handle! Even though this was late October, the weather was not what we’d prefer to work in – it was 90 degrees F/ 32 degrees C, but the results were pleasing, especially after the plants that had been jammed together were given some space and reset..DivasoftheDirt, new edge

Lunch was a bit of an experiment – a sort of Boneless Chicken Cacciatore on Baked red-pepper polenta with Chocolate bar cookies for dessert.

DivasoftheDirt, from gateWe finished the border and passed out the Oxblood lilies – and realized we’d been both successful and lucky - no one lost a turn to bad weather during the 2007 project year.

DivasoftheDirt, redone border
DivaGlinda - Thank you all so much for Saturday - it's so exciting to have that long expanded border ready for new additions - even though you had to do it in 90º temperatures! I sunk the rocks and dragged some more over to set in - also decided to use all the bicolor iris …the rain and wind knocked over a few pots, watered everything in well and brought down some more pecans from the tree, so we went out and grabbed them before the squirrels did. Did everyone get rain and enjoy a cool morning?

DivaMattie - I had a great time on your Diva Day. I am very excited about the new plants and lilies. I got everything in before the rain also. Your new bed looks great and the food was delicious. Glad that I have seen everyone’s garden now and mine is full of Diva plants. I can't wait for next spring.

DivaAnnie - Glad you got the needed rain to water in everything well. Planted the lilies on Sunday under the tree in the front yard, hopefully this will be shady enough for them. Your day was fun and the food was simply delicious, especially those cookie bars…Thanks for the fun day!!

DivaKarla - Wow - really looks good Glinda - I hope I got all of the rain at my house, but should have if you did.

DivaSophia - What a wonderful day! I could live in your back yard!


DivaMindy - I'm thinking Cornish Hens, Sophia, so you are all invited on the 15th to take that long drive to the country...and bring accompaniments complimentary to the little birds.

I do have special requests for Buffy’s Emeril Salad (would love to have the pecans w/ it this year;) and would we dare skip the holiday w/o the seductive indulgence of the Amaretto Bread Pudding??

I can't ever remember a preferred start time--11:30ish??...I'll have the Poinsettias ready!!!

I was not in Texas for the Holidiva Party, so many thanks to DivaAnnie who took notes on the menu and gifts while Mindy was in charge of photos – what great pictures of the day! Here’s Mindy’s gorgeous table in the dining room, where the large windows look out over the deck to the pond.DivasoftheDirt, mindy xmas table
No old battered shirts and work pants today

DivasoftheDirt,Mindy, Annie, Mattie– Mindy, Annie, Mattie, Karla and Sophia look festive instead.
DivasoftheDirt, Karla, Sophia
The centerpiece is lovely and the menu sounds wonderful, especially if you like mushrooms!
(Recipes for the three mushroom dishes are at our Cooking Blog)

DivasoftheDirt, mindy centerpiece
The appetizers -

Stuffed mushrooms with roasted tomatoes made by DivaSophia

Mushroom soup made by DivaAnnie

The main course -

Cornish game hens by DivaMindy

Wild rice by DivaAnnie

The Emeril salad from DivaBuffy [she remembered the pecans this time]

Baked squash with mushrooms came from DivaKarla

Asparagus and snowpeas were chosen by DivaMattie

DivasoftheDirt, creme bruleeDessert - Crème Brule made by DivaMindy

DivasoftheDirt, mindy xmas tree
The Divas sat near the Christmas tree to play the traditional steal-from-your-neighbor grab bag game, ending up with some great garden-themed gifts:

Garden-tool shaped salad servers

A garden trug

Rhinestone-studded flip-flops in a University of Texas theme [we Austinites like to garden in flip-flops!]

Decorative concrete wall plaque

Elegant ceramic tray decorated with birds

Napkins in a garden theme with flowerpot napkin rings

2007 was filled with things not mentioned in this tale – families and jobs, births and deaths,
health issues, separations and reunions – through it all we found that it can be wonderful
to have friends who share not only our gardens but who also share our lives.

2008 ~ here we come!

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