What the Divas Did in 2008, Part 2


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

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

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

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

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

Mattie: The 12th works for me! Thanks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morning Trail

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

An April email conversation.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glinda: By definition a granite party must rock!

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

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

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

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


Friday, September 5, 2008, 5:32 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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