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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Signs of Spring

I had mentioned last week that I'm starting to see signs of spring in our back yard.  It's a dreary, dismal sort of day here in Texas but I got out with my camera this morning, to see what was going on.

First of all, here are some of the weeds - um, "lawn companions" - I was complaining about last week.

I *think* this is wild strawberry.  It grows rampantly along the side of the house in the soggy area that gets run off from our neighbor's roof.

Here's another photo - you can see just how rampant it is.  I don't mind it though, the birds seem to enjoy the teeny tiny berries it eventually gets on it.  

I'm not sure what this grassy plant is.  We only have it in the corner of the back garden closest to the bird feeders, so I think it may be growing from seeds that have either blown off the wall or been dropped by birds.  It's tufty and very fine and you can see here, it has lots of seed heads.  In fact, last weekend when it wasn't raining, there was a flock of sparrows out there, pecking the seeds from it.  it keeps coming up in the borders and containers too, but I just pull it out by hand before it gets out of control, as it has already done in the lawn.

On to more cheerful subjects, I'm letting this bramble type vine grow along the back, underneath the Southern Wax Myrtle.  Just recently it's become covered in pretty white flowers and I hope that berries will follow.  I'm sure the birds will enjoy it.

The native honeysuckle, Lonicera sempiverens, still looks rather puny but at least it's blooming.  I had thought it was too early for it to bloom, since it's a major hummingbird magnet, but I had forgotten about the hummingbirds' spring migration.  So really, it's right on time.

I haven't seen any hummers out there yet, but I'm going to put up a feeder this weekend and start keeping a watch for them.

The "Sam Houston" peach is blooming and beginning to leaf out.  I hope we don't get another freeze, like we did last year, and that we might be able to enjoy a peach or two this summer.

This is the original cutting of my Rose of Sharon that I bought over from my previous house.  I was happy to see green leaves sprouting all over it.  I have two others in different parts of the garden that are also starting to leaf and I'm especially pleased to see that the cutting I took from this one last year, and planted further along the wall to fill in a gap, is leafing too.  It's got a long way to go, being only a foot high, but I'm pretty confident that will grow well in the spot I chose for it (probably better than this one, which is getting crowded by the Wax Myrtle)

My husband's grape vine, a "Mars" table grape, is leafing out.  Eric pruned it back last year, so we're hoping for some vigorous growth and lots of grapes this year, as last year was very disappointing.

Other than this, we've got daffodils blooming, there's new growth appearing at the base of the Tropical Milkweed, the New Gold and White Gold lantana and the St. Bernard's lily by the waterfall.

And if it stops raining this weekend, I have some Purple Coneflowers and Black-Eyed Susan's to go in, as well as four new native milkweed plants that just arrived yesterday. 

Have a great weekend everyone.  I hope you're enjoying the Signs of Spring in your garden too. 

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Digital Paintings from the Garden

I'm sure I'm not the only gardener who finds this time of year both exciting and frustrating. Exciting, because I'm starting to see small signs that spring is on it's way, but frustrated because other than those few little signs, the garden just looks dreadful.

The St. Augustine lawn (love it or hate it, that's what we have to deal with) is still dormant but hey, the weeds are growing rampantly, showing up as bright patches of green in our otherwise yellow lawn.

I made the commitment not to use chemicals of any kind on the lawn, so we have to live with the results.  It doesn't look bad in summer as the weeds blend in with the green lawn and mowing can keep everything looking neat, but at this time of year, the weeds have a head start.

I can handle the individual weeds like dandelion etc. but great spreading mats of unnamed weeds drive me nuts.  

How do other gardeners handle them without resorting to herbicides?

Anyway, since I have nothing to show you from the garden today, I thought I would show you something different I have been working on in recent weeks.

As you know, I enjoy taking photographs of the flowers and birds in our garden and elsewhere.  You may not know that I am also a digital artist ( and over the winter I have been making some digital paintings from some of my photographs.  

These are fun to do and quite addictive and involve using digital paint brushes, textures and filters to give photographs a painterly look.

 This is a digital painting made from a photo of our island bed last summer.  If you click on it to see a larger image, you will see that it has a sort of impressionistic look to it. 

I've shown you these beautiful Cleome before.  They were blooming against a lovely stone wall created by Edward Lutyens at Hestercombe in Somerset, England.  This digital painting has the feel of a pastel painting, don't you think?

This digital painting is based on a photo I took of our other island bed last year -- the one that literally filled itself with Profusion Zinnias. The butterflies certainly loved them, including this Gulf Fritillary.

I love this digital painting of a Blue Jay in the Southern Wax Myrtle bush for two reasons.  Firstly, we really haven't seen many blue jays around recently.  They used to be here in abundance when we were surrounded by trees. It was a pleasant surprise to see a flash of blue in the garden and get a good photo of him.  Secondly, I love the way this digital painting makes the ugly cinderblock wall at the back of our garden look more like stucco.  If only it looked like that in real life!

I look forward to seeing the garden start blooming again so I can get outside with my camera and get started on some more digital paintings.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Dirt Makes me Happy!

 Image by amoceptum

I came across a post on Facebook the other day which linked to an article explaining how microbes in the soil have been found to have a similar effect on the brain as antidepressants like Prozac, but without the side effects and chemical dependency potential.

You can read the article here:

Yesterday I decided to test out the theory and headed out to the garden, to get up close and personal with the soil in our island beds.

OK - actually I was getting up close and personal with weeds and encroaching Bermuda grass, but it was very therapeutic and it really did put a smile on my face. I spent a pleasant afternoon pottering around, getting my hands dirty, listening to the birds all around, and smiling.

The weather yesterday was perfect for gardening -- the temperature was brisk but it was sunny and the humidity was very low. 
 I was working on the newest of our two island beds and didn't get finished yesterday.  The plan was to finish up today but it started storming during the night and has been raining steadily all day.  The garden is completely sodden, even flooded in one area (that's that drainage issue I mentioned before)

The island bed will have to wait until next weekend, but in the meantime, at least it does look like I accomplished something.


Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Winter Clean Up in the Garden

 It's been wet and cold for seemingly forever, but just recently we had a couple of nice days over the weekend, so I felt compelled to get outside in the garden and get started on some clean up.

I've been avoided pulling out the dead zinnias in the island beds, hoping that they would provide seed for the local birds.  But the birds don't seem to venture into the middle of the garden much, so the dead zinnias were just an eyesore.

I got them out of one bed, shaking them out and scattering seed as I did.  I also collected some seed, and have a bunch more in the other bed, so if anyone is interested in some orange Zinnia Profusion seed, let me know and I can send some :-)   

Haven't started on the other bed yet.  It has more problems than just dead zinnias.  It's overrun with bermuda grass which will be a pain to pull out.  However, while I was morosely poking around in it, I discovered a pleasant surprise....

... underneath last year's daylily leaves, new daylilies starting to peek out of the ground!

There are quite a lot of them, so I think that, although late summer is the best time to divide them, I'm going to divide them up this spring and move the extras to the newer of the two island beds.

I didn't take proper care of the compost bin last year, so while I was able to get some good compost out of it, most of it hadn't actually composted.  

I pulled a bunch of dry leaves and branches out for my husband to run through our new chipper/shredder and then I will layer that with some leftover potting soil, wet it down and add some compost starter and see if I can take better care of it this year.  

The small amount of compost I was able to use, I put on the small vegetable bed and dug it in.  Next weekend, weather permitting, I'll go ahead and buy some bags of composted cow manure, or something similar, and add to both veggie beds.

Then we'll have to turn our attention to a drainage problem we have noticed.  More about that in another post.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Return of the Birds - and Name That Bird

In a recent blog post, one of my local blogging friends, Dorothy, wondered where all the birds had gone this winter. 

In the six years I have lived here, it has seemed the we are surrounded by birds.  We hear them all the time, we see them in the garden, at the feeders and flying overhead.

But this winter it has seemed like they all just disappeared.  Even our year round birds, like the Cardinals, have been absent. The garden is silent.

I was really getting quite depressed about it, thinking it was because we now have houses on either side, where we used to have brush and trees.  

My little country garden that I loved so much when we moved here is rapidly becoming surrounded by suburbia. But I consoled myself that at least we still have the hedgerow (at least for now) across the road behind us.  It was always full of birds.

Where they went this winter is a complete mystery.

But at long last, I've started seeing some birds again.  Okay - so they are mostly European House Sparrows, not the most desirable of avian visitors.  But after the complete lack of birds over the winter, I'll take what I can get!

I also caught sight of this Carolina wren last weekend in the rain.  Perhaps they will nest on the patio again this year.  I hope so!  I heard and saw a Chickadee too, but couldn't get a photo of him.

The Southern Wax Myrtle seemed to provide a cozy dry shelter to these Mourning Doves, who stayed huddled under it for most of that rainy morning.  I began to worry that they might be injured but once it stopped raining, they flew off.

After weeks of cold wet, dreary weather, I was happy to see the sun shining in the garden this morning.  I was even more thrilled to see "Mr. Cardinal" on the wall, helping himself to the birdseed I had just put out.  Mrs. Cardinal was there too, but I didn't get a good shot of her.

As I was standing at the back door, taking photos of the sparrows and the cardinal, I realized that there was another bird with them.  At first I had assumed it was a sparrow but quickly realized it wasn't.  

As I wanted to identify it and add it to my "Life List", I took several photos.  Unfortunately, they haven't helped me identify it, either using my Birds of North America book, or the online tool at

This is where you come in.  I'm hoping someone can tell me what this is. And then I can feel like an idiot for not being able to identify it myself!  :-)

With those markings he should be easy to identify, but once I had entering in "brown back", "streaked front," "yellow markings," "chestnut crown" etc.  I ended up with nothing.

These three are the best of the photos I got of him.

Any idea what he is?  Please leave a comment :-)

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

It's January - that means it's Seed Catalog time!

It's a dark and dreary January afternoon. The garden is soggy and bedraggled, but our mailbox has been filling up with seed catalogs and gardening magazines. 

So I've been spending some time reading and dreaming. After all, what's a gardener to do when it's too cold and wet to get out in the garden?

Found on Facebook :-)

Most seed companies will be happy to send you a free catalog.

Here are some links to get you started:

Annie's Heirloom Seeds

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Burpee Seed

Gurney's Seed and Nursery Co.

Native American Seed Co.

Park Seed

Seed Savers Exchange


If you live in the UK, you can request a catalogue from these companies

Marshall's Seeds

Sutton's Seeds

Thompson and Morgan


Of course, most of these companies have their full seed catalog available for online browsing, often with articles about seed starting and other gardening subjects.  But on a cold winter's day, I feel there's nothing quite like curling up in your favorite armchair with a mug of something hot and a pile of seed catalogs.

Happy armchair gardening to you all!

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Somerset Gardens at Hestercombe

While Eric and I were visiting family and friends in England in September, we were lucky enough to be able to visit the Somerset Gardens at Hestercombe, outside of Taunton.

Hestercombe features three gardens spanning three centuries of garden design: Coplestone Warre Bampfylde's Georgian landscape garden, the Victorian terrace and shrubbery and the stunning Edwardian garden design by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll which I am going to show you in my blog post today. 

The gardens had fallen into disrepair but today, after a mammoth, ongoing restoration project, the gardens have been returned to their former glory.  The gardens were reopened to the public in 1997, for the first time in 125 years.

In my gardening endeavours in Houston, I have often read about Gertrude Jekyll and Sir Edwin Lutyens.  To finally see one of their acclaimed gardens in person was a magical experience.

The formal gardens, known as the Grand Plat, are laid out below the house with grass pathways edged in stone, leading to a central fountain. 

Even in the soft misty light of a late September day, the gardens had plenty of color, with marigolds, gladioli, sedum, and more in bloom.

Here's another view of the formal gardens.


On either side of the garden is a water feature, such as this fountain in a beautiful stone niche. The vines were just getting their fall colours which made it seem even more peaceful and magical.

The stonework in the gardens was spectacular, from walkways, to columns, to walls.  It's very easy to imagine young ladies in Edwardian dress strolling the gardens, their delicate skin shaded from the sun by dainty parasols, being entertained by their beau, under the watchful eye of a chaperone.

Narrow water channels leads down either side of the garden to small lily ponds. 

 Along the bottom of the garden is a spectacular vine-covered pergola.  Again, I could picture young Edwardian ladies being escorted by their young men.

I was pleased to see many familiar plants in the garden, like this Sedum, and even some I have in my own garden such as Gaura and Cleome, below. 

This final walled garden featured many plants with silver leaves.  After the soft greens and colours of the rest of the garden, it was quite striking to see this garden.  It included Lambs Ears, Dusty Miller, Lavender and a lot of plants I didn't recognize. Some height was added in the form of large terracotta urns filled with blooms.

The Somerset Gardens at Hestercombe have a lot more to offer than what I have shown you here.  

In addition to the formal gardens, there are 50 acres of Georgian landscape gardens with streams, waterfalls and lakes, as well as unique little garden houses, or "follies" such as this one, known as the Mausoleum.

Hestercombe is definitely on my list of places to visit again when we can.  I'm glad they went to the trouble and expense of restoring it.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.