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Mealy Blue Sage… and a cat

Mealy Blue Sage — also called Mealycup Sage — is a sun-loving Texas native that adds its gorgeous deep blue blooms to your landscape.

mealy blue sage_optSalvia farinacea grows to a height of 2 to 2-1/2 feet and the bloom spikes are usually 4-6″ long. This is another favorite of bees, so you can expect to have these terrific pollinators in your garden if you have Mealy Blue Sage in your landscape. Butterflies also love it, so you can enjoy them as well.

Although this plant is not evergreen, and is usually laid low by the first frost of the year, it has reliably come back for us every spring for 3 years now.

The individual blooms are very beautiful but I just read somebody who thinks they look like muppets (?). What do you think?

mealy blue sage closeup_optI think they look a little like grape hyacinth blooms when the buds first start to form, but then the open up into these deeply blue, sweetly scented bloom spikes. 🙂

This plant needs a little bit of extra attention and it likes a little more water than some other Texas native plants.

If you want the plant to keep its nice, upright growth, you’ll need to cut off some of the taller bloom stalks from time to time. If you keep the overall height of the plant at 2 feet it will not fall over or droop (unless it’s in a windy location).

Make sure you don’t water it from above. That will really make the bloom stalks droop over and it might also break them. It’s better to water this plant with a soaker hose, or spray the hose down at the base of the plant.

Right now, you can get Mealy Blue Sage at the Downtown Arlington Farmers Market, Fridays and Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  The Market is at 215 Front Street (corner of Elm and Front Street), just 1 block east of Johnny High’s and Babe’s.

If you’d like to pick some up on a different day, give us a call, or send us a text or email. We can make arrangements with you to pull your order and you can drop by and pay for it and pick it up.

Sorry, but Miss Kitty’s not for sale…

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Blackfoot daisy — a sweet-smelling bee magnet

This blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) has been in our front garden for over 3 years. It’s been stepped on, used as a neighborhood animal potty (frown!), it’s been frozen, and it’s been blasted almost to death by the summer heat of 2011.

But here it is — blooming again — beautifully!

blackfoot flowers_optBlackfoot daisy is a Texas native plant that is so drought-tolerant it doesn’t even like any supplemental water from you. In fact, if you give it too much water, it will die.

The way to care for this plant is to leave it alone, unless we’re in the middle of the summer and haven’t had any rain for more than a week. If that’s the case, take your garden hose and give it about 3 seconds worth of water from the hose. And that’s it.

Then, start watching for rain again. We have literally ignored this plant for weeks on end and it keeps on blooming!

blackfoot closeup_optThe sweet little blooms of the blackfoot daisy are about the size of a nickel, and they cover the outside of the mound of foliage. The overall size of the plant is about 1 foot tall and 2-3 foot in diameter.

blackfoot mound_optYou can keep it in a smaller mound, if you like. Just cut it back by 2-4″ and then wait several weeks to make sure it is setting new buds and has recovered from pruning before you cut it back again.

In some of our milder winters, our blackfoot daisy has even bloomed in February!

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Autumn Sage — a year round beauty

Check out these pictures of one of the Autumn Sages in bloom in our front yard garden.White sage_opt

Autumn Sage (or, the latin, Salvia greggii) is also known as Texas Sage. This plant is evergreen here in North Central Texas and — in our milder winters — has been known to bloom in our yard even in January and February.

This is an easy-care perennial that is drought-tolerant (after it’s established, of course), stands up to our relentlessly hot summers, and will bloom for you all year long.

White sage bloom_optThe blooms, as you can see, look like snapdragon blossoms and the plant gives off a lovely smell, so plant it near a walkway, driveway, or patio so you can enjoy the scent.

To keep this plant in great shape, cut it back by about 1/4 in the spring, and again in the late fall. You can also cut it back by 3-6″ any time you want a burst of blooms from it.

That said, wait at least 2 weeks between pruning to make sure you see new growth on the plant and that it has recovered from being pruned.

Autumn Sage — just one of the Texas native plants you’ll find at the Downtown Arlington Farmers Market from Burk’s Nursery & Garden.

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How does our garden grow?

Here are more shots of the back yard nursery areas. This first picture shows our Texas sages growing in the foreground, with a bed of containers and flats behind that, then our Kentucky Wonder beans in the distance.

This shot is taken from the gate and shows our south property line (left). Those are canna lilies in the foreground and a stand of Cherry Laurels beyond them. We also collect pine straw from the many Loblolly pines on our block and that’s what we use as the surface for our paths. Underneath are layers of leaves and mulch.

 This last picture is taken from the far southeast corner of our property. In the foreground is another bed with Kentucky Wonder green beans (in the shade at the center of the picture) and a newly planted bed of black eyed peas to the left. In the mid-distance you can see our nursery area of containerized canna lilies, with canna lilies also growing in the ground at the fence line.

Although they’re hard to see in this picture, David planted some of our beautiful, fragrant dark purple/blue petunias around the edge of the bean bed. Soon I’ll get some close-ups. So pretty!

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Burk’s Nursery & Garden is for real!!

We are now certified by the Texas Department of Agriculture and are licensed to grow and sell plants and flowers! This means we can head off to the Downtown Arlington Farmer’s Market with our plants and garden decor. Our plan is to be there Mother’s Day weekend. Hurrah!!

Here’s what Burk’s Nursery & Garden looks like today:

At the right of this picture you can see our leaf bin. It’s 8′ x 10′ and is about 4′ deep in compacted leaves. We collect leaves all fall and winter and pile them in the here. We use them to make our own compost, which is used to start seedlings (we sift it for that) and we also put 90% finished compost in the bottoms of our 1 gallon and larger pots. The compost slowly continues to break down and provide nutrients for the plants.

Above is the east side of the shade nursery area. Here, over 7 dozen heirloom cherry tomato plants are hardening off, getting ready to go to market. Also shown are Early Prolific squash plants and marigolds by the dozens.

Finally, here are a couple shots of the two beds of Kentucky Wonder bush beans David planted. Initially, we planted them as cover crops but we may harvest some and bring them to market. Yum!

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Side yard starting to look like what I see in my head…

First, is a shot from the street showing the top of the mound and our entire south property line. We finished adding the last large shrub in March and I’m so excited to finally have all the foundation plants in place. Now we get to start filling in with smaller shrubs, sages, and flowers.

It’s been a while since I mentioned it, but our south property line is well over 40′ deep. Starting at the right of the picture and going east, these are the plants:

Blue point juniper, Texas sage (“Green Cloud”), Crepescule heirloom rose, sweet viburnum shrub, Texas sage (“Silverado”), Cherry Laurel, Sweet Olive, Cleyera (shrub), Waxleaf Ligustrum, Wax Myrtle, and Oleander.

Since we plan to use our front and side yards as a demonstration garden, as well as a source for our own photographs of happy, native plants, we have a much wider selection of plants than would normally be found in a residential landscape plan. Normally, plants are repeated throughout a landscape design to create harmony and unity in the overall design.

Planning our yard & garden has been a challenge because we need the wide variety, but we also need it to look like a natural, beautiful, residential front yard. It has been an exciting project and it’s gratifying to see the design coming out so clearly now as well as watching some of our older perennials and shrubs begin to come into their own as they grow.

One of the places we’re really enjoying this is in the Viburnum Bed. Our Blackhaw Viburnum is gorgeous already this year. It is the large shrub in the center of the bed. To its right is a Westerland rose, which has the most beautiful dreamsicle orange blooms you’ve ever seen and a scent that is absolutely heavenly and perfumes the entire yard. It’s only drawback is that it is the thorniest rose on the planet, I think. At the base of the plant, some of the thorns are an 1″ long. Yikes! This is its third year in our yard and it has already put out dozens of blossoms.

At the far left of the picture is a new addition to our landscape. It’s another Texas native — the lovely Crossvine. It is between bloom periods right now but when it flushes into bloom, it is totally smothered in dark orange, trumpet-shaped flowers with peachy-orange throats. Next year, it should completely cover the trellis and be a showstopper combined with the pale orange Crepescule rose at the front of the house and the purple weeping lantana in the brick planter at the front door. I can hardly wait for next year!

The north end of the Viburnum Bed is where I planted yet another Juniper — a blue Pfitzer shrub — and transplanted a blue sage that was originally on the south property line.

The blue Pfitzer will be 6′ diameter and 3-4′ high in about 5 years. They have a graceful, vase-shaped growth habit and — although it didn’t do this last year — the color will turn slightly purple during the winter months. Hopefully, we’ll get to see that this winter…

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What else is going on in the front yard?

Continuing my tour around the front yard, here’s a shot from the street. This picture shows the Driveway Bed and Front Yard 3, which is the bed at the very front of this picture.

From left to right, Front Yard 3 has artemesia (or wormwood) a soft-tip yucca, and upright rosemary. The tiny bed next to the little white fence has variegated purple heart and a left-over pansy that needs to be pulled out. I will probably plant some sedums along the front of the bed so they will creep out over the landscape brick retaining wall we built.

Right at the curb, we are encouraging a complete groundcover of horseherb. We love it, and it’s a Texas native. In fact, it’s native to our region, North Central Texas. We’ve got hope that it will finish filling in this year. We amended the soil last summer by digging down about 18″, putting in leaves and some wood mulch, then putting the soil back over it. We waited about a month, Then started transplanting the horseherb. It has done beautifully!

Moving south a few feet from Front Yard 3 is Front Yard 2 (below). The fall-blooming asters — which actually bloom in the spring, too — are from last year. They are at the bottom right in the picture with daylilies to their left, and a blue sage and Tam juniper behind them. More horseherb is down front, near the curb.

Just south of the fall-blooming asters is the Curb Bed, with Texas lantana (not in bloom yet), a white autumn sage, and blackfoot daisies. All three plants are Texas natives and I hardly ever water them. Even in the middle of a drought I only water them once a week, or even once every two weeks.

Texas lantana, by the way, is also called Calico Bush. I’ve had other lantanas and the grasshoppers have eaten every one of them to death. Not the Texas lantana, though. Every year, it starts out as a little clump about 8″ tall and 1′ diameter and by fall, it has filled in the entire space between the fall-blooming asters in Front Yard 2 and the white sage in this picture. That’s a space about 6′ wide! Butterflies and bees LOVE it and it smells fantastic. So do the blackfoot daisies. Mmmm!

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Front yard perennials doing great!

I decided to take a walk through the front yard and get pix of some of our new and old perennials, as well as documenting how the overall design and shape of the front yard is coming along. I want to do it again sometime soon because some of these pictures came out lighter than I’d prefer. Also, I want close-ups of some of the blooms, buds, new growth, and leaves. For the time being, though, here goes…

Our Color Guard yucca has been in the ground since 2010 (I think… maybe 2011?) and this is the first year it has bloomed. I was thrilled when I saw the bloom spike beginning to unfurl. This is definitely one of the blooms I want close-ups of!

We also edged out the Driveway Bed and Viburnum Bed earlier this month (April) so you can see the nice curve of the path that starts at the northwest corner of our property and winds its way around to the side of the house. We’re so close to being rid of all the unwanted, non-native grass. We’ve selected the native grass seed blend we want to sow, but it will probably be spring of 2015 before we do that. So one more year of fighting back the grass. Sigh…

Front and center in the picture (above) is the purple sage we planted last year. I love how it holds its own in the Driveway Bed. To its left is an upright rosemary we planted in March and to its right is a Bridal Wreath Spirea I installed last fall. The spirea is a non-native, but is not on the invasives list for Texas and I haven’t read that it adversely affect wildlife or the natural world in any way. I hope I don’t. If I do, out it goes. :o(

This is another shot of the purple sage and spirea, from just a little further south. You can also see in this picture the nice curve of the path (left side of the picture). Yay!

And here’s a shot of the half circle which is in the center of the Driveway Bed. This bed has native fall-blooming asters (the large plant at the back), a creeping juniper, sedum, day lilies, horseherb and gray santolina. I also have a volunteer Loblolly pine growing right in the middle of the bed.

I’m so happy about that pine tree. It volunteered right where I wanted a small, open tree that would add some interest at the back, center of the Driveway Bed near the front door, but I didn’t want anything that makes the house looked closed off or unfriendly.

I’ll have to keep a close eye on it, though. Loblollys will grow to heights of over 100 feet. Our plan is to see if we can bonsai it, keeping it at about 8-10′. If we can’t, or if it gets ugly, out it goes!

Last on the tour around the Driveway Bed is catnip. Our new kitty, Miss Kitty, loves it even more than Corbin did. If that’s possible. She won’t let any of the other neighbor cats come anywhere near it, even though she’s the smallest cat on the block. We’ll get some pix of Miss Kitty in here soon.

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Go David!!

Ok… so we’ve had this cluster of stumps left over from a bunch of junk trees that we cut down in the back yard at the south property line fence. They keep sending out shoots of new growth that we keep cutting off. It drives me crazy.

At the same time, I’ve not said much about it to David because some of it goes under the chain link fence that separates our yard from the neighbor’s yard.

David has already dug out 3 big stumps. 2 from the back yard, and 1 from the side yard. But no matter… he has taken it upon himself to get rid of the cluster of stumps. Hurrah!!!

Here he is with one more thing checked off the list. Go David!  :o)

I posted this picture on facebook and somebody asked about the luxurious-looking plants at the left of the picture. They are canna lilies and here’s a close-up of the gloriously beautiful blooms…

And, while this last picture isn’t related to David digging out the stump cluster, he did plant the okra that’s in the background of this picture. I love how lush everything looks, and my rose is SO pretty!

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LOTS of progress on the South Property Line!

While the Mound is not really the Side Yard, it is right at the south property line, so I thought I’d throw in an update on it.

When we designed, built, and planted this bed, we did it because the neighbors were not watering at all and the crape myrtle (about 8′ south of the Mound) was dying. This spot, on the southwest corner of our property was getting nearly 12 hours of straight, blazing Texas sun every day. We have dwarf mexican petunias in the lower level — a drought tolerant beauty that blooms all summer long — along with some upright rosemary and some annuals.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), the neighbors moved, we’ve got good neighbors now — who actually water the lawn — and now their crape myrtle is shading out our sun loving plants. While it will be a while before we do it, we will probably dismantle the Mound and do something else on this corner.

On to the rest of the south property line. Here is a shot of a couple new plants we put in — an heirloom rose (the ONLY kind to plant), and a blue sage. Most exciting in this picture though is the brick edging which is finally completed. It runs the entire length of the south property line, complete with stepping stones so the mail carriers have safe, and recognizable, passage through the yard.

More of the south property line and our temporary plantings. While they’re pretty, and I’m loving them this year, the plan is to plant medium-to-large shrubs and small trees along the entire length of the property line. Our house and the side of our neighbor’s house, combined with the sandy soil and the relentless summer sun, make for a corridor of baking heat in our side yard. We want to add as many plants at the property line as quickly as we can so they will help combat the heat. And, of course, they’ll be beautiful and provide lots of homes of our beneficial insects, our lizards, and the birds. :o)


Gotta love sweet potato vine, huh? What a stunner! Did you know it’s in the morning glory family? Ipomoeia is it’s genus. That’s your little factoid for the day!

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