My San Antonio, Texas
garden is on the Northwest side of the city where the rocky Texas
Hill Country begins its ascent. Fifteen years ago when my husband
Bob and I moved into our home I had a clean slate on which to start
my first "serious garden". The only vegetation on the place was a
couple of stunted pecan trees and a sad lawn of St. Augustine grass
struggling on the native soil of black alkaline clay liberally
interspersed with limestone rocks of all sizes.
If I had it do over again I would have brought in a
foot of good soil on which to built the garden, but like a lot of
others who attempt to garden in difficult soils I discovered the
value of raised beds. Initially, stones and small boulders were
collected from a near by dry creek bed and used for edging, but in
recent years Bob was pressed into service and added railroad ties
and landscape timbers for bed support. I keep many of the roses in
pots so that I can provide especially rich soil and extra water.
I had no plan when I started, the garden just
seemed evolve and take on a life of it's own. My special interests
are roses and unusual foliage plants. Two favorite nurseries in the
San Antonio area are Schumacher's Hill Country Gardens and the San
Antonio location of The Antique Rose Emporium, which is conveniently
located right next door to the Evans Road
Gardenville Garden-Ville Locations where dozens of soil mixes
are available. They also carry many natural pest deterrents which I
use rather than chemical insecticides.
My desire is to keep the garden a safe haven for
the wild birds and lizards and also for pets; my dogs, Indian
fantail pigeons who are released everyday, but never leave the area;
and Ornate box turtles who prowl the garden looking for bugs.
Besides that I find that when pesticides are kept to a minimum
natural insect predators flourish keeping insect damage low.
Perennials, many of which are on the Texas SuperStar Plants list keep the garden
colorful all season and a few evergreens provide the bones of the
garden in winter as well as a backdrop. If I have a hidden talent it
is to keep moving plants around like furniture in the garden until,
hopefully; every plant finds its own perfect spot; perhaps that is
the key to good design--keep trying and tinkering.
Beds and Driplines
One of the best things I did for the garden was to
lay meandering drip lines in all the beds. Nothing fancy, the hose
is moved from bed to bed and connected as needed. The lines are
covered with mulch and repair parts are kept handy in case a shovel
severs a line. The pots still require hand watering and the
automatic sprinkler system is rarely used except when we go on
Bob is always happy to build new flower beds
because that means there is less lawn to mow, but we will always
keep some green areas for family gatherings such as the annual
Easter egg hunt, or just as walkways. The Easter Bunny hides 100
eggs each with a dollar bill inside (candy lost its appeal years
ago, if it rattles -- forget it). The egg hunters (smarter each
year) cover the whole garden in search of the eggs and need the lawn
areas in order to access the far corners. Also the lawn helps to
keep the garden cool; thus, I'll always have some grass for Bob to
Bob has used his talents to build garden structures
including the rose tower built from plans spotted in Birds & Blooms - Pyramid Trellis , the arch of
his own design, and an over-wintering shelter which opens up in
summer to double as a potting shed and storage area for garden
products. Other than that (and mowing) he's pretty much hands off
and I'm "the gardener."
Secrets of Success
Gardeners have many recipes for success, and I feel
my garden especially benefits from the raised beds and the drip
irrigation. An equally important contribution is the yearly top
dressing with compost and oak leaves. Every February compost is
delivered from Gardenville to build up the soil. The compost is
spread on the lawn and added to the beds and pots an inch or two
deep. Then in March my evening ritual is to go "leaf rustling". I
collect scores of bagged live oak leaves from neighbor's curbs and
put 3-6 inches of oak leaves over the Gardenville mulch.
Most plants start off the year with a one year
fertilizer tablet placed a few inches under the soil. They are
additionally fertilized in spring and fall with applications of my
homemade blend prepared by mixing 50 lb bags of fish meal, alfalfa
meal, cotton seed meal, Epson salts and a 40 lb bag of Ironite.
Several times a year the plants get doses of alfalfa tea Peninsular Rose Club - Alfalfa Tea mixed in 32
gal. trash cans and fortified with 2 to 4 cups of fish emulsion, 2
T. of Super Thrive, 1 1/2 cups of Sprint 330, a chelated iron and a
couple of cups of Miracle Grow for each can.
All this may sound like a lot of work and at
certain times of the year it is. But overall I take an easy going
attitude toward the garden. My slogan is; "Grace without
perfection is more to be desired than perfection without
grace." Another plaque on the front door happily announces:
"Gardening forever, housework whenever."
How about it ladies, don't you agree?