Archives for category: Spring garden


They’re  beautiful and they’re edible. They attract pollinators, they bloom in the shade, and they seem immune to pests and diseases. They’re also adaptable to most soil types and rainfall averages.

But best of all? Texas spiderworts pop up and do their thing every Spring without a bit of help from me.

And yes, I know, Texas bluebonnets do that too, but mostly along the highways. Bluebonnets, which seem to prefer gravelly, poor soil, haven’t adapted well to my Blackland Prairie clay soil. I once tried planting a few in an old caliche driveway, but they didn’t like that either and disappeared after one season.

I don’t think my spiderworts will ever disappear. They don’t seem bothered by anything, no matter how painful: Summer heat (they simply go dormant and come back later when it’s cooler). Drought (somehow they manage to bloom a little even during a dry spring). Seasonally soggy heavy soil (are they wearing little Wellies on their root tips?)

And one more thing:  Bluebonnets don’t need any more attention than they’re already getting. Think about that the next time you’re dragging your kids or your dogs around town looking for a photogenic patch of bluebonnets. One that hasn’t been tromped flat by hundreds of other baby- or puppy-toting photographers before you.

Spiderworts need love too.



A final note: Although spiderworts are edible and nutritious, I consider them “emergency backup food.” In other words, they’re far from my first choice when I go foraging in the backyard for something to eat.

The bees in my neighborhood are of a different mind. This morning they were dancing and dipping and diving all around my backyard spiderwort patch. They couldn’t seem to get enough.

So I guess it’s a good thing I’m not terribly fond of the taste of spiderworts.

(Photos are by Renee Studebaker. Do not use without permission.)

For more about the half dozen or so varieties of tradescantia (commonly known as spiderworts) that grow in our area, visit the Native Plant Society of Texas and Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. 


yellow bowl

Among the tips in my Art of the Almost Perfect Potluck story that appears on the cover of the Life and Food section in today’s Austin American-Statesman is this one: If you have to leave a bowl or plate behind, contact the host and offer to retrieve it later. 

Now that I’ve been in possession of this lovely yellow bowl for almost two weeks, I’m thinking I should have added this:  If you leave a bowl at a potluck host’s house long enough for her to grow  fond of it, offer to give the bowl to the host.

OK, maybe that’s not the most gracious solution, but hey, this is a really cute bowl.

“Gripstand” and “Made in England” are printed on  the bottom of  it. There’s a small  crack on the inside, but it doesn’t appear to go all the way through. And even with the crack, it’s still a nice Gripstand bowl.

I have already made several inquiries among potluck guests, but no one has stepped up to claim it. This is your last chance —  if you brought this bowl to my  garden potluck dinner on May 19, please contact me soon, or I’m going to consider it a hostess gift from the potluck gods……


There’s no place I’d rather be right now than in my garden.

As I’m writing this, I can hear a chorus of  birds (warblers, mockingbirds, wrens, and finches) tweeting their little hearts out. They apparently don’t want to be anywhere else either.

I can almost imagine what they’re saying: “Look! Over here! The loquats are getting ripe. And look down there at those fat little caterpillars on the chard and kale leaves. Quick, get ’em! And check out that fountain — it’s FULL of rain water. And that lady who’s always in our yard? She’s finally gone inside to work on her blog. Hurry. She never stays gone for long!”

And now that the big bad drought has taken a break, all the plants are singing too. The chard  is taller and bushier than I’ve seen it in two years, the larkspur are giants bursting into brilliant bloom, and the tomato plants are growing so fast and blooming so well that platters of sliced homegrown tomatoes are already dancing in my head. (Sigh) I know it’s too soon to tell exactly what late spring and summer will bring, but for now, I’m feeling nothing but gratitude for the present and hope for the future. And those feelings of renewal and growth are spilling into other parts of my life too. Funny how that happens.

Here are a few scenes from my spring 2012 garden:

Loads of loquats. Biggest crop I’ve ever gotten off this tree. Should be plenty for me and the birds. And even the squirrels.


Thanks to MS at Zanthan Gardens, who passed along Larkspur seed a few years ago, these lovely spring bloomers  have been reseeding every spring  and spreading all over my front yard and back yard gardens. I love the frilly greenery and the purple, blue and white flowers. I have only a dozen or so blooms now, but by next week I expect to have a hundred or more. (Too bad it’s not edible.)


Larkspur have grown up all around my winter and spring greens, which I don’t mind at all. I’ve decided larkspur looks lovely with vegetables as well as other perennials.

Here it is with red romaine lettuce, which, as you can see, is starting to bolt. As a matter of fact, it bolted  right onto my dinner plate last night.


When the larkspur start winding down next month, I should have a bunch of rudbeckia blooms to keep the show going. Every time I look at these young buds, I am filled with happy anticipation.


But here are some little buds that give me an even bigger thrill every time I look at them. Baby red table grapes. Last year’s crop was my first off this 5 yea-old vine, and it was so good and so sweet that I can hardly wait to see what this year’s harvest will bring.


Oh, and another thing. Be sure to check out my story about garden greens in today’s American-Statesman food section (and online at And look for more to come every month or so.

And finally, mark your calendar for Oct. 20 if you want to get an upclose look at my garden and other edible gardens in the Austin area.  The Travis County Master Gardeners’ annual Inside Austin Gardens Tour this year will put a spotlight on  gardens that combine edible and ornamental plants. More details to come. And probably lots of worrying and fussing from me as I try to make my oftentimes unruly garden (especially in October!) presentable enough for guests.

Happy spring! And happy gardening!


The Blackfoot daisies near the curb in my front yard garden are  practically shouting, “Hey, look at me! I’m blooming!”

And apparently I’m not the only one who is appreciating their outbursts. A woman (not someone I know) walking by my house earlier this week  got the message loud and clear.

“Wow!,” she said, as she paused in front of the daisies, “I love this!” And then, as she glanced over the entire yard, she added, “I love all of your garden!”

I smiled, and of course gave her a big “Thank You!” And then, much more quietly to myself, I said, “And thank you, spring.”

Yes, spring is indeed busting out all over town, but there’s nothing quite like watching this annual transformation happen in your very own garden. And given the record breaking hard freezes of winter  2010-11 and the extreme heat and drought of summer 2011,  I am amazed (and dare I say?) thrilled that my little piece of Central Austin is beginning to feel like my personal paradise again.

Which brings me to another transformation, or restructuring, that is taking place in my world. Instead of  working to support my garden habit, I’ve decided to try letting my garden habit be the force behind the work that I choose to support  my life. So in addition to free-lance writing and speaking engagements about food gardening, I am now offering my services as a garden coach and garden designer (with an emphasis on edible landscapes); and as an organic gardening teacher, with hands-on Gardening 101 classes soon to be scheduled in my backyard. In addition, I am also organizing occasional private garden supper gatherings featuring performances by buzz-worthy local singer-songwriters, as well as local food (mostly from my garden and entirely prepared by me).

More details on the new garden projects are coming soon, but for now, here are a few images I promised to post for folks who attended the recent edible garden design talk I gave at It’s About Thyme:

Here’s the front yard garden next to the curb in a picture I took a couple of days ago. Flatleaf parsley, Blackfoot daisies, Swiss chard, French thyme, Red Giant mustard, and a volunteer poppy (from passalong seeds from CTG’s Linda L. who got her first seeds as passalongs from Joan H.) that should start blooming by this weekend. The poppies are a deep shade of pink, so deep that in certain lights they look almost red. Check this post from my previous blog at for earlier versions of  my edible landscape and to see pics of the first year that Joan’s poppies bloomed in my front yard garden.

Here’s a backyard garden scene that includes a variety of leaf lettuces, spinach, larkspur (which has reseeded itself with wild abandon all over my entire garden), and fennel bulb:

Here’s one of my favorite drama queen greens: Red Giant mustard. This easy to grow mustard green adds  a bold and beautiful splash of purple to the winter and spring garden and an eye-opening wasabi like bite when used raw in a slaw or sandwich. Or try  the raw leaves as a wrap for sauteed pork or tofu.

And here’s a good reason to let at least some of your open pollinated greens set seed before you send them off to the compost pile.  These little romaine style lettuces (which popped up from seed thrown off by last spring’s bed of Parris Cos) have proven tough enough to bounce back from the occasional crunch of the mailman’s boot and tasty enough to star in many of my favorite dinner salads.

A final note: As my garden bursts into spring I am reminded that nothing, not the hard droughty times or the lush green times,  is set in stone.  For that matter, not even stone is set in stone. But on this day, in this moment, my garden is vibrant and hopeful. And I am too.

Happy spring and happy gardening! And come back soon because I have more pictures to post of my everchanging edible landscape.