You Can Take the Girl Out of the Garden…

Mountain laurel bloom | Fraudulent Farmgirl

I spent the weekend visiting my parents in their newly acquired San Antonio, Texas, condo. As a zone 6a gardener, I was thrilled to leave behind crappy, rainy Indiana March weather for the balmy blue skies of zone 8b San Antone.

We took advantage of the gorgeous weather on day 1 to head downtown — lunch at the incredible La Gloria, a river taxi through the heart of the city, and a visit to The Alamo.

You know The Alamo, right? Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie (the knife guy) died there, defending it during the Texas Revolution in 1836.

Coincidentally, we arrived on the day they were preparing for a big reenactment. There were costumed reenactors (in wool in 80 degree weather, that is dedication) and campsites and all sorts of living history things going on.

Alamo | Fraudulent Farmgirl
The Alamo, an important historical site, and something other people take pictures of.

Normally I’m all over that sort of thing, but something else had caught my attention.  “Remember the Alam—ooh, what’s that tree?”

Mountain laurel tree | Fraudulent Farmgirl
What I take pictures of, even at The Alamo.

This tree was in bloom everywhere in San Antonio, and I was on a mission to figure out what it was (without a phone app, which would totally have been cheating). My monolog to my very-patient-but-not-really-plant-people parents was something like:

“Well, it’s a bit like wisteria, but wisteria’s a vine, not a tree. The leaves and flowers are definitely pea-like. What else is in the pea family? Some kind of giant Baptisia, maybe? No, that’s ridiculous, Baptisia is a perennial.”

Texas mountain laurel bloom | Fraudulent Farmgirl
As you can see, the flower is like that of a pea. I’m a professional, people.

And on and on.

We wandered the whole site, admiring the tents and costumes and the blooming trees (“What the hell is that tree?”) when, at last:

Mezcal Bean tree sign | Fraudulent Farmgirl
“Watson! The game is afoot!”

Look! It’s actually labeled! I immediately looked up Sophora secundiflora to learn that this is, in fact, the Texas mountain laurel. (Although in no way connected to the manufacture of liquor, despite its alternative common name “mezcal bean.”) It is a member of the Fabaceae (pea) family, so I get points for that.

Southern gardeners are probably like, “Of course that’s a Texas mountain laurel; they’re as common as dirt. Bless your heart, are you sure you’re a professional gardener?”

But that’s the thing about garden tourism outside your zone. In the central Midwest, I am a veritable plant encyclopedia. Drop me down in an unfamiliar zone, and I’m lucky to recognize a third of what I see.

Also at the Alamo, I stopped to admire this giant:

Quercus virginiana, a REALLY BIG live oak tree.
Quercus virginiana, a REALLY BIG live oak tree.

That is a big-ass Quercus virginiana, the live oak tree. This particular specimen was transplanted to the site in 1912, when the tree was already 40 years old. (Old trees are notoriously tricky to transplant). This thing is so big that it literally has metal posts positioned under some of the branches to take weight off the join of the limb and the trunk.

It’s fantastic.

So for non-gardeners, a travel tip:  If you are scheduled to travel with a gardener,  get yourself an iPod. At least then you won’t have to listen to your companion try to figure out What the the hell is that tree? while you’re trying to soak up some culture.

The $4 Entry Table (or, Fewer Legs = More Space)

I have this fantasy of the perfect entry. I’ll enter to wonderful light, with the fragrance of lavender surrounding me from the vase of flowers on the entry table. I’ll hang my keys on the provided rack, hang up my coat, sort the mail immediately, and enter a room that’s clutter free.

Leaving aside the fact that any vase of flowers is unlikely to survive a house with three cats, this vision is doubtful in the 4′ x 5′ space that serves as the entry to my 1938 cottage. Still, in my on-going quest to improve the entry, I added a table. Continue reading →

Fraudulent Farmstead Garden Roundup, February 22, 2016

Espalier | Fraudulent Farmgirl

Helen Yoest over at Gardening with Confidence does a weekly roll call on her blog, recapping what she’s done each week. It’s a genius idea, especially for those of us who seem genetically unable to stick with a garden journal for more than a month.

So I’m steal…um, borrowing this idea from her in an effort to keep myself honest in the garden.

Continue reading →