Another Garden

Cupcake and Ice Cream
Cupcake and Ice Cream


Another Garden

North Star

Castell, Texas 

Boots optional, but jeans required! 

Y’ALL COME! NORTH STAR, located approximately one and one-half hours from Austin between Llano and Mason in the TEXAS HILL COUNTRY, is owned by Pat and David but managed by a pet donkey named Cupcake and seven longhorns. The small ranch offers rest, relaxation, and respite from big city life.  No television, no internet service, but for those of us who must remain connected, iphones and Blackberries are allowed.  If the rains come, bounteous wildflowers and a wet weather creek greet visitors.  The Llano River, famous for fishing, kayaking, and swimming is a stone’s throw away.  Day trips can easily be made to several wineries, Fredericksburg, Enchanted Rock State Park, the LBJ Ranch, Stonewall and Johnson City, Horseshoe Bay Resort, the Highland Lakes chain, and Marble Falls. Best of all, Llano boasts having some of the best barbecue in the world.

The family weekend compound on thirty acres consists of the two story main cabin and a bunkhouse.  The wrap-around porch is everyone’s favorite spot for dining al fresco, enjoying the breeze, watching the birds, admiring the burnt orange sunset, and observing the stars at night.  The bunkhouse was built for the grandchildren and guests.  And the gardens….have been an entirely different experience in a different scale.

Our largest garden covers most of the acreage and is a veritable vegetable garden for the herd.  Over the last two years, we have experienced an extended and extreme drought, and our best gardening skill has been praying for rain.  The lack of rain and grass has encouraged us to open up the meadows by ridding them of the grass’s competition of water guzzling mesquite trees and space hogging prickly pear cactus. (While in North Carolina in June, I saw prickly pear pads in clay pots for sale for $18.00 each. We are spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars to destroy it. Come ‘n get it here for free!)  This particular garden task involves spraying poison and diesel fuel, waiting months, Bobcats knocking over dead trees, and huge burn piles.  Of course, when there’s a drought, there’s a burn ban in effect.  More waiting.

The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be.

Robert Fulghum, It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It
US author & Unitarian clergyman (1937 – )

Over the ten years that we have owned North Star, we have tried to be good stewards of the land by increasing the diversity of plants, shrubs, and trees.  The “tree score” is Mother Nature and the longhorns 8, Pat and David 2.  We’ve lost at least three burr oaks, many redbuds, and one desert willow. We have managed to protect a Vitex for two years, and a spring planted, medium sized desert willow hangs on. Our shrub and plant score is no better.  Even the invasive and native Turk’s cap and lantana have to be babied here, and then they are at risk of being part of Cupcake’s salad.


A sociable group
A sociable group

The narrow garden border surrounding the cabin is partially protected by a split rail fence because the herd still views it as part of their smorgasbord.  It, too, continues to be a trial in persistence.  The initial border was begun about eight years ago.  It too involved nagging David and an accomplice.  My dad and his wife Phyllis were visiting from Raleigh, and we convinced David that the garden would be totally my responsibility. Besides, a garden on the side would camouflage the air conditioning unit that the horns had dented as they played with it before its installation.  Gotcha again! We began by collecting rocks, not limestone here, but pink granite, white quartz, and sandstone, for the edging of the garden.  I used the hose to outline the garden’s shape, and walked off its depth, we stacked rocks, and the first border was finished.  Because I had success in Austin with daylilies, I ordered a collection of fifty.  The next time we came out, I brought out Jerusalem sage, coral yucca, rosemary, Muhlenbergia grass, and other sages I can’t even remember.

Over the next several years, I expanded the border to the other side of the house.  I planted Mealy Blue Sage (Salvia farinacea), more daylilies, Society Garlic, lantana,  Mexican marigold, wild foxglove (Penstemon cobaea), lavender, and iris transplanted from an abandoned homestead down the dirt road.  I also added a small patch of culinary herbs.  The garden suffered last summer, but these are hearty growers.  As our drought continues, we will see which are the true survivors.

Mealy Blue Sage
Mealy Blue Sage 

Wild foxglove, beardtongue
Wild foxglove, beardtongue



  1. Lyn Lasch said,

    June 23, 2009 at 1:00 PM

    What a jolly record of events, times passed, memories sealed. You are like the sister I always looked for in my life, and am discovering in the spaces of time. xoxolyn

  2. gardenfences said,

    June 24, 2009 at 3:06 PM

    Thanks, Lyn. You have the heart and soul of a gardener who has not yet found your external garden!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: