|"The Force is found in all living things...."
|Page last updated: 20 August 2008|
Teal Creek Cattery
|I started growing my herb garden in Spring 2004, with only Basil, Parsley, and Dill. Since then, it has waxed and waned considerably, dependent on the heat of South Texas. Here I will display my garden triumphs, as well as my failures. Note that I won't show pics of the failures (after all, who wants to see dead plants?). I'll just make a notation of their demise. If you can get the "death" plants to grow outdoors, please let me know what you're feeding them.....I'd love to find out how to keep them alive in this God-awful South Texas heat!|
|Update for September 2006
All of my Chile pepper plants have finally begun to sprout chiles! Most are small right now, though they should grow pretty quickly throughout this month until around the beginning of November.
TX Lottery Commission
TX Parks & Wildlife
Montgomery GI Bill
NOAA Weather Service
|"Big Red" Chile Hybrid
A hybrid from Burpee.com, they are mild but enormous, growing between 9" - 12" in length. Full grown, they resemble gigantic cayenne peppers, but without the heat.
|"False Alarm" Jalapeno Hybrid
Another from Burpee.com, these hybrid jalapenos have all the flavor but virtually none of the heat of traditional jalapenos. Perfect for people who can't take the heat anymore (Julie, haha).
|"Golden Giant II" Bell Pepper
A gorgeous yellow bell pepper hybrid available from Burpee.com. At 7" long and 5" wide, these Bells are juicy and delicious, perfect for sizzling up with sausages, or sauteed with shaved beef for sandwiches.
ACM at UTPA
South Texas Book & Supply
Turabian Citation Guide
Final Exam Schedule
The traditional jalapeno rates between 35,000 - 75,000 on the Scoville heat scale. Excellect for adding some heat to Mexican salsas.
|"Prairie Fire" Piquin
About 4 times larger than a typical chile piquin, but with all the heat. Grows to about 1" long.
|"Salsa Delight" Hybrid Chile
Yet another exclusive to Burpee.com, these mild, long and thin peppers are great for salsas. These were the first of my plants to produce chiles, and have been going strong since early July.
|"Super" Hybrid Piquin Chile
Similar to the Prairie Fire, but with even more heat! They're only about 1" long, but close to heat of a Habanero.
The Indian Cook
Chile Pepper Institute
Linus Pauling Institute
|"Thai Dragon" Hybrid Thai Chile
Twice as hot as traditional Thai chiles, and five times hotter than Jalapenos. Ouch!
One of the many "Mushroom" or "Bell" shaped varieties of Habanero, these are only slightly milder than a traditional "Lantern" shaped red Habanero. Still, they rate around 300,000 on the Scoville heat scale. Wear rubber gloves when handling!
Cheat Code Central
|Royal Ponciana - Tree
Several houses in the area have these beautiful trees in their yards. They provide excellent shade, do well in full sun, and produce astounding orange blooms. Aunt Von collected some seed pods for me, and I've been lucky to have four of them sprout already. When they're large enough, I'll plant them in the yard somewhere.
|More Pests - White Flies
This year brought another pest to ransack my garden--white flies. These tiny buggers show up in dry years, and typically ravage cotton....but when that runs out, they head for gardens. They wiped out my Cherry Tomato and Tomatillo plants, before they could even produce a single fruit.
|Update for Summer 2006 - Katy, TX
Here are some shots of Mother & Randy's Garden in their front yard. Their old Ash tree finally kicked the bucket, and they decided to re-vamp the landscaping in Spring 2006. They've done a great job, and have gotten compliments from the neighbors as well.
|Katy TX: "Full Frontal" View
Two great shots of the front yard garden, in overcast and full-sun skies.....July 2006.
|Katy TX: Entranceway
Near the front door, beside the antique bench, are several prolific plants: first is a shot of the hypoestes (Polka-Dots), Caladium, and Big Blue Lily Turf. Second is a shot of the Lily Turf, and the third shot is a close-up of the blooms from the "Big Blue" Lily Turf.
|Katy TX: Various Ornamentals
"Front Left Center" sits the Blue Daze variety of evolvulus, which blooms every morning thru afternoon, just the same as the Mexican Petunias nearby. In the near-middle, on both sides of the garden, are two small Swedish Ivy plants, called "Mona Lavender." Nearly in the center, towards the back, are four Crotons. One was purchased at a local (Katy TX) nursery, and the others were "rescued" from Mother's office building, where they surely would have died had it not been for her "adoption" of them. Exactly in the center are two "Peter Pan" Lilies, but I don't have good photos because their blooms were knocked off by high rains just a few days before I arrived in Houston. However, I do have two great shots of the "lite" colored Lily Turfs sitting center-stage in the garden....one shot is a really nice close-up of its blooms. Off to the right are a couple of young, healthy Sago palms, and behind them sit a couple of Calla Lily's. Unfortunately, Mother says that the Callas aren't doing so well, and will probably have to be replaced. Too bad, because their wide, thick leaves are a nice "tropical" addition to any garden. Still though, the wide color variety of coleuses make this garden a definite "must-see" if you happen to be in the area!
|"Blue Daze" Evolvulus|
|Mexican Petunias: Violet, Pink, and White|
|Swedish Ivy, "Mona Lavender"|
|"Lite" Lily Turf, and its blooms|
|"Peter Pan" Lily|
|Sago Palms (foreground) and
Calla Lillies (background)
|Katy TX: Coleus
Here are the Coleus plants that Mother
and Randy have planted. I learned from
the Burpee.com website that coleuses
are named for the innermost color of
their leaves, and there are MANY different varieties. When they bought the plants at a local nursery, most of them didn't have
names, so I've decided to dub them
|On the first row are "Magenta" Coleus
Second row: "Butter" Coleus
Third row: these have official names, they're called "Black Dragon" Coleus
Fourth row: "Lime" Coleus
Fifth row: "Pink" Coleus
Sixth row: according to Burpee.com, these are called "Rose" Coleus
|This is my "Garden Cart" that I built myself, from leftover pieces of fences, plywood, and fence posts. It contains three separate areas of varying pot/container sizes, while still allowing a deep enough space per container to protect against winds. I use it to move container plants out into the sun for a few hours each day.|
|Every garden is subject to an onslaught of unwelcome guests. Here you can see one of such unwelcome guests, my cat, "Little." She seems to think that no matter where she goes, she is "queen" for the day!|
|Nematodes & Ladybugs
In addition to curious cats, gardens are hosts to truly damaging pests; the big ones on my list are aphids and leafminers. The aphids will destroy stems and blooms as they feed on the life-blood of plants--sap. And although leafminers are considered more of a cosmetic problem, they can be serious if there's a large infestation which causes all the leaves of a plant to fall off--thereby preventing the plant from feeding via photosynthesis (converting the sun's rays into energy). To combat these threats, this year I've enlisted the help of beneficial insects--my own army, if you will, of pest-consuming insects: Nematodes and Ladybugs. I ordered them at the same time and they arrived the same day; I released the ladybugs into the garden and yard immediately, but I'm waiting for the upcoming weekend to release the nematodes, which require plenty of water during application. Pictured here are the packages of the nematodes and several of the ladybugs after release. I wish I had thought to grab the camera while I was releasing the ladies--there were approximately 9,000 live adults in the bag, and they were crawling all over my arms as they were being released....it was ticklish and gross at the same time; it reminded me of the infamous "Insects-In-The-Corridor" scene from Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom, haha.
|"New Look" Celosia & "Yellow Dwarf" Marigolds
Figuring that the front yard could use a little more color, I decided to put in some flowers at the base of the little Arizona Ash tree that we planted two years ago. I usually grow plants from seeds, but since it was already April and I didn't want to coddle seedlings along in the front yard, I decided to just buy some small plants at a local nursery. I decided on deep reds complemented by bright yellows, and they needed to be full-sun flowers, because there is very little shade throughout the day under the little Ash tree. I picked up three "New Look" Celosias (with feathery red plumes) and six "Yellow Dwarf" Marigolds to place in between the Celosias. I just planted them three days ago, but they seem to be taking to their new home nicely.
|"Sweet Baby Girl" Cherry Tomatoes
In addition to the myriad of chile peppers I've planted this year (more on those later, as they get bigger), I've decided to try my hand at tomatoes. Since I prefer cherry tomatoes in salads, I decided to go with them, and this variety looked pretty good. After sowing their seeds in a special tomato/chile starting formula, the little plants are growing like crazy....soon I'll have to order some tomato cages to support them!!!
|"Christmas Cheer" Piquin
Here's a colorful one....the "Christmas Cheer" Piquin, a chile considered inedible (Not that I'm afraid of the heat--I happen to like Habaneros--but I am afraid of poisoning). According to a local nursery, it grows wild around central Mexico. I got this one from my Aunt Von, who's an avid gardener herself. The blooms are a beautiful violet shade, as are the chiles when young. As they age over a few weeks, they lose their pointed tip that is common to piquins, and become more rounded. After swelling to full size (about 1 cm diameter), they change color to a barely translucent lavender, then to yellow, orange, and finally, red. The Christmas Cheer, like Chile Piquins, does well in full sun or partly shaded areas, with little water. Keep them protected from cold weather....above 50 F is good.
|"California Wonder" Bell Pepper
This is my most regularly used crop, because everything tastes better with a Bell Pepper! Did you know that Red Bell Peppers have three times the amount of Vitamin C as an orange? THREE TIMES!!! In case you're new to the Chile Pepper world, Red Bell Peppers, usually more expensive at the grocery, are just fully matured green bell peppers. The Yellow and Orange bell peppers are some kind of hybrid, I'm not sure which. The green bell peppers, after growing to full size, turn a brownish-red, which doesn't look very appetizing, but wait another week or two and you'll have glorious, bright red bell peppers! These do well in full sun or part shade, although full sunlight will speed the ripening process (which could be good or bad, depending on how you want them).
Literally meaning "little chile," the chile piquin is very common around the world. You can find it throughout the Southwestern United States, Central America, South America, Africa, and parts of Asia. Its heat-to-size ratio is tremendous, topping the Jalapeno on the Scoville heat scale. Very often used in fresh salsa, it can be found in many Mexican-American back yards, and it's a key ingredient in many hot sauces, such as "Cholula," which is my personal favorite. I like to throw a few of these into a pot of steaming vegetables to add some spice. Dropping only four of these tiny chiles into a pot of six cut-up carrots in water will add a nice, comfortable spice to an otherwise bland side-dish. The plant does very well in full sun with very little water.
|Orange "Lantern" Habanero
The hottest of all chiles, the Habanero comes in a variety of shapes and colors; the most predominant ones found at grocery stores are the orange and red "lantern" varieties, so called because of their shape. There are also green, brown, and yellow varieties, as well as "mushroom" shaped habaneros. I acquired a Yellow Mushroom Habanero from a friend, and plan to sow its seeds this spring. Out of the five habanero plants that I grew here, only one produced a chile....and it was the ONLY chile. Apparently the aphids of South Texas really, REALLY like Habanero plants, because I couldn't get rid of the little bastards....they ate up all the fertilized blooms which would have grown into chiles. This year, I'm going to try my hand at a variety of pesticides!! MUUAAHAHAHA!!!!
|"Queen Sophia" Marigold
So far it looks as though 2006 is the year for Marigolds. In addition to the Yellow Dwarfs mentioned above, the Queen Sophias are starting off nicely. Contrasting to last year's plants, this year they're small, but with many flowering blooms. In 2005 the plants grew fast and big, but only one bloom developed, and it never flowered. Pictured here is a miniature chronological photo-story of a Queen Sophia flower's growth over several days.
This was my first attempt at growing flowers, as opposed to herbs and vegetables, and it was looking promising--until the summer heat kicked in. By May of 2005, these poor little plants crumbled in the heat, practically before I could get them in the house! But it was too late--the damage had been done, and they died a sad death. This year I'll bring them in the house by April (depending on the weather). They do grow very fast, so I'm hoping this time around I'll actually have some nice pictures to post....looking at the picture on the seed package, these are truly some magnificent flowers.
On a whim, I bought some Watercress seeds and decided to give them a try. I've noticed that Watercress is one of the eight herbs used in "V8" juice, which I love; and since you'd be hard-pressed to find it fresh at a grocery in South Texas, I figured I'd grow it myself. My Dad said it grows wild in cold spring branches (creeks) in Missouri, where he was born; and that his grandfather, Gordon James, used to eat it in sandwiches in lieu of lettuce. It has a mild peppery flavor to it, like cracked pink peppercorns (if you've ever had them). Add some to a salad to "kick it up a notch," as Emeril says. The plant itself really does love cold water....when watering, I added ice cold water to the soil and drip dish simultaneously, everyday. It does well in shaded areas, protected from full sunlight, but once the heat of May comes around, you'd better harvest it or bring it inside, otherwise it'll go to waste.
|"Sweet Italian" Basil
It's kind of strange that I grow this, because I really don't care for fresh Basil....I think the weedy taste of it is too strong, and I don't particularly care for Pesto Sauce, even though the garlic tones down the fresh basil. But I like the milder flavor that dried basil imparts to Marinara Sauce, so that's why I grow it and dry it myself. It's another of the "quick growth" plants in my garden, and one of the longest lived, too. It can take heat, cold, rain, or drought, and still march forward like a Roman Centurion. Just be sure to clip off the flowery shoots....otherwise the plant will "mature" to its death. If you clip them off regularly, you can sustain the usefulness of this herb for many years. These particular plants (there are three of them in one pot) are now three years old, the oldest in my garden.
Definitely one for a spot in full sun, this herb does great on its own, with very little water and virtually no care. The key ingredient to "Poultry Seasoning," it adds a nice woodsy-smoky flavor to chicken, turkey, quail, and pheasant. It also happens to be the main flavor ingredient in stuffing (or dressing, depending on what you call it). In addition to enhancing fowl, it can be used with veal scaloppini and prosciutto to make "Saltimbocca," a favorite Italian dish which translates to "jump into your mouth."
|"Sweet" Summer Savory
Don't let the name of this one fool you--it doesn't do well in South Texas summer heat. Maybe up north, but not here. It grew well in the spring, but once May came around it pooped out. Up until then, it was a quick grower, and shed its "baby leaves" quickly. Summer Savory is a great herb to add to roasts, especially beef and pork. Sprinkle some dried savory leaves on your next beef chuck roast or pork tenderloin roast, and you'll be a happy camper. Or add it to a nice stew in a crock pot....you'll always get great results. As far as vegetables go, I think it's a little too bitter....unless you're adding it to mushrooms. If the mushrooms you're cooking have too much of a woodsy flavor, savory will cut it a bit. But if mushrooms are your game, you'd proabably get best results using epazote as your herbal additive.
One of my favorite herbs, used in salsas and salad dressings (here, anyway). Also a common herb in Indian and Asian cuisines. It's funny, this plant typically grows very well here, although the big fields of it are in California. But the seeds I planted just didn't want to get any bigger than 3" high, and then the heat killed them. This year I'm moving them inside, provided I can find a place where the cats won't disturb the plants!
|"Long Island Mammoth" Dill
Typically used as the chief ingredient that gives pickles their "zing," I actually use it in omellettes and scrambled eggs. Sometimes I also make cream cheese tortilla wraps, and add dill to the finely chopped vegetables (usually onion, bell pepper, pimiento, and black olives). In 2004, I had a great dill plant that got about 2 feet tall, but died in a fencing accident. No, not swords, but fence boards that fell on it while I helped Dad rebuild the backyard fence. Last year, the first heat wave got to these three. Another plant to move indoors here, but that's a problem....they love the sun! Maybe I'll invest in a UV lamp for the indoor sun-worshippers.
Its closest cousin being Oregano, this savory herb is best used with roasts. This little plant didn't like the heat at all, and quickly died. Another one for the window ledge!
|"Dark Moss" Curly-Leaf Parsley
This one I "harvest" more often than the Bell Peppers! Parsley is an herb used to flavor an impossible-to-count number of savory dishes; but always use fresh parsley. Dried parsley has lost virtually all of its flavor, so why bother? It's a biannual, so don't expect to see it live past two years; once its little blue flowers sprout, the parsley is history. This particular plant lasted nearly two years, but the immense summer heat in 2005 killed it.
I usually grow my herbs from seeds, but I bought this rosemary plant at a nursery when it was about 6" tall. It doubled in size within a few weeks, so I re-potted it in a larger container, and it's now nearly 2 feet tall! It does very well in full sun or part shade, with very little water. I prefer to use it fresh, to make "Rosemary Chicken," but it's gotten so big that I need to clip it and dry it.
Usually used in desserts, which I don't often make, I bought this because it keeps garden pests away. Unfortunately, I sowed it too late, and it never really grew. It just sprouted, then quickly died. This year I'll sow it in late January, then move it inside around March or April.
A great flavoring complement to vegetables and meats, I was hoping to use this one the most....but alas, it never got any bigger than this! Window Ledge Time!
|Trees: Arizona Ash (2) and Valley Lemon
We had a huge cottonwood tree in the front yard that died about 5 years ago, so Dad decided it was time to plant another one, to provide the grass with shaded protection from the scorching sun. In late spring 2004, we planted an Arizona Ash sapling, and it's done very well. In response, we planted another one, in spring 2005, in the back yard where a Chinese Tallow used to be (died about 15 years ago). In addition, we planted a Valley Lemon sapling in the back yard.
|Front Yard Flowers
Here are several flowers growing near the entranceway to our house. The first is a type of White Carnation planted a few years ago; next are the red blooms of Colanches that have been here since we bought the house in 1985; third is one of many, many Mexican petunias that grow right near the front door; fourth is an unknown, probably came from bird droppings (eww!); the fifth is the beautiful white flower from a wispy plant and neither I, Dad, nor Julie can remember the name of; same goes for the last one, a yellow flower from a hanging plant we've had since we bought the house....we just don't remember what it is!
|More Curiosities, in Edinburg TX, near the Black River in Arizona, and near the Nueces River in Texas
The first two are pictures of a bizarre cactus growing at "The Bridges," an assisted-living facility where my grandmother Amim lives. This is definitely some kind of aloe, either aloe microsiphon or aloe wildii, judging from photos I've seen at the Aloe Studies website. The next two come from the Black River area in Arizona, about 25 miles outside of Alpine AZ. The first is a nice shot of a Claret Cup Hedgehog cactus (I know this because I emailed the photo to a professor running a cactus-lovers website, but I forgot the website name). The second is a strange pine tree that somehow grew a loop in its trunk. My Dad and I use this tree as a marker so we remember where to climb down into the canyon to fish on the Black River. The last two come from another fishing trip, on the Nueces River in TX. The first is a neat flowering seed bulb of a sycamore tree; they grow all up and down the river. The second is a pretty yellow-and-red flower that I have no idea what its name is, but thought it might make a nice photo. These also are plentiful up and down the Nueces River.
|The Nueces River Motel
When Dad and I take a fishing trip to Arizona, we set up camp and sleep in the woods....but when we're on the Nueces River in Texas, we stay nights at the Nueces River Motel in Barksdale, TX. It's owned and operated by Gerry Clark, a really nice lady who loves to fish herself (she's got a huge stuffed bass hanging on the wall). The rooms are nice and quiet (no TV, haha), and we always get one with a kitchenette, so we can cook our own meals. Outside, Gerry has a very well-kept garden, full of various flowers, ferns, and shrubs. Here are a few of them that I shot in June 2005. Pictured are a foxglove, celosia, a couple petunias, and a purple salvia.
|"....and the sea shall grant each man new hope, as sleep brings dreams of home...."