The Daily Muse

Thoughts from an Austin Garden  -- April 2007


Last update: April 29


Images from Japan (starting on April 24!)


April 4 - morning


A chapel on the grounds of the American Rose Center in Shreveport, Louisiana.


I just returned from a trip to Louisiana and East Texas where I delivered two talks. I'd like to express my sincere gratitude to my hosts in Shreveport and Nacogdoches for their hospitality and warmth. The gardens in that region were all in full flower, and as you can imagine, I went a little bit crazy taking photographs. I'll fill in with more details about the trip when time allows, but in the meantime enjoy the pictures!


A dogwood tree in full bloom on the grounds of the American Rose Center.



Church Street in Natchitoches, Louisiana - an incredibly charming town filled with reminders of the French colonial era and the region's distinctive Creole culture. This is the view from the balcony of the Church Street Inn where I stayed.



The same balcony viewed from the street.



The "American" cemetery in Natchitoches. A very evocative and beautiful place.



A tombstone from the 1850's.



Immaculate Conception Church in Natchitoches.




A wider view.


An interior stairwell.



Stained glass.


Typical architecture in the historic downtown.




A historic cottage on the river front in Natchitoches. Note the distinctive Creole - African architecture.



Cane River Lake - Natchitoches.



The National Park service has acquired several old plantation homes south of Natchitoches as a part of the Cane River Historic Park. This is the front porch of Oakland.



The Oakland plantation has the most complete set of plantation buildings in the South.



A vignette from the Oakland plantation store.



A statue in the San Augustine parish church cemetery.




Melrose plantation - a facinating destination with an incredible history.



A wider view.



Africa house - one of the most distinctive buildings in America - at Melrose.



Wildflowers (with the charming name of scurvy pea) in East Texas - taken during a plant expedition with my friend Greg Grant - thanks Greg!



Greg is an amazing gardener and garden scholar - this is one of his introductions, Blazing Stars columbine.



A quiet stream at Greg's family farm in Arcadia, Texas.



Japanese maple and azaleas at the Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden in Nacogdoches, Texas. An wonderful destination - among the best public gardens in Texas.



Follks out enjoying the Mize azalea garden.


The Mize garden has an incredible collection of azaleas, Japanese maples, magnolias, and more.




Another visitor.


I loved the combinations of maple foliage and azalea blooms!



A rare yellow flowered deciduous magnolia.


An East Texas scene.


More pics and info soon!


April 5 - morning


A scene at Naconiche Gardens in Nacogdoches with a sulphur yellow honeysuckle. This is one of the best nurseries in the state.


I am still sorting through all of the wonderful garden scenes that I photographed in East Texas and Louisiana last week. As I do so, I continue to be struck by what the folks in Nacogdoches have achieved at the  Stephen F. Austin State University Mast Arboretum and the Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden. They are putting East Texas on the national (and international) gardening map. What is even more impressive is their commitment to expand the scope of their activities and their public gardens. The Piney Woods Native Plant Center, which is just a few blocks away from the Arboretum, is destined to become the East Texas equivalent of the Lady  Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. There are also plans to expand the azalea gardens in a site that would be perfect for them. I certainly wish them well - as they say here in Texas, "Who'd a thunk it?" East Texas becomes a major tourist destination (for something other than bass fishing!) Again, I'd like to thank my hosts Dave Creech, Greg Grant, Barbara Stump, Elyce Rodewald, and Barbara Wagner.


Continuing with that theme - I'd also like to say a word about my experience in Shreveport. I don't think I have ever spoken to a more receptive audience. The theme of my talk was about the gifts of gardening as as spiritual practice and I could see that many of the people who attended "got it." It was a lovely and gracious crowd. So, thanks to you as well!


A scene from the Mize Azalea Garden.



The color combinations were stunning.




I believe this is one of the native azaleas - I love the form and the color.




The native azaleas have a very oriental quality to them.




Speaking of oriental qualities...




The gardens were inspiring a lot of folks!




A rare bird's foot violet from my expedition with Greg Grant.




Dogwoods at the American Rose Center in Shreveport. I missed the roses by about 10 days. They should be blooming by this weekend.




Bluebonnets in Louisiana! (American Rose Center)




One of my favorite trees - River Birch (in Shreveport.)



Natchitoches moon.


Dew soaked web.


April 6 - morning


Another view of the Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden.


OK - so I couldn't resist adding a few more pictures!



A former home in the historic district in Natchitoches (now an office I believe.)



From the San Augustine Parish Cemetery.



This is 'Cherokee' another of the Cane River Plantations (and a private residence.)



Another view.



So, for those of you who don't know Greg Grant... let's just say he has an active imagination. This is his "dinosaur tree."


April 9 - morning


Well, we dodged an icy bullet this past weekend, but I am afraid many of our neighbors did not. A strong cold front came through - one of the latest on record, and dropped the temperatures to just above freezing. The front was accompanied by heavy rains mixed with sleet here, and snow just a few miles north of us. Our garden came through unscathed, just a few of our tropical salvias wilted, but I am sure that folks in the Hill Country to our west, including the peach farmers and grape growers, were hit very hard. Of course, we chose Saturday for our big annual garden party. The bravest of our guests ventured out into the garden bundled up in their coats and carrying umbrellas. Next year, I think we'll wait a week or two later!


We completed the latest - and most outrageous of our new planting beds recently and we chose an appropriate color scheme - icy blue. Here it is...


Those are Agave parryi truncata. The small tree is a Texas persimmon. And the mulch is recycled blue and gray glass (courtesy of Rusty Mase.) Thanks Rusty!



A wider view.



My Mom and Dad were among our visitors. Here they are pretending that they aren't freezing. They'll celebrate their 54th wedding anniversary this week!



Another visitor.


April 11 - morning


Morning light on our new "blue lagoon" bed.


It is a splendid cool (thankfully not cold) Spring morning - absolutely glorious. The temperatures are supposed to rebound into the '80's today and tomorrow after our brief wintry spell. I just completed a stroll through the garden where the promise of this most generous season seems overwhelming. The wet weather followed by the sun is bound to bring another round of growth and blooms. Get out there - enjoy it - the blooms will fall too soon.


The wind drops, but the flowers still fall;

A bird sings, and the mountains holds yet more

mystery.  - Zen koan


Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!


Agave parryi truncata.



Bluebonnets in our labyrinth with Anacacho orchid tree.


April 24 - morning


The rock garden at Ryoan-ji in Kyoto.


I am a bit exhausted and exhilirated - we returned from a long visit to Japan yesterday evening. It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life and I will be uploading images of the many gardens and temples that we visited as quickly as I can. I'll start this morning with one of the highlights of the trip - the magical Zen gardens of Ryoan-ji in the beautiful city of Kyoto. Ryoan-ji is one of the most celebrated gardens in the world and with good cause. We managed to be the among the first visitors through the gates on the day we visited and were rewarded with a few quiet moments before the tour buses started pulling in. We shared the famous rock garden with only a handful of other pilgrims. Everyone was silent and reverential. A few folks were simply meditating - which is of course, why the garden was created. This experience was, quite literally, a dream come true for me and I was profoundly moved.  Just thinking about it this morning has caused me to feel an intense sense of peace and  gratitude. I hope my pictures will have the same impact on you.


I will be creating a special section on my website dedicated to the gardens of Japan soon, so be on the look-out.


On other fronts, Soul of the Garden has been nominated as the Gardening Website of the Year! You can vote for my website at the  following address: While you are voting for me, be sure to cast your ballots for "Digging" the superb website of my fellow Austinite, Pamela Penick. Thanks!



A wide shot of the rock garden. The cherry trees at Ryoan-ji were at their height.



My favorite picture of the rock garden.



One of the rock "islands."



One of the happiest memories of my life.



Another wide view.



A detail shot showing a rain chain and some of the border.



A different angle.



And one more.



An abstract compostion plucked from an abstract compostion.


In the gardens of Ryoan-ji.


Cherry tree at Ryoan-ji.


More soon! In fact, probably later today!


April 25 - morning


Cherry blossoms at Ryoan-ji.


Thunder storms rumbled through the city last night interrupting a dream I was having about our visit to Japan. I had to fight the temptation to get up and continue the work of editing photographs for the website, but thankfully, exhaustion and common sense prevailed. It will take me several weeks to go through the 1,200 images that I took and organize them.


Yesterday, among my many post-trip activities, I took the time to do a little emergency yard work and gardening. It was wonderful to come back to my own space - even after visiting so many spectacular gardens. Our amaryllis are all blooming, as are our dianthus, damianita, roses, lavender, and more. It was a real treat seeing the bounty of this still spectacular spring. Victor and I were inspired by what we saw in Japan and are now determined to create a few more Japanese elements into our very European garden lay-out.   So, in addition to editing images, I will be spending a little time rearranging a few things in the garden.


In the meantime, here are a few more images to inspire you!


This is the famous Golden Pavillion of Kinkaku-ji, just a short distance from Ryoan-ji in Kyoto.



The centerpiece of the Kinkaku-ji garden is its pond rimmed by exquisitely pruned pine trees and perfectly placed stones.



Another view.



The island motif is extremely important in Japanese gardens from the moss and rock "islands" of Ryoan-ji to the picture-perfect archipelago of Kinkaku-ji.



Just to the south-east of Kinkaku-ji is the vast Buddhist temple complex of Daitoku-ji - home to many subtemples and dozens of gardens. Each subtemple is entered through a gate. To enter this one you pass the magnificently pruned pine to the left.



Speaking of trimmed pines... the poles are to support the elongated branches.



This is one of the rock gardens of Ryogen-in, one of the subtemples of the Daitoku-ji complex.



Waves crashing against the shore.



Another view.



A pathway with a bamboo "barrier" requesting that you not enter at Daitokufu-ji.



There is a lot of geometry used in Japanese gardens - to lead the eye or perhaps, conceal a view. (Daitokufu-ji.)



A new fern frond growing up through the moss and cherry blossom petals. (Ryoan-ji.)


April 26 - morning


I can't tell you what a joy it has been going through my pictures of Japan - so many fine memories, so much inspiration! I am still a few days away from launching the new section of my website that will be dedicated to Japanese gardens, but in the meantime here are a few more images to keep your appetite whetted...


In western Kyoto the rooftops of Tenryu-ji - home to a fabulous pond and azalea garden.



Tofuku-ji - a relatively modern take on Japanese traditions that had a huge influence on our new patio. A favorite!






























The gorgeous tunnel of red tori gates at Fushimi-Iniri shrine (eastern Kyoto.)



A street scene from Kyoto - a cat "jizo."



April 26 - evening


A cherry blossom blizzard in Tokyo.


It is late in the evening and I guess the jet lag is still hanging around- my body just doesn't want to go to sleep. I have been thinking about the sounds of the temples in Japan - the padding of stocking covered feet on ancient wooden floors, the clanging of temple bells, and the chanting of the Buddhist monks. But above all else, I remember the song of the cuckoos that seemed to populate every remote garden, park,  and cemetery. There are several species native to Japan, but it is the song of the short-winged or Indian cuckoo, that catches your attention. If you'd like to hear the signature sound of the temples of Kyoto, click here and then scroll down to "Indian Cuckoo."


Nanzen-ji, Kyoto.


Even in Kyoto --
hearing the cuckoo's cry --
I long for Kyoto

-Matsuo Basho


April 29 - evening


Ladle and basin at Tofuku-ji.


Just a quick announcement - the new section of my website featuring the gardens and temples of Japan is now under construction - click here to see "the work in progress."


Continue to May 2007


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