Plant a tree for Tom Spencer

April 29, 2020

Were it not for Tom Spencer, longtime host of Austin-based PBS television show Central Texas Gardener, public speaker, and environmental advocate, I may never have fallen in love with agaves, planted my first whale’s tongue agave, or known and shared the joy of Moby. Tom planted lots of agaves and showed off their spiky, muscular beauty on his groundbreaking blog Soul of the Garden (no longer online), and my eyes were opened.

Tom Spencer in 2008

Were it not for Tom, I may never have begun blogging. Back in 2005, I awaited each new blog post from Soul of the Garden, drinking in his gorgeous photos and thoughtful musings about gardening, and absorbing design lessons as he created his dream garden. Wanting to join the conversation begun by early garden blogs like Tom’s, I launched Digging in 2006.

Were it not for Tom, I might not have begun designing gardens, starting with my own and eventually making a career of it for about 7 years. As a stay-at-home mom who’d stepped back from editorial work in publishing, I surprised myself by falling in love with gardening and then design, inspired by Tom’s own

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6 Best Self-Cleaning Litter Boxes of 2020


Having a feline companion can be a truly wonderful experience. Cats are truly the best pets – cuddly, affectionate, goofy and mysterious. Whether they are large breeds or small, their antics will soon have you giggling (or cursing!). But as wonderful as these fur babies can be, cleaning your cat’s litter box is never a fun task. And leaving it unattended is unhealthy for your kitty – and for yourself.

Thankfully, in this age of technology, there are now litter boxes that offer high tech solutions to handling this unpleasant chore. Automatic self-cleaning litter boxes detect when your cat has used them and do the cleaning for you — eliminating the need for daily scooping. If this is one of your most-hated chores, or it’s something you simply don’t have enough time for, automatic litter boxes can be well worth the money.

To find the best self-cleaning litter boxes, we ran tests in our Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab for set-up, easy clean-up and clump removal. We also interviewed cat owners who currently use self-cleaning litter boxes, researched their favorites, and cross-checked online reviews of the most popular choices.

Here are the self-cleaning litter boxes that the Good Housekeeping

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Wild kingdom in the backyard

April 28, 2020

Texas spiny lizards tend to be skittish, scuttling under the car or a potted plant when you walk by. But one very laid-back lizard has taken up residence on the shady upper patio in recent weeks. It calmly eyes me and holds its ground, even when I’m dragging a hose around. It has even allowed a few close-up paparazzi pictures. That wrinkly face!

Its scaly coloring is lovely, isn’t it? It’s meant for camouflage against tree bark rather than hose-cart tires. Texas spiny lizards are Southwest-native arboreal lizards that also enjoy nosing around in leaf litter and basking in the sun. They eat plenty of bugs, so I’m a fan.

Another bug hunter in my garden is the green anole, a favorite of children and wildlife observers because of its ability to change color from green to brown and its placid temperament. It’ll cock its head and watch you brightly as it sunbathes on a fence or leaf, seemingly unafraid. I spotted this one eating a sphinx moth and still have no idea how he managed to choke it down.

Red admiral butterflies have been sipping nectar from tall verbena (V. bonariensis) in the Circle

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13 Best Chalk Art Ideas

Creating art with sidewalk chalk is a timeless tradition; even in the age of screens and so many other high-tech distractions, chalk art remains a family-favorite activity. That’s not to say it hasn’t evolved beyond stick figures and hopscotch. In fact, bloggers have come up with scores of inventive of ideas for taking chalk art to the next level — even in out-of-season conditions. Think innovative drawing and painting techniques, educational games and activities, inspirational messages, and of course incredible photo backdrops. (Pics or it didn’t happen, right?) Consider these chalk art ideas for taking the fun to the next level — just right for amateur artists of all ages.

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Last hurrah of the poppies

April 27, 2020

My seed-grown ‘Lauren’s Grape’ poppies debuted a week ago, to my delight. In my first blog post about them, I hoped temperatures would remain mild to keep the flowers going. Instead Austin hit a record high of 98 F! Still, the poppies kept popping.

I babied them, giving them a drink every other morning. I don’t actually know how thirsty they are, but with near-100-degree temps and several windy days, I didn’t want to take any chances.

Lovely April weather, warm but with low humidity, returned last weekend as the poppies finished up their show.

Let’s revel in poppy goodness!

The bees like them too.

I adore those crinkly, seafoam-green leaves too, although the bottom leaves get ratty and wilted. Let’s avoid that view.

The poppy is as attractive when it goes to seed as when it flowers, in my opinion.

I look forward to seeing more of the round, capped seedheads as grapey petals fall.

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