October 31st, 2016
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Zanthan Gardens meadow.
2008-02-04. Meadow in dry winter.

February 17th, 2012
Meadow: Dry Year vs Wet Year

Zanthan Gardens meadow20120210. Meadow in wet winter.

Compare these two views of the meadow, both taken in early February. In 2008, I transplanted larkspur in neat drifts and there were only a few clumps of cilantro among the clumps of dormant buffalograss.

In 2012, any real flowers are crushed under the weight of overgrown henbit and out-of-control cilantro, which is already about to bolt. There’s no larkspur at all here in the back meadow although it’s already blooming in the front yard.

Of course, I prefer the wet years. I just need to keep ahead of the weeds.

rose Mermaid
2012-02-15. Rose ‘Mermaid. Close up.

February 15th, 2012
GBBD 201202: February 2012

Carol at May Dreams Gardens invites us to tell her what’s blooming in our gardens on the 15th of each month.

February 15, 2012

Well. If winter is the only season left for Austinites to garden in (the rest of the year being too hot), I’m glad this winter has been wet and warm in contrast to last year’s horrible dry and cold winter. I only had four things blooming last February and one of them was henbit. Zanthan Gardens is overrun with henbit this year but a lot of other nicer things, too.

The plants are very confused, though. They went semi-dormant in 2011’s hot, dry summer and then started putting out growth the second it began raining. So, while this February had a very lacksluster showing of paperwhite narcissus and the daffodil, tulips, bluebells, and summer snowflakes have not yet appeared, it is filled with roses. Roses blooming and roses putting out new canes.

The first rose to bloom was the hot weather trooper, ‘Blush Noisette’.
rose Blush Noisette

Then ‘Mermaid’ started blooming. It usually is my last rose to flower. I think of it as a late May, early June rose. Mermaid has the biggest flowers, flat flowers the size of saucers. It’s also the thorniest rose I grow. ‘Mermaid’ is a monster of a rose and not one that’s easily tamed.
rose Mermaid

Typically my first rose of the year is my favorite ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’. I breathed a sigh of relief when it started putting out new canes. I was very close to losing it to cane dieback last fall. I cut back the bad canes and sprayed it with pruning paint. It did not look good. I’ve already lost half my roses to cane dieback so I was not optimistic. But it’s pulled through.
rose Souvenir de la Malmaison
‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ is one rose that doesn’t like wet weather. The flowers ball; that is, the outside petals of the blossoms stick together. I had about a dozen flowers that I had to peal the outside petals off of for them to open.
rose Souvenir de la Malmaison

The ‘New Dawn’ rose along the front fence is blooming. The one in the back yard is not yet. It is about the same color as ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ but with a much more modern flower shape.
rose New Dawn

Now for the flowers which are blooming in season. The Mexican plum started blooming last week and is just starting to fill out this week. In my mind, the Mexican plums are the first to bloom, followed by redbuds for Valentine’s day, and then Texas mountain laurels. The latter has been blooming all over my neighborhood and downtown for a week. I still haven’t spotted my first redbud for 2012.
Mexican Plum

Flowers in the tradescantia family will start blooming with any spring rain. I’ve had false dayflowers bloom in December but February and March is more usual. So far, I have only this one in flower but the yard is covered with plants about to bloom.
false dayflower
Ditto its perennial cousin, the spiderwort.
tradescantia

For some reason, the larkspur began blooming before the bluebonnets. Usually my bluebonnets are in full bloom by mid-March and the larkspur take over in mid April. Several larkspur are already blooming and a lot more are soon to follow. Not a single bluebonnet (and there are quite a few plants) has sent up a flower stalk yet.
larkspur

And then we have several flowers, like this salvia, that were blooming in fall, got some frost damage in December and died back slightly (but not all the way to the ground) and have made a comeback. Ruellia and lantana are also in this category.
Salvia madrensis

In the vegetable garden the English peas are in full bloom and we’ve been eating peas, too. We pick lettuce and swiss chard almost every day. And the carrots are producing baby carrots. I hope they get a little bigger. The rosemary is still full of flowers.

Henbit has been very invasive this year. It’s just beginning to fade but the chickweed and goosegrass is coming on strong in its place. I hate them all.

Complete List for February

The list of all plants flowering today, February 15th 2012, at Zanthan Gardens. If the flower was blooming in February in 2008 or 2009 I indicated that in parentheses. I don’t have a February list for 2010.

  • Commelinantia anomala
  • Consolida ambigua
  • Lantana montevidensis (2008, 2009)
  • Lonicera fragrantissima (2009, 2011)
  • Pisum sativum (2009)
  • Polanisia dodecandra, clammy weed (2009)
  • Prunus mexicana (2008, 2009)
  • potato vine
  • rose ‘Blush Noisette’
  • rose ‘Mermaid’
  • rose ‘New Dawn’
  • rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ (2009)
  • rosemary (2008, 2009, 2011)
  • Ruellia
  • Salvia madrensis
  • Setcreasea pallida (2009)
  • Sophora secundiflora
  • Tradescantia, spiderwort (2009)

Blush Noisette
2012-02-02. Rose ‘Blush Noisette’

February 4th, 2012
Week 05: 1/29 – 2/4

Dateline: 2012

The week ended with rain and a cold front but the contrast with last year’s snow and horrendous freeze couldn’t be greater. We’ve been enjoying March weather. Temperatures climbed to 82°F on Wednesday (2/1). We’ve had only two freezes so far this winter. Some plants like the Port St. John’s creeper and ruella haven’t died back. The combination of warm temperatures and rain after the long drought has tricked many plants into blooming out of season. I’ve seen Texas mountain laurel blooming along Lady Bird Lake. But no redbuds yet (which I always think bloom first.

Mermaid
2012-02-02. Rose ‘Mermaid’ between light showers.

Other out-of-sequence blooms: Larkspur began blooming before the bluebonnets. The roses began blooming before the Mexican plum trees. The hot weather roses, ‘Mermaid’ and ‘Blush Noisette’, began blooming before the queen of early roses, ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’. Roses of all kinds are blooming all over town. Tradescantia and false dayflowers also began blooming this week at Zanthan Gardens. The rosemary, the winter honeysuckle, the lantana, and one clump each of Narcissus italicus and Narcissus ‘Grand Primo’ are still in flower, rounding out the in bloom list.

The wet and warmth have made the salad greens happy. We’ve been eating large salads out of the garden almost every evening. I’ve planted more. The leaves of the cilantro are glossy and green. We can’t use it fast enough. Of course, the unofficial salad greens are also rampant: chickweed, goose grass, and henbit. I can’t keep up with weeding the henbit and it’s smotherered out the bluebonnet seedlings. I like to keep some henbit around for the butterflies but so far I’ve seen only two so I’m regretting it.

Dateline: 2011

Friday February 4, 2011.
We wake up after record-breaking snowfall at Camp Mabry today. The old record for daily snowfall was 1/2 inch in 1906. 105 years later, a whole inch!

snow bluebonnet
2011-02-04. Snow covered bluebonnet.
Read the rest of this entry »

cardamom plant

November 21st, 2011
Elettaria cardamomum

Cardomom is a plant that’s doomed to fail with me. And yet I bought it anyway. Such is the impulsive acquisitiveness of a gardener confronted with a rare plant.

Elettaria cardamomum, true cardamom, is a tropical plant related to gingers. It thrives in the jungle understory where it receives filtered sunlight, 150 inches of rain a year (it likes its roots constantly moist), and a constant temperature in the 70s. Cardamom is unhappy when temperatures dip below 50. Such a climate is about as alien to central Texas as can be imagined. In Austin we experience temperatures from the teens to the hundreds, searing sunlight, and (now that we’re in semi-desert mode) 12 inches of rain.

Cardomom can grow into a huge plant, 12 feet tall and wide. However, it is unlikely ever to get out of a pot in Austin. Even if I built it its own special hot house, it probably will never flower much less set fruit and provide any of the special seeds used to spice Indian curries and Scandinavian baked goods.

Garden History

2011-11-19.
Pot up the cardamom. I decide to divide the plant in half for several reasons. Roots are coming out of the holes in the bottom of the pot. Also the inside leaves of the plant have yellowed. Finally, it’s easier for me to move smaller pots in and out of the house all winter, as we do in central Texas where winter temperatures vary from the 80s to the 20s and back again overnight.
cardamom plant
I cut the plant out of it’s pot. As I suspected, it’s pretty root-bound. The rhizomes look similar to ginger so I don’t think it will be any problem to divide.
cardamom plant
I use my Japanese digging knife (from Lee Valley–unsolicited and unpaid recommendation) to cut through the crown of the plant and then pry the roots apart. Crown is probably the wrong word. Like its ginger relative, the cardamom plant is a group of tightly packed rhizomes. I might have cut through a few but mostly I was just wedging them apart.
cardamom plant
A slip falls away and I pot it up separately.
cardamom plant

Aster ericoides
2011-11-15. Aster ericoides.

November 15th, 2011
GBBD 201111: Nov 2011

Carol at May Dreams Gardens invites us to tell her what’s blooming in our gardens on the 15th of each month.

November 15, 2011

weather radar
At 8:34 AM we were holding our breath with anticipation. It looked like the storm might dissipate before it reached Austin.

One thought was on our minds in Central Texas today. Rain. We’d been told that there was a good chance that we were going to get some but as we tracked the storm on radar it seemed like it might veer or dissipate before it reached Austin. When the storm arrived, it seemed like it couldn’t work itself up to more than a paltry drizzle. In the end, we got a pretty decent rain–more than an inch (depending on where you are). The last good rain was in October 9th–June 22nd before that. The heaviest rain did fall to the south and east of us, but we as we head into the second year of exceptional drought, we appreciate every drop. Austin’s total rainfall is a little more than 12 inches for the year…about one-third of our yearly average.

weather radar
By 10:50 Austin had gotten some welcome rain but the heaviest downpours were south and east of us.

A Late Fall

Summer ends with the rain and this year Austin didn’t get any significant rainfall until October 9th. After that, the plants kicked into high gear. Wildflower seedlings began popping up. Unfortunately the same dry conditions that’s produced desert-like heat has also brought some clear, cold nights. Overnight temperatures dropped into the mid-30s on November 4th and 11th bringing freeze warning to some parts of the Hill Country. Daytime temperatures jump back quickly to the 80s. The cold temperatures brought out a deep russet leaf color of the one crape myrtle that still had leaves. (The other’s leaves had already turned brown and dropped off.) There’s some buttery yellow in the leaves of my neighbor’s chinese parasol tree, too. I even saw a hint of red in the red oak. Its leaves don’t usually drop until after Christmas.

Waiting on fall rains, the white mistflower (boneset) was very late to flower this year. Usually it’s covered with butterflies, too. I haven’t seen any this yet. Did they miss each other? Did the cold temperatures push the butterflies south before the mistflower could bloom?

Eupatorium wrightii
2011-11-15. White mistflower. The branches are weighed down with wet flowers after the storm.

Fall Pinks

Pink just doesn’t seem like a fall color to me. However, these two impossible-to-kill vines don’t care about fashion.

Pandorea ricasoliana
2011-11-15. Pandorea ricasoliana, Port St. John’s Creeper
Antigon leptopus
2011-11-15. Antigonon leptopus, coral vine

Some buds of the coral vine were wide open after the rain. I’ve never seen this happen before. Unfortunately it was so dark that all the photos I took of the fully open buds were out of focus. Looking around I see more pinks. At least the two roses, ‘New Dawn’ and ‘Blush Noisette’ sport a more delicate tint. The pigeonberry also has pale pink flower but then goes all out and clashes with bright red berries. The turks cap finishes off that part of the color spectrum.

Malvaviscus arboreus
2011-11-15. Malvaviscus arboreus, turks cap.

Fall Golds

The golden thryallis has pulled through summer and has been blooming well for more than a month. It would get all droopy in the heat but it always came back. As did the velvet leaf senna. The ‘New Gold’ lantana started blooming once the sun moved far enough south to shine on it again. I think that’s the oldest plant that I planted in my garden. The Salvia madrensis has been struggling but not giving up. It has very large leaves for a salvia and they droop piteously in the dry weather. But it keeps popping up new plants from the roots and today I saw some bud so close to opening that I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and count them.

After the October rain, I cut back the zexmenia hard and it’s come back beautifully with lots of bright new leaves. It’s put a few flowers. They all looked pretty soggy. Soggy but happy. That’s us Austinites, today.

Zexmenia hispida
2011-11-15. Zexmenia hispida

Complete List for November 15, 2011

The list of all plants flowering today, November 15th 2011, at Zanthan Gardens. Comparing today’s list to last November’s is depressing. And to 2009? Don’t go there. I don’t really have a garden anymore. So this list represents just the few hardy survivors.

  • Antigonon leptopus
  • Aster ericoides. These little white wild asters bloomed very late this year. Most of the plants are brown and dead. But a few hardy sprung back after October’s rain.
  • Datura inoxia
  • Eupatorium wrightii
  • Galphimia glauca. golden thryalis
  • Lantana montevidensis
  • Lantana ‘New Gold’
  • Malvaviscus arboreus
  • Pandorea ricasoliana. The plant that won’t die.
  • Salvia madrensis. Well, there’s a bud that’s about to open. The rain should bring it into full bloom. It’s struggled but it keeps coming back.
  • Senna lindheimeriana
  • Rivina humilis pigeonberry
  • Rose ‘Blush Noisette’. A couple of tiny, soggy blooms that probably shouldn’t count. I have to give her an A for effort.
  • Rose ‘New Dawn’
  • Rosmarinus officinalis
  • Setcreasea
  • Zexmenia hispida

rain Austin TX

October 9th, 2011
Rain in the Years of Drought

rain TX

No kiddos. One good rain doesn’t end a drought, but that doesn’t make it any less welcome. If anything, knowing that La Niña is threatening to bring Central Texas drought through 2012, today’s slow, steady rain is even more welcome than usual. Our last day of significant rain was June 22, 2011.

The change in seasons seems almost an entire month late. Apparently October is the new September. After all my disappointments in 2010, I think I did a better job setting my expectations in 2011. This drought isn’t going away any time soon. I’d like to deny this is the new normal. Maybe it’s just another unfortunate blip like Texas had in the 1950s. In either case, I have to change my habits for the next season, or two, or ten. I no longer view the fall rains as a time to rush out to replace everything I lost over summer. My new mantra is, “If it didn’t survive this summer, it won’t survive the next one either.” So let’s start with this clean slate and rethink the garden.

Related

 

September 15th, 2011
GBBD 201109: Sep 2011

Carol at May Dreams Gardens invites us to tell her what’s blooming in our gardens on the 15th of each month.

September 15, 2011

Due to the ongoing Texas drought and the record breaking heat, almost all the plants in my garden have died. Only four are flowering and all because they were near something being watered. The senna and datura are getting water from my neighbor who overwaters.

The City of Austin is on Stage 2 (mandatory) water restrictions now. That we went from voluntary to mandatory only on September 6th amazes me. If you would like to understand the seriousness of our situation down here in Texas, look at these photos: Texas drought and wildfires. Lakes have dried up. Livestock and wildlife are starving. Fires rage.

How can gardeners help? Not by giving up their gardens as I have. (My decision not to garden this year goes beyond the bad weather or a desire to conserve water.) Gardeners can help by providing a refuge for wildlife — food, water, and shrubbery to hide in. Many of us have observed an increase of wildlife into our gardens. Most of my fellow gardeners take an extra effort to provide for wildlife including birds, butterflies, and other pollinators. Gardens are important in the drought.

The City of Austin is also offering incentives encourage people to just let their lawns die and then replace them with more water efficient and wildlife friendly plantings.

Gardeners should also cut back their dead, dry plants. Unlike the true desert, Austin alternates wet years and in early 2010 many of our perennials tripled in size. If they have died since, our houses and fence lines are lined with masses of small, dry fuel that can ignite with a spark or a carelessly tossed cigarette.

Complete List for September 15, 2011

The list of all plants flowering today, September 15th 2011, at Zanthan Gardens. A single oxblood lily opened this morning after I watered the banana plants in the same bed last Sunday.

  • Datura inoxia
  • Lagerstroemia indica
  • Rhodophiala bifida
  • Senna lindheimeriana

Austin weather Aug 2011

August 31st, 2011
Hottest Month on Record: August 2011

July 2011 quickly lost its record-breaking status as the hottest month ever in Austin’s history (records going back to 1854). The new winner is…August 2011. The average temperature record in Austin (Camp Mabry station) was 91.6°F breaking the July 2011 record of 89.7°F.

August 24, 2011 was the 70th day this year that temperatures reached 100°F, breaking the 1925 record of 69 days. And summer isn’t over yet.

  • highest temperature ever recorded in Austin; 112°F Aug 28, 2011 (tied with Sep 5, 2000)
  • hottest August ever recorded in Austin; breaks the 2009 record of 89.1°F
  • hottest month ever recorded in Austin; average temperature, 91.6°F; breaks the July 2011 record of 89.7°F
  • average high temperature was 104.8°F; breaks the 1923 record of 102.9°F
  • average low temperature: 78.4°; breaks the 2010 record of 76.7°
  • Most consecutive 100°F days, 27: July 17 to Aug 12; breaks record of 21 days: July 12 to Aug 1, 2001

How does this compare with other years? Here are the warmest August temperatures: 1854-2011. Not only have I been here for every one of them, but they’ve all been in the last decade.
1. August 2011 91.6
2. August 2009 89.1
3. August 2010 88.7
4. August 2006 88.5

More stats via Natalie Stoll on the KXAN Weather Blog.

July 2011 weather Austin TX

July 31st, 2011
Hottest Month on Record: July 2011

July 2011 was not only the hottest July ever recorded in Austin, it was the hottest month ever recorded in Austin–and across Texas. In Texas, the average temperature was 88.9° F. Given that August is usually even hotter than July here, we have little to look forward to. We must simply endure.

The NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center reports that July was the fourth warmest July on record across the United States.

More stats via Jim Spencer on the KXAN Weather Blog.