Week 34: 8/20 – 8/26

Dateline: 2018

Another week of 100°F days. Such a disappointment after the nice rain two weeks ago. The plants were all ready to spring into fall bloom. Many have but many others have shriveled in the bud. This must be how it feels to gardeners in more temperate northern climes after the first spring crocuses bloom, when the promise of spring is subsequently crushed by the worst blizzard of the season.

Both the wild and the cultivated Mexican petunia (Ruellia) burst into bloom. They had looked so bad before the rain I was thinking of cutting them back. I’m glad I procrastinated. Likewise the datura. The crape myrtle and vitex have new flowers. And the zexmenia just began rebooking (8/26).

I divided and replanted my first clump of oxblood lilies this year. I think the entire clump came from a stray bulb dug up and dropped by a squirrel. The bulbs were terribly twisted, deformed and tiny, but three have buds. So I started looking at the other clumps for bulbs and, yep, the oxblood lilies are waiting for the next big rain and some cooler temperatures.

The garden is ready for fall and so am I. But the forecast remains the same: an unvarying string of days in the hundreds.

Dateline: 2014


2014-09-01. Technically taken in Week 35 but it looked the same in Week 34. Brown is the new normal. 2007 was an unusually wet year.

Waited-for rains didn’t materialize. We got a sprinkle here and there; just enough moisture to make this week extraordinarily oppressive. The Allium tuberosum are bursting into bloom. Otherwise we’re still impatiently waiting for rains to signal the beginning of fall.

The retama is dropping seedpods like crazy. I really don’t like it and wish I hadn’t planted it. The old and major portion of the Mexican buckeye has turned completely brown almost overnight. However, new shoots coming up from the roots seem okay. I didn’t much like this tree either.

Dateline: 2010

When August 25th rolls around I begin looking for rain. It rained so much that last week in August 1974, my first week in Austin that I had to buy an umbrella when I went home for Labor Day. We didn’t get any rain on the 25th this year and only a trace on the 24th (which evaporated almost as quickly as it fell). However the “cold” front that brought that trace of rain dropped temperatures from our highest all year (107° on the 24th) to a bearable 96° on the 25th and a downright pleasant 93° on the 26th. This broke the 12-day string of triple digit temperatures, for a couple of days. The heat will be back next week. Still we appreciate these whiffs of autumn, a sense that we are at the beginning of the end of summer.

After a cool start to summer, August has become very hot and the plants are showing stress. The ground is baked dry. Even the weeds in the meadow look more weedy than like wildflowers, so I mow them back. Despite the heat a surprising number of plants are blooming. The Chinese chives flowered quite early this year and there are a lot of them. The ever dependable clammy weed is everywhere as are all three types of ruellia. The rose of Sharon is still blooming well and the coral vine is covered with bees. Pipevine swallowtail caterpillars have chomped up the Dutchman’s pipevine. I covered it with floating row cover in the hopes of saving the caterpillars from the paperwasps.

I lost one of the columbines I was trying to grow in a pot until it was cool enough to plant it. Also the ‘Ducher’ rose looks suddenly very bad. It went from being huge and healthy to losing all its leaves almost overnight.

My fall tomato starts are doing very well. The cosmos seedlings are getting their true leave. I transplanted 4 ‘Chocolate’ morning glories that I grew from seed. Only the zinnias I planted from seed have a been a disappointment. They flop over horribly and something is eating them up.

Dateline: 2007

What a difference a year makes! Or rather, what a difference rain makes. In sharp contrast to last year Austin’s received almost double our average rainfall and our lakes are overflowing. We haven’t had one day in the 100s this August, or this year. Highs have been below average, mostly in the low 90s, and even the high 80s. Are we complaining? Absolutely not.

School started today and the schoolhouse lilies (aka oxblood lilies) are blooming. Fall is here and all is right with the world…or at least in my garden.

Dateline: 2006

Death everywhere you look.
2006-08-26. Gee. I didn’t think you could kill monkey grass.

Back to school and hurricane rains. Well, usually. This is the anniversary of my first week in Austin and how it rained that week! It was my first impression of Austin and I loved it. Skip ahead to 1996 and we had a high of 82. In 2003 we had so much rain that the oxblood lilies were already blooming. And then, there’s 2006…

100+ degrees, 29 days and counting. Last measurable rain: July 29th, .01 of an inch at Camp Mabry. (July 5th at Zanthan Gardens.)

Special Weather Statement
Statement as of 9:58 am CDT on August 26, 2006
Near record heat will continue…

The August heat wave will continue through the weekend… with near record high temperatures forecast across most of south central Texas. Heat indices will range from 105 to 110 degrees during the afternoon and early evening hours.

Elderly people should remain in air conditioned locations during the hottest part of the day through Sunday. Do not leave pets or children unattended in vehicles. People who need to remain outdoors for extended periods of time are urged to take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water.

Thursday (8/24) Lake Travis dropped to 650 feet, 15 feet below it’s August average. The lake is losing a foot of water a week due to drought.

Triple-digit temperatures and the lack of rainfall have the Edwards Aquifer days away from a critical level drought.

The Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Water Conservation District said well levels are just about an inch from the critical mark and 40 feet from the average.

I pulled up the gladiolus corms today. They never bloomed this year and the leaves had gone brown. There was little left of the corms. Most had rotted. The dirt was as dry as dust–and this in a bed that I water and is mulched.

I also dug up four ‘Bangkok Yellow’ canna that were very sunburned. I’ve been meaning to do this for weeks and if I manage to save them at this late date it will be a miracle.

Hope springs eternal? I planted two hyacinth bean vines that I sprouted from seed this week.

Dateline: 2001

Sunday August 26, 2001
They promised us a cold front with rain and at 7:15 pm it arrived with a flash of lightning that blew out all the power in our neighborhood. The rain started hard and ran off, but here’s hoping that some of it sank in. It hasn’t rained since we were in England and the clay had dried and hardened so that it when it does rain hard and suddenly we get flash floods. But no matter. We got about 3 inches of rain in 45 minutes. And we might get more tomorrow.

This is a record daily rainfall. Before the rain the high was 102, our 19th (and last!) day of 100+ this month (40th day for the year). The weather report predicts we might get a low of 69 tonight…and tomorrow it will only be 90. Fall is here!

It’s 10:30 and the power just came back on so we’re checking out the computers.

Dateline: 1999

Monday August 23, 1999
Although Hurricane Bret brings no rainfall to our house (I watch the rain move from east to west at about West Mary), the cloud cover breaks the heat wave. After two days of 104 temperatures, today it is only 92.

Thursday August 26, 1999
The heat is back and temperatures reach 100 again. The tantalizing hope of rain that Hurricane Bret brought has not been realized. The datura, the cosmos, the black-eyed Susans, the sunflowers, everything except the globe amaranth, is wilted or browned or dead.

The persimmon is losing a lot of leaves. Even the wisteria is turning brown.

Dateline: 1998

Sunday August 23, 1998It drizzled all day yesterday. The high was only in the eighties. Very gloomy in a lovely way–we breathe a sigh of relief.

Austin got more than half an inch, but tropical storm Charly dumped almost 13 inches on south Texas. This morning we had a Texas-style downpour.

We are unable to get dirt for the new section of the meadow as I planned. Instead, I finish setting out the tomatoes and Cinnamon basil. As usual, I have more seedlings than I have space for.

Dateline: 1996

Thursday August 22, 1996
A 50% chance of rain. I can’t remember when it’s been more than 30% for months. It actually looks like a rainy day, with the sky blanketed in thick, low, gray clouds.

Saturday August 24, 1996
More rain. The creeks are up. AJM and I walked down by Shoal Creek just south of 38th Street.The creek was raging and was over its banks in a couple of places. We saw two snakes.

According to the paper, we set a record low high temperature for today: 82 degrees. (The previous record was 85 degrees.)

Sunday August 25, 1996
Cooler in the evening. Rains off and on. I got at least three inches, just today.

At 1:00 we go to fix AJM’s bike and collect rocks for the wall. Pours rain on the drive up the Mopac. Almost impossible to see AJM in his car ahead of me.

Returning home, I see Shoal Creek pouring over the water break as it flows into Town Lake. This is so impressive that I take JQS to see it.

Week 33: 8/13 – 8/19

For those of you who think we don’t have seasons down south in Austin, look at the photo. The golden brown grass, the dusty, dull green of the live oak, the rich blue of the sky, and fluffy white clouds–all colors that evoke August in Austin. It might not be as flashy as some seasons elsewhere but this is us.

Dateline: 2018
Summer’s hold on us is at an end. We finally got rain last Saturday (8/11) and, almost overnight, the garden is transformed. Sure, temperatures remain in the high 90s the rest of this week. But it ain’t the 100s. The dust is gone. The ground is soft enough to pull weeds. The crunchy grass on what’s left of the back lawn is greening up. And I’ve started planting my carefully saved white bluebonnet seeds.

Amazing how so many plants respond enthusiastically to the rain. Things like the yellow salvia and the wild Mexican petunias and the datura which I was considering cutting back last week are looking great. One datura is actually in full bloom. Some of the wild cleome that hadn’t completely gone to seed is a gauzy cloud of white.

Zephyranthes Labuffarosea
2018-08-14 Rainlilies ‘Labuffarosea’. A passalong from Annie in Austin and still going strong.

2018-08-31 Update. Anticipation was short-lived as the last 17 out of 18 days hit 100°F or higher. The one exception being 8/30 which was a cool 99°F.

Dateline: 2014
August is a pregnant month, heavy and expectant. After an unusually wet and cool early summer, August 2014 seems very evocative of my first August in Austin forty years ago and emblematic of all those in between. This week the dry and dusty days of early August have turned humid, the air almost too heavy and oppressive to breathe. And yet, I can’t keep out of the garden. Even in the continued 100 degree heat, I sense a turn in the season, or perhaps I only expect one. I prune and turn the mulch pile and grind up leaf litter and straighten and order. Anticipation.

After four years of neglect, I begin dividing and replanting oxblood lilies, too. I think I’m dismantling the garden but once I begin digging up bulbs my own interests revive and I find that I’m as curious as I am acquisitive. This means I must sort through my systems and try to figure out the lineages and histories of each clump.

Very little is blooming: a stray flower on the clammy weed, prairie verbena, rose of Sharon, and Mexican petunia. A few wild sunflowers that look pitiful but that I leave because the small birds attack the seedheads each day. I no longer have a front lawn nor much of a back one. I don’t water at all, except the potted plants. Metaphorically my Austin garden is on the cusp of winter, waiting for spring.

One of my neighbors, walking by, stopped to chat as I was working and said she liked that about my garden: that she could see the seasons change in it and that it rested in the heat of August and the cold of January before it burst forth again. A garden that emphasizes change and time. That’s what I like about it, too. I planned it so purposefully.
Now I dream of other future gardens.

Dateline: 2006
Wednesday (8/16) was the hottest day of 2006 in Austin, 104 degrees. That’s not a record breaking high. What’s unusual is not the quality of the heat; it’s the quantity. In August so far 16 out of 20 days have been 100 degrees or hotter.

For those of you new to Austin, no, this is not normal August weather. Non-gardening residents, as they race from air-conditioned house to air-conditioned car, shrug their shoulders and think, “It’s August. It’s hot. Whaddya expect?” Well, I expect summer to be winding down.

We gardeners are out in the world and we’re taking notes. Although it’s not impossible for us to have 100+ degree days even in September (Austin’s all time record high was 114 degrees in September 2000–the most miserable summer in my memory), Austin’s average number of triple-digit days is ten. Ten! That means some years it’s less than ten. I’m just thankful I didn’t live through the summer of 1923. In that record-setting year, the thermometer topped 100 on 71 days.

Can you imagine that on August 14, 2003 the high was only in the low 80s after a front bringing heavy rain pushed through? Did I get out my sweater that day? This week in 1998, I was enjoying temperatures in the 80s and days of drizzling rain.

I’m usually dividing bearded irises and cleaning up and getting revved up for fall gardening. This year I’m lucky if I can stay outside long enough to get the potted plants watered.

Shout Out
Kathy Craig, at Cold Climate Gardening, mentioned that in upstate New York, the Color of August is Yellow. In Austin, the color of August is brown.
Read the rest of this entry »

Week 15: 4/9 – 4/15

Dateline: 2014

Even in long-neglected secret gardens, spring bursts forth. Winecups, prairie flox, pink evening primrose, yellow heirloom irises, and a very good stand of pink and white bluebonnets are in bloom.

The rose Souvenir del Malmaison is currently in full bloom having bloomed quite late because her first flush was cut short by a hard freeze. For the same reason there was no Texas mountain laurel this year. Nor is there any larkspur. Too dry.

First flower: amaryllis (4/13).

Dateline: 2007

2007-04-16. This year, wetter and cooler, has resulted in many more bluebonnets and less pink evening primrose.

Coming off near freezing temperatures last weekend, this week warmed up quickly with high temperatures reaching the 80s on Thursday (4/12) and Friday (4/13) before plunging again to 62 on Saturday (4/14). The storm preceding Friday night’s cold front roared in blustering, felling limbs and uprooting trees. We only lost one small limb from a cedar elm in front but along Town Lake large trees were down. All that bother and not even enough rain to cover the bottom of a bucket!

The tradescantia (spiderwort) has gone to seed and I spent most of the week composting it. The bluebonnets and baby blue eyes are also past their prime. The week belonged to yellow: the buttery yellow heirloom irises, the bright yellow Engelmann daisys, the fuzzy yellow Jerusalem sage, and the soft, cheerful yellow of the violas. The Japanese persimmon is covered in fruit and still flowering. I hope I get some persimmons this year. Not a single one made it through the drought last year.

First Flower: Salvia faranacea ‘Indigo Spires’ (4/9) one flower; Duranta erecta (4/11) one flower; rose ‘French Lace’ (4/12) one flower; Hippaestrum x Johnsonii (4/13); Trachelospermum jasminoides (4/15) two flowers, Polanisia dodecandra (4/15) one flower.

In Bloom: Allium neapolitanum, Centaurea cyanus ‘Black Magic’, Commelinantia anomala (still going strong except when cats form crop circles), Consolida ambigua (more and more each day), Coriandrum sativum (just beginning to go to seed), Iris flavescens (in full bloom), crinum (meadow milk and wine), Engelmann daisy, Lathyrus odoratus ‘Regal Robe’, Lathyrus odoratus ‘Velvet Elegance’, Lavandula heterophyla ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’, Nemophila insignis, Oenothera speciosa, Oxalis crassipes, Oxalis triangularis, Phlomis lanata, rose ‘Blush Noisette’. rose ‘Ducher’, rose ‘Heritage’, rose ‘French Lace’, rose ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’, rose ‘New Dawn’. rose ‘Penelope’, rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’, Salvia greggii ‘Raspberry’, Spiraea bridal wreath, tradescantia (spiderwort), Tradescantia pallida (purple heart), Verbena canadensis, viola, yaupon holly.

Fading: Lupinus texensis, Narcissus jonquilla ‘Quail’, Rhaphiolepis indica (Indian hawthorn), Solanum jasminoides (potato vine).

Vegetable Garden: The tomatoes are flowering although some of the leaves show frost damage from Easter weekend (I didn’t think to cover them. On Saturday (4/14) we did get the trellis erected. It’s somewhat warped looking but I think it will hold up tomatoes.

Dateline: 2006


2006-04-16. My meadow gets a little wilder every year. Austin, TX.

This is usually the best week of the whole year to be in my Austin garden. When I look at photos of the garden in previous years or lists of plants in bloom then, I realize that 2006 is not going to memorable in any good way. (My usual pre-summer gloom and doom has kicked in already.) AJM says I’m a grumpy gardener, but I believe gardeners are a grumpy lot. It is always either too hot, too cold, too wet, or too dry where we garden. We always look longingly at other people’s gardens (and now garden blogs) and think, “I wish I had…”

The beginning of this week cooled off a bit from last week’s high of 95, but by Saturday (4/15) it was hot again. I broke down and watered the mini-larkspur, it looked so droopy. I was shocked to notice that Acanthus mollis, usually a tropical monster this time of year, had already succumbed to the heat and sported huge brown patches.

This time of year the garden is overwhelmingly green in all shades, bright and deep. All the trees have leafed out, the pecans finally catching up with the cedar elms and various oaks. Soon enough the leaves will begin withering in the summer sun and become coated with pollen and dust without rains to freshen them. When I look at photos of previous years for this week and see how lush and moist the garden usually looks, I’m discouraged. The lawns, this year, are in especially bad shape for so early in the season.

The shining star of the garden this week is Confederate jasmine. One vine has wended its way up the support of my clothesline making it a pleasure to hang out laundry. I can’t get enough of the scent. I love all those scents of the deep south: jasmine, magnolia, and gardenia. If I can get another plant to root, I think I’ll plant it by our bedroom windows. The climbing roses just don’t give off a deep enough scent for me to smell as I fall asleep.

The meadow is looking strong this week owing almost completely to the weedy pink evening primrose. Some larkspur are providing coordinating colors and contrasting height. A few bluebonnets are still blooming. The yellow flowers o. Engelmann’s daisy keeps curling back their petals against the heat. The last few years I’ve been lazy about planting replacement summer annuals, but today I picked up a packet of cosmos to try again. Usually the black-eyed Susan has sprouted everywhere, but I haven’t seen any yet this year.

Among the roses ‘Heritage’ and ‘Penelope’ continue to bloom well. ‘Blush Noisette’ is a mass of small pink bouquets and behind her ‘New Dawn’ echoes the color with larger, scattered flowers.

First Flower: Mirabilis jalapa wild pink (4/13); ; Texas dandelion (4/13); iris ‘Mystic’s Muse’ (4/15) two flowers on separate pitifully small stems; red yucca (4/15).

In Bloom: Aquilegia hinckleyana, Allium neapolitanum (very poor showing), baby blue eyes, bridal wreath spiraea, Commelinantia anomala (fading), Consoloda ambigua, Coriandrum sativum, Lantana “New Gold’, Lavender, Lupinus texensis, Oenothera speciosa, Nerium oleander, Oxalis (all types) Salvia farinacea ‘Indigo Spires’, Salvia greggi ‘Raspberry’, Tradescantia (fading). Roses: ‘Blush Noisette’, ‘Ducher’, ‘Heritage’ ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’, ‘New Dawn’, Penelope, and Prosperity.

Dateline 2005

The thunderstorms that began the week came in to the north of us and we didn’t get a drop. I’ve had to water twice this week, the first time this year.

The meadow is a mess of flowers. The bluebonnets are starting to go to seed and almost hidden by larkspur, cilantro, evening primrose, and Engelmann daisy. Around the neighborhood I saw a fantastic display of red corn poppies (Papaver rhoes) that make me want to try them again next year.

For some reason (the ever-growing red oak casting shade?) the middle meadow bed is given over completely to white flowers this spring: cilantro and Naples onions and the two white roses. Not a single bluebonnet or larkspur popped up there this year and it used to be covered with them.

The fennel plant has five or six swallowtail caterpillars.
photo: Swallowtail Caterpillar
Swallowtail caterpillar munching on fennel.

First Flower: rose ‘Buff Beauty’ (4/11) and Japanese honeysuckle (4/11).

Dateline: 2004

photo: front yard
The south side of the house used to have a privacy fence which divided a sickly lawn in two and blocked the view of the garden from the bedroom windows. Our yard is on a slope and when it rains, the water rushes off without soaking in. I built the beds to provide terraces. The large golden flower in the middle of the photo is the banana. I started off with the idea of making this a rose garden, but the tropicals, which also require a lot of water, food, and sunlight, found their way here, too. And, yes, when bluebonnets sprout in the path, I’m too indulgent to weed them.

photo: meadow
The backyard meadow is in fine flower this time of year with bluebonnet, evening primrose, and larkspur. Can you get what the white flowers are? Not baby’s breath. Not Queen Anne’s lace. Not wild carrot. They’re cilantro. We still have a little bit of lawn left which is unusually green.

First Flower: Lathyrus odoratus ‘Cupani’ (4/10), Sprekelia formosissima (4/10), white rainlilies (4/12), Japanese honeysuckle (4/14), yellow iris (4/14) rose ‘Penelope‘ (4/15), iris ‘Strictly Ballroom (4/15), Mirabilis jalapa RHS red (4/15).

Thursday April 10, 2003
Near record lows, clear, dry and in the 30s overnight. Finally find some Genovese basil (at Home Depot) and plant 3 (all from the same pot).
Spend the evening weeding the meadow. It’s so weedy that there aren’t very many bluebonnets or larkspur. Note to future self: don’t let the spiderwort or cranesbill grow in the meadow!

First Flower: Rose ‘Sombreuil’ (4/10), Rose ‘Blush Noisette’ (4/10), Rose ‘Caldwell Pink’ (4/10), Lathyrus odoratus ‘Cupani’ (4/10), bearded iris ‘Altruist’ (4/10), Nigella damascena (4/14), Japanese honeysuckle (4/14), rose ‘Penelope’ (4/14).

Dateline: 2002

One week out of 52, I glance up at the garden and am amazed. I don’t think it has ever looked better than it does right now. The meadow is in full bloom. The color of the pink evening primroses complements the bluebonnets and the larkspur and the tall bearded irises provide strong vertical lines missing the rest of the year.

One by one the named irises are coming into bloom. Each is queen for a day. Almost of the roses are blooming. And despite the trouble with mildew and balling, caterpillars and aphids, ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ is hands-down winner in terms of abundant bloom.

First Flower: bearded iris ‘Incantation’ (4/14), rose ‘Madame Joseph Schwartz’ (4/14), Lathyrus odoratus (4/14), Polanisia dodecandra (clammy weed)(4/14), iris ‘Seakist’ (4/15).

Full Bloom: bluebonnets, iris (heirloom yellow), columbine, rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’, rose ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’, rose ‘Ducher’, bridal wreath, Dianthus chinesis ‘Telstar Picotee’, Oenothera speciosa.

Fading: Tulipa clusiana, Lady Banks rose, Bridal Wreath spiraea.

Dateline: 2001

Monday April 9, 2001
Near 90 and very muggy. The larkspur and sweetpeas are wilting before they have a chance to flower. This seems to be a very bad year for the larkspur. The cooler temperatures prevented them from flowering early. Now the trees have leafed out and it is suddenly hot.

The roses open and fade in one day (except on ‘Souviner de la Malmaison’). Especially hard hit is ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’. She is stunning and loaded with blooms; but the effect won’t last more than a day or two.

First Flower: iris ‘Champagne Elegance’ (4/9); Papaver rhoes (4/9); Oenothera speciosa (4/9); rose ‘Caldwell Pink’ (4/10); Lilium ‘Spirit’ (4/11).

Dateline: 2000

First Flower: heirloom yellow iris (4/11)

Dateline: 1999

First Flower: heirloom yellow iris (4/13); iris ‘Champagne Elegance’ (4/13); Lathyrus odoratus ‘Cupani’ (4/15).

Dateline: 1998

First Flower: Papaver rhoes ‘Shirley’ (4/12).

Dateline: 1997

Sunday April 13, 1997
It continues, since an Arctic front blew in on Friday when I was in Chicago for SAP training, to be unseasonably cold. I think the low was in the 40s and the high only in the 60s. What’s worse is that there is an icy wind. According to the paper, the normal high is 89, but last year it was 98!

AJM, Margaret, and I go to the National Wildflower Center for Wildflower Days. Inspired, we spend the rest of the afternoon in the garden, weeding. Margaret can’t stand the thought of the wild mustard, so I let her weed it out.

First Flower: Lathyrus odorata (4/13).

Dateline: 1996

The meadow is in full bloom: blue from bluebonnets, white from Allium neapolitanum, yellow from wild mustard and purple from the ‘Homestead’ verbena. The watered larkspur is 4 and half feet tall and blooming.

The Japanese persimmon tree is beginning to bloom. Like last year, it is beginning to get covered with those small, white, powdery-looking bugs. Also some kind of worm makes a cocoon in the curl of a leaf. So far, I’ve been able to control both types of pests by hand.

First Flower: heirloom yellow iris (4/11); columbine (4/14).

Dateline: 1995

Monday April 10, 1995
A dark, muggy morning. The low was 70 and it was 74 at 7AM.

Tuesday April 11, 1995
Last night threatened horrible thunderstorms, but little or no rain resulted. However, very cool and clear today. Live oaks about town are dropping pollen. Maybe I’m allergic to it.

First Flower: heirloom yellow iris (4/11); Callirhoe involucuta (4/14).

Week 40: 10/1-10/07

Dateline: 2013

Everything that is still alive is responding to the heavy rain last weekend. The ‘Mermaid’ rose is putting out new canes. I tied a particularly long cane to the fence to try to keep it from crushing the bamboo. ‘Souvenir del Malmaison’ is putting out new leaves. I thought I’d finally lost it. ‘New Dawn’ continues to bloom as it has on and off all summer. ‘Red Cascade’ is putting out new growth. Only ‘Blush Noisette’ is being sulky.

The happiest looking plant this week is the pigeonberry which immediately started flowering and now looks all bushy. Red berries are forming as well.

The Port St. John weeper has climbed a live oak tree and is cascading flowers off the top, making it look as if the tree is in bloom.

Both duranta are in full bloom. They have overgrown their spaces but as they are one of the few things still alive, green, and blooming, I’ve decided to let them do what they want.

Bluebonnets are sprouting and I’m once again dashing around to prepare beds to plant saved seeds. The white bluebonnets which I planted in the gravel bed in July/August are sprouting. This was the most seed I’ve ever saved from white plants and so have high hopes for a good showing of white bluebonnets in Spring 2014.

As expected, the false dayflowers are sprouting everywhere but this year I am raking most of them out because they dominated the spring wildflowers in Spring 2013.

Dateline: 2010

Another week of clear dry days with highs in the 80s and lows in the 50s.

Still some oxblood lilies but the red spider lilies are blooming en masse now. I dug up so many last year. Everything is blooming: ones I divided and replanted, ones I haven’t divided for years, bits of ones left from when I divided them previously (like near the AC).

Still trying to get saved bluebonnet seeds planted and given away. And stringing up fall tomatoes which are blooming now. The little hot pepper is covered with fruit and flowers.

Friday (10/1) notice some grape hyacinths sprouting…which means that I need to replant the ones I accidently dug up in the spring.

The lurid pinks, four o’clocks and coral vine, are still in full bloom. The Lindheimmer senna is beginning to fade. The clammy weed is still blooming but past its prime. The datura inoxia is blooming in cycles.

Dateline: 2006

Sunday begins with week with clear October skies. Then Monday and Tuesday, before I leave for Las Vegas, are hot and muggy. Still once the oxblood lilies bloom, my mind declares it fall even if the temperatures are back in the 90s.

Dateline: 2005

In my old garden journal, Week 40 begins Fall: Part II. Autumn September-style means hurricane rains to drench our parched soils, but autumn October-style means fresh air from the arctic, clear skies and lower temperatures and humidity. This year, September was a disappointment: no rain and record-breaking heat. It was the hottest September in Austin history. October seems to be starting with some promise. Our first real cold front arrived today and highs dropped from the 90s to the 70s. Is fall finally here at last?

Poor ‘Souvenir de St Anne’s’ pictured here from a couple of years ago did not survive heat wave 2005. Nor did the tough found heirloom “Caldwell Pink”.

The oxblood lilies (Rhodophiala bifida) are finishing blooming and I’m dividing them. The red spider lilies (Lycoris radiata) are just starting. The only other plants in bloom are the plumbago and the Turk’s cap.

Dateline: 2003

Back to warm and muggy this week. But at least it’s not hot. And we’ve had some rain. The roses are all starting to bloom again after their summer dormancy. This is Souvenir de St Anne’s, a semi-double sport of Souvenir del Malmaison, captured here after a light shower. She is not as vigorous a grower as her parent, but she sometimes gives off the scent of cloves. I notice it more now in the fall than in the spring. In our heat, she opens and fades rather quickly.

photo: Rose St Anne
2003-10-06. Souvenir de St Anne’s. Died September 2005 during our 8 record-breaking days of 100+ temperatures.

Busy, busy, busy this week: creating a new compost pile; sifting the old one, spreading compost in the flower beds; redefining paths; pruning, weeding, digging and dividing. I’m all tuckered out.

Dateline: 1998

Saturday October 3, 1998
Continues hot, or at least it seems unfairly hot for this time of year. The temperature are in the 90s, not summer weather, but not fall weather either.

Dateline: 1995

Monday October 2, 1995
This evening it tried to rain; the result was but a sprinkle. A cool front followed and we slept with the windows open.

Wednesday October 4, 1995
Actually chilly this morning. Even at 10am, it’s probably 65. A perfect, clear, crisp fall morning. I could spend all morning just staring at the blueness of the sky.

I ordered several garden catalogs through NetScape–my first internet transaction.

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.
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Week 25: 6/18 – 6/24

Dateline: 2011

Gardening in Austin seems almost predictable when the most remarkable thing that can happen in Week 25 is rain! The sound of it pouring off my roof onto the air conditioner next to my bedroom window woke me up, and I dragged myself out of bed at one in the morning just to smell it…and pump the water into the pond. The rain barrels can’t handle that much rain at once and the pond acts like a 1000 gallon holding tank.

Before the storm, we had a solid chunk of 100-degree days behind us: ten from 6/12 to 6/21. At Camp Mabry, the temperatures topped out at 106°F on 6/17 and 6/18, cooling slightly to a mere 105°F on 6/19. After the storm, the high plummeted to a mere 90°F. Sixteen degrees feels cooler no matter where you’re starting from. I spent the rest of Wednesday (6/22), cleaning up the garden a bit, mowing the lawn, and pumping water into the pond.

The rain is nothing but a brief respite from the continued exceptional drought in Texas. Lake levels are almost half what they should be. Austin looks more and more like the landscapes of my childhood that I had hoped to leave behind.

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Week 22: 5/28 – 6/3

Dateline: 2011

According to the National Weather Service, “The warm spring from March to May was the 10th driest ever at Camp Mabry and the warmest since 1854.” Worse than the heat, the drought is now exceptional. Most of May felt like August. We did get one lovely heavy rain two weeks ago but my rain barrels are already empty and the pond is quickly evaporating.

Speaking of the pond, Monday (5/30) AJM noticed a heron stalking around. The fish are in hiding. Or eaten. We can’t tell yet how many fish have been taken. We didn’t see any for a few days. Then a couple peeked out. We’ve put the netting up again until they have a chance to recover and the pond water clears up again. When critters chase the fish, they stir up the water and the pond gets all mucky.

First flowers: Asclepias curassavica (6/1); water lily ‘Helvola” (6/1).

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Week 16: 4/16 – 4/22

Dateline: 2011

We travelled back in time this week. In New England, spring is just beginning to win the battle against winter. Forsythia is in bloom everywhere as are daffodils and a few tulips. For the most part, April still wears bare trees against bleak gray skies. We saw several flowering trees and plants that I’m unfamiliar with; I love how alien new landscapes seem even those on the same continent. We wear hat, gloves, and windbreakers over sweaters the whole time we are there. In contrast, temperatures in Austin soar into the mid 90s (the forecast I saw was for 97 but the actual high was 95 on 4/18), wildfires burn across drought-stricken Texas, and Governor Perry offers Texans a faith-based solution: we should all spend three days praying for rain. Rain was a problem in Connecticut, too–not a lack but a surfeit. The Connecticut River was over its banks in East Haddam. 2011 reminds me of 1993: severe drought in Texas; severe flooding along the Mississippi.

Zanthan Gardens made a big leap forward in our short week away. Yellow rules. The retama is in full bloom. The prickly pear cacti have their first flowers as does the rose ‘Mermaid’. The sago palm is putting out new fronds. The bluebonnet seedpods are dry and ready to pop. The coral vine is flowering. The ‘Angel’s Choir’ and ‘Lauren’s Grape’ poppies have put out a few wan flowers, mostly drained of color. The pomegranate has beautiful double flowers. (I think this is the first ever.) I’m happily surprised to see the Pride of Barbados coming back from its roots. I’d given up on it. The only big disappointment is my horsetail. I had nursed it back to health over the winter and it was looking better than it ever had. Now it looks mostly dry, brown and crispy. All the other potted plants, which I’d brought inside out of the sun, survived–even two pots of mint. The other plant I’m worried about is the allspice. It was so big and healthy and now the leaves are simply drying up and dying and there is no new growth. I think it might be getting too much water and rotting.

Looking over the history below, I see that it’s not unusual for Austin to hit the high 90s or even the 100s this week in April during a La Niña year. Facts are no comfort. I’d prefer my delusion that these temperatures are outrageous not typical.

I was expecting the garden to be toast on my return. It did better than I expected. The larkspur and nigella are short and already dry so they are dying out gracefully. I do regret that the flowers on the confederate jasmine have already turned brown and stopped giving off their scent. Had I been here to water them, they might still be in full bloom. Now I have to wait a whole year to smell them again.

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Week 13: 3/26-4/1

Dateline: 2011

Austin hit its first 90 degree day last week (3/23) and by Saturday night (3/26) it was so hot and muggy we turned on the AC for a few hours. Sunday (3/27) the high dropped 13 degrees to a seasonable 73 and by Monday (3/28) another 9 degrees to a high of 64. Lovely. All the trees except the pecans have their brilliant spring green leaves and these dry days provide an equally brilliant desert blue sky. Dry. Dry. Dry. The larkspur are sending flower stalks which droop before opening in the afternoon sun.

The wild garden blooms despite my neglect. It’s overwhelms the paths. I don’t think I’ll ever manage the strength to get it sorted out again. The pink evening primrose is one of the few flowers that really prefers this drier spring. As does the Nierembergia gracilis ‘Starry Eyes’. The Engelmann daisy and cilantro make a fair showing, too. The Jerusalem sage is in full bloom but the leaves droop when the temperatures reach the 80s. The weeping yaupon which isn’t weeping is covered in tiny flowers and bees. The larkspur and poppies are just beginning to flower. The pathetic bluebonnets are going to seed. The baby blue eyes are also tiny and wizened. I don’t doubt they’ll be back when the weather is more favorable.

Now that the trees have leafed out, the green worms have begun to descend their silken threads. I’ve killed a few but the infestation is mild compared with earlier years. I’m hoping it’s because I’m kind to wasps.

First flower: Ungnadia speciosa, Mexican buckeye (3/26); Hyancinthoides hispanica (3/26); Aristolochia fimbriata dutchman’s pipevine (3/30); Echinacea purpurea (3/30); Papaver ‘Dorothy Cavanaugh’ (4/1), honeysuckle (4/1).

Dateline: 2010

photo: Texas bluebonnets
2010-03-30. Ubiquitous photo of Texas bluebonnets three years later at the same spot. With all the rain this year they are three times as big as in 2007 and the nasty yucca is gone.

A perfect spring week here in central Texas. A big storm front blew through last Wednesday night (3/24) dropping half an inch of rain in an hour. So the plants were well watered going into a week of sunny deep blue skies brilliant behind the bright green of all the freshly leafed trees. Yes. It’s suddenly shady. Austin’s starting to hit temperatures in the 80s consistently: 82 (3/26), 83 (3/27), 81, (3/30), 85 (3/31), 82 (4/1). I’d be just as happy if the 80s held off for another month so that all the flowers now in full bloom could look fresh for more than a few days.

My dependable spring favorites, Tulipa clusiana and the rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ are in full bloom. So are the bluebonnets. (Two whites and two pinks appeared this year.) The rose ‘Ducher’ grew so fast and tall that it fell over on itself in a high wind and is now commandeering the path. The cilantro forms a misty white cloud over the meadow where it completely dominates. (All the larkspur are in the front yard this year and they haven’t started the big show yet.) The baby blue eyes, tradescantia and its cousin, the false dayflower, are hip high and taken over most of the yard. I must remember to keep the false dayflowers out of the bluebell bed as the bluebells have been completely smothered this year.

All the flowers on everything are huge. I can’t remember ever seeing flowers so big here. So all they needed was twice the water they normally get. Hmmm

The list of things blooming is too long to keep track of: white, blue, and yellow irises; ‘Hawera’ daffodils and the single ‘Grand Monarque; white sweet alyssum and yellow snapdragons, the last of the summer snowflakes and the beginning of the Spanish bluebells; Mexican buckeye, cherry laurel, Indian hawthorn, and bridal wreath. But no wisteria in my yard. Elsewhere, yes. But not mine.

Speaking of elsewhere…the Lady Banks roses are as beautiful as I’ve ever seen them all over Austin. I’m sorry that mine died several years ago as did my neighbor’s that used to droop over my back fence.

We’ve eaten salads every night but these 80° days are starting to turn the arugula and lettuce bitter. Our English peas are full of pods. We harvested 5 oz (shelled) tonight and each had a big bowlful for supper. I can tell we’ve had an 80° day by the drooping of the peas. The artichoke, now in its second year, has a flower bud. I just planted potatoes. This time in 2000 we were already eating potatoes.

First flower: Hyacinthoides hispanica (3/26); Nierembergia gracilis ‘Starry Eyes’ (3/26); Engelmann daisy (3/31); yellow heirloom iris (3/31).

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Week 12: 3/19 – 3/25

Suddenly, the yard is plunged into shade. The morning sun stops shining through my bedroom window and plants that have grown all winter in the full sun, plants about to flower, are now in the shade. The cedar elms have leafed out and transformed the landscape. I’m not as fond as cedar elms as I once was, as they are the trees that tend to fall in high winds. But this week, they are gorgeous. They leaf out a chartreuse green that deepens to a bright green. The red oaks and live oaks are leafing out too. Only the pecans are still bare.

Dateline: 2011
Spring will not be ignored. It rushes into the garden whether or not I’m there, just not in the way I would have planned it. The pink evening primroses smother the path while the areas I consider my meadow are bare. I’m not blind to the lesson.

This is the week that something new opens every day. All of spring’s bounty comes just as the yard is plunged into shade. The weather continues dry and hot. The toads and mosquitoes have returned. Temperatures rise into the 80s and the larkspur, just sending up its flower stalks, droop. The Tulipa clusiana and the Muscari racemosum have also faded quickly in the heat. A whole year of anticipation…and then they whither as they open.

If you don’t look too closely the garden is filled with swathes of Easter basket colors: yellows (Engelmann daisy and Jerusalem sage and some snapdragons that have finally recovered from the freezes); pinks (pink evening primroses, pink bluebonnets, Indian hawthorn, ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’, ‘New Dawn’, ‘Blush Noisette’); white (bridal wreath spirea, cilantro); blues (bluebonnets, baby blue eyes, starch hyacinths) and purples (false dayflowers, Nierembergia gracilis, tradescantia, prairie verbena). There is also one jarring red, the St. Joseph’s lily.

So much needs to be done which will be left undone. Right now the garden is blooming on the strength of previous years. It really is a garden wild.

Dateline: 2008
This is the week I both look forward to and dread. On the one hand the garden finally looks like a garden. I take pleasure just walking around in it and frequently forget to do anything but just stare. On the other hand, the shade has descended which means the sun-loving flowers will soon turn sulky and I’ll soon be counting the days until fall.
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