Zanthan Gardens Week 34
2007-08-27. The desert trumpet vines clambers over the Spanish bayonet yucca as weeds smother the buffalograss in the meadow. The lawn is green! And the monkey grass came back and is blooming.

August 26th, 2014
Week 34: 8/20 – 8/26

Dateline: 2014
34Week20140901
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.

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photo: Rhodophiala bifida bulbs with offsets2014-08-22. Rhodophiala bifida bulbs. On the left, the offset has formed a new, small bulb. On the right, the offset growth (looking like a large root) is just beginning to grow up toward the surface.

August 22nd, 2014
Rhodophiala bifida Bulbs

Oxblood lilies in Central Texas are generally propagated by bulb division. The way the bulbs form is somewhat different than garlic, daffodils, tulips, or lilies. As far as I can tell, they send out these fleshy growth that look like thick roots and those form the new bulbs on the outside of the mother bulb.

Whether the various types of Rhodophiala produce via bulbs or seeds is suppose to be one way of distinguishing them from each other. The bulbs in my garden do both but I can’t say for certain that the same bulb does both. Oxblood lilies are classic pass-around plant in Central Texas and so my collection is quite a mixed bag.

I do have some clumps that offset like crazy. I have others that offset steadily but more slowly. This time of year they are waiting to come out of their dormancy, preparing for that rain which will force them into bloom. Even in the dry heat and parched ground, you can see the occasional bud waiting to poke up. This one dug up provides an illustration of how the buds grow on the outside of the previous year’s leaf stem..

photo: Rhodophiala bifida bulbs with offsets


The colors of August. Austin, TX. August 20, 2006. This is not a photo of my garden because there is nothing to photograph this week in my garden. It is in my neighborhood though.

August 20th, 2014
Week 33: 8/13 – 8/19


For those people who don’t think we have seasons down here, 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: 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.
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2014-04-13. Almost no larkspur this year. The meadow is given over to cilantro. Some yellow iris surprised me.

April 13th, 2014
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.
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pigeonberry"
2013-10-03. The rain garden with the pigeonberrry in full flower.

October 4th, 2013
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.

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Kalanchoe
Kalanchoe daigremontiana, Mother of Thousands.

February 16th, 2013
GBBD 201302: February 2013

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

February 15, 2013

My Austin neighborhood has not had a hard freeze at all this winter. So none except the tenderest plants (like the basil) have died back. The kalanchoe, which won’t survive a freeze, is blooming. I think this is the first time it since 2009. The duranta, Port St. John’s creeper, and the Forsythia sage are still blooming on last year’s growth. I really should cut the old stalks down as new growth is forming around the base. But I’m not disciplined enough to cut down what few flowers remain in the garden.

After a very dry fall 2012, we had a nice rain in January. New larkspur and cilantro sprouts have popped up and the struggling bluebonnets have put out growth. The flowering of the Mexican plums was very poor this year, the trees are leafing out without producing many flowers at all. The redbuds around town began blooming at the first of February. I saw my first Texas mountain laurel in flower (2/16), on the SEU campus.

I thought all the roses were budding out early. Most of them didn’t even lose their leaves. However, looking at my post for last February, these same roses were all blooming. As usual. Memory does not serve.

Complete List for February 2013

The list of all plants flowering today, February 15th 2013, at Zanthan Gardens.

  • Commelinantia anomala
  • Consolida ambigua
  • Coriandrum sativum
  • Duranta erecta
  • Kalanchoe daigremontiana
  • Lantana montevidensis
  • Lavandula heterophylla ‘Goodwin Creek Gray’
  • Leucojum aestivum
  • Lonicera fragrantissima
  • Meyer’s lemon
  • Narcissus tazetta ‘Grand Primo’
  • Podranea ricasoliana
  • Prunus mexicana
  • Rosmarinus officinalis,
  • Salvia madrensis

Zanthan Gardens meadow
2008-02-04. A dry winter.

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

Zanthan Gardens meadow
2012-02-10. A 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.
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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