The Southern Heirloom Garden: The Heritage, The Plants, The Designs.
William C. Welch and Greg Grant.
Taylor Publishing Company. Dallas, Texas. 1995.

March 31st, 2002
The Southern Heirloom Garden

The first section of The Southern Heirloom Garden is a historical overview of the various cultural influences on Southern gardens. The second section contains plant profiles of “the most commonly cultivated plants in early Southern gardens.” Together they are directed at those gardeners who need to preserve or restore the heirloom gardens of the South. But the information just as is useful for the rest of us.
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Elizabeth Berry’s Great Bean Book.
Elizabeth Berry and Florence Fabricant.
Ten Speed Press. Berkeley, California. 1999.

March 31st, 2002
Elizabeth Berry’s Great Bean Book

Elizabeth Berry grows beans on her ranch 85 miles outside of Santa Fe. More specifically, she grows beans for Mark Miller’s Coyote Cafe restaurant. She specializes in unusual and heirloom beans.

Her Great Bean Book book is actually a cookbook. However, in addition to providing a recipe for each type of bean included, there is a detailed description of each. This makes the book a handy reference when perusing seed catalogs, or when shopping at Central Market. Central Market carries a large variety of beans in its bulk food section. And beans are, after all, seeds. I planted a dozen soybeans that I grew from beans we scattered during Setsubun. Buying beans to plant from Central Market is cheaper than buying them from a specialty seed catalog.
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photo: white bluebonnet
White and blue bluebonnets in Austin, TX.

March 22nd, 2002
White Bluebonnets

Maybe God heard my lament about the too blue garden. Today when I went to look at the bluebonnets there were three white ones (two are a rather muddy white and one tends more toward the palest pink).This is an interesting development as I tend to select seeds from the darkest blue plants each year. Still, their are lots of plants out from seeds that sow themselves.
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Blue flowers alone make a sad garden.

March 20th, 2002
Gardening Blues

Two weeks ago, the garden was awash in the yellows of three different kinds of daffodils blooming at once. This week it is a sea of blue: bluebonnets, Spanish bluebells, grape hyacinths, false dayflowers, and Dutch irises. In a couple of weeks there will be even more blues as the bearded irises and the Nigella damascena opens.

I have a weakness for blue flowers. Whenever I see a photo of one in the seed or plant catalogs, I’m immediately attracted to it. However, an all blue garden is somber. Even the boy, S., said, “It needs more colors.”

So I have planted the yellow daffodils, white, pink, and yellow roses, pink evening primrose, species tulips, and pale golden irises. Had it not been for the freeze at the end of February, the roses and the larkspur would be blooming now. But this year, the garden is once again going through a blue period.

I’m on the lookout for more flowers. Frequently azaleas bloom this week, and although I’m attracted to them, I don’t want to fight their environmental requirements for a much more acid soil than I can provide naturally.

If you live in zone 8, especially in central Texas, let me know what non-blue flowers are blooming in your yard this week.


Dutch iris ‘H. C. van Vliet’. Austin, Texas.

March 19th, 2002
Dutch Iris

Last fall, I impulsively bought two packages of Dutch iris from Home Depot. The grower listed is Van Zyverden. This is the first year I’ve tried to grow bulbous irises. But my Mom, in Las Vegas, has great luck with hers. The packages did not provide much information, so I gleaned the following from the net.

Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’
Dwarf or miniature irises (to 4 inches tall) with proportionally large flowers. ‘Harmony’ is cornflower blue with yellow accents. Should bloom in February. Suited for pots or rock gardens.

Iris xiphium hybrid ‘Van Vliet’
(I assume this is ‘H C van Vliet’)
A group of hybrid irises, commonly known as Dutch irises, developed by the Dutch firm Tubergen from the Spanish iris, Iris xiphium, and Iris tingitana. Requires rich, well-drained soil and grows well in zones 8 and 9. Blooms in June or July. Height to 24 inches. Makes a good cut flower.

“…a bitoned blue with midblue standards and lighter blue falls with a small orange signal. Mid season bloom.” Graeme Grosvenor. Iris: Flower of the Rainbow. p. 208.


* World Online: Dutch Iris
* American Iris Society

Unable to find any specific growing guidelines on the net, I turned to Graeme Grosvenor’s Iris: Flower of the Rainbow and came across these encouraging passages.

I. xiphium “bulbs grow naturally in hot, dry summer conditions and unless you can provide soil that is hot and dry in summer and not overly cold in winter, the bulbs should be lifted…” Well if that doesn’t describe Austin weather exactly. The next paragraph is equally encouraging.

“I. xiphium will grow best in a heavy soil with good drainage…They enjoy an alkaline soil.”

Garden History

According to the package instruction, in the South (zones 7, 8, or 9) Dutch Irises need to be chilled six to eight weeks before planting. So, dutifully, I put the ones I bought last fall in the fridge and didn’t get around to planting them until today. The ‘Harmony’ bulbs were already drying out, so it’s obvious that I waited too long.

‘H C van Vliet’ blooms. It’s the first and, probably, only flower for 2002. The hard freeze in late February froze the buds just as they were emerging from the ground.

The Dutch iris bulbs, ‘H C van Vliet’; are sprouting. I dug them up separated and replanted them in the same spot by the ‘Heritage’ rose. There are 11 rooted bulbs sprouting and 7 bulbets.

Although the plants grew well this year, they didn’t bloom. (The Iris reticulata didn’t come back at all.) Apparently to flower Iris xiphium need a longer cold period than we get here in Austin. I dig them up and will chill them this fall before replanting them. Given how cheap they are, it’s probably not worth the trouble. Especially since I only had one flower in two years.

I thought I had lost these over the years but this year they bloomed again, and better than ever.

Dug these up.

Moved them to the front yard, east square ahead of construction in May of 2016. They really liked being lifted and moved, and they bloomed very well in the spring of 2017.

Dug these up again because they didn’t bloom at all in the spring of 2018…a huge disappointment after their great show in the spring of 2017. Will chill them before replanting them this fall.

Catalog Review: Schreiner’s 2002 Iris Lover’s Catalog

March 9th, 2002
Schreiner’s Iris

The first week of March brings the most anticipated catalog to my door: the Schreiner’s Iris Lover’s Catalog. The Collector’s Edition is the Victoria Secret of flower catalogs, 72 pages of full-color photographs on glossy stock. It is $5.00 the first time (applicable to your order, and then they send it to you free every year). Or, you can order their free mini-catalog. Or, best yet, you can browse online at Schreiner’s Gardens redesigned and much-improved site.

Three generations of the Schreiner family has been breeding and selling irises since 1925. They have bred many of the country’s top-selling and award-winning irises. Schreiner’s also sell irises bred by other famous iris breeders.
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When the gardening bug bites, it’s usually too late in the season here in Austin, to plant anything that will survive the searing heat of the coming summer.

March 8th, 2002
Starting Seeds for Summer

The trouble with spring in Austin is that the gardening bug bites at a time when it is almost too late to plant anything. We have a growing season of about 90 days, counting from our last freeze date to the time the temperatures reach the high 90s.

I don’t grow a lot of summer annuals from seed because it takes too much water to keep them growing through the summer–my water ration is for the roses and the vegetable garden. I’ve switched to perennials (crape myrtle, esperanza, Rose of Sharon, vitex, ruellia) to provide summer color.

However, there are some annuals that I’ve found easy-to-grow from seed. I usually start them outside in a special bed and then transplant the seedlings where I want them.
* cosmos
* sunflowers (a great variety now available in all heights and colors)
* gomphrena (southern batchelors buttons)

Flowering annual vines provide a lot of color and are easy to grow because they usually have large seeds.
* dolichos lablab
* luffa
* morning glory
* black-eyed Susan vine
* cypress vine

I sometimes find it more economical to simply buy the 6-pack flowers from Home Depot.
* marigolds
* pentas
* coleus

Bulbs for summer that can be planted now.
* canna
* caladium
* asiatic lily
* zephyranthes (rain lily)
* crocosmia