photo: henbit
2006-01-24. Henbit. Austin, TX

January 24th, 2006

Those opportunistic plants, the weeds, have responded quickly to Sunday’s rain. The henbit was the first to flower. A winter annual considered by many to be a weed of turfgrass, henbit thrives in the damp and so is at home in our clay soil during the winter. AJM likes the little pink flowers, and so do the butterflies. So I always leave them a little bit of it in the meadow–until some other flowers are blooming.

photo: henbit
2006-01-24. Henbit. Austin, TX

Henbit does get straggly fast as it sprawls over the bluebonnets. Then it’s definitely weedy and I swear that next year I’ll nip it in the bud. As soon as it gets hot, though, it disappears on its own, so it’s never any real problem in our central Texas climate.

In Japan, henbit is one of the seven herbs of spring and is eaten as a tonic on January the 7th. This tradition goes back to those days before frozen foods and refrigerated trucks, when people suffered vitamin and mineral deficiencies without fresh greens in the winter.

Perhaps like other oft-maligned plants (I’m thinking of dandelion and nettles, Margaret), we will soon be paying top dollar for henbit in Central Market’s “spring mix” salads.

“Many hands make light work.” John Heywood (1497-1575)

January 22nd, 2006
Divas of the Dirt

Fellow Austinite and gardener, Annie, wrote to me about a wonderful idea that she and some like-minded gardening friends have carried out. These Divas of the Dirt get together once a month to do a big garden project in one of their gardens. With eight women working together, a daunting project can be tackled in a day with time for a nice breakfast together first.

As someone who has spent a lot of time struggling through garden projects on my own, often feeling discouraged and overwhelmed, I admire the Diva’s clever approach. I just wish I were as organized and as energetic.

photo: paperwhites and Chinese Sacred Lily 2006-01-10
2006-01-10. Two paperwhites, Chinese Sacred Lily, and Narcissus italicus. N italicus has a greenish yellow tint especially noticeable next to the pure white of the paperwhites

January 10th, 2006
Week 02: 1/8 – 1/14

Dateline: 2006
The year continues to be remarkable for what’s not happening in the garden. No rain, of course, and that’s the cause of the rest of it. Despite the full sun (last week the last of the leaves fell) and English summer temperatures, no roses are blooming. The bluebonnets are only about 4 inches across. A few larkspur seedlings are up, but no cilantro and no nigella. The few tufts of false dayflower are dry and the tradescantia is up but feeble and withered.

On the upside, there are no weeds either. Usually goosegrass, henbit, and chickweed are choking every bed this time of year.

The dryness has taken on a quality quite unlike Central Texas. It’s not just the lack of rain, it’s the very low relative humidity. The air feels more like Santa Fe, or Las Vegas. Skies are desert blue and the visibility is so good that driving in from Houston Saturday, we could see Austin’s skyline almost from Bastrop.

First Flowers: Narcissus italicus (1/8).
Blooming: Unidentified paperwhites. Chinese sacred lily. Rosemary.
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