photo: Hesperaloe parviflora red yucca
Tall spikes of small pale red flowers shoot up from a clump of red yucca.

April 28th, 2006
Red Yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora

I like that the Texas Aggies classify red yucca as an “evergreen shrub”. Unless you garden in the American southwest, you probably think of shrubs as multi-stemmed woody perennials, such as roses, azaleas, yew, box, and lilacs. But down here in Texas, we have to use a bit of imagination. Truth be told, red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) isn’t a yucca either.

The last few years red yucca has become very popular in commercial landscapes and median plantings around Austin. They really strut their stuff in a mass planting where the pale red flowers seem to float like a cloud of butterflies above the green spikey base.

I don’t have room for a mass planting in my garden, so I found it a bit of a challenge to site a single plant among the cottage garden plants. I stuck it in a sunny spot between the ‘Penelope’ and ‘Prosperity’ roses and I don’t think it quite works. However, I’m happy that after four years, it has finally decided to bloom.

photo: Hesperaloe parviflora red yucca
A single red yucca almost disappears into the foliage of more traditional shrubbery. It works better in a starker landscape or when planted en masse.

Red yucca is reputed to attract both butterflies and hummingbirds, but I haven’t noticed either around my plants. [2008-06-13. Saw a hummingbird on the red yucca this morning.]

I think red yucca is better described as heat-tolerant, than drought-tolerant. High temperatures don’t seem to bother it, but in Austin it requires some supplemental water during the worst of summer to thrive. Just be sure that it has good drainage. (One thing to remember about so-called drought-tolerant plants…just because a plant can tolerate drought conditions doesn’t mean they perform their best. It’s more of a comparitive term. A red yucca can get buy with a lot less water than a hosta. But it doesn’t mean you can just plant a red yucca and forget about it.)

Red yucca forms clumps and you can divide them in the winter. I found it easy to start red yucca from seed, too. However, it grows very slowly. The seedlings I started two years ago are only six inches tall.
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photo: Scotts Ruston Rose
2006-04-21. Austin, TX. Scott’s Ruston rose looks very similar to ‘New Dawn’ below.

photo: rose New Dawn
2006-04-21. New Dawn. See how the petals curl back from the center giving it a pointed, modern shape?

April 25th, 2006
Rose "Scott’s Ruston"

My “Scott’s Ruston” rose is a bit of a mystery. I bought it from Barton Springs Nursery in 2001, but I’ve never been able to find a reference to it in any book or online. Something about the label made me think it is a found rose.

In Australia, the David Ruston Rose Centre is home to the National Rose Collection of Australia. (I suspect from all those capital letters, it’s an official collection.) Apparently they have 4000 varieties of roses, but they don’t provide a list, so I can’t find out if one of them is named “Scott”.

“Scott’s Ruston” is very similar to ‘New Dawn’ which makes me wonder if it is a sport. The flowers are the same shape and color, but the petals on “Scott’s Ruston” seem to have a more rounded edge. They both open flat and fade to the palest pink. I can’t rule out the possibilty that both these roses are ‘Ne. Dawn’ roses and that “Scott’s Ruston” was mislabled at the nursery.

photo: Scotts Ruston Rose
2006-04-23. The same instance of “Scott’s Ruston” rose after it opened. Cooler weather after the rain this week meant the roses looked nice for a couple of days each.

“Scott’s Ruston” is less vigorous than ‘New Dawn’, but that might just be because I planted it in an unfortunately shady spot under a cedar elm tree. In the same amount of time, ‘New Dawn’ has clambered all over the fence and is broaching a Texas mountain laurel, while “Scott’s Ruston” is just starting to arch over the fence.

After more than four years, “Scott’s Ruston” might finally have settled in. This year half a dozen roses opened at once.

Does anyone else grow this rose?

photo: question mark butterfly
Question mark butterflies, Polygonia interrogationis, are attracted to hackberry trees.

April 21st, 2006
April Showers Bring Question Marks

We had wild storms last night and good soaking rain. Today I spent all afternoon enjoying weeding in the garden. It’s not a chore when the ground is so moist and giving. All sorts of butterflies were out, too.

I’m ashamed to say that I know almost no butterflies by name. Nor do I find the internet a good tool for learning about them because the sites I visited assume that you’re starting with a name.

So I can’t pay homage to butterflies as I should. To know something’s name is to distinguish it from all else. Butterflies remain to me more of a general idea than groups of specific instances. The only way I can “see” what I’m looking at is to take a photo.

Maybe one of you can tell me this ones name, so that when next I see it, I’ll smile in recognition.


April 17th, 2006

No, we didn’t get a perfect score. That’s today’s high. No, that’s not normal. It broke the record for April 17th. It is also the first time we’ve ever broken 100 in April. Or in March. However, it’s not the earliest in the year we hit 100. That was in February, 1996. Should cool down to the 80s by Wednesday the forecasters promise.

We had power outages this afternoon in South Austin. Rumor has it that everyone got home and turned on their air conditioners at the same time. We lost power here twice but only for a couple of minutes each time–just long enough to bring the server down. AJM just got it working again.

I was going to grumble about June weather in April, but now I can moan about August weather in April. I think it’s time to visit Kathy up in her colder climate.

Bouldin Creek
Hubcaps, giant chickens, scarecrows made from cattle skulls, and purple houses–that’s look and feel of Bouldin Creek neighborhood. Bring on the toilets!

April 16th, 2006
Toilet Revenge

An Ohio family was denied a permit request to build a privacy fence around their backyard because one neighbor felt a fence didn’t fit in with the “open look and feel” of the neighborhood. So the family decided to add their own flavor to the neighborhood’s look and feel by decorating their yard with toilets filled with plastic flowers and toilet bowl brushes painted to resemble swathes of flowers.

Funny because in my South Austin neighborhood a yard full of decorated toilets would fit right in. In fact, I’m surprised no one’s done it yet. (Once this story gets out, I’m looking forward to some fine examples.) I do think the toilet idea is clever and hope the Ohio family wins their battle to build their fence, but…

Bouldin Creek
Hubcap and CD decorated privacy fence

My own neighborhood of small bungalows is also in a fight over look and feel. Our concerns are the opposite. We don’t want people to build soulless McMansions with huge garages dominating the streets.

So I find myself on the opposite side of the fence from the toilet yard people. Although, I think that in their case their permit should have been granted, I don’t believe that owning a piece of property gives you the right to disregard one’s neighbors. In our case, I don’t think out-of-state land speculators should be able to pave over my neighborhood and make a quick buck at the expense of the people who have lived here and made it a community. Rights must be balanced with civic responsiblity. I think a lot of problems would solve themselves if we thought in terms of stewardship rather than ownership.

Bouldin Creek
Our bungalows have character!

If I wanted to live in the soulless suburb I would have bought a house in Circle C where green lawns are mandated despite watering restrictions and clotheslines are forbidden.

Bouldin Creek
Giant fiberglass chicken. Some people keep real chickens, too. And the mayor pardoned our neighborhood goat so that he could be kept as a pet and rather than be deported as livestock.

2006-04-16. My meadow gets a little wilder every year. Austin, TX.
2007-04-16. This year, wetter and cooler, has resulted in many more bluebonnets and less pink evening primrose.

April 15th, 2006
Week 15: 4/9 – 4/15

Dateline: 2007
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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Trouble with RSS feed fixed?

April 4th, 2006
Site Updates

April 4, 2006
A couple of people have reported problems accessing my RSS feed. I tried subscribing to this site via Bloglines and it seems to be working now. (Although I might have broken the subscriptions you’ve already set up.)

If you have tried to subscribe to Zanthan Gardens, can you let me know whether or not it worked for you?
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