St Augustine grass
2007-06-18. June is the one month the lawn usually looks nice.

June 20th, 2007
I Love My Lawn in June

Here’s something you don’t see very often at Zanthan Gardens…a green lawn. Yep, June is my best month for lawns and the reason why, in my mind, June is the merry month of green. May showers bring June lawns.

St Augustine grass
2006-06-11. Even in the midst of the 2006 drought, some late May rains greened up the back lawn temporarily.

This year we’ve had May showers and June showers and April showers. In fact, it’s been raining in Austin since SXSW in mid-March. Today we had another inch to 4 inches, depending on where you were in Central Texas. (I think Zanthan Gardens got about an inch.) I’m not complaining! I’m celebrating. According to Jim Spencer, just half way through 2007 we’ve already received our normal annual rainfall.

Is your xeriscape rotting yet? The tallest of my yuccas keep falling over.

Over the years I’ve replaced quite a bit of my lawn with flower beds. But as you can see from the photo, this area is a bit shady for flowers or cactus or ornamental grasses or roses or herbs. The St. Augustine is more or less happy. And even after one of its unhappy years it always makes a comeback. I have not yet watered my lawn this year. In fact, I rarely water my lawns any year. Nor do I put any chemical fertilizers on it. This lawn is entirely caffeine driven. I mow it with a push mower so I feel absolutely zero lawn guilt.

A lizard gets caught up in the bird netting around the tomato plants.

June 18th, 2007
Lizard Trap

I went out to check on the tomatoes. So far we’re not having very good luck. The very first fruits were munched on by caterpillars when they were about the size of a cherry.

A month later, as the first ‘Black Krim’ tomato started to change color, we covered the plants with bird-netting. However the day we decided the first ‘Black Krim’ was going to be ready, we went out to pick it and something (probably raccoons) had beaten us to it. I don’t see how they got in and out of the netting without making a mess or getting tangled up in it but they did. A couple of days later we picked a semi-ripe tomato and let it ripen inside. Maybe we ate it too early, but we weren’t much impressed with its flavor.

‘Black Krim” tomatoes ripening.

That was a couple of weeks ago. Now a lot more are starting to ripen and we’re licking our lips. So I went out to check on them this afternoon and saw a lizard (Tree Lizard, I think, or maybe a Texas Spiny Lizard). Unfortunately it saw me too and made dash for it, right into the bird-netting.

Luckily it didn’t thrash around but held very still even when I got close to try to free it. It had somehow managed to get half its quite large body through the 1/2 inch square mesh. I got some manicure scissors and carefully cut the netting away from its delicate claws and arms. It held very, very still. Then as carefully as I could, I tried over and over to get the scissors under the mesh that was wrapped around its body. When I snipped my final snip, it dashed past me faster than I could see it. Whew! I was glad it held still long enough for me to free it. I’d be very upset if the birds or fire ants had gotten there first.

Now how did it manage to get under the netting in the first place?

Nerium Oleander Shari D
By far the most dramatic plant in the garden this time of year is the oleander. And to think, when I was growing up in Las Vegas where they’re planted in highway landscaping, I used to hate them.

June 15th, 2007
GBBD 200706: June 2007

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

June 15, 2007

Last night we had a surprise rain. Quite a relief after a fortnight of temperatures in the low 90s. It has been very humid and the air is thick with mosquitoes. So my gardening season is mostly over until fall. Don’t be mislead by the length of the list. Some plants have only a flower or two left. However, the heat means some of the summer flowers that have been slow to bloom this year (with our lovely cool, rainy spring) are finally coming into full bloom. Yep. Summer has hit Austin. Dammit.

  • Abelia grandiflora
  • Antigonon leptopus
  • Asclepias curassavica
  • Canna ‘Bangkok Yellow
  • Centaurea cyanus ‘Black Magic‘ — all but faded but maybe the rain will revive them)
  • chili pequin
  • Commelina erecta (day flower) — the weedy perennial. I much prefer its false cousin)
  • Commelinantia anomala (false day flower) — a couple a last flowers
  • Consolida ambigua (larkspur)
  • Cosmos bipinnatus–one self-sown flower
  • Engelmann daisy
  • Eschscholzia californica ‘Mikado
  • Hibiscus syriacus
  • Lagerstroemia indica
  • Lantana ‘New Gold’
  • Lantana montevidensis — one white flower
  • Lavandula heterophyla ‘Goodwin Creek Grey
  • Malvaviscus arboreus
  • Mirabilis jalapa pink
  • Mirabilis jalapa RHS red
  • Oenothera speciosa (evening primrose)
  • Oxalis triangularis
  • Nerium oleander ‘Turner’s Shari D.’ — full, gorgeous bloom
  • Pavonia hastata — one flower
  • Plumbago auriculata
  • Polanisia dodecandra — full bloom
  • rose ‘Blush Noisette‘ — a second flush from my best heat-loving rose
  • rose ‘Ducher’ — one bud just opening
  • rose ‘Red Cascade’ — one flower
  • rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison”
  • Rudbeckia hirta — full bloom
  • Ruellia (Mexican petunia)
  • Salvia farinacea ‘Indigo Spires’
  • Sedum album (white stonecrop)
  • tomato–we’ve eaten cherry tomatoes this week
  • Tradescantia pallida (purple heart)
  • Tulbaghia violacea (society garlic) Thanks, Pam!
  • Verbena canadensis
  • Vitus agnus-castus

Zanthan Gardens summer house
2007-06-08. The columns begin to go up. The reflecting pool reflects.

June 8th, 2007

The concrete foundation was poured on May 22 and for almost three weeks nothing much has happened onsite while the concrete was setting up. Offsite the special joints were being welded. There was a flurry of activity last Saturday when the concrete block wall was erected. Then on Monday after they’d put a coat of stucco on it, the workmen had to cover it with tarps and leave in a hurry because a big storm hit north Austin. Apparently it poured and hailed up north, but down here south of the river it remained sunny and we didn’t get a drop of rain. However, the pond still has a lot of water in it from the rain the night before and on Memorial Day.

Today work recommenced. More stucco was applied. And the support columns are going up. From the kitchen it looks like some Greek ruin…well, a modern rendition of a Greek ruin.

I find it a bit wearing to try to garden around the piles of boards and wire and rebar and lumps of cement and cinder blocks. It’s hard to be very enthusiastic about gardening this week anyway as summer is really weighing on us. We decided it was finally time to turn on the AC last night and…it’s broken. It was 80 in the house this morning before 8AM. So my enthusiasm for everything right now is rather low.

When the garden house is finished I’ll just lie out in the screened porch on days like this. Really! That’s my plan. Lay about and drink iced drinks. Austin is the slacker capital of the world and it’s time I participated in maintaining our reputation a bit.

photo: banana plantation before
2007-06-02. A year later. The banana plantation is a success!

June 5th, 2007
Banana Plantation: Update 2007

Dateline: June 2, 2006
Like so much of my garden, the banana plantation evolved out of unrelated events rather than by forethought or design. Last fall I got the stonework on the front of the house repaired. That so improved the look of the house that the yard looked grungy by comparison. So I cleared the flagstone path of St. Augustine grass which encouraged AJM to move the stones to the backyard and motivated me to buy stones for a new path. After Christmas I carted home loads of ground up Christmas trees and and heaped it over the remaining St. Augustine grass and monkey grass.

photo: banana plantation before
2005-10-26. Before.

On another front I attempted to divide my Musa lasiocarpa because the mother plant had died. Most of the pups snapped off at the root an I thought they were dead. I replanted the largest one in the same place, potted another, and put three more without roots into pots. I put a couple into water in a vase inside the house and threw the rest into the spare shower where they could keep warm over winter. To my amazement they all survived.

As far as I can tell Musa lasiocarpa is like some large fleshy above-the-ground bulb. The roots anchor it in the soil, but it sure doesn’t need them to live…at least it can get by over the winter.

Now that it’s warm, all the banana plants were putting out new growth. Where to put them? Ah. Here’s a bare spot. Voila! Banana plantation.

photo: banana plantation after
2006-06-01. After.

Still to do: build a short fence to separate the banana plantation from the driveway. I love the little wattle fencing that they make in England. I don’t have a willow tree, though. So I will have to come up with something similar using native materials.

Update: June 2, 2007
It’s taken almost six months since the first winter freezes for the bananas to start leafing out again. Despite all the water of this very wet spring, it’s temperatures in the 90s that seem to get them going.

photo: banana plantation before
2006-11-27. Just before the first freeze. Notice how this spot goes from full shade to full sun after the leaves fall.

photo: banana plantation before
2006-11-29. I wrap yellowing leaves around the stalks for extra insulation and then mound up cedar elm leaves to cover the banana stalks.

I will have to think what I can plant in the interim period from November to May. Overwintering annuals like snapdragons or violas might be nice as they’re finishing up right about now when the bananas leaf out. However, I do like the simplicity of having just the bananas. Still in winter and spring, until the trees leaf out, this is a very nice sunny area in a prominent place. I should do something more with it. Hmmm…what a wishy-washy gardener I am!

PS. Austin garden bloggers…for those who want them there’s definitely passalongs in your future.

Clive Owen in Greenfingers
Clive Owen evades police in a chase scene through Lower Slaughter.

June 1st, 2007

I don’t usually write movie reviews on this site but then again I don’t usually come across a movie that involves gardening as a major plot device. (The only other one that comes to mind is The Secret Garden.)

I rented Greenfingers primarily because Clive Owen is in it. But I stuck around for the gardening.

Gardening is a national passion in Britain. From the fancy designers at the RHS Chelsea Show, to rural villages competing in Britain in Bloom Campaign, to urban guerilla gardeners, everywhere you look, you’ll find gardeners. Even in prisons. Clive Owen plays a murderer who is sent to a progressive prison where he discovers he has greenfingers (the British equivalent of our greenthumbs).

If you believe in the restorative power of gardening, then you’ll probably like Greenfingers. It hovers in the territory of heartwarming without quite being treacly, thanks to a great cast. Helen Mirren is especially fun as Georgina Woodhouse, a Rosemary Verey/Penelope Hobhouse/Martha Stewart-type gardening doyenne.

I was hooked from the opening sequence because I recognized the village that Clive Owen was riding his bike through as Lower Slaughter, which we visited last year. England in the movies always looks so impossibly charming that it can’t be real. So I was very excited to recognize this very street.

Lower Slaughter
Although we spent only a couple of hours walking around the Slaughters, they made quite an impression.

This is a very sweet movie; however, gardeners with children might care to note that it is rated R for language and sexuality (romp in the woods with visible male butt, unfortunately not Clive Owen’s).