garden house project
Somehow it didn’t all add up.

August 30th, 2007
Smarter Than a Fourth Grader

In fourth grade, Sister Florence introduced me to the wonders of multiplication and division–concepts that thrill any gardener when it comes to bulbs and perennials. Even as a child I found these concepts interesting in the abstract, despite being forced us to recite the times table up to 12 in front of the class. Arithmetic is pleasingly exact. And unlike Peggy Sue’s algebra, simple arithmetic is useful in all the practical sciences: cooking, sewing, building.

The man who came last month to measure the garden house for the screens was a confused when he looked at the framing. The strips for the rectangular wall screens are indented so that the screens will be flush in line with the columns. But the strips for the triangular gable screens are nailed to the outside of the beams. And so, they are not flush; they hang out over the edge.

garden house project

After examining this anomaly, I decided that it must have been done because the rafters were also doubling as the top edge of the frame for the gables. Unfortunately, the rafters did not line up with the beams and supporting columns. So now the only way to screen the mosquitoes out was to nail wood on the outside of the wall, to line up with the rafters.

When I asked why the rafters hadn’t been spaced to line up with the walls, I received this reply:

I was going to run wood on top of the screen and the frame would not be showing. Otherwise the frame would stick out much further than the others. An error that was revealed after framing as 18″ on center did not work out all the way down the line, as we have an overhand [sic] of 2 ft, and so forth..small 1 inch fudge.

So here’s the story problem. The house is 20 feet wide. If you want the rafters to line up with the walls, is there any way that 18 inches on center will work? If not, how far apart should you space the rafters? What is the standard spacing for rafters anyway?

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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, 2007
Week 34: 8/20 – 8/26

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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toad spawn
The pond comes to life.

August 23rd, 2007
Gulf Coast Toad

Although the new pond attached to the garden house isn’t ready for fish or plants, wildlife has already discovered it. Feral cats and grackles both drink from it. Dragonflies or damselflies (I can’t tell them apart yet) hover over it, alighting on potted plants nearby. And the last two nights we’ve heard the deep croaking of some toad.

While skimming leaves from the surface, I discovered this stringy ick, which AJM (raised in far wetter clime than I) recognized immediately as toad spawn. This morning I saw a toad creep out of the pond and hop off to the back forty. It was barely dawn so I couldn’t get a very good photo. I think it is Bufo valliceps, the Gulf Coast Toad.

Gulf Coast Toad

When I Googled “frog spawn” I got a lot of sites in the UK. Do Americans call it something else? The UK sites are aimed at helping children protect frogs and toads and raise them to release. One site said that toads only mate where they are spawned. But that can’t be true since this toad mated in a pond that didn’t exist a year ago.

Rhodophiala bifida
We stumble toward an upgrade. During all my computer troubles I almost missed the first oxblood lily of 2007.

August 18th, 2007
Hello world! Zanthan Gardens Has Moved to WordPress

This is my first WordPress post. We’ve been in the process of migrating the Zanthan Gardens site for some time now and I’m sure there will be some unexpected behavior and problems we need to work out.

If a link or photograph doesn’t work for you, or if you have trouble with comments, contact me via msinclairstevens at yahoo dot com and I’ll try to find a fix.

For those of you who subscribe to Zanthan Gardens via Bloglines, you might need to resubscribe. If you use another rss reader, would you let me know what happens.

Update: Sunday Evening

The blank individual entry pages (with comment form) and category pages should be working now even for those of you who use IE. I failed to close a tag in the html headers of those pages. I’ve run the W3C validator and discovered all sorts of little nasties I needed to fix. Thanks for all the feedback, from Pam/Digging and the rest of you listed below.

Update: Sunday Morning

Annie at The Transplantable Rose and Julie of the Human Flower Project both report a problem with getting a blank comment page. I don’t have a separate comment pop-up. The comment link should lead to the individual entry. After a little experimenting Annie discovered that this comment problem happens with Internet Explorer but not with Firefox. I don’t have IE–so I can’t test any fixes for it.

Carol at May Dreams Gardens reports trouble accessing Zanthan Gardens from Google Reader. The permalinks have changed. And although we went through all sorts of hoops to redirect the links, you might need to change them on your side as well. Or force your browser to refresh the page (rather than read the cache. In Firefox, that’s shift-refresh).




I can’t believe we have 5 more blogs to migrate…grrrr.

Zanthan Gardens Back Forty
2007-08-17. I spent three hours tugging on bindweed this morning; do I still have to go to the gym today?

August 17th, 2007
Weeding After a Rain

I enjoy weeding after a rain. The air is fresh and the plants perk up. Best of all our clay soil becomes soft enough to relinquish its hold on the weeds.

Today I decided to work on the southwest corner of my yard which I refer to as the back forty. It’s part of my mini-woodland and I leave it mostly in a natural state to provide habitat for birds and lizards, as well as a hiding place for possums and armadillos. I’m glad I have room in my yard to allow for a little wildness.

Zanthan Gardens Back Forty
2007-08-17. Before. Strangled in bindweed.

With all the rain Austin’s received this summer, the back forty has become a spot where you can no longer see the garden for the growth. Most of it is bindweed, wild ruellia, and turk’s cap. Underneath there somewhere is my ‘Little Gem’ magnolia and two tiny Texas mountain laurels that I’ve grown from seed.
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photo: Cosmos sulpureus
Cosmos sulphureus

August 15th, 2007
GBBD 200708: Aug 2007

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

August 15, 2007

Now that Austin is finally reaching normal summer temperatures, many plants have decided it’s time to close up shop until fall. However, after receiving almost twice our annual rainfall, the garden looks better than usual for this time of year. Typically here, there are few new flowers in the garden in August. Most of what’s blooming is just hanging on for dear life.

  • Abelia grandiflora
  • Allium tuberosum
  • Antigonon leptopus
  • Asclepias curassavica
  • Canna–unknown red from seed
  • chili pequin–very few flowers but covered in fruit
  • Coriandrum sativum–some cilantro sprouted with last month’s rains and quickly flowered on ragged 1 foot tall plants
  • Cosmos sulphureus
  • Duranta erecta
  • Hibiscus syriacus
  • Ipomoea quamoclit (cypress vine)
  • Lagerstroemia indica
  • Lantana ‘New Gold’
  • Malvaviscus arboreus
  • Mirabilis jalapa pink
  • monkey grass
  • Oenothera speciosa (pink evening primrose)
  • Oxalis triangularis
  • Nerium oleander ‘Turner’s Shari D.’ — full, gorgeous bloom
  • Plumbago auriculata
  • Polanisia dodecandra
  • rose ‘Blush Noisette‘ — once again in full bloom
  • rose ‘Red Cascade’
  • rosemary (unusual for summer here)
  • Rudbeckia hirta — fading
  • Ruellia (Mexican petunia)–dependable this time of year
  • Tulbaghia violacea (society garlic) Thanks, Pam!
  • Verbena canadensis

Zanthan Gardens: Bog Garden
2007-08-09. Before the bog garden can be planted, the caliche must be removed.

August 11th, 2007
Reclaiming the Garden

With the garden house project at a standstill this week, I decided to clean up the meadow garden which, thanks to Austin’s unusually heavy rains this year, is mostly weeds and rotted bearded iris. Even the paths are overgrown and covered in cement dust and other construction detritus.

The area around the garden house is the most dispiriting.

Zanthan Gardens: Bog Garden

This is where I laid down most of the Christmas tree mulch last January. And where I plan to put all my tropical plants. During excavation for the garden house foundation, mounds of caliche were piled up there and, with workmen walking over it constantly, has been packed down anywhere from six inches to a foot deep.


Caliche, as I’ve said, is almost as impervious as concrete. The rain runs right off it, exacerbating our drainage problems. (Since my return from England, our garage has flooded in every heavy rain.) Luckily it come up in big chunks.

As you might suspect, caliche is a poor planting medium. All of it will have to be removed before I can plant the terraced bog garden.

My day’s work.

If you are planning any project which requires excavation, be certain to specify who is responsible for hauling away the dirt!

I fell under the enchantment of this mystery flower.

August 3rd, 2007
Kindness of Friends

Friday a week ago, I was feeling rather frazzled and just needed to get out of the house. I sought solace in the Zilker Botanical Garden. It’s just down the street from my house and I can’t think why I don’t visit it more often. The crowds, probably. But last Friday was a rainy day in a week of rainy days. The gardens were almost empty.

I wended my way through the butterfly garden and slipped in the back way to the Hartman Prehistoric Garden. I’ve never seen it look so lush. The waterfall was flowing well and it looked like I had walked onto the set of some jungle movie…complete with surprises lurking around the bend.

Zilker Park Hartman Prehistoric Garden
I went back and snapped this photo today which was sunny and hot. It’s much more mysterious and evocative in mist and rain. I regret not carrying my camera with me always.

What attracted my attention most was this large white flower with an intoxicating scent. I couldn’t get enough of it. Whatever it was I wanted it for the bog garden-to-be next to my new pond.

I grew up in the desert and don’t have any experience with tropical or pond plants. A week passed and I stopped in at Emerald Garden to see if I could find it. I think I saw the plant but it wasn’t in flower so I couldn’t be sure. I couldn’t find a label or anyone to help me, so I left.

Then yesterday, I visited Annie in Austin because her new Adirondack chair has inspired me to paint our outdoor table the same bright yellow…and I wanted to see what the color looked like in real life. Of course, the first thing we did was sniff around her garden. Everything is in bloom and looks lovely. And there it was. The mystery flower. It’s a ginger. And she gave me one! I’m so excited.

We also had a lovely conversation which ended up lasting all afternoon long. Both Annie and Pam/Digging have graciously acted as sounding boards this week for a decision I’ve been toying with. They allowed me to toss ideas around and provided tons of encouragement. I hope they know how much I appreciate it.