Austin Monthly Best Gardening website Zathan Gardens

December 31st, 2008
Austin Monthly's Best Gardening Websites

I experienced quite a thrill when I opened up the December 2008 issue (The Cool Issue) of Austin Monthly to the “Keep Austin Wired” section and saw Zanthan Gardens listed among Austin’s best gardening websites, along with The Natural Gardener and the city’s Grow Green sites.

Austin frequently ranks among the geekiest spots in America and when it comes to garden geekiness, it has no close contenders. As 2008 draws to an end, Blotanical lists 31 Austin garden blogs. (I can no longer keep up with them all.) So to be singled out…well, I squealed with delight.

I’m surprised, too. After eight years of writing Zanthan Gardens, my passions are shifting. 2008 has seen a series of transitions at Zanthan Gardens, both virtual and real. It began with the Garden Bloggers Spring Fling and meeting many people I knew only through their garden photos and writing. Spring Fling was an intoxicating experience: a reunion of old friends who had never met before. And bonus! I got my photograph in the Austin American-Statesman, garden blogging in the meadow.

After Spring Fling, I became more interested in chatting over the back fence with my fellow gardeners than with writing about my own experiences. This, combined with a really awful summer in Austin, has resulted in a dearth of posts these last eight months. I spent most of my time reading other people’s blogs, leaving comments. Then I discovered Twitter and blogging seemed cumbersome and so 2006.

I’m dissatisfied with garden blogging. I think there are going to be some changes. My interests are focused elsewhere and it’s so easy to keep up the social side via other channels. I find that I long for a winter, a true winter–time to be dormant and still. In Austin, of course, we have no dormant season. The garden To Do list is always full. And as Austin’s drought continues, I find myself just limping along…tired of the dust, tired of watering, tired of waiting for rain.

In some ways it is all those other gardens I’ve read about via your blogs that has made me dissatisfied. They’ve given me an itch to be elsewhere, to garden elsewhere, to grow different plants, to have different seasons (admittedly, I don’t think I could handle your winters). I do truly believe that one must garden where one is–we mustn’t try to turn the desert into Wales. Although others make very successful gardens in Austin, the challenges no longer arouse my interest. The garden is no longer a refuge; we are at odds.

Being a gardener, I recognize that dormancy is a natural state. Sometimes in late spring I worry over a plant, looking for buds, scraping the bark for a sign of green and wonder if it’s going to spring back with Spring or if it’s dead and brown forever. As for Zanthan Gardens, all things to their season.

Austin Monthly Best Gardening website Zathan GardensAustin Monthly Best Gardening website Zathan Gardens

photo: Christmas rose
2008-12-25. Roses blooming on Christmas Day in Austin, TX. ‘New Dawn’

December 25th, 2008
Week 52: Christmas Day Roses

Dateline: 2008
Two out of three of my ‘New Dawn’ roses have been flowering all December. The flower above is from a bud I didn’t see and pick before our last hard freeze. It survived and opened but you can see from the brown spots that it is frost damaged.

After the droughts of 2006 and 2008, I don’t have very many roses left in my garden. The David Austin ‘Heritage’ rose which was blooming on Christmas Day 2007 died. However, ‘Blush Noisette’ is still going strong, blooming in what passes for cold in central Texas but also doing well in Austin’s summer heat. This Christmas Day her flowers are either bud or blown.
photo: Christmas rose
‘Blush Noisette’

I’m bending the rules this year to show you my newest amaryllis, ‘Amoretta’. It opened about a week ago and has had to be protected from two hard freezes and then be immediately uncovered as temperatures soared into the 70s. As such it is a bit battered. I notice with roses that cold weather tends to intensify colors and I wonder if this is true with this amaryllis or whether this is its true color.
photo: Christmas amaryllis
Amaryllis ‘Amoretta’

Dateline: 2007
photo: Christmas roses
2007-12-25. Roses blooming on Christmas Day in Austin, TX. ‘Blush Noisette’
This has been a very good year for December roses throughout Austin. Two light freezes, last weekend and this, haven’t damaged the roses much especially those growing in a protected area along walls or privacy fences. The white flowered China rose, ‘Ducher’, is my only rose that is covered with flowers. Looking over my history below, I see that ‘Ducher’ and ‘Blush Noisette’ are my most reliable Christmas roses. Around town ‘Mutabilis’ also seems to do very well in this cooler weather.

photo: Christmas roses
2007-12-25. ‘Ducher’ is the only rose in full bloom; the snowy white against the red of the nandina berries is about as close to Christmas colors as we get in Austin.

The freezing night temperatures intensify the colors of ‘Heritage’. The flowers also opens more slowly last longer than in spring or summer.

photo: Christmas roses
2007-12-25. Another flower opened on ‘Heritage’; this one is a little smaller and more ragged than the one that opened for GBBD.

The downside to winter roses is that the buds are vulnerable.
photo: Christmas roses
2007-12-25. Freeze-dried buds on ‘Blush Noisette’.

The ‘New Dawn’ rose that I started from a cutting has a bud.

photo: Christmas roses
2007-12-25. A cane of ‘New Dawn’ has sprawled across the pinks; this bud didn’t quite make it open for Christmas Day…but we have 12 days left of Christmas.

Read the rest of this entry »

Crocus speciosus Zanthan Gardens

December 15th, 2008
GBBD 200812: Dec 2008

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

Paperwhites and roses. Crocuses and coneflowers. English peas and summer squash. To you gardeners with more distinct seasons, you probably think Austin gardens are a bit dysfunctional. And so we are. Last week we tied a record high of 81°F; the same night it snowed.

Asclepias Zanthan Gardens

Our ground doesn’t freeze but neither do our plants go dormant. Yesterday we basked in the enviable 70s; tonight we face our first hard freeze of the winter–down to the mid-20s. Oh, I know that’s nothing compared to the onslaught of ice you northern gardeners are struggling with. Did I mention, our plants don’t go dormant?

Tonight Austin gardeners are racing around to bring in potted plants and cover everything tender with old sheets and blankets. Friday it will be in the 70s again. The hope and heartbreak of December are in every bud. Like the crocus above, most flowers decided to hunch their shoulders against the cold today, and huddle petals closed.


The coral vine, Antigonon leptopus, hasn’t frozen back to the ground yet, but it’s flowers refuse to come out and play.
Antigonon leptopus Zanthan Gardens

I had hoped my most recent amaryllis acquisition would flower in time for GBBD but it is just as likely to freeze tonight without ever opening.
Amaryllis Zanthan Gardens

Last week the ‘New Dawn’ rose along the front fence was flowering nicely. This ‘New Dawn’ in the back yard was just about to open. I cut it after this photo and brought it in…
rose New Dawn Zanthan Gardens

…along with this ‘Blush Noisette’ bud which has already opened in the vase.
rose Blush Noisette Zanthan Gardens

Most of the rest of the roses look like this ‘Blush Noisette’–browned by recent light frosts and a bit windblown and worn.
rose Blush Noisette Zanthan Gardens

Summer’s Decay

I rather like this faded coneflower and it’s valiant attempt to keep blooming despite summer’s passing.
purple coneflower Zanthan Gardens

I don’t care at all for the Port St. Johns creeper but it is the only thing in the garden that is blooming with abandon and I have to admire that. Perhaps by morning it will be frozen and I can hack it back and uncover the rose it’s smothering.
purple coneflower Zanthan Gardens


My attempt to grow summer squash in the fall failed. I only got one small squash off of eight plants.
summer squash Zanthan Gardens

The English peas just started blooming last week. No peas yet. I think, with the row cover on, they might survive tonight’s low temperatures.
English pea Zanthan Gardens


The lavender just started blooming this week.
Lavandula Zanthan Gardens

The rosemary has been blooming all month. It was too gloomy and windy for the camera to focus.
rosemary  Zanthan Gardens


Let’s end this bloom day with December’s own flower…the only thing blooming “in season”–the paperwhite narcissus.
paperwhite narcissus Zanthan Gardens


Not pictured but flowering, the duranta and some very faded roses on ‘Ducher’.