February 4th, 2012
Week 05: 1/29 – 2/4

Blush Noisette
2012-02-02. Rose ‘Blush Noisette’

Dateline: 2012

The week ended with rain and a cold front but the contrast with last year’s snow and horrendous freeze couldn’t be greater. We’ve been enjoying March weather. Temperatures climbed to 82°F on Wednesday (2/1). We’ve had only two freezes so far this winter. Some plants like the Port St. John’s creeper and ruella haven’t died back. The combination of warm temperatures and rain after the long drought has tricked many plants into blooming out of season. I’ve seen Texas mountain laurel blooming along Lady Bird Lake. But no redbuds yet (which I always think bloom first.

Mermaid
2012-02-02. Rose ‘Mermaid’ between light showers.

Other out-of-sequence blooms: Larkspur began blooming before the bluebonnets. The roses began blooming before the Mexican plum trees. The hot weather roses, ‘Mermaid’ and ‘Blush Noisette’, began blooming before the queen of early roses, ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’. Roses of all kinds are blooming all over town. Tradescantia and false dayflowers also began blooming this week at Zanthan Gardens. The rosemary, the winter honeysuckle, the lantana, and one clump each of Narcissus italicus and Narcissus ‘Grand Primo’ are still in flower, rounding out the in bloom list.

The wet and warmth have made the salad greens happy. We’ve been eating large salads out of the garden almost every evening. I’ve planted more. The leaves of the cilantro are glossy and green. We can’t use it fast enough. Of course, the unofficial salad greens are also rampant: chickweed, goose grass, and henbit. I can’t keep up with weeding the henbit and it’s smotherered out the bluebonnet seedlings. I like to keep some henbit around for the butterflies but so far I’ve seen only two so I’m regretting it.

Dateline: 2011

Friday February 4, 2011.
We wake up after record-breaking snowfall at Camp Mabry today. The old record for daily snowfall was 1/2 inch in 1906. 105 years later, a whole inch!

snow bluebonnet
2011-02-04. Snow covered bluebonnet.

Dateline: 2009

Zanthan Gardens amaryllis
Amaryllis ‘Amoretta’ and ‘Black Pearl’. After having ‘Amoretta’ nipped by frost, I decided to keep ‘Black Pearl’ potted inside until after it finished blooming.As we head into Austin’s 18th month of drought, the temperature range reflects our desert-like conditions with 40-degree swings. Several nights temperatures in Austin have dipped below freezing but by afternoon the mercury’s risen to the 60s or 70s. Despite tweets of hard freezes elsewhere in Austin, Zanthan Gardens has been spared. The last two predicted freezes, I didn’t even bother to put the row cover over the vegetables or bring in the potted plants. And I didn’t get caught out. A change is coming for Week 6: more humidity and much warmer low temperatures (in the 50s and 60s).

The Narcissus tazetta v. italicus is in full bloom. I love the scent. The duranta and the Port St. John’s creeper still have some small ragged flowers from last year. The seed grown sweet alyssum is cheerfully blooming. Comparing the general growth of meadow plants and spring bulbs with last year, everything is much smaller from the lack of water. However, the roses are jumping at the bit to bloom. Souvenir de la Malmaison is full of large buds. (Does this mean a hard freeze is around the corner?) I’m racing around feeding everything with bone meal.

The vegetable garden continues to do well. I scraped up one last serving of broccoli before cutting it out. We’ve had a couple of servings of English peas. I need to plant a lot more next year. The shallots are up and looking promising. The arugula is getting a bit big but continues to provide great salads.

The upside to the drought is that there are almost no weeds. I saw one henbit flowering this week. I continue transplanting larkspur and bluebonnets. This is my favorite time of year to be in the garden. If we could get the two feet of rain we’re lacking, it would be perfect.

Dateline: 2008


Zanthan Gardens meadow
2008-02-04. The meadow at Zanthan Gardens.

Higher than normal temperatures this week, the high today (2/4) reached 80F/26.6C. I’ve spent much of the weekend and from 9 to 5 today in the garden weeding, mulching, and transplanting in the meadow. I’m very pleased with how it’s coming together this year. I’m working extra hard so that it will look good for the Garden Bloggers Spring Fling. Some of the other parts of the garden are being rather neglected, though. I still haven’t gotten my pototoes planted, ordered any seeds, or figured out what to do in the two more formal squares in the winter garden. I feel like I’m racing madly toward that first moment in spring when the redbuds bloom. That should be in a couple of weeks.

For all the spring green, not much is blooming yet. The one bluebonnet that began blooming on 12/15 is still blooming. Another bluebonnet has buds. The leatherleaf mahonia still has yellow flowers which the bees seem to like. Various paperwhite narcissus are blooming. The wilder ones have cute 1/2 inch wide flower with petals that curve in. The N. italicus have larger flowers on taller plants. The petals are ivory white, thin, and almost curve back. Of course, the violas are blooming but they hardly seem natural so they don’t count in my mind. Two wan flower are blooming on the rose ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’ but she remains unhappy where she is currently sited (in too much shade). I’ve been stripping all the roses of last year’s leaves and pruning them. I also cut back the ornament grasses and mulched them with Dillo Dirt. In the vegetable garden the salad greens are about an inch high. I planted some broccoli raab, which I’ve never grown before.

The weeds are making a strong showing. Henbit and chickweed are blooming and sow thistle is sprouting. And the chiggers make kneeling in the garden a miserable experience! I’ve never been so bothered by chiggers before. Austin desperately needs a good soaking rain. We haven’t had one since October, only a few drizzles.

Dateline: 2006


photo: Tulip Tree
2006-02-03. Tulip Tree (saucer magnolia) at the University of Texas, Austin.

Nothing much is happening in my garden this week, but these four tulip trees in a courtyard at UT were in full bloom. I’ve never grown this scentless magnolia–which makes me realize that I prefer scent to visual showiness in the garden.

Speaking of scent, I was surprised to see the Texas mountain laurels in planters on Congress Ave started blooming this week. I don’t remember ever seeing them before the redbuds. In my yard, I don’t expect to see either for three weeks yet. My yard always seems to be a couple of weeks behind the rest of Austin.

I am relieved to see the Tulipa clusiana, the bluebells, and various narcissus poking up. The N. italicus are still blooming and the rose ‘Ducher’ is getting more and more flowers.

Dateline: 2005

When I last wrote, spring seemed in the air. As typically happens this time of year, we had one of our longest, coldest, wettest weeks. In years past, this has been the week for ice storms. I remember particularly 1996. We had a huge ice storm that shut down the city in the first week of February. And by the 20th we had record breaking highs of 100 and wildfires breaking out. I prefer this steady weather, even if it is cold and drizzly.

On Monday (1/31) one bud opened on a Mexican plum, but it remains the only bud open. So I can hardly write that the plum trees are in flower. I saw a lone robin, too, that day. I was hoping he would return. But a mockingbird kept driving him off and I haven’t seen him since. I saw my first robin in 2003, but none last year. The overwintering wildflowers (the bluebonnets and the larkspur) are loving the rain. But so are the first greens of spring (chickweed, goosegrass, and henbit). At least the damp earth makes weeding easy.

I planted some potatoes that had sprouted in the pantry. The resident Brit was spoiled in his youth by the taste of his father’s new potatoes. I find it hard to get seed potatoes because the ship dates are always too late for us; the weather is too hot here by then.

Dateline: 2004

Wednesday February 4, 2004
Gloomy and rainy all day. Some downpours. Then by 10PM a severe thunderstorm watch and heavy rains into the wee hours of Thursday. We get less than an inch of rain, though.

Dateline: 2002

My garden diary tells me to look for the first signs of spring this week. We did see the flowering quince in full bloom in the Brenham block yesterday. And around town long switches of Carolina jessamine are bursting out yellow. But as yet in my garden, the crocuses, tulips, daffodils, and bluebonnets are still biding their time even though they have bloomed this week in other years.

The weather has been very average this week. Don’t you always suspect that when the forecasters report that the average temperature is 50, that half the years it is 70 and the other half it’s 30? But this week it has stayed in the 50s with low dreary clouds that provide just enough drizzle to prevent the contractors from putting the new roof on our house. I can’t go out when it’s this cold because I’m still recovering from pneumonia. So I remain indoors impatiently looking out the windows for some sign of spring.

Dateline: 2001

Sunday February 4, 2001
A very warm (65 degrees) sunny day and I spend all day in the garden weeding.

Dateline: 1997

Sunday February 2, 1997
Warm, sunny and in the 70s. However no rain recently so I spent the morning watering: Mexican plums, Trevithians in the woods, Buddleia in the woods, the Wandering Jew, the wax myrtle, the Spanish bluebells, the live oak in the south border, the tulips, the north border (but not the rocket or lantana) and the Eureka persimmon.

Dateline: 1996

Only in the high twenties Wednesday morning (1/31) with the wind chill making it feel like zero. Tonight freezing rain is forecast. I cover the most tender plants in the south bed with cardboard boxes. Thursday (2/1) we are under a winter storm watch. Freezing rain and 24 degrees at 7am. Roads and schools closed.

Friday thru Monday Feb 2, 1996
Bitter cold, below 20 degrees.

by M Sinclair Stevens in Austin, Texas

26 Responses to post “Week 05: 1/29 – 2/4”

  1. From bill:

    I have seen several robins this year. I have been out looking for flowers but still nothing new to report.

  2. From Rantor:

    So long as the potatoes haven’t been dusted with something to retard mold or fungus, we just cut them up with a couple or three eyes and plant them when they’re showing signs of sprouting. We’ve had some beautiful potatoes (red Irish potatoes), very firm and of course fresher than their “parents.”

  3. From margaret:

    Here in the north-west of England the potatoes are” spritting” ready for planting out. Traditionally that is done here on Good Friday. I have always found this rather a puzzle as the date obviously changes from year to year. I think that the real reason for the successful crop is the inevitable rain. We do have a great display of snowdrops (galanthus nivalis. I much prefer the basis plant – new developments never seem quite as attractive somehow.

  4. From bill:

    The weatherman is predicting temperatures below 30 the next two nights here. I fear for the roses and fruit trees on which I have already seen buds the past week.

  5. From Kathy (New York):

    So you’re calling a certain kind of magnolia a Tulip Tree? Up north, we call Liriodendron tulipifera the Tulip Tree. Does that tree grow down in Texas? If it does, is it also called Tulip Tree, or something else?

    Kathy, your yellow-flowered tulip tree is what I call a tulip poplar. It’s also in the magnolia family. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one down here. Our pink-flowered tree is either Magnolia liliiflora or more likely Magnolia x soulangeana, the saucer magnolia. This is the kind of trouble I get myself into when I try to write about something I’ve only seen in passing. — mss

  6. From Lori, Austin TX:

    I feel like I’m racing against time in my own garden right now. I have so many things that need to be moved, planted, or have beds prepared to be planted before it gets hot, and I can’t seem to keep up with my grand plans. I stuck my bareroot ‘Celeste’ fig tree in a pot and watered it in this afternoon since god knows when I’ll have time to amend the clay where it’s going to go.

    Speaking of M. Alfred Carriere, I just bought two at the Natural Gardener and I’m going to try growing one up a tree and one running along the top of a fence. Hopefully they’ll both be happy. I keep hearing about M. Alfred’s wonderful scent and my fingers are crossed.

    I haven’t been ecstatic over ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’. For scent I think David Austin’s ‘Heritage‘ is the most intense, and ‘Blush Noisette‘ is more bushy, vigorous and you can smell it across the garden on a humid night. My favorite rose is probably ‘Souvenir de Malmaison’. I’ll be interested to hear about your experiences, though. I think my problems with ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’ is that she is not happy where I planted her. — mss

  7. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    Is it already cutting-back time? Good grief, it is! Like Lori said, late winter feels like a race against time in Austin, before the summer’s heat returns. Remember how the northern garden bloggers rushed around before winter? That’ll be us now.

    I was looking at the In Bloom calendar and even the flowers are behind this year. Rain. Rain. Austin needs rain. — mss

  8. From ewa:

    I think I am one of ‘northern’ garden bloggers :) however I am located in Poland, it still counts, right?
    I am one of those gardeners, who leaves the garden in natural state for the winter, so for me the time for rushing areound is coming slowly – everything should be ready in March – more or less the grand cleaning.
    Because the winter is very mild this year – extraordinary mild I would say, I started to clean up today – never heard of before ‘to clean up garden in February in our region’ – thats the strongest winter month here.

    Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving nice comment :)
    I will be coming here more often. Greetings,

    Ewa

    And thanks for visiting me. Having gardening friend in Poland, how cool is that! I’m looking forward to reading all about your garden. — mss

  9. From Angelina:

    I have never eaten broccoli rabe, I am suspicious of it, worried that it might be too tough or bitter. But if that were the case it would not have become so popular, right?

    So what the heck are chiggers? They sound evil.

    What? You don’t know what chiggers are? You really do live in paradise. I can see this will require a separate post, just like the caliche did. Chiggers ARE evil. To quote Wikipedia, “They do not actually ‘bite,’ but instead form a hole in the skin and chew up tiny parts of the inner skin, thus causing severe irritation and swelling. The severe itching is accompanied by red pimple-like bumps (papules) or hives and skin rash or lesions on a sun-exposed area.” Chigger bites are much worse than mosquito bites. If you get a bunch of them, it’s almost like having poison ivy. — mss

  10. From Mr. McGregor's Daughter (Chicagoland):

    I can’t wait til Spring Fling to see your garden in person! Isn’t it fun to compare weather over the years?

    One of the things that interests me most about keeping a garden diary (or any kind of diary) is comparing what’s happening now with what’s happened before. The trouble with blogging software is that it tends to force people into ordering experience in a straight sequence. I’ve worked hard to work around that. I’ve emailed you about Spring Fling. I hope we have a chance to get together and that you can come over. — mss

  11. From Aiyana:

    80 degrees? Wow. We’ve been running below normal here, but next week should bring our temperatures back to normal–low 70s. I’ve been picking weeds for weeks from the January rains, but we’re still in winter dormancy.
    I run into a lot of blogs by Austin area gardeners, and there are so many really nice ones. I’m going to have to do some research on your area–I’m surprised by the temperatures and variety of garden plants you can grow there. Everybody’s garden always looks so nice!
    Aiyana

    Yep. We tied for the record today (2/5) at 81F and then a cold front came through and dropped temperatures 20 degrees. The high should be closer to normal tomorrow, around 60…which was our low last night. — mss

  12. From Diana Kirby - Austin:

    I empathize. I spent the whole day today pruning, digging, cleaning, and it felt GREAT! I was whiny last week because I just wasn’t quite in mood yet, but today I barely made it in the door after taking my daughter to school, I was so eager to get out there. And even though I know I was an ANT and accomplished a ton, I’m not sure anyone else would even notice, there is so much left to do! Aaack … it’s almost Spring! And, as you say, GBSF!!!

    Looks like we’ll have more great weather this weekend to help us get ready for GBSF. — mss

  13. From Ki (New Jersey):

    I’m jealous that you can grow sago palms outdoors. At least that’s what the plant next to the prickly pear looks like.

    Yes, you’re right. That’s a sago palm. I’ve seen some really gigantic specimens around Austin. — mss

  14. From kate:

    I think your garden is already looking beautiful. It certainly does to my garden-starved eyes. I had to go off and read about chiggers. For all of the various times that I have read about them, I wasn’t exactly sure what they were. Now I know. What a nuisance.

    I would never tire of seeing bluebonnet photographs.

    Thanks. I like the garden this time of year because it changes so quickly from day to day. However, if someone just stopped by for a moment, they probably wouldn’t think much was going on. Nothing blooming. Not much color. Not much design. It’s not so much how it looks at any given moment, but the process, the changes, the development over a period of time that attracts me. — mss

  15. From vbdb, austin:

    Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog as it prompted me to do what I’d meant to do for a long time – visit yours! When I did, I absolutely got lost in it. Thank you for your hard work. What a delight.

    Thanks. It’s always nice to hear from new people. It reminds me why I keep writing. I’m really glad I found your blog. You know, I was born in the Mojave desert, so we have something in common there. — mss

  16. From Nancy Bond:

    That’s such an inspired idea — to keep track of weather and garden conditions from year to year. Your Amaryllis are beautiful!

    Thanks. The “week by week in the garden” has been a feature of Zanthan Gardens since the beginning over seven years ago. I based the site on my original garden journal which was organized week by week. Sadly, I haven’t kept it up the last year because during this drought, nothing much seems to change. — mss

  17. From Pam/Digging:

    I see from your comments last year that the Austin bloggers were gearing up for Spring Fling. I bet the Chicago bloggers are madly getting ready, a year later.

    One thing that hasn’t changed, as you point out, is that we need rain. Desperately. I’ve got a miniature dust bowl in the side yard of my new house. The sprinklers (not that I’ve used them in a many weeks) are obviously not working over there. I’m going out today to cover it in mulch and just make a path out of it. I need to go over to the old house and start dragging hoses around to get it watered. Ugh.

    I found it very depressing to read the 2008 entry and how desperate I was for rain then…and here it is a whole year later and we are in the SAME drought. No letup. I used to think of drought in terms of weeks and months. Will this be like the 1950s where we better start thinking of drought in terms of YEARS? — mss

  18. From Diana - Austin:

    Spring Fling seems like an eternity ago! Your amaryllis really are beautiful. I have one that’s the same as one of yours (I forget which one) and it simply will NOT bloom. Guess I should feed it and see what happens. Bone meal? Anything else? Oh, and my Larkspur are erupting from the ground – they are so very happy and I love watching them everyday!

    Both these amaryllis are new this year so they are primed to flower by the grower. However, I do use bone meal on my other flowering plants. I’m glad to hear that you’re having success with the larkspur. I think it’s the nicest thing to hear about plants I’ve shared growing in other people’s gardens. They will be with you forever now…they’re so easy to grow. — mss

  19. From Annie in Austin:

    A good, slow soaking rain would be wonderful, MSS – but we don’t want two feet all at once! I’ve also got an amaryllis in bloom with a similar flower color, tagged ‘Stargazer’.

    Anything left outside here would have been frozen like the stems of duranta, cuphea and salvias.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    You definitely live in a colder section of Austin! No we don’t need two feet of rain all at once (although a big flood did follow the 1950s 7-year drought). I think it’s scary to measure two feet and think that that’s how much water we’ve missed in 18 months. That’s a LOT of water. In my yard alone, 30,000 cubic feet or 224,416 gallons of water. Could that be right?– mss

  20. From Jenny Austin:

    Beautiful amaryllis. How I wish I had a diary of years past like yours. It is interesting to read about the differences from year to year. The only one I remember was Feb. 24th several years ago when we came out of the movie theatre to find our truck covered with ice along with everything else around. Good job it was 4WD or we would never have got home. I heard recently that bone meal is no longer a good thing to use in the garden because it attracts critters. Don’t know if this is true. Henbit is flowering in my garden too. I rather like the flowers and wish it wasn’t a weed.

    I haven’t used bone meal for several years and my flowers have suffered. So this year (after reading several old organic gardening books) I decided to try it again. I do have problems with critters anyway so I may regret it. I can tell why bone meal attracts them. Even I find the scent oddly intoxicating. — mss

  21. From Cheryl in Austin:

    Wow, you’ve got some energy…I’m still shivering and waiting for rain and my mood to rise…I will say that the henbit in my yard is prolific? I don’t mind though, I feed it to the chickens. Your meadow is lovely…hmmmm, seeds…I need to get on that!

  22. From Annie in Austin:

    It’s 2011, MSS, so I’m back again to comment on how funny it is that central Austin had to wait 100 years for snow, but in far NW Austin we’ve seen snow at least 4 times since 2003. How amazing it is to see your bluebonnet showing color! The survivors in my garden are just rosettes – and in one bed the little bluebonnet babies completely disappeared after that scouring wind came through.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    That was an oversummering bluebonnet which bloomed early. Not the earliest I’ve ever had bloom and not as early as in Diana’s garden this year. Central Austin has had snow in the last 100 years. In fact, it snowed in 2010 (which melted as soon as it hit the ground). However, this broke the record for measurable snowfall in one day. I don’t think it was anywhere close to the accumulation of snowfall we had in January, 1985. — mss

  23. From Wandering Jew plant:

    Wow, it makes me sad to see that bluebonnet all cover up in the snow. :( Beautiful Amaryllis, it looks so healthy, mine always bends since the bloom gets huge and heavy.

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  25. From Annie in Austin:

    In far NW Austin the temperature has already dropped below freezing tonight, MSS! But there is less at stake here than in your garden. Yellow daffodils and the Rosa mutabilis are in magnificent bloom and ‘Julia Child’ has buds, but most roses are not doing much. The larkspur remain small plants. Only a few buds on the Texas Mountain Laurel/Mescal Bean were showing color. We’ve had at least 3 freezes with the coldest night down to about 27°F. Much cilantro here, too.
    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    It ended up almost at freezing: 32.9 was what the Bouldin Weather station reported. I brought in a couple of tropical potted plants but didn’t cover anything up. All seemed fine the next day. — mss

  26. From Dan The Gardener:

    I’m so jealous you’ve been eating large salads out of the garden almost every evening. How I wish me and my family will do the same way next year :-)