Rose ‘Happenstance’

While on a the Austin garden blogger field trip to the Madrone Nursery, the San Antonio Botanical Gardens, and the Antique Rose Emporium, yesterday, at the latter I came across this lovely rose ‘Happenstance’.

‘Happenstance’ is the miniature version of ‘Mermaid’ (which I grow). ‘Mermaid’ is a rambunctious rambler, and in my garden has snaked up through several trees making many visitors do a double-take when they see her flowers blooming through very non-rose foliage.

‘Mermaid’ is renowned for her thorns and ‘Happenstance’ shares this family trait. However, ‘Happenstance’ is a comparitively small, dense (although equally thorny) bush. The leaves are much smaller than ‘Mermaid’ but just as glossy and bright green. The flowers are only slightly smaller. So if you like the large, flat creamy flowers of ‘Mermaid’ but don’t have room for a house-eating rambling rose, ‘Happenstance’ seems to be the solution.

rose Mermaid
Rose ‘Mermaid’. The difference in color is primarily a result of the lighting. Mermaid is a creamy ivory, not yellow, rose.

This is the first time I’ve written a plant profile on a plant I haven’t grown. When, I saw ‘Happenstance’ I knew that I would grow it someday…just as soon as I find a sunny spot.

Kalanchoe daigremontiana

Mother of thousands, Kalanchoe daigremontiana, is described as an annual succulent that will not survive a frost. For years, I kept this native of southwest Madagascar potted and moved it indoors any time we had a freeze warning. Last winter, it got too big for me to carry in and out and I left it outside. Although others in Austin experienced hard freezes, my neighborhood just south of Lady Bird Lake apparently did not. Old stands of mother of thousands bloomed up and down my street.

Kalanchoe daigremontiana
2009-03-10. A well established stand of Kalanchoe daigremontiana in a neighbor’s garden.

When taking photos for GBBD last January, I noticed that buds were forming on my potted plant.

Kalanchoe daigremontiana
2009-01-15. Anticipation.

It had never bloomed before and I was excited. It took almost six weeks for the flowers to open fully; however, it remained in flower for months. Flowering does not necessarily happen annually. The conditions must have been just right in Austin last winter because I’d never seen it in flower before, mine had never flowered before, but I suddenly saw it flowering everywhere.

Kalanchoe daigremontiana
2009-03-20. Kalanchoe daigremontiana.

My kalanchoe tolerated full sun even in this hot, dry year. It was fairly drought tolerant. I watered it when it looked reddish and sunburnt but I didn’t have to baby it. When it began to rain and cool down, the leaves became greener and plumper. I would say that its growing requirements are similar to Aloe vera. It’s tempting to want to plant both because they are great structural plants that can take Austin’s punishing summers. They’ve survived the warmer than normal winters we’ve had in 2007 and 2008. However, 2009 is supposed to be colder than average–plants which have recently thrived may be in for a killer surprise.

Kalanchoe daigremontiana
2009-11-06. Kalanchoe daigremontiana. All the green around the pot are baby plants.

Fortunately this kalanchoe is aptly named mother of thousands. The edges of the leaves are covered with plantlets which drop off and root. I got my start by taking a few leaves and sprinkling the plantlets into the pot containing another plant. Sure enough they sprouted and pretty soon took over the pot. Now they’ve sprouted all around the pot

Kalanchoe daigremontiana
2009-02-09. Kalanchoe daigremontiana.

The stems also flop over and root. I’ve read that the cuttings must be kept dry to root but I haven’t tried that yet because when the rains finally arrived this fall hundreds of little plantlets fell from the leaves and took root around the mother plant and even quite far away wherever the rainwater had washed them.

I’m potting them up to take inside over the winter as a backup in case the mother plants freeze. If you’re an Austin gardener and want some, let me know.

Pronunciation: kalənˈkō-ē, that is the “ch” is pronounce like a “k”. “ko-ee”, not “cho”.

Rose ‘Blush Noisette’

Update: October 29, 2009

After our month of rain, roses all over Austin are blooming in profusion. I see ‘Knockout’ roses on every corner. I’m not a fan of their cherry red color so I don’t have any. I much prefer the baby pink of my old-fashioned ‘Blush Noisette’.

‘Blush Noisette’ has survived both the 2006 and 2008/9 droughts and seems as happy as ever. However, 2009 was the first summer that it didn’t bloom much. I kept watering it and cut back some of the old growth to the ground. When the fall rains came, it tripled in size and this week has begun blooming profusely.

It has not quite reached the size or number of flowers that it did in rainy 2007 but it’s getting there. If you live where the water is plentiful, it will thrive. If you don’t, it will survive happily, not just grudgingly.

photo: rose blush noisette
April 23, 2007. This is the biggest ‘Blush Noisette’ has ever gotten.

The best thing about the fall bloom is that dry cool weather alternates with the rains–and so the flowers haven’t succumbed to their usual tendency to ball.

Dateline: November 9, 2003

photo: rose blush noisette

‘Blush Noisette’ has a baby powder fragrance that wafts on the breeze. It’s the only rose I have which surprises me with unexpected whiffs of scent that I can smell even if I’m digging weeds 10 feet away. In my garden, it’s is in bloom more than any other rose, even in the heat of summer.

The pale pink flowers bloom in little nosegays. Unfortunately they don’t open at once. And the individual blossoms frequently ball (turn brown before opening as shown in the photo below). They don’t seem to ball in wet weather like ‘Souvenir del Malmaison’. I think they do it if I haven’t kept up with my watering. This bunch opened over a week where it which began dry in the 90s and ended drizzling in the 40s. ‘Blush Noisette opened its biggest flowers ever in the cold drizzle.

photo: rose blush noisette

I grow ‘Blush Noisette’ as a freestanding bush rose. It has formed a nice vase shape about three feet cubed.

Update: 2018-03-18

I prune, weed, feed, and water rose ‘Blush Noisette’ which is starting to have buds. She is getting just too much shade from the Texas mountail laurel. I’ll try to open those up a bit.

Iris ‘Incantation’

A lavender blue bearded iris opened this week and I had to go through my files of photographs to identify it. Everyone is under the misconception that I keep great records. In contrast, I feel like I never write down the precise bit of information that I want to know later. When did I transplant this iris? Where did I move it from? What is it? Why didn’t I label it or jot down a few notes?

In my files I found several photos of ‘Incantation’. Some taken with my digital video recorder in on April 21, 2002. Another set taken with my first digital camera on April 24, 2005. These showed the distinct veining on the falls and the bit of bright orange on the throat of the otherwise white beard.

bearded iris Incantation
Bearded iris ‘Incantation’. April 24, 2005.

This year ‘Incantation’ opened on April 25th. I have only one rhizome left which has sent up one stalk with three flowers. I originally bought three rhizomes from Schreiner’s in 1999 for $7.50 a piece (not factoring in the discount). They bloomed in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005, and now 2009. I thought I’d lost them to rot completely. I transplanted them again last fall and only one survived. It has been smothered by bluebonnets most of the spring and I was completely surprised when the flower stalk popped up last week.

Here’s my original impression from April 20, 2000.

First flower. Well-proportioned with standards the periwinkle blue of some of the larkspur. It blends very well with the larkspur but what I really need is contrast. This is the trouble with liking one color and buying every flower that is that color.

I think I was wrong. I look at the photo at the top of this post and now I think that’s just perfect.

Iris 'Strictly Ballroom'

Today ‘Strictly Ballroom’ is the lone reminder of my former obsession with bearded irises.


Rose ‘Ducher’

My roses rarely look like photos in rose books: you know, with hundreds of flowers cascading over a dense green bush. So my China rose, ‘Ducher’, is taking my breath away right now every time I catch a glimpse of it. I can’t quite capture the effect because the white flowers reflect the light in such a way that it looks like a bush covered in tissue paper flowers.

‘Ducher’ is said to be the only white China rose. (It’s pronounced “doo shay” according to the Aggie’s Earthkind Roses site. I’m glad they include that because I’m always in a muddle over French names.) They are ivory white, meaning they have a very slight yellow, rather than pink, tint. Depending on the light, some flowers seem to glow from within. The flowers are about 3 inches across and rather flat. They have a lemon-y scent. The petals fall rapidly when the flower is finished so there are never ugly brown flowers drooping on the plant as is sometimes a problem with white roses.

rose Ducher

The bush is very dense and twiggy and looks nice even when it’s not blooming. The leaves are a flat medium green. New growth is very red. The stems are almost thornless.

Garden History

This is my second ‘Ducher’ rose. I planted the first one on the south side of the yard. It only got winter sun and so bloomed well in winter. Several years ago it succumbed suddenly to cane dieback. When my neighbor built a wooden privacy fence on the north side of my yard, I was able to begin taking out the nandina hedge. I decided I wanted to replace the roses I’d lost in the 2006 drought. ‘Ducher’ was the first replacement–the only rose I’ve bought twice.

rose Ducher
Rose ‘Ducher’. March 28, 2008. Austin, TX

The new situation has suited it. I thought the first one was a nice little rose before. This one is like the snow queen. These two photos were taken almost exactly a year a part and it’s doubled in size in every direction. The Antique Rose Emporium says that ‘Ducher’ is smaller than most China roses and a good candidate for containers. With only my experience of my first ‘Ducher’ I would have agreed. This one’s now about 4 feet tall and 5 feed wide. You’d need a pretty large container.

rose Ducher
Rose ‘Ducher’. March 21, 2009 Austin, TX

This year ‘Ducher’ began blooming on February 6th and each week has become more and more laden with flowers. These last two weeks it’s upstaged everything else in the garden. I really love ‘Ducher’. Although the individual flowers are not as arresting as ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ the overall effect of the bush is very attractive. And it’s not at all fussy. It doesn’t need a lot of pruning and it seems resistant to most diseases and pests. Basically all I’ve had to do is plant it where it got enough sunlight and make sure it got enough water. In a year when most of my plants were simply surviving the drought, ‘Ducher’ has been thriving.

Pisum sativum, English peas ‘Green Arrow’

Although some of you are just putting in your spring veggies (or are still snow bound), here in Austin I’ve already pulled out my cool weather plants like broccoli and English peas. I think the peas normally might have lasted longer but Austin had a week of days in the mid-80s and after that the peas stopped flowering and looked like they were at the end of their season. I needed the space for warm weather plants so out they came.

I planted the English peas as part of my new fall vegetable garden. After being inspired by the Austin Master Gardener’s tour last April, I decided to put in a raised bed for fall vegetables. Over the winter months this spot of the yard gets full sun; in the summer it is in heavy shade. It is also on the south side of the house, protected from cold winds from the north. I have floating row covers for frosty nights. Zanthan Gardens did not experience a hard freeze at all in winter 2008/2009.

English peas

This was my first experience growing English peas. I’ve grown sugar snap peas before but AJM turned up his nose at them. My Englishman wanted English peas. I bought Botanic Interests ‘Green Arrow’ peas from Central Market because they were at hand. Only after I planted them did I learn they were the same peas that Carol @ May Dreams Gardens favors.

Garden History

Plant one 4-foot row of peas.
The English peas are up. They started poking up last Sunday but today they have their true leaves. I should plant another row.
Plant two more 4-foot rows of peas.
I don’t have a record of the first flower, but I did include it for GBBD for December, 2008. They are in full flower when I take a photo of them for GBBD January 2009.
The English peas are finally blooming as if they meant it. Do they flower best after the solstice like sweet peas?
First harvest. Afraid it will freeze tonight so pick a ripe handful.
Finally harvest enough peas to serve for dinner.
Pick last of the English peas. Wiped out by three 80° days last week. Still, harvested more than I planted which is a plus. They were very yummy.

English peas


When I served AJM some peas he said, “Mmmm. You sneaked a little butter on them.” I hadn’t. I’d added only the tiniest pinch of salt. Shelled right after picking and put directly into boiling water, these peas were sweet (but not sugary sweet) and, yes, almost creamy.

Lessons Learned

Overall, I think I was only mildly successful growing English peas this first time. I’m definitely going to try them again next year. This is what I’ll do differently.

1. Plant more peas.
One packet of seed planted 15 feet of peas and that is not enough for the two of us (unless I figure out how to increase yields–‘Green Arrow’ is supposed to be very high-yielding). While they were bearing, I picked peas about every other day but usually I only had enough peas to throw into rice. Only a couple of times did I get enough for a small side dish.

2. Grow them up a net.
Although ‘Green Arrow’ is a dwarf variety, peas like to grow upward. I used twigs and sticks for stakes but this was inefficient. They flopped too much and it was hard to harvest them. I missed harvesting some peas in their prime and by the time I found them they were hard and starchy.

I also need to grow them in the north-most rows of my 48-square foot raised vegetable garden because they shade everything to the north of them.

3. Stagger plantings.
I’m still not sure when is the best time for planting peas in Austin. So next year I will stagger my plantings. If we’re still having 100 degree days in September, I don’t think I can plant them any earlier. But since they didn’t really begin flowering until after the winter solstice, I will try planting some later to see if I can extend the season into March and April.

Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening suggests planting peas 8-10 weeks before the first average frost date (which I did) and 4-6 weeks before the last average frost date. This was an unusually hot and dry winter for Austin: we had 9 days in the 80s between our average frost dates. Peas don’t seem to like temperatures in the 80s. The seed packet confirms this.

Peas will not be successful if they are not ready for harvest before temperatures rise into the upper 70s and low 80s.

Any other advice from anyone growing peas successfully in central Texas? I’m especially interested in knowing when you plant them.

Prunus mexicana

Recently a reader asked me how many years it takes Mexican plums to start blooming. Of course, as with all garden answers, it depends. Looking back on my records, I see that it took a good 5 to 7 years for the ones I planted to start blooming prolifically. My trees came in 1-gallon pots and were probably only about 5 or 6 feet tall when I got them.

My Mexican plums are understory plants. They receive plenty of sunshine from November until they bloom in February but are in the shade of large cedar elms the rest of the year. I do not provide them with supplemental water now. I did water them some the first two or three years in the worst of the summer heat. Typically their leaves look a bit ratty and forlorn by August.

Dateline: 2006-03-04

My two smaller Mexican plum trees are covered in a froth of white blossom this week. I planted them in 1995, but it’s been only in the last two or three years that they have created the effect I originally envisioned–a solid white foam of flowers. I was inspired by the trees in my neighbor’s yard and this year almost all our trees are blooming together which is just what I imagined.

I also have a larger Mexican plum which I bought from Gardens. I think they must be slightly different varieties. The larger tree is has formed a large oval shape while the two smaller trees spread and almost weep. The large tree doesn’t flower as heavily, even though it is an older, much bigger tree. The flowers have a tint of rose at their throats; the flowers on the two smaller trees are tinted green.

photo: Prunus Mexicana
Prunus Mexicana. The pinkish large one. Austin. 2006-03-01.

Mexican plums are intended to be ornamental. The large tree bears ume-sized plums which are mostly seed, fit only for birds. I’m tempted to try making the Japanese liquor umeshu.
Read the rest of this entry »

Leucojum Aestivum

I inherited the summer snowflakes with my garden and they’ve grown very dependably these last 15 years without any effort on my part. Unlike many bulbs they don’t mind “wet feet”. With central Texas currently the most drought-stricken spot in these United States that might not seem like much to recommend it to the Austin grower but what “wet feet” means in garden speak is that summer snowflakes won’t rot in clay soils with poor drainage.

Mine are just the plain summer snowflakes with little flowers the size of thimbles. Last fall I planted the selected ‘Gravetye Giant’ summer snowflakes. I got them in a bit late and they’re just now coming up.

Summer snowflakes are always blooming in February in my Austin garden, this year opening on Feb 9th (with supplemental water). The earliest I’ve had them is Jan 29th and the latest Feb 22. They won’t last long this year though. They melted last Wednesday (2/18) when the temperature hit 80. It was 83°F today and will stay in the 80s the rest of the week.

In his Garden Bulbs for the South, Scott Ogden says, “In their homes around the Mediterranean these bulbs grow in mucky soils along streams. In such a situation they prosper on a surplus of spring moisture an a long summer baking. This prepares the flowers for the heavy cotton soils of the South.” However, from Louise Beebe Wilder’s description, in Adventures with Hardy Bulbs, I’d never have guessed they’d do so well in Austin. “[Summer snowflakes require] well-drained soil, not too dry and devoid of fresh manure…[They] should be set where the soil is never bone-dry and where it receives only the morning sun, on springy, half-shaded banks, in low woodland, in fern borders, or naturalized by the waterside. It thrives well even in heavy shade.”

I’ll have to agree with my neighbor, Scott, on this one.

Brassica oleracea ‘Premium Crop’

The sun came out and temperatures shot back up to the 70s. The bees were all abuzz. This was not a cause for joy, however, because the bees were buzzing over broccoli flowers. The broccoli began bolting last week leaving this central Texas gardener wondering if she should even attempt to grow cool-weather vegetables when almost 1/3 of January registered temperatures in the 70s or 80s. (I tried growing summer squash, too, to hedge my bets but we had just enough days below freezing to kill them.)

photo: broccoli flowers

According to Garrett and Beck in Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening, premature flowering is caused by high temperatures. They advise, “Plant so that maturity will occur during cool weather.”

Can someone explain to me when that is exactly? I planted four broccoli plants on October 3 and they began heading on January 2. We cut one head to eat on January 11. Before we could enjoy the rest of them (I only planted four plants!), they were already beginning to bolt. I’m not the only Austin gardener with this problem. Vertie posted photos of her broccoli flowering the same day mine did, January 26.

I’ve cut off the flowering heads. Some side shoots are forming. A cool front is coming in tonight. Maybe I’ll get enough broccoli for a lunchtime serving before I pull them out. Each 4-inch potted plant was $1.25 at Gardens…which is about the same as a head of broccoli at Central Market. Broccoli is one of those plants that tastes best fresh from the garden but broccoli are big plants in my little (48 square foot) vegetable garden. I need to make way for something more productive.