Week 21: 5/21 – 5/27

Dateline: 2011

Austin (Camp Mabry) records its first 100-degree day of the year, May 25th.

Dateline: 2008

As the temperatures climb, I find it hard to believe that by September I’ll look upon a 92F degree day as cool and fall-like. In the intervening months, summer will get a lot uglier. The days have been sultry. Someday, I’d like to spend this kind of week lying in the hammock sipping iced tea and enjoying the green shade. When it gets this hot, I don’t want any flashy color in the garden, just cool, refreshing green. This is the week that my resentment dissolves and I suddenly love my trees again; I forgive them for shading out the flowers in April.

I’ve been working hard to get everything mulched. I got a truckload of bark chips from a crew that was cleaning up after last week’s storm. That’s kept me busy running back and forth with the wheelbarrow refreshing the paths and putting a nice layer down in the woodland garden.

The nerium oleander and one of the duranta are in full bloom and look fantastic. The larkspur is all cleared out. A few bluebonnets bloom on (they last a long time if deadheaded.) The violas are mere crisps and the Confederate jasmine faded. The rose ‘Ducher’ is still blooming well. And ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ puts out a single flower or two. The borage is holding up fairly well under the heat.

I ate the last three strawberries, harvested some jalapeno peppers, and started in on the summer squash. Oh, and we ate a pitiful handful of potatoes I dug up Sunday (5/25). They were tasty but we harvested less than we planted.

First flower: canna ‘Bangkok Yellow’ (5/22); Lindheimer senna (5/25).
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Week 20: 5/14 – 5/20

Dateline: 2008


The week began promisingly, with a little rain. I was feeling on top of my gardening chores. I’d gotten most of the spring annuals pulled out and seeds harvested. I was sifting compost, top-dressing and mulching plants, and just about to finish off one compost pile and turn the other so I could start a new one. I was further along in tidying up than I’ve ever been this time of year and feeling quite satisfied with my labors. So it was no surprise to me, really, that the malicious Loki-spirit of my garden decided this was an auspicious time to slam hard and wipe that smug look off my face.

After hail, wind, and falling limbs (and ball moss!) my neatly mulched garden looked liked Christmas morning at my parents’ house after 15 grandchildren have shredded their Christmas present wrappings. Although we had a couple of clear dry days for the cleanup, we ended the week with August-like temperatures: two record-breakers, 98F/36C (5/19); 101F/38C (5/20). (Normal temps for this time of year are mid-80s.)

One of the three bushes of Duranta erecta is in full flower–the other two, nothing. The oleander is also flowering profusely, unfazed by the heat.

First flower: Echinacea purpurea (5/14); Malvaviscus arboreus (5/15); LA hybrid lily (5/19); Ipomoea quamoclit (5/19); Antigonon leptopus (5/19); Lagerstroemia indica ‘Catawba’ (5/19); Vitus agnus-castus (5/20).

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Week 19: 5/07-5/13

Dateline: 2008
As usual summer arrives in Austin with a vengeance in week 19. Last Friday temperatures hit a muggy 97F (5/9), cooling of to a mere 95F on Saturday. We received a wonderful reprieve on Mother’s Day and yesterday the high was only 78. I spent all day in the garden, tearing out larkspur and cilantro and mulching the perennials.

Even without the larkspur and cilantro, the meadow is looking pretty good. I did better job this year of balancing the early and late bloomers so that there is still a lot of color from Engelmann daisy, pink evening primrose, and poppies.

The coral bean is in full bloom and the root-hardy perennials that had been smothered under the exuberance of the wildflowers are starting to grow: the purple coneflower, the butterfly bush, the black-eyed susan. These are blooming in other people’s gardens (probably because weren’t hidden from the sun all spring) while mine are just getting started. And unlike last year, my red yucca is blooming very well this year. It has two stalks.

First flower: Plumbago auriculata (5/8); Rudbeckia hirta (5/8); Acanthus mollis (5/11); Ruellia (5/11) the passalong; Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’ (5/12); Zexmenia (5/12).

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Week 18: May Day Pinks

Julie @ Human Flower Project passed along poppy seeds which finally started blooming this week. (Everyone else’s in Austin bloomed throughout April.) She said the double-selection was salmon. In soft early morning light it looked more dusty rose; in glaring afternoon light, definitely salmon. (These two photos are of the same flower taken about six hours apart.)

Papaver Dorothy Cavanaugh passalong

My love-in-a-mist, Nigella damascena had almost died out so, thinking I had enough blue flowers, I planted some ‘Mulberry Rose’ seeds from Renee’s Garden. The cilantro overgrew them and when I was clearing it out yesterday, I discovered these miniature nigella flowers, about the size of a dime, on teeny-tiny plants. (Seed packet: mature height 18-24 inches). Apparently they prefer room to grow.

Nigella damascena

On the opposite end of the scale, the unwieldy crinum (maybe Crinum bulbispermum) continue to flower. These large bulbs don’t like being moved and have taken about three years to settle in and start blooming.
Crinum

The pink rainlilies, Zephryanthes grandiflora opened all at once today. A single early flower opened on April 28th–but today is really rainlily day.

Zephyranthes grandiflora

Week 45: 11/5 – 11/11

Dateline: 2010
Temperatures have been quite chilly in the mornings, dipping to the high 30s and low 40s. Our coldest morning of the fall was Saturday (11/6) when our first freeze warning was issued. I didn’t even hear about it until after the fact but temperatures fell only 38 at Camp Mabry and 39 at Bouldin. After 10AM, it warms up to the 70s. The days are sunny and very clear with brilliant blue skies. Great weather for digging out horseherb and dividing the yellow heirloom irises. The bog garden is taking shape.

It continues to be very, very dry and I spend a lot time watering bluebonnet seedlings. I haven’t even started the larkspur yet. I’m waiting for the leaves to fall.

Some leaves have fallen from the cedar elms and pecans but I’m still waiting for some sunshine. The red oak in the back has had a bumper crop of acorns this year. They grind up well in the mulcher/grinder. The red oak in the front has dropped fewer nuts but those are twice as large. I find how different they are interesting.

Both ‘New Dawn’ roses have had excellent fall bloom this year. The ‘Red Cascade’ rose is also the best it’s ever been. Even ‘Mermaid’ (which I’m trying to hack back until some semblance of control) has a flower or two. Four years ago this week I bought my replacement ‘Ducher’. It was wonderful this spring and then it died of cane dieback, too.

We picked some cilantro for chicken tortilla soup (11/7). I haven’t planted the winter vegetable garden yet.

First flower: cat’s whiskers (11/7).

Dateline: 2007
At the beginning of the week it seemed that November weather had indeed arrived–cool, cloudy, dark, and gloomy. What lovely weather for snuggling under a blanket with a cup of tea and reading gardening books. The high temperature Tuesday (11/6) was actually 69F, but that was at 3AM. The temperature dropped during the day so that it was colder at 4PM (59F) than at 3AM (69F). Also it was a drop of almost 20 degrees from the previous day. As the week progressed, the sun came back and the high temperatures were back in the mid-80s. Warm air is blowing up from the Gulf, so the air is quite balmy. This is one of the features about Austin weather that I like. We have one or two days of cool weather so that we can work ourselves into a holiday mood and then it warms up again so that we can get some real work done.

Other signs of fall: the cedar elm leaves began falling in earnest. I’m going to have to buy a new mulching mower this week. The leaves on the Japanese persimmon and the ‘Catawba’ crape myrtles are changing color. The paperwhites began to nose up and by the end of the week, I saw some Narcissus tazetta x italicus sprouting. I better get those bulbs in the fridge planted. The banana plants are starting to yellow and I’ll need to wrap them up soon. The aloe vera by the front walk has some cold damage. I’ll have to bring the potted ones in. And this year, finally, one branch of the weeping yaupon holly has red berries.

I did manage to plant out some violas. The lettuce and swiss chard are up but the raccoons and squirrels keep digging in my seedbeds. More nasturtium is up. A lot of cilantro is sprouting but I’m still waiting on the larkspur, bluebonnets, batchelor buttons, and love-in-a-mist. We need rain for those to sprout. In fact, looking at last year’s photo, I can’t believe that the four o’clocks were still blooming this time last year. I tore those out last month with the tomatoes and cypress vine, all of which were dry and weedy looking and long past flowering stage.

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Week 44: 10/29 – 11/4

Dateline: 2007
I spent all week cleaning up and replanting the back especially along the chain link fence on the west side (back) of the yard. I cut back all the wild ruellia and composted it. Then I spaded (but didn’t turn over) the whole section so that the self-sowers wouldn’t be covered by mulch and would have a chance to sprout. I dug up the pitiful bearded iris which had withered in last year’s drought but survived. This year’s rain did them in. Most had rotted away. I replanted only about two dozen; they’re so small they probably won’t bloom for two years. I planted seeds for love-in-a-mist and nasturtiums. I cleared away the nandina along the new fence and remulched the small mahonia and buckeye that are there. I planted the maiden grass that Margaret bought me and two more that I bought in a nice clump of three. I bought some more pinks and some alyssum; I haven’t found any violas I like yet, though. Most of this work was undone by romping raccoons. So it’s hard to feel that I’ve made any progress. However, I’m happy to report that the four plants I bought from Barton Springs Nursery this time last year are still alive.

Preparing beds means turning the compost pile and sifting it. The fine compost goes into the beds and the gross compost goes around trees and larger bushes as mulch. Preparing beds also means digging out roots and rocks of which I have an endless supply. These are not new beds, by the way. But looking at the dry clods of clay you might think they were. In Austin’s hot and humid climate, organic matter decomposes almost as rapidly as I can add it. I had put mulch on top of most of these beds in early September, the last time I turned the compost.

The weather remains dry and sunny. A few leaves sift down but fall hasn’t really fallen yet. Toward the end of the week it began warming up to the mid-80s again. I saw two new flowers: a very early false dayflower and another tradescantia-looking flower that is quite tiny and white. The bush beans are finally flowering. I can see one tiny bean. AJM teases that we’ve never gotten more beans out of any planting than we’ve put into the garden. I did eat one persimmon (still hard), pick a few jalapenos and a handful of basil. And the very last oxblood lily faded on November 4th. That’s a record! Like last year, the red spider lily leaves are up; unlike last year I got 5 whole flowers this time. The grape hyacinths are pushing up but apparently we still need some rain to bring out the bluebonnets and larkspur. Or should I just give up on them and re-sow?

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Week 43: 10/22 – 10/28

Dateline: 2010


The weather remains unseasonably hot, high 80s and into the 90s. Normal for this time of year is high 70s. It remains very dry. Anywhere I water, seeds sprout. Only the false dayflowers and the baby blue eyes put in much of an appearance. On the one hand this is good because I can get ahead of the self sown seeds and sow my saved seeds instead.

The white boneset is in full bloom and the flowers attract bees and small butterflies so that the bush looks animated. The rose ‘Red Cascade’ finally put a cane over the fence (it prefers to creep on the ground) and is blooming just as I pictured it years ago.

I’ve mowed back the ruellia and horseherb. I beginning to see the bones of the garden again and this makes me all excited about building new beds and planting.

Dateline: 2007

I haven’t updated my Week by Week in the Garden for almost six weeks primarily because nothing much has happened lately. The weather dried out by the second week of September and Austin has been left hot and dry. The blue skies have been great but the temperatures were above normal and the garden soon got a dusty, withered look; my allergies are acting up. The cedar elms have not yet turned color and dropped their leaves. The self-sown overwintering annuals haven’t sprouted. (This time last year I was digging up scores of bluebonnet seedlings to share with my neighborhood elementary school.) Finally Monday (10/22) a cold front came through, a blessed rain fell, and autumn arrived in Central Texas. The high temperatures dropped from the mid-90s of the previous week to the mid-70s. I could barely refrain from dancing a little jig and must confess that once or twice I burst into song.

This has been the perfect week to be working hard in the garden. Morning temperatures make me want to snuggle under a blanket but as soon as I’m out digging in the garden I feel great. Everything perked up with the rain and it is so much easier to prepare the beds for fall and turn the compost piles. AJM’s mother is visiting from England and almost every day we’ve visited some nursery where she always insists on buying me something. She’s bought me strawberry plants at Gardens, a pomegranate at The Great Outdoors, maiden grass at Barton Springs Nursery, and pinks and wintergreen at The Natural Gardener.

AJM took off work on our anniversary and the three of us drove to Lost Maples. Unfortunately, none of the trees had changed color but we were all excited to see some longhorn steer and a herd of bison on the drive out.
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Week 36: 9/3 – 9/9

Dateline: 2007
All of you non-Austinites are probably tired of oxblood lily photos but they came on strong in Week 36 this year, thanks to rains the preceding weekend. We do love our signature flower, even though it’s not a native Texan. I’ll post a photo of the meadow instead. It rarely looks this nice in the fall.

Despite our very mild and wet summer this year, the signs of fall sends the blood quickening in the veins of us southerners–just like spring for you northerners. I still shudder thinking about that horrible year 2000, the hottest week on record. On September 5, 2000 we hit the highest temperature ever recorded in Austin, 112F degrees (44.4C). We broke records for five days starting 9/1 (107), 9/2 (107), 9/3 (108), 9/4 (110) and 9/5 (112). What kind of autumn weather is that! So you can see why I’ve been so happy with 2007. This has been the best summer I’ve ever lived through in Austin. Weatherwise.

I even had two new flowers open this week: the diminuitive Oxalis drummondii, and the Salvia leucantha (Mexican bush sage). The latter is hidden under a huge mat of cypress vine. I almost didn’t see it. It needs to be relocated to the new sunny back yard. Almost every rose had at least a flower or two. And for the first time since I’ve lived here (14 years) the pecan tree is heavy with pecans. Usually the squirrels eat them green in August. I guess they’re getting enough food and water not to resort to that this year. About five persimmons have survived and are starting to turn orange. I’ve covered them with net because last year something ate them before I could. I was devastated. I also have quite a few bluebonnets which survived the summer. They often sprout when the seeds drop in May but those early starters usually die in the summer heat.

I’ve been buying seeds for the fall garden. I planted squash and bush beans and sunflowers–which I should have planted in August. It always seems too hot then. These are all new to my fall garden so I don’t know how they’ll do this late. I bought varieties with short maturation time. Our first freeze usually isn’t until Thanksgiving. I find in interesting that both Angelina (Oregon) and Carol (Indiana) have said that they’re packing in their vegetable gardens for the year. In Austin, this is a good time to start fall crops like broccoli, cabbages, snowpeas, and lettuce. I want to try some chard. Even if we don’t eat it, it’s so beautiful.

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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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Week 30: 7/23 – 7/29

Dateline: 2007
I got very little done in the garden this week, other than dig a bit more caliche and gravel out of the back lawn and try to prepare it for replanting. All week it rained.

Zanthan Gardens Week 30

And it rained.

Zanthan Gardens Week 30

I never had a chance to mow the lawn. And the weeds are so out of control in some places that I’ve given up and will tackle those spots in the fall. Or winter.

Like Pam/Digging, I find that orange cosmos is the perfect summer fill-in plant. I’m glad I planted a bunch just before I went on vacation. And I’m thankful for the temperatures in the 80s here in the last week of July when we’re usually wilting under the 100s.
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