rain Austin TX

October 9th, 2011
Rain in the Years of Drought

rain TX

No kiddos. One good rain doesn’t end a drought, but that doesn’t make it any less welcome. If anything, knowing that La Niña is threatening to bring Central Texas drought through 2012, today’s slow, steady rain is even more welcome than usual. Our last day of significant rain was June 22, 2011.

The change in seasons seems almost an entire month late. Apparently October is the new September. After all my disappointments in 2010, I think I did a better job setting my expectations in 2011. This drought isn’t going away any time soon. I’d like to deny this is the new normal. Maybe it’s just another unfortunate blip like Texas had in the 1950s. In either case, I have to change my habits for the next season, or two, or ten. I no longer view the fall rains as a time to rush out to replace everything I lost over summer. My new mantra is, “If it didn’t survive this summer, it won’t survive the next one either.” So let’s start with this clean slate and rethink the garden.

Related

 

September 15th, 2011
GBBD 201109: Sep 2011

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

September 15, 2011

Due to the ongoing Texas drought and the record breaking heat, almost all the plants in my garden have died. Only four are flowering and all because they were near something being watered. The senna and datura are getting water from my neighbor who overwaters.

The City of Austin is on Stage 2 (mandatory) water restrictions now. That we went from voluntary to mandatory only on September 6th amazes me. If you would like to understand the seriousness of our situation down here in Texas, look at these photos: Texas drought and wildfires. Lakes have dried up. Livestock and wildlife are starving. Fires rage.

How can gardeners help? Not by giving up their gardens as I have. (My decision not to garden this year goes beyond the bad weather or a desire to conserve water.) Gardeners can help by providing a refuge for wildlife — food, water, and shrubbery to hide in. Many of us have observed an increase of wildlife into our gardens. Most of my fellow gardeners take an extra effort to provide for wildlife including birds, butterflies, and other pollinators. Gardens are important in the drought.

The City of Austin is also offering incentives encourage people to just let their lawns die and then replace them with more water efficient and wildlife friendly plantings.

Gardeners should also cut back their dead, dry plants. Unlike the true desert, Austin alternates wet years and in early 2010 many of our perennials tripled in size. If they have died since, our houses and fence lines are lined with masses of small, dry fuel that can ignite with a spark or a carelessly tossed cigarette.

Complete List for September 15, 2011

The list of all plants flowering today, September 15th 2011, at Zanthan Gardens. A single oxblood lily opened this morning after I watered the banana plants in the same bed last Sunday.

  • Datura inoxia
  • Lagerstroemia indica
  • Rhodophiala bifida
  • Senna lindheimeriana

Austin weather Aug 2011

August 31st, 2011
Hottest Month on Record: August 2011

July 2011 quickly lost its record-breaking status as the hottest month ever in Austin’s history (records going back to 1854). The new winner is…August 2011. The average temperature record in Austin (Camp Mabry station) was 91.6°F breaking the July 2011 record of 89.7°F.

August 24, 2011 was the 70th day this year that temperatures reached 100°F, breaking the 1925 record of 69 days. And summer isn’t over yet.

  • highest temperature ever recorded in Austin; 112°F Aug 28, 2011 (tied with Sep 5, 2000)
  • hottest August ever recorded in Austin; breaks the 2009 record of 89.1°F
  • hottest month ever recorded in Austin; average temperature, 91.6°F; breaks the July 2011 record of 89.7°F
  • average high temperature was 104.8°F; breaks the 1923 record of 102.9°F
  • average low temperature: 78.4°; breaks the 2010 record of 76.7°
  • Most consecutive 100°F days, 27: July 17 to Aug 12; breaks record of 21 days: July 12 to Aug 1, 2001

How does this compare with other years? Here are the warmest August temperatures: 1854-2011. Not only have I been here for every one of them, but they’ve all been in the last decade.
1. August 2011 91.6
2. August 2009 89.1
3. August 2010 88.7
4. August 2006 88.5

More stats via Natalie Stoll on the KXAN Weather Blog.

July 2011 weather Austin TX

July 31st, 2011
Hottest Month on Record: July 2011

July 2011 was not only the hottest July ever recorded in Austin, it was the hottest month ever recorded in Austin–and across Texas. In Texas, the average temperature was 88.9° F. Given that August is usually even hotter than July here, we have little to look forward to. We must simply endure.

The NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center reports that July was the fourth warmest July on record across the United States.

More stats via Jim Spencer on the KXAN Weather Blog.

Crinum Gowenii
2011-06-30. Crinum…I don’t know the variety.

June 30th, 2011
Crinum gowenii (maybe)

The last time these crinums bloomed was in 2005. And it wasn’t even this group but the largest ones along the front fence. That spot (under the pecan tree) is apparently too shady now because they’ve never shown any inclination to bloom again.

Crinum Gowenii2011-06-30

These flowers were from the same group of bulbs, the smallest of the bunch, which had languished under the front bedroom window next to the rain barrel. I finally rescued them from that unloving spot and moved them into the bog garden. They get more sun there. What caused them to flower was the couple of inches of rain that fell on June 22. Crinums are bog plants and they like wet feet. I haven’t read this elsewhere but I wonder if they are like rainlilies in that in order to flower they have to really dry out between drenchings.

Zanthan Gardens Week 25
2011-06-22. A long (over an hour) of heavy rain with no severe storm side effects (like hail). Welcome, if only temporary, relief.

June 22nd, 2011
Week 25: 6/18 – 6/24

Dateline: 2011

Gardening in Austin seems almost predictable when the most remarkable thing that can happen in Week 25 is rain! The sound of it pouring off my roof onto the air conditioner next to my bedroom window woke me up, and I dragged myself out of bed at one in the morning just to smell it…and pump the water into the pond. The rain barrels can’t handle that much rain at once and the pond acts like a 1000 gallon holding tank.

Before the storm, we had a solid chunk of 100-degree days behind us: ten from 6/12 to 6/21. At Camp Mabry, the temperatures topped out at 106°F on 6/17 and 6/18, cooling slightly to a mere 105°F on 6/19. After the storm, the high plummeted to a mere 90°F. Sixteen degrees feels cooler no matter where you’re starting from. I spent the rest of Wednesday (6/22), cleaning up the garden a bit, mowing the lawn, and pumping water into the pond.

The rain is nothing but a brief respite from the continued exceptional drought in Texas. Lake levels are almost half what they should be. Austin looks more and more like the landscapes of my childhood that I had hoped to leave behind.

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Texas Drought Map
2011-05-31. 2011 Texas Drought.

June 3rd, 2011
Week 22: 5/28 – 6/3

Dateline: 2011

According to the National Weather Service, “The warm spring from March to May was the 10th driest ever at Camp Mabry and the warmest since 1854.” Worse than the heat, the drought is now exceptional. Most of May felt like August. We did get one lovely heavy rain two weeks ago but my rain barrels are already empty and the pond is quickly evaporating.

Speaking of the pond, Monday (5/30) AJM noticed a heron stalking around. The fish are in hiding. Or eaten. We can’t tell yet how many fish have been taken. We didn’t see any for a few days. Then a couple peeked out. We’ve put the netting up again until they have a chance to recover and the pond water clears up again. When critters chase the fish, they stir up the water and the pond gets all mucky.

First flowers: Asclepias curassavica (6/1); water lily ‘Helvola” (6/1).

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photo: daffodils
2011-04-19. Essex, CT. Daffodils under gray skies. Probably the only photo I took that didn’t show forsythia.

April 23rd, 2011
Week 16: 4/16 – 4/22

Dateline: 2011

We travelled back in time this week. In New England, spring is just beginning to win the battle against winter. Forsythia is in bloom everywhere as are daffodils and a few tulips. For the most part, April still wears bare trees against bleak gray skies. We saw several flowering trees and plants that I’m unfamiliar with; I love how alien new landscapes seem even those on the same continent. We wear hat, gloves, and windbreakers over sweaters the whole time we are there. In contrast, temperatures in Austin soar into the mid 90s (the forecast I saw was for 97 but the actual high was 95 on 4/18), wildfires burn across drought-stricken Texas, and Governor Perry offers Texans a faith-based solution: we should all spend three days praying for rain. Rain was a problem in Connecticut, too–not a lack but a surfeit. The Connecticut River was over its banks in East Haddam. 2011 reminds me of 1993: severe drought in Texas; severe flooding along the Mississippi.

Zanthan Gardens made a big leap forward in our short week away. Yellow rules. The retama is in full bloom. The prickly pear cacti have their first flowers as does the rose ‘Mermaid’. The sago palm is putting out new fronds. The bluebonnet seedpods are dry and ready to pop. The coral vine is flowering. The ‘Angel’s Choir’ and ‘Lauren’s Grape’ poppies have put out a few wan flowers, mostly drained of color. The pomegranate has beautiful double flowers. (I think this is the first ever.) I’m happily surprised to see the Pride of Barbados coming back from its roots. I’d given up on it. The only big disappointment is my horsetail. I had nursed it back to health over the winter and it was looking better than it ever had. Now it looks mostly dry, brown and crispy. All the other potted plants, which I’d brought inside out of the sun, survived–even two pots of mint. The other plant I’m worried about is the allspice. It was so big and healthy and now the leaves are simply drying up and dying and there is no new growth. I think it might be getting too much water and rotting.

Looking over the history below, I see that it’s not unusual for Austin to hit the high 90s or even the 100s this week in April during a La Niña year. Facts are no comfort. I’d prefer my delusion that these temperatures are outrageous not typical.

I was expecting the garden to be toast on my return. It did better than I expected. The larkspur and nigella are short and already dry so they are dying out gracefully. I do regret that the flowers on the confederate jasmine have already turned brown and stopped giving off their scent. Had I been here to water them, they might still be in full bloom. Now I have to wait a whole year to smell them again.

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larkspur
Zanthan Gardens left to its own devices.

April 15th, 2011
GBBD 201104: Apr 2011

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

April 2011

The drought continues. The pink evening primrose and Engelmann daisy seem to prefer this drier weather and are the stars of the day. The dry weather hurries summer along. Many flowers that are usually in bloom in April have already finished. Others that don’t usually start blooming until later have already begun. Even semi-weedy plants like baby blue eyes are relatively sparse and the plants are tiny and shrivelled. Austin’s ubiquitous bluebonnets are short and faded.

Nigella damascena
Nigella damascena. Love-in-a-mist. Doubles. A passalong from Jenny.

Dianthus chinensis
Dianthus chinensis. Pinks

Phlox pilosa
Phlox pilosa. Prairie Phlox. A passalong from Julie.

Callirhoe involucrata
Callirhoe involucrata. Winecup

My larkspur plans have gone awry. I dug two beds along the front path several years ago. Larkspur was supposed to line the path and the lawn. The lawn died. I didn’t get the larkspur planted this year. The last two years it self sowed where the lawn was. This year I didn’t get my beds planted so the self-sown larkspur is all I have. Without water or thinning the resultant plants are only about one to two feet tall rather than three or four feet tall. The front yard now looks a bit like the back yard used to. The meadow in the back yard is almost completely devoid of larkspur. After ten years, what was once the meadow is almost completely in shade by the time the wildflowers want to bloom.

larkspur

Between GBBDs

Flowers that bloomed between March 15, 2011 and April 15, 2011 and so did not appear in either list.

  • Allium neapolitanum
    These use to flower in abundance in the meadow but creeping shade and this year’s drought resulted in only one bulb blooming.
  • Datura inoxia
    One flush of flowers already, just none open today.

Incomplete List for April, 2011

I always have to double-check some things but it’s 10PM. So there you are.

  • amaryllis ‘Dancing Queen’ (2010, 2011–last day)
  • Antirrhinum majus (2010, 2011–just barely)
  • Aristolochia fimbriata (2011)
  • Callirhoe involucrata (2011)
  • Centaurea cyanus Black Magic (2011)
  • Commelinantia anomala (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)
  • Consolida ambigua (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)
  • Coriandrum sativum (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)
  • Dianthus chinensis (2011)
  • Diospyros kaki ‘Eureka’ (Japanese persimmon) (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011)
  • Echinacea purpurea (2011)
  • Engelmannia peristenia/pinnatifida (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)
  • Hesperaloe parviflora (2011)
  • Hippeastrum x johnsonii (St. Joseph’s lily) (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)
  • Iris flavescens (?) yellow heirloom (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)
  • iris ‘Full Eclipse’ (2011)
  • iris ‘Incantation’ (2010, 2011–last day)
  • Lonicera japonica (2011)
  • Lupinus texensis (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)
  • Nigella damascena (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)
  • Oenothera speciosa (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)
  • Oxalis crassipis (hot pink) (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)
  • Oxalis stricta (yellow flowering weed) (2010, 2011)
  • Oxalis triangularis (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)
  • Papaver somniferum “Dorothy Cavanaugh” (2010, 2011)
  • Parkinsonia aculeata, retama (2009, 2011–first day)
  • Polanisia dodecandra (2011)
  • Phlomis lanata (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)
  • Phlox pilosa (2011)
  • Rhaphiolepis indica (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011–last day)
  • rose ‘Blush Noisette’ (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)
  • rose ‘New Dawn’ (2011)
  • rose ‘Red Cascade’ (2011)
  • Ruellia (2011)
  • Sedum album (2011?)
  • Solanum jasminoides (potato vine) (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011-fading)
  • Spiraea bridal wreath (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)
  • Trachelospermum jasminoides (2011)
  • Tradescantia (spiderwort) (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)
  • Verbena canadensis (lavender wilding) (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)
  • Vicia sativa (common vetch) (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)
  • Zexmenia hispida (2009, 2011)

Dorothy Cavanaugh
Two cherry pink poppies contrast with the salmon-colored “Dorothy Cavanaugh” passalong. (They are a bit soggy having just survived 1/2 an inch of rain.)

April 7th, 2011
Papaver "Dorothy Cavanaugh"

Dateline: 2010

This year I finally got around to buying and planting some ‘Lauren’s Grape’ breadseed poppies. Lauren Springer Ogden is a neighbor of mine (although I don’t know her personally). Over seven years she isolated a “plum-colored single poppy with gray foliage” which is now available from Select Seeds. Not only was I drawn to the color of ‘Lauren’s Grape’ (I love deep plums, blues, and violet-colored flowers) but to the idea of it. One of my great joys in gardening is trying to select my favorite strains of the various annuals I grow.

I planted ‘Lauren’s Grape’ in two spots. One, I had grown poppies before. The other, only larkspur. When the seedlings came up, I thinned them. I watched and waited with impatient anticipation for the first buds to unfurl. When they opened, I was disappointed to see they were peony-flowering and a deep, cherry pink. More and more opened and they were the same. Had I been shipped the wrong seeds? When some of the same type of flowers popped up in places in the front yard where I hadn’t planted ‘Lauren’s Grape’ I realized that they were flowers from previous years.

Looking carefully, I noticed that the peony-flowering poppy had a bluish-gray foliage. But the poppies next to it had a brighter, more lime-green foliage with more compact leaves, and were taller overall. I thought, “Ah ha! These are these ‘Lauren’s Grape’.” But no. When the flowers opened they were very double and salmon colored. The lime-green plants were the “Dorothy Cavanaugh” passalongs from @HumanFlower.

Here are two photos I took of the same flower on May 1, 2008. The second photo shows how the afternoon sun brings out the clearly orange tints.
Dorothy Cavanaugh

Dorothy Cavanaugh

This year I like “Dorothy Cavanaugh” better than I did initially. I’m not a big fan of salmon-colored flowers. The only orange I like in my garden is the very clear orange of the California poppies ‘Mikado’. Slowly, “Dorothy Cavanaugh” is winning me over with her charms.

I’m still hoping some ‘Lauren’s Grape’ will pop up somewhere. [Update: and they did!]

Update: Dateline 2011

Dorothy Cavanaugh
2011-04-06. On a cloudy day, the camera makes these poppies look even more pink than they do in life.

By the end of the 2010 season, I could distinguish between the three different strains of poppies which differ not only in flower color but in the color of their foliage and shape of their leaves. This year I wasn’t surprised to see the cherry red (pink?) poppies bloom first (4/1) on very gray foliage. I’m happy to see that they all came true and didn’t revert to any singles or reds. The first orange flowered one opened today (4/7).