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).

photo: Texas bluebonnets
2010-04-01. What a difference rain makes. Or the lack of it. Left to shift for themselves the bluebonnets are few and small. A few small pups are sprouting from the frozen Agave americana.

April 1st, 2011
Week 13: 3/26-4/1

Dateline: 2011

Austin hit its first 90 degree day last week (3/23) and by Saturday night (3/26) it was so hot and muggy we turned on the AC for a few hours. Sunday (3/27) the high dropped 13 degrees to a seasonable 73 and by Monday (3/28) another 9 degrees to a high of 64. Lovely. All the trees except the pecans have their brilliant spring green leaves and these dry days provide an equally brilliant desert blue sky. Dry. Dry. Dry. The larkspur are sending flower stalks which droop before opening in the afternoon sun.

The wild garden blooms despite my neglect. It’s overwhelms the paths. I don’t think I’ll ever manage the strength to get it sorted out again. The pink evening primrose is one of the few flowers that really prefers this drier spring. As does the Nierembergia gracilis ‘Starry Eyes’. The Engelmann daisy and cilantro make a fair showing, too. The Jerusalem sage is in full bloom but the leaves droop when the temperatures reach the 80s. The weeping yaupon which isn’t weeping is covered in tiny flowers and bees. The larkspur and poppies are just beginning to flower. The pathetic bluebonnets are going to seed. The baby blue eyes are also tiny and wizened. I don’t doubt they’ll be back when the weather is more favorable.

Now that the trees have leafed out, the green worms have begun to descend their silken threads. I’ve killed a few but the infestation is mild compared with earlier years. I’m hoping it’s because I’m kind to wasps.

First flower: Ungnadia speciosa, Mexican buckeye (3/26); Hyancinthoides hispanica (3/26); Aristolochia fimbriata dutchman’s pipevine (3/30); Echinacea purpurea (3/30); Papaver ‘Dorothy Cavanaugh’ (4/1), honeysuckle (4/1).

Dateline: 2010

photo: Texas bluebonnets
2010-03-30. Ubiquitous photo of Texas bluebonnets three years later at the same spot. With all the rain this year they are three times as big as in 2007 and the nasty yucca is gone.

A perfect spring week here in central Texas. A big storm front blew through last Wednesday night (3/24) dropping half an inch of rain in an hour. So the plants were well watered going into a week of sunny deep blue skies brilliant behind the bright green of all the freshly leafed trees. Yes. It’s suddenly shady. Austin’s starting to hit temperatures in the 80s consistently: 82 (3/26), 83 (3/27), 81, (3/30), 85 (3/31), 82 (4/1). I’d be just as happy if the 80s held off for another month so that all the flowers now in full bloom could look fresh for more than a few days.

My dependable spring favorites, Tulipa clusiana and the rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ are in full bloom. So are the bluebonnets. (Two whites and two pinks appeared this year.) The rose ‘Ducher’ grew so fast and tall that it fell over on itself in a high wind and is now commandeering the path. The cilantro forms a misty white cloud over the meadow where it completely dominates. (All the larkspur are in the front yard this year and they haven’t started the big show yet.) The baby blue eyes, tradescantia and its cousin, the false dayflower, are hip high and taken over most of the yard. I must remember to keep the false dayflowers out of the bluebell bed as the bluebells have been completely smothered this year.

All the flowers on everything are huge. I can’t remember ever seeing flowers so big here. So all they needed was twice the water they normally get. Hmmm

The list of things blooming is too long to keep track of: white, blue, and yellow irises; ‘Hawera’ daffodils and the single ‘Grand Monarque; white sweet alyssum and yellow snapdragons, the last of the summer snowflakes and the beginning of the Spanish bluebells; Mexican buckeye, cherry laurel, Indian hawthorn, and bridal wreath. But no wisteria in my yard. Elsewhere, yes. But not mine.

Speaking of elsewhere…the Lady Banks roses are as beautiful as I’ve ever seen them all over Austin. I’m sorry that mine died several years ago as did my neighbor’s that used to droop over my back fence.

We’ve eaten salads every night but these 80° days are starting to turn the arugula and lettuce bitter. Our English peas are full of pods. We harvested 5 oz (shelled) tonight and each had a big bowlful for supper. I can tell we’ve had an 80° day by the drooping of the peas. The artichoke, now in its second year, has a flower bud. I just planted potatoes. This time in 2000 we were already eating potatoes.

First flower: Hyacinthoides hispanica (3/26); Nierembergia gracilis ‘Starry Eyes’ (3/26); Engelmann daisy (3/31); yellow heirloom iris (3/31).

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photo: Centaurea cyanus Black Magic
2007-03-24. Bachelor Button/Cornflower. Austin, TX

March 29th, 2011
Centaurea cyanus ‘Black Magic’

This post was published originally on 2007-03-24 and updated with data for 2008 and 2011.
The seed packet from Botanical Interests gives the common name for Centaurea cyanus as bachelor button. For us southerners, bachelor buttons are Gomphrena globosa. Julie at the Human Flower Project recognized it immediately as a cornflower, even though it was not the blue once so commonly identifiable that it is found in a box of Crayola crayons. I was going to go into a rant wondering whether children today connected their crayon colors with real flowers. The truth is, I’ve never seen a living cornflower before I grew this one. And then I chose a selection which is not cornflower blue.

Why don’t I like more cheerful flowers? This cornflower is a deep, plummy purple, a funereal maroon that, in flower marketing, is referred to as black. Morticia Addams would like it–she wouldn’t even have to snip off the flower before creating her bouquet. The plant itself is about two feet high with silvery gray foliage. From a distance, the dark flowers look like furry black caterpillars attacking the plant.

The seed packet said that cornflowers were drought tolerant. However, I’m not sure that translates into heat-tolerant. As soon as the mercury touched 80 today, they drooped. Instructions say to plant them in early spring before the last frost…unless you live in the south, of course! We’re suppose to plant them in late summer or early fall.

I planted these on September 11, 2006 and they just bloomed this week (late March 2007), more than six months later. They sprouted quickly and I transplanted them into the meadow close to the yellow irises thinking that the purple and yellow would make a nice combination. The irises aren’t blooming yet. None of Austin’s mild winter freezes bothered them, not even the ice storm or the night we got down to 25 degrees. They sent up flower spikes about the same time the cilantro did but took a long time to form buds and even a longer time for the buds to open. Every day I looked, expecting to see them open, and every day the flowers remained a tight closed ball. Then I went to New York and when I came back they were blooming. Maybe a watched cornflower never opens.

Dateline: 2007-2008

2007-11-05.
Discovered some seeds left over from last year and planted them in the west border where I’m clearing out the bearded irises that rotted in this summer’s rains.

2007-12-04.
The cornflowers (I still want to call them bachelor buttons) are about three inches tall and have two sets of true leaves. They are being smothered by competing baby blue eyes, so I dig up the whole bed and replant only the bachelor buttons spacing them about 5 inches apart.

2007-12-20.
In the mid-70s today and tomorrow. Transplant more bachelor button seedlings. From one group by the agave, three groups: 10 in place, 10 by butterfly bush, and 8 behind maiden grass.

2008-03-21.
First flower. Even though I planted the bachelor buttons two months later than last year it seemed to make no difference. They bloomed in exactly the same week. I prefer to plant them later if I can because then I don’t have to water as much and besides, I’m always running behind.

I think I will always grow bachelor buttons now because they are so easy and economical, although they did not self-sow. Two years of flowers from a $1.79 packet of seeds is satisfying. The effect is less somber than last year mostly because I have allowed the cilantro to overrun the meadow like a wave of white foam.

Dateline: 2010-2011

2010-11-24.
Sow half a packet of new seeds. Botanical Interests. 1 gram @ $1.79. Unseasonably warm ahead of a predicted hard freeze. Today’s high: 82°F; low, 70°F.

2011-03-25.
First flower. I never managed to thin these bachelor buttons so the plants are crowded and short. This dry spring has encouraged an abundance of pink evening primroses behind them. This is one of those unplanned combinations that bring delight.

photo: Centaurea cyanus Black Magic
2011-03-29. Bachelor Button/Cornflower. Austin, TX

Zanthan Gardens
2011-03-24. Pink evening primroses insist it’s spring despite a poor showing of bluebonnets.

March 25th, 2011
Week 12: 3/19 – 3/25

Suddenly, the yard is plunged into shade. The morning sun stops shining through my bedroom window and plants that have grown all winter in the full sun, plants about to flower, are now in the shade. The cedar elms have leafed out and transformed the landscape. I’m not as fond as cedar elms as I once was, as they are the trees that tend to fall in high winds. But this week, they are gorgeous. They leaf out a chartreuse green that deepens to a bright green. The red oaks and live oaks are leafing out too. Only the pecans are still bare.

Dateline: 2011
Spring will not be ignored. It rushes into the garden whether or not I’m there, just not in the way I would have planned it. The pink evening primroses smother the path while the areas I consider my meadow are bare. I’m not blind to the lesson.

This is the week that something new opens every day. All of spring’s bounty comes just as the yard is plunged into shade. The weather continues dry and hot. The toads and mosquitoes have returned. Temperatures rise into the 80s and the larkspur, just sending up its flower stalks, droop. The Tulipa clusiana and the Muscari racemosum have also faded quickly in the heat. A whole year of anticipation…and then they whither as they open.

If you don’t look too closely the garden is filled with swathes of Easter basket colors: yellows (Engelmann daisy and Jerusalem sage and some snapdragons that have finally recovered from the freezes); pinks (pink evening primroses, pink bluebonnets, Indian hawthorn, ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’, ‘New Dawn’, ‘Blush Noisette’); white (bridal wreath spirea, cilantro); blues (bluebonnets, baby blue eyes, starch hyacinths) and purples (false dayflowers, Nierembergia gracilis, tradescantia, prairie verbena). There is also one jarring red, the St. Joseph’s lily.

So much needs to be done which will be left undone. Right now the garden is blooming on the strength of previous years. It really is a garden wild.

Dateline: 2008
This is the week I both look forward to and dread. On the one hand the garden finally looks like a garden. I take pleasure just walking around in it and frequently forget to do anything but just stare. On the other hand, the shade has descended which means the sun-loving flowers will soon turn sulky and I’ll soon be counting the days until fall.
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