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

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

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.
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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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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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moss
2010-02-18. Here’s something you don’t see often in our drought-stricken land: a mossy bank. We are on heavy clay which is now saturated with rain.

February 19th, 2010
Week 07: 2/12-2/18

Dateline: 2010

Austin’s unusually cold and wet winter/spring seems even more so in contrast with the last two drought years. Both the garden and I have been under the weather all February. The sun came out for a couple of days this week but I didn’t get much done. I lacked the stamina to deal with the cold and wind. Although I’m way behind in my chores (this is normally my busiest season), I feel that this drizzly weather has given me permission to take a break. A season of rest and reflection is something I often envy. So rather than fret about what isn’t getting done in the garden, I’m cultivating other pleasures.

This has been a slow spring. The big freeze of January 2010 killed the buds or flowering stalks of the various paperwhite and tazetta narcissus which would normally be in flower. It killed off the already flowering false dayflowers and snapdragons. And what I thought would be very early flowering cilantro and larkspur also froze (not the whole plants, just the bloom stalks). The mahonia didn’t flower this year at all; I think bud formation fell victim to the drought. The only flowers happily on schedule are the common selfsown: henbit, chickweed, dandelions, and sow thistles.

To compare, this week in 2009 I had roses and narcissus blooming at the same time. The arugula was bolting and the English peas about to give into the heat. The Jerusalem sage was flowering and the the duranta was still flowering from 2008.

The Mexican plums which have bloomed as early as January 29th, finally opened one flower (2/18). That tied the date for 2004 and missed the all time record for the latest first flower (2/19) made in 2002. I haven’t seen any sign of my most reliable harbinger of spring, the redbuds. I always look for them on Valentine’s Day.

I’m still cleaning up freeze-dried plants. I cut back the duranta which flowered throughout last winter and had reached a height of about 8 feet. They are dead to the ground now. Whether they will resprout from their roots is yet to be seen. The leaves on the oleanders are completely dead but the branches feel flexible and springy. This is a good opportunity to cut them back to size which I find hard to do when they are green and covered with buds. I also cut back the leafless vitex last month. I still need to prune back the crape myrtles, the rose of Sharon, and the Texas persimmon (which has never lost all its leaves before).

The roses, especially ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ and ‘New Dawn’ are covered with new leaf buds. They love this extra moisture; unfortunately so does black spot. I stripped last year’s leaves off the roses and cut back old canes.

In the vegetable garden the first English pea flowered. Last year at this time, they were producing well and by the end of February I had to pull them out because temperatures hit the 80s. I just got around to ordering my tomato seeds this week. This is much too late and I’ll probably have to buy tomato starts, too. Now that Gardens has closed, I’ve lost my favorite source of unusual varieties.

First flower: Pisum sativum ‘Progress #9″ (2/16); Prunus mexicana (2/18).

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photo: unidentified paperwhite narcissus

2006-01-04. Unidentified paperwhites and spider. These paperwhites are short, but pleasantly sweet-smelling, not like some modern ones.

January 7th, 2010
Week 01: 1/1 – 1/7

Dateline 2010
The first week of the new year has been blackened by the ominous forecast of the coldest weather since the big ice storm of the first week of February 1996 (when AJM and I were marooned together). Not only will this freeze plunge Austin temperatures to the teens, it will be cold for several days: too long and too cold for plant covers to help much. While the first freeze of the season cleared the garden of overgrown annuals this one threatens to kill long cherished tender perennials. Cue much moaning and gnashing of teeth in the Austin garden blogosphere/Twitter.

I spent Wednesday (1/6) ahead of the front digging up what tender perennials I could: the amaryllis (all but the butterfly amaryllis had died down anyway in lighter freezes), scores of aloe vera, and the largest banana. All these plants needed dividing or moving to a sunnier spot. Nothing like the threat of disaster to focus and motivate.

Some losses will really hurt. I’m going to hate to lose plants I’ve grown over many years from very small plants especially the lemon tree, asparagus fern, and the philodendron–all which I planted out last year after they became too big for pots. I will be sad to lose my rosemary which I was training into a weeping tree form. I lost my first big rosemary in a similar freeze years ago.

Other plants I’m not going to be sorry if they get cut down to size because they’ve been unruly, overcrowding and shading the neighbors: the variegated Agave americana, the three Duranta erecta, the Port St. Johns Creeper (which had already frozen to the roots in earlier freezes). I’m very bad at pulling out something that survives because so little does. So I’ve let these run wild even though they’ve overstayed their welcome.

This hard freeze is particularly frustrating because so many plants put on a lot of growth since September during the rainy period Austin’s had after our 2-year drought. The cilantro and some larkspur are already sending up flower stalks and have buds–two months before normal. The Acanthus mollis has early summer growth already, its new leaves a fresh bright green and glossy. Worst, the fall vegetables were just starting to get growing in the last month after the pecans and oaks finally shed their leaves. We’ve harvested one cutting of Mesclun and that’s it. Goodbye English peas, swiss chard, and various other greens. Luckily these are easily replanted. Also agonizing will be the loss of many plants that I’ve struck from cuttings.

First flower: Narcissus italicus, (1/1). Only one flower. It’s been a very disappointing year for N. italicus and not a single paperwhite bloomed this year.
Blooming (very little after a couple of hard freezes): Lobularia maritima, Lonicera fragrantissima , Oxalis triangularis (white), Narcissus italicus.

Related

If you’re preparing for the oncoming winter storm, read Frost and Freezes from the Travis County Extension Agent.

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Zanthan Gardens Week 6 Narcissus Grand Primo
2000-02-11. Narcissus tazetta ‘Grand Primo’.

February 12th, 2009
Week 06: 2/5 – 2/11

Dateline: 2009

I associate the first redbud blossom (my private official marker of spring) with Valentine’s Day but this year I saw my first redbud on Monday (2/9), almost a week early. Spring’s in Austin and there’s no holding it back.

As my son retorted, “Does this mean we’re going to have a month of 70-degree days and then a hard freeze during Spring Break?” Probably. Austin’s average last freeze is now February 26th (it used to be in March) so the period between Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day is always a bit chancy for tender new plants. He’s probably remembering when he was a boy and I took him camping at Enchanted Rock for his birthday. The temperature surprised us by dropping to 14 degrees that night. That was the same year as the latest freeze on record, April 3, 1987. As the Austin Climate Summary shows, Austin can be in the 90s or higher ANY month of the year; it can also freeze anytime between October and April.

Flowers were opening all over the garden. This is the most excitement we’ve had at Zanthan Gardens in about eight months.

First flowers: Prunus mexican (2/5); paperwhite Narcissus ‘Grandiflora’ (2/6); rose ‘Ducher’ (2/6); Mahonia bealei (2/6); Narcissus tazetta ‘Grand Primo’ (2/8); Leucojum asestivum (2/9); Cercis canadensis (2/9); Lantana montevidensis (2/9).

We had a bit of relief from the drought this week, too: about half an inch of rain in a slow, soaking drizzle on Monday (2/9) and then a bit less late in a 10-minute downpour (accompanied by high winds and hail) late Tuesday evening (2/10). The rain penetrated the first 4 to 6 inches of soil (depending on where it is in my yard–heavy clay or well-composted). Below that, the dirt is dust dry. It’s frightening to dig into it. I expect the spring weeds to kick into high gear now. Our weather has been so dry that even the chickweed was languishing. Some henbit has been blooming. I never weed it all out because the butterflies like it when nothing else is blooming.

I have been digging out nandina to make a bed for three raspberry plants I bought at The Great Outdoors. I didn’t think that raspberries would grow in Austin but they assure me that this variety, ‘Dorman’, will produce in a couple of years. We harvested an actual serving for two of the English peas and have been eating lots of salad trying to get the most out of the arugula before it bolts.

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Acanthus mollis
Why Acanthus mollis isn’t invasive in my garden.

June 10th, 2008
Week 23: 6/4 – 6/10

Dateline: 2008

Every year there come a time when I must make Sophie’s choice, deciding which plants will live and which will die. I yanked out the last of the borage and the cornflowers this week. In the case of the unkillable Acathus mollis, I’m not letting it die, just go dormant until fall. It’s so pitifully sunburned and bug-eaten that I consider this a mercy killing. It doesn’t like the heat or the searing sunlight. (For the last couple of weeks, it’s been getting about an hour of afternoon sun a day because my neighbor lost some big limbs in the last storm.) In good years, I don’t have to make hard choices until after the 4th of July. Apparently 2008 is not going to be one of the good years.

The weather looks bad everywhere: 100 degree heat on the east coast, floods in the midwest, and late snow in Washington state. This afternoon when it was 101 degrees (tied the 1923 record) rain began falling although the sun was shining. It was so hot that almost none of the rain hit the ground and what did evaporated immediately. Little steamy droplets rose so that it looked like it was raining up at the same time it was raining down. It was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen. Nothing soaked in and the rain didn’t cool us off; we just went from dry heat to humid heat.

The oleander still looks stupendous. The duranta and the crape myrtle looked good at the beginning of the week but are starting to fade by today. We harvested four ‘Juliet’ grape tomatoes and various jalapeno peppers.

First flower: pomegranite (6/8).
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Zanthan Gardens Week 21
2008-05-27. A reason to have a little lawn–90+F degree days. This photo makes the garden look cool and refreshing but it’s actually oppressively muggy and hot.

May 27th, 2008
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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LA lily
Apparently it’s a tradition that I take a photo of this lily in Week 20–at least every time I get a new camera.

May 21st, 2008
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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meadow Zanthan Gardens
2010-05-01. The meadow at Zanthan Gardens. Less larkspur than in previous years because the cilantro and Engelmann daisies are pushing them out.

May 6th, 2007
Week 18: 4/30 – 5/6

Dateline: 2008

The last reprieve before summer. When Vertie and I went to get the glass mulch on Friday (5/2), it was a hot 88F and muggy. Saturday was dry and cooler by 10 degrees. The lows over the weekend seemed comparatively chilly at 59F. Big storms for Monday and Tuesday didn’t pan out which means will be facing temperatures in the 90s next week without a reserve of rain.

This is confederate jasmine week. It has been in full bloom for the last couple of weeks everywhere…a really good year for confederate jasmine. My sweet peas are also finally blooming. Caterpillars ate all the buds right before they were going to flower and it’s taken them a couple of weeks to put out more.

The ‘Mermaid’, ‘Red Cascade’ and ‘New Dawn’ roses have all been blooming very well. ‘Blush Noisette’ is trying but is balling terribly this year. ‘Ducher’, ‘Prosperity’, and ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ are still putting out a flower or two. I did lose the ‘Penelope’ rose that had me worried this time last year.

The California poppies surprised me with a second flush of flowers. The others are finally blooming, a month behind everyone else’s in Austin. In a way it’s nice because they fill in the spots left empty by the larkspur and cilantro. Speaking of which, I decided to fill in empty spaces in the meadow with bought pepper and tomato plants. The problem is remembering to water them regularly when they’re scattered all over the yard. The pink evening primrose and Engelmann daisy are still flowering well.

Getting busy gathering seeds of larkspur, bluebonnets, and cilantro.

First flower: Nigella damascena ‘Mulberry Rose’ (4/30); bearded iris ‘Silverado’ (5/1); white mistflower (5/4); Dolichos lablab (5/5); summer squash (5/5).

Dateline: 2007


Zanthan Gardens
2007-05-06. 2007-05-06. Rather than a pretty flower photo I thought I’d focus on the most memorable sight in the garden at the moment: the old shed in rubble and larkspur blooming in the meadow to the north.

Spring Fling is over and, May, the month of green is upon us. That’s how I think of May. This is a transitional week, a transitional month. Most of my flower spectacle is over until fall. I put all my effort into early flowering plants because once my trees leaf out there isn’t enough sun for the warm weather flowers. I’ve had to learn to stop envying other Austinites’ vitex, lantana, butterfly bushes, and salvias. Besides when the weather turns muggy, I can’t stand the press of all those plants that make March and April shine. I just want to clear everything away.

May is typically one of Austin’s rainiest month. We’ve had almost two inches just this week as thunderstorms keep rolling through. On top of that, we’ve more than average rain this year since the middle of March. May is living up to its lush green promise. We expected the cloud cover to burn off this week and the temperatures to hit 90. Instead it remained drizzly and in the low 80s all week. And a bit muggy! The 90% humidity makes it as steamy as a jungle. A mustiness pervades my house and there are small snails on every plant. The mosquitoes and the cockroaches have decided summer is here. And I heard the toad last night. That makes it official.

The ‘New Dawn’ and ‘Blush Noisette’ roses have bowed out and now ‘Mermaid’ and ‘Red Cascade’ are in full bloom. I’m worried about ‘Penelope’. She was covered in flowers last month and suddenly all the leaves turned yellow. Is she going to succumb to dieback like ‘Buff Beauty’ and ‘Madame Joseph Schwartz’?

First flower: chili pequin (5/2); Hibiscus syriacus (5/3); Abelia grandiflora (5/4); Cosmos bipinnatus (5/5) one self-sown.

Dateline: 2006

Rain, rain, and more rain. I’m still looking for the official rainfall totals but it seems south Austin got about half an inch on Tuesday, 3 inches on Thursday, 2 inches Friday, 2 inches Saturday, and possible another inch Sunday. I wish I had about 50 more rainbarrels.

The spring flowers (bluebonnets, larkspur, evening primrose) are going to seed. The roses, except for a flower here and there, may be finished until fall. The irises were noticably absent this spring. Now the flowering perennials (esperanza, four-o’clocks, crape myrtle, oleander, rose of Sharon, red yucca, various salvias, and plumbago) are moving into the spotlight. Even so, with all this rain, the overwhelming impression of the garden this week is green.

There was a time when I first began gardening that I said all that these desert-bred eyes craved for in a garden was a green shade. Now I’m less easily satisfied.

First flower: Mirabilis jalapa, RHS red (5/1); plumbago (5/4); crape myrtle ‘Catawba’ (5/5).

Dateline: 2004

Following killer-flood rains last Saturday, the week opened with two perfect days. The nights were cool, the temperatures tying with record lows set 50 years ago. And the days were dry with brilliant blue skies usually seen only in the fall.

My neighbors behind me cut down a huge oak tree that had its top sheared of. in a storm seven years ago (but was still growing strong). They also removed a hackberry and other brush along our fence line. Now, what had been my shade garden, is in full afternoon sun. 2007-05-06. Note: They’ve planted a butterfly rose over the fence and some other plants. I think they have a landscaping service or something because it looks like a nursery back there.

photo: tree
2004-05-06. What remains of my neighbor’s tree. Bill might notice that the bindweed is quite rampant.

First flower: rose ‘Red Cascade’ (5/3); first cherry tomato (5/5); rose “Caldwell Pink” (5/5).

Rebloom: rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ (5/7); rose ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’ (5/8).

Dateline: 2002


In my garden, March is wildflower month, April is iris month, and May is the month of green. The spring flowers are cleared away and the trees and grass have deepened into a rich green. This is the one month where it summer looks pleasant, before the heat and drought of real summer turns everything brown and dusty.

We began this week with a momentary break in the heat. A front came in on the 3rd and cooled temperatures down by at least ten degrees. So I spent all Friday morning reading in the garden in my new Adirondack chair…a very Martha Stewart moment. It didn’t last long enough. Very quickly we returned to hot, humid weather.

The bad news this year is the lack of rain. May is supposed to be one of our rainiest months. We are already behind for the year and it doesn’t look like any relief is on the way. The worst part of this heat is the realization that although 90 feels hot now, sometime in August, 90 will feel cool. When it’s 90 in August, you know Fall is on the way.

On the plus side, the cannas and banana are taking off. And we ate the first cherry tomatoes this week. The black-eyed Susans are blooming. And there are still plenty of larkspur to attract the butterflies. A stray bluebonnet still blooms, where I’ve watered and dead-headed them. And the last iris, ‘Silverado’ bloomed. Clammy-weed is popping up everywhere, a nice bright green. It grows to almost two feet in the garden beds where it gets water. In the meadow, though, it is much shorter.

The confederate jasmine is in full bloom. I love its glossy, deep green leaves and thickly sweet scent. I rooted a runner last year and transplanted it this spring and it’s blooming, too. The lavender I rooted is also blooming. It’s a good thing I’m having some luck with rooting and divisions because my attempts to grow things from seed have not been very successful this year. Although a couple of things have popped up from seeds I planted last year. One is an Apple of Peru. I don’t know what the other one is. Maybe cuphea. Maybe some new weed.

The violas, sweet peas, and columbines have succumbed to the heat. The Dianthus chinensis is looking a little seedy, but what amazes me is that this is their second year. They are usually considered only winter annuals. [Note: These plants persisted in the garden until 2005 when they finally succumbed to the drought.]