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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Zanthan Gardens  meadow
2008-05-08. The meadow just before it’s put to bed for the summer.

May 13th, 2008
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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frog

May 2nd, 2008
Ode to Toad (or rather Requiem for a Frog)

AJM came in upset from his morning ritual of greeting the goldfish. “There’s a toad or something caught in the bird-netting and I think it’s dead.” I went to check and so it was. The poor thing had gotten its nose stuck in the netting and its own weight held just its nose under water and it drowned.

frog

Last night a second maker of ribbets joined the bullfrog. And then there was a distinctively different croak. Was it this frog? A Rio Grande leopard frog, Rana berlandieri perhaps. This one was large, (although I don’t know how frogs are measured), at least 4 inches from nose to anus not counting the legs.

frog

This is not the first time the bird-netting has caught something unintended. Durn raccoons. If it weren’t for the raccoons, I wouldn’t put the netting over the pond. If I take it off, then I chance waking to dead goldfish tomorrow. Is what differentiates humans from other animals the fact that all our interventions are fraught with anxiety? Or is that just a phenomenon of us city-bred moderns, we squeamish ones, who are out of touch with death?

Papaver Dorothy Cavanaugh passalong

May 1st, 2008
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

Bouldin Creek cottage
2008-03-29. Bouldin Creek cottage with front lawn of wildflowers.

March 29th, 2008
Kate's Gentle Plea

Thanks to all of you who wrote such sweet things about my wild garden. I’m very lucky to live in an equally wild neighborhood where unconstrained exuberance is celebrated rather than regulated. I took some photos today of some of my neighbors’s gardens so that you can see that mine fits right in.

Bouldin Creek cottage
2008-03-29. Bouldin Creek cottage with larkspur and decorated car.

In particular, Vive’s comment struck a chord. I didn’t approach making a garden with any set ideas; that is, I didn’t have a vision starting out. Unlike Margery Fish I didn’t really set out to make a garden at all. I just liked puttering around in the dirt among the plants. The concepts I developed over time grew along with the garden, grew out of the garden. They are still evolving. I use this blog a lot to work out my ideas, to mull them over out loud. Discussing my ideas with all of you helps me clarify my thoughts. Visiting your gardens via your blogs inspires and encourages me.

I was a writer long before I was a gardener. So I’ve actually given much more thought to the problems of finding (and keeping) my voice as a blogger. However, nothing I’ve ever written has matched the eloquence and good sense of the post written by my friend Kate in her Gentle Plea for Chaos.

I write this post specifically to my readers at Blotanical who will not find Kate’s post there among the Picks because I want you to know that although Blotanical is a wonderful introduction to the world of garden bloggers, there is an entire universe beyond it. Take this moment and click through to read Kate’s post. Now isn’t that something to think about? I can’t think of much to add, except maybe…

Find your vision. Celebrate who you are. And be.

Bouldin Creek cottage
2008-03-29. Bouldin Creek cottage with fairy circle.

LOLWeedz

February 9th, 2008
lolweedz

I gave up seriousness for Lent. Or so I’d like to say. Actually lolweedz is the brainchild of AJM who has been tapped for undergardener duties this weekend because the weather is so nice and there is so much to do in the garden. He screened off the vent that the raccoons were using to slip under the house after ravaging the pond. He built some more mini-planters for the Tulipa clusiana. And he helped me reposition the rain barrel so that it is high enough to drain properly. This left me free all day to weed.

Which of us has not felt, at one time, that the weeds are laughing at us. Laughing maniacally. With temperatures in the 80s in Austin for most of this week, the weeds have burst on the scene: chickweed, henbit, wild onions, and sow thistle. Sometimes I save a little henbit for the butterflies but this year I’m trying to stay on top of the weeds and pulling everything out as soon as I see it.

Yucca aloifoliaYucca aloifolia–prickly as pins. I did not walk away from the battle unscathed.

January 29th, 2008
Dueling with Spanish Bayonets

The sun came out in Austin over the weekend and so did all the gardeners. Wearing a T-shirt again felt wonderful. I decided to be an ant and focus on cutting back the yucca that graces our front fence. Well, “graces” is hyperbole. What it actually does is flop about and slither over the fence while threatening pedestrians with its needle-sharp tips. For this reason, yuccas are illegal in sidewalk plantings in Austin.
Yucca aloifolia
If you are thinking that this yucca doesn’t exactly add to my garden’s street appeal, then all has gone according to plan. I live in a neighborhood that is basically the parking lot for Palmer Auditorium, Auditorium Shores, and the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail. I got tired of cleaning up the dog poop from people who take their dogs for a run around the lake and the cigarette butts and beer cans from tired concert goers hiking back up to their cars. When a friend gave me some Yucca aloifolia (Spanish bayonet), I decided to create a security border.

I planted two plants in the front on Labor Day, 2002. What I hadn’t counted on is how quickly Spanish bayonet grows. It shoots up, becomes top-heavy and then topples over. With all the rain last year, it’s rotting out at ground level. This does not deter the plant at all. It gets on fine without roots because it stores its food supply in its trunk. After it topples, it sends up pups all along the trunk.
Yucca aloifolia
So how does one tackle this mass of needle-sharp bayonets? First, observe the enemy.
Yucca aloifolia
Notice that the top leaves point up. The middle leaves point out. The bottom leaves (often brown but still with deadly tips) point down. You can’t get your hand anywhere near the trunk. In fact, these yucca make fine hideouts for small birds and lizards (one which was very cold and grumpy when I disturbed his sleep today.)

Most importantly, make no sudden moves. Do not lean in to cut a leaf. Move only the hand with your clippers. First, cut off the needle tips at eye level–the ones waiting to poke out your eyes. (A neighbor strolling by me at my labors remarked that he wouldn’t go anywhere near Spanish bayonets without goggles.) Clear a large area of needles. Then start to cut off more of each leaf, getting closer to the trunk. Never move your body or head without first checking for additional needles that may need to be removed before you move closer.
Yucca aloifolia
Once you can reach the trunk with you hand, you can saw through it. Although the yucca stem is fibrous, a small pruning saw can go through it quite quickly as long as you cut perpendicular to the fibers. After the yucca is down, it’s short work to cut off the leaves (which are now pointing up and away from you) from the bottom.
Yucca aloifolia
I cut off all the leaves except for the new ones that are pointing up. What’s left looks like this.
Yucca aloifolia
I’ll cut off most of this stem before I replant.

Although AJM never complains, I imagine that when he sees the dishes and laundry unwashed that he wonders what I do all day. He doesn’t consider time spent in the garden “work” because, he points out, I love gardening. It’s a hobby. It’s a leisure activity. Hmmph!

Well this project was mind-numbing, tedium. Had I not been listening to JapanesePod101, I surely would have gone insane. I worked from 2:30 to 5:30 on Sunday and was back at it again at 9 this morning. I took an hour lunch break at 12:45 and then worked for another three hours. When I was finished there wasn’t much yucca left. All the largest plants had rotted away at the root. I decided just to clean out everything. I even swept the front walk and cut back the wild asters. I saved three plants to replant but cut up most of the rest for recycling (8 bags worth). I trimmed three smaller plants and left them in the front to passalong to another neighbor who walked by. I warned him that they were deadly. By 5:30, I called it quits and came in to watch the news.
Yucca aloifolia

Austin Pond Society Tour 2007
The tour’s featured garden was built into a steep hill. The owners are reported to have been inspired on the pond tour two years earlier. I wish my inspirations would take solid form like this.

July 18th, 2007
Austin Pond Society Tour 2007

One of the unexpected benefits of the garden house project is that we are becoming owners of a pond. I’ve wanted a pond for a long time. In anticipation of this new stewardship, we began checking out books on ponds. I realized quickly that I face a very steep learning curve. The Austin Pond Society’s annual tour was last weekend. Although I was in flight on Saturday, I decided I could extend my vacation one more day and spend Sunday visiting ponds instead of tending my own garden. Luckily, all the ponds open Sunday for viewing were in south Austin.

I really enjoyed the tour and it was well worth the $15 admission even though I managed to see only about 1/3 of the 30 ponds that were open to the public. What I liked best about the tour was the variety, little DIY ponds made by “normal” people with “normal” backyards; a pond in a funky old south Austin in a yard full of handcrafted buildings (including a screened porch room); brand new ponds which made the most of a steep otherwise unworkable sites by creating pools and waterfalls, artsy ponds in killer backyards overlooking Austin, and a series of ponds in a canyon being restored to native plantings. I even saw a house I’d give mine up for in a second…and only a few blocks (and several million dollars) away.

Everyone was really friendly, too, and all the owners were extremely nice in talking about their pond experiences. Owners, thanks so much for inviting the hoards into your back yards!

I’m afraid that my eye strayed more to the gardens and plants than to the ponds. I’m sure that once I have more experience with my own pond that I’ll become more attuned to what to look the next time I tour ponds. Part of the tour, my camera wasn’t working so I only have photos from three gardens.

Gary’s Garden
Gary Pettitt owns Seasonal Living Trading Co here in Austin and his garden is a showcase for his wares .
Austin Pond Society Tour 2007
Distracted by the poolside view overlooking Town Lake and the Austin, I thought the pond took a back seat. Which is difficult because what a pond it was!

Austin Pond Society Tour 2007
The backdrop was a 10-foot high drip wall which emptied into a 40-foot long, narrow but deep koi pond.

Austin Pond Society Tour 2007
A sculpture took center stage and on either side little statues of Buddha sat serenely in their niches behind the flowing water.

Although this is not a pond I can imagine having in my own back yard, even if I had the money, it was wonderfully impressive. The rest of the yard was divided into various garden rooms, each showcase in itself.

Marc’s Garden
In contrast, Marc’s garden and series of ponds better epitomized the Austin aesthetic for me. Imagine having your own canyon in which to create a hidden paradise–very Shangri-la.

Austin Pond Society Tour 2007

He is transforming the canyon on his property into a series of ponds. Native plants are being reintroduced. And I felt a special kinship for his collection of rocks and folk art and other quirky sculptures made from found objects.

David’s Garden
Walking into David Amdur’s garden I felt that I’d been transported to the Austin of my youth. The artist/designer/builder has handcrafted his own house and all the furniture in it. The large yard meanders down a hillside (a common theme on the pond tour). In a grove at the bottom of the garden is a little screened porch room which I thought was as cute a button. AJM gave me a look as if to say, well if you wanted something like that… I don’t want to trade, I think my screened porch room is the right thing for our yard.

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.]


2006-04-16. My meadow gets a little wilder every year. Austin, TX.
2007-04-16. This year, wetter and cooler, has resulted in many more bluebonnets and less pink evening primrose.

April 15th, 2006
Week 15: 4/9 – 4/15

Dateline: 2007
Coming off near freezing temperatures last weekend, this week warmed up quickly with high temperatures reaching the 80s on Thursday (4/12) and Friday (4/13) before plunging again to 62 on Saturday (4/14). The storm preceding Friday night’s cold front roared in blustering, felling limbs and uprooting trees. We only lost one small limb from a cedar elm in front but along Town Lake large trees were down. All that bother and not even enough rain to cover the bottom of a bucket!

The tradescantia (spiderwort) has gone to seed and I spent most of the week composting it. The bluebonnets and baby blue eyes are also past their prime. The week belonged to yellow: the buttery yellow heirloom irises, the bright yellow Engelmann daisys, the fuzzy yellow Jerusalem sage, and the soft, cheerful yellow of the violas. The Japanese persimmon is covered in fruit and still flowering. I hope I get some persimmons this year. Not a single one made it through the drought last year.

First Flower: Salvia faranacea ‘Indigo Spires’ (4/9) one flower; Duranta erecta (4/11) one flower; rose ‘French Lace’ (4/12) one flower; Hippaestrum x Johnsonii (4/13); Trachelospermum jasminoides (4/15) two flowers, Polanisia dodecandra (4/15) one flower.

In Bloom: Allium neapolitanum, Centaurea cyanus ‘Black Magic’, Commelinantia anomala (still going strong except when cats form crop circles), Consolida ambigua (more and more each day), Coriandrum sativum (just beginning to go to seed), Iris flavescens (in full bloom), crinum (meadow milk and wine), Engelmann daisy, Lathyrus odoratus ‘Regal Robe’, Lathyrus odoratus ‘Velvet Elegance’, Lavandula heterophyla ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’, Nemophila insignis, Oenothera speciosa, Oxalis crassipes, Oxalis triangularis, Phlomis lanata, rose ‘Blush Noisette’. rose ‘Ducher’, rose ‘Heritage’, rose ‘French Lace’, rose ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’, rose ‘New Dawn’. rose ‘Penelope’, rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’, Salvia greggii ‘Raspberry’, Spiraea bridal wreath, tradescantia (spiderwort), Tradescantia pallida (purple heart), Verbena canadensis, viola, yaupon holly.

Fading: Lupinus texensis, Narcissus jonquilla ‘Quail’, Rhaphiolepis indica (Indian hawthorn), Solanum jasminoides (potato vine).

Vegetable Garden: The tomatoes are flowering although some of the leaves show frost damage from Easter weekend (I didn’t think to cover them. On Saturday (4/14) we did get the trellis erected. It’s somewhat warped looking but I think it will hold up tomatoes.
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