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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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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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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Helianthus annuus
Wild sunflower.

June 15th, 2010
GBBD 201006: June 2010

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

June 15, 2010

Austin is in the glory of first summer now and its colors are like the chorus of that Pete Seeger ditty, Henry My Son, green and yeller. May, typically one of Austin’s wettest months, was unusually dry in 2010. However, June has made up for it with big storms bringing 2 inches of rain (June 2) and 4 inches of rain (June 9) to Zanthan Gardens. As a result, lot of fading spring flowers, like bluebonnets, larkspur, false dayflowers, nigella, and Confederate jasmine put out a few more flowers. And several of the roses are producing a second flush: ‘Blush Noisette’, ‘New Dawn’, and ‘Ducher’. ‘Red Cascade’ continues to have a few flowers from its first flush.

Lupinus texensis
Fading bluebonnet. Two new flowers opened today but all the flowers are very pale in the heat.

New for June

My old faithfuls for first summer are in full flower: Rudbeckia hirta, Hibiscus syriacus, Antigonon leptopus, various Ruellia, and Polanisia dodecandra.

All over town Austin’s ubiquitous summer flower, the crape myrtle, is laden with bloom. I don’t think I’ve ever seen with such huge flowers before–just like our spring wildflowers. I credit the incredible rain from September to April. The lesson I’m learning is that while these flowers may tolerate our heat and drought, they really love twice the water we normally give them.

Lagerstroemia indica Catawba
Lagerstroemia indica ‘Catawba.’

2010 was also the best year ever for my vitex (now fading). I have so much shade in my garden that both the crape myrtle and the vitex are pretty subdued compared to what you’ll see elsewhere in Austin

I’m still waiting for the oleander, duranto, and plumbago to flower. They are struggling back from their roots after Austin’s unusual big freeze in January 2010. I’m happily finding all sorts of plants I thought had died in the freeze springing back–the biggest surprise was new growth on the bottlebrush bush. And although I wasn’t surprised to discover a lot of self sown datura, I was to see new growth springing from the stump of one of last year’s plants.

I’ve had such good luck with the scraggly annual black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) that I thought I’d give the more impressive Rudbeckia maxima a try.

Rudbeckia maxima
Rudbeckia maxima.

Between GBBDs

Several flower bloomed and faded in my garden between GBBDs and so didn’t show up in the inventory for either May or June: Gladiolus ‘Flevo Bambino’, globe artichoke, Opuntia ficus-indica, and Callirhoe involucrata.

Complete List for June

This is the list of all plants flowering today, June 15th 2010, at Zanthan Gardens.

  • Abelia grandiflora (2010)
  • Antigonon leptopus (2010)
  • Antirrhinum majus (2010)
  • Aristolochia fimbriata (2010)
  • Asparagus densiflorus (2010)
  • Chilopsis linearis (2010)
  • Commelina communis (2010)
  • Commelinantia anomala (2010)
  • Consolida ambigua (2010)
  • Engelmannia peristenia/pinnatifida (2010)
  • Eschscholzia californica ‘Mikado’ (2010)
  • garlic (2010)
  • Helianthus annuus (2010)
  • Hesperaloe parviflora (2010)
  • Hibiscus syriacus (full bloom) (2010)
  • Lantana ‘New Gold’ (2010)
  • Lavandula heterophyla ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’ (2010)
  • Lupinus texensis (a couple of fading flowers) (2010)
  • Malvaviscus arboreus (2010)
  • Mondo grass (2010)
  • Nierembergia gracilis ‘Starry Eyes’ (2010)
  • Nigella damascena (fading singles and doubles) (2010)
  • Oenothera speciosa (2010)
  • Origanum vulgare (2010)
  • Oxalis triangularis (2010)
  • Parkinsonia aculeata (2010)
  • Pavonia hastata (2010)
  • Polanisia dodecandra (2010)
  • rose ‘Blush Noisette’ (2010)
  • rose ‘Ducher’ (2010)
  • rose ‘New Dawn’ (2010)
  • rose ‘Red Cascade’ (2010)
  • rosemary (2010)
  • Rudbeckia hirta (2010)
  • Rudbeckia maxima (2010)
  • Ruellia (2010)
  • Sedum album (2010)
  • Setcresea (both purple and green) (2010)
  • Thymophylla tenuiloba ‘Golden Fleece’ (2010)
  • tomato (2010)
  • Trachelospermum jasminoides (almost finished) (2010)
  • Verbena canadensis (lavender wilding) (2010)
  • Vitex agnus-castus (2010)
  • waterlily ‘Helvola’ (2010)
  • Zexmenia hispida (2010)
  • unidentified white-flower (2010)

unidentified white flower
Unidentified white flower.

blue flowers
Blue flowers blooming at Zanthan Gardens on March 28, 2010

March 29th, 2010
Blue Flowers

  • Muscari racemosum. Blue bottles. (aka, grape hyacinths. The “grape” refers to the way the flowers are clustered like a bunch of grapes, not the color.)
  • Nemophila insignis. Baby blue eyes.
  • Hyacinthoides hispanica. Spanish bluebells
  • Lupinus texensis. Texas bluebonnet.
  • Commelinantia anomala. False dayflowers. (solid blue and a bicolor)

Recently I tweeted about Suntory having GMO’d a “blue” rose. In response, @CarolineSays linked to a blog post by Chris Clarke Daze of Whine and Roses, which scoffed at the very idea that Suntory’s rose was blue. Lilac or mauve, maybe, but not blue.

In flower terms, “blue” is a pretty expansive color term–just like black, which typically is a really, really, deep red. So I decided to inventory my own blue flowers. Of course, the camera lies. Depending upon the settings in your camera, the setting on your monitor, or any number of other variables (photos shot in full sunlight, bright shade, full shade), colors are going to differ.

Massed, bluebonnets are a deep indigo or jewel-toned blue. (At least mine are. Some are a more pale sky blue.) Spanish bluebells look anemic beside them. Baby blue eyes are a hazy day sky blue. But in the photo they look almost lavender…or like my favorite crayon as a child “periwinkle blue”. In life, false dayflowers are an electric, aniline blue. In my photo, they have a reddish tint compared with the bluebonnets.

I wanted to see if some of the “lavender” blues looked more like blue when compared to flowers that I think of as purple in the garden: Texas mountain laurel, tradescantia, and verbena. And they do. The color of the Suntory rose seems similar to the periwinkle blue of the rosemary and baby blue eyes.

blue flowers
Purple and blue flowers blooming at Zanthan Gardens on March 29, 2010

So I’m not going to get on Suntory because their new flower isn’t really “blue”. Rather, I’m still disappointed that they think developing a blue rose is worth messing around with genetically modified organisms.

Lupinus texensis
2010-02-02. Bluebonnet seedlings. Given all the rain in central Texas since September, the bluebonnet plants are large and plentiful.

February 2nd, 2010
Setsubun, Halfway Through the Season

Dateline: February 2, 2008

Anemone coronaria
The Anemone coronaria has sprouted adding to my anticipation of spring. This is the first year I’ve grown them.

In the days when people spent more time observing nature than television, this week marks a significant moment in the year, halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Many cultures celebrate this turning point in winter as the beginning of the new year, the beginning of spring, even though for many the worst of winter is yet to come. For Christians, the end of the Christmas Season and the liturgical year is celebrated at Candlemas. Americans try to forecast the weather on Groundhog Day. The Chinese New Year (based on a combination of solar and lunar calendars) begins. And the Japanese celebrate setsubun, literally halving the season, driving evil spirits from their house while inviting good ones to stay on the eve of spring.

Anticipation of spring is running high here at Zanthan Gardens. The Spanish bluebells, Hyacinthoides hispanica, are nosing up. Spanish bluebells
I planted them to remind AJM of home. Traditionally the English have used Spanish bluebells in their gardens because they are larger than the native English bluebells of the woods. However, recent worries about non-native plants have created controversy over Spanish bluebells. I’m surprised they do so well in Texas. They’ve come back every year neither increasing much nor diminishing.

I was very excited to step out into the garden after a few cold wintry days and see the Tulipa clusiana. I was afraid that with all of the rain last summer that these species tulips had finally rotted away.Tulipa clusiana
Tulipa clusiana likes hot baking summers and doesn’t require any chilling period to bloom. As such, it is the ideal tulip for Austin, where most tulips are difficult to naturalize.

I worried that last summer’s rain might have also done in the delicate triandrus daffodil “Hawera”. This is one of the few daffodils I’ve grown which has come back reliably over many many years and flowers without any chilling.
Narcissus triandrus Hawera

Like Yolanda Elizabet at Bliss, I’m excited to see the summer snowflakes coming up. Unlike many bulbs, they don’t mind Austin’s clay soil.
Leucojum aestivum

The overwintering annuals have put on lots of growth–or at least the ones that I managed to thin and replant during December have. Batchelor buttons

This is the second year I’ve grown bachelor buttons, Centaurea cyanus. In fact, these plants are from the seeds I had leftover from last year’s seed packet. I’m so pleased with their perfomance (and how easy they are to grow) that they have one a place in my permanent repertoire. Behind the bachelor buttons in this photo are the baby blue eyes, Nemophila insignis, which desperately need to be thinned.

This weekend promises to be beautiful, sunny and in the 70s. I have loads of pruning, weeding, and transplanting to do (and watering because it’s been so dry). What joy it will be to be out in the garden, though, checking over all the plants just waiting to burst forth in bloom.

Update: February 2, 2010

In some ways, Spring 2010 couldn’t be more different than Spring 2008. Then we were at the beginning of the drought and now we’ve had 5 months of cool, rainy weather and a killer freeze. All the overwintering annuals are large and plentiful and trying to bloom well ahead of schedule. Because this winter has been cloudier and cooler, this copious tender growth keeps getting nipped back by weekly freezes.

The Anemone coronaria did not survive the drought. Nor did my narcissus. But the Tulipa clusiana, Spanish bluebells, and Leucojum aestivum carry on rain or shine.

Consoloda ambigua
2010-02-02. Larkspur buds. The larkspur, which are usually in full bloom in April, keep sending up flower stalks that are cut down with each freeze.

While the rainy weather has allowed the self-sown annuals (including weeds) to proliferate, it has kept me from most of my gardening chores. I haven’t even sown many new packets of seeds such as the bachelor buttons yet. I have a short window of opportunity in which to sow seeds around Christmas after the leaves fall. If the weather is not encouraging or I’m too busy with the holidays, then I miss my chance before the heat sets in. Not that I won’t try anyway. This year might be a long cold spring letting us have flowers into May. Well, we can dream.

bluebonnet seeds

September 28th, 2009
Bluebonnet Seeds

If you’ve ever bought bluebonnet seeds, you might have noticed that they looked like varied multi-colored pebbles. But if you collect your own seeds, you might notice that all the seeds from the same plant look alike.

When the bluebonnets are blooming in my yard, I go around marking plants from which I want to save seeds. I’m a bit of an extremist so I tend to mark plants with the deepest blue flowers and the palest blue flowers. Every once in awhile a pale pink bluebonnet or white bluebonnet will appear but these rarely set many seeds. I saved seeds from the child of my oversummering, December-blooming bluebonnet and notice how pale beige they are compared with the others.

bluebonnet seeds
I saved these seeds not because the plants were remarkable but because the seeds themselves were so pretty.

The week before we went on vacation seven of inches of rain fell and immediately the bluebonnets began sprouting. The week we were gone, we received an additional 3.5 inches. I returned to find my yard covered in bluebonnet sprouts of the seeds I didn’t save. I’m going to have to hustle to get my saved seeds in the ground somewhere.

Ipomoea tricolor Flying Saucers
‘Flying Saucers’ morning glory. I’m trying these new this year. So far this is the only plant with the variegated flowers. The others are pure blue or pure white.

May 15th, 2009
GBBD 200905: May 2009

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

May 15, 2009

Lupinus texensis
Fading bluebonnets. I’m not going to take photos of all the other dried and withered flowers that are “blooming” today.

Farewell, enchanted April. Hello, withering May. I used to think of May as the calm, deep green month. The meadow flowers had gone to seed but the lawns and more tropical plants burst forth in restful shades of leafy green. May used to be one of Austin’s rainiest months. In the last few years, we keep getting late July weather in early May. My pleasure in the garden has evaporated like the sweat on my brow. I’m already into countdown mode, wondering how many days until the fall rains. (The last two years we haven’t had much in the way of fall rains either.) As the drought continues into it’s third summer, each year finds me threatening to pack my bags and move into a high-rise downtown condo earlier an earlier in the season.

Still there are some pleasures. Two old favorites opened a flower today.

The ever-faithful (and only remaining) LA lily.
LA lily

A gladiolus that I bought many years ago which stopped flowering until today.
gladiolus

And the vitex, which has never bloomed well because of the shade is putting on its earliest and best show ever.
LA lily
Vitex castus-agnus.
The vitex is now out of favor in Austin and considered an invasive plant. Not ten years ago it was being pushed as a wonderful small flowering drought tolerant tree and marketed as “the southern lilac”. (Carol, you can start laughing now.) I guess the marketing ploy demonstrates how desperately northerners miss their lilacs–and with good reason, I understand–but you’d have to really stretch your imagination to consider a vitex any kind of substitute.

There are some other new flowers for May but really this end of the season in my garden. All my focus is on collecting seed and clearing out the meadow annuals and on trying to keep the squirrels off the vegetables. Tomatoes, tomatillos, and yellow wax beans are producing right now. The herb garden is doing well, too. I have the quartet: parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Also French and Spanish lavenders, French tarragon and Mexican mint marigold. However, there’s nothing there to share on GBBD.

Speaking of marigolds. I’m still anxiously awaiting the day that the white marigolds Carol sent me will bloom. Five plants remain from the 24 I started from seed. I’m hoping to see at least one flower.

Between GBBDs

Several flower bloomed and faded in my garden between GBBDs and so didn’t show up in the inventory for either April or May: the bearded iris ‘Incantation’, Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Rose Bon Bon’ (the C. bipinnatus did not do well at all but some C. sulphureus has self-sown), Nigella damascena ‘Mulberry Rose’, and Dutchman’s pipe vine.

There are several flowers that are still blooming but didn’t have flowers today. The rose ‘Mermaid’ opened a flower yesterday and has buds for tomorrow, but none for today. The white mistflower has gone to seed but will bloom again if I cut it back. Ditto for the datura.

Complete List for May

The list of all plants flowering today, May 15th 2009, at Zanthan Gardens. I’ve also noted if the plant was blooming on GBBD May 15th, 2007 or 2008. The list looks long but is misleading. Most plants only have one or a few flowers left.

  • Abelia grandiflora (2009)
  • Antigonon leptopus (2009)
  • Asclepias curassavica (fading) (2007, 2009)
  • Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’ (2009)
  • Boerhavia coccinea (2009)
  • Brugmansia (from Annie in Austin) (2009)
  • Centaurea cyanus ‘Black Magic’ (one faded flower) (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Commelinantia anomala (one flower) (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Commelina communis (2009)
  • Consolida ambigua (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Coriandrum sativum (2007, 2009)
  • Cosmos sulphureus (2008, 2009)
  • Crinum bulbispermum (2007, 2009)
  • Dahlberg daisy ‘Golden Fleece’ (2009)
  • Duranta erecta (overwintered) (2008, 2009)
  • Echinacea purpurea (from Pam/Digging) (2008, 2009)
  • Engelmannia peristenia/pinnatifida (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Eschscholzia californica ‘Mikado’ (fading) (2008, 2009)
  • Hesperaloe parviflora (2008, 2009)
  • Hibiscus syriacus (full bloom) (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Ipomoea tricolor ‘Flying Saucers’ (2009)
  • jalapeno (2009)
  • Kalanchoe daigremontiana (Mother of Thousands) (2009)
  • Lagerstroemia indica ‘Catawba’ (2009)
  • Lantana x hybrida ‘New Gold’ (2008, 2009)
  • Lavandula heterophyla ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’ (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Lilium LA Hybrid ‘Spirit’ (one flower) (2007, 2009)
  • Lobularia maritima (2009) ‘Tiny Tim’
  • Lonicera japonica (2009)
  • Lupinus texensis (fading) (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Malvaviscus arboreus (2008, 2009)
  • Meyer lemon (rebloom) (2007, 2009)
  • Mirabilis jalapa pink (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Nandina domestica (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Nerium oleander ‘Turner’s Shari D.’ (2008, 2009)
  • Nierembergia gracilis ‘Starry Eyes’ (2009)
  • Oenothera speciosa (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Opuntia ficus-indica (2009)
  • Orchid (from Dawn) (2009)
  • Oxalis crassipis (hot pink) (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Phaseolus vulgaris ‘Pencil Pod’ (2009)
  • Phlomis lanata (2008, 2009)
  • Polanisia dodecandra (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Proboscidea louisianica (2009)
  • Retama (2008, 2009)
  • rose ‘Blush Noisette’ (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • rose ‘Ducher’ (2008, 2009)
  • rose ‘New Dawn’ (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • rose ‘Red Cascade’ (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Ruellia (overwintered) (2008, 2009)
  • Sedum album (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Setcresea (both purple and green) (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • tomatillo (2009)
  • tomato (2007, 2009)
  • Trachelospermum jasminoides (fading) (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Tulbaghia violacea (society garlic) (2009)
  • Verbena canadensis (lavender wilding) (2007, 2008, 2009)
  • Vitex agnus-castus (2009)
  • Zexmenia hispida (from Pam) (2008, 2009)

photo: raindrop on bluebonnet leaf
2009-03-15. Raindrop on Texas bluebonnet leaf.

March 19th, 2009
Week 11: 3/12 – 3/18

Dateline: 2011
Daffodils give way to irises. Both the blue (lavender) and white cemetery irises are in full bloom. The ‘Ice Follies’ are finished but the ‘Trevithians’ are holding out.

Pink bluebonnets in full bloom. Some bluebonnets but overall this is a very poor year for them at Zanthan Gardens because of drought.

Dateline: 2009
It rained!

For the first time in 18 months Austin had a real rain; nearly 3 inches of rain spread over 5 cold and wintry days. From 3/4 to 3/10 the temperatures were in the 80s. Then on Wednesday (3/11), the front came in and settled. Temperatures dropped 40 degrees. On Thursday and Friday the thermometer barely moved from a low of 40 to a high of 45. On Friday (3/13), Austin’s high temperature was lower than Manchester, UK. Great for Austin. Disappointing for our visitor from the UK. The rain didn’t clear out until Sunday afternoon. I think that’s the longest stretch of cold we’ve had in the abominably hot winter of 2008/2009. And then, guess what. Right back up to the 80s Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. They were gorgeous days to be in the garden but that heat quickly dried out the soil and burn bans lifted one day were almost immediately reinstated. (Compare my glee about the rain and cold to my grumbling remarks in 1997 and 1998 below–ah, what a difference an 18-month drought makes!)

When I look at the photos for this week from previous years, it’s obvious that the drought has taken its toll. The Tulipa clusiana has not started blooming yet and there are no bluebonnets to provide a sheet of blue background for them in the meadow. The redbud pictured below died several years ago and the Texas mountain laurel had very few flowers this year–so the combination in that photo will not be repeated. There’s no sign of my usually dependable daffodil ‘Hawera’. The wisteria leafed out without flowering.

However, the white lantana is blooming wonderfully. The roses ‘Ducher’ and ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ are in glorious full bloom. (That observation needs a lot of exclamation marks because no photograph I’ve taken can do them justice.) The Meyer lemon has gone bonkers with flowers. The iris albicans and bridal wreath are also at their height this week. The sweet peas appreciate the cold and rainy weather. The cedar elm and red oak trees have all leafed out. After the rain, the leaves look so fresh and glossy and brilliantly green I spend all my time looking up at them. What comparatively few baby blue eyes there are have begun to bloom and fill out empty spaces. Same with the cilantro. Overall the meadow looks quite bleak. But the rain is nudging the most recalcitrant flowers into bloom.

Best rumor I heard this week: Austin’s La Nina weather pattern might almost be at an end. We are to expect a normal summer not the pits of Hell like last summer.

First flower: California poppy ‘Mikado’ (3/17); Engelmann daisy (3/17); Oenothera speciosa (3/17).

Dateline: 2006
photo: Tulipa Clusiana
2006-03-15: Tulipa clusiana and Texas bluebonnets.
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Lupinus texensis Texas bluebonnet
2007-12-22. The freak survival of bluebonnet seedlings over the summer of 2007 resulted in this bluebonnet flowering in December.

January 3rd, 2008
Oversummering Bluebonnets

I worry that 2008 might not be a very good for Texas’s beloved state flower, the bluebonnet. Under ideal conditions, bluebonnets sprout in late September or early October after fall rains break summer’s hold. By Christmas, each plant has formed a flat rosette about the size of a salad plate. The root system gets firmly established as the rosette grows to dinnner plate size. By late February, the bluebonnet sends up multiple stalks forming a compact little bush with a flower at the end of each stalk. If you pick these first flowers, the bluebonnet will stay bushy and more flowers will form on side shoots.

However 2007 was an odd year weather-wise. Austin enjoyed a cool, wet summer and endured a hot, dry fall. In my yard quite a few bluebonnets sprouted from fresh seed in June. Although this happens every year, these early summer seedlings rarely survive the heat and droughts typical of August in Austin. In 2007, seventeen plants ended up successfully oversummering and are already forming little bushes. On December 15th one of these flowered.

Lupinus texensis Texas bluebonnet
2007-12-22. The bluebonnets which grew over the summer are now forming small bushes ahead of schedule.

Unfortunately very few bluebonnets began sprouting in the fall of 2007. Only in the last couple of weeks of the year did I begin seeing new seedlings. Of course, they are quite small for this time of year, only a a few true leaves rather than a large rosette. And the weather remains very, very dry which means that they are not getting off to a good start.

Lupinus texensis Texas bluebonnet
2007-12-22. This bluebonnet just sprouted; it is a couple of months behind.

Lupinus texensis Texas bluebonnet
2007-12-22. This time of year, the bluebonnets plants are usually form rosettes about 6 inches across.

While the gardener may fret, the bluebonnets are employing their long-term strategy for survival. Their seeds have a tough coat which makes them difficult to sprout when dry. The coats are of various thicknesses so that only some of the seeds sprout in the same conditions and other remain in reserve until their coats are worn down. Even though the plants are fewer and smaller, once conditions are right, they will still manage to send up a flower or two. The seeds that didn’t sprout this year are waiting to sprout next year.

Now I’m waiting to see what the other oversummering bluebonnets will do. Will they also flower early? Will they be more subject to freeze damage in January and February? Or will the plants just sprouting now catch up to the plants which have been growing last June so that they all bloom at once?