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

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.

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).

Dateline 2009 via Twitter

Narcissus Ice Follies
2008-02-19. Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’ started blooming yesterday.

Austin finally got some rain (2/16) and Sunday (2/17) was one of those rare perfect days: sunny with all the plants glistening with raindrops, temperatures near 70F and little wind. We spent the afternoon busily trimming back trees and brush before it buds out, which will be any day now. Already the Mexican plum and the redbuds are flowering. And that means one thing in Austin. Spring done sprung!

Following Carol’s lead, I set up Twitter in my sidebar. This is more for my own record-keeping than for public consumption but y’all can see whether I’m an ant or a bumblebee. I spent a lot of the week planting seeds and transplanting seedlings or perennials I’d grown from cuttings. The yard is still a mess from last year’s unfinished construction project and I want it to be somewhat presentable for Spring Fling visitors.

We harvested our first lettuce and salad greens to make a salad for our Valentine’s Day dinner. The chard is harvestable but we haven’t had any yet. I planted borage and what was left in the lettuce packets. I have more chard packets to plant and I still haven’t put in a seed order.

First flower: Prunus mexicana (2/13); Narcissus tazetta ‘Grand Primo’ (2/13); Cercis canadensis (2/14); Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’ (2/18).

Dateline: 2007

When I fretted last week that spring was too soon coming and I wasn’t ready for it, I had no idea that the weather would respond by hitting us with the two coldest days this winter. In fact, Wednesday (2/14), I gathered up the sheets and blankets I use to cover the plants whenever we get a frosty night, washed them and put them away. Thursday afternoon I was rushing around to put them out again.

By Friday morning we’d dipped down to 25F degrees and everything was frozen solid. The violas, the peas, the cabbages all thawed out a few hours later. I should have covered the lettuce, though. The cherry tomato finally succumbed. And I was surprised that the St. Joseph’s lily (a hardy amaryllis) froze to the ground, as did the crinum. Today we were back up in the high 60s and I spent the day in the garden manuring trees and shrubs. I also yanked out my ‘Peace’ rose which didn’t bloom at all last year and had died back to the graft.

My robin, which I haven’t seen for a couple of years, is back. Maybe it only hangs around when the winters are particularly fierce up north.

My big question this week is “Where have all the flowers gone.” Looking at my records for February I see I’m not wrong in expecting daffodils, redbuds, Texas mountain laurel, plum trees, summer snowflakes, the tradescantias, and even some rose bushes to be flowering by week 7. This year. Nada. Zilch.

I suspect the culprit is last year’s drought rather than the cold. We’ve had a pretty mild winter and a much wetter one than last year. But from fall 2005 to January 2007 it was very, very dry. Our lakes are still only at half capacity.

First flower: Narcissus ‘Grand Primo’ (one stalk) (2/17).

Flowering: viola, rosemary, mahonia, 1 lone larkspur, Narcissus italicus, snow peas, Mexican plum (just a couple of flowers), henbit, Meyer lemon (potted).

Dateline: 2006

After a record high (82F) on Thursday (2/17) temperatures plunged 40 degrees overnight and continued falling all day Friday. Icy rain is predicted for the weekend. This was a disappointing development for the hubby who is running in his first marathon on Sunday. However, I don’t have any worries about the plants. This is typical February weather in Austin.

Around town the Texas mountain laurel, redbuds, paperwhites, and even Indian hawthorn are blooming. And Metroblogging Austin reports ‘Ice Follies’ on schedule. Not in my yard. However, the rose ‘Ducher’ is still doing fine and one of the Mexican plum trees has a scattering of flowers. More lavender is coming into bloom.

New garden blogs are sprouting: I’ve enjoyed comparing notes with fellow Central Austin gardener, Pam Penick, in her blog Digging. She and I both started gardening here in 1994. She’s much better at carrying out her design projects than I am!

Dateline: 2005

photo: Souvenir de la Malmaison 2005-02-22
2005-02-22. ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’.

I always expect to see the first redbud in bloom by Valentine’s Day. So far, I haven’t seen one. However on Valentine’s Day and the Tuesday after, temperatures soared to 80. On Wednesday it was a of lovely, more normal, spring day with a high of 62. But instead of weeding, I walked over to the Eyes Wide Open exhibit at Zilker Park. But the week ended cold and rainy again.

The roses that froze in the bud around Christmas are putting out their first display. ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ began blooming on February 6th, and this week has quite a few flowers. Hah! She beat the spring cankerworms this year! ‘Madame Joseph Schwartz’ and ‘Ducher’ have a smattering of flowers. ‘Blush Noisette’ opened her first flowers of the year on February 17th. The real beauty this week is my neighbor’s ‘Mutabilis’ which is throwing a cascade of multi-colored blossoms over the chain link fence.

Spring bulbs are pushing up. The summer snowflakes began blooming on February 14th; the ‘Ice Follies‘ daffodils, on February 17th. The N. ‘Grand Primo’ is in full bloom. And a few N. x italicus are hanging on.

Like the redbuds, the Mexican plums are in limbo. There is a blossom here and there, but not enough to make you stare in amazement. Oh, and one little pink (Dianthus chinensis) bloomed. I planted a couple of six-packs of winter annuals in October 2000 and, although greatly decreased in number, the survivors hav. kept on blooming. Some annual!

Dateline: 2004

This year Valentine’s Day meant snow!

Dateline: 2003
photo: dandelion

Valentine’s Day means that Spring is officially here in Austin. True, we still have another month to go until our last official frost-free date. But the garden isn’t waiting around. Everywhere you look, the signs of spring are evident. You have to go and look for them, but they are there.

Everyday something new is happening. In Austin, this is the time of year when you can work all day in the garden and still have as many things to do at the end of the day as at the beginning.

This has been a very wet winter and mostly mild. We’ve only had a couple of hard freezes but they blew out quickly. The largest Mexican plum tree is in full flower The ‘Ice Follies‘ daffodils began blooming on the 12th and the ‘Quail’ followed on the 14th. There are still ‘Grand Primo blooming, so there is a nice overlap. The summer snowflakes began blooming last week and are just now starting to make a show. The first crocuses opened on the 13th. One bluebonnet is blooming.

Dateline: 2002

The redbuds are blooming. The early daffodils are blooming (so far, two ‘Quail’ and two ‘Ice Follies’). Even the ‘Trevithian’ daffodils are sending up buds this year. The Crocus tomasinianus are blooming. Today three summer snowflakes opened. I see buds on the bluebonnets and some larkspur are sending up flower spikes. All the roses are beginning to open their bud eyes and a few (‘Ducher’, ‘Heritage’, and ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’) have the odd flower. The Asiatic lilies are poking through the mulch.

by M Sinclair Stevens

20 Responses to post “Week 07: 2/12-2/18”

  1. From Julie (Austin):

    My husband (not always a reliable identifier of plants and trees) said he saw a redbud in bloom today beside the Austin American-Statesman parking lot. My own twiggy, tiny redbud tree, planted last year, just has its first leaves.

  2. From Kathy (New York):

    Stupendous photo of the rose! I just can’t get over how you have roses and daffodils blooming at the same time.

    That’s the beautiful ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’. She’s in full bloom this week, but now that it’s become hot and humid, the later buds are starting to ball. It doesn’t put me off her though. I can never take enough pictures of her.

    Yeah, usually the roses bloom before the daffodils here. The last few years I’ve taken a Christmas gallery. But we had a severe freeze just before Christmas that the early bloomers (‘Ducher’ and ‘Madame Joseph Schwartz’) were masses of frozen buds.

    When do your daffodils bloom and when do your roses bloom? I can’t quite fathom your northern timetable. — mss

  3. From Kathy (New York):

    Sorry–it’s been a while since I looked at the comments. Daffodils bloom in spring, starting in mid- to late April and continuing to mid-May. (The latest ones, Narcissus poeticus, bloom about the same time as the apple trees. Roses start blooming in early summer, after the lilacs are done, anywhere from early to mid-June. Right now we have over a foot of snow on the ground. It takes the roses a lot longer to get to bloom from winter dormancy than the narcissus.

  4. From Jenn:

    May I take a copy of that rose photo? It’s gorgeous!

    You can copy my photo and print it, but if you are going to use it for something (like a web site or any publication), I’d expect an acknowledgment. (My name or a link back to my site.) If you just want it to make a print for your own use, I can send you the hi-resolution file. — mss

  5. From bill:

    I don’t have anything with a bloom on it anywhere in the garden. There is one bud on a daffodil that looks like it is not going to open. All of the roses are in the greenhouse and some of them are blooming, but I am not counting those.

  6. From r sorrell (Austin):

    That last freeze really got us. We’d had most of our tender plants inside for almost a month, but had just put them back on the patio. I think they’re all done for–my plumeria, salmon and orange bouganvillia, succulents, a pencil cactus–dead. I should have known.

    This last cold blast sneaked up on me, too. We’d weathered the others this winter so easily that I got complacent. I did bring my potted plants in, though. I’m sorry to hear about yours. — mss

  7. From Annie in Austin:

    Oh, I hope they recover! If someone wants a Plumeria cutting, please let me know, but I don’t have the other plants.

    M, today I saw the very first robin EVER in either of my Austin gardens, and was beside myself with delight.

    After 23∫ most crinum and amaryllis were frozen to the ground here, but the crinum have done that before and come back… not too sure what will happen to amaryllis- Hippeastrum. The Carolina Jessamine is just opening today, along with a few Ice Follies.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  8. From Angelina (Oregon):

    I’m so envious of the lettuce! I should be able to plant some soon though. We had a few days of sunshine and warmth and while I didn’t specifically pine for it, it was wonderful.

    In eight to twelve weeks it will be too hot for lettuce. And you get to grow or pick all those lovely berries and fruits which we can’t grow down here. I can’t read your late summer posts without wanting to be gardening in Oregon! — mss

  9. From Carol (Indiana):

    Fresh lettuce sounds so good as does perfect weather. Another two months, and maybe that will be my post?

    I really like how you can see multiple years in your web log, here. It’s a great online garden journal, a good model for others to follow.

    And your Twitters sound very ant like to me.

    Carol @ May Dreams Gardens

    When you’re harvesting lettuce mine will have bolted and died from the heat. As for the blog format, the “Week by Week in the Garden” section follows the format of my first online garden journal. Time in blog posts is linear but time in the garden is cyclical. I love comparing. One piece of data by itself is forgettable. Give me two or three and I can start discerning patterns and processes. I find that much more interesting. — mss

  10. From Diana - Austin:

    Your narcissus is lovely and I have to add my 2 cents to the others, the rose photo is stunning. You should enter that somewhere! Pruning is good – I keep snipping away at it — it just seems like it’s never-ending. My plum isn’t budding just yet, but it’s only been here a year or so. Hope you enjoyed your lettuce — nothing like a garden salad! We should plan a visit for you to come see the cabana while the weather is nice before you re-tackle the construction project again.

    I’m looking forward to seeing your garden and your cabana. — mss

  11. From Sean:

    Sounds like a beautiful Valentines Day!


  12. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    Diana, it took my plum (and redbud) a few years to bloom also. Right now my plum is opening and the Texas mountain laurel is budding. I can’t wait!

    And you already have grape hyacinths blooming. I don’t see a single bud on mine yet. — mss

  13. From Marie from Norway:

    You have a beautiful blog 🙂

    Thanks. I look forward to visiting yours. — mss

  14. From kate:

    I have to agree with Carol – your Twitter does make you sound ant-like. I enjoy reading about your garden tasks … vicarious living, I guess.

    Hopefully, you’ll have your garden fixed up by Spring Fling. I remember your posts about the construction project and all the work you had to do.

    If you pay attention to the amount of time between Twitters, you might suspect I’m actually a bumblebee. On the one hand it’s quite frightening to think other gardeners will be visiting Zanthan Gardens. On the other, I feel everyone is a friend so I don’t think they’ll be too judgmental. It’s a shame about the construction project, though, and there is still an ugly scar in the garden all around it that can’t be fixed until the project is completed. — mss

  15. From Pam:

    That daffodil is just beautiful!

    I found myself reading through your twitter notes, interesting! I’ve seen it used by others, but not in such a useful way (or at least useful to me).

    Your Souvenir de la Malmaison image is beautiful – I did notice today that mine has a bud on it – but just one, while the mutabilis and Mrs B.R. Cant are just covered in buds. I can’t wait until the roses are back – sometimes I have so many blooming that my garden is filled with their fragrance in the early morning.

    Thanks. The first flowers of the year are always exciting. Even though we have flowers blooming throughout the year here in Austin, there is a feeling of fresh beginnings in these. As for Twitter, I find it a challenging form of writing, being constrained by the 140 character limit. I think there is the potential for the poetic. I’m still experimenting. Thanks for the feedback. –mss

  16. From Jenny Austin:

    I am another who is a little down about the weather and I too have been looking back at last year’s garden at this time. Even more depressing. However, it is a good opportunity to make changes and do things you have been planning to do for ages- like some heavy pruning and pulling out. I also took a photo if some moss that was growing in the decomposed granite. It was noteworthy and reminded me of the road back in England where there is moss growing all over the asphalt. Our persimmons loose every leaf every year so don’t be too surprised about that. The peas have survived which is a testament to their hardiness. I even saw one flower. I have just planted more. Like you I have all the annuals I could ever want and more.

  17. From MrBrownThumb:

    I’m envious of the moss in the post. I’ve got wetter conditions than you normally have, but I can’t get a nice carpet of moss. Hope the rest of the growing season is better for you. You have me cringing at the thought of all your plants that may not come back.

  18. From Steve Mudge (Fort Worth):

    What a cold winter–including 10 inches of snow in Fort Worth. Amazingly our enormous Elm tree didn’t break any limbs from the snow load—it just gently lowered them and rested them on our and our neighbor’s roofs!
    I didn’t do much with the plants this winter except protect a few…no vegies even–but I did build a wood-fired pizza oven…woo-hoo!

  19. From angelina:

    I am just about to plant peas here. My daffodils are just about to open.

    I have moss growing in my lawn, a common “problem” here in the Pacific Northwest, but I think it’s beautiful and I’d very much love it if the lawn completely died (I keep trying to kill it with neglect and some evil eye) and was replaced by one giant carpet of moss! Wouldn’t that be so pretty and soft looking?

  20. From Annie in Austin:

    Moss? You have moss? I can’t even remember the last time I saw any – used to have a mossy path with woodland plants in IL.

    I’m sorry you lost your narcissus, MSS- my Grand Primos hadn’t emerged from the stalks when the deep cold hit and they’re blooming now… guess this winter it’s better to arrive late!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose