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

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.

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).

Dateline: 2007

photo: Texas bluebonnets
2007-03-31. Ubiquitous photo of Texas bluebonnets. Some people think they’re too leggy for the garden but that hasn’t been my experience at all–not if you thin them.

The week ended with a perfect weekend, blue skies and low humidity after a drenching of rain on Friday (3/30). March 2007 ended up being very wet although northwest Austin (lucky Annie!) got more rain than we did south of the river. Everyone is celebrating the possibility that we’re coming out of the drought. I see that last year was the wettest March in Austin history–and we remained smack in the middle of the drought for another year.

Nonetheless Zanthan Gardens currently looks like it’s on steroids. If this were the height of summer, I’d be perfectly happy. I could sit on the lawn and sip lemondade (okay, red wine) and enjoy the garden. Of course, the weeds are on steroids, too. The henbit is finished but the cranesbill and the hated horseherb is flourishing. Chinaberry and cedar elm seedlings have popped up everywhere in the bark-mulched paths.

photo: Allium Neapolitanum
Allium Neapolitanum (Naples onion)

First Flower: Allium neapolitanum (3/26), Phlomis lanata (3/27); rose ‘Penelope’ (3/28), Iris flavescens? (3/30), Crinum (3/31), Oenothera speciosa (4/1).

Full Bloom: Commelinantia anomala, Coriandrum sativum, Lupinus texensis, Nemophila insignis, Rhaphiolepis indica, rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’, tradescantia, yaupon holly, viola.

Also Flowering: Centaurea cyanus ‘Black Magic’, Consolida ambigua, Hyacinthoides hispanica (fading), Lathyrus odoratus ‘Regal Robe’, Lathyrus odoratus ‘Velvet Elegance’, Lavandula heterophylla ‘Goodwin Creek Grey, Meyer lemon, Muscari neglectum, Narcissus jonquilla ‘Quail’, oxalis (purple, white, pink), persimmons (both Texas and Japanese), rose ‘Blush Noisette’, rose ‘Ducher’, rose ‘Heritage’, rose ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’, rose ‘New Dawn’, Salvia greggii ‘Raspberry’, Spiraea bridal wreath,Tulipa clusiana (pummeled by rains early in the week), Verbena canadensis. And the messy, invasive chinaberry trees.

Dateline: 2006
Sunday (3/26) is delightfully clear and cool with morning temperatures in the 30s. We walk over to Zilker Botanical Gardens for Flora Rama (I’m a traditionalist…I’m not going to call it by its new boring name.) Monday (3/27) we had light rain on and off in the afternoon. Then Tuesday (3/28) morning boom! thunder, lightning, heavy rain. The surge protectors are beeping like crazy. I am coming home from school and got soaked walking from the bus stop. And I’m singing in the rain (while hoping I wasn’t going to get struck by lightning). This is our favorite forecast: a front has stalled over central Texas. We get 3.26 inches of rain in as many hours; closer to 4 inches in the downtown neighborhoods. It is the most rain on any day in March that has ever been recorded. And this one morning of rain is enough to make this the wettest March on record for Austin.

The rest of the week it really feels like Austin spring weather, warm and muggy. As long as the cloud cover doesn’t burn off it’s bearable. When the sun comes out, you might as well be in the steam room.

This is the week that the meadow garden is at its height; the flowers manage to hide the many weeds and so the garden looks almost presentable. I have less bluebonnets than most years, and more yellows (Engelmann’s daisy and Tulipa clusiana) and pinks (Oenothera speciosa) mixed in. The cilantro is providing dainty white filler. Every year I let it self-seed and so every year is a surprise. But now there’s enough variety that it looks passable. Oddly absent this year is the Nigella. Maybe the rain will bring it out.

First Flower: rose ‘Prosperity’ (3/26), Iris flavescens (3/31), raspberry salvia (3/28), rose ‘Buff Beauty’ (4/1).

In Bloom: Aquilegia hinckleyana, bridal wreath spiraea, cilantro, Engelmann’s daisy, Hyacinthoides hispanica (fading in the heat). lavender, Lantana (white and gold), Lupinus texensis. Nemophila insignis, Oenothera speciosa, Oxalis (various). Rhaphiolepis indica, rose ‘Ducher’, rose ‘New Dawn’, rose ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’, rose ‘Madame Joseph Schwartz’, rose ‘Penelope’, rose ‘Prosperity’, Salvia farinacea, St. Joseph’s lily, Tradescantia, Tulipa clusiana, false dayflowers, larkspur, yaupon holly.

As soon as we got some rain, the roses ‘Ducher’, ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’, and ‘Prosperity’ were overcome with mildew.

Dateline: 2005
Not a lot new happening in the garden, but lots of weather as a couple of fronts roll in: one last Saturday, one yesterday. We alternate between hot and humid days when the south wind is dominant and cool, dry days when the north wind is. In between we get wild thunderstorms with hail whenever they switch. Looking back, I see that whenever the temperatures reach the mid-80s, I start worrying about rain and water.

It seems, no matter how many times I note it in my journal, I’m always surprised at how dark the yard gets this week after all the trees leaf out.

I spent three hours weeding Johnson grass out of the lawn Monday (the one perfect day) while listening to Yes on my iPod. Actually it was just an excuse to be outside.

First flower: Allium neapolitanum (3/27), rose ‘Souvenir de St. Anne’s’. Hippaestrum x Johnsonii (3/31), Engelmann daisy (3/31), Iris flavescens (4/1).

Full Bloom: rose ‘Madame Joseph Schwartz’ (I keep taking pictures of her, but I can’t capture how gorgeous she looks this week), bluebonnets, Spanish bluebells, baby blue eyes, (I was drawn to blue flowers when I started gardening and now I have an overabundance) Tulipa clusiana, columbine, rose ‘Prosperity’, rose ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’ (finally!), rose ‘Blush Noisette’, rose ‘Souvenir del Malmaison’, Rhaphiolepis indica, bridal wreath, oxalis, cilantro, tradescantia, and false dayflowers. (Noting that last year the Lady Banks rose was in full bloom this week makes me miss her all the more.)

Also flowering: Dianthus chinensis, verbena, Muscari neglectum, yaupon hollies, Japanese persimmon (on new growth), chinaberry trees, lavender, rose ‘Ducher’ (which has caught a bad case of mildew), wisteria, and one lonely larkspur. ‘Hawera’ is winding down.

Dateline: 2004
photo: back yard
2004-03-30. Our mini-meadow of bluebonnets is dwarfed by the trees which focus our eyes skyward. That’s our neighbor’s house, not ours. [2005-04-01. Looks just like this this year, too.]

Dry, clear and already edging toward hot with temperatures in the high 80s. All that is supposed to change tomorrow when a couple of bands of thunderstorms roll in. Yesterday (3/31), set a all-time record high for oak pollen.

Austin seems incredibly and unbelievably green. Lot’s of things blooming now, but a lot of things are immediately wilting, too. The tulips have had it and some roses, like ‘Madame Alfred Carriere‘ open and wilt in one day. I’ve had to start watering. But the bluebonnets are finally here in force. And I have rain to look forward to.

This is the first year that the oleander wasn’t frozen back to its roots and it began blooming today (4/1). The persimmon trees and the yaupon hollies are flowering. I notice that the hollies flower on last year’s growth.

First Flower: Allium neapolitanum (3/29), rose ‘French Lace’ (3/30), Oenothera speciosa (4/1), Nerium oleander (4/1), Nigella damascena (4/1).

Full Bloom: bluebonnets, tradescantia, false dayflower, oxalis, bluebells, Aquilegia, Lobularia maritima, Rhaphiolepis indica, rose Lady Banks ‘Lutea’, rose ‘Ducher’, rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’, rose ‘Madame Joseph Schwartz’, raspberry salvia, salvia ‘Indigo Spires’, lavender, cilantro, baby blue eyes, spiraea, Dianthus chinensis.

Dateline: 2002
The wisteria (Wisteria sinensis ‘Texas White’) is in full bloom. It is only three years old and this is the first year it has been really heavy in bloom. I see it from indoors both in the morning, from my bed, and in the evening, when watching television. I want to train it as a tree, rather than let it clamber uncontrollably as a vine. 2006-03-28. This wisteria was a complete dud this year: it had only two flowers.

The garden is in transition. The early spring flowers (daffodils, summer snowflakes, Spanish bluebells, and grape hyacinths) are fading. The late spring flowers (larkspur, iris, and roses) are opening shyly, one here, one there.

My attention, however, is focused on a little, green worm (actually a caterpillar) which flings itself from the trees on a thread and when it finds a very young and tender leaf, encloses itself in a webby cocoon and wraps the leaf around it, munching all the way.

Dateline: 2000
Wednesday March 28, 2000
Continues in the 80s, causing the potatoes to droop and the bluebonnets to quickly fade to seed. This is very much the pattern of last year (1999), but much warmer than the previous years. Even the larkspur may have already peaked. [2005-03-28. Strange. This year only one has begun flowering so far.]

First flower: Datura inoxia (3/28).
First harvest: Potato (3/30).

Dateline: 1999
Saturday March 27, 1999
A 40% chance of rain: the most we’ve had all week. Overcast and cool all day. Mowed the back yard in anticipation.The rain finally comes about 9PM. We probably got about an inch. The sweetpeas really needed it. Although the plants look healthy, the buds keep yellowing before they open. The bluebonnets need it too, as they are water stressed and going to seed very rapidly.

Dateline: 1998
First Flower: Allium neapolitanum (3/28).

Monday March 30, 1998
It is a warm and sulty day, almost oppressive. At 8:30, it begins to rain, sometimes quite heavily. By morning we got 3/4 of an inch. The meadow is beautifully punctuated with islands and drifts of spiky larkspur.

Dateline: 1996
Tuesday March 26, 1996
Some rain at last. It rained from 7:PM to about 7:20. Probably only 1/4 inch or less. But a promise of more tomorrow.

by M Sinclair Stevens

16 Responses to post “Week 13: 3/26-4/1”

  1. From Don (Indiana):

    I miss the small pink oxalis that bloom so profusely in Austin. My other favorite wildflower is the wine cup (Callirhoe digitata). A couple of years ago, I saw some in Kansas, but I doubt they would grow up here in Zone 5. A truly lovely flower.

    Sometimes it is the little things that make me stop and look.

    Your report on the heat and spring blooms remind me that Austin gardeners can appreciate the chilled air of cooler early spring climates.

    Don. It’s amazing how only 3 days of temperatures in the 80s make me wish for rain. Luckily, storms threatened all day (we’re under flash flood watch) although we haven’t had much rain yet. I’m hoping more is on the way. Winecups are my favorite Texas wildflower, but I have never been able to grow them. I should try again. I find that sometimes plants that fail miserably in one spot in the yard thrive elsewhere. — mss

  2. From Annie in Austin:

    I am so sorry you lost your rose. Although it’s not recommended, I have been growing my Lady Banks rose as a container plant for almost 5 years, moving from a one-gallon pot [probably from Red Barn] to larger ones as it grew. The deer had eaten all the roses in the yard, and the deck was the only safe place. The soil and moisture levels were easier to control, too.

    In late fall 2004 I put her into a large patio-type container with an unnamed clematis, verbena, and some variegated lemon thyme, and lightly pruned the rose to drape over a metal arch. The Lady Banks is blooming like mad right now, and the clematis is also blooming.

    It might not work forever, but I’ve had 5 years of flowers so far!

  3. From elizabeth (Rhode Island):

    Wow, your meadow is beautiful. We’ve had one of the driest March on record. Today we finally had some rain, probably 1 1/2″, if that. So far, only daffodils and crocus in bloom up here in R.I. I’m jealous of your warm weather!

    Elizabeth, good to hear from you. I’ve been enjoying your blog. The meadow is looking better than usual this year, because a variety of colors are in play. Pure coincidence. The biggest problem with the meadow is that it has only one good season, spring. The rest of the time it just looks messy. I’ve been meaning to post about its transformation over the years. I should get to that… — mss

  4. From Annie in Austin:

    FLORA RAMA!!! We moved to Austin too late to hear that one, and I love the name. “Zilker Garden Festival” is okay, but Flora Rama… so much more Austin. We went on Saturday the 25th, and came home with a yellow Brugmansia/Angel trumpet. A friend has had luck with hers living over with a deep mulch.

    You got much more rain – we had 2 inches, and were thrilled to have that.

    The Lady Banks is blooming in captivity once again, meaning 6 years of abundant yellow flowers from a $7 plant. I put a native coral honeysuckle into another large container on the opposite side of the arch with fingers crossed on that one, too.

    I grew Tulip clusiana in Illinois and think you are inspiring me to try it down here next fall.

    Annie in Austin/Glinda from the Divasofthedirt.com

    Annie, I think the old name “Flora Rama” is just so Austin-tatious. Maybe we can start a meme and have it brought back. “Spam-a-rama” was the next weekend; I’m glad they haven’t changed its name. I kept a Brugmansia going for several years, but I always covered it during a freeze. Last winter I was negligent and it died. I’ve been hoping that when it got warm it might sprout back from its roots, but I’ve seen no signs of anything yet. — mss

  5. From r sorrell (Austin):

    I’ve considered planting wildflower seeds in the easement behind my house, but haven’t ever gotten around to it. It’s been completely taken over by weeds. The things I planted on purpose are doing well, too, but the dandelions and whatever that sticky weed is are EVERYWHERE!

    I started with wildflowers. Now sow themselves and all I have to do is weed out the ones I don’t want. They are wonderful for about six weeks. After that, the garden looks pretty bare. — mss

  6. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    Yes, wouldn’t it be great to have this weather (warm as it is today) and our lush springtime gardens all summer? That must be what it’s like in the northeast. Well, we’ll just have to enjoy it while we have it—maybe another two months if we’re lucky.

    AJM says that I see a dark cloud inside every silver lining and wonders why I can’t enjoy the moment. I reply, “I am enjoying the moment–by appreciating how wonderful it is compared with what’s coming in summer.” — mss

  7. From Annie in Austin:

    Hello, M. Back for a third appearance in week 13. The Lady Banks is past peak now, but the coral honeysuckle is still blooming. Big spiraea done, mockorange taking over, one pink rose, no buds on the larkspur, and the various Echinacea are just tiny leaves at the base.

    Your cedar elms do leaf out early – the pecan leaves are just visible now.

    And I never did buy any Tulipa clusiana.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    I like the cyclical nature of these posts. I think it’s fun to compare to other years and, like you, I often find my resolutions have still gone unfulfilled or plants that were gorgeous one year (like the rose ‘Madame Joseph Schwartz’) are now dead. Karel Capek said that each year we were “further on” but that has not really been my experience. So many plants die and so many new plants are introduced that each year brings surprises–rather than being an expansion of the previous year. — mss

  8. From Janet (England):

    AHHHHH…how those bluebonnets bring back memories to me of Texas in the spring — ESPECIALLY in your part of Texas.

    Since I’m about to get a garden of my own, I wonder if there’s ANY chance at all I could get bluebonnets to grow in a bed in England?

    LOVELY posting…as always!


    I think the winters are too cold and damp in England. I tried to grow bluebonnets when I lived in Japan without success even though I lived in a part of Japan with a climate, I thought, very similar to Houston. So maybe it’s soil conditions, too. You can grow other lupines though, right? — mss

  9. From compostinmyshoe:

    We planted Texas bluebonnets in some of our median plantings this past fall for the first time. They are absolutely beautiful!

    I’m interested to learn that bluebonnets can grow in South Carolina. I’ve sent seeds all over the country but few people have written to tell me whether or not they succeeded. I hope yours self-sow and come back every year. — mss

  10. From Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings:

    If any group of people deserved a grand spring, it would be the gardeners of Austin, TX. It’s a present for surviving last summer’s hell. Love those bluebonnets.~~Dee

    Thanks, Dee. We’re enjoying spring while we can and trying not to think about the summer ahead. — mss

  11. From Linda Lehmusvirta Austin:

    Dare I say it? Yes, I must. It’s pretty as a picture. Positively romantic.

  12. From Annie in Austin:

    How odd to realize I commented on this week 5 years ago – and am still I’m still trying to convince bluebonnets to feel at home here.
    Bluebonnets in gardens seems fine to me-yours look lovely. This year I added a few bluebonnets to my new parking strip border – maybe they’ll think it’s a roadside?
    The Lady Banks/Coral honeysuckle combo has been planted in the ground a few years and it’s doing well, with a clematis climbing up the inside and Tulip clusiana at the base…an actual fulfilled resolution thanks to your inspiration. I’m sorry you lost the Lady Banks, but that Ducher is fantastic…and a plus – it has fragrance!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  13. From Dirty Girl Gardening:

    those blues are fabulous…. perfect spring colors in the garden.

  14. From Steve Mudge (Fort Worth):

    Its a beautiful spring!
    A note on the Winecup Flower—one important thing about them is that they seem to want their root crown in the shade and the flowering portions in the sun. We snuck one sort of under a Juniper in our yard so that it can reach for the sun when it feels like it. It seems to be loving it. Also be very careful when planting–they’re very sensitive to any root damage…and transplanting is very difficult. Don–I’d give them a try in Indiana–they weren’t phased by the 11 degree mornings or 12 inches of snow we had this winter—just put in a well drained spot and mulch it in the winter, should take 5 or ten below anyway.

  15. From wood fences:

    Perfect spring colors in the garden and those blues are fabulous. I love that area of your gardens. A really lovely, peaceful place to sit and relax!
    wood fences

  16. From Chris:

    Lovely pictures. It reminds me of the summer house. Everything blossom and the smell of fresh wild plants.