2014-04-13. Almost no larkspur this year. The meadow is given over to cilantro. Some yellow iris surprised me.

April 13th, 2014
Week 15: 4/9 – 4/15

Dateline: 2014

Even in long-neglected secret gardens, spring bursts forth. Winecups, prairie flox, pink evening primrose, yellow heirloom irises, and a very good stand of pink and white bluebonnets are in bloom.

The rose Souvenir del Malmaison is currently in full bloom having bloomed quite late because her first flush was cut short by a hard freeze. For the same reason there was no Texas mountain laurel this year. Nor is there any larkspur. Too dry.

First flower: amaryllis (4/13).

Dateline: 2007

2007-04-16. This year, wetter and cooler, has resulted in many more bluebonnets and less pink evening primrose.

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.

Dateline: 2006


2006-04-16. My meadow gets a little wilder every year. Austin, TX.

This is usually the best week of the whole year to be in my Austin garden. When I look at photos of the garden in previous years or lists of plants in bloom then, I realize that 2006 is not going to memorable in any good way. (My usual pre-summer gloom and doom has kicked in already.) AJM says I’m a grumpy gardener, but I believe gardeners are a grumpy lot. It is always either too hot, too cold, too wet, or too dry where we garden. We always look longingly at other people’s gardens (and now garden blogs) and think, “I wish I had…”

The beginning of this week cooled off a bit from last week’s high of 95, but by Saturday (4/15) it was hot again. I broke down and watered the mini-larkspur, it looked so droopy. I was shocked to notice that Acanthus mollis, usually a tropical monster this time of year, had already succumbed to the heat and sported huge brown patches.

This time of year the garden is overwhelmingly green in all shades, bright and deep. All the trees have leafed out, the pecans finally catching up with the cedar elms and various oaks. Soon enough the leaves will begin withering in the summer sun and become coated with pollen and dust without rains to freshen them. When I look at photos of previous years for this week and see how lush and moist the garden usually looks, I’m discouraged. The lawns, this year, are in especially bad shape for so early in the season.

The shining star of the garden this week is Confederate jasmine. One vine has wended its way up the support of my clothesline making it a pleasure to hang out laundry. I can’t get enough of the scent. I love all those scents of the deep south: jasmine, magnolia, and gardenia. If I can get another plant to root, I think I’ll plant it by our bedroom windows. The climbing roses just don’t give off a deep enough scent for me to smell as I fall asleep.

The meadow is looking strong this week owing almost completely to the weedy pink evening primrose. Some larkspur are providing coordinating colors and contrasting height. A few bluebonnets are still blooming. The yellow flowers o. Engelmann’s daisy keeps curling back their petals against the heat. The last few years I’ve been lazy about planting replacement summer annuals, but today I picked up a packet of cosmos to try again. Usually the black-eyed Susan has sprouted everywhere, but I haven’t seen any yet this year.

Among the roses ‘Heritage’ and ‘Penelope’ continue to bloom well. ‘Blush Noisette’ is a mass of small pink bouquets and behind her ‘New Dawn’ echoes the color with larger, scattered flowers.

First Flower: Mirabilis jalapa wild pink (4/13); ; Texas dandelion (4/13); iris ‘Mystic’s Muse’ (4/15) two flowers on separate pitifully small stems; red yucca (4/15).

In Bloom: Aquilegia hinckleyana, Allium neapolitanum (very poor showing), baby blue eyes, bridal wreath spiraea, Commelinantia anomala (fading), Consoloda ambigua, Coriandrum sativum, Lantana “New Gold’, Lavender, Lupinus texensis, Oenothera speciosa, Nerium oleander, Oxalis (all types) Salvia farinacea ‘Indigo Spires’, Salvia greggi ‘Raspberry’, Tradescantia (fading). Roses: ‘Blush Noisette’, ‘Ducher’, ‘Heritage’ ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’, ‘New Dawn’, Penelope, and Prosperity.

Dateline 2005

The thunderstorms that began the week came in to the north of us and we didn’t get a drop. I’ve had to water twice this week, the first time this year.

The meadow is a mess of flowers. The bluebonnets are starting to go to seed and almost hidden by larkspur, cilantro, evening primrose, and Engelmann daisy. Around the neighborhood I saw a fantastic display of red corn poppies (Papaver rhoes) that make me want to try them again next year.

For some reason (the ever-growing red oak casting shade?) the middle meadow bed is given over completely to white flowers this spring: cilantro and Naples onions and the two white roses. Not a single bluebonnet or larkspur popped up there this year and it used to be covered with them.

The fennel plant has five or six swallowtail caterpillars.
photo: Swallowtail Caterpillar
Swallowtail caterpillar munching on fennel.

First Flower: rose ‘Buff Beauty’ (4/11) and Japanese honeysuckle (4/11).

Dateline: 2004

photo: front yard
The south side of the house used to have a privacy fence which divided a sickly lawn in two and blocked the view of the garden from the bedroom windows. Our yard is on a slope and when it rains, the water rushes off without soaking in. I built the beds to provide terraces. The large golden flower in the middle of the photo is the banana. I started off with the idea of making this a rose garden, but the tropicals, which also require a lot of water, food, and sunlight, found their way here, too. And, yes, when bluebonnets sprout in the path, I’m too indulgent to weed them.

photo: meadow
The backyard meadow is in fine flower this time of year with bluebonnet, evening primrose, and larkspur. Can you get what the white flowers are? Not baby’s breath. Not Queen Anne’s lace. Not wild carrot. They’re cilantro. We still have a little bit of lawn left which is unusually green.

First Flower: Lathyrus odoratus ‘Cupani’ (4/10), Sprekelia formosissima (4/10), white rainlilies (4/12), Japanese honeysuckle (4/14), yellow iris (4/14) rose ‘Penelope‘ (4/15), iris ‘Strictly Ballroom (4/15), Mirabilis jalapa RHS red (4/15).

Thursday April 10, 2003
Near record lows, clear, dry and in the 30s overnight. Finally find some Genovese basil (at Home Depot) and plant 3 (all from the same pot).
Spend the evening weeding the meadow. It’s so weedy that there aren’t very many bluebonnets or larkspur. Note to future self: don’t let the spiderwort or cranesbill grow in the meadow!

First Flower: Rose ‘Sombreuil’ (4/10), Rose ‘Blush Noisette’ (4/10), Rose ‘Caldwell Pink’ (4/10), Lathyrus odoratus ‘Cupani’ (4/10), bearded iris ‘Altruist’ (4/10), Nigella damascena (4/14), Japanese honeysuckle (4/14), rose ‘Penelope’ (4/14).

Dateline: 2002

One week out of 52, I glance up at the garden and am amazed. I don’t think it has ever looked better than it does right now. The meadow is in full bloom. The color of the pink evening primroses complements the bluebonnets and the larkspur and the tall bearded irises provide strong vertical lines missing the rest of the year.

One by one the named irises are coming into bloom. Each is queen for a day. Almost of the roses are blooming. And despite the trouble with mildew and balling, caterpillars and aphids, ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ is hands-down winner in terms of abundant bloom.

First Flower: bearded iris ‘Incantation’ (4/14), rose ‘Madame Joseph Schwartz’ (4/14), Lathyrus odoratus (4/14), Polanisia dodecandra (clammy weed)(4/14), iris ‘Seakist’ (4/15).

Full Bloom: bluebonnets, iris (heirloom yellow), columbine, rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’, rose ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’, rose ‘Ducher’, bridal wreath, Dianthus chinesis ‘Telstar Picotee’, Oenothera speciosa.

Fading: Tulipa clusiana, Lady Banks rose, Bridal Wreath spiraea.

Dateline: 2001

Monday April 9, 2001
Near 90 and very muggy. The larkspur and sweetpeas are wilting before they have a chance to flower. This seems to be a very bad year for the larkspur. The cooler temperatures prevented them from flowering early. Now the trees have leafed out and it is suddenly hot.

The roses open and fade in one day (except on ‘Souviner de la Malmaison’). Especially hard hit is ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’. She is stunning and loaded with blooms; but the effect won’t last more than a day or two.

First Flower: iris ‘Champagne Elegance’ (4/9); Papaver rhoes (4/9); Oenothera speciosa (4/9); rose ‘Caldwell Pink’ (4/10); Lilium ‘Spirit’ (4/11).

Dateline: 2000

First Flower: heirloom yellow iris (4/11)

Dateline: 1999

First Flower: heirloom yellow iris (4/13); iris ‘Champagne Elegance’ (4/13); Lathyrus odoratus ‘Cupani’ (4/15).

Dateline: 1998

First Flower: Papaver rhoes ‘Shirley’ (4/12).

Dateline: 1997

Sunday April 13, 1997
It continues, since an Arctic front blew in on Friday when I was in Chicago for SAP training, to be unseasonably cold. I think the low was in the 40s and the high only in the 60s. What’s worse is that there is an icy wind. According to the paper, the normal high is 89, but last year it was 98!

AJM, Margaret, and I go to the National Wildflower Center for Wildflower Days. Inspired, we spend the rest of the afternoon in the garden, weeding. Margaret can’t stand the thought of the wild mustard, so I let her weed it out.

First Flower: Lathyrus odorata (4/13).

Dateline: 1996

The meadow is in full bloom: blue from bluebonnets, white from Allium neapolitanum, yellow from wild mustard and purple from the ‘Homestead’ verbena. The watered larkspur is 4 and half feet tall and blooming.

The Japanese persimmon tree is beginning to bloom. Like last year, it is beginning to get covered with those small, white, powdery-looking bugs. Also some kind of worm makes a cocoon in the curl of a leaf. So far, I’ve been able to control both types of pests by hand.

First Flower: heirloom yellow iris (4/11); columbine (4/14).

Dateline: 1995

Monday April 10, 1995
A dark, muggy morning. The low was 70 and it was 74 at 7AM.

Tuesday April 11, 1995
Last night threatened horrible thunderstorms, but little or no rain resulted. However, very cool and clear today. Live oaks about town are dropping pollen. Maybe I’m allergic to it.

First Flower: heirloom yellow iris (4/11); Callirhoe involucuta (4/14).

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

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

Dateline: 2012

The week ended with rain and a cold front but the contrast with last year’s snow and horrendous freeze couldn’t be greater. We’ve been enjoying March weather. Temperatures climbed to 82°F on Wednesday (2/1). We’ve had only two freezes so far this winter. Some plants like the Port St. John’s creeper and ruella haven’t died back. The combination of warm temperatures and rain after the long drought has tricked many plants into blooming out of season. I’ve seen Texas mountain laurel blooming along Lady Bird Lake. But no redbuds yet (which I always think bloom first.

Mermaid
2012-02-02. Rose ‘Mermaid’ between light showers.

Other out-of-sequence blooms: Larkspur began blooming before the bluebonnets. The roses began blooming before the Mexican plum trees. The hot weather roses, ‘Mermaid’ and ‘Blush Noisette’, began blooming before the queen of early roses, ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’. Roses of all kinds are blooming all over town. Tradescantia and false dayflowers also began blooming this week at Zanthan Gardens. The rosemary, the winter honeysuckle, the lantana, and one clump each of Narcissus italicus and Narcissus ‘Grand Primo’ are still in flower, rounding out the in bloom list.

The wet and warmth have made the salad greens happy. We’ve been eating large salads out of the garden almost every evening. I’ve planted more. The leaves of the cilantro are glossy and green. We can’t use it fast enough. Of course, the unofficial salad greens are also rampant: chickweed, goose grass, and henbit. I can’t keep up with weeding the henbit and it’s smotherered out the bluebonnet seedlings. I like to keep some henbit around for the butterflies but so far I’ve seen only two so I’m regretting it.

Dateline: 2011

Friday February 4, 2011.
We wake up after record-breaking snowfall at Camp Mabry today. The old record for daily snowfall was 1/2 inch in 1906. 105 years later, a whole inch!

snow bluebonnet
2011-02-04. Snow covered bluebonnet.
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Texas Drought Map
2011-05-31. 2011 Texas Drought.

June 3rd, 2011
Week 22: 5/28 – 6/3

Dateline: 2011

According to the National Weather Service, “The warm spring from March to May was the 10th driest ever at Camp Mabry and the warmest since 1854.” Worse than the heat, the drought is now exceptional. Most of May felt like August. We did get one lovely heavy rain two weeks ago but my rain barrels are already empty and the pond is quickly evaporating.

Speaking of the pond, Monday (5/30) AJM noticed a heron stalking around. The fish are in hiding. Or eaten. We can’t tell yet how many fish have been taken. We didn’t see any for a few days. Then a couple peeked out. We’ve put the netting up again until they have a chance to recover and the pond water clears up again. When critters chase the fish, they stir up the water and the pond gets all mucky.

First flowers: Asclepias curassavica (6/1); water lily ‘Helvola” (6/1).

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Zanthan Gardens
2011-03-24. Pink evening primroses insist it’s spring despite a poor showing of bluebonnets.

March 25th, 2011
Week 12: 3/19 – 3/25

Suddenly, the yard is plunged into shade. The morning sun stops shining through my bedroom window and plants that have grown all winter in the full sun, plants about to flower, are now in the shade. The cedar elms have leafed out and transformed the landscape. I’m not as fond as cedar elms as I once was, as they are the trees that tend to fall in high winds. But this week, they are gorgeous. They leaf out a chartreuse green that deepens to a bright green. The red oaks and live oaks are leafing out too. Only the pecans are still bare.

Dateline: 2011
Spring will not be ignored. It rushes into the garden whether or not I’m there, just not in the way I would have planned it. The pink evening primroses smother the path while the areas I consider my meadow are bare. I’m not blind to the lesson.

This is the week that something new opens every day. All of spring’s bounty comes just as the yard is plunged into shade. The weather continues dry and hot. The toads and mosquitoes have returned. Temperatures rise into the 80s and the larkspur, just sending up its flower stalks, droop. The Tulipa clusiana and the Muscari racemosum have also faded quickly in the heat. A whole year of anticipation…and then they whither as they open.

If you don’t look too closely the garden is filled with swathes of Easter basket colors: yellows (Engelmann daisy and Jerusalem sage and some snapdragons that have finally recovered from the freezes); pinks (pink evening primroses, pink bluebonnets, Indian hawthorn, ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’, ‘New Dawn’, ‘Blush Noisette’); white (bridal wreath spirea, cilantro); blues (bluebonnets, baby blue eyes, starch hyacinths) and purples (false dayflowers, Nierembergia gracilis, tradescantia, prairie verbena). There is also one jarring red, the St. Joseph’s lily.

So much needs to be done which will be left undone. Right now the garden is blooming on the strength of previous years. It really is a garden wild.

Dateline: 2008
This is the week I both look forward to and dread. On the one hand the garden finally looks like a garden. I take pleasure just walking around in it and frequently forget to do anything but just stare. On the other hand, the shade has descended which means the sun-loving flowers will soon turn sulky and I’ll soon be counting the days until fall.
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moss
2010-02-18. Here’s something you don’t see often in our drought-stricken land: a mossy bank. We are on heavy clay which is now saturated with rain.

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

Dateline: 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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photo: unidentified paperwhite narcissus

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

January 7th, 2010
Week 01: 1/1 – 1/7

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related

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

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

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

Dateline: 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 10th, 2008
Week 23: 6/4 – 6/10

Dateline: 2008

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

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

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

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

May 27th, 2008
Week 21: 5/21 – 5/27

Dateline: 2011

Austin (Camp Mabry) records its first 100-degree day of the year, May 25th.

Dateline: 2008

As the temperatures climb, I find it hard to believe that by September I’ll look upon a 92F degree day as cool and fall-like. In the intervening months, summer will get a lot uglier. The days have been sultry. Someday, I’d like to spend this kind of week lying in the hammock sipping iced tea and enjoying the green shade. When it gets this hot, I don’t want any flashy color in the garden, just cool, refreshing green. This is the week that my resentment dissolves and I suddenly love my trees again; I forgive them for shading out the flowers in April.

I’ve been working hard to get everything mulched. I got a truckload of bark chips from a crew that was cleaning up after last week’s storm. That’s kept me busy running back and forth with the wheelbarrow refreshing the paths and putting a nice layer down in the woodland garden.

The nerium oleander and one of the duranta are in full bloom and look fantastic. The larkspur is all cleared out. A few bluebonnets bloom on (they last a long time if deadheaded.) The violas are mere crisps and the Confederate jasmine faded. The rose ‘Ducher’ is still blooming well. And ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ puts out a single flower or two. The borage is holding up fairly well under the heat.

I ate the last three strawberries, harvested some jalapeno peppers, and started in on the summer squash. Oh, and we ate a pitiful handful of potatoes I dug up Sunday (5/25). They were tasty but we harvested less than we planted.

First flower: canna ‘Bangkok Yellow’ (5/22); Lindheimer senna (5/25).
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LA lily
Apparently it’s a tradition that I take a photo of this lily in Week 20–at least every time I get a new camera.

May 21st, 2008
Week 20: 5/14 – 5/20

Dateline: 2008


The week began promisingly, with a little rain. I was feeling on top of my gardening chores. I’d gotten most of the spring annuals pulled out and seeds harvested. I was sifting compost, top-dressing and mulching plants, and just about to finish off one compost pile and turn the other so I could start a new one. I was further along in tidying up than I’ve ever been this time of year and feeling quite satisfied with my labors. So it was no surprise to me, really, that the malicious Loki-spirit of my garden decided this was an auspicious time to slam hard and wipe that smug look off my face.

After hail, wind, and falling limbs (and ball moss!) my neatly mulched garden looked liked Christmas morning at my parents’ house after 15 grandchildren have shredded their Christmas present wrappings. Although we had a couple of clear dry days for the cleanup, we ended the week with August-like temperatures: two record-breakers, 98F/36C (5/19); 101F/38C (5/20). (Normal temps for this time of year are mid-80s.)

One of the three bushes of Duranta erecta is in full flower–the other two, nothing. The oleander is also flowering profusely, unfazed by the heat.

First flower: Echinacea purpurea (5/14); Malvaviscus arboreus (5/15); LA hybrid lily (5/19); Ipomoea quamoclit (5/19); Antigonon leptopus (5/19); Lagerstroemia indica ‘Catawba’ (5/19); Vitus agnus-castus (5/20).

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