December 8th, 2007
December’s Golden Days

Zanthan Gardens fall colors
2007-12-01. The agave americana and the maiden grass reflect late afternoon light in December. As many of the trees have not yet lost their leaves this year, much of the yard is still dark.

This has been an extraordinarily beautiful week in Austin. Like the week before, a cold front blew in at the beginning of the week dropping temperatures almost to freezing. This was the same front that dumped so much snow on the Midwest but here in Austin we were left with some of the most perfect days of the year. After the front blew through, the skies were a brilliant desert blue which provided the perfect backdrop for the sudden coloring of the leaves. Many trees have partially dropped their leaves but the ones that remained finally were tinged with color, not the brilliant colors of northern climes–with burnished golds, deep russets, and glowing ambers. As we near the solstice, the color of sunlight is also golden, infusing the garden with honeyed colors. These are December’s colors in Austin.

Zanthan Gardens fall colors
2007-12-05. ‘Moulin Rouge’ sunflowers have finally opened.

I spent the entire week transplanting seedlings in the meadow garden. The self-sowers pop up everywhere but so thickly that they need thinning. My method is to dig them all up, replant the bed, and move the rest elsewhere. As such, my meadow is not really a meadow but drifts of planted wildflowers. The larkspur always sprouts when the nights are in the 40s and the days in the 70s. I was relieved to see some bluebonnets finally sprouting, too, although they are very late coming up (probably from the lack of rain in September and October).

Zanthan Gardens fall colors
2007-12-05. The Japanese persimmon provides autumn color for southern gardens.

By the end of the week, the winds had shifted to the south, bringing warm moist air up from the Gulf of Mexico. Although the cloud cover makes the scene above look gloomy, it’s warmer than the clear days early in the week. Forecast for today, 83F/28C degrees. Then back to cold and rainy next week.

Dateline: December 1, 2010

Camp Mabry had its first official freeze (32°F) early this morning but frost nipped Zanthan Gardens last week. Although the Gold Rush Currant tomatoes are still alive and opening new flowers, the pecans and cedar elms have given up their leaves for the year. The days are cool and the garden is flooded with light. Quickly, quickly I’m sowing all my annuals. If I do it before leaf-fall, they just get smothered.

by M Sinclair Stevens

7 Responses to post “December’s Golden Days”

  1. From Kathy (New York):

    “The larkspur always sprouts when the nights are in the 40s and the days in the 70s.”–No wonder my larkspur blooms in July. We are still getting nights in the 40s in June.

    I grouse about the summers here but at least I’m adapted to them. I don’t think I could survive your winters, or even your summers. — mss

  2. From Annie in Austin:

    Hi MSS – your glowing words are a perfect description of what it’s been like in Austin. A few larkspur sprouted in one border and the pecan leaves have started to fall in earnest.

    Our first fall in this house was a revelation – with the tree canopy still green, the back and side yard was dark and gloomy all November but in December all was sunny.

    Philo picked some peppers to have with eggs this morning and no frost is in the forecast for a week – while my Chicago relatives had to put up with 0 degrees F on Thursday.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    These are the kinds of weeks I live for–especially in the dead of summer. — mss

  3. From Aiyana:

    Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting. Now that I’ve found your blog, I’ll be back! Nice photos. I always love to see late afternoon photos and the play of light and shadow.

    Thanks for stopping by. Your garden is really gorgeous. I look forward to watching it grow. — mss

  4. From Ki:

    What a lovely colorful tree the Japanese persimmon is in fall. I tried to plant one but it died. My brother-in-law in California has one but hasn’t remarked on its fall colors. He does send us a boxful of persimmons each fall and we enjoy the crunchy sweet fruit. Has yours given fruit yet?

    I love persimmons and ate all the fruit before it was fully ripe–because last year the birds and squirrels beat me to them. This variety, ‘Eureka’, doesn’t have to be the consistency of jelly to be edible. This particular tree sets a lot of fruit but then drops most of it. I’ve read that young persimmons drop fruit a lot but this tree is more than ten years old and I still barely get a dozen persimmons out of it a year. I can’t imagine having too many persimmons so perhaps I should buy a second tree. — mss

  5. From Pam/Digging:

    Yes, I think we saw peak fall color this week here in Austin. It truly was a glorious week. If only I could bottle this season for summertime.

    How odd that you have sunflowers opening up in December. And by the by, how big does that variegated agave get, the one you gave me? My pup is growing rapidly, and I’m not sure how much room it’ll need—I mean, insist upon.

    I think they might be giants. My agaves have doubled in size this year and they show no sign of slowing down. My biggest one is now about four feet across. And they all having pups like crazy. I think in some places I might have to chop out the momma plant and replace it with one of the pups. Hey…any other Austin reader want a variegated agave, leave me a note. They’re getting out of hand over here. — mss

  6. From Dawn:

    I love the fall colors that have finally taken hold in my Austin neighborhood as well. My son (a native Floridian) asked me about the leaf color and I explained that it’s finally looking like fall…just before it’s officially winter. As much as I love this weather, the record highs are a bit worrisome. BTW, your Japanese persimmon is gorgeous. I love that color! I remember eating the fruit of native variety when I was kid. Yum!

    Happy Winter Solstice, my friend. 🙂

    And a happy solstice to you! Japanese persimmons are my favorite fruit which is why I planted the tree. I could never get enough of them when I lived in Japan. You were there in the summer, so you probably didn’t eat them. I loved how strings of persimmons were hung from every balcony to dry. — mss

  7. From trant - memphis, tn:

    My Fuyu persimmon trees bear a lot of fruits but most of them are dropping in early June. This is the 2nd year that the trees are producing fruits but like the first year, all the fruits drop by early June. Please advise if there is something I can do to prevent the fruits from dropping prematurely.

    I have the same problem and don’t know any cure. I’ve read elsewhere that persimmons are naturally thinning (that is they will set a lot of fruit and drop what they can’t support). As they mature, they are supposed to drop less fruit. My persimmon is 15 years old and it still drops a lot of fruit. Why don’t you ask you county extension agent. Perhaps he or she will recommend a soil test or something. — mss