September 29th, 2009
On Returning Home

Port St John's Creeper
The Port St. Johns Creeper, Podranea ricasoliana has eaten the north border, smothering a grape vine, a ‘New Dawn’ rose, and attacking the raspberries. The raspberries looked like they might not survive August–all the leaves browned–but they seem to be forming new canes. I guess this is their spring. Self-sown datura is also rampant but welcome.

The week before we went on vacation, Zanthan Gardens got 7 inches of rain in less than three days. The week we were gone, we got another 3.5 inches and temperatures dropped enough that my Austin garden friends on Twitter were talking about drinking hot tea and putting on sweaters.

In our absence the garden was transformed. It was green. (Mostly weeds.) Bluebonnets, cilantro, and Love-in-the-mist had sprouted. The rosemary was blooming. Half the lavender had rotted away. A large aloe vera had collapsed and a wooden retaining wall had fallen over.

The spineless prickly pear cactus which withered in the drought has become so bloated with rain that it had collapsed under its own weight. I hated it before and I really hate it now. So most of it will be removed to the city’s composting collection.

Crape Myrtle Catawba
The crape myrtles would have bloomed better all summer if I had watered them. I saw them blooming all over Austin. However, they are a rather low priority plant in my garden when it comes to precious summer water so they had to wait for the rains. I think I cherish them even more now for missing them over summer.

St Joseph's Lily
Some oxblood lilies were still flowering on my return. However, I was surprised by this red giant blooming: the St. Joseph’s Lily. Maybe it wanted to join in the red revelry. It’s supposed to bloom in the spring, on the saint’s feast day, March 19th.

Sweet Alyssum
I also was surprised to see the Sweet Alyssum blooming. It’s never survived the summer before and 2009 was the worst of summers. About half the plants have survived even though sometime in August I stopped watering them. Such tenacity!

Curly Parsley
The curly parsley was another surprise. Last fall was the first time I grew it and found it as easy to grow as cilantro but when the cilantro faded in the heat the parsley soldiered on. I lost most of it but a few hardy stems which had died almost completely to the ground came back. I’ve decided that the intense bright green will make a perfect low hedging for my winter garden. I’m going to plant a lot more this year.

Allium tuberosum
Some things are just as expected. The garlic chives, Allium tuberosum, are dependable fall flowers and a nice complement to the oxblood lilies. Over the years, they do tend to take over like all their allium kin. I’ve been pretty brutal the last few years yanking them out where I didn’t want them and not replanting them. Still, I’m happy to see them when they do bloom. It makes fall feel complete.

by M Sinclair Stevens

10 Responses to post “On Returning Home”

  1. From MrBrownThumb:

    Love the St. Joseph’s Lily. Your garden looks a lot better than it did on that video you shared on Twitter.

    It’s a relief and a wonder how Austin gardens bounce back from our horrible summers. — mss

  2. From Carol, May Dreams Gardens:

    Dare I use the word “lush” to describe your garden after all the rain? It looks very much alive, vibrant, and full of bloom.

    I think I’d reserve the word “lush” to describe me and use “weedy” for the garden. — mss

  3. From Linda Lehmusvirta Austin, TX:

    Good grief, I can’t believe that alyssum. Or the St. Joseph’s lily. It’s all looking really good! I composted my prickly pear last weekend, too.

  4. From Rachel @ in bloom:

    My alyssum survived the summer with no supplemental watering! It was the only wildflower to do anything in our front lawn this spring, and while it became inconspicuous in the heat of the summer, it’s blooming just like yours is.

    I’m so overdue in taking pictures of my garden, but I need to get around to it! My life lately has consisted of shuttling back and forth to San Antonio every week.

    (On the plus side: the Antique Rose Emporium.) 🙂

  5. From Annie in Austin:

    What’s with the alyssum? I always think of it as an English cottage garden plant, but two container plants survived and are in flower here, too.

    We had a good amount of rain, MSS, but you are way ahead! Are you sure that’s what exploded the cactus? I was sure your blast of disdain tolled its death knell months ago!

    So the theory is that long drought caused the St Joseph lily to withhold its spring bloom until it sensed sufficient soil moisture to support the bulb-building leaves? However it happened, that’s one lovely flower.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    The St. Joseph’s lily flowered this spring too. It’s taken to flowering twice a year. I wish the amaryllis next to it would follow its example. — mss

  6. From Mr. McGregor's Daughter:

    I love Sweet Alyssum. It’s just the toughest little thing, and I grow mine against the blacktopped driveway. I never water it. Yesterday I was looking at the Asters out front and I smelled the most wonderful scent. I started sniffing the last of the Phlox, no, the Asters, no. Then I figured it out. It was the Alyssum.
    I hope all this rain means that the drought pattern has finally be broken.

  7. From Amy:

    Hello, new to commenting here and love your blog. I’m in Austin. My sweet alyssum survived the summer too with scant watering. So did several stock/matthiola plants which I started from seed over a year ago. I love these bizarre surprises. This rain is pretty crazy. My dream of a lavender-lined pathway is going away with every rain, but on the other hand, all the plants that looked near death a month ago now look like they’re on steroids. My prickly pear has seemed to triple. And the roses! The roses!

  8. From Jenny Austin:

    What a revival; all except the opuntia. Don’t put it by the kerb. i would love some more, please! My garden is full of alyssum too and I love the sweet honey smell on the morning air.

    I have plenty of opuntia to share. I’ll save some for you. — mss

  9. From Cindy, MCOK:

    I’m glad you came home to such beauty! I’m hoping to get my Oxblood lilies into the ground in the next couple of days. I’m thrilled we’ve had so much rain but it does wreak havoc with my garden plans.

  10. From Meredith:

    I agree with Carol — looks pretty lush to me! Gorgeous!