December 15th, 2008
GBBD 200812: Dec 2008

Crocus speciosus Zanthan Gardens

Carol at May Dreams Gardens invites us to tell her what’s blooming in our gardens on the 15th of each month.

Paperwhites and roses. Crocuses and coneflowers. English peas and summer squash. To you gardeners with more distinct seasons, you probably think Austin gardens are a bit dysfunctional. And so we are. Last week we tied a record high of 81°F; the same night it snowed.

Asclepias Zanthan Gardens

Our ground doesn’t freeze but neither do our plants go dormant. Yesterday we basked in the enviable 70s; tonight we face our first hard freeze of the winter–down to the mid-20s. Oh, I know that’s nothing compared to the onslaught of ice you northern gardeners are struggling with. Did I mention, our plants don’t go dormant?

Tonight Austin gardeners are racing around to bring in potted plants and cover everything tender with old sheets and blankets. Friday it will be in the 70s again. The hope and heartbreak of December are in every bud. Like the crocus above, most flowers decided to hunch their shoulders against the cold today, and huddle petals closed.


The coral vine, Antigonon leptopus, hasn’t frozen back to the ground yet, but it’s flowers refuse to come out and play.
Antigonon leptopus Zanthan Gardens

I had hoped my most recent amaryllis acquisition would flower in time for GBBD but it is just as likely to freeze tonight without ever opening.
Amaryllis Zanthan Gardens

Last week the ‘New Dawn’ rose along the front fence was flowering nicely. This ‘New Dawn’ in the back yard was just about to open. I cut it after this photo and brought it in…
rose New Dawn Zanthan Gardens

…along with this ‘Blush Noisette’ bud which has already opened in the vase.
rose Blush Noisette Zanthan Gardens

Most of the rest of the roses look like this ‘Blush Noisette’–browned by recent light frosts and a bit windblown and worn.
rose Blush Noisette Zanthan Gardens

Summer’s Decay

I rather like this faded coneflower and it’s valiant attempt to keep blooming despite summer’s passing.
purple coneflower Zanthan Gardens

I don’t care at all for the Port St. Johns creeper but it is the only thing in the garden that is blooming with abandon and I have to admire that. Perhaps by morning it will be frozen and I can hack it back and uncover the rose it’s smothering.
purple coneflower Zanthan Gardens


My attempt to grow summer squash in the fall failed. I only got one small squash off of eight plants.
summer squash Zanthan Gardens

The English peas just started blooming last week. No peas yet. I think, with the row cover on, they might survive tonight’s low temperatures.
English pea Zanthan Gardens


The lavender just started blooming this week.
Lavandula Zanthan Gardens

The rosemary has been blooming all month. It was too gloomy and windy for the camera to focus.
rosemary  Zanthan Gardens


Let’s end this bloom day with December’s own flower…the only thing blooming “in season”–the paperwhite narcissus.
paperwhite narcissus Zanthan Gardens


Not pictured but flowering, the duranta and some very faded roses on ‘Ducher’.

by M Sinclair Stevens

15 Responses to post “GBBD 200812: Dec 2008”

  1. From Carol, May Dreams Gardens:

    Beautifully written and beautiful close ups of the blooms. I suddenly had the urge to gather up old sheets and blankets here and send them down to all the Austin gardeners.

    And you are right, it all does seem a bit dysfunctional. I can’t tell what season it is from these pictures. It could be spring, summer, fall or winter (if that paperwhite was inside).

    Thanks for sharing your garden with us for bloom day!

  2. From Lori, Austin TX:

    Ah, paperwhites. I think I planted mine too late. I got 8 bulbs of ‘Ziva’ and put them in the ground about a month ago when I put in ‘Grand Primo’ and some bareroot irises. So far, they’re the only thing that seems to be coming up, but they’re still weeks away from blooming.

    Also, the Port St. John’s Creeper looks lovely.

    Don’t fret. They’ll come up. It always takes bulbs a year or so to settle into the correct season–especially things like paperwhites which are bred to be forced indoors. — mss

  3. From commonweeder:

    I’ve really been enjoying looking at Texas gaardens this morning. Especially the roses. Its a nice change after all the ICE we had up here in Massachusetts. My ice pictures are much more dramatic than my Thanksgiving cactus pictures. I think the Christmas cactus will bloom by Christmas.

  4. From Kathy (New York):

    These are the times that try gardeners’ souls. I will need the sheets in May, when our temperature swings could be equally erratic.

  5. From Robin:

    Beautiful photos, MSS. You must have bundled up warmly to have the patience for those kind of photos in this cold weather. I ran out, took my pictures and ran back in, not taking time for anything artsy! Photoshop did the rest for me…good job and great post.

  6. From renee, austin:

    Your photos are gorgeous — fit for framing. Too bad about the squash. A butternut squash volunteer popped up in my fall garden. I pulled one almost ripe squash before the freeze. I don’t have high hopes for how it will taste.

  7. From Jean:

    Love your photos, especially that crocus. I hope everything survived your freeze well enough (and those you wanted to freeze, did). I’ve never heard of Port St. John’s creeper, it’s lovely (even if it’s eating your roses). 🙂

  8. From Jan/ThanksFor2Day:

    I’m envious of the colors you have! I have never seen (nor even heard of)’Port St. John’s’ creeper…the flowers are beautiful, despite whatever it is about it that bugs you! Perhaps it’s invasive…or rarely blooms…?? Probably the former…Jan

    It’s from South Africa, I think. I’m not a big fan of the garish pink, especially because it blooms in my garden in fall. I think I’d like it better if it bloomed in late spring. I don’t think it gets enough sunlight until this time of year. It is very aggressive. It suckers like crazy and sends out 12-foot long whips that smother everything. It’s eaten a rose, a stand of irises, and a patch of yuccas…which I can’t get into to cut out because of the needle-sharp points on the yucca. — mss

  9. From compostinmyshoe Charleston, SC:

    Been where ya’ll have the last few days. It does take its toll on the garden. The question of the day, has winter finally arrived?

  10. From Sarah Laurence:

    Wow, 81 and snow! I love your opening bud shot. You have a bounty of blooms. I’m enjoying them vicariously.

    Yes, we had an ice storm and now it’s snowing. Everything is buried. It’s pretty.

    I loved your ice storm post! Sometimes it’s hard to get into the spirit of the season here in Austin when we can’t figure out what season we’re in. — mss

  11. From Mr. McGregor's Daughter:

    I don’t know how you do it, with such wild temperature fluctuations & plants still growing. You’d think the little Crocuses would get cooked. Too bad the squirrels feasted on them. At least the Roses seem to be able to roll with the coaster. I wouldn’t mind a slightly windblown & lightly frosted blossom.

  12. From Annie in Austin:

    Oh, MSS! You made me laugh when the coral vine “wouldn’t come out to play” – there are still a few preserved buds of various flowers in my garden, too. The paperwhites are only short leaves here.

    And the rollercoaster ride goes on – with seventies followed by thirties over the weekend. I’m feeling more than dysfunctional….discombobulated?

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  13. From Cheryl in Austin:

    Lovely images and writing! It’s been a crazy Fall with all these ups and downs, you’re garden looks amazing!

  14. From jodi:

    It’s fun to sneak in here and see what’s blooming in your garden, while mine is swathed in several feet of snow, assorted ice, etc. I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas (or whatever else you might celebrate) and all best wishes for a wonderful gardening 2009.

  15. From Jan(ThanksFor2Day):

    Oh my goodness! I just came back to see what’s new and read your comment in response to mine…wow, that’s just about the worst description/characterization I have ever heard (read) about a plant. You’ve described it so intensely!~ I think I will try to avoid it at all costs!! Jan