January 27th, 2007
Week 04: 1/22-1/28

Vegetable garden after ice storm
2007-01-25. Austin, TX. The vegetable garden the week after Austin’s ice storm. Only the basil was lost. The cool weather vegetables are as happy as can be.

Dateline: 2007
Sunday (1/21) was the first sunny day Austin’s seen in about 9 and everyone was out on the hike and bike trails, packing the parks, or sunning themselves at Barton Springs Pool. This is not a population that could stand winter in the normal sense of the word. I managed to transplant some more sweet peas and rake some more oak leaves (will it never end!) but after all the rain and ice last week our black mud is too mucky to work.

The rest of the week, save Thursday, was gray and dreary. Despite last week’s downpours, lake levels remain low so it’s hard to find fault with more rain.

The ice storm didn’t cause much damage to my plants, as the temperature was never much below freezing. However, bitter record-breaking cold is looming on the horizon. It may be in the mid-60s today but will it be in the mid-20s next Saturday?

The violas, Narcissus tazetta, mahonia, and mealy sage continue to bloom but really there isn’t much flowering in the garden. Both the Tulipa clusiana and the ‘Ice Follies’ daffodils are nosing up this week. The ‘Ice Follies’ are the last daffodils to show themselves.

Dateline: 2006
photo: 2006-01-28 Ducher
2006-01-28. Rain-drenched Ducher. 2007-01-27. This rose died last summer but I’ve replaced it with another ‘Ducher’ in a different location.

The week began cold, gray and gloomy and ended the same way. Cheering could be hear. all over Texas. Like Bill at Prairie Point, I woke last Sunday (1/22) to a strange sound. It took me a few minutes to realize that it was thunder. That’s how long it’s been since we’ve had rain. Last Sunday’s rain was light. We were thankful because when the ground is this hard and dry a heavy rain just washes off the surface of the clay. Today’s rain (1/28) began light and worked itself up into a downpour. As I spent yesterday breaking up the crust of mulch around the plants, the garden was ready for it. The weather service reports that the 1.32 inches is a record amount of rain for this day. It is also the most rain we’ve received in one day since May 8, 2005. Eight months!

Between the bookend days of rain, the rest of the week was very pleasant–a little warmer than usual. I raked up a lot of leaves. The red oak trees don’t lose their leaves until Christmas and since I don’t have a mulchng mower anymore, I’ve gotten lazy about them.

Daffodils: The ‘Trevithian’ daffodils are nosing up, as are the ‘Hawera’, but only one clump of ‘Ice Follies’. Of the tazettas, the clumps I think are ‘Grand Primo’ are at various heights, depending on whether I’ve remembered where they are and watered them. The italicus are still blooming well, and an occasional small paperwhite or Chinese Sacred Lily opens.

First flower: rose ‘Ducher’ (1/27).

On Thursday night’s weather forecast, KXAN’s Jim Spencer said he surprised to see things flowering around town so early. He seems to think the warmer than normal temperatures are bringing out the flowers. I disagree. I think the less than average rain is holding things back.

Around town I’ve spotted the early flags blooming, Carolina jessamine, Mutabilis (butterfly rose), and that white-flowered tree that always blooms first. Is it Bradford pears? There’s group of them by Camp Mabry near the 35th street off-ramp that I look for every January. I’ve also had my eye out for flowering quince, but haven’t noticed any yet.

Dateline: 2005
photo: 2005-01-26 meadow
The gardener’s eye view (on my hands and knees) of newly mulched and weeded section. Recycled wooden fencing defines the paths.

Spring has a way of sneaking up on me when I’m huddled inside near the fire. Last Saturday was a warm, sunny day in the 70s, the perfect kind of weather for showing off Austin to friends visiting from England. We had lunch outdoors at Shady Grove and they kept saying, “I can’t believe we’re sitting outside in January!” They had made it to Austin on the last flight out of Chicago before the big snow storm there. Then that evening the front reached Austin and Sunday was clear but cold. I could never get warm, even in the sunshine where AJM and I were trimming trees.

Monday was cold, but warming, and today was fantastic. If only our summers could be like this. Warm, but not hot. Sunny, but not muggy. And no mosquitoes! I spent the whole afternoon outside weeding and mulching. I noticed the first bud on the Mexican plum and the first leaves of the Tulipa clusiana. The Spanish bluebells and the summer snowflakes poked through the soil over a week ago.

The only flowers in the garden right now are oxalis and Narcissus (‘Grand Primo’ or italicus–I can’t tell which is which anymore). This is a poor showing compared with last year, but probably more normal. Last year was unusually warm and the roses and all sorts of things were flowering very early.

Dateline: 2002
Well this has been a week of contrasts. On Wednesday (1/23) it was 79 degrees and the low for the day of 67 degrees broke the record for the warmest low on that date. The cold front arrived on Thursday (1/24), bringing low gray clouds and rain, so that it seemed like January again.

Most of the various types of narcissus are up, although only the ‘Grand Primo’ is currently blooming. But even without flowers, the straight rigid leaves make the garden look more like a garden than it did a week ago.

by M Sinclair Stevens

6 Responses to post “Week 04: 1/22-1/28”

  1. From Don:

    Thanks for sharing. I am looking outside at frozen winter. Temps are dropping after a thaw yesterday that reached the 40s (F).

    For years, I’ve had the Austin gardener’s clock inside, long after I left Texas. I must have lost it. How delightful to realize that spring begins next month, and that early spring/late winter is taking place now.

    Have you already started pruning roses?

    * Hi, Don. Good to hear from you. Yes I have started pruning my roses. A few of them reacted to our freeze and dropped their leaves. But most of them still have last years leaves on them. So, following a suggestion from the rose expert, Rayford Reddell, I strip the leaves by hand. This is suppose to encourage the roses to bud.

    I’m expecting ‘Ducher’ (which seems to prefer the cool weather), ‘Madame Joseph Schwarz’, and ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ to flower next week or so. — mss

  2. From bill:

    I have used fencing for edging beds that way too. It will last quite a few years.

    We pruned all the roses Saturday.

  3. From Annie In Austin:

    My Carolina Jessamine is blooming, too, and there are buds on one of the spiraeas. Just the noses of the Grand Primos are visible, but a few clumps of daffodils from the previous owners (guessing ‘February Gold’) are in bloom, and a rebloom cycle has started in both the Salvia greggii ‘Navaho Cream’ and Salvia X ‘Nuevo Leon’. My Narcissus triandrus ‘Thalia’ is all leaves – no buds at all, so no lovely scent.

    The ‘Ducher’ is lovely. Roses are still on the future wish list; we do have an unidentified pink climber that came with the house. The leaves look okay, so I won’t try that defoliating thing on this one.

    Annie, it’s so nice to hear what’s going on in other people’s gardens in Austin. I’ve been out cleaning up the roses today. I have been neglecting them and they’re letting me know it! — mss

  4. From Annie in Austin:

    My Pius X Camellia japonica has has both blooms and buds. As usual, NW Austin seems to be in a slightly different horticultural zone, since the flower heads are coming up on Narcissus ‘Grand Primo’ in both front and back beds, but only one head in front shows an opening flower. The Carolina Jessamine is loaded with unopen buds.

    Yeah, the current war of the weather predictors is interesting. If Mark Murray turns out to be right, and the National Weather Service is wrong, the weather will sink into the teens and we’ll have the “Biggest freeze since 1996”.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  5. From ML:

    I have a tree hydrangea that I’ve been trying to grow up the side of our house here in Maine for the last nine or so years. It’s gradually worked it’s way horizontally across the house about three feet up from the ground, and I’m hopeful that it will send up vertical shoots from this bushy, strong base.

    But we had temperatures in the forties almost through December, and the poor thing budded. Some people reported their lilacs budding and forsythia flowering, too!

    And now we’re in the deep-freeze for the last week, with temps. down to 4 below zero. So the poor hydrangea’s sitting there with frozen buds. This means it won’t bud in the spring or bloom in the summer. I wonder how many other plants around here are in that same situation.

    Meanwhile, your vegetable garden is enviably neat and manageable, and your “ice-flowers. are exotic and beautiful.

  6. From Carol (Indiana):

    Not much blooming? Sounds like quite a bit to me. Winter has really arrived in Indiana. Who knows when we will see the ground again with all the snow and very cold temperatures?

    By the way, I did want to let you know that I chose The Gardener’s Year by Karel Capek as the March selection for the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club, based on your recommendation, and have given you credit on my blog for making the suggestion.

    Oh, marvelous! I hope everyone enjoys this classic as much as I do. I find myself laughing out loud on every page. Gardening experiences really do transcend time and place. — mss