March 5th, 2007
Week 09: 2/26 – 3/4

2002. Arctic front brings killer cold. 2003. Ditto. 2004. Rain. Rain. And more rain. 2005. Very average weather. 2006. Spring sprung. Record highs. 2007. Spring sprung. Very, very dry. 2008. Very dry. Six months into drought. 2009. Parched. Very hot. First 90-degree day. Very dry. Eighteen months into drought. Dateline: 2009 Dateline: 2007 The garden […]

2002. Arctic front brings killer cold.
2003. Ditto.
2004. Rain. Rain. And more rain.
2005. Very average weather.
2006. Spring sprung. Record highs.
2007. Spring sprung. Very, very dry.
2008. Very dry. Six months into drought.
2009. Parched. Very hot. First 90-degree day. Very dry. Eighteen months into drought.
Dateline: 2009
rose Souvenir de la Malmaison

Dateline: 2007
The garden woke up this week. (You could argue that in what passes for winter in Austin it’s never been asleep, merely cat-napping.) Still, on Wednesday (Feb 28th) all the Mexican plums and the redbud behind my neighbor’s house burst into bloom overnight. And the cedar elms were clouded with a mist of bright spring green. I cut some branches of Mexican plum to bring inside and I feel like I’m living in a Japanese sumi-e (ink painting). Lots of new plants in bloom this week.

First flower: Coriander sativum (2/26); Narcissus ‘Trevithian’ (3/1); Muscari racemosum (3/2); Cercis canadensis (3/2); rose ‘Ducher’ (3/3); Sedum palmeri (3/3); Narcissus ‘Quail’ (3/4).

In Bloom: Prunus mexican, viola, Leucojum aestivum, rosemary, tradescantia, Commelinantia anomala, white oxalis, purple oxalis, henbit

We continue to have very dry weather this spring as we did last spring which results in desert like extremes of temperature: highs in the 70s, lows in the 20s. Do I cover the plants or uncover them? move the potted plants out or bring them in?

I bought two tomatoes “Black Krim” and “Persimmon” (said to be grown by Thomas Jefferson) from Gardens because they always have interesting and unusual tomatoes. They had already sold out of our favorite, “Carmello” though. I also bought a Listada de Gandia eggplant because it promised to be mild.

Dateline: 2006
Spring sprung this week. Everywhere I looked in my yard and around town, flowers and leaves were busting out.

We hit record highs several days and we are back to our own muggy Texas weather. So the air feels like spring, too. However, the bluebonnets are not going to make much of a show. (This was front page news in our local paper. But we gardeners knew we were headed for disappointment last fall, when the bluebonnets failed to sprout.) So it doesn’t seem much like spring to a Texan. It’s as if the tulips failed to bloom in Holland, or the cherry trees in Japan. Or maybe the bluebells in England?

The redbuds and Mexican plums are at their height in my yard. Even my Texas mountain laurels are catching up with those around town. I notice that they begin flowering on the southwest side where they receive the most sun. Note to self: plant Texas mountain laurels where you can see the sunny side–like against the fence on the north property boundary. (The ones I have now are, of course, on my south fence; so my neighbor enjoys them more than I.)

On Friday (3/3), I noticed that the cedar elm in the front was beginning to leaf out. Ditto the wisteria (although no flowers have opened yet). The retama leafed out without my noticing it. The rose of Sharon, crape myrtle, and the vitex. This means my yard is going to go from full sun to full shade before any of the roses (other than ‘Ducher’) or wildflowers have bloomed. So even though we’ve had an extremely mild winter, this means spring feels very short.

A few more summer snowflakes are blooming. Some ‘Grand Primo’ narcissus are finally blooming. They are much prettier than the italicus (which are finished). But they’ve bloomed on unusually short stems, about 8 inches tall rather than 24 inches. I noticed this in other yards, too, when I was driving near North Loop.

First flower: Leucojum aestivum (2/26), Tradescantia (2/28), Narcissus ‘Trevithian’ (3/1), Texas mountain laurel (3/2).

In Bloom: Prunus mexicana, Grand Primo, white oxalis, rosemary, lavender, henbit, dandelions, ‘Trevithian’ and one sad little ‘Ice Follies’. Only two bloomed this year. I divided them last summer and not a single one from those clumps bloomed this year. They were awfully small. I must have waited too long to divide them.

Dateline: 2005
My sister writes from Las Vegas to say that she has already planted her tomatoes this year, in addition to having a winter garden of carrots, beets, kale. and endive. And she calls me the gardener! So last Friday (2/25), after lunch with the boy, I went over to Gardens and bought two tomato plants: “Carmello” and “Red Currant”. They had just run out of our favorite cherry tomato “Sungold”. I got them planted before the cold rain on Saturday. And when we returned on Sunday from an overnight trip, the sun was coming out and the day was perfect. You couldn’t ask for better weather than we had Monday and Tuesday: sunny with temperatures in the 60s. No mosquitoes yet.

The garden was dominated by white this week. The two smaller Prunus mexicana and my neighbor’s larger one were in full bloom. My large one had a few faded blooms from last week, but is already leafing out. Other white flowers: rose ‘Ducher’, daffodils ‘Ice Follies’ and ‘Grand Primo’, and summer snowflakes.

Two false dayflowers opened Monday (2/28). The redbud opened its first flower on Tuesday (3/1). It’s not making a show, like others in town. You have to really hunt to see any flowers on it.

Leucojum aestivum is in full bloom. The last clumps of ‘Grand Primo’ are fading. Among the roses ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ still has no rival, even though ‘Blush Noisette’ and ‘Ducher’ are making a run of it. ‘Madame Joseph Schwartz’ and ‘Madame Alfred Carriere‘ each have a few flowers and ‘Heritage‘ opened its first flower today (3/4).

Dateline: 2004
Temperatures are warming into the 60s and 70s, but almost every day brings more rain. Spring is quite late this year. The cause seems to be dry weather before Christmas rather than cold winter temperatures after. The entire winter we have only had a few nights that dipped into freezing and I don’t think temperatures dropped into the 20s.

The large Prunus mexicana is peaking; the two smaller ones are covered with unopen buds; the Leucojum aestivum are now clumps of little white bells; the three clumps of N. tazetta ‘Grand Primo’ are still flowering. But where are the redbuds? the bluebonnets? the Texas Mountain laurel? All of these usually bloom in February.

Dateline: 2003
The icy snow did a good job of insulating most of the plants from the hard freeze following Monday’s (2/24) freak sleet storm. Overall, there seems to be less damage than last year. The daffodils, violas, and bluebonnets went right back to blooming when the ice melted. The snapdragon buds are frozen, though. And once again the oleander is damaged.

Tuesday (2/25) the city was shut down and Wednesday (2/26) I went to school only to discover it was closed. On my walk home through downtown, I discovered two birds who had frozen to death side-by-side.

Dateline. 2002
Ouch! The last ten days or so the highs have been in the 70s. Overnight, the temperatures plunged into the 20s, making this the 2001-2002 Winter’s Coldest Night

A sudden freeze at this time of year, although not unexpected, is especially devastating because plants are putting out tender, new growth that is easily damaged.

According to our thermometer. the temperature dipped only to 26 degrees. This was fairly mild compared to the rest of the county and it is because the city itself is a heat sink. (This is great in the winter, when we often get by with no hard freezes. But, in the summer we are also about 3 to 5 degrees hotter than the official temperature.)

ASSESSING THE DAMAGEOf the overwintering annuals (bluebonnets, larkspur), plants still in the rosette stage were unaffected. But quite a few bluebonnets and a couple of larkspur had sent up flower stalks, some were in bud, and a few had flowers just opening. All this tender growth was decidedly droopy this morning. This is the most damage I’ve ever seen to the bluebonnets. It will set back flowering a week or so, but won’t do any longterm damage. Because bluebonnets are trying to set seed, the more you pick their flowers, the more flowers they produce.

I think I saved ‘Ducher’ which I covered with newspaper, floating row cover, and a light plastic bag. It was the rose that seemed most vulnerable has it had scores of new shoots. New growth on the roses ‘Madame Joseph Schwartz’ and ‘Buff Beauty’ was also frostbitten.

Most disappointing, since it blooms but once a year, is the Bridal Wreath spiraea. Monday it was covered with buds that now are frozen black.

Most of the narcissus I grow are hardy to 14 degrees. However, I cut the remaining ‘Ice Follies’ to enjoy them indoors. The ‘Quail’ had a mixed reaction. About half of them drooped toward the ground. I cut these this morning and soaked them for an hour in cold water. That revived them enough to make a pretty bouquet. The ‘Trevithian’ which just opened yesterday before the freeze, pulled through.

Not surprisingly, tender perennials, such as the Acanthus mollis, the elephant ears, and the ornamental oxalis, looked like cooked spinach.

But what did surpise me was the the sweetpeas were cut down. They were doing really well this year and were almost two feet tall. And the sow thistles also froze. I thought nothing would kill them.

Another hard freeze is expected tonight. That will make it the third night in a row and the worst cold spell of the 2001-2002 winter season.

Dateline: 2000
The larkspur are just beginnning to flower. The bluebonnets are hitting stride. The redbud and spiraea are at their peak. There is still plenty of Texas Mountain laurel, although it is starting to form seeds. The Quail daffodils are still stunning.

The cedar elm behind the garden house and the one in the front are completely filled out. The red oak tree in the meadow is suddenly leafed out. The two China berry trees are starting to leaf out. The crape myrtle is leafing out. The buffalograss is greening up.

Dateline: 1997
Sunday March 2, 1997
A lot of weather this weekend: yesterday started out warm and moist, almost unpleasantly muggy. The haze burned off by noon and it became hot: the summer snowflakes lay prostrate. By evening it was windy, with severe thunderstorm and tornado watches. The wind blew all night. By morning it was cool and still, mostly sunny but with strange cloud formations. Then all afternoon it was cool and windy. In Arkansas the storms killed scores of people.

Dateline: 1996
Tuesday February 27, 1996
It has been in the 80s. But it is beginning to cool off a little. A big cold front is coming and the highs will be only in the 40s or 50s.
Lupinus texensis: One or two bluebonnets in bloom. Very few plants this year. My bluebonnet plant that has lasted since last May has sent up one flower stalk that is beginning to open.
Tradescantia: First flower (2/27).
Tulipa ‘Angelique’: The Angelique tulips are opening and are very beautiful. The Shirley tulips have recovered now that it is cooler and are growing taller and more colorful.

Wednesday February 28, 1996
The cold front brought temperatures to the 30s by noon. A few sprinkles but not enough rain to make any kind of difference agains the drought.

by M Sinclair Stevens

6 Responses to post “Week 09: 2/26 – 3/4”

  1. From erica:

    Beautiful picture. My l. aestivum are growing vigorously but stubbornly refusing to bloom.

  2. From Annie in Austin:

    Perhaps your microclimate saved your Texas mountain laurels by delaying the bloom–mine were just opening their buds on the 18th of February before we dipped down to 27 degrees the next day. Was it colder here in NW Austin? The mountain laurel plant is fine but the flowers froze and fell off.

    All the crape myrtles, vitex and Rose of Sharon are still leafless here, with the redbud just starting to be pink. Your Mexican plums are beautiful.

    Annie in Austin [Glinda from the Divas of the Dirt]

    I think it can be up to 5 degrees warmer downtown than in northwest Austin. — mss

  3. From Judith:

    What a joy to visit here where it is warm & there are beautiful plants blooming. Thank you for visiting me and letting me know there are gardens in bloom somewhere out there in the world. The datelines are very interesting to read.

    Thanks. I do the datelines because I like to emphasize the cyclical nature of gardening. My original garden journal was arranged by week and it helped me to compare the current year to previous ones. My memory is pretty faulty! I really enjoy your blog, but I don’t think I’d enjoy your weather. At least not in winter.
    — mss

  4. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    Your comment about the weather being desert-like is interesting. I think you’re right. I really love this kind of weather. Maybe I’m better suited for Arizona or New Mexico. 😉

    Given your cactus/succulent passion, maybe you are. In my memory, an Austin spring is marked by low, heavy clouds drifting in from the Gulf, morning mists that burn off by 10AM, and thick, moist air which carries the scent of the Mexican plums, Texas Mountain laurel, and roses (usually suffering from black spot and mildew as a result of the humidity). This year and last, I walk outside and smell mountain air–the mountains of my youth being in northern New Mexico, southern California, Albuquerque, and Las Vegas. When I water, the earth is so dry that it give off the same scent as desert rain. — mss

  5. From Ki (New Jersey):

    We planted a bunch of different type of Leucojum two falls ago and have yet to see any. The bulbs seemed healthy enough so I don’t know what happened. We still have snow on the ground and temps in the 20s but should warm this weekend into the 50s so maybe the bulbs will start to come up. I hope we see some but for now will have to be content with your photo.

    You planted them two years and not even any foliage came up the first year? I don’t know anything about gardening where it’s cold, but it sounds to me as if those Leucojum are gone for good. — mss

  6. From Craig:

    I hope I’m not a kill-joy but when I read this article –

    – on La Nina’s weather pattern and its effect on the U.S. this year, I couldn’t help but think of Annie and you in Austin.

    Your statement from 2002:

    . “A sudden freeze at this time of year, although not unexpected, is especially devastating because plants are putting out tender, new growth that is easily damaged.”

    is so true and your Sweet Peas proved it.

    It really is a necessity to cover and protect your plants when frosts and freezes are expected or when cold weather is hinted at. Covering or moving them is annoying and time-consuming but losing plants plus the time and energy spent on them is such a shame. I’m always surprised that filmy, light-weight row covers can be so effective at protecting everything. I’ve been known to throw cardboard boxes over special plants and using rocks to hold the boxes down.

    Your Leuocjums are just too beautiful. I’ve never grown them but they are too pretty not to be planted and enjoyed.