April 8th, 2010
Week 14: 4/2-4/8

2010-04-06. A view of the meadow from our roof. What a difference six months of rain has made compared with last year.

Dateline: 2010
I can’t see the garden for the flowers anymore. I can’t get into the beds to weed them; I can barely find the paths. I guess it really is a meadow now, rather than a garden. Compare this photo with last year when we were in our second year of drought. Last year the cilantro was knee-high. This year it’s up to my shoulders, towering over and obscuring the bluebonnets and yellow irises. The yellow irises are all tall and twisty–just like in 2007, they really took off this week just as the Iris albicans faded. This year the bluebonnets are large and numerous–one of the best years ever for bluebonnets. Spring has been cooler and later this year. The larkspur and the Engelmann daisy (well-established last year by this time) are just beginning to open. The Naples onions are finally opening up but their white is indistinguishable from the white cilantro.

The roses, especially ‘Ducher’, ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’, and ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’ are covered in flowers. In the shady parts of the yard, the spiderwort, false dayflowers, and baby blue eyes have hit their peak and just starting to get a bit leggy and collapse.

The damage by January’s hard freeze is clear in the brown fronds of the sago palm, the collapse of the spineless prickly pear, and the rotting leaves of the Agave americana variegata.

Early spring is over. The Texas mountain laurel no longer smells like grape soda. The spring bulbs, Tulipa clusiana, Spanish bluebells, summer snowflakes, daffodils, and grape hyacinths have faded. We’ve started having 80° days again and worse, above 60° nights. Sunday (4/4) I was too hot to sleep for the first time this year and Monday (4/5) we hit the week high of 87°. Wednesday (4/7) a front came in and it was dark with a promise (unrealized) of rain all day. The lack of rain was disappointing but least temperatures dropped back into my favorite 40-70 range again.

From the vegetable garden we’ve been eating English peas almost every night. After a few days in the 80s, they are no longer producing flowers. The lettuce and arugula are also getting a bit past their prime. Now that the trees are leafed out the winter vegetable garden is once again in full shade so it’s finished for the year. The pecans, the last trees to leaf out, finally are. Still sunny beneath them for a week yet. The tomatoes are enjoying their new home next to the driveway. On Sunday (4/4), AJM constructed a frame for us to put netting over it in hopes of foiling the squirrels this year.

First flower: Allium neapolitanum (4/2); tomato ‘Jaune Flamme’ (4/2); California poppy ‘Mikado’ (4/3); poppy not ‘Lauren’s Grape’ (4/3); amaryllis ‘Amoretta’ (4/4); rose ‘New Dawn’ (4/4); weeping yaupon holly (4/4); Meyer lemon (4/5); tomato ‘Azoychka’ (4/6); Oenothera speciosa (4/8); rose ‘Prosperity’ (4/8)–still not looking very healthy.

Dateline: 2009

2009-04-10. A view of the meadow from our roof. A lot less larkspur in the meadow this year and almost no bluebonnets.
One week out of 52 my garden looks just about as perfect as a dream and this is that week. I spend all my time wandering up and down the paths just looking at it. And smelling it. It’s a heady, dangerous feeling because it fools me into thinking that gardening in central Texas is like gardening in Eden. I forget about summer. I forget about 50 days of 100 degree weather. I forget about Austin’s 19-month drought. Instead I get sucked into bigger, more elaborate plans for future gardens and seduced by visits to local nurseries, other people’s gardens, and garden talks.

Our Texas weather is always ready to give me a slap upside the head and even in this perfect week it managed to do just that. The Bouldin station recorded a low of 38 on Tuesday (4/7) followed by a high of 90 on Wednesday (4/8) and 94 on Thursday (4/9).

Temperature fluctuations seem to be irrelevant; this year’s March rains brought April flowers. Zanthan Gardens was exuberant with bloom. The larkspur, the roses ‘Ducher’ and ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’, St Joseph’s lilies, and the Crinum bulbispermum all elbowed each other for center stage among a sea of yellow Engelmann daisies, pink evening primroses and the white flowers of cilantro. The California poppies and Jerusalem sage provided brilliant clear contrasts to the blues and purples of the larkspur. The Spanish bluebells (less than half a dozen bloomed this year) and the Tulipa clusiana are at an end. The bluebonnets, sweet alyssum, and Indian hawthorn are still blooming but beginning to look seedy. The duranta, oleander, and Confederate jasmine are just starting to pick up steam. The roses ‘Prosperity’, ‘Blush Noisette’ and ‘New Dawn’ are full of buds. And even the poor shaded rose ‘Madam Alfred Carriere’ is trying her best to bloom.

First flowers: Iris flavescens (4/2); St. Joseph lily (4/2); iris ‘Strictly Ballroom’ (4/5); poppy ‘Dorothy Cavanaugh’; (4/5); Allium neapolitanum (4/5); Confederate jasmine (4/5); retama (4/5); Sedum album (4/5);

Dateline: 2007
Zanthan Gardens: yellow heirloom iris
2007-04-04. The yellow heirloom iris took off this week.

On Monday (4/2) the temperature was 83F degrees and by Wednesday I’d finished packing away the winter clothes and blankets. Sure enough, winter wasn’t through with us yet and temperatures dropped to 35F degrees by Saturday (4/7). Rain drizzled all day Saturday and we even got some small hail. I like these long slow rains that gently drop over an inch of rain so that it has a chance to soak in. Easter Sunday found us with a fire going from sunup to sundown.

Unusual? Sort of. Unheard of? Not really. In fact, every time I have visitors from out of town to see the bluebonnets, Austin seems to get one of these late cold spells. April 13, 1997. April 22, 1995. April 27, 1997. Bill at Prairie Point has a photo of snow on his bluebonnets, and poor Hanna at This Garden is Illegal is reporting a foot of snow in Cleveland. Ouch!

At Zanthan Gardens, except for the weather, we’re in full summer and the early spring plants like the tradescantia are already dying down and going to seed. I see hours of cutting and composting in my future for next week.

Zanthan Gardens: crinum
2007-04-04. Crinum, coriander (cilantro) and bluebonnets in the meadow.

First Flower: Engelmann daisy (4/3); rose ‘Prosperity (4/4). ‘Prosperity’ is not looking very healthy. The flowers are tiny and wan this year.

Full Bloom: Allium neapolitanum, Coriandrum sativum, Commelinantia anomala, crinum, Iris flavescens, Lupinus texensis, Melia azedarach, Nemophila, Oxalis, Phlomis lanata, Rhaphiolepis indica, rose ‘Ducher’, rose ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’. rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’, viola

Also Flowering: Centaurea cyanus ‘Black Magic’, Consolida amibigua, Lantana montividensis, Lathyrus odoratus ‘Regal Robe’, Lathyrus odoratus ‘Velvet Elegance’, Lavandula heterophyla ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’, Meyer lemon (fading), Muscari racemosum (fading), Narcissus ‘Quail’ (fading), Oenothera speciosa, persimmon (Japanese only), rose ‘Blush Noisette’, rose ‘Heritage’, rose ‘Penelope’, Salvia greggii ‘Raspberry’, Spiraea bridal wreath, tradescantia, Verbena canadensis, yaupon holly.

The pecan trees, the last trees to leaf out, are sprouting at last.

Vegetable Garden: I pulled up the snowpeas because they weren’t much of a success. They grew fine but AJM doesn’t like to eat them. Then when we went to NYC and no one was here to pick them every day they quickly went to seed in the 80 degree days. The lettuce is bolting and the warm weather has made the snails, pillbugs, and whatnot especially ravenous.

Dateline: 2006
I did very little in the garden this week as temperatures soared into the high 80s/low 90s, hitting a record high of 95F on Friday (4/7). This is just the kind of nasty, muggy heat that makes me want to live elsewhere. I find it hard to believe that when my mother visited for the only time four years ago this week, the temperatures remained stubbornly in the 60s and not a single larkspur was in bloom.

photo: Tulipa clusiana
Tulipa clusiana opens and wilts within hours in the record high heat this week.

This year the roses are blooming well, but the flowers open and wilt almost immediately. The bluebonnets are almost completely faded and the Oenothera speciosa has changed the meadow from blue to pink. (It gets easily out of hand). The larkspur is now almost in full bloom, although I have many non-blooming plants still only about a foot high. I wonder if they will get to bloom before it gets too hot.

Today (4/8) we are getting a temporary reprieve from the heat. I hope to convince AJM to make a little border to fence in the gravel path in the front where the yard drops sharply. Maybe I’ll finally finish this project.

First flower: Polanisia dodecandra (4/3); Lonicera japonica (4/4); Allium neapolitanum (4/6), Nerium oleander ‘Turner’s Shari D’ (4/7), Confederate jasmine (4/8).

In Bloom: Aquilegia hinckleyana, baby blue eyes, bridal wreath spiraea, cilantro, Commelinantia anomala, Consolida ambiqua, Diospyros kaki ‘Eureka’ (Japanese persimmon), Iris flavescens, Lavendula heterophyla, Lantana ‘New Gold’, Lupinus texensis (fading) Rhaphiolepis indica (fading), Oenothera speciosa, rose ‘Blush Noisette’, rose ‘Ducher’ (fading) rose ‘Heritage’, rose ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’, rose ‘Madame Joseph Schwartz’, rose ‘New Dawn’, rose ‘Penelope’, rose ‘Prosperity’ rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’, Salvia farinacea ‘Indigo Spires’, Salvia ‘Raspberry’, Tradescantia, Tulipa clusiana (fading), Verbena canadensis.

The cedar elms are sifting a fine dust of pollen over the cars. The pecans are just leafing out. The chinaberry trees leafed out and flowered before I noticed the flower scattered on the paths. We spent the last two weeks hacking back the hackberries which sprout along the fence.

Dateline: 2005
Temperatures rise to the 80s this week, marking the transition between late spring and early summer in our garden. It’s hot enought now to want to work in the shade and to begin worrying about watering. Mostly clear but somewhat muggy and with gusty winds. Tuesday night (4/5) a big storm blows through on its way to destruction in Mississippi dropping a few large hail.

All I do in the garden this week is weed the lawn and kill spring cankerworms. I can’t work outside without getting them in my hair and on my clothes.

First flowers: Oenethera speciosa (4/6), rose ‘Gruss an Aachen’ (4/8).

Full Bloom: columbine, rose ‘Madame Joseph Schwartz’, bluebonnets, baby blue eyes, amaryllis, cilantro.

Fading: Tulipa clusiana, Spanish bluebells.

Dateline: 2004
Mostly gorgeous all week, sunny, temperatures in the 80s, and the light a brilliant fresh green reflecting off all the new growth on trees and bushes. But comes the weekend and temperatures plunge into the 50s and it is windy, cold and rainy.

First Flowers: Tecoma stans (4/4), iris ‘Altruist’ (4/5), rose ‘Sombreuil’ (4/8), California poppies (4/8).

Dateline: 2002
Usually the temperatures creep into the 80s this week, but this year they stayed stubbornly in the 60s. The garden was on hold all week, which disappointed me as my Mom was visiting and it is the first time she has ever seen it. The larkspur, the roses, and the irises all of which I expected to be in full bloom, never opened. Heavy thunderstorms Sunday (4/8) night.

In Full Bloom: The Lady Banks rose (Rosea banksia ‘Lutea’) is a fountain of pale yellow. Opening just in front of it, in the same shade of yellow, are the heirloom irises. Along the front fence, the bridal wreath spiraea creates a second fountain of flowers, these white, .

The Tradescantia and the false dayflowers are at their peak. The overcast skies enabled them to stay open throughout the day. The bluebonnets also continue to be full flower. The second wave of Tulipa clusiana have opened. These are the ones I planted last fall, ‘Cynthia’. They are shorter, more reddish-orange, and the flower remains more “tulip-shaped” under cloudy skies. I prefer the more delicate, pale yellow ones.

Beginnings: The columbine has begun blooming. The white flowers of the Naples onion are opening (very, very slowly as usual).

The two climbing roses along the south wall of the house. ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison‘ and ‘Madame Alfred Carriere‘ are struggling against the ravages of the spring cankerworms (Paleacrata vernata) to bloom. Also, the humidity causes ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ to ball, and I have to open her flowers by peeling back the withered outer petals. But when open, the flowers are so stunning that it is worth any extra effort. Both roses are heavily scented, but with very different scents. The David Austin rose ‘Heritage’ has one flower which I cut to save it from today’s heavy winds and thunderstorms.

Endings: The Spanish bluebells and the wisteria have finished blooming.

Dateline: 1999
Thursday April 8, 1999
Watered the vegetable garden and the sweet peas by hand. Also watered the yellow irises. The ‘Champagne Elegance’ has doubled in size with watering and continues to send up bloom stalks.

The bluebonnets are already dry and weedy-looking, having gone to seed and fallen over. It is too dry. I’m not pleased with the meadow this year. The larkspur is fantastic and the Explorer sweet peas do well if I water them. But the irises are late and I have no cosmos or poppies growing. The nigella would be nice, but I think cats lie on it and flatten it down.

Dateline: 1997
Friday April 4, 1997
Quite different than last year: it has been rainy all week, culminating in fierce storms and flash floods today. As we got home, the front blew through, and their was a chill in the air behind it.

Saturday April 5, 1997
A stunningly beautiful day: clear and sunny. Most of the early spring flowers have faded and the weeds are overgrowing everything.

Tuesday April 8, 1997
Rainy and cooler. Mowed both lawns and the meadow at 1.5. The weeds are stil thick but it looks greener. To repeat from last year: The meadow is in full bloom: blue from bluebonnets, white from Allium neapolitinum, yellow from wild mustard and purple from the ‘Homestead’ verbena. In addition the cosmos is beginning to bloom, as are California poppies.

Dateline: 1996
Friday April 5, 1996
Finally a good rain.

Dateline: 1995
Wednesday April 5, 1995
Heavy rains yesterday afternoon and this morning.

by M Sinclair Stevens

18 Responses to post “Week 14: 4/2-4/8”

  1. From Julia:

    I absolutely love your site. As much for the content as for the presentation. I had no idea anyone locally was dabbling in css and xhtml with a personal and artisitic site. You have achieved some things I have been struggling with. If you would consider mentoring or even just sharing resources, I would be extremely grateful. How do you get the beautiful resolution on your images without weighing down the page. THis is a craft I have not yet mastered. Keep up the wonderful work. I will share this site with all my Austin gardening friends.


  2. From larvalbug (Austin):

    The best thing we have blooming now are the wine-cups. I love that deep magenta color and think they should have been the state flower instead of bluebonnets, since they are such reliable perennials instead of finicky annuals.

    The cactus are also putting on quite a show, but they tend to do that all year, sort of like slow motion fireworks.

  3. From Elizabeth (Rhode Island):

    Hello, I’m jealous of all the blooms you are getting although, I’m glad not to be in that kind of heat. Thank you for your helpful comments on our gardening troubles. I think a few weeks ago you suggested that I join Garden Voices. I had no idea what that was. I recently found them and have submitted my site. Thank you for the suggestion. I’m sure that my site won’t be of much help to experienced gardeners but maybe some of our problems and hopefully solutions will help others just starting out.

    No, Elizabeth, it wasn’t me. I think it was Kathy Purdy at Cold Climate Gardening. They wrote to me about joining, but they can’t access my RSS feed for some reason. — mss

  4. From pria (Austin):

    I just chanced on your blog today. I live in Austin too and have been trying to landscape my backyard. It is great to know I have some place to chat about it. I was wondering if you guys can give me some suggestions for my backyard. It is sunny and rocky and I am hoping to grow some tropical plants! I would be grateful if I get any info.

    I am new to blogging so please bear with me!

    In our current drought, I can’t recommend tropicals, especially if you live in the rocky west side of Austin. Why don’t you try some native plants instead? — mss

  5. From Susan:

    I enjoy looking back at all of the information you have about previous years. We live so close that I know whatever was going on in your garden in 1997 was probably going on in mine as well. I have some hand-written notes in a garden journal I’ve kept sporadically (usually when I was making some major change in the garden) since 1996 but nothing like the depth and breadth of information you have on your site.

    Thanks. — Susan

    I’m amazed to see that we are complaining about the cold this year and last year we were complaining abou. record highs! I have my records scattered all about and I’. trying, this year, to get them sorted and organized. My problem is that I use too many systems! — mss

  6. From Annie in Austin:

    You have crinum blooming!?! The tops of mine froze off this winter and they’re recovering, but I can’t imagine a bloom in April. That’s a nice yellow iris, too.

    We’ve also had the irritating experience of wonderful weather before someone comes to visit, crummy weather while they’re here, and within hours of the departure of our guests, the warmth returns. But other visitors had better-than-normal weather, so maybe it evens out.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    The crinums in the front yard froze back but these in the back are a different kind with a more bluish foliage and smaller. This is the first year they’ve really bloomed at all. They’re almost faded now and I’m disappointed that they’ll be finished by the time you visit. — mss

  7. From Julie (Austin):

    The weather casting biz depends on histrionics. “Oh, can you believe it!! Watch out!”

    Love how your voice is even tempered, the voice of recent history, and a good reminder that “we have all been here before.”

    Sorry I haven’t gotten the rain barrel by. Taking off for Kentucky tomorrow…

  8. From Ki (New Jersey):

    I’m amazed your coriander have already flowered. Ours haven’t even come up yet. I wish they could breed a slower bolting variety so we could keep them around longer to use in salsas and green curry. The iris are gorgeous. We have a similar one but not as robust, only growing to half the size as yours.

    Mine have been flowering for more than six weeks and are starting to go to seed this week. I find it annoying that cilantro season and tomato season are not the same. I love fresh salsa. — mss

  9. From Dee/reddirtramblings:

    Yes, we get slapped upside the head too. I had to smile at that. Last year was particularly abhorrent for you my dear. Right now, I want to return to Austin and enjoy Spring Fling with you and Pam and Diana, et al. I will always remember it and you fondly. You were so nice to drive me around town. Your garden looks wonderful this time of year.~~Dee

  10. From Jenny Austin:

    I am sure it is not true. One week only! However. I know what you mean. Spring flowers don’t last for ever and my garden is at its spring peak now. Like you I wander around admiring it and in awe of the wonderful blooms. Then I think of how I can better improve it and what will be flowering next and will we get any rain!!!!!!!

  11. From Layanee:

    The Garden of Eden was never more beautiful than that picture. It is gratifying to hear that you are enjoying that ‘perfect’ time which seems so fleeting. Your picture made me smile.

  12. From Julie:

    That “heaven’s eye” view in the first photo is so beautiful. I love the combination of soft looking plants (things that look fuzzy from afar like the cilantro) with lines and crunchy paths.

    Here’s to early April.


  13. From M2 (Bothell):

    Your garden looks wonderful. I especially like the “wander through nature” lines of the paths. I can tell you’ve put a lot of work on it … and under some harsh conditions this year! I hope you take a break and sit in it with a glass of wine … maybe with your eyes closed so you don’t hop up and work on it some more!

  14. From Carol, May Dreams Gardens:

    One of my favorite memories from spring fling last year was being in the meadow garden at its peak. It’s a beautiful place, and I can’t imagine it any other way than how it is right now with the larkspur in bloom. I hope you don’t get slap too badly by the Texas weather this summer.

  15. From Mr. McGregor's Daughter:

    Your garden looks beautiful now, all green, and white, yellow & blue. Although it may be “summer” already in your garden, the colors speak of spring, and freshness. Here’s hoping the drought will finally get bored of Texas and leave town.

  16. From Annie in Austin:

    The roof view gets me, too – you can get a better idea of how the shapes and spaces work together and how gently the colors blend.

    Carol said it well…being in your meadow during 2008 Spring Fling is also one of my favorite memories, MSS!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  17. From Dawn:

    Lovely view, MSS! It would be cool to have a permanent turret up on top of your roof so you could see your garden from that vantage point whenever you like. 🙂

    I can attest to the fact that your garden does indeed look magical right now. There is color at every turn and so much of the foliage is light and airy. The word that keeps springing to my mind is: “Enchanting”.


  18. From angelina:

    For someone who claims to not be a very design oriented gardener I must say this picture makes a liar out of you! How lovely your garden design is! I hope that mine will eventually have such a lovely look.