April 23rd, 2011
Week 16: 4/16 – 4/22

photo: daffodils
2011-04-19. Essex, CT. Daffodils under gray skies. Probably the only photo I took that didn’t show forsythia.

Dateline: 2011

We travelled back in time this week. In New England, spring is just beginning to win the battle against winter. Forsythia is in bloom everywhere as are daffodils and a few tulips. For the most part, April still wears bare trees against bleak gray skies. We saw several flowering trees and plants that I’m unfamiliar with; I love how alien new landscapes seem even those on the same continent. We wear hat, gloves, and windbreakers over sweaters the whole time we are there. In contrast, temperatures in Austin soar into the mid 90s (the forecast I saw was for 97 but the actual high was 95 on 4/18), wildfires burn across drought-stricken Texas, and Governor Perry offers Texans a faith-based solution: we should all spend three days praying for rain. Rain was a problem in Connecticut, too–not a lack but a surfeit. The Connecticut River was over its banks in East Haddam. 2011 reminds me of 1993: severe drought in Texas; severe flooding along the Mississippi.

Zanthan Gardens made a big leap forward in our short week away. Yellow rules. The retama is in full bloom. The prickly pear cacti have their first flowers as does the rose ‘Mermaid’. The sago palm is putting out new fronds. The bluebonnet seedpods are dry and ready to pop. The coral vine is flowering. The ‘Angel’s Choir’ and ‘Lauren’s Grape’ poppies have put out a few wan flowers, mostly drained of color. The pomegranate has beautiful double flowers. (I think this is the first ever.) I’m happily surprised to see the Pride of Barbados coming back from its roots. I’d given up on it. The only big disappointment is my horsetail. I had nursed it back to health over the winter and it was looking better than it ever had. Now it looks mostly dry, brown and crispy. All the other potted plants, which I’d brought inside out of the sun, survived–even two pots of mint. The other plant I’m worried about is the allspice. It was so big and healthy and now the leaves are simply drying up and dying and there is no new growth. I think it might be getting too much water and rotting.

Looking over the history below, I see that it’s not unusual for Austin to hit the high 90s or even the 100s this week in April during a La Niña year. Facts are no comfort. I’d prefer my delusion that these temperatures are outrageous not typical.

I was expecting the garden to be toast on my return. It did better than I expected. The larkspur and nigella are short and already dry so they are dying out gracefully. I do regret that the flowers on the confederate jasmine have already turned brown and stopped giving off their scent. Had I been here to water them, they might still be in full bloom. Now I have to wait a whole year to smell them again.

Dateline: 2007

A gorgeous week with high temperatures only in the 70s. (Compare that to last year when it was 100!) By the end of the week the air is heavy with a moisture. Dark clouds threaten our garden visits on Sunday (4/22) but it only drizzles a bit when we’re at Susan’s. This is my favorite kind of week. Why can’t every April be like this?

The garden looked nice all week during SAM’s spring break visit. And with AJM taking the week off, he knocked a lot of things off his honey-do list. In preparation for the summer house project, we cut down all the Texas mountain laurels that I’d grown from seed and never gotten around to transplanting. They were about 7 feet tall.

First Flower: Texas dandelion (4/16); white crinum in meadow (4/16), Lonicera japonica (4/16); Zephyranthes (white rainlily) (4/18); iris ‘Raspberry Wine’ (4/20); rose “Scott’s Ruston” (4/21); rose ‘New Dawn’ (three babies) (4/22); rose ‘Red Cascade’ (4/22); Nigella damascena (4/22).

In Bloom: Centaurea cyanus ‘Black Magic’, Consolida ambigua, Commelinantia anomala, Coriandrum sativum. Duranta erecta, Engelmann daisy, Hippaestrum x Johnsonii, Lathyrus odoratus ‘Regal Robe’, Lathyrus odoratus ‘Velvet Elegance’, Lavender ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’, Oenethera speciosa, Oxalis crassipes, Oxalis triangularis, Phlomis lanata, Polanisia dodecandra, rose ‘Blush Noisette’ (wow!), rose ‘Ducher’, rose ‘French Lace’, rose ‘Heritage’ (even more wow), rose ‘Penelope’, rose ‘New Dawn’ (best year ever), Salvia faranacea ‘Indigo spires’, Salvia greggii ‘Raspberry’, Texas dandelion, Trachelospermum jasminoides (stunningly full bloom), Tradescantia pallida, Verbena canadensis, viola.

Fading: Allium neapolitinum, Iris flavescens, Lupinus texensis, Nemophila insignis, rose ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’, rose ‘Prosperity’, rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’, Spiraea bridal wreath, Tradescantia (spiderwort).

Vegetable garden: The tomatoes continue to flower and set fruit. We had to pick off the first three tiny tomatoes because something bit a hole in each one.

Dateline: 2006

photo: rose Mermaid
The thorny, climbing rose ‘Mermaid’.

The week began with temperatures topping 100 at ABIA. Our first 100 degree day of the year; certainly not the last. Tuesday (4/18) brought some thunderstorms, less than half an inch of rain, and cooler temperatures. Thursday (4/20) it rained on and off through out the afternoon. Then, after we’ve gone to bed a tremendous thunderstorm hit and we get a good drenching rain. San Marcos, to the south of us, was not so lucky. The storm drops softball-sized hail. $100 million in hail damage.

With the garden wet with rain and the temperatures cooler, I spent all of Friday and Saturday pulling up the dying spiderwort and false day flower to put in a new compost pile. Their stems are wet and gooey (like Wandering Jew to which they are related), so they make a great “green” layer to mix in with dry sticks and leaves. If I don’t compost them, they dissolve into a messy rotting mass in this heat and humidity. The annual false dayflowers pull up as easily as if they didn’t have stems and the perennial spiderworts snap off at the base of the stem.

Yesterday (4/22), AJM helped me remove and chop up a large, dead cherry laurel so we could put it out for this week’s large brush collection. There’s a certain kind of brush that is too small to burn and too large to compost that I put out for collection now that I no longer have a leaf grinder. Afterward I weeded that whole bed along the west fence. Now that one section of the yard looks more like a garden than an overgrown lot.

Confederate jasmine remains the star of the garden for the second week running. I’m glad because SAM was down from Connecticut for spring break and he planted it originally.

First Flower: rose ‘Mermaid’ (4/16); rose “Scott’s Ruston” (4/19); Hibiscus syriacus (4/19).

In Bloom: Aquilegia hinckleyana, Engelmann daisy, Iris flavescens, iris ‘Mystic’s Muse’, cilantro, Consolida ambigua, Lantana (gold), Lavender ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’, Lonicera japonica, Mirabilis jalapa (wild pink), Nerium oleander ‘Turner’s Shari D.”, Polanisia dodecandra, red yucca, Salvia farinacea ‘Indigo Spires’, Salvia (raspberry), Texas dandelion, Verbena canadensis. Roses: ‘Blush Noisette’ (bloomed beautifully the last few weeks and then as soon as it threatened rain, all the flowers balled); ‘Buff Beauty’; ‘Heritage’ (full bloom); ‘New Dawn’ (full bloom); ‘Penelope’; ‘Prosperity’; ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ (a scattering of rebloom),

Despite my thinking that some plants would never bloom, my records show that quite a few of the heat-tolerant plants are blooming earlier than ever before. rose ‘Heritage’ (2006: Mar 11; previously Apr 7); Oenothera speciosa (2006: Mar 20; previously Apr 1); rose ‘Prosperity’ (2006: Mar 24; previously Apr 18); Polanisia dodecandra (2006: Apr 3; previously Apr 14). Lonicera japonica (2006: Apr 4; previously Apr 11); confederate jasmine (2006: Apr 8; previously Apr 17); Mirabilis jalapa (2006: Apr 13; previously Apr 26); rose ‘Mermaid’ (2006: Apr 16, previously Apr 28); Hibiscus syriacus (2006: Apr 19; previously May 13).

The water-loving spring annuals and bulbs bloomed later than usual waiting for rain. The combination of these two events makes it feel like four months worth of bloom have been crammed into six weeks. If I didn’t have it down in writing, I’d never guess that I’m usually enjoying daffodils and irises this time of year.

Dateline: 2005

Iris week. With the scents of honeysuckle and jasmine, summer is in the air. Cloudy and gloomy (but not cold) all week. Threatened rain never reached the inner city.

First Flower: iris ‘Night Game’ (4/16), iris ‘Strictly Ballroom’ (4/18), Salvia faranacea ‘Indigo Spires’ (4/18), Nigella damascena (4/19), iris ‘Cloud Ballet’ (4/19), iris ‘Mystic’s Muse’ (4/19), white rainlilies (4/20), Trachelospermum jasminoides (4/21), Tecoma stans (4/22).

The rose, ‘New Dawn’ always puts out a couple of flowers in March. On 4/18 she began again and now she is in full bloom. This year she is cascading over the fence, covered in, as if she’s posing for her catalog photo. (Note: 2007, ditto).

The pecans are leafed out bearing long racemes that promise a happy fall for squirrels.

Dateline: 2004

The highs been in the 80s most of the week and cloudy, which helps beat the heat. We got a good thunderstorm last night, and the cooler temperatures that follow are a relief after two very warm, muggy nights.

I’m going to have to update the photo gallery, but not today. The ‘Heritage’ rose and been providing many beautiful bouquets this week. It’s the most it’s ever bloomed.

photo: rose 'Heritage'
Rose ‘Heritage’. 2003-04-25. Austin Texas (zone 8)

Click here for more photos

First Flower: iris ‘Silverado’ (4/17); rose ‘Heritage’ (4/17), Trachelospermum jasminoides (4/17); LA hybrid lily ‘Spirit‘ (4/18), Polanisia dodecandra (4/19), rose ‘New Dawn’ (4/20), Datura inoxia (4/20), iris ‘Night Game’ (4/22), rose ‘Buff Beauty’ (4/22).

Dateline: 2003-04-25

Spring is over and summer is beginning. The wind shifted to the north and the air was quite dry, which turned the sky an incredible blue and made being in the garden more pleasant than yesterday’s withering 96 degree record high. However, the damage was done. Most of the rose blossoms turned brown along the edges of their petals or dried out completely and dropped. I spent most of the day watering and mulching.

Dateline: 2002-04-21

Nigella damascena

Just as the larkspur begin dominating the garden, the bluebonnets begin fading and going to seed. The Lady Banks rose and the bridal wreath have finished. The pecans are leafing out and the chinaberry trees are in full bloom. The spiderwort and false dayflowers are past their prime. Today, I mowed down the stand of spiderwort and then thought, “Hmm. This would be a good spot for a new garden.”

This week would be perfect for sitting in the garden visually harvesting the fruits of the last six months labor, except the temperatures have been in the 80s accompanied with high humidity. The air is heavy and oppressive. It feels like June. That was the official opinion of the weatherman, as he assured us that we were experiencing unusually warm weather for April.

Weather like this is one reason that I’ve designed (and I use the word loosely) the garden as a view garden. A view garden is meant to be seen framed through a window.

In the early morning I also cut flowers to enjoy them indoors. Not only do they last much longer than when they are outdoors struggling against the heat and bugs, but I can see them whenever I look up.

Many people have assumed that I’m one of those people that would never cut flowers. But since I grow mostly annuals, cutting them only encourages more bloom. Besides, I grow flowers to enjoy the flowers. The garden is not mature enough to really have much structure or design that would be damaged by cutting a few flowers. And I doubt that I’ll ever be one of those people who uses plants as “garden material” to fill in a design. No. I’m in the other camp…where the plants come before the design.

Dateline: 1996

Sunday April 21, 1996
Two days last week it was in the high 90s, dry and windy. According to the paper, the average high is supposed to be 84 and the former record was 94. But it reached 98. The yard looks faded, dry, and dusty. It might as well be July or August.

* The oxalis has faded. This would probably be a good time to move them.
* The sweet peas, just on the verge of blooming, have started withering.
* The Spanish bluebells are faded.
* The narcissus foliage is brown and drying up–except for the paperwhites which are doing very well.
* The horseherb is growing again. I watered it and it responds immediately. Before it starts it growth season, it can be mowed back severely. [2005-04-30. I know consider horseherb a terrible weed and pull it out whenever I can. But there is no killing it.]
* The rudbeckia that overwintered (with no care whatever) is now about a foot tall and bushy. An occassional flower.
* The rocket larksput is a blaze of color. They like water, but are rewarding me with a fantastic display.
* The gold lantana is beginning to flower. The plants look healthy and robust.
* The white lantana is doing well, but the leaves looked chlorotic. I dug in half a scoop of copperas for each of them.
* Some of the spiderwort is setting seed and I tried cutting the seedheads off to see if I can get it to bloom more.
* The trumpet vine has come back again. Perhaps this year it will finally take hold. It might be getting more sunlight now that the trees to the west have fallen.
* The wild ruellia is about a foot tall everywhere.
* The false dayflowers are setting seed.

by M Sinclair Stevens

8 Responses to post “Week 16: 4/16 – 4/22”

  1. From Jenny Kane:

    You are a great photographer. Your pictures are as good as any I’ve seen in magazines or books on gardening. Needless to say, you are a phenomenal gardener as well.

  2. From prairie point:

    I like the effect of that Love-in-a-mist. I’ve never seen that before.

  3. From Gail Fiock Fremont California:

    Help, I planted a lady banks rose at our junior high, was blooming on a beautiful purple trellis installed by an eagle scout. Our colors are purple and gold.. it was just popping with blooms then I fertilized just to help it along.. a 10-10-10 blend I think, just a 1/4 cup at the surface dug in.. watered well.. all the roses are now crunchy and brown.. lots of aphids too.. I’m just sick.. have blasted with water and keeping watered regularly once/week a deep soak.. suggestions.. thought I couldn’t kill this!

    You do know Lady Banks roses bloom only once a year, right? When the flowers die, that’s it until next year. I’ve killed four of them, so I’m ahead of you in that department. By the way, you seem to be missing some end punctuation. If you prefer ellipsis, then it is “…” not “.. “. — mss

  4. From Annie in Austin:

    How beautiful the daffodils look with hills and stone walls! I’ve never seen a New England spring but think there are many of the same plants we had in Northern Illinois, set into a flat landscape. You could import rocks from Wisconsin but they weren’t cheap.

    My allspice plant lives in the breakfast room now, not growing much, but alive. And after most of the horsetail died from the freezes, I took the whole pot apart & managed to pull out a few live pieces. Let’s split up the survivors and see if we can get them to grow again.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  5. From angelina:

    When I saw the picture at the top I thought that was a graveyard with the clumps of daffodils marking each grave.

  6. From michele:

    The pitfalls of being an avid gardener who travels is who will care for the garden when you are traveling:) I know people who schedule holidays that will not interfere with gardening season.

  7. From Gap Garden Products:

    I love your photos, do you mind if i use one in my blog? of course i will properly cite it back to this page.

    Of course I mind. You do NOT have my permission to use any of my photos for commercial purposes, or for any purposes. — mss

  8. From lucky@landscapes austin:

    Very great post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I’ve truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing on your feed and I’m hoping you write again very soon!