May 3rd, 2010
Week 17: 4/23 – 4/29

photo: Zanthan Gardens larkspur
2010-04-29. The front yard has been given over completely to larkspur. In the foreground the pale pink rose ‘Blush Noisette’ is in full bloom. ‘New Dawn’ is also in full bloom rambling along the pickets beyond the pecan tree now fully leafed out.

“The flowers that bloom so sweetly wither and fall. Our human life, too, is fleeting. Today, again, I will cross the mountain pass of this uncertain world, and will not entertain shallow dreams or give away to drunkenness.” Iro no Ha. Translated by Francis G. Drohan. A Handbook of Japanese Usage. p. 90.

Dateline: 2010
The scent of honeysuckle and jasmine pervades the garden. The week began hot and sticky with a 90°F temperature recorded at the Bouldin station (4/23) and worse, overnight temperatures barely dipping below 70°F. Then a couple of fronts blew in bringing cooler temperatures but no rain. It was a beautiful week for spring cleanup.

I spent all week cutting back bluebonnets and cilantro. I let too much cilantro bolt and it dominated the meadow. As I cut it back, I reveal drifts of yellow (Engelmann daisy), pink (pink evening primrose), and blue and white (Love-in-a-Mist). The last I love best in white because at dusk it looks like little stars are floating in the meadow.

The oleander damaged in January’s freeze is producing new shoots from the ground. Some new shoots are also sprouting from old stems but I probably should cut them all the way to the ground so that it looks compact and bushy. The opuntia is putting out new pads but I don’t care if it never comes back. Both are a long way from flowering unlike this time last year.

The tomatoes are all setting fruit. The biggest and most prolific so far are ‘Jaune Flamme’. Both plants are waist high.

First flower: rose ‘Red Cascade’ (4/23), Trachelospermum jasminoides (4/25), Papaver somniferum ‘Lauren’s Grape’ (4/29), rose ‘Mermaid’ (4/29), amaryllis ‘Black Pearl’ (4/29).

Dateline: 2009
photo: Zanthan Gardens meadow
2009-05-01. Zanthan Gardens meadow going to seed.
Week 17 is the transition from late spring to early summer this year. The pecan tree has leafed out and I worry that the tomatoes which were getting sun from 8am to 4pm are now in shade until almost 11am. I hope I got them in early enough to get some fruit. The Azoychka has a tennis-ball sized tomato but most of the other plants have golf-ball sized fruit. This week turned very humid, more like a normal Austin spring. We’ve turned on the AC at night because of the humidity. Most of the year the air has been desert dry, resulting in wide temperature fluctuations: hot days but refreshingly cool nights. This week the moist Gulf air kept the night time lows above 70°F which means some tomatoes will stop setting. I will be watching to see if any of the varieties I’m growing this year are less heat sensitive.

All the meadow flowers are going to seed. The garden has a look of a prom queen after a hard night of partying. I’ve been busy cutting back cilantro, larkspur, and bluebonnets and saving seeds. Luckily we had a very good rain on Monday (4/27) so I haven’t had to water.

The roses have been wonderful this year. The two ‘New Dawn’ roses are sending arches of pale pink flowers over the fences. ‘Red Cascade’ is a mass of dainty, deep red flowers. ‘Blush Noisette’ is covered in buds; tragically she does not like humidity one bit and they all balled instead of opening. ‘Memaid’ has climbed into the Rose of Sharon and they are both in full bloom at the same time causing people to wonder what kind of tree that is. ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ is on break but already sending out new buds, as is ‘Ducher’. ‘Prosperity’ was in full bloom last week but its white flowers turned brown in the rain. Only ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’ remains unhappy now that the trees have leafed out and put her back in the shade.

photo: Opuntia ficus-indica
This also the first really good year for the Opuntia ficus-indica, the spineless prickly pear. They’re in full bloom all over Austin. I don’t know if I notice them more because I have one now or if this is just a particularly good year for them.

The sago palm is sending up new fronds this week, too.

First Flower: Cosmos sulphureus (4/24); iris “Incantation’ (4/25); crape myrtle ‘Catawba’ (4/25); Abelia grandiflora (4/27); Dutchman’s pipe (but don’t know exact date); Nigella damascena ‘Mulberry Rose’ (4/29); Cosmos bipinattus ‘Rose bon bon’ (4/29).

Dateline: 2007
photo: Confederate jasmine
Trachelospermum jasminoides. The intense spicy scent of Confederate jasmine fills the yard this time of year. Honeysuckle and magnolia are also on the air.

April 2007 is going to be remembered as one of the best months ever in my garden. This enchanted April! Most of the month the temperature stayed in the 70s. Only this weekend (4/27 and 4/28) did the temperatures climb into the mid-80s to presage early summer. If Austin’s Aprils could always be like this one, I could persevere through Austin’s Augusts with my chin held a little higher.

With these moderate temperatures, the roses are still thriving. Instead of flowers opening in the morning and wilting by afternoon, as they so often do in Austin, they’ve just been lovely for days and weeks. My favorite part of this time of year is how the Confederate jasmine scents my entire yard.

Threat of big storm Tuesday night (4/24) makes us shut down our computers. We get a quarter inch of rain but, thankfully, none of the high winds, hail or tornadoes forecast. Down on the border, they are not so fortunate. Eagle Pass and its sister city, Piedras Negras, are hit with a killer tornado which kills ten.

First Flower: rose ‘Mermaid’ (4/23); Nerium oleander (4/23) one flower; Lantana ‘New Gold’ (4/23), Callistemon citrinus ‘Little John’ (4/26); Mirabilis jalapa (4/29) the hot-pink passalong from Val.

Not much new is coming into bloom. My mostly meadow garden is going to seed and, when it does, I’m going to pack in the trowel until fall.

In Bloom: Centaurea cyanus ‘Black Magic’, Commelinantia anomala, Consolida ambigua, Coriandrum sativum (full bloom), crinum (meadow), Duranta erecta, Engelmann daisy (full bloom). Lathyrus odoratus ‘Regal Robe’, Lathyrus odoratus ‘Velvet Elegance’, Lavandula heterophyla ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’ (full bloom), Oenethera speciosa, Oxalis crassipes, Oxalis triangularis. Nigella damascena, Polanisia dodecandra, rose ‘Blush Noisette’ (wow!), rose ‘Ducher’, rose ‘French Lace’, rose ‘Heritage’ (even more wow), rose ‘Penelope’, rose ‘New Dawn’ (best year ever), rose ‘Red Cascade’ 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, Hippaestrum x Johnsonii, Nemophila insignis, Phlomis lanata, Spiraea bridal wreath, Tradescantia (spiderwort).

Vegetable garden: I bought two basil plants from Gardens, a Thai basil and a cinammon basil, with very tiny cute leaves and an intense scent.

Dateline: 2006
The weather turned wonderfully cooler this week with highs only in the 80s. After last week’s 100 degree temperatures, I can assure you that (in contrast to my remarks in 2003) 80 feels cool. There were mornings that my hands actually felt cold.

Such lovely weather is rare in Austin and I took advantage of it by spending the week sifting and spreading compost so that the beds would look tidy for summer. I also forked the existing mulch around the larger bushes so that any rain we might get would have a chance to soak in. Many mulches become compacted and has hard as concrete during Austin’s dry spells, so you should break it up with a hoe or rake when rain is in the forecast. Friday (4/28) morning was cool and misty and sometime late Friday night we received about an inch of rain. As a result Saturday (4/29) was one of the most perfect days this year. Even my lawn looked like it might past muster in a suburban neighborhood.

Tuesday (4/25) white rainlilies were all open at once and then disappeared the next day.

Two perennials (coral bean and esperanza) which had frozen to the ground this winter flowered this week. I’m still waiting on the plumbago to bloom.

One small flower formed on the iris ‘Champagne Elegance’, but it turned brown and died before it could open. This has been a very bad year for irises in my Austin garden…even the normally irrepressible Iris flavescens has had two or three flowers.

photo: Zanthan Gardens Week 17
The beds and paths look much more respectable when they’re weeded and mulched. Coral bean and red yucca bloom among the roses, but there isn’t an iris flower in sight.

First Flowers: Pavonia hastata (4/23); Erythrina herbacea (coral bean) (4/24); Zephyranthes (white rainlilies) (4/24); rose ‘Red Cascade’ (4/25); retama (4/26); Tecoma stans (4/26).

In Bloom: Coriandrum sativum (going to seed), Consolida ambigua, Hesperaloe parviflora, Hibiscus syriacus, Lantana ‘New Gold’, Lavandula heterophyla, Lupinus texensis (going to seed), Mirabilis jalapa (hot pink), Nerium oleander ‘Shari D’, Oenothera speciosa, Salvia farinacea ‘Indigo Spires’, Trachelospermum jasminoides. Roses: ‘Buff Beauty’, ‘Blush Noisette’, ‘Heritage’, ‘Madame Joseph Schwartz’, ‘Mermaid’, ‘New Dawn’, ‘Penelope’, ‘Prosperity’, “Scott’s Ruston”.

Dateline: 2005
We’re having a strange, and welcome, long spring. Every time it gets into the eighties another cold front blows in. I think we dropped into the 40s at one point this week. Given that some years we’re in the high 90s this week, this year has been wonderful! It’s been an unusually clear, cool, dry week. One day the humidity was only in the teens and the weatherman was practically orgasmic.

Unfortunately I’ve been completely unable to enjoy it. On Sunday (4/24) allergies hit hard, followed by a sinus infection. I couldn’t go outside and all I wanted to do was sleep. Friday (4/29) was more like normal–muggy and in the high 80s. Just as I was cursing the approach of summer, another front blew in. I hope this one brings rain.

The rose news is exactly the same as last year. ‘New Dawn’ is the star this week, and ‘Blush Noisette’ is the perfect accompaniment. The cool weather results in each flower looking fresh for several days, instead of the usual drying up and turning brown in one day. The larkspur is at its peak. The love-in-a-mist is filling in where the bluebonnets are going to seed. The yellow irises and the yellow Engelmann’s daisy make a nice color exclamation.

First Flowers: iris ‘Incantation’ (4/24), rose ‘Peace’ (4/26), rose ‘Mermaid’ (4/28), rose “Scott’s Ruston” (4/29).

Dateline: 2004
Very much like last year except that we had an exceptionally wet April rather than an exceptionally dry one. The roses are happy. For the first time in 7 weeks, ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ has no flowers, but she is getting ready for a second flush. ‘Blush Noisette’ is taking up the slack and is a fountain of pink. Behind her, ‘New Dawn’ echoes the pale pink tint, but with larger more elegant flowers. In the backyard, ‘Prosperity’ is likewise laden and ‘Heritage’, ‘Penelope’ and ‘Madame Joseph Schwartz’ and putting out a few flowers every day.

The irises are not happy. I think they want some sun. The larkspur also looks bad. It’s rotting before the flowers can open and I wonder if any seed will set this year. The love-in-a-mist, cilantro, Mirabilis jalapa, sweet pea, Oenothera, and bluebonnets continue to flower. But all is getting seedy and I’m already clearing it away.

photo: Consolida ambigua
2004-04-28. Larkspur in a field of coriander (cilantro).

First flower: iris ‘Champagne Elegance‘ (4/24), lantana ‘New Gold’ (4/24), Mirabalis jalapa, hot pink (4/26), Acanthus mollis (4/30), iris ‘Raspberry Wine‘ (4/30), rose ‘Scott’s Ruston’ (4/30), Agastache foeniculum (4/30).

Dateline: 2003
Early summer is right on schedule. The air is heavy with the scent of Cape jasmine (aka Confederate jasmine) and magnolias. And there is the oppressive weight of humid air from the Gulf, which makes even temperatures in the 80s seem unpleasant. We turned our air-conditioner on for the first time, not because of the heat but because of the humidity. Low clouds roll in every morning, promising rain that they never deliver. By mid-afternoon they burn off leaving us hot and dry. I find myself avoiding the garden, viewing it from indoors.

The yellow heirloom irises are finished. The larkspur, although still standing, has a faded, dried flower look. The pink evening primroses just look weedy. I just want to clear it all away. In this sweltering heat, the cottage garden style is fussy and oppressive. Space and a whiff of cool air is what we need, the garden and I.

The pale pink roses ‘New Dawn’ and ‘Blush Noisette’ are in full bloom. But the heat causes the flowers to brown quickly and so they are not very attractive. The new climber ‘Mermaid’ flowered for the first time this week. I’ve seen huge specimens around town and I’m looking forward to our future years together.

The iris ‘Seakist’ is blooming in masses. It really wants more water than it got this year, as did all the irises. The danger, is that with this stickiness, whenever I water I chance rot.

First flower: iris ‘Seakist’ (4/23), Polanisia dodecandra (4/23), iris ‘Raspberry Wine’ (4/27).

Dateline: 2002
With high temperatures in the 90s and low temperatures dropping only to the mid-70s, the garden has gone to seed very quickly. Although temperatures are above average, it’s not really unusual to reach the 90s in April. But just as an early freeze in northern gardens ends the season prematurely, so does an early heat wave here.

First Flower: bearded iris ‘Night Game’ (4/23).

Only the roses are blooming. The climber ‘New Dawn’ is a cascade of large flesh-pink flowers. Sadly, they open and fade in one day. ‘Blush Noisette’ is similarly covered with small, extremely fragrant bouquets of pale pink flowers. The David Austin rose ‘Heritage’ has doubled in size and is blooming. It has large, glossy, deep green leaves.

Dateline: 2001
Sunday April 29, 2001
AJM spends all weekend moving the faucet for the vegetable garden drip system and installing the timing mechanism.

Lots of butterflies (the black swallowtails with blue markings) on the larkspur. The temperature is in the mid-80s, but clear, dry and pleasant. It’s easy to forget that the plants dry out quickly and need much watering. If this were Connecticut or England, this would be a hot summer day.

I continue weeding the meadow and then water it with the hose. The bluebonnets have gone to seed but the larkspur is at its peak. I turn the compost and find two snakes and two toads. Put the old compost pile around the ‘New Dawn’ rose to create the beginnings of that bed.

Dateline: 2000
Sunday April 23, 2000 Easter
The garden withers before my eyes as temperatures reach 97.

Dateline: 1999
Friday April 23, 1999
First day at the Frost Bank building; only had to go in for 4 hours for the final CCB before code freeze. Walked there and back. Hottest day of the year so far. The official temperature was 89 degrees. But the sign at Palmer Audtiorium said that it was 94.

Monday April 26, 1999
More rain. I watch the storm from my new office on the thirteenth floor of the Frost Bank building. The storm snaps the dead tree in our neighbor to the south, crashing into the wooden fence that was downed during the big treefall. Just last weekend I pointed out to AJM that there was a big hollow in it and it looked rotten and ready to fall.

Tuesday April 27, 1999
Found two toads by the wall by the driveway. Glad to see them back.

Tuesday April 27, 1999
Black-eyed Susan. First flower of a self-sown flower. Of course, this year, they are all self-sown. I don’t do anything with them anymore, but let them grow where they will.)
Lysimachia. The creeping Jenny bloomed. I wasn’t expecting that.

Dateline: 1998
Sunday April 26, 1998
Hot and muggy. SAM leaves. In the evening, it rains hard.

Dateline: 1997
Sunday April 27, 1997
It’s cold again: high 57, low 53. I had to turn on the heater last night and we built a fire; contrast this weather with last Monday(4/21) when we had turned on the air conditioning because it was 89.

It got sunnier and warmer at the beginning of the week. Then it began raining at night. On Thursday and Friday nights we had tremendous thunderstorms. It was black and rainy all day Friday and drizzly and rainy most of Saturday.

First Flower: Lathyrus odoratus (4/23).

Dateline: 1995
Sunday April 23, 1995
The day is sunny, windy, and continues to be about 20 degrees cooler than usual for the season. I buy seed packets of cosmos bipannatus, zinnias, and marigold.

I go to DF’s. She also gives me a Black-foot daisy, which I transplant as soon as I get home. The wind sucks the moisture out of it and it wilts, so I cover it with a clay pot. Black-foot daisy a compact perennial which flowers from June through frost.

First Flower: Consolida ambigua (4/23).

by M Sinclair Stevens

12 Responses to post “Week 17: 4/23 – 4/29”

  1. From Dana Scragg Frank:

    I really enjoy your photos of your garden. It’s too bad that the heat and dryness came on so fast so that everything was so short lived. I do have a small pot of larkspur though, including a couple of pink ones, that my mother-in-law had planted and gave me. I can’t seem to grow them out here when I just broadcast the seeds whereas in my Clarksville yard, they were insane every year.

  2. From Wyn:

    Your site is an inspiration as usual as to what a gardening blog should look like. It just oozes with freshness. The pics are sharp and clear. I look, I read and I learn!

    Our gardening season is well on the way now in Switzerland and we have plans and dreams for this season that we will discover as time goes by (resists bursting into song :-).

    Wyn, thanks for your encouragement. And thanks for sharing your garden blog with us. I look forward to comparing how your garden in Switzerland progresses through the seasons. Although many people assume, looking at our frost dates, that Austin has an incredibly long growing season, we really have two rather short seasons interrupted by a hot, humid summer. — mss

  3. From paupie:

    I love love love your blog. What an inspiration! I am a gardener in East Austin and hope to someday be as great a gardener as you.

    Paupie, you’re too sweet. I don’t think I’m a very good gardener, but I do love to play in the dirt. — mss

  4. From Annie in Austin:

    Reporting from NW Austin – first flowers open on Larkspur/consolida, first flowers on Salvia guaranitica; Achillea

    Moonshine’ is now blooming, both reddish-purple clematis continue to open buds, and both Trachelospermum jasminoides are also in full, heady bloom. Buds are forming on daylilies and Shastas. There’s only one magnolia bud, not open yet.

    My once-blooming roses on the fence are fading fast and look like heck. Yours are apparently still wonderful, M!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  5. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    This past April really did seem enchanted: cool, rainy, but with plenty of sun too. Why can’t it always be like this, right? I’m glad you pointed it out, though, so that we can all take a deep breath and be thankful for a lovely spring as we prepare for summer.

  6. From Ki (New Jersey):

    I love all the Jasmines. I envy you that you can grow them. Thankfully we have magnolias and the honeysuckles though they are yet to bloom – I love their heady scent along with the brambles.

  7. From Carol, May Dreams Gardens:

    I’m impressed by the number of roses you have growing and blooming in your garden.

  8. From Joanne Surrey UK:

    Hi Nice of you to pop over and look at my Wisteria.

    I enjoyed looking through your blog quickly.

    You clearly don’t seem to have any trouble getting other things to flower.

    Wisteria likes a lot of moisture and between mature trees probably doesn’t get enough. I feed mine with tomato feed on occassions. To get Wisteria to flower you need to prune all side shoots back Alan Tichmarsh says to a foot in early summer and then down to about three inches. Mike prunes ours and I try to nag him not to cut back too close to the main stems or we loose next years flowers.

    Fancy your New Dawn flowering in April. Mine will not be out until probably the end of this month.

  9. From Jenny Austin:

    Your prom queen still looks pretty good to me. I am bursting to get some stuff out but how can I when the blooms keep coming. I think it is a good far for the pp this year. Isn’t this the same with some plant every year. I find it to be so. Tomatoes this year may be a flop. They are developing early blight far too early.

  10. From Dee/reddirtramblings:

    It’s so nice to read your words and make pictures from them. I loved hearing how your roses and tomatoes are doing. MSS, you have a flair for writing, you know.~~Dee

    Thanks. I appreciate that especially coming from you because you’re an actual garden writer. — mss

  11. From compostinmyshoe Charleston, SC:

    I wish we could get them to grow here like they do in your area. Although, it is enough reason to get back to the Austin area every year!

  12. From Linda Lehmusvirta Austin Texas:

    I swear, you are the Thomas Jefferson of Central Texas. This information will be valued for years to come. Thank you for helping new and old-hands gardeners alike. And what a kick to see your opuntia too!

    Oh, and I agree, you have a flair for writing! Linda