May 6th, 2007
Week 18: 4/30 – 5/6

meadow Zanthan Gardens
2010-05-01. The meadow at Zanthan Gardens. Less larkspur than in previous years because the cilantro and Engelmann daisies are pushing them out.

Dateline: 2008

The last reprieve before summer. When Vertie and I went to get the glass mulch on Friday (5/2), it was a hot 88F and muggy. Saturday was dry and cooler by 10 degrees. The lows over the weekend seemed comparatively chilly at 59F. Big storms for Monday and Tuesday didn’t pan out which means will be facing temperatures in the 90s next week without a reserve of rain.

This is confederate jasmine week. It has been in full bloom for the last couple of weeks everywhere…a really good year for confederate jasmine. My sweet peas are also finally blooming. Caterpillars ate all the buds right before they were going to flower and it’s taken them a couple of weeks to put out more.

The ‘Mermaid’, ‘Red Cascade’ and ‘New Dawn’ roses have all been blooming very well. ‘Blush Noisette’ is trying but is balling terribly this year. ‘Ducher’, ‘Prosperity’, and ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ are still putting out a flower or two. I did lose the ‘Penelope’ rose that had me worried this time last year.

The California poppies surprised me with a second flush of flowers. The others are finally blooming, a month behind everyone else’s in Austin. In a way it’s nice because they fill in the spots left empty by the larkspur and cilantro. Speaking of which, I decided to fill in empty spaces in the meadow with bought pepper and tomato plants. The problem is remembering to water them regularly when they’re scattered all over the yard. The pink evening primrose and Engelmann daisy are still flowering well.

Getting busy gathering seeds of larkspur, bluebonnets, and cilantro.

First flower: Nigella damascena ‘Mulberry Rose’ (4/30); bearded iris ‘Silverado’ (5/1); white mistflower (5/4); Dolichos lablab (5/5); summer squash (5/5).

Dateline: 2007

Zanthan Gardens
2007-05-06. 2007-05-06. Rather than a pretty flower photo I thought I’d focus on the most memorable sight in the garden at the moment: the old shed in rubble and larkspur blooming in the meadow to the north.

Spring Fling is over and, May, the month of green is upon us. That’s how I think of May. This is a transitional week, a transitional month. Most of my flower spectacle is over until fall. I put all my effort into early flowering plants because once my trees leaf out there isn’t enough sun for the warm weather flowers. I’ve had to learn to stop envying other Austinites’ vitex, lantana, butterfly bushes, and salvias. Besides when the weather turns muggy, I can’t stand the press of all those plants that make March and April shine. I just want to clear everything away.

May is typically one of Austin’s rainiest month. We’ve had almost two inches just this week as thunderstorms keep rolling through. On top of that, we’ve more than average rain this year since the middle of March. May is living up to its lush green promise. We expected the cloud cover to burn off this week and the temperatures to hit 90. Instead it remained drizzly and in the low 80s all week. And a bit muggy! The 90% humidity makes it as steamy as a jungle. A mustiness pervades my house and there are small snails on every plant. The mosquitoes and the cockroaches have decided summer is here. And I heard the toad last night. That makes it official.

The ‘New Dawn’ and ‘Blush Noisette’ roses have bowed out and now ‘Mermaid’ and ‘Red Cascade’ are in full bloom. I’m worried about ‘Penelope’. She was covered in flowers last month and suddenly all the leaves turned yellow. Is she going to succumb to dieback like ‘Buff Beauty’ and ‘Madame Joseph Schwartz’?

First flower: chili pequin (5/2); Hibiscus syriacus (5/3); Abelia grandiflora (5/4); Cosmos bipinnatus (5/5) one self-sown.

Dateline: 2006

Rain, rain, and more rain. I’m still looking for the official rainfall totals but it seems south Austin got about half an inch on Tuesday, 3 inches on Thursday, 2 inches Friday, 2 inches Saturday, and possible another inch Sunday. I wish I had about 50 more rainbarrels.

The spring flowers (bluebonnets, larkspur, evening primrose) are going to seed. The roses, except for a flower here and there, may be finished until fall. The irises were noticably absent this spring. Now the flowering perennials (esperanza, four-o’clocks, crape myrtle, oleander, rose of Sharon, red yucca, various salvias, and plumbago) are moving into the spotlight. Even so, with all this rain, the overwhelming impression of the garden this week is green.

There was a time when I first began gardening that I said all that these desert-bred eyes craved for in a garden was a green shade. Now I’m less easily satisfied.

First flower: Mirabilis jalapa, RHS red (5/1); plumbago (5/4); crape myrtle ‘Catawba’ (5/5).

Dateline: 2004

Following killer-flood rains last Saturday, the week opened with two perfect days. The nights were cool, the temperatures tying with record lows set 50 years ago. And the days were dry with brilliant blue skies usually seen only in the fall.

My neighbors behind me cut down a huge oak tree that had its top sheared of. in a storm seven years ago (but was still growing strong). They also removed a hackberry and other brush along our fence line. Now, what had been my shade garden, is in full afternoon sun. 2007-05-06. Note: They’ve planted a butterfly rose over the fence and some other plants. I think they have a landscaping service or something because it looks like a nursery back there.

photo: tree
2004-05-06. What remains of my neighbor’s tree. Bill might notice that the bindweed is quite rampant.

First flower: rose ‘Red Cascade’ (5/3); first cherry tomato (5/5); rose “Caldwell Pink” (5/5).

Rebloom: rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ (5/7); rose ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’ (5/8).

Dateline: 2002

In my garden, March is wildflower month, April is iris month, and May is the month of green. The spring flowers are cleared away and the trees and grass have deepened into a rich green. This is the one month where it summer looks pleasant, before the heat and drought of real summer turns everything brown and dusty.

We began this week with a momentary break in the heat. A front came in on the 3rd and cooled temperatures down by at least ten degrees. So I spent all Friday morning reading in the garden in my new Adirondack chair…a very Martha Stewart moment. It didn’t last long enough. Very quickly we returned to hot, humid weather.

The bad news this year is the lack of rain. May is supposed to be one of our rainiest months. We are already behind for the year and it doesn’t look like any relief is on the way. The worst part of this heat is the realization that although 90 feels hot now, sometime in August, 90 will feel cool. When it’s 90 in August, you know Fall is on the way.

On the plus side, the cannas and banana are taking off. And we ate the first cherry tomatoes this week. The black-eyed Susans are blooming. And there are still plenty of larkspur to attract the butterflies. A stray bluebonnet still blooms, where I’ve watered and dead-headed them. And the last iris, ‘Silverado’ bloomed. Clammy-weed is popping up everywhere, a nice bright green. It grows to almost two feet in the garden beds where it gets water. In the meadow, though, it is much shorter.

The confederate jasmine is in full bloom. I love its glossy, deep green leaves and thickly sweet scent. I rooted a runner last year and transplanted it this spring and it’s blooming, too. The lavender I rooted is also blooming. It’s a good thing I’m having some luck with rooting and divisions because my attempts to grow things from seed have not been very successful this year. Although a couple of things have popped up from seeds I planted last year. One is an Apple of Peru. I don’t know what the other one is. Maybe cuphea. Maybe some new weed.

The violas, sweet peas, and columbines have succumbed to the heat. The Dianthus chinensis is looking a little seedy, but what amazes me is that this is their second year. They are usually considered only winter annuals. [Note: These plants persisted in the garden until 2005 when they finally succumbed to the drought.]

by M Sinclair Stevens

6 Responses to post “Week 18: 4/30 – 5/6”

  1. From Fadjar Marta:

    I have visited your website and your collection has amazed me very much. I like a lot of your collection, such as iris and others. Unfortunately they could not thrive in our tropical lowland of Jakarta.

    I have been hybridizing rainlilies for around 20 years. I would like to try to utilize Habranthus howardii and Zephyranthes concolor in my project but I do not have any of them. Do you have any of them that I can purchase.

    If convenient, please try to visit my webpage at Karl King’s website where you could see a lof of my selected hybrids. 2 of them, those are the red flowering Z. “Paul Niem” (#27) and pink striped flowering Z. “JoAnn Trial” (#30) are sold for $.10.00 each with minimum order of $100 for each cultivar (with 20% bonus).

    Link: Fadjar’s Rainlilies

    Best regards,


    Thank you for sharing your website with me. Your rainlily hybrids are very unusual and beautiful. Since you are already working with Dr.Thad M. Howard, you know the only source for rare rainlilies that I can think of.

    The only rainlilies I have are Z. grandiflora, which I purchased from a local nursery and a white one common to Central Texas…Z. drummondii, I think. — mss

  2. From bill:

    Bindweed! – I hate it.

    I have a sunny side garden now that used to be in deep shade. The neighboring house had a long row of trees beside their driveway and the new owners didn’t like sap and bird-droppings on their vehicles.

    Since I have more shade than sun, it was a gain for me too.

  3. From gbs (South Austin):

    Thanks for a wonderful blog. I just recently moved into a house in South Austin and also discovered this site–it’s been a great resource of ideas. Thank you!

    Since I have relatively little sun in my front yard and virtually none in my back, I will be living vicariously through you as you re-do this part of your garden. Can’t wait to see what you decide to plant there.

    This had been my “wild” corner. In the spring it is overrun with tradescantia, which gives away to wild ruella.

    Knowing that the large older trees were going to come down eventually, I planted three Mexican plums here. Just this January, I planted a dwarf magnolia (dwarf in the case of magnolias meaning it will have a 20-foot spread).

    Whatever I do, I’d like to keep it simple. I don’t want to take on another high-maintenance area, one that requires a lot of watering or weeding. — mss

  4. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    I have a few more blooms than you right now, but my garden is definitely in transition between spring and summer too.

    My ‘Valentine’ rose dropped all its leaves after the Ground Robin and still looks terrible, but I saw a few new, red leaves popping out yesterday, so there’s hope. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for your ‘Penelope’ too.

    Yours is one of the sunny gardens that I have to bite my lip to hold back the envy. That gorgeous vitex of yours! — mss

  5. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    The vitex will be blooming soon, so avert your eyes. 😉

  6. From Pam (South Carolina):

    My Mermaid is just starting to bloom like crazy – it’s such a beauty. I wish we were getting some of your rain – we’re mostly getting lots and lots of wind, which doesn’t help much, and it’s definitely hurting the roses. I need to think about rainlilies a bit – they were new to me.