June 10th, 2008
Week 23: 6/4 – 6/10

Acanthus mollis
Why Acanthus mollis isn’t invasive in my garden.

Dateline: 2008

Every year there come a time when I must make Sophie’s choice, deciding which plants will live and which will die. I yanked out the last of the borage and the cornflowers this week. In the case of the unkillable Acathus mollis, I’m not letting it die, just go dormant until fall. It’s so pitifully sunburned and bug-eaten that I consider this a mercy killing. It doesn’t like the heat or the searing sunlight. (For the last couple of weeks, it’s been getting about an hour of afternoon sun a day because my neighbor lost some big limbs in the last storm.) In good years, I don’t have to make hard choices until after the 4th of July. Apparently 2008 is not going to be one of the good years.

The weather looks bad everywhere: 100 degree heat on the east coast, floods in the midwest, and late snow in Washington state. This afternoon when it was 101 degrees (tied the 1923 record) rain began falling although the sun was shining. It was so hot that almost none of the rain hit the ground and what did evaporated immediately. Little steamy droplets rose so that it looked like it was raining up at the same time it was raining down. It was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen. Nothing soaked in and the rain didn’t cool us off; we just went from dry heat to humid heat.

The oleander still looks stupendous. The duranta and the crape myrtle looked good at the beginning of the week but are starting to fade by today. We harvested four ‘Juliet’ grape tomatoes and various jalapeno peppers.

First flower: pomegranite (6/8).

Dateline: 2006

The flowers of crape myrtle. which last week looked better than it ever has in my garden, withered and dried in the heat wave. The week began unseasonably hot and very dry and then turned unseasonably hot and more miserably humid.

The one bright spot is the potted Meyer’s lemon. The week we were in England, I left it in the sun and its leaves yellowed and dropped off revealing a few small lemons. I brought it under the porch, babied it a couple of weeks and now it has completely releafed and is covered in thickly scented flowers.

I’m concerned about ‘Ducher’. It is suffering from die-back and seems destined to go the way “Caldwell Pink” did last year.

Dateline: 2002

First flower: Lagerstroemia indica ‘Catawba’ (6/7).

Dateline: 2001

Sunday June 10, 2001
Yesterday, heavy rains from Tropical Storm Allison disabled Houston, turning freeways into rivers and killing over a dozen people, leaving over 10,000 homeless.

Today in Austin, it is a beautiful day, hot, but not humid.

Dateline: 2000

Sunday June 4, 2000
I water another section of the front lawn for a couple of hours in the morning. I’m trying to get the mulch on the south border, but I just don’t have the energy to do much.

As we are returning from the library, dark clouds blow in from the west. We hurry home and get as much mulch out of the truck and just dump it on the winter garden. Soon it begins to really pour and we have a nice rain for about an hour. It is very dark and you can feel a cool breeze in the rain.

Dateline: 1999

Sunday June 6, 1999
The lower and middle meadow have a winding river of buffalograss wending through them. It makes beautiful waves of pale green, crested almost with white. When the lower meadow recovers from the over-abundance of bluebonnets and fills in some more, it will look just like I planned it.

In the middle and the upper meadow, where I haven’t cleaned up the larkspur, some of it continues to bloom. The plants are brown and seedy, but and the flush of bloom faded, but the effect is blown and blousy and romantic and a little melancholy.

Monday June 7, 1999
Mow the back lawn at 4.0. This leaves it very tall, which is my plan to get it through summer vacation. After the heavy rains at the end of May, the lawn looks lush, deep green and filled in. A lot of it is still weeds.

First flower: Helianthus annuus ‘Cinnamon Sun’ (6/7).

Dateline: 1998

Friday June 5, 1998
A welcome rain brings relief to the unseasonably hot week of hundred degree temperatures. It drops to sixty at night. And it feels so, so good!

Sunday June 7, 1998
Got a truckload of turkey compost. Boy, does it stink of stale urine! Spent four hours spreading it on the meadow.

First flower: moonflower (6/6); balloon flower (6/6).

Dateline: 1997

Saturday June 7, 1997
Rain yesterday and more rain today.

Monday June 9, 1997
Heavy rains, lightening and thunder last night. In the meadow the mulch is washed in sheets, showing the pattern of the runoff. Some of the Velvet Queen sunflowers are beaten into the mud. I try staking them.

Tuesday June 10, 1997
More heavy rains cause flooding in the county. By afternoon the rain clears up.
Many bluebonnets are sprouting in the areas I cleaned out over the weekend.
I started reading Southern Gardens, Southern Gardeners and the author recommends starting many fall and early spring plants now. Of course, he lives in Charleston and doesn’t have to deal with our drought and heat. Perhaps it will work here too. Last year the cosmos that sprouted about this time were in full bloom in October until frost.

Dateline: 1996

Friday June 7, 1996
This morning, while JQS and I are sitting on the runway in Dallas, a major thunderstorm hits Austin. I think we get almost two inches of rain, which is the first real rain we’ve had since last September. When we arrive home, both lawns look green, lush and tall.

Dateline: 1995

Thursday, June 8, 1995
This morning at 7:30 it was 81 degrees!

As summer progresses and seedlings become young plants, I find it easy to grow lazy, to forget to check plants daily, to water, weed, and feed them.

I have seedlings that must be transplanted and beds to prepare for bulbs. Other plants need mulching. The patio plants need more water and feeding. I need to move the oxalis, perhaps to the meadow. And there is compost to turn.

Looking back over the spring, the verbena is, without a doubt, the star performer. It has bloomed since I planted it. I’ve layered twice and it is at least ten times larger than when I bought it. The first plants layered I’ve cut from the mother plant and they seem well.

I’ve learned I can hack back the mint, without hurting it. And if I don’t, the poor rosemary sits there engulfed.

The cosmos and the black-eyed Susans are a disappointment. Although, they are growing, and at least the cosmos are flowering, they aren’t as rampant and wild as everyone suggests.

Saturday June 10, 1995
Sweltering heat. I water and clean up a bit. All over, the ground is dry down 3 or 4 inches . The lawns haven’t wilted yet, but I mulch everything I haven’t gotten to yet.

by M Sinclair Stevens

12 Responses to post “Week 23: 6/4 – 6/10”

  1. From Carol, May Dreams Gardens:

    That is a very sad, depressed looking plant. You were right to put it out of its misery. I’m not sure what to say about your weather, except that it sounds very hot.

    At least we’re used to it…or rather we expect it and are resigned to it. I can stand the heat better than the cold. I could never survive your winters. — mss

  2. From deb:

    Yep, that is what heat does to an acanthus.

  3. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    Nope, the summer of ’08 is not going to be a good one. I thought that it was actually 102 at Camp Mabry.


    101 was the temperature reported on the 5PM news…I suppose it could have gotten hotter. — mss

  4. From linda:

    Sounds like it’s the time of year to crank up the air conditioning and head indoors.

    I don’t run my air conditioning in the daytime because this house wasn’t designed for it (tar paper walls) and it would be too expensive. I use the original whole-house fan. When the temperature inside hits 85 (about 2:30), I go to the gym or the library. — mss

  5. From Gail:

    Your photo says it all and more! Your weather is more extreme than I imagined…with torrential rains or soaring heat. Here in Nashville, we are having temps on average 10 degrees hotter than usual. This is our dry season but not usually this early.

    The weather seems bad all over the US this year. We are, typically, resigned to miserable summers…although that doesn’t keep us from complaining about them. — mss

  6. From Annie in Austin:

    What a pathetic photo, MSS! On our small urban lots we are so often at the mercy of what happens in neighboring yards – my friend Carole lost most of a shade garden when the people next door suddenly tired of a large tree. Maybe you should put a parasol over your acanthus, as Japanese gardeners do for tree peonies?

    Your pomegranate just bloomed? Mine had a few flowers in May but none of them ‘took’. We’re also enjoying some ‘Juliet’ tomatoes. This year I water the tomatoes while remembering that too much rain last year made them rot.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    I just planted the pomegranate last fall and it’s only about 2 feet tall. This is it’s first and only flower. I wasn’t expecting it to flower at all this year so it’s a bonus. — mss

  7. From Mr. McGregor's Daughter (Chicagoland):

    It takes courage to post a photo of such a pathetic specimen. I feel so bad for the poor plant. It sounds just miserable in Austin right now. We’ve had a break in the heat & it stopped raining for 2 days.

    I wanted people to get a sense of why I think Austin has two short seasons interrupted by summer, rather than one long growing season from March to November. The acanthus actually perks up when watered but the leaves are so sunburnt I don’t see the point of wasting the water on it when it will look bad in any case. I’d rather let it go dormant and revive it in the fall. — mss

  8. From cindee:

    Our temps here have been so nice 80’s-90’s lately. We had a heat spell a few weeks ago of 109. It is going to get in the 100’s here again this weekend. Usually always does just in time to burn the daylilies. I need some huge umbrellas to pop up around(-: Is it terribly humid there too? That just ads to the misery. Normally we don’t have much humidity here.

    The humidity depends a lot on which way the wind is blowing. If it’s coming up from the Gulf of Mexico, then we usually get early morning clouds which keep the temperatures in the low-to-mid 90s. When the temperatures top 100, usually it’s because it’s been sunny from sunrise. Then it’s hotter but drier. The heat index works out to be about the same either way. I prefer the dry heat but that means a full day of searing sun which makes the plants less happy. So cloudy, sultry heat is better–except that cloud cover also prevents the lows from falling. Unlike the desert, our nighttime temperatures fall only about 20 degrees. So there’s no relief, really, even when the sun goes down. — mss

  9. From Germi (Los Angeles):

    I lurk… but after a week spent in San Antonio I just had to post. How do you guys DO IT??? My hat is off to all of you Austin gardeners, because I couldn’t bring myself to go outside. Not even at night. I don’t remember it being THAT hot in South Central Texas when I was growing up there!
    Kudos for amazing gardening under extreme circumstances!

    I just harvested some ‘Juliette’ tomatoes, too. They were great! How big does the vine get, anyway? Should I build an addition to my house for it?

    I’m so glad you delurked! How do we do it? Sigh. We drink a lot. As for ‘Juliette’, I’ve read elsewhere that it is a very huge tomato vine but mine isn’t. My most aggressive vine, this year and last, is ‘Persimmon’. — mss

  10. From Pam:

    Hmmm. My Acanthus is in shade here in Zone 8b South Carolina – I have three of them, and they are doing quite well (and I had not heard they could be invasive – is this true in some zones/climates? Interesting!). Mine only go dormant when it rains too much – they seem to like the drier, mediterranean thing. Perhaps the shade is saving mine from such misery!

    (I love your response to the comment prior to mine ‘Sigh. We drink alot.’ That really made me laugh…and how true!).

  11. From Barb (Lockhart Texas):

    That acanthus looks a lot like my artichoke plants. The heat has been merciless this year, but I noticed we’re far below the early June highs of 1998, which were in the 105F – 110F range.

    Yay! Another central Texas garden blogger. Yes, 1998 was a miserable year. So was 2006. The only good summer I remember ever having in Austin was last year. I keep asking myself what I’m doing here and then reminding myself, “Remember winter. Remember winter.” — mss

  12. From Jean Ann:

    I agree with the two short growing seasons interrupted by summer. I grew up and gardened in Oklahoma…buy June, all of the smart gardeners were working their way inside…July and August were miserable…only grew heat loving plants…and they sort of went dormant during that time, too. I like gardening in Oregon…much easier to grow here!