June 22nd, 2011
Week 25: 6/18 – 6/24

Zanthan Gardens Week 25
2011-06-22. A long (over an hour) of heavy rain with no severe storm side effects (like hail). Welcome, if only temporary, relief.

Dateline: 2011

Gardening in Austin seems almost predictable when the most remarkable thing that can happen in Week 25 is rain! The sound of it pouring off my roof onto the air conditioner next to my bedroom window woke me up, and I dragged myself out of bed at one in the morning just to smell it…and pump the water into the pond. The rain barrels can’t handle that much rain at once and the pond acts like a 1000 gallon holding tank.

Before the storm, we had a solid chunk of 100-degree days behind us: ten from 6/12 to 6/21. At Camp Mabry, the temperatures topped out at 106°F on 6/17 and 6/18, cooling slightly to a mere 105°F on 6/19. After the storm, the high plummeted to a mere 90°F. Sixteen degrees feels cooler no matter where you’re starting from. I spent the rest of Wednesday (6/22), cleaning up the garden a bit, mowing the lawn, and pumping water into the pond.

The rain is nothing but a brief respite from the continued exceptional drought in Texas. Lake levels are almost half what they should be. Austin looks more and more like the landscapes of my childhood that I had hoped to leave behind.

Dateline: 2008

Zanthan Gardens Week 25
2008-06-22. The morning after a slight rain: the grass greens up and the dust is washed off the plants. It’s nice just for a few hours. Sun out early and already searing.

You know how irritating it is when you invite people over and they arrive early, before you’re even finished cleaning up for the party and have dressed. Well, the garden blogosphere has been celebrating the official arrival of summer, but we Austinites feel it’s already overstayed its welcome. Go home, Summer. We’ve had enough of you.

Last year we had major flooding around Austin and I was moaning about the rain. This year we feel cheated when a cloud drops a few sprinkles on one part of town but not ours. We were one of the lucky ones on Saturday (6/21) and got about 1/4″ of rain. But the official reading at Camp Mabry (near Pam/Digging) showed the rain gauge bone dry. I like how Rachel @ In Bloom described it; the slight rain didn’t help our gardens much but it was “psychologically healthy”–well for those of us who got some.

Perversely, the heat and dry fading plants have made me want a green lawn more than ever. The front lawn is already lost but I’ve been keeping a little patch in the back. And I’m so glad that I got wood chips from the May 15th storm to mulch the mini-woods. If the paths and the woods weren’t freshly mulch right now, I don’t think I could stand how sad and droopy the rest of the garden looks.

Dateline: 2007

Zanthan Gardens Week 25
2007-06-18. Most of my summer flowers are too small to show up well in this kind of photograph but notice how green and overgrown the garden is just now. I’m loving it.

Another very rainy Week 25 here in Austin. The lake reservoirs have gone from being half-full to being so full that they had to open the floodgates. We were surprised by heavy rain early in the week when it poured south but not so much north. Yesterday AJM reported it was pouring north, at his office, but we only got a few sprinkles south.

Not much new is happening in the garden. It’s mostly green and jungly-looking. The canna and the banana are very happy with this wet heat. I should be doing more weeding but it’s unpleasant to be outside even early in the morning. The evenings are even worse because of the mosquitoes. I don’t have to be outside watering so, as far as I’m concerned, the garden can go wild on its own.

Time for a break.

Dateline: 2006

photo: rainlily
2006-06-20. Annie in Austin gave me these rainlilies which bloomed for the first time this week after rain brought relief to Austin and disaster to Houston.

Now this was the kind of week that we love June for…rain, rain, and more rain. Rain almost every day of the week. The temperatures came down and the earth smelled damp. What a joy (despite the mosquitoes) to be outside and watch the garden come back to life.

The St Augustine grass transformed into a brilliant shade of green. I hadn’t mown it in a couple of weeks; it’s impossible to mow it with a reel mower when the grass is lying flat and crunchy under foot. I mowed it at the beginning of the week as soon as it dried out and had to mow it again by the end of the week.

The rainlilies popped up. White rainlilies had bloomed in April but this was the first bloom of the year for the pink rainlilies (Zephyranthes grandiflora). Annie in Austin (now garden blogging at The Transplantable Rose) passed along another variety, ‘Labuffarosea’, and one of them bloomed this week for the first time.The flower is smaller and a much more delicate pink than Z. grandiflora. Another distinguishing characteristic is the way the petals are crimped at the tips.

Other flowers that I thought had given up the ghost started blooming again: four o’clocks, cleome (Polanisa dodecandra), and a few stragglers among the larkspur that I haven’t cleaned out for the year.

Because I didn’t have to water at all this week, I spent most of my garden time cleaning up. Inspired by John Powell’s talk, I cut back the rose of Sharon by one-third to keep it bushy. Some disappointing news. I lost another rose, ‘Ducher’, to cane dieback. The same thing happened about this time last year to “Caldwell Pink”. I was also disappointed to learn that family-owned Howard’s Nursery closed this month.

We Austinites rely on June rains to prep the garden for the trouble that lies ahead in July and August. Remembering a miserable beginning to the month, I spent this week with my lifted to the skies in thanks. (For those of you who took a faith-based initiative in solving our drought problems, could you be a bit more specific in your prayers? When Houston gets 7 inches of rain in 4 hours, its streets runneth over while poor San Marcos is left with its cup still empty.)

First flower: Zephyranthes grandiflora (6/20); Zephryanthes ‘Labuffarosea’ (6/20); Crinum, unidentified white (6/24).

Elsewhere in the Virtual Garden

I have a new favorite garden writer, Hanna in Cleveland of This Garden is Illegal. Her tongue-in-cheek style is just the antidote to all the garden ranting that seems suddenly fashionable. Hanna has some of the cleverest titles I’ve come across.

Austin’s own Trailer Park Girl wrote a very timely and informative article on Rainwater Harvesting. I regretted that during this week of rain, my own rain barrel was out of commission. I had to move it last weekend so that an electrician could do some work on that side of the house.

Dateline: 1995

Saturday June 24, 1995
Summer varies by degrees. The days when the high temperatures range from 85 to 90 are hot, but pleasantly so. Today we reached 94. In counties all around us, temperatures soared to 100 degrees. The meadow is transformed. The heat reflects off the clay intensely, oven-like. I can barely stand to walk around the garden. Mulch can only do so much. Even if the roots remain cool and moist, some plants lose too much moisture through their leaves to survive. Many will wilt during the day and then revive as soon as the sun is off them. But they can only do this for so many days or weeks before they succumb.

Last summer we hit our record high for this day: 101. It was the beginning of our mixed up seasons: August in June and June in August. I couldn’t believe how hot it was so early in the season, and dreaded July and August. When August came, though, we got four inches of rain in one downpour and the rest of 1994 was cool and wet.

The lawn in the sunlight is beginning to wither during the day. I watered deeply the area by the driveway, which isn’t filled in well and most subject to the effects of the heat. This is the first lawn watering I’ve done all year. And our water bill shows it–only ten dollars last month. We used less than 3000 gallons of water. Compare that with the previous two years. I’m crediting the mulch.

by M Sinclair Stevens

21 Responses to post “Week 25: 6/18 – 6/24”

  1. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    Beautiful picture of your rain lily. Thanks too for the recommendation to check out This Garden Is Illegal. I did, and you’re right, it is funny, upbeat, and informative. I’m adding it to my blogroll too.

  2. From Annie in Austin:

    M, my ‘Labuffarosea’ just bloomed, too. You can’t fool them with hose water!

    Hanna is pretty funny! I’m still very pokey on the technical stuff or she would have been on my bloglist already. Did either of you take her ‘What Flower Am I’ test? Turning out to be a Snapdragon was not very thrilling. When you lived abroad, did you ever taste the mangosteen that she mentioned in one entry?

    Annie, I’m a snapdragon, too. As for the mangosteen, I might have eaten one when I lived in the Philippines as a child. A neighbor kid brought over a fruit that was the oddest and most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted–both tart and creamy. I’ve never known what it was, but Hanna’s description of the mangosteen sounds a lot like it. Did you tell me you started your own blog? I’ve been linking you with the divas and now you’ve got your own place on the net. I’ll have to update my links! — mss

  3. From Hanna in Cleveland:

    *blush* You guys say the nicest things. I am glad you guys enjoy my fun. I like reading about your gardens too.

  4. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    Another snapdragon here too. That test has certainly made the rounds.

  5. From Annie in Austin:

    Thanks for coming to see my fledgling website, M, and thanks for talking about Trailer Park Girl …. I used to read her stuff all the time but lost the link. I think something like Pam’s rain garden might be useful in our yard.

    We went to see Al’s documentary last weekend, too. People seem to think it will be boring or preachy – but he explains this serious subject beautifully, with candor and with humor.

  6. From Trey (California):

    I have found someone to bring the cookies to the Latin club meetings. Amy Stewart at “Dirt” said she would! Now who will buy the plane tickets?

    Thanks for the comment on Latin names at my blog. I’ll be adding you to my list of blogs to visit.

    Trey, I’m glad to have discovered you as well! I actually did take Latin in high school, but all I remember are first declension nouns: the women and the farmers in the field.

  7. From Pam (South Carolina):

    How nice. Parts of my garden are looking jungly – but only the ones that I can manage to keep watered, we’re still horribly dry (and hot – I’m only outside very early – even now in the evening it’s even too warm sometimes to be out for long). The rainlilies look beautiful – what a treat.

  8. From Annie in Austin:

    The ‘Labuffarosea’ was open again Wednesday, M – and we have a very green late June again. Instead of watering I’m mowing, weeding and pruning – no save in time but no water bill, either!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  9. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    Hi, M! I’m back from my safari and Amsterdam and cannot believe the amount of rain Austin received while I was gone. The garden is an absolute jungle. I need to get out there with a bushwacker. Not that I’m complaining. Rain is almost always a Good Thing.

    But before that, I’m going to tackle my thousands of vacation photos. I’ll put a few up at Digging soon.

    AJM is home but I’m still in the UK. Everyone keeps telling me about the rain and I’m sorry to have missed it. It’s done nothing but rain here, too, but it’s not the same…it’s much colder! Looking forward to seeing your vacation photos. I’ve visited a couple of nice gardens while here, so I’ll have some photos to share as well.

  10. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    No rain here in north-central Austin, as you pointed out. Sigh.

    But I had such fun reading the comments from years past, including my own two, that I had to leave another. How quickly the years go by.

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

    The upside of no rain is no mosquitos. We had a clogged drain & couldn’t get to it for a couple of weeks. Citronella candle during the day still couldn’t keep the skeeters away from me. It’s making me recall fondly the summer of ’05, when we had the drought. You could always spray paint the grass green. ;^D

    There’s actually someone who does paint her lawn in Austin–with polka dots. Keepin’ Austin Weird! (Photo by Prentiss Riddle on Flickr.)

    polka dot lawn

  12. From Cindy, Katy:

    Mss, here’s hoping we’ll have another year like 1994: August in June and June in August! Wouldn’t that be wonderful? I’m sending good vibes for rain your way!

  13. From Annie in Austin:

    It was interesting to read the old comments, MSS – why does only 2 years ago seem like much longer ago?
    Hanna is still funny and we’re still complaining about the weather. I saw one Cooper’s rainlily open – may it be a promise!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  14. From Carol, May Dreams Gardens:

    Every year is a bit different, isn’t it? Your patch of green does look soothing but the picture has a reflection to it that indicates the sun is brightly shining and it is hot. It is amazing what just a little rain can do for a lawn and garden.

    Other than flooding south of here, I am happy with the weather I have right now.

  15. From Dee/reddirtramblings:

    Summer, when there’s a drought is about as bad as it gets. For some reason, we’ve had rain here, but there have been years . . . .

    Doing a rain dance for you, my friend. Hang in there.~~Dee

  16. From Jenny Austin:

    We must be the lucky ones because we did get 1 1/2″ last weekend. It was just like a freak storm with incredible winds. The garden was refreshed for a few minutes but today it is looking as wilted as ever. I am just yanking a lot of stuff out and cutting everything back in the hope of a good fall. I am beginning to like the tidy look! what is that under your tree? Is it a branch mulching?
    I have driven by the polka dot house many times. They have fun with their landscaping over there.

  17. From Bob Pool:

    If you start thinking your garden is looking bad, you just need to look in your neighbors yard where there is no garden and know you have done well.
    I’ve already drained my 5000 gallon rain water collection cistern and so am having to use the well water. UGH, we need rain!

  18. From jodi:

    Oh my! I want a polka dot lawn like that woman’s…that’s too, too funny. Now, while you’re having the dries and the weary-of-summer, we’re having the soggy foggy syndrome up here. Everything is lush, wildly so…and then the wind comes along and knocks stuff down. Never a dull moment, while gardening, is there?

  19. From Robin at Bumblebee:

    It does seem odd to me that Austin is rolling things up at the time when our gardens further north are in full swing. But then, you have something growing all winter when we’re stuck looking at snow.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  20. From Bob Urbanowski:

    That polkadot lawn really is nuts.. I’ve not seen anything quite like it before!

  21. From Bret in Arizona:

    Rain in not common in my growing area. I am in desert and so watering by hose or sprinklers in mandatory. I mainly grow veggies in my HIgh Density Bucket Garden and I use spray stakes for watering. From what I’ve heard, rain water is a lower pH so plants tend to green up more after the rain. Have you heard about that?

    The pH of rainwater is going to depend on where you live. Remember the acid rain of the highly industrialized northeast US and Europe? However, if you live in the desert southwest, your groundwater is going to be very alkaline probably…so yes, your rainwater will probably have a lower pH. — mss