August 12th, 2006
Week 32: 8/6 – 8/12

August at Zanthan Gardens
2006-08-11. Wild ruellia (not even an improved cultivated kind) and bearded irises have already called it a day–and it’s only 7AM and the sun hasn’t hit the yard yet. These are xeriscape plants, so you can imagine what the rest of the yard is like.

Dateline: 2006
When I was a kid, by the time August rolled around I was just tired of summer. Most of my early life I lived in the desert southwest so trees and hammocks and back porches and playing ball on a green lawn were images out what might as well have been fairy tale books so little did they correspond with my experience of summer. My summer days were filled with reading, helping my mom do the laundry while we watched soaps together, and working on projects around the kitchen with my brothers and sisters. One year we were quite into stamp collecting which is why I know that the state flower of Kansas is a sunflower. After two months, even my mom had run out of ideas for entertaining 8 kids indoors (too hot to play outside, remember) and I’d read all my books several times. You never saw any kid so anxious for summer to be over.

I longed for school to start, for the rains to come, and the air to smell fresh again. Other people associate spring with beginnings and renewal. But that’s how I feel about fall. I always fall in love in fall. I don’t think I look forward to fall in the same way you cold climate gardeners anticipate spring. There are no early signs like crocuses or buds swelling to make my blood quicken.

I’m finally at the point in summer this year where I’m resigned to it. In July I still tend to be fighting–out in the garden watering, mulching, and fussing over plants. By August, I just sit indoors and wonder what will pull through this year. Will the rains come the last week of August like they did the very first fall I lived in Austin? Or will we have another extended summer like last year when it was still hot in October?

I do my part to bring the rain. Wash the wool carpet and leave it in the grass to dry. Wash the cars. Leave the car windows open a crack. We did get 10 seconds of rain last Sunday after a strong gusts of wind hinted at a storm approaching. Monday we got almost three minutes of rain.

Another rose, ‘Madame Joseph Schwartz’, has succumbed to rose dieback. I’ve started turning the spring compost pile. At least the hot weather helps break down everything quickly as long as the pile is kept moist. I found the biggest grubs I’ve ever seen in the middle of the pile. Usually they’re small enough I don’t mind squishing them with my bare hand (just imagine it’s a grape) but these were bigger than my longest finger. It took a good stomp with my boot. I’ve also seen two or three hummingbirds this week which is unusual in my yard. They must be after the turk’s cap which is one of the few things left flowering. I haven’t had to mow all month since the grass is lying flaccid and scorched. The leaves are beginning to fall from the cedar elms and the chinaberry trees. On the Japanese persimmon almost 1/3 of its leaves have turned yellow. I’m hoping the fruit won’t drop as there are less than half a dozen persimmons this year.

Wake me when it’s September.

Dateline: 2002
My enthusiasm for gardening and writing about gardening wanes in the dead heat of summer even in a very mild summer such as this one. The highs are only in the low to mid-90s, cool enough for working outside as long as I stay in the shade and drink plenty of water. Although the July rains have kept temperatures down in August, they have caused other problems. The humidity is much higher than normal and the mosquitoes are everywhere. More than a nuisance, they potentially carry the West Nile virus, which has been confirmed in dead birds found right here in South Austin.

So I’ve been admiring the garden mostly from indoors, ignoring my watering, and letting the weeds get out of hand. The little bit of time I spend outside each day is in repairing some of the stone work on the front of the house. There is a large planter along the front which had boxwood growing in it. They were planted much too close to the house and last year I cut them down. Now I am, shovelful by shovelful, removing all the dirt from the planter.

Dateline: 2001
August 6, 2001.
I’ve been watering like crazy and everything seems to be pulling through except for one rose: ‘La Biche’. All her leaves have dried on the plant (they didn’t turn brown and fall off–they just dried up). I have been watering and feeding her in hopes she will come back from her roots (since all the antique roses are on their own roots and not grafted).

Storm’s turning means no rain
By Janet Jacobs American-Statesman Staff Monday, August 6, 2001

The sweet possibility of rain this week has been dashed, ground into the dust by Tropical Storm Barry’s insistence on taking its 8 to 10 inches of rain to Florida and Alabama instead of Texas.

The stubbornness of the storm leaves Texas to endure the usual August — blistering steering wheels, shrinking water holes and crisping lawns — with no relief in sight.

In fact, because of Barry, the weather is actually drier than normal in Texas. That’s because the winds are now coming from the northeast, and thus are dry, instead of being the normal humid breezes from the Gulf, according to the National Weather Service.

The last good rain in Austin fell June 21-23, when Austin-Bergstrom International Airport’s gauge recorded 2 1/2 inches. That’s now a distant memory to property owners on a watering schedule.

A record-setting string of 100-degree days that began July 12 and ended with the veritable cold snap of 96 degrees on Thursday could be on its way to a repeat. It was 102 at Bergstrom on Sunday and 103 at Camp Mabry.

by M Sinclair Stevens

3 Responses to post “Week 32: 8/6 – 8/12”

  1. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    Yes, fall is the southern gardener’s long-awaited spring. I’m almost at the resigned point too, M. My garden is so parched I feel sorry for it, and knowing that August and September’s heat is still ahead of us is nearly unbearable. I’ve lost several plants this summer too, including damianita, a super-tough native I thought nothing but overwatering could kill.

  2. From r sorrell (Austin):

    Fall is my favorite season. I hope this year is cool and rainy… It seems so far away, though. In an effort to make it rain, we’ve left the top off of our convertable for several weeks in a row. Hasn’t worked yet.

  3. From Tamara:

    Gawd, I hear ya. It’s miserable up here in Dallas too. Stuff is dying that shouldn’t be. I hate it.