August 28th, 2018
Week 34: 8/20 – 8/26

Zanthan Gardens Week 34
2007-08-27. The desert trumpet vines clambers over the Spanish bayonet yucca as weeds smother the buffalograss in the meadow. The lawn is green! And the monkey grass came back and is blooming.

Dateline: 2018

Another week of 100°F days. Such a disappointment after the nice rain two weeks ago. The plants were all ready to spring into fall bloom. Many have but many others have shriveled in the bud. This must be how it feels to gardeners in more temperate northern climes after the first spring crocuses bloom, when the promise of spring is subsequently crushed by the worst blizzard of the season.

Both the wild and the cultivated Mexican petunia (Ruellia) burst into bloom. They had looked so bad before the rain I was thinking of cutting them back. I’m glad I procrastinated. Likewise the datura. The crape myrtle and vitex have new flowers. And the zexmenia just began rebooking (8/26).

I divided and replanted my first clump of oxblood lilies this year. I think the entire clump came from a stray bulb dug up and dropped by a squirrel. The bulbs were terribly twisted, deformed and tiny, but three have buds. So I started looking at the other clumps for bulbs and, yep, the oxblood lilies are waiting for the next big rain and some cooler temperatures.

The garden is ready for fall and so am I. But the forecast remains the same: an unvarying string of days in the hundreds.

Dateline: 2014

2014-09-01. Technically taken in Week 35 but it looked the same in Week 34. Brown is the new normal. 2007 was an unusually wet year.

Waited-for rains didn’t materialize. We got a sprinkle here and there; just enough moisture to make this week extraordinarily oppressive. The Allium tuberosum are bursting into bloom. Otherwise we’re still impatiently waiting for rains to signal the beginning of fall.

The retama is dropping seedpods like crazy. I really don’t like it and wish I hadn’t planted it. The old and major portion of the Mexican buckeye has turned completely brown almost overnight. However, new shoots coming up from the roots seem okay. I didn’t much like this tree either.

Dateline: 2010

When August 25th rolls around I begin looking for rain. It rained so much that last week in August 1974, my first week in Austin that I had to buy an umbrella when I went home for Labor Day. We didn’t get any rain on the 25th this year and only a trace on the 24th (which evaporated almost as quickly as it fell). However the “cold” front that brought that trace of rain dropped temperatures from our highest all year (107° on the 24th) to a bearable 96° on the 25th and a downright pleasant 93° on the 26th. This broke the 12-day string of triple digit temperatures, for a couple of days. The heat will be back next week. Still we appreciate these whiffs of autumn, a sense that we are at the beginning of the end of summer.

After a cool start to summer, August has become very hot and the plants are showing stress. The ground is baked dry. Even the weeds in the meadow look more weedy than like wildflowers, so I mow them back. Despite the heat a surprising number of plants are blooming. The Chinese chives flowered quite early this year and there are a lot of them. The ever dependable clammy weed is everywhere as are all three types of ruellia. The rose of Sharon is still blooming well and the coral vine is covered with bees. Pipevine swallowtail caterpillars have chomped up the Dutchman’s pipevine. I covered it with floating row cover in the hopes of saving the caterpillars from the paperwasps.

I lost one of the columbines I was trying to grow in a pot until it was cool enough to plant it. Also the ‘Ducher’ rose looks suddenly very bad. It went from being huge and healthy to losing all its leaves almost overnight.

My fall tomato starts are doing very well. The cosmos seedlings are getting their true leave. I transplanted 4 ‘Chocolate’ morning glories that I grew from seed. Only the zinnias I planted from seed have a been a disappointment. They flop over horribly and something is eating them up.

Dateline: 2007

What a difference a year makes! Or rather, what a difference rain makes. In sharp contrast to last year Austin’s received almost double our average rainfall and our lakes are overflowing. We haven’t had one day in the 100s this August, or this year. Highs have been below average, mostly in the low 90s, and even the high 80s. Are we complaining? Absolutely not.

School started today and the schoolhouse lilies (aka oxblood lilies) are blooming. Fall is here and all is right with the world…or at least in my garden.

Dateline: 2006

Death everywhere you look.
2006-08-26. Gee. I didn’t think you could kill monkey grass.

Back to school and hurricane rains. Well, usually. This is the anniversary of my first week in Austin and how it rained that week! It was my first impression of Austin and I loved it. Skip ahead to 1996 and we had a high of 82. In 2003 we had so much rain that the oxblood lilies were already blooming. And then, there’s 2006…

100+ degrees, 29 days and counting. Last measurable rain: July 29th, .01 of an inch at Camp Mabry. (July 5th at Zanthan Gardens.)

Special Weather Statement
Statement as of 9:58 am CDT on August 26, 2006
Near record heat will continue…

The August heat wave will continue through the weekend… with near record high temperatures forecast across most of south central Texas. Heat indices will range from 105 to 110 degrees during the afternoon and early evening hours.

Elderly people should remain in air conditioned locations during the hottest part of the day through Sunday. Do not leave pets or children unattended in vehicles. People who need to remain outdoors for extended periods of time are urged to take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water.

Thursday (8/24) Lake Travis dropped to 650 feet, 15 feet below it’s August average. The lake is losing a foot of water a week due to drought.

Triple-digit temperatures and the lack of rainfall have the Edwards Aquifer days away from a critical level drought.

The Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Water Conservation District said well levels are just about an inch from the critical mark and 40 feet from the average.

I pulled up the gladiolus corms today. They never bloomed this year and the leaves had gone brown. There was little left of the corms. Most had rotted. The dirt was as dry as dust–and this in a bed that I water and is mulched.

I also dug up four ‘Bangkok Yellow’ canna that were very sunburned. I’ve been meaning to do this for weeks and if I manage to save them at this late date it will be a miracle.

Hope springs eternal? I planted two hyacinth bean vines that I sprouted from seed this week.

Dateline: 2001

Sunday August 26, 2001
They promised us a cold front with rain and at 7:15 pm it arrived with a flash of lightning that blew out all the power in our neighborhood. The rain started hard and ran off, but here’s hoping that some of it sank in. It hasn’t rained since we were in England and the clay had dried and hardened so that it when it does rain hard and suddenly we get flash floods. But no matter. We got about 3 inches of rain in 45 minutes. And we might get more tomorrow.

This is a record daily rainfall. Before the rain the high was 102, our 19th (and last!) day of 100+ this month (40th day for the year). The weather report predicts we might get a low of 69 tonight…and tomorrow it will only be 90. Fall is here!

It’s 10:30 and the power just came back on so we’re checking out the computers.

Dateline: 1999

Monday August 23, 1999
Although Hurricane Bret brings no rainfall to our house (I watch the rain move from east to west at about West Mary), the cloud cover breaks the heat wave. After two days of 104 temperatures, today it is only 92.

Thursday August 26, 1999
The heat is back and temperatures reach 100 again. The tantalizing hope of rain that Hurricane Bret brought has not been realized. The datura, the cosmos, the black-eyed Susans, the sunflowers, everything except the globe amaranth, is wilted or browned or dead.

The persimmon is losing a lot of leaves. Even the wisteria is turning brown.

Dateline: 1998

Sunday August 23, 1998It drizzled all day yesterday. The high was only in the eighties. Very gloomy in a lovely way–we breathe a sigh of relief.

Austin got more than half an inch, but tropical storm Charly dumped almost 13 inches on south Texas. This morning we had a Texas-style downpour.

We are unable to get dirt for the new section of the meadow as I planned. Instead, I finish setting out the tomatoes and Cinnamon basil. As usual, I have more seedlings than I have space for.

Dateline: 1996

Thursday August 22, 1996
A 50% chance of rain. I can’t remember when it’s been more than 30% for months. It actually looks like a rainy day, with the sky blanketed in thick, low, gray clouds.

Saturday August 24, 1996
More rain. The creeks are up. AJM and I walked down by Shoal Creek just south of 38th Street.The creek was raging and was over its banks in a couple of places. We saw two snakes.

According to the paper, we set a record low high temperature for today: 82 degrees. (The previous record was 85 degrees.)

Sunday August 25, 1996
Cooler in the evening. Rains off and on. I got at least three inches, just today.

At 1:00 we go to fix AJM’s bike and collect rocks for the wall. Pours rain on the drive up the Mopac. Almost impossible to see AJM in his car ahead of me.

Returning home, I see Shoal Creek pouring over the water break as it flows into Town Lake. This is so impressive that I take JQS to see it.

by M Sinclair Stevens

6 Responses to post “Week 34: 8/20 – 8/26”

  1. From Kathy (New York):

    Drought is horrible. And if you’re drinking from a shallow well, scary, too. Actually, municipal water just keeps people from being as scared as they should be, I guess. I wish I could send more than my sympathy. I hope the power doesn’t go down–you need that air conditioning!

  2. From Annie in Austin:

    When the agave and cactus look withered, and the crepe myrtle leaves are hanging limp, you know things are bad!

    Your bean might work – that Snail vine is a kind of bean, too, and although it’s receiving only ‘collateral’ watering, every few days I have to cut back tendrils that twine and choke everything in a 5-foot circle. It just keeps blooming.


  3. From plantswap:

    Ironically, we are having a rather mild summer here in Houston. It was still hot enough to fry my tomatoes though.

    The Hyacinth Bean Vine is practically indestructable and seems to really like hot weather IMO.

  4. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    My dad is visiting from NC and complaining about the over-100-degree days they’ve been having. It made me realize that we haven’t had ANY this summer. Amazing!

    My oxblood lilies aren’t blooming, but they’re starting to emerge. Maybe one more good rain will bring them up.

    I had a few early starts but the majority are waiting for a nice long rain. I don’t expect much of a show until after Labor Day. I still have dozens I need to plant out from divisions made last fall. — mss

  5. From Annie in Austin:

    It’s still a shock to see your 2007/2006 photos together.

    Those must be the official municipal temperatures, MSS – because there have been several days over 100º in my NW corner of Austin – but it’s nothing compared to last year. We get hotter, and we get colder than you do, too, and although we have quite a few flowers in common, yours are usually blooming at least a week before mine throughout the year.

    That’s why I’m not panicking yet about no oxblood lily sightings in my garden!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    A preview pane!! Yea!

    The preview comment pane was just for you…I hope it works. Ever since you told me about the Weather Underground, I’ve been getting my stats from the Clarksville Station which is across Lady Bird Lake from me. In earlier years, I used the official Camp Mabry stats. Sometimes I have to wait until the paper writes up a summary. Last week, KXAN meteorologist Jim Spencer said we had reached normal temperatures only 6 times this summer…and had been otherwise below normal. Three oxblood lilies bloomed with the rain last week. The rest are waiting for the next downpour. It’s still early for them, although you’ll see them nosing up in anticipation. — mss

  6. From Angelina:

    I love how mild it’s been this summer. I haven’t really complained about the heat at all since it never really got unbearable. There are people who don’t like these milder summers but what with global warming, they’ll get plenty of heat over time so I’m not worried about them.