September 23rd, 2006
Week 38: 9/17 – 9/23

photo: Rhodophiala bifida
Photo: Oxblood lilies (Rhodophiala bifida). 2006-09-21. Austin, Texas.

Dateline: 2006
Summer hung on tooth and claw with Friday’s (9/22) temperatures near 100. Despite a lousy ending, the rest of the week was everything we can hope for this time of year. The week began with a drenching rain which interrupted Tom Petty’s set at the ACL finale but left gardeners cheering. We received upwards of 1 1/2 inches–we haven’t seen rain like this since the 4th of July when towns all around Austin were forced to cancel their firework displays. The early part of the week, the lows were in the 50s, highs in the upper 80s, low 90s and gorgeous blue October skies.

The garden responded immediately. By Wednesday (9/20) the oxblood lilies were opening en masse. The meadow was covered in rainlilies. (I usually have them throughout the summer and even after the flowers fade, their leaves tell me where they are. But this summer there has been no sign of them.) Bluebonnets began sprouting everywhere in the meadow. The salvia began reblooming. The rose ‘French Lace’ (which had no leaves whatever) put out a flush of new growth). They hyacinth bean vines are about 5 feet tall. The esperanza and plumbago are heavy with flower. The chili pequin is bursting out with tiny white flowers.

I’ve been rushing around all week dividing irises and oxblood lilies and transplanting cosmos in the meadow. More rain is forecast for the weekend and even better, El Nino is coming our way for the fall and winter. That means more rain for Central Texas and a good year to get those replacement bushes and trees in.

Dateline: 2003
I wait and wait for summer to be over, but when fall arrives it still takes me by surprise. Rain and cooler temperatures reinvigorate the garden. A front comes in from the north and brings rain, then drier cooler air. The skies are an incredible shade of blue. A few days later, the winds come up from the south bringing moist, warm air and a blanket of low clouds. Then the pattern repeats itself.

photo: Lycoris radiata
Photo: Lycoris radiata. 2003-09-23. Austin, Texas. The flowers stalks come up before any leaves. The purple leaves in the background are Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Heart’.

The oxblood lilies (Rhodophiala bifida) have faded, although a new flower will open here and there. This week, the red spider lilies (Lycoris radiata) take the stage. They are almost twice the height of the oxblood lilies. They are a paler, more orange-tinted red, which looks washed out if planted near any oxblood lilies. What makes red spider lily a knockout is it. delicate filigreed flower, perched on a strong straight stem. Like, oxblood lilies, it is dormant in the summer, sends up its flower in the fall, and then its leaves. The red spider lilies are blooming up in Dallas, too. Rantomat also has them in South Austin and reports that they’re blooming very well this year. (Mine are certainly doing better than usual.) And they are hard to photograph. I’ve never taken a photo of them that I liked.

photo: Lycoris radiata
Photo: Lycoris radiata. 2003-09-24. Austin, Texas.

The four o’clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) continue to bloom like they’re on steroids and fill the evening garden with their scent. The scent is quite strong when the flowers open in the late afternoon. By morning, when they close with the sunrise, I don’t smell them at all. Now that it’s cooler, we open the windows and turn on the whole-house fan and the house is inundated with scent.

The last two weeks, the banana plant has show signs that it is going to flower. The raspberry salvia is blooming again. All the roses have new bud growth. The floribunda ‘French Lace’ has gotten a head start on the other roses and has been blooming for more than a week already. I saw some old-fashioned milk and wine crinums blooming in East Austin on Monday. Erica Bess Duncan, whose Garden Spot is in Houston has a great photo of her mystery crinum. Her redesigned site is beautiful and makes me want to makeover this site.

I’ve been busy transplanting plants that I grew from seed from the nursery to places around the garden. Today I’m going to reorganize the vegetable garden so that it’s ready for a fall garden.

by M Sinclair Stevens

6 Responses to post “Week 38: 9/17 – 9/23”

  1. From bill:

    The purple with the spider lilies is a nice combination.

  2. From Kathy (New York):

    The morning of September 24 we recorded 36.4 degrees F on our min-max thermometer. It is not unusual to have our first frost around this time.

  3. From bill:

    My lycoris have not shown yet.

  4. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    It IS amazing how the garden seems to heal itself with the first fall rains. I’ve been so amazed by my “dead” damianita’s resurrection, and of course the fall bulbs that pop up so quickly, like spider lily and rain lily, always seem like resurrections too. Perhaps the garden’s Easter is in October.

    It is down here. And we suffer through 40 days of Lent to lead up to it. — mss

  5. From Annie in Austin:

    We had about an inch-and-a-half when you did, and the orangey minirose has developed buds; the hyacinth bean has finally produced one flower. The snail vine never stopped making vines, whether watered or not, but is now completely covered in flowers, too. My Esperanza is doing nothing now – the sun pattern has shifted and I guess it’s got too too much shade to keep blooming.

    I hope that you and the other Austin gardenbloggers got some rain out of the last storm on Saturday the 23rd – we had strong wind gusts and clouds, but not a drop of rain after baking at just under 100 again last week. The nice drop in temperatures meant the windows could be opened in the middle of last night – yay!


    It rained here Saturday afternoon for about two minutes. After the big hype–80 percent chance of rain! severe thunderstorms!–I felt really gypped. The cool weather Sunday was some consolation. Looks like it will be great weather the rest of this week to be in the garden. I would have liked it better with some rain to get it started. — mss

  6. From Susan:

    I was also disappointed in the rain I got over the weekend. I was walking the dog on Saturday in the early evening when the sky got dark and the wind started whipping the trees around. Buddy and I rushed home and then about 15 drops of rain fell. We had gotten a tiny bit of rain earlier Saturday, just enough to wet the leaves of the plants in the garden but nothing beyond that. I’m waiting for one of those tremendous fall rains (without the kinds of wind that blew two big trees over in our yard one September 11 years ago or so).