September 29th, 2006
Week 39: 9/24-9/30

Oxalis drummondii
2006-09-26. The diminuitive Oxalis drummondii is another sign of fall. Only one bloomed this year.

Dateline: 2010
A cold front settles in and we wake up Monday (9/27) to a mere 58°. Second fall has arrived with its dry air and icy blue skies.

I begin sowing greens in the winter vegetable garden.

The Lindheimer senna, the coral vine, and the four o’clocks are the most striking flowers. Quite a few oxblood lilies are still blooming. The red spider lilies are coming up all over the yard. Unfortunately I dug up most of them in the last year because they hadn’t flowered well in years–not even in rainy 2007.

We had a tremendous Mexican plum crop this year. I should have done something with it.

Bluebonnets, baby blue eyes, and false dayflowers are popping up everywhere. So are the less desirable plants like horseherb. I’ve seen a few cilantro, too.

Dateline: 2006
We fast-fowarded from August to October, with only one day of September weather two weeks ago Sunday (9/17) when it rained. The October weather (lows in the 50s, highs in the 80s, dry and perfectly blue skies) is gorgeous. I’ve been busy in the garden every day dividing irises and oxblood lilies and generally setting the garden right. But (the gardener’s lament) we need more rain. By the end of this week, the rain-softened iris beds were already becoming dusty dry.

During this exhilarating week I wondered what happened to me last year? Why did I wait so long to divide the irises? Why are the roses just inches from death? Why have I been so neglectful?

Then I looked at last year’s stats: the hottest day of the year was September 25th…we hit 108. Hurricane Rita swung east and drowned east Texas but left us with out a drop of water. And afterward, no rain. Not in September. Not in December. It was pretty much a downward spiral of drought for an entire year now and I gave up. For awhile…

I’m typing this with dirt under my fingernails. Yep. I’m back in the garden.

First flowers: Oxalis drummondii (9/25); crape myrtle (9/25) fall rebloom; Oxalis regnellii (9/27); Lantana montevidensis (9/27); Mirabalis jalapa (9/28) fall rebloom; Salvia greggii (9/28) fall rebloom.

The crape myrtle, cypress vine, and plumbago are fighting it out for the honor of most flowers this week. Still a lot of pink rainlilies and garlic chives blooming in the meadow, but the oxblood lilies are almost at an end.

Dateline: 2005
September 25, 2005 108 DEGREES!

“Sunday was the hottest day of the year so far, at 108 degrees. The National Weather Service recorded the blistering temperature, a new high for the date in Austin, Sunday afternoon at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The previous high for that date was 97 in 1956. It was cooler at Camp Mabry on Sunday: 107 degrees, a number that smashed a record of 97, set in 1993.”

“It was the fifth consecutive day of triple-digit temperatures, but at least Sunday’s was dry heat. Pat McDonald, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service for Austin and San Antonio, said humidity was only 20 percent.”

“Dry and warm winds on the western edge of Hurricane Rita, plus a strong area of pressure over Texas that helped push the storm eastward, also stuffed hot air into the atmosphere, compressing it, said Frank Strait, a meteorologist with Accu- All this, combined with soil parched from below-normal rainfall, made for record-breaking temperatures.”

“Usually, Strait said, Austin has about 10 inches of rain from June 1 through late September. This year, there have been just more than 4 inches.”

“‘You guys are baking’,” Strait said, ‘But some relief is on the way; you just have to hang in there a little while longer’.”

Dateline: 2003:
Zanthan Gardens 20030930
2003-09-30. Tecoma stans and Lycoris radiata. We had a particularly rainy year in 2003 and that was the last time the red spider lilies bloomed in my yard.

Even displaced Yankees can tell that autumn’s arrived in Central Texas. The colors have changed; not the color of the leaves, but the color of the light and sky. You couldn’t wish for more perfect weather. I, on the other hand, am stricken by a combination of allergies (ragweed or elm) and sinus headaches. This is still my favorite time of year, but I’m really suffering for my pleasure.

The Lycoris radiata (red spider lilies) have looked great for over a week and are just beginning to fade. I love them, but they don’t really fit in with any of the other plants in my garden. I hadn’t noticed this before, but I have a lot of red flowers, and they all clash with each other. And where there isn’t red, there’s pink. The only plant that’s bright enough to mix well with the red spider lilies is the Tecoma stans.

Bluebonnets have sprouted everywhere in the yard. I’m clearing neglected sunny spots of weeds (mainly crabgrass and horseherb) and moving them around where I want them. I’m dividing the Zephyranthes grandiflora (pink rainlilies) at the same time. I haven’t divided them in years and they still bloom well. But when I dug them up, I discovered they were really crowded together.

Dateline: 1999
Tuesday September 28, 1999
Fall finally blows in at around 11:PM. AJM and I lie in the hammock after the 10 o’clock news and wait for rain. It is probably close to ninety degress. To the north we see heat lightning and an occassional lightning bolt. We begin to feel a hint of cold air blowing in under the hot moist air. We go in and toward midnight we hear a little rain. It smells wonderful, but there is not enough precipitation.

Dateline: 1996
Saturday September 28, 1996
A cold front blew in after the eclipse. Friday morning the low was around 58 and this morning it seems even cooler. The forecast is for the high 40s tonight! Wonderful fall weather! Wonderful to go from a low in the 70s to a high in the 70s overnight!

by M Sinclair Stevens

4 Responses to post “Week 39: 9/24-9/30”

  1. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    Welcome back! Though here in blogland it seems you were never away from the garden. It was in your thoughts all last year, if not under your fingernails.

  2. From Trey (California):

    I am amazed how your plants come back to life this time of year. We get the same effect here, but I don’t think to quite the extent you do. So you can plant tomatoes now and have a long enough season to harvest? Are most of the nurseries winding down for the year? Do you plant in the winter?

    Trey, tomatoes planted now may or may not have time to fruit. I’ve seen it snow the day before Thanksgiving and I’ve seen winters where it never got below 30. For cropping plants Austin has two short seasons so it’s important to find varieties that mature quickly.

    Yes, we plant throughout the fall and winter which are the recommended seasons for planting large perennials and trees so that they have time to establish themselves before our brutal summer. Annuals are popular this time of year and the nurseries are filled with pansies, snapdragons, and ornamental cabbages as well as pots of mums.

    I don’t think our nurseries have a down season. I’m including some links below so that you can check them out for yourself.

    John Dromgoole’s, the Natural Gardener. When I had a pick-up, this was my choice for mulch and soil by the cubic yard. Of course, I could never resist picking up a plant or two while I was there. They have wonderful demonstration gardens and their website is chock full of great information for gardening in Austin. This is what a nursery should be, online and in person.

    Sledd Nursery. A rather small corner nursery in a downtown neighborhood. My favorite nursery for shrubbery. Great website!

    The Great Outdoors. A large South Austin nursery on beautiful grounds with huge live oak trees. For some reason, I rarely find what I’m looking for there.

    Floribunda Small nursery close to my house. I think most of their business is from garden design. Good collection of cactus, succulents, and unusual pots and planters.

    My favorite nursery (especially for native and adaptive plants), Barton Springs Nursery, doesn’t have a website. My other favorite nursery (for classy design), Gardens, has an annoying flash site and wants you to register. A nursery/landscape design place similar to Floribunda, Big Red Sun, has another annoying flash site that is slow to load an basically unnavigable. — mss

  3. From Annie in Austin:

    Your oxalis is pretty , M, but the one that seems to like me is the purple shamrock – probably Oxalis regnellii atropururea. It sometimes browns up and disappears, or freezes and disappears, but so far it’s always returned. I keep prying off little chunks from the clumps to replant around the yard.

    It looks like we’ve got another week with 95∫ and no rain ahead. I’m watering the surviving tomato plants because they’ve produced some small green fruit. My records suggest that in the northwest part of Austin, we get earlier frosts in fall, and later frosts in spring than you experience in Central Austin. Last fall we had three days at freezing from November 8-10, so the fall tomatoes are pretty chancy, I guess!

    There are 3 independent nurseries within a reasonable distance from me – all strung out along Pond Springs Road between McNeil and 183: Hill Country Nursery, Countryside, and Red Barn, with no websites that I could find. They’re all a little different, and I hope they can all stay in business! Red Barn usually holds a Pumpkin Fest in October.


  4. From r sorrell (Austin):

    I’ve seen ONE lycoris in bloom in my neighborhood so far. I bought a few bulbs this year, and hope that they’ll thrive eventually. My own garden is finally starting to look nice again, despite my recent lack of effort. I’m so glad summer’s finally over!