November 21st, 2006
Week 46: 11/12 – 11/18

2006-11-18. Asclepias curassavica (bloodflower). Austin, TX. A flower photo for Firefly @ Sweet Pea Chronicle.

Dateline: 2006
I think I should always expect Week 46 to be blustery. A cold front blew in Wednesday (11/15) with a dessicating wind, gusts up to 50 miles per hour–more wind than we’ve seen in awhile but nothing as severe as 2001 when the tree fell on our garage. The banana plants looked disheveled even though these particular bananas, Musa lasiocarpa, hold up to wind, rain, occasional hail, and drought better than most of their kin.

Temperatures dropped 20 degrees after the front, from near-record highs in the 90s to lovely clear sunny days in the 70s. Nighttime temperatures keep dipping into the 30s. I always thought our average first freeze was around Thanksgiving (from a memory of snow on Thanksgiving Eve, 1980) but KXAN weatherman, Jim Spencer, said Austin’s average first freeze was December 2. Has it changed?

These are beautiful afternoons to spend in the garden. It is dry, dry, dry though. What happened to El Nino? The bluebonnet seedlings, especially, are curling up for want of moisture. And, yes, for a change I’m being a conscientious gardener and attending to my watering–even though our wastewater averaging has kicked in and water spent on the garden now will result in higher utility bills all next year. Pam/Digging has convinced me that my meanness with water is false economy. A look at the price tag on the replacement plants I’ve had to buy this month has also been motivating.

Dateline: 2003
Now this is more like it. Monday, about 4PM as I was driving home from school, it poured rain; the first good rain we’ve gotten in months. But it came down fast, so most of it washed off. It was the first time the water flooded the courtyard garden and actually overflowed the wall. The south side of the house had its usual flood, but the new terracing held most of the water in, giving it a chance to soak in. Officially, we only received half an inch of rain. But every container in my garden (not under trees or downspouts) had two inches. So, we lucked out here in South Austin. Erica’s Garden Spot in Houston has a great photo of how these sudden downpours flood our gardens here in Texas.

The rest of the week has been perfect fall weather (the kind I was expecting a month ago). The highs have been in the 70s, the skies a deep desert blue, and there has been no wind. Until today. Gusty winds blew up from the Gulf and the temperatures returned to the muggy 80s. Not to worry. Overnight the winds will switch to the north, and tomorrow’s low will hover around freezing. Now this is fall weather!

Bought ‘Gruss an Auchen’ from the Antique Rose Emporium via Barton Springs Nursery. Planted her yesterday across from my other floribunda ‘French Lace’.

‘Souvenir del Malmaison’ looks like its going to flower in a week or so. Although it escaped the worst of the caterpillar attacks last month which defoliated ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’ right next to it, it is once again suffering from an attack of powdery mildew. Various rose sites have said that this weather provides the perfect conditions for powdery mildew: dry, still, cool nights, and warm days. I’ve stripped the affected leaves, which are the new ones next to the buds. I’ve also sprayed the leaves with milk and cut out all the non-budding branches.

Dateline: 2001
Thursday November 15, 2001
When the rain began, I happily stopped working to have a cup of tea and sit in darkened house watching it. Our new rain barrel was already full from a bit of rain last weekend, but we hadn’t had a drenching rain since August.

Before I’d finished my tea, water was pouring down the newly-made paths of pine bark mulch, transforming them into the likeness of small mountain streams. The edging that marked the soon-be-laid decomposed granite sand paths in the rose garden held six inches of water. I was grateful that this stopped the water from washing over the front lawn which I had just finished fertilizing with Dillo dirt. I went to look out the back door. As usual, in heavy rains, the water had backed up against the west side of the house as it sought a drainage route along the north alley to the front drive.

As the tornado moved over Montopolis, about five miles east, the wind here intensified. I held my breath, waiting for the familiar sound of ripping wood. I didn’t hear anything until sparks exploded from my neighbor’s house. By then, it was too dark to see what was happening. (In the morning we learn that th. sparks had resulted when a tree in my neighbor’s front yard had blown over through his privacy fence, into his porch and where his electrical lines come into the house. Luckily, it missed his new roof that he had finished installing just last week.)

When AJM comes in to find me huddling in the back bedroom he says, “Did you see the tree on our garage!”

In our own yard, the one cedar elm that was untouched in the big September storm in 1995 had dropped its largest limb on the garage roof. Another tree lost its top, but fell without damaging anything. The broom corn was flattened. And all the newly-mulched paths were washed out.

by M Sinclair Stevens

4 Responses to post “Week 46: 11/12 – 11/18”

  1. From Kathy (New York):

    Dipping into the 30s, eh? This morning at 6am it was 17degrees F here. Supposed to get up into the 50s today, though. But you can understand my surprise to hear your washer’s permanent residence was outside.

    We garden in different worlds, no doubt about it. I was thinking of you when I threw that comment. I’ve been meaning for awhile to post some photos of giant rosemary bushes that the city uses in its median plantings just to tease you. Austin is having nice weather now but we suffered all summer when everyone else was posting gorgeous photos of flowers and gardens. I’m glad we can share our gardens with each other and cheer each other up in the down times. — mss

  2. From Annie in Austin:

    That asclepias is lovely – and it even blooms in traditional fall colors. Tom Spencer at Soul of the Garden wrote that he had some plants hit by frost last week, and some of mine look like they were nipped, too, so maybe the beginning of December is average in your part of town.

    Happy Thanksgiving!


    I’m eyeing the basil to see if we’ve had any frost. Nothing yet. Downtown really is a heat sink, I guess. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too! — mss

  3. From Julie (Austin):

    Took to heart the message about upping the watering and was out with hoses today.

    My own penchant for non-watering is only partly economic. There’s also lazy — I don’t have a sprinkler system and don’t like standing out with the hose in blistering, mosquito-ey weather — and quasi-conservationist — in our drought-prone region, it seems like guzzling.

    Even so, Refrain: paragraph 1

    I grew up mostly in the desert southwest and I feel guilty guzzling water. I don’t have a sprinkler system either and the hour I spend watering take up all my time in the garden. I hope to set up a system of drip hoses in some of the beds this year. Also this time of year I forget to water because it is so pleasant outside and the sun has stopped searing the plants. I let my guard down. But this is also my busiest time of year for growing seedlings and transplanting. — mss

  4. From Don:

    Milkweed, huh… it’s a beauty. I was so intrigued by your picture, I googled the species, and came up with a whole page of different species of Texas milkweeds; there are some great looking flowers. I’ll bet a bed of Texas milkweeds would be very nice (and drought resistant?)

    This milkweed has led me on a merry chase as it was mislabeled “Asclepias tuberosa”. By chance I came across two other people who had bought mislabeled milkweeds and discovered the truth. Unfortunately, the one I bought, “A. curassavica” is not as drought-tolerant or frost-hardy as the one I thought I bought. However, all the milkweeds are good for the monarchs which make their way through central Texas on their winter migration south. And I prefer these bi-toned flowers to the plain orange.–