December 20th, 2006
Week 50: 12/10 – 12/16

red oak
2006-12-15. Austin, TX. The red oaks (whether Shumard or Texas I don’t know) hold onto their leaves the longest of any trees my yard. They also grow quickly. This one was just a sprout 13 years ago and now it’s about 30 feet tall.

Dateline: 2007
First flower: Lupinus texensis (12/15).

Dateline: 2006
The week began cool (56F) and foggy and then turned sunny and increasingly warm, finally reaching 80F on 12/17 and 12/18. This is unseasonably warm even for Austin. All I did this week (slathered in sun screen and wearing my hat) was garden, either raking leaves or digging up beds for replanting. I also transplanted lots of sweet peas, larkspur, and bluebonnets. All that work and it still doesn’t look like much. The red oaks keep raining down leaves faster than I can rake them up. This is when I dream of acquiring another mulching mower.

The rose ‘Prosperity’ looked like it might be the next to go down from dieback. I cut back the affected canes as soon as I noticed it. Rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ is putting out buds, but too late to flower for Christmas.

First flower: paperwhite narcissus (12/14).

Dateline: 2004
The good and bad about winter in the south is that it’s never one thing or another very long. Last week it was near 80. This week it plunged to 20. Luckily it was only cold for a day or so. Now the highs are working their way up to the 60s. But by Christmas Eve, the temperatures will plunge again as another front from the Arctic blows down the Great Plains.

Most plants don’t go dormant here, so they go into shock with a night of Canadian weather. When the warm temperatures return, it’s sad to see the blackened garden. This year many of the roses were covered with new growth and buds. The older growth withstood the freeze.

The cannas, bananas, and elephant ears died back and I’ve already cut them down and covered the rhizomes with cedar elm leaves. The woody perennials lost their leaves, but the branches are still green. This includes the Tecoma stans, the plumbago, and the Pandorea ricasoliana. My oleander ‘Shari D’ is very frost-sensitive. The new buds definitely froze, but it does not look as badly damaged as it was by frosts when it was younger.

The paperwhite narcissus are blooming. Before the freeze I picked roses from ‘Heritage‘, ‘Penelope‘, ‘Prosperity’, and ‘Madame Joseph Schwartz’.

Dateline: 2001
Sunday(12/15) was oddly warm (74F) and very humid. It rained off an on all day. Now that the rain has finally pushed through to the east, we are promised a few clear, crisp days before more rain next weekend.

Between showers, I managed to get out into garden long enough to see the first flower on the Chinese sacred lily, which is not a lily, but a relative of the paperwhite narcissus. The flowers are richly orange scented.

The oak leaves are bright red now and beginning to fall. All the trees have finally lost the remainder of their leaves, so I can stop spending all my time raking leaves and go back to spending all my time weeding the meadow.
Three rose bushes have flowers this week: ‘French Lace’, ‘Blush Noisette’, and ‘Madame Joseph Schwartz’. The ‘Blush Noisette’ is a much deeper pink than when it blooms in the summer.

by M Sinclair Stevens

2 Responses to post “Week 50: 12/10 – 12/16”

  1. From Annie in Austin:

    The red oak is beautiful! How cool to get fall color, unlike pecans and ashes. I’ve seen some larkspur in my garden, too, and a couple of bluebonnets. Did you recently plant the sweetpeas, or are these reseeders? I bought that heirloom one you mentioned in an earlier post, but didn’t plant it yet.

    I’m with you on the mulching mower – it’s so useful right now!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    The sweet peas are newly-bought seeds. The heirloom ‘Cupani’ I had planted in the late 1990s came back for several years and then disappeared. I haven’t grown sweet peas since but I find myself retreating back to the origins of my garden which began with a lot of old-fashioned annuals. — mss

  2. From M2 (Austin):

    I once read a fable-type story about “Why the Oak Holds Her Leaves,” so apparently it’s a common phenomenon.