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Annie in Austin
Welcome! As "Annie in Austin" I blog about gardening in Austin, TX with occasional looks back at our former gardens in Illinois. My husband Philo & I also make videos - some use garden images as background for my original songs, some capture Austin events & sometimes we share videos of birds in our garden. Come talk about gardens, movies, music, genealogy and Austin at the Transplantable Rose and listen to my original songs on YouTube. For an overview read Three Gardens, Twenty Years. Unless noted, these words and photos are my copyrighted work.
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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

In like a Lion and Out like a Shorn Lamb

This post about my garden in Austin, Texas was written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose blog.

Did my February post listing all the trees in the garden put a hex on them? This part of the privacy screen looked pretty good six weeks ago.

By the first of March tiny leaves and buds had appeared on Spiraea, Redbud, roses, Arizona Ash, Fig and dwarf Pomegranate, and flower buds swelled on the native Texas Mountain Laurel

But then came the March 3rd-4th Thundersleet that bent the Loropetalum to the ground

While the iced Oleander leaned over to block the steps to the driveway

The trees and shrubs soon bounced back from the ice, but unlike plants in a northern place where dormant plants sleep, insulated by snow from cold air, our plants were wide awake and full of sap, making leaves and setting buds. When the temperature dropped to 19°F on March 6th even the native plants were shocked at the cold.

The results have slowly revealed themselves over the last few weeks.
All the leaves dropped off the Arizona ash and the pomegranates, every leaf and bud froze on the redbud trees and on the fig tree, leaves fell from the 'Climbing Iceberg' and the Meyer's Lemon, the flowers froze on the Texas Mountain Laurel, and leaves on all four Confederate Jasmines began to turn brown. Friends who grow agaves and aloes say they're badly damaged.

Plants that were dormant are mostly OK. Evergreen plants like Salvia greggii, Skullcaps and Salvia 'Hot Lips' froze way back but most are alive at the base. Semi-evergreens like Mexican honeysuckle, Philippine Violet and Turkscap died to the ground. Plants like iris and daffodils didn't die, but most buds froze.

The Lady Banks rose lost all its leaves and buds

The ends of every boxwood twig and branch began to die back, with stems turning light tan instead of green - something I've never seen in 15-years of growing them in Central Texas. The Barbados Cherries were already iffy - now they look dead.

Last spring I took many photos of the garden in bloom, but never got around to making a post at the end of March 2013 to celebrate the end of that unusually mild winter. The garden in those photos seems like fiction this year.

On March 30th, 2013, the Lady Banks was in full bloom.

On March 29th, 2013 the Mutabilis rose looked like a dream of spring

On March 29th, 2013 several Bluebonnets popped up with yellow Four-Nerve daisies, the tall fragrant Peach Iris, and white Salvia coccinea AKA Hummingbird Sage.

On March 30th, 2013 the white rose 'Climbing Iceberg' filled the left side of the sweetheart arch with blooms while the white-flowering Confederate/Star Jasmine filled the right side.

On March 30th, 2013 another Confederate Jasmine grew 8-feet high on the shed trellis with Spanish Bluebells at the base.

We were busy nursery-hopping and planting tomatoes at the end of March in 2013 - no guests arrived to see the garden clothed in blooms but we appreciated them every day.

Any longtime gardener can take the bad years along with the good years - of course, we can! And I know that much of the cold damage to this year's garden will grow out and repair itself and make flowers again some other day or some other year.
But the thing that made me want to scream was that this year there were garden visitors - real, talk-Latin-to-me, gardener-type garden visitors. 

Flash forward to the end of March 2014... and what do this year's guests get to see?

How about a frozen and browned Loropetalum chinense var rubrum 'Plum Delight', no longer a screen but a see-through shrub?

Or the pitiful remains of the Jasmine on the shed trellis with one stem of Hyacinthoides?

At least the Rosa 'Mutabilis' had begun to releaf, even though it had no flowers

The Lady Banks rose also has made leaves, and may yet bring forth a few golden blossoms

What a trouper! After losing the main crop of buds and leaves, the Texas Redbud produced a second batch of buds for a light but lovely show of blooms.

The Confederate Jasmine is now 8-inches high instead of 8-ft tall, but the white 'Climbing Iceberg' has releafed and is forming buds. The Magnolia figo/ Banana Shrub is almost bare of leaves but tiny new leaf buds show green.

Only two-thirds of the knee-high Mexican Buckeye is alive, but the little tree was in bloom to greet the guests.

The buds froze on the white iris and the peach iris, and most of the dozens of Salvia coccinea AKA Hummingbird Sage plants died, but the Four-Nerve daisies are a cheerful lot, and some bluebonnets are in bloom, saying This is Texas. It's not a dream of a garden, but still a real one. Let the pruning-back begin!

This post about my garden in Austin, Texas was written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose blog.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Trees that Grow in my Garden

A few days ago fellow Central Texas garden blogger Laura at Wills Family Acres wrote about the trees growing on her 2-acre property. It was fascinating to see the large numbers of live oaks and cedars on her plot, and also fun to see how many trees she and her family had planted.

I really liked the idea, and decided to copy Laura and make my own Tree Inventory post. After subtracting the area covered by driveway, hardscape & house from my quarter acre lot the remaining plantable area is pretty small... how hard could it be to count the trees on 1/8 of an acre?

"This should be a cinch," I thought. "All I have to do is take the tree names from my plant spreadsheet."

But it wasn't that that simple. The first problem was deciding what counted as a tree. Are hollies trees or shrubs? Are boxwoods shrubs? Where are the lines?
What about small baby trees in growing-on containers?  Do I count trees that are brought into the garage or house in cold weather?

The second problem was that my spreadsheet was not complete. I'd made a note of every tiny plant brought home from Barton Springs Nursery and the Natural Gardener, but had never entered some of the large boring plants already growing here in 2004 when we bought this house. (I'm talking about you, Photinia.)

Categories seemed to be the answer.

For this list, a baby tree in a container is still a tree and trees kept permanently in containers are still trees, but they'll have their own category. I considered calling this Texas Palmetto a tree, but with a future height of only 5 to 6-ft, decided to leave it off the list.

A plant that wants to be a tree but can be kept to shrub height by constant pruning counts as a tree on the list. Neglect to prune a Ligustrum hedge or a Red Tip Photinia hedge and you'll end up with a forest of Ligustrum and Photinia trees.

If a treelike plant has the potential to be 7 or 8 feet tall it counts as a tree. For example, my Barbados Cherries have been pretty wimpy, but I've seen them look like small trees in the gardens of friends. 

The trees and treelike shrubs that were already growing here when we moved in will have a separate category.

GROUP 1 -Trees that were here when we moved in that are still alive :

Arizona ash (1 very large)

Pecan, unknown variety (2 very large)

Live Oaks (2 medium large)

Yaupon holly (1 lovely, muli-trunked tree, about 15-ft  tall)

Crepe myrtle, the common hot pink ( 6 in sizes from 7-ft to 20-ft)

Holly - some kind of Chinese holly (1 allowed to be a 12-ft tree, 1 pruned repeatedly to 5-ft)

Nandina (3 kept at 6-ft)

Red tip Photinia (3 kept under 10-ft)

GROUP 2 - Trees that were planted by us:

Loquat tree (3 trees, one large, one medium, one about 4-ft tall, all from seedlings)

The largest loquat is in the photo above, with Bay Laurel in container left, larger Southern Wax Myrtle in ground right

Magnolia 'Little Gem' (1 about 12-ft tall)

Sweet Olive (3. The oldest is very established and kept to 12-ft tall. Two younger plants are under 5-ft.)

Texas redbud (1, about 10-ft tall)

'Forest Pansy' redbud (1, about 10-ft tall)

Vitex /Chaste tree (1, kept to 10-ft tall, from a seedling)

Magnolia figo/ Banana shrub (1 about 8-ft tall)

In the photo above, the Banana shrub is at left next to the bench, center is a young Texas Mountain Laurel, then a camellia, then the tall, burgundy-leaved Loropetalum/Chinese Witch Hazel

Cenizo/Texas sage (1, kept to 8-ft, grown from a seedling)

Beautyberry AKA French mulberry (1, kept to about 7-ft tall)

Evergreen sumac (1, barely 5-ft tall after 7 years in the ground)

Barbados cherry trees (usually frozen back, one tree about 6-ft, another about 4-ft)

Crepe Myrtle 'Acoma' blooms white (2 trees, called semi-dwarf, kept to abt 12-ft in height)

Crepe Myrtle 'Catawba' blooms purple (2 young trees, under 5-ft.)

Crepe Myrtle  labeled 'Muskogee', supposed to bloom lavender (1 young tree, abt 6-ft tall)

Crepe Myrtle 'Zuni' blooms orchid pink (1 young tree, under 9-ft)

Meyer's Improved Lemon (1 tree, when not winter-killed, pruned to about 9-ft tall

Loropetalum/Chinese Witch hazel (2 - the one in photo with Magnolia Figo is about 9-ft tall, the other is a young plant about 2-ft tall.)

Pineapple guava (1 about 6-ft tall)

The Pineapple Guava has reached the top of the privacy fence - in the background is one of the Live Oak trees.

Rose 'Mutabilis' (1 in ground, kept to 8-ft by diligent pruning)

Texas Mountain Laurel (4 plants. Two about 6-ft, one about 5-ft, one about 2-ft)

This is the only one of my 4 Texas Mountain Laurels that has ever bloomed.

Satsuma orange 'Miho' (1 young tree abt 3-ft tall)

Southern Wax Myrtle (1, about 5-6 ft)

Mexican Buckeye (1 baby tree in the ground, maybe 2 and 1/2 ft tall)

GROUP 3- Trees planted by us, presently growing in containers:

Oleander (1, very large container, kept to 10-ft in height.)

Rose 'Mutabilis' (1 about 6-ft tall)

Bay Laurel (1 about 5-ft tall)

Southern Wax Myrtle (1 abt 4-ft tall)

Dwarf Pomegranate (2 plants, one under 2-ft, one about 7-ft tall)

Pineapple guava (1 about 5-ft tall)

Montezuma cypress (1 baby tree)

Thai lime trees (2 small trees, both under 3-ft, one in garage, one outside)

Willow, corkscrew (1 under 5-ft kept in container, grown from a cutting)

Meyer's Improved Lemon, (1 small tree bought in March 2006 - blooming in the breakfast room right now)

Whether or not this list is interesting to you readers, it sure is useful for me as a garden record... Thanks for the idea, Laura!

Thursday, August 08, 2013

When A Ginger Is Just A "Ginger"

This post was written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose blog.

What do you think of when you hear "Ginger plant"? The first one that comes to my mind is Hedychium coronarium, the fragrant white-flowering ginger, also called Hawaiian White Ginger or
Butterfly Ginger. I brought a tiny root back from the airport gift shop in Hawaii more than a decade ago and have it growing in a few places in my garden. I can still remember how thrilling it was when my plant first bloomed in 2004.


You can find fancier, named varieties of Hedychium with larger flowers in many colors but I still love the white one... reminds me of the loved and long-discontinued Avon sticks in Hawaiian White Ginger scent.
Each summer I hope for the return of the fragrant blooms - in some years they are few but this year buds have formed on one plant.

Maybe Ginger to you means true, edible ginger, Zingiber officinale? I once started a plant from one of the fresh ginger roots from the produce section but it was very tender and didn't survive. The leaves look similar to my white ginger but it's grown for the root, not the flowers.

Perhaps, like many people in Austin, you think of the large-leaved variegated ginger grown in containers and in the ground. A few years ago I picked up a pot from the bargain table at a big box nursery for a couple of dollars. I'm pretty good about keeping lists of plant purchases, but I didn't even bother to write this one down, sure it was just a tender, one-season foliage plant.

Over the first winter the foliage died back badly but the leaves struggled back up to form a sadly diminished foliage plant that summer.

Its fortitude earned the ginger a place in the garage for Winter 2009-2010, safe from freezes but subject to dust and sawdust.

With the return of warm weather the pot was dragged back onto the front porch.

Then in 2010 my friend Ellen bought a couple of Variegated gingers from the reduced-for-quick sale section at a big HEB store - she brought one to me and I put it in another pot, to have one on each side of the front door.

Both pots of variegated ginger grew and were dragged back in the garage for winter 2011-12.

Last spring they came out front to grow some more. But they didn't grow in quite the same way - one had clusters of leaves on stalks and one sent more pointed leaves sprawling in every direction.
Finally I got the message - these plants were not the same plant.

Ellen's gift was definitely a variegated Shell Ginger, best guess was Alpinia zerumbet 'Variegata'.

But my bargain baby was something else.
It seemed to be some variety of Ctenanthe lubbersiana - maybe just variegata or maybe one of the named varieties. Some sites called it Bamburanta and others Prayer Plant. Some people on GardenWeb called it California Ginger - this seems to be a name used by home centers when they sell Ctenanthe as tropical plants.

By late fall 2012 both plants needed repotting.
After a redo, the Shell Ginger was in a larger decorated pot set in a corner of the porch.

I split the Not-Shell Ginger into two rather gawky plants, one for each side of the door.

When I cut off some stalks with browned leaves, I noticed the way the leaves were attached in small fans at the top of the stalks. I pulled off a few fans and poked them into another pot on the patio, and stuck a few more fans in smaller pots.

My instincts were right - the fans rooted and soon I had a third plant growing with a Blue Butterfly Clerodendron, something that also needed to be in the garage for winter.

This summer the front pots of Ctenanthe/California Ginger look pretty good, under the overhang of the veranda, in partial shade from a large tree.

They need water a few times each week in warm weather, but not every day.

And after a recent grooming session I have more pieces stuck in pots in hope they'll root.

The porch was too small for the Shell Ginger - in back it can get a mix of sun and shade and spread out.

As a foliage plant it is just fine, but now I have higher ambitions for my Shell Ginger! In June some friends and I went on the NXNA garden walk and saw this enormous plant in bloom against a brick wall. Wow!

Two mild winters in a row meant that flower buds on Shell Ginger plants all over Austin didn't freeze but lived to bloom, surprising many of the gardeners who had nurtured them for years without ever seeing a flower. Sometimes patience is rewarded with great beauty.

 This post was written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose blog.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A surprisingly Pleasant, Rainy GBBD for July, 2013

This post was written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose blog.  

Rain is a big deal here, and it rained today! I watched through the kitchen window as the rain ran down the chain into the barrel and then stood on the front porch listening to the welcome sound. Instead of dust we had raindrops. Instead of the 104°F of Saturday afternoon, temperatures on Monday afternoon never broke 80°F.
The chance to make a Garden Blogger Bloom Day post featuring petals and leaves dampened by raindrops doesn't come along very often! I caught a few photos, mostly of plants near the house, and mostly of flowers with petals that hadn't disintegrated to mush in the rain.

There are two more rain chains directing water into the very important, long back wall border. This very desirable morning-sun, afternoon-shade spot is jammed full with Blue Plumbago, Tropical Milkweed, a Meyer's Lemon, a Satsuma orange, 'Carmen' peppers, a climbing rose, Grandma's phlox, Blue Butterfly Clerodendron, Pink cuphea, Burgundy oxalis, black Ophiopogon, Coreopsis 'Crème Brulee', three passalong daylilies and more, in the rain

Some years ago a couple of bulbs of Amarcrinum were given positions in this special, long border - the fragrant pink flowers appeared in the last post and even more flower stalks are up now. Here is  x Amarcrinum 'Fred Howard' in the rain

Over by the garden gate the Cenizo/Texas Sage had popped into bloom

Across from the Cenizo a daylily that had bloomed a while ago is surprising me. It appears that the developing bloom stalk stalled and shut down when we started seeing temperatures over 100°F. Now the stalk has extended and the buds are swelling, long after the other flowers faded. Here is Hemerocallis 'Devonshire' in the rain.

Behind the daylily are a Firecracker plant and a creamy white Salvia greggii. Let's take a closer look. 

The daylily, Firecracker plant and salvia have all been here for years, but on the other side of the daylily is a more recent addition, Asclepias currasivica 'Silky Gold'. This all-yellow selection of tropical milkweed seems to be settling in well and it sure does look pretty in the rain

Closer to the back fence a young 'Catawba' crepe myrtle bows down with the weight of water-logged blossoms. This tree is only shrub-sized right now, but it has the potential to transform this part of the garden as it grows into a tree.

Blasting afternoon sun combined with deep morning shade and a very dry winter is not the recipe for happy Phlox, but some handwatering and compost helped this Fanick's phlox in the pink entrance garden survive to make a few flowers. I was afraid I had lost this plant so am very happy to take a photo of it in the rain

There are a couple of beds in the garden that usually bloom with red, white & blue flowers around  Memorial Day or the Fourth of July. Those beds did not deliver this year, but a large patio container is displaying patriotic colors today. Here's a white Datura AKA Angel's Trumpet, with blue-violet petunias, white hummingbird sage and red hummingbird sage, in the rain.

So far my rain gauge has measured a little over 2" - there's been much more in some parts of Central Texas and much less in other parts of Austin. Y
ou may be tired of reading that little phrase, "In the Rain", but I'm sure not tired of saying it.

Carol of May Dreams Gardens started Garden Bloggers Bloom Day and keeps the links for all who want to be part of this pleasant tradition. This is her July post.

If I can get a complete list of what's in bloom along with the botanical names, it will appear at Annie's Addendum.  

(That list is now up, with a few more photos)
This post was written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose blog.