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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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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Divide & Multiply

Over at Pam/Digging’s blog, I mentioned this Crème Brulee Coreopsis, and promised a photo when it began to bloom. Last fall I rescued a distressed-looking pot of this coreopsis from the bargain table at Lowe’s. It was marked down to only $2!
I pulled it apart and replanted all the little sections. [Cheap, cheap, cheap.] This spring there were five survivors, and some have started to bloom. I like the color in this area, with a lemony Achillea ‘Moonshine’ and a lemony daylily, Hemerocallis ‘Happy Returns’. There’s a clump of silver-grey Lambs Ears [Stachys byzantina] and a purple Salvia greggii weaving through, too.
Over by the obelisk, there are two more divisions of the coreopsis almost ready to bloom. For a price equal to two lottery tickets, I won quite a floral prize, don’t you think?

Monday, June 26, 2006

June Tomatoes

Here is Philo's staked vegetable garden, which has a mix of peppers and tomatoes, including both old and new varieties. Many came from the Sunshine Community Garden Sale held in Spring. The depressingly early hot spell meant the peppers refused to set fruit. Even with careful hand watering, the weather was hard on the heirloom tomatoes. The workhorse tomatoes like Juliet and Celebrity may be viewed with scorn by the guys in the heirloom forums, but they give you a crop, by gum! I like to keep a bowl of Juliets on the kitchen counter, handy to pop a couple as one passes through the room.

No Fear of Heights

Over at Garden Rant, Michele lamented the lack of tall herbaceous perennials like Dahlias and oriental lilies in today’s gardens, saying here
that no one wants to stake, so that all we see are “well-behaved mounds of veronica, geranium, sedum and coreopsis”.

Near the 6-foot tall back fence, wire cages support those white hibiscus flowers that were celebrated in my first blog entry. Their flowers can reach 11 inches in diameter. The hibiscus is seen here with blue-flowering Salvia guaranitica, upright without help, and the 5’6” Annie, who is known to lean on anything handy.

More tall perennials include self-standing Salvia ‘Black and Blue’, Salvia elegans (the fragrant Pineapple Sage), tall yellow, night-blooming daylily ‘Citrina’ and Texas Star Hibiscus. Staked flowers include oriental lilies and two dahlias, while Philo’s tomato patch bristles with tall wooden stakes, filling the area between the long mixed border on the north fence and the center back hummingbird bed.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Howard's Tall Farewell

The left half of our back yard had an open area in the middle that was mainly grass until this spring. This space is irregular, approximately 22’ X 25’ at the widest points. You walk through it every time you enter the gate, or exit the house, or go over to the mixed border and the vegetable garden. We cross through that area many times a day and also see it from the breakfast room, from the patio and from the shady bench under the peach tree.

Because this middle area was so sunny, the grass needed regular watering, unlike the grass in shadier areas. If I’m going to water, I want something more than grass! Last year we planted a ‘Little Gem’ Magnolia at one end of this space, adding the gloss of dark green leaves and a few fragrant white flowers, but at barely five feet, it will take a few years for this tree to make any vertical impact or cast shade. This spring, we made a new long bed that includes the magnolia, a Texas Mountain Laurel, salvias, Lemon verbena and other plants.

In April, we added instant height to the bed when Philo and I found a 7 and ½ foot-tall obelisk at Howard Nursery on Koenig Lane. Howard’s has been a great source for shrubs, flowers and fun gift items. Although the new structure is taller than anything else on that side of the yard, it was rapidly climbed and entwined by the second Snail Vine.

When we bought the obelisk in April, we passed up some tempting roses. Now I really regret that lost opportunity. Our most recent trip to Howard’s was for their closing sale, where I bought a one-gallon Weigela as a sort of souvenir. It will have to be in a container for now, but it may live and someday bloom, reminding me of a loved-and-lost Austin nursery.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

INSIDE: Two Indie Films with Austin Connections

One of the things we’ve loved about living in Austin is access to some ‘smaller’ movies that don’t play all over the country. When the weather turns hot, we recharge by spending time inside dimly lit, air-conditioned theaters.

A few weeks ago at St Edward’s University we had the privilege of seeing Jumping Off Bridges followed by a panel discussion with the filmmakers, past and present officials of the Texas Film Commission and a representative from the Mayor’s office, discussing film funding, This was an intimate movie focusing on four high school students, and their responses when tragedy visits the family of the main character. This movie was made in Austin by writer/director Kat Candler and features some wonderful performances by mostly unknown actors, although fans of television's LOST may recognize one of the parents. I hope we see Katie Lemon again soon – she is so young, but gives amazing presence and authenticity to her character. This movie isn’t light, but it does have humor and intelligence.

Austin’s Mayor Wynn jumped off the Pfluger Bridge to help get this movie made, local businesses helped feed cast and crew, and locations were made available by generous friends and even schools, because people here understand how important movie-making is to our city. As parents of four adult children, my husband Philo and I may not be experts, but we are experienced, and this movie felt like truth to us.


The second film is more comic in nature and it’s now enjoying limited release after playing film festivals. This combination road picture/relationship movie is called The Puffy Chair. Jay and Mark, the Duplass brothers, some-time-Austin residents, made the film on an incredibly small budget using many ways to keep costs down: one brother is the director and cameraman, the other stars and acts as producer, family members were talked into giving financial support and taking roles as actors, the homes of family & friends are used as sets, and the number of takes was kept short. The performances are a delight, and we want to see these people again. Rhett Wilkins is making a habit of playing quirky brothers, since he is the main character’s nature-boy brother in this movie, and the main character’s older brother in Jumping Off Bridges. There are parts of this movie that leave you limp from laughing.

The Duplass Brothers were present at our showing of the movie, and they are hilarious and articulate in person. Mark Duplass has an intense and expressive look, reminding me somehow of Martin Landau when he was very young. Back in 1959, Landau had to be the villain in North By Northwest, but Mark gets to be the lead in a world that better appreciates interesting faces.


Some Purple Stars for Pam/Digging

Since this area was St. Augustine grass until a few months ago, these Echinacea ‘Purple Stars’ have only been in a couple of months and may look different as the plants mature. They were less than two dollars each at local nursery Red Barn, which in addition to larger plants, carries inexpensive starter perennials for those willing to nurse tiny plants up to border size.

Right now the Coneflowers are adding summer color to the front, and were chosen to blend with the many hot pink crepe myrtles blooming nearby. From this spot you can see one of our myrtles as well as several belonging to the neighbors next door and to the people across the street. [Instead of fighting the pink trees, I’m trying to work with them.] This Echinacea variety doesn’t look particularly purple to me, but they look tidier than the species. The blue flowers are a few small Platycodon ‘Miss Tilly’, more Red Barn bargains. I love balloon flowers, and have them all over the place. The pinky flower at right is a Cuphea, a tiny white, pink & lavender version of the Bat-face cuphea.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Under his tall and tough exterior, my dad was a flowering shrub kind of guy. A few years after his return from World War II, he and mom bought an empty one-acre lot out in “the sticks” to the southwest of Chicago, where they built the only home they’d ever own. The yard tree behind my father’s childhood bungalow on the South side was an Ailanthus, often called Tree of Heaven. If you’re a movie fan, you know it as A Tree that Grows in Brooklyn. Dad planted a seedling from Grandma’s Tree of Heaven on the treeless acre, along with other species recommended for ‘fast shade’, like Silver Maples & Honey Locust. Some grew, some died, and over time my parents added young Spruces and Junipers, Yews, a Sycamore, a Saucer Magnolia, various Ashes, a Catalpa, Pears, an Apple whip and Bur Oaks.

Dad planted the front and sides of the lot with flowering shrubs: Lilacs, Snowball Viburnum, Forsythias, Weigelas, Annabelle Hydrangeas, Honeysuckles, Rose-of-Sharon, Bridal Wreath Spiraea, and my favorite fragrant Mockorange, cloned from a plant that his mother brought to Chicago from her family’s Michigan farm. When we moved from Illinois to Texas nearly seven years ago, I hand-carried a 6” seedling, a descendent of the original plant. It spent six years in containers, growing to 20 inches in height, and in February the little heirloom was finally planted in a special new garden, an area that is still being renovated. I was happy to see its fragrant white flowers appear in June. One of my songs is called “Everybody Needs A Secret Garden”, and now Dad’s Mockorange blooms in mine.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


This floral combination on the metal arch is really pleasing me right now, although it sure is not what I’d planned. Earlier in spring, the Lady Banks yellow rose threw her yellow-blooming canes onto the arch from the left side. Now the native coral honeysuckle and what’s probably a Snail vine are growing up from the right side. In March, I was delighted to find the vine, supposed to be annual here, as inexpensive little plants from the Travis County Master Gardeners’ booth at Zilkerfest/Florarama, labeled as Vigna caracalla.

Before the fest, I’d been mining garden sites for information on Corkscrew and/or Snail vine, and found many heated and conflicting opinions. Some insist that Phaseolous caracalla refers only to Snail Vine, a related but separate genus, producing lavender, scentless blooms. They say that Vigna caracalla is the scented plant that is seen at Monticello. Other online experts were just as positive that Phaseolous was an outdated name, that the species was moved into Vigna, and that the scent and color were a result of selection, with both the fragrant and non-scented versions sharing the same name.

Naturally, I was hoping that mine would turn out to be the fragrant white one with blushes of yellow & purple, and thought it would look wonderful with the honeysuckle.

Just as naturally, both of mine turned out to be the lavender one with no fragrance. And the ants adore it. Although this snail vine may not have the scent and color of the corkscrew vine, growing it on the arch lets me see its intricate shape at eyelevel.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

INSIDE: Confessions of a Prairie Home Companion Geek

Robert Altman and Garrison Keillor are my current pinup boys.

I’ve tracked this movie since it was still in the talking stage, with Tom Waits and Lyle Lovett penciled in as Dusty & Lefty. Last summer, fans in Minnesota posted photos on the IMDb, catching the actors at the Fitzgerald Theater. It was fun to see the candid shots, and to catch the Oscar show in February as Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep used Altman’s famous ‘overlapping dialogue’ to demonstrate what a great sister act they’d be in the movie.

Several months ago I printed a poster from the official site for Prairie Home Companion/the Movie and stuck it on the refrigerator. Last week, the June 3rd radio edition of the Prairie Home Companion featured John C. Reilly, Virginia Madsen, and Meryl Streep, who loved making the movie & didn’t want the experience to end.

The PHC songs may be corny, but they can overpower the rational part of your brain, demanding either guffaws or tears. I was glad Meryl Streep sang me to tears with one particular song last week, rather than hearing for the first time yesterday in the theater. The Johnson Sisters’ song about lost Uncles and Aunts could have been devastating, but luckily I’d been ‘hardened off’. [Does that term make this a garden entry instead of a movie post?]

I loved the movie, hope to see it again before it leaves the big screen and have already set aside the money for the eventual DVD. Our hearts stayed in St. Paul although we’d left the theater – at 5 PM the latest episode was broadcast live from right here in Austin, Texas – performed on stage at the Bass Concert Hall on the University of Texas Campus.

Well, it’s time to get that hotdish cookin’, yoo becha, and bake a cahfee-cayke… I’m feelin’ kinda Minnesotan.

[It's now November, and Robert Altman died on the 20th. So A Prairie Home Companion will be the last Robert Altman movie, and I'm feeling very sad about that - but grateful that his works are just a DVD away. Farewell, with love from a longtime fan. Annie]

Sidebar Links

Wahoo! My husband helped me learn how to add a list of favorite sites. I hope redoing the list gets faster with practice, because my afternoon was shot. Oh, well – it’s too hot to do more than hand water the container plants anyway.
If this blog is a flop, can I blame RSorrell and Lball? They requested that commenters to their posts have Blogger accounts. Without that push, I’d never have done it.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Pink- A -Phobic

Were there too many pink rooms in my Boomer childhood, too many pink sheets and towels piled high at bridal showers, with subsequent weddings themed Blush & Bashful? Could it have been an overdose of girly gift shopping in the Pink aisle of the toy store? Whatever the reason, I can put up with a small amount of this color, but I don’t love it … yet it appears uninvited all over my garden.

Nature is against me: A group of white dianthus plants may suddenly display a pink heart, as the default-color seedlings sprout and bloom, their roots too entangled to separate. All the peachy, yellow, white and dark purple verbena will die, but the neon pink plant thrives and lives through the winter, ready to resume its battle with the pale yellow Ladybanks rose. The seed packet shows vibrant purple zinnias, not the actual washed-out pink ones that appear. The skullcap tags read ‘Cherry red’ but the plant shouts pink!

Back in 2004, as we pulled in the driveway of our just-purchased home, the very air seemed to have a roseate cast to it. The crepe myrtles were in hot pink bloom, lightly frosted with the powdery mildew that usually accompanies the flowers. Our neighbors to the North had several large trees; the East-side neighbors grew a row of 15-footers along our mutual back fence, while the South-side neighbor had a mere half-dozen in his yard. More crepes sprinkled across the street added to the spectacle. On our quarter-acre we counted twenty-two Lagerstroemia “WayTooPink”. Our guess is that the eight largest trees were intentionally planted. The rest were 4 to 7 feet in height, apparently seedlings that had been allowed to grow against the windows, inside the boughs of flowering shrubs, and right on top of the few existing roses.

We took out many of the pink myrtles, pruned and cared for the rest, and as you can see, they're blooming again. Over time the numbers were reduced to 7 trees. Last year we released two semi-dwarf, mildew resistant crepe myrtles from the deck containers where they’d sulked for years, planting them into the yellow/blue/purple border, where they are now opening white flowers.

Once rescued and revived, the climbing rose bloomed pink.

I love it.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Define 'gaudy'

One of the plants I brought with me from Illinois to Austin is this big, white, perennial hibiscus, which completely disappears over the winter, then bulks up into a large floppy plant covered in flowers. I don't care if it is gaudy - it's one of my favorites.

The Blue River ll hibiscus has proved to be quite transplantable, spaded from its previous garden in Illinois soil, replanted & grown in a deck container for five years, and now living large in Texas earth. Like my hibiscus, I've tried to be a 'transplantable rose', not just surviving, but thriving here. The blog name is also the title of one of my songs.