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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, August 31, 2006

Is My Name Fred?

Long before I moved from Illinois/Zone 5 to Austin/Zone 8B, authors like Elizabeth Lawrence, Henry Mitchell and Stephen Lacey/The Startling Jungle fed my zone-envy by talking about Crinum and Amarcrinum lilies. Now I have some!

Above is the crinum that’s in bloom now, showing its colors, lovely and even fragrant, but I sure didn’t pay one hundred dollars for it, as Pam/Digging has read. I found the Plant Delights receipt from February 2001, for one bulb of Amarcrinum x ‘Fred Howard’ at $12. A journal notation mentions that in Fall 1999, I bought a potted bulb from the Austin Men’s Garden Club. The cost was $5; the donor wasn’t sure of the name, but wrote “Jersey Lily” on the pot.

Both bulbs grew and were repotted several times before we moved here. In October 2004, I was amazed to realize that the two original bulbs had become eight, but they were mixed up when they were planted in a holding bed. In Spring 2005, the 8 bulbs found permanent homes in 4 locations, varied as to sun/shade and moisture, so I could see what worked best.

For comparison, here’s a photo of Amarcrinum x ‘Fred Howard’ at Plant Delights. My flower looks just like their ‘Fred Howard’, don’t you think?

In June, another of the bulbs, planted in a hotter & sunnier space, bloomed with Evolvolus ‘Blue Daze’ around it.

This one looks like a ‘Fred Howard’, too. So my investment has doubled already!

What about the other six? Was “Jersey Lily” a possibility? A search for ‘Jersey Lily’ pulled up many sites on Lillie Langtry, the beautiful actress and mistress of King Edward VII, named for the flower growing on her home Isle of Jersey. [Did anyone else watch Francesca Annis as ”Lillie” in the old Masterpiece Theater Series?]

Google found a few botanical choices for Jersey Lily, including Nerine bowdenii, and Nerine sarniensis. In photos these Nerines seem fluffier, with long stamens hovering above pink flower petals splayed outward. Hortus Third says Nerines are tender below Zone 9, with “lvs. strap-shaped, basal, usually absent at flowering time”, and both species are described as rose-red. Other authorities insisted that Jersey Lily is Amaryllis belladonna, a kind of Naked Lady, with reddish stems and leaves that disappear in April.

The disappearing, strap-shaped leaves seem to rule out both Nerines and the Amaryllis belladonna. I may have mixed up the bulbs when they were separated and replanted, but every one of the eight bulbs produces semi-evergreen leaves. The foliage never disappears, although some of it turns brown if the temperature dips below 20º F, then regrows when the freeze is over.

So I’ll wait and see if the six remaining bulbs ever bloom. A couple may also be ‘Freds’, but the others? My guess is that the guy from the Austin Men’s Garden Club was growing some kind of Crinum without knowing what he had; I hope it is another variety of these lovely flowers.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Yesterday afternoon, a 15-minute shower dampened the ground and washed the dust off the leaves. This morning there is genuine rain – three-quarters of an inch in the gauge at eight AM. Seeing the drops hit the earth lifts the spirit of the gardener, and I’m feeling joy on a personal scale.

Two of today’s newspaper stories dealt with the ‘big picture’, the extremes of our country’s relationships with water. The stories were about two cities that Philo & I have briefly seen, but don't really know.

Near-Dust Bowl conditions in the middle of our country meant that for the first time there’s no corn to decorate the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. We visited this fun and wacky celebration of agriculture in 1996, just passing through on our way to Devil's Tower.

Uncontrollable, huge amounts of water meant that we're still mourning the destruction of New Orleans one year ago. We've only seen this city from Interstate 10, passing through on our way to the ocean a couple of weeks ago.

Austin needs something like 15-inches of rain to break the drought, but don't want it all at once! For whatever falls today I am grateful.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Nothing Could Be Finer Than...

The out-of-state kids arrived safely from 3 states, but they didn’t fly to Texas. These seashells, farmstand tomatoes & Carolina peaches are souvenirs we brought back from a combined family reunion, vacation & anniversary celebration held on the Carolina Coast.

Philo & I drove east on Interstate 10 to meet with our four children and their families at a town where we’ve stayed 8 times over the past 30 years. We were last there in 1994 - it was always a magical place, and thank heavens, things have not changed much!

While our family jumped in the surf, made sandcastles, played beach volleyball, watched pelicans and dolphins, enjoyed seafood dinners and witnessed hatchling Loggerhead turtles make their way to the ocean, back in Austin our wonderful friends, neighbors and Divas watered our plants & kept our containers, young trees, shrubs and perennials alive.

Since we came home, instead of leaning over to pick up seashells on the beach, I’ve been picking up pecans by the bucketful from the ground under the pecan trees. Some nuts were undeveloped, shed by the trees in response to the drought, some were bitten, half-eaten and thrown around by the squirrels. I don’t think the trees themselves are in danger, since the leaves are green. These trees did the same thing last September - in the middle of the night we were wakened over and over by a hearing a thunk on the roof, followed by a rolling sound, then a thud as the nut hit the ground. It was unnerving at first, but it eventually became one of those comfortable, usual, recognizable sounds – your brain just says, ‘Pecan falling’ and lets you stay sleep.

One very nice and totally unexpected surprise was that this crinum-type lily put up a flower stalk which is just starting to show pink buds. It might be Amarcrinum 'Fred Howard' bought in March 2001 from Plant Delights Nursery, or it might be an unnamed crinum bought at an Austin Men's Garden Club sale in Spring 2000. Both lilies grew for years in large deck pots, where they developed into multiple bulbs. Once we moved here, the bulbs were planted in the ground, but the tags were lost and the individual bulbs were mixed up. Whatever the name, I'm thrilled to see it bloom!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

View From My Window

Here's the view, taken from the breakfast room. We placed the herb bed directly in front of the window where we could see it from the table. Those shiny leaves among the herbs are from the Meyer lemon in a large pot. The yard isn’t that deep, so it’s just a few big steps forward to the tall flowers, with the vegetable garden just out of sight on the left. [From Philo’s chair, he can see the sunflowers and what’s left of his tomato plants.]

The Blue River II Hibiscus, from the first post back in June, are still opening white flowers, one or two a day since the end of May. Last year the hibiscus leaves wilted pathetically, but as the plants become established, they need less water. You might be able to see one Texas Star Hibiscus flower in the middle, with a sprawling Cuphea at its feet.
This is the red & violet “bat-faced Cuphea” that so many Austin gardeners have adopted, partly because it’s so pretty, partly for civic pride. A huge bat colony living under the Congress Avenue Bridge has become a tourist attraction, with a small park for bat-watching. All sorts of doodads decorated in bat designs are sold as souvenirs around town.
The blue flowers keep coming on the Salvia guaranitica at the back fence but the Pineapple sage/Salvia elegans, is ‘resting’ right now. Sometimes that concrete birdbath has 6 or 8 white wing doves on the edge. They are one of the goofiest looking birds I’ve ever seen – like cartoon birds.

Along the fence behind the birdbath we’ve planted evergreen Viburnum and a Michelia, hoping they’ll grow and eventually give some winter privacy… and maybe block out the reflection of our neighbors’ metal pool slide. The mini-lights hang around the patio area all year; right now there is a Cypress vine growing along them, planted just for the hummingbirds.

No more blogging for a week – our out-of-state kids will be enduring the hassle of boarding planes so they can be with us for a while – we can’t wait to see them!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Nutbuk has tagged me to do a book meme, something new to me. Since the camera refuses to work at the moment and a photo of the yard might be too depressing to take, let alone post, let's stay in the airconditioning. Here are the questions:

1] One book that changed your life?

2] One book that you have read more than once?

3] One book you would want on a desert island?

4] One book that made you laugh?

5] One book that made you cry?

6] One book you wish had been written?

7] One book you wish had never been written?

8] One book you are currently reading?

9] One book you have been meaning to read

10] Tag 5 people to do the meme.

1] One book that changed your life? Hawaii, by James Michener. Although it might not be mind-expanding for a current high school sophomore, in my long-ago teenage life, this book arrived like an explosion. I was fascinated by the ideas of evolution and the birth of an island, by scientists who could not only trace the migrations of people across time and oceans but also track subsequent changes in their language. Michener touched on genealogy, real estate, geology, economics, leprosy, history and agriculture, introduced wonderful characters of other races, other religions, who ate unusual and followed different customs; he taught me what the word tsunami meant, and showed wars from other vantage points than that of old movies or the history books at school. I wanted to learn more about all these things, so I had to get more books and keep reading.

2] One book that you have read more than once? Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein, that beloved old curmudgeon. His writing reflects many of the sexist attitudes of his generation, while still letting women be heroes, and he has a deadly eye for the foibles of mankind. Plus there’s always some sex in the later Heinlein books. "Anne the Fair Witness" makes her first literary appearance in this book. She is one of the many Annes for whom Annie in Austin is named.

3] One book you would want on a desert island? Although a good answer is the Bible, at my age a large-type, annotated Collected Shakespeare might work better and weigh a little less. Logically, it should be something like A Guide to Poisonous Plants on Desert Islands. Thank goodness I no longer need to bring Do It Yourself Obstetrics!

4] One book that made you laugh? Crocodile on the Sandbank. This is one entry from the long and romantically comical archeological detective series starring Amelia Peabody and written by Elizabeth Peters. This is very arch, pseudo-British humor. You've been warned!

5] One book that made you cry? Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Buckets. Absolute buckets.

6] One book you wish had been written? A final chapter to the Brother Cadfael series. I’d like it to have been written by Ellis Peters while she was in her prime, but saved for publication until after her demise.

7] One book you wish had never been written? How can one undo what has been done? Maybe I’d wish away those books that encouraged home gardeners to use an arsenal of poisonous chemicals for the home garden.

8] One book you are currently reading? A Southern Garden by Elizabeth Lawrence is half-finished in one room, the original Giant by Edna Ferber has been restarted in another room, and just finished is a new collective memoir called Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?, from Chin Music Press.

9] One book you have been meaning to read? My husband has recommended The Future of the Past by Alexander Stille. Newsday is quoted on the cover, “An exhilaratingly panoramic, inescapably poignant snapshot of a world poised in a Janus moment, where technology is both bane and saviour of the past and present.” I promise I’m going to get to it soon!

10] Tag 5 people to do the meme. I’m not sure who reads this blog except those who comment. If anyone does the meme, let me know because I want to see someone else's answers! Carol, RSorrell, Pam/Digging, Blackswamp Girl, Firefly or Zanthan - would you like to take a turn? Christopher, your answers would undoubtedly be fascinating to read. How about it?

Thanks from Annie

Saturday, August 05, 2006

INSIDE: He's My Man

Although this is an Austin garden blog, once in awhile there’s a movie to talk about. When it’s one hundred degrees, week after week, sitting inside a cool, dark theater is one way to stay sane.
Are there any other Leonard Cohen fans out there? The Arbor in Austin is showing Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, which both Philo & I greatly enjoyed. This movie is part tribute concert, part interview, part biography, and part history. The film includes old home movies of the child Leonard growing up in Canada as well as recent images.
In the clips from a tribute concert in Sydney, Australia you can watch Nick Cave, Beth Orton, Teddy Thompson and longtime Cohen backup singers Perla Batalla and Julie Christensen interpret Cohen songs, along with Cohen songs sung by the extended Wainwright family – Rufus himself, his sister Martha, their mom Kate McGarrigle and their Aunt Anna McGarrigle. Back in NY, it’s fun to watch Bono & company drop phrases of praise while trying to remain cool behind the wraparound glasses. It’s even more fun when Leonard himself casually takes the mic and steals the film back from the tribute-givers.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Visitor to the Rosemary

Look, look! Somebody else likes the troughs - an Indigo Bunting*!

{*Duh, noticed the error after the second cup of coffee - it's a Painted Bunting .}

Although this post was supposed to be the total view from the breakfast room window [following in the path of Austin Zanthan and Christopher in Hawaii], when I saw this lovely bird, it was too exciting and had to be shared.