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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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Friday, December 14, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for December

This post, "Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for December", was written for my Transplantable Rose blog by Annie in Austin.

When I took the camera out two days ago, red leaves on the 'Acoma' crepe myrtle fluttered against a blue sky
Golden leaves on the 'Forest Pansy' redbud contrasted with red leaves on another, taller crepe myrtle -
One purple clematis blossom, a little tattered at the edges kept its petals attached for a mid-December photo,
Those parts of the garden looked like autumn, but other plants ignored the coming of frost and short days, like the blue plumbago backing these unfolding bells on the pale yellow Brugmansia
The pink cuphea still blooms with pink gaura and white verbena in the background
A patch of Purple Heart/Setcresia decided to make some flowers - the small green plants are recently planted snapdragons, with buds starting to form.
The cooler weather enticed the 'Julia Child' rose into sending up nine new buds -
And I've become extremely fond of the mutabilis rose... it was bought for a bed in the front of the house, but I can't bear to plant it! It's still in the container on the patio next to the table where its light fragrance can be appreciated. Philo thinks the only solution is to find a second Rosa mutabilis, one to plant in the front and one for a large container on the patio.

On top of the table there's a pot of orange pansies with a viola of a purple so dark it looks black.

On the far end of the patio the loquat flowers are open, sending messages to the bees

Here's a close-up of a flower cluster... they smell good, but not as good as the Sweet olive seen last month.

A real freeze is predicted for this weekend - if it comes, the pansies and snapdragons may pause, but seldom give up for long, and the rose buds frequently take a few degrees of frost.

Even if they're hit hard and bloom day halts outside, there'll be plenty of color from the plants known as Thanksgiving cactus or Schlumbergera - this pink & white plant is in full bloom

They're happy in the breakfast room window - a white one at left, a barely budded one that may be apricot, a red cyclamen, the pink & white Schlumbergera, a salmon geranium and a peachier pink thanksgiving cactus, just opening.

That last, peachy -pink plant had made a seed capsule last year, which stayed on the plant until the new buds swelled. It's still flexible -and if you hold it up to light the interior seems to hold dark seeds.

I'm glad Carol of May Dreams started this pleasant custom of sharing what's in flower in our gardens, but things are hectic in the middle of December - one more photo of the inside flowers and it's time to take a break - I'll see you after Christmas - may your days be happy and bright.

This post, "Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for December", was written for my Transplantable Rose blog by Annie in Austin.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Spinning Under the Christmas Tree

This post, "Spinning Under the Christmas Tree", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

April was nine months ago - that's how long it's been since I posted one of our YouTube music videos. That one was "Greened House" - a song parody of "Greensleeves" - this one is an original holiday song from my copyrighted collection of more than a dozen songs, many connected to gardening in Austin, which fit together to tell a story.

In my long-in-progress pipe dream of a musical play the songs are sung by different characters and there should be many different voices. Until I can figure out how to persuade some of you to come over to my house to sing or play musical instruments you just get Annie, a piano, and some guitar riffs from a friend.

This simple little Christmas song has been in the works for awhile - an ode to an Austin holiday tradition that started over 40 years ago, when the Zilker Park tree was first constructed, using a replica of one of our famous Moontowers as the center pole for a huge tree of lights. People soon figured out that looking up while spinning under the lights was a lot of fun.


Spinning, Spinning, Spinning Underneath the Christmas Tree

The Zilker Tree has a separate tree lighting ceremony early in December, but once the Trail of Lights begins a week later [this year it started on the 10th], it's part of that festival.

No one shows a movie now without outtakes... this photo of a Funnel Cake did not make the Director's cut, but was delicious.

The enormous fire pit didn't make the video either! It would have been decorative but not functional for most of the past week, with record high temperatures up to 80 degrees F. We're not experiencing the dangerous ice and winter weather that has the Midwest in its grip, but even our comparatively warm forty-degree evenings make a fire welcome at the end of the trail.

This post, "Spinning Under the Christmas Tree", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Grow Spot & Plagiarism ~Help from Cold Climate Kathy

This post, "Grow Spot & Plagiarism ~Help from Cold Climate Kathy", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Thank you all for your responses to the previous post about the Grow Spot's use of our writing and photos on their site. Here's a link from Kathy Purdy of Cold Climate Gardens giving some advice on protecting your RSS feed from plagiarism. This is from her Blog Coach site.

Mr Brown Thumb wrote a new post on How To Shorten Your Feed.

Thank you both!

I see that Mr. Brown Thumb has wisely returned to his regular programming - that's what I'll do in the next post.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Tired Of Sharecropping for TheGrowSpot.com

This post, "Tired of Sharecropping for TheGrowSpot", was written for my blogspot blog, The Transplantable Rose, by Annie in Austin. - Edited Friday night, 12/ 7/ 2007 with more information added at the bottom of this post.

Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening recently asked why there are so few older garden bloggers, with ‘older’ defined as over 70, close in age to her parents. In the course of this lively discussion a similar question was raised – where are the younger garden bloggers? To answer that question I added a comment that listed some garden bloggers who’d spoken about being under 35. I have those bloggers linked in my sidebar.

I was quite happy to tell people about those young garden bloggers and give them links, but I’m not happy to tell you about another young woman with a garden blog, the so-called “grow spot” – and I’m not giving her a link, because the garden blog she has is not her garden blog… it’s mine, and it’s Kim/BlackswampGirl’s Study in Contrasts garden blog, and it’s Kerri’s Colors of the Garden and Don’s Iowa Garden and Yolanda Elizabet’s Bliss Garden, Colin and Carol’s Mediterranean Garden, Green Thumb’s India Garden, Nicole’s Caribbean Garden, Deviant Deziner’s Garden Porn, Dawn’s Suburban Wildlife Garden, Sylvana’s Obsessive Gardener… and a lot more. At this site, our posts appear on a neutral background and the site uses the photos we have taken, reproduces our words, and gives the unlinked names of our blogs - but you have to read the whole page and then click ‘more’ to go to the bottom of another page before you find a link to the actual blog. Our sidebar links, icons, buttons, tags, archives, etc. do not appear, so when read at this heavily promoted site our posts are disconnected from the page we have made.

There’s a comment forum for signed-in members, and it appears that the commenters assume they are speaking directly to the authors. But I don’t think the real authors will get to read these comments unless they’re signed in at the forum, and I haven’t seen any answers from the actual authors on the forums.
Colin and Carol – do you know there are comments on your roadkill post at this grow spot site? Don in Iowa, did you know there’s a comment on your “In Praise of Disorder” post?

Maybe you do already know about this, and maybe some of you are okay with it… but I’m not okay with someone using my work to raise the number of hits, ride piggyback on my page rank and prevent readers from talking directly to me. We genuine authors sweat blood over our posts while this chick swipes someone else’s work, stuffs it into her little gated community and demands that readers sign up to get inside.

The garden bloggers that I know can tell you about their experiences and experiments in every kind of gardening, and we've become a large and loosely organized community. TheGrowSpot. com bills itself as "a gardening community with forums on Urban Gardening, Organic Gardening, Growing to Eat, and more. The Grow Spot is also resource for information on all sorts of garden plants, flowers, trees and all things that grow. No green thumb required!" How can a few individuals who reuse posts be considered a community? They have taken the content of real gardeners in order to repost it on their pages, plunking in their ads next to our words and images. And in the end, those ads, perhaps for products that we totally hate or object to, are the reason for the existence of the Grow Spot.

We real garden bloggers write about all sorts of garden plants, flowers, trees and all thinks that grow. But instead of saying “No green thumb required”, as does this scraper site, we say “Grow things and your thumb will turn green!” as you gain in experience.

I am also not happy with the person who apparently runs this Grow Spot [it’s smushed into one word with the and dot com added – if you want to see it, go ahead, but I’m not helping!]. She shows up as a 33-year old woman named LUBA SPICHKIN from Santa Monica, California. She wears size 7 shoes and likes music by the late Elliot Smith, And who knows – maybe she's some kind of a gardener, but not a genuine one. Instead of hoeing her own row, she looks for other gardeners who are weeding and planting their plots, then rushes in from behind, jumps on their backs, steps on their shoulders to reach over and grabs the harvest from the true gardeners’ hands.

And she’s just one of a hoard of bottom feeders. I feel sick at what has happened to many of the stolen and reblogged Garden Bloggers Book Club posts about Eleanor Perenyi and Green Thoughts… some of them link to porn.

Take a representative phrase out of one of your own posts and use an exact search to see what happens – you may have written those words but will you get credit? Your site may come up in the middle of the page and clicking on your words as reblogged by other sites may trigger the installation of spyware or worse.

I think this post will go out on the feed in its full size, but as bloggers like Carol of May Dreams have advised me to do, the next garden post will probably be in the preview size. I know it’s not convenient for some of you, but the barbarians are at the gates and since I don’t have a moat, the least I can do is take up the welcome mat.

[Many heartfelt thanks for technical assistance and editing advice go to the wonderful Mr Brown Thumb, who has opened my eyes to more than plants.

Edited, Friday night: Mr Brown Thumb has posted to explain the technical aspects of scraping and RSS feeds. Read this post and you'll understand why the arguments of the growspot owner are a smoke screen for what is really happening].

This post, "Tired of Sharecropping for TheGrowSpot", was written for my blogspot blog, The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bringing the Plants Inside

This post, "Bringing the Plants Inside", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.
Last Wednesday I planted bulbs while wearing shorts, because it was 89°F in early afternoon. The temperatures quickly dropped and we woke to 38°F on Thanksgiving morning. The cool weather lasted all weekend bringing an inch-and-a-half of needed rain. When I heard that a frost warning was issued for pre-dawn on Monday I was glad the two 7-foot tall plumerias were already inside the garage. It takes two people and a wheeled dolly to move them, but the smaller plants are easy to grab and move inside the garage. Just in case we dipped below freezing, I also cut one stem of the iris in its improbably late November bloom.

The frost was very light - just the basil, the tips of the impatiens and the sweet potato vines looked injured. The frost did less damage than last week's fight between a cat and a raccoon - that loud, midnight skirmish destroyed a large container of impatiens.

The Meyer's Lemon can shuttle between garage and patio until it gets really cold, but what about the four Christmas-type cactus, the aloe, the small jade plant and the unnamed Haworthia? They summer outside but they're frost-tender and the only window with enough winter sun for plants is in the breakfast room. Some of the plants had grown so much they had to be repotted and some of the pots were too big for the narrow sill. Philo came up with a solution. He built a two-legged table that fits over the sill, doubling the depth so more plants can fit.

Three of the Christmas cactus had set buds and went on the new shelf. The poky fourth one went out to the patio table.... maybe it will still set buds and catch up.
The salmon geranium at right has been blooming in the breakfast room window since March of 2006 but the red cyclamen at left was a recent impulse purchase. One of the jade plants was tucked in, a just budded Mother-of-Thousands came in from the patio to stand on the floor at left and the aloe vera is jammed in back. When it gets colder the Meyer's Lemon can stand on the floor on the right.

So our inside garden will be safe when the real freeze arrives. Perhaps I should have left the iris outside to take its chances but there's something so interesting and surreal in seeing them on the table [with a couple of sprigs of lavender!] on November 27th.
Outside, the light frost hadn't affected the Cestrum nocturnum on the south wall. This night-blooming jasmine usually releases its scent only after dark but I could smell its powdery scent today at 10 AM.

The 'Champagne' mini rose continues to bud and flower in the secret garden.

Cilantro plants go to seed when the heat arrives. The leaves are cilantro, but the seeds are coriander. After the seeds dried on last spring's plants I tossed them around and a few seedlings have sprouted to grow in cooler weather.

Most of the pecan and ash leaves are still on the tree - actually they're still green - but there were lots of wet, brown pecan leaves to rake. They don't add much fall color, do they? In the background you can see the second Meyer's Lemon, planted in the ground near the south wall, still shrouded in its frost-cover.

While raking I found a bunch of pecans and picked them all up. You know how you sort of learn to guess the relative weight of an object with experience? When I was in college I worked in a deli, and after some time could know what a half-pound was. This fall we learned to pick up pecans and know instantly which nutshells will be full, which empty, and which only partially developed. The good nuts are the smaller group lined up at the bottom and the larger group at the top are all empties.
Pecans and iris at the same time! Who could have guessed this would be our November harvest?
This post, "Bringing the Plants Inside", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Old Dogs Learn Something New

This post, "The Old Dogs Learn Something New", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Philo and I were invited to a pig roast on Saturday afternoon. As I gathered ingredients for corn bread and some Meyer's Lemon/Cranberry relish that morning, Tom Spencer's garden radio show played in the background. Tom's answer to one caller sent me running down the hall to the office - Philo had to hear about this! A woman wondered whether she should put the shells from her pecans into the compost or use them as mulch - and she was told it might not be such a good idea... while pecans are not as allelopathic [not alleopathic*] as Genie's infamous Black Walnut, they do contain juglone, a substance that can prevent the healthy growth of certain other plants.

With that large canopy of pecan trees hanging over our garden and the ground covered with husks and shells discarded by the squirrels, how concerned should we be? Was this the reason our tomato plants grew well the first summer, but seemed progressively more spindly the last two seasons?

We'd heard for decades that some plants, including tomatoes, wouldn't grow under Black Walnut trees- friends in Illinois had that experience - but we hadn't realized Pecans also had some juglone. The two of us started searching and reading, finding references to
Black Walnuts, Pecans, Allelopathy and juglone in many articles, advice columns, forums, sites from universities and extension sites. As always, clip-and-paste ran rampant, with many sites using exactly the same wording and the authors disagreeing completely on the toxicity.

The conflicting articles stated that the leaves had juglone but the shells did not; that the juglone was concentrated in shells and bark; that it could persist for a long time or that a few weeks of composting eliminated it; that there was enough juglone in pecans to stop the growth of tomatoes or that the amount was so minimal it didn't count. Whether the soil was sandy or clay seemed to make a difference, as did the amount of moisture. Some sources recommended that adding lots of compost and improving drainage could remedy an area with high amounts of juglone. We read that juglone from black walnuts is used in traditional medicine to heal ringworm in humans and also read that allelopathy* swings both ways - the Department of Horticulture at Oklahoma State in Stillwater found that bermuda grass may inhibit the growth of pecan trees.

When I browsed a Project Gutenberg book called Growing Nuts in the North by Carl Weschke, one chapter told of the author's experiments in the early 1920's. It was pretty funny to hear him call the pesky squirrels "bushy-tailed rats" - that was definitely a bonding moment with someone from the past.

Our tentative conclusion after a couple of hours research was that for most areas of the garden, any juglone found in the pecan tree did not seem to have done any harm. On the other hand, it had probably been a mistake to incorporate such large amounts of pecan leaves into the tomato & pepper garden over the last 3 years and the waterlogged conditions of early summer may have intensified the effect.

Although our conclusions are tentative, we've noticed that several other plants in the nightshade family declined when in the root zone of the pecans - the Brugmansia got smaller instead of larger and only grew when moved to the far side of the garden. So to be on the safe side, we'll keep the pecan leaves, twigs and hulls out of the vegetable garden and not use them anywhere unless they've composted for a year. We'll add different compost to the tomato bed in spring, perhaps treating it with liquid compost now. A few weeks ago I transplanted that Solanum in the photo above to the triangle bed. It's one of the ornamental potato flowers but it wasn't growing or flowering. Now I realize this member of the nightshade family was also under the drip line of the pecan. Was that a factor in its failure to thrive?

This is more than you wanted to know about juglone, isn't it! If a pecan appears here again, I promise it will be in a pie! Let's move on to flower photos.

There were a few openings since the blooms were posted on the 15th - here's the peach iris unfolded. It sure looks odd backed by blue Plumbago, lemons, a 9-foot Brugmansia and the pink cuphea in bloom!

The Sasanqua camellia 'Shishi Gashira' opened a few flowers yesterday, but a fast moving gust of rain and wind shattered the flowers. More buds await their turn.

The next flower is difficult to photograph - a polaroid filter held over the lens helped a little.
That white line is the odd flower of a plant called Hoja santa, or Piper auritum, with large aromatic leaves that are used in Central Mexican cuisine. We once tried them parboiled and cut into squares, then filled with a chicken, pepper and rice mixture before folding into packets and baking.

Austin garden photographer Valerie was the person who first introduced me to Hoja santa - she has more information on the plant.

A cold front with rain is expected tomorrow evening followed by a weekend of cold, wet weather with highs in the fifties and lows in the upper-thirties. [from 10 degrees down to 2 degrees for you who use Celsius].
But today I can still admire a gulf fritillary on the pink cuphea.

Today I can enjoy the red berries on the Yaupon holly as it arches across from the left side of the path to the gate, mingling with the sharp and pointed leaves of the holly tree growing next to the garage.

This post, "The Old Dogs Learn Something New", was written for a blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you from Philo and Annie in our garden in Austin, Texas.

*Edited Nov 26 - my son pointed out that the words are allelopathic not alleopathic, and allelopathy not alleopathy. Thanks, kiddo - still learning .... Arf, arf.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for November

This post, "Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for November", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

In addition to starting the book club, Carol from May Dreams Garden has asked us to post about what blooms in our gardens on the 15th of each month. Go to the comments to see who else is posting for November. The year is winding down for gardeners - will we be showing houseplants next month?

Since we haven't had a frost, there are flowers to be found here in November - not masses of bloom, or a riot of color, but tucked in here and there. If that frost arrives on schedule this will be the last bloom day for most of my flowers. In the mailbox bed the Pavonia lasiopetala, also called Rock Rose, still blooms.

You can't see much if you stand back from the borders, so move in close to see the Salvia 'Coral Nymph', with flowers open and seeds ready to start the next cycle of sprout, bloom and reseed. It's also growing in the pink entrance garden and around the far side of the house.


In the footprint where the Arizona Ash grew most of the wildflowers show only leaves but Gregg's Mistflower has a few fuzzy puffs to attract butterflies.

Along the veranda the lilac-pink impatiens and white flowered oxalis keep opening new flowers, but the sweet potato vines are looking ragged and tired.

Over in the pink entrance bed that pink Gaura keeps blooming and the native pink skullcap does the same. A large pink Cuphea blooms nearby.

When we go through the gate to the back, this Salvia guaranitica is near the garage wall on the right. I cut it back severely when trying to combat mealybugs so it's good to see a few flowers.

Around the corner the plumeria has finished flowering, and I don't see any buds on the 'Julia Child' rose - after so many months of bud and bloom, she deserves a rest!

The pink and orange cupheas are fuller than ever back here. This is the orange one, called 'Cigar Plant'. I tried to get a photo of the pink cuphea, but it was too windy - every shot was blurred.

After freezing down to 10-inches tall last winter, the brugmansia grew strongly all summer and now the flowers hang above my head. They're in a fairly sheltered place next to the back walk.

I like the leaves of the 'Bengal Tiger' cannas whether or not they're in flower. This Perovskia/Russian Sage was right in the middle of an area that was dug up during the recent border redesign by the Divas of the Dirt . It was a little battered looking afterward, but soon recovered and rebloomed.

I was able to get this photo of the Cuphea llaeva, also calld Bat-faced cuphea, but the Pineapple sage refused to appear this month, even though it's still blooming. Something about the wind and angle of light defeated me.

For Kate in Canada - there's one flower on the 'Butterfly Blue' Scabiosa, and a couple of buds-in-waiting.

Down near the vegetable patch a milkweed grows, with a few Monarch caterpillars and a zillion aphids attached to the leaves.

What's this ? A confused iris in bud?
It wasn't labeled as a rebloomer, but then again, it wasn't labeled as a pale peach iris either but that's what color the flower will be. This plant was labeled purple when I bought it.

The Mexican mint marigold is in full bloom, with a few lavender stalks joining in the herb party.

This unnamed clematis blooms in spring, then sort of pouts all summer with most of its leaves turning brown. I pick them off in September and wait for the autumn show.

At its feet I let the blue Plumbago romp all over and cover the step - cold weather will kill it back to a stub to start again in mid-spring.

Near the shed a Sasanqua camellia has a few buds just beginning to show color. Please don't tell this evergreen that it's not supposed to grow in Austin.

Let's go around the far corner of the back yard and then turn around and look back at what we just walked through:

Isn't this a cool arbor? A friend of Pam/Digging owned the arbor and was looking for a new home for it. Wonderful Pam remembered that I was using white metal in this part of the garden and told her friend I'd love to adopt it. This 'Secret Garden' has been coming along very slowly, but thanks to two kind gardeners, it now has a proper entrance and that makes it feel more real.

Last winter my mom and sisters gave me a 'Champagne' mini-rose which was split into three small shrubs. One grows in the pink entrance garden and two are in containers here, blooming better now than in spring.

The other white ginger plants have finished, but in the Secret Garden, this one is still opening buds.

Also found in the secret garden is a wonderful Sweet Olive- not one bit showy, but its tiny white flowers cast one of the sweetest scents you've ever smelled.

Let's go back out to the patio and see what's waiting to be planted in the next few weeks.

Here in Austin the pansies and snapdragons grow in the cooler months - we're expecting a frost sometime in the next month, and these winter annuals will replace the impatiens and add some color to the long border.

I'll also be planting this rose soon, so that its roots can grow while the ground is cooler, giving it the strength to make it through the long, hot summer. This is an antique China Rose called 'Mutabilis', one that I'd wanted long before I came to Texas.

That's just one plant growing in a large raised bed at Zilker Park - I'd better give this Antique a lot of space. Happy Blooming Day to all of you!

This post, "Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for November" was written for my blogspot blog, The Transplantable Rose, by Annie in Austin.