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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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Monday, January 01, 2007

Green Christmas

Just got home from Illinois, lock the front door, oh boy… doo, doo, doo, lookin’ out my back door.” By John Fogarty of Credence Clearwater Revival

A few days after making the previous post, Philo and I left Austin and made a nine-day journey to celebrate Christmas. In Illinois we spent three nights at my youngest sister’s house. My mom was there, too, and we enjoyed the novelty of waking up in a home where children live. My sister and her husband host a wonderful, large Christmas dinner every year, inviting their combined families, with guests from age 6 to 96. Even doing the dishes was a pleasure, with my sisters and niece singing together as they washed and dried the china.

When the workweek began, we moved to an extended stay motel, continuing to visit with friends and family for a few more days. [That’s the motel parking lot at top – it had an interesting assortment of northern evergreens like pines, arborvitae and yew that we seldom see here.]

It's a long way from Austin to Chicago, so four of the nine days were spent in the car - eleven or twelve hours on each day, totalling more than 2600 miles. On the way up we passed through north Texas, Oklahoma & Missouri, entering Illinois at St Louis. On the way back we traveled the length of Illinois, cut off a little part of Missouri, then drove through pouring rain across Arkansas to Texarkana where we turned toward Central Texas.

We’ve made this trip in other years, watching the car thermometer drop 5 º every few hours, sticking well below the freezing mark in the metro Chicago area. That didn’t happen this year! Austin was cooler than usual, and Illinois was warmer, so that our TX son reported a mere 8 degrees benefit to staying in Austin. I had no gloves in the car, intending to buy a pair along the way, but never needed them, and didn’t miss the forgotten boots.
In north Texas, we were stunned by the green fields on the side of IH35. We’ve never seen anything but browned plants there, whether we drove that stretch in winter’s cold, or summer’s heat. Maybe it's winter rye grass?

When we got home, we looked out our back door, and saw no tambourines or elephants, but the Camellia japonica ‘Pius X’ opening its first flowers. Although many people think that attempting to grow camellias in Austin isn't sensible, this plant hasn't been that demanding - just needing a little extra water, some organic, ironized seaweed, and a steady supply of coffee grounds.

The pecans were leafless, but the roses are green. There were a few paperwhite narcissus in bloom, looking pretty ratty from the rain that blessed Austin while we were gone.

One iris had boldly extended a bud stalk – whether it will open first or freeze first is in question. This is a newer iris, one I haven't seen in bloom yet.

We returned late on Saturday, and I’ve been trying to catch up with all the garden blog posts made since December 22nd. It seems that plum blossoms are opening in New Jersey, there’s very little frozen ground in the upper Midwest, and that LostRoses has cornered the entire snow supply this winter – isn't the weather normal anywhere?

Whether you’re too warm, too cold, too wet or too dry, Happy 2007 to all of you!


  1. Welcome back, Annie! I can't believe you have an iris thinking about blooming already. My daffodils are nosing up (as Zanthan has noted in her garden), but all else is pretty quiet.

  2. Good to have you back Annie. Driving around for 10-12 hours per day in open country is my kind of holiday. I love seeing the vast differences in the scenery when you travel those distances.

    All the best for the New Year and look forward to seeing more of your garden.

  3. Happy New Year to you as well. Isn't it interesting to see what has changed in the garden after being away from it for a week or so? And, I'm sure it was good to see how family had changed as well.
    Let us know if that iris blooms.

  4. My boyfriend and I drove across the northern half of Ohio--from Cleveland to almost the Indiana border--for a Christmas visit. We saw green fields of winter wheat all along I-80 similar to the ones you showed! And our lawns here are very very green...

    Hope that you had a wonderful holiday... it sounds like you did! Did Santa leave you "Orphans" under the tree by chance? :)

  5. Pam & Carol - I seldom cover anything, but if it gets cold I might try to save that iris!

    Stuart, there are fields along some of the 1200 miles between Austin and Chicago, but much of it is heavily populated suburbia. Those highways were packed with semi-trucks and travelers, so it wasn't relaxing to drive.

    Blackswamp Girl, our Chicago area son & daughter-in-law gave the 3 disc set to my husband for Christmas, and Tom sang [or growled] to us on the way home. I loved Bawlers more than Brawlers, and we have # 3 in reserve because we're trying not to overdose!


  6. We're having totally normal winter weather in coastal California since you asked. I wear two pair of socks when I go out and long underwear. The garden is it usual wintry muddy bore. I have iris leaves, but no sign of bud.

  7. I have been pretty happy in my little corner of Houston this winter. Pleanty of rain but not too much, and no really low temps.

    I am glad we don't have much arborvita or yew in the South. I don't much care for either plant.

    One of these days I may try camellia. I really love those shiny leaves.

  8. Welcome home Annie. I know that feels nice after traveling.

    The weather in Hawaii is gorgeous. We are having another cool dry winter with little rain for the leeward side. That is in the realm of "normal" for us.

    The roads however are flooded with cars and traffic and the streets and beaches are packed with people. I guess that is normal winter weather for us too. It just seems like there are so many more of them these days.

    S. Kihei Road is like driving through the French Quarter in the middle of Madi Gras.

  9. Happy New Year to you as well - the dish washing sounded quite fun over your holidays! Welcome back to Austin - spring is just around the corner.

  10. Hi Annie, Welcome back! A road trip, how cool! Your family gathering sounds delightful, and you really had to go "over the river and through the woods" to get there.

    I'm envious that you came home to find things stirring in your garden. I'm also beginning to feel a bit guilty about hogging all the snow as I've read reports from all over the country of "green Christmases" where there should have been drifts of white. Everyday it's still a challenge to get to a main road that's been plowed. I think we have an overabundance of riches, and I wish you just a plain abundance of them for 2007!

  11. I enjoyed visiting your blog. Sounds like you had a good time traveling. Yes, the weather has been extreme everywhere - too hot, too cold, too wet, or too dry. My camellia japonicas are just starting to bloom. They are new to me so I don't know if it's the warm weather causing the blooms or if they naturally bloom in the winter.

  12. Welcome home and happy new year.

    My sisters and I always sing while we do Christmas dishes, too. I can't carry a tune, but we still have fun doing it.

  13. Annie, what a great soundtrack that must have been for your road trip! I have only heard one song... it's one with "Lie" in the title, but I can't remember the rest of it... and I must admit that it was rather stimulating. (Not quite the right word, but it really got the juices flowing.) Can't wait to hear more. :)

  14. Hi Annie! Saw your celebrity moment in the Statesman last weekend and thought, "I 'know' her!"

    Hope all is well in the garden. I've got bluebonnet seedlings everywhere...

  15. Ross and I are Credence fans! My that song takes me back.....(to when we were dating:)
    I'm glad you had such a delightful time with your family. When our girls were home the three of us (Kathy, Kylie and me) used to harmonize while doing the dishes. That's one of my favorite memories :)
    Driving long distances is not on our list of fun things to do, but it's a necessary means to an end. We always enjoy the scenery along the way...just not the long hours of sitting, and the traffic, especially the big trucks.
    It's raining here in NY tonight, and 50º...and snowing again in Colorado!

  16. Happy 2007 to you too, Annie.

    Today, January 6th, the temperature here in Middlesex County near the border of Worcester County in Massachusetts (Grow Zone 5-b/6-a?) is predicted to climb to around 70 degrees. I've lived in the Northeastern U.S. for all 46 years of my life, and I've never before seen weather like this at this time of year.

    When I got out of work this morning, it was already so warm I could have walked to my car in shorts, a T-shirt, and sandals -- and I wouldn't have felt even the slightest chill. It feels like early May.

    According to a recent article in one of our local newspapers, staff members at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in nearby Boylston, MA have noticed plants growing in recent days that they usually don’t see at this time of year. For example, they said the Christmas rose at Tower Hill, which is usually covered by snow at this time of year, is blooming now. And bulbs from grape hyacinths and snowdrops have sprouted about 2 inches above the ground.

    They also reported that more robins than usual have been seen recently, and blue jays and cedar waxwings are among the birds that have been far more active than usual

  17. So families with singing sisters is not uncommon!
    We grew up trying to copy the Lennon sisters.

    Thank you for all the weather reports, ChuckB, Christopher and Gary... and somehow it's comforting to know that some of you are having average weather. It was nearly eighty degrees and gorgeous here yesterday, but today was 50º and raining. Christin m p, that means Central Texas is 20º cooler than Massachusetts and New York on January 6th. And LostRoses had yet a third snowstorm.

    Thank you for commenting, Mary and Zoey - I enjoy visiting you, too.
    BlackswampKim, I like the new Tom Waits albums, but think my favorite may still be that old one "Woke Up this Morning With The Cold Water". [oh no, just typing the words means it will be stuck in my head].

    You & Ross discovered Credence earlier than we did, Kerri. We'd heard them in the background, but hadn't listened intensively. When one of our sons bought an album in the early eighties, we really liked it and sort of 'borrowed' it permanently. Although I enjoy trying to play some of the songs on the piano, John Fogarty would file an injunction if he heard what I can do to his music.

    Martha, you have been on my mind as I struggle with these YouTubes - I'm a backup singer trying to do a solo - while you are the real deal.

    As to bluebonnet seedlings, last spring MSS from Zanthan gave me some of hers, which were planted, bloomed and set seed. I was so sure her touch would be the magic which would finally establish the little Lupines in my yard, but alas - ONE frigging Bluebonnet seedling has popped up... guess I'll be looking at Lowe's for the redi-pacs to plug in once again.



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