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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, January 17, 2007

Grit Needed

Is there beauty in this? Some people can find art even in ice, but I'm having a difficult time joining their ranks. When I opened the blinds yesterday and saw the bowed Loquat, it was like a fast punch to the midsection, and I felt myself spiraling down to a very bad place. Maybe living through decades of midwestern ice storms meant that this sight set off a kind of post-traumatic thing, or something like that. Whatever the reason, all I could feel was despair. To paraphrase Private Benjamin - this was not the Austin I'd signed up for. But today, looking at the blog posts by Pam/Digging and MSS/Zanthan has helped. They're not hiding inside, they're taking photos and even putting videos on YouTube, so I went outside, too. And soon I felt a spark of the scientific curiosity lurking in all gardeners. What will defrost and live? What will immediately rot? Will the oleander ever stand upright again? It will be especially interesting to see whether the native plants can take such a prolonged period of imprisonment in frozen rain.

Henry Mitchell said it well, "It is not nice to garden anywhere...There is no place, no garden, where these terrible things do not drive gardeners mad."

But he also said, "What is needed around here is more grit in gardeners."

My Austin friends have that grit - maybe I can summon up enough to go pour hot water in the bird bath and set out some sunflower seeds.


  1. If you can garden through Austin's summers, Annie, you definitely have grit. Perhaps my ice-storm sunniness is rooted in naivete about ice damage. In fact, I did experience some consternation in the back garden this afternoon, where I saw a tall yaupon holly lying prostrate on the ground. Oh no! But either it'll recover or it won't, and there are always new plants to try. The silver lining is out there, and in the meantime it's kind of fun to enjoy weather we don't normally get. So long as it's gone by the end of the week . . . that's about all I want of it.

  2. I am happy to hear your lemon tree was safe inside (from comments on your other post).

    Reading this brings back that feeling I had a few years ago when a week or so after I had planted the entire vegetable garden, we had a very late frost, and ALL was lost. I had to go out and buy all new tomatoes, peppers, etc. and say good-bye to my raised-from-seed plants.

    Love the HM quotes... Good luck on the thaw and aftermath. It was 16 degrees this morning here, still well within our "norm".

  3. My loquat is flat. And my oleander. And my expensive little magnolia. My weeping yaupon holly is crying frozen tears. I'm feeling apprehensive, too. I'm glad that the big trees haven't dropped any limbs...as long as the wind remains quiet, I'm hoping our luck holds out there.

    I think it is worse for you because you've spent so many years living in this kind of weather. But in Chicago, you had tasks for the autumn season that helped you put the garden to rest. We've had beautiful gardening weather the two weeks before this storm, temperatures in the 70s most days and even reaching the 80s. So this kind of storm is a kick in the face.

    For me, snow is a novelty. And I've never had long, gorgeous icicles like the ones that formed this time. Looking at them makes me appreciate the glass icicles I put on our Christmas tree more than ever. This is an unusually bad winter storm because of the number of days it's lasted and the amount of precipitation we've received. One day was fun but now I'm feeling a bit depressed myself.

  4. Divas of the dirt.... isn't that a group of women who go to each others houses and plant in each others yards? PLEASE let me know if so. Thank you for coming by my site! I LOVE to meet new Austin people! And I love your blog. One more thing, it took another blogger to get me pumped up to do some home improvements. Brown Bridge Academy. Check it out!

  5. When we were kids in North Florida and the weather forecast said a hard freeze was a comin, my dad would let us run a sprinkler in the front yard on one of his flowering plum trees. In the morning we would wake up to a winter wonderland of ice in a corner of our yard. What great fun for kids in Florida.

    Your situation is a very different story. My dad was quite specific about which plants we could encase in ice and which ones we could not.

  6. What an interesting winter...I'm trying to stay out of that "bad place" by believing that everything here that got zapped will, of course, come back. I hope that will be true for you, too. And in the midst of the freeze I've had to water things to try to help them along! Feed the birds...they need it... and you'll hopefully get to that happy place where you will start to see the possibilities...if a plant is gone it can be a chance to try something new...and I have to say I'm impressed by your icicles!

  7. Gosh, it is hard to look at those bent-over plants, but I still think the ice is pretty. But then I've never had to cope with seeing warm-climate plants encased in it. I hope everything recovers after the melting.

  8. I can sympathize with your feelings upon seeing all that ice dragging your plants down. Who wouldn't feel despair seeing valuable and beloved plants damaged or destroyed? I'm glad you summoned up the grit to go outside and take some photos though...it gave your mind other things to dwell on, and wonder about. We learn by the trials, don't we? Just think of it as another adventure.
    I'm contemplating the switch to Beta too. It was interesting reading the comments from those who've gone before us :) Most blog friends I've heard from seem to love it and think it's easier, except some of them have had a few problems with the commenting at times (receiving as well as posting on other people's blogs).

  9. Annie,

    Things around here are brown and squishy. It's warmer, tho, so I got out and whacked down all the hoja santa. It had turned to poles of green mush but still gave off that wonderfully weird rootbeer smell. This tidying up helped my spirits.

    I think the Mexican palm made it (under a sheet), also the ranunculus and corn flower sprouts, but I'm being optimistic.

    Really, I handle this kind of weather lots better than I do August in Austin (Must have a gray nature).


  10. Oh no! not the loquat! You may have to stake it to have it grow upright again. Since it's hardy to zone 8, 10 to 20 degrees minimum temperature I hope it survives. Would be a shame if it didn't. A lot of our rhodies and arbor vitaes get bent over in a heavy snow but seem to straighten themselves. But in a particularly heavy ice storm one year some didn't become upright again and I had to prune the more bent over ones.

  11. Boy, I read your later post first (I'm reading backwards, in attempts to catch up with your ice storm!) - this seems terribly frustrating (but based on the next post, I'm thinking that you recovered fairly well?). You sound like how I feel in the middle of August when we're having a drought...

  12. Thanks for the sympathy, folks! I still have a great deal to learn about Austin gardening and Texas weather - and am trying to stay as flexible as the magnolia, which seems to have bounced back. The Loquat may need more help.

    There are few broadleaved evergreens that grow in Illinois - in winter it's either leafless branches or conifers, and we had snow not ice while we were living at our other Austin house. This was a totally new experience.

    Mrs Quad, welcome! Yes, I'm one of the Divas of the Dirt, and write for that website as Glinda. The link is in the left blogroll.

    We used to use the water spray method in Illinois, too- mainly when a hard freeze snuck in late in the spring or to keep the vegetables alive for few extra weeks in fall.

    Maybe I was just feeling entitled to a pleasant winter after last summer - but no one is entitled to good weather, are we?


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