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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 15, 2007


Did any of you grow up hearing that your body completely replaces its cells every seven years? This was once taught in health class – the teachers told us that we became a new person from the inside out after each seven-year cycle.

If it’s true – then after more than seven years in Austin, my own body has lost whatever winter survival skills those replaced cells once had – turning me into a wimpy weather whiner.

It’s creepy outside, and will stay below freezing until at least Wednesday, with many schools, city offices, and businesses closed for ice. This is not a big deal for most of you, but in Austin we depend on the temperatures to go above freezing during the day – a fact that affects how we landscape our gardens, the kind of windows used in our houses, the exposed plumbing systems and the kinds of clothes and shoes that we own. It may also explain why there were five men in the express line at the HEB grocery earlier… in light jackets, some in shorts, all wearing caps, and each one toting a 12-pack of beer.

Before the ice encrusted everything, I ran out to cut the iris that had budded a few weeks ago. It's in water, and still might open. I bought this two summers ago at an iris society sale, labeled as a hybrid Purple variety. The color in this photo is pretty true-to-life - that bud doesn’t look as if it will bloom purple, does it?

While this new iris may still be a beauty, it may have to be moved, because that spot calls for a purple-blooming plant. About six years ago I bought a plant labeled "Blue Iris" at a Hyde Park housewalk. It bloomed like this last March and the flowers smelled like orange sherbet.

This is one of my favorite iris plants now, but I still really want some purple ones and hope the recently planted purple ones from my friend Sophia and the new start of Pam/Digging's iris called 'Amethyst' will not take years & years to bloom.

Every year in mid-January, I stay up late and get cramps in my hands, compiling the annual Divas of the Dirt Diary. It’s not a blog – more like an impressionist ramble through the past year, with as many photos as possible. This is last year's edition. I’ve been immersed for days, with no end in sight…so for once this is a short blog post – not a class in ancient garden history!

I'll be back sooner or later!


So many of you have moved to the new Blogger, but I’m still standing on the edge of the pool, shivering in my towel. Since my posts have been going in many different directions lately, the idea of tags and indexing is very tempting! Are you glad you changed over?
Do the drawbacks outweigh the advantages?
What should I watch out for?
How much time should I set aside for the transition?
Should I do this, yes or no?
All advice will be gratefully received!!


  1. So there is a biological reason at the cellular level for becoming acclimated to a climate or a wimp when it gets cold. It should work in reverse too I hope.

    I went to a birthday party yesterday on the other side and all the Kihei people were freezing in the cool strong breeze. I'd say it was about 74 degrees. Wind chill factor you know.

    I haven't switched either and blogger seems to be pushing the Beta now. I would do it if I wasn't moving. The folks who switched seem to be running just fine. Everything is going to change then so I figure it will be easier to just start fresh when I am resettled.

  2. From ice to irises, if only an iris turned purple in the cold, you would be all set.

  3. Yikes all that cold weather is coming this way! Irises are beautiful but so fleeting. I wish they would last a little longer but we take what we can get in the Spring. An iris with scent must be special. I've not come across one that has any smell or maybe I'm not sticking my nose close enough to the bloom.

    As for the new Blogger, I haven't explored all the new features but it seems I can't do some things I want to even using html in the new format. I'll have to fiddle around with it when I have more time.

  4. You might as well switch now, because they will force you sooner or later. I didn't notice much difference.

    I brought a few potted plants in last night here in Houston, but I probably didn't have to. I just didn't want to take any chances.

  5. Those are lovely irises. I love buff/apricot colored flowers. I saw some old white flags blooming in the neighborhood last week. All the houses around here seem to have old white, purple, and yellow ones. I have some old white ones and some old yellow ones but they never bloom until March or April.

    Why don't you move the Divas to a blog? You could do one entry each project and save the once a year typing frenzy.

    I noticed that you had a difficult time finding a Saturday morning breakfast spot to meet at. Have you tried Kerbey Lane Cafe...they're open for breakfast.

  6. Hasn't Philo reminded you that Ice is civilization?

    I've switched to the beta, but haven't gotten around to any new posts since. I don't like that I had to merge my Blogger identity with my Google identity.

  7. Christopher, that biology is out-of-date - now there's a chart with different spans for every different type of cell. I hope you can reverse the process when you go to your new land!

    Carol, it looks so bad out there, the irises are turning black-green, and everything is sheathed in ice.

    Ki - my html is pitiful! The comment options seem to be a pain.
    With some iris you can extend bloom time by planting small clumps in different light exposures around the garden. Maybe I notice the fragrance because this is one flower I cut and put on the table?

    Gary, if I'd left my Lemon Tree out I'd be cussing and throwing things right now. It's nasty here!

    MSS, you know I'll share! I have that old passalong white one, too, and if the ones from Sophia take off, will have lots of purple some day.
    I don't think a Diva blog would work. Not only could it screw up the group dynamics, but the Divas are about the relationships even more than the projects. This way I can separate myself as writer from the process, and gain perspective after months of consideration.

    We go to Kerbey Lane, but never the whole group at once. Besides our geographic considerations, we need a restaurant that will allow 7 (or 8, or even 9) women push tables together and talk for HOURS on a Saturday morning:)

    Yo, Theodore! Ah, yes - a film to warm one up on a frosty night... but we'd have to chip out the car to get to the video store. Luckily there are still several hours of extras left on my recently purchased DVD of Prairie Home Companion, the Movie.

    I don't think I have a Google identity... oh, dear.


  8. I have faith that there's a tough Midwestern girl under there that still remembers how to scoff at mere ice storms!!! ;)

    Like Gary, I didn't notice much difference when I went to the new Blogger. (And don't worry about the whole Google identity issue--they "create" one for you when you switch, and I basically just log in with my Yahoo address as my username now. No big deal.)

  9. Oh Annie, your poor garden! Looking at it must be like going out after a big hailstorm, you want to see what's damaged, but you're afraid to know! I'm glad you picked that fat iris bud and, no, it doesn't look like it will be purple. That lovely iris that smells like orange sherbet might change my mind about growing them again.

    Like you, I'm trying to decide whether to take the plunge to beta also. The comments you've received so far are encouraging.

    Put an extra blanket on the bed and stay warm!

  10. I switched to beta as soon as it became available in beta.It great, the transition is easy it didn't take much work or time of mine at all really. I do suggest the switch.


  11. I just switched to new blogger this week and it took care of some of my problems I just didn't have time to fix. I already had my template saved so I can put the stuff I lost back in. It seems to be faster and easier.

  12. Did the iris bud bloom yet? I'm curious about the color.
    The pale apricot is beautiful. I haven't noticed any perfume either from my irises. I'll have to check that out when next they bloom.
    I have a lovely purple iris that I'd be happy to share if you'd like some. It blooms quickly and multiplies easily. I think it would be easy to ship.
    We have strong winds today with cold temps and some leftover snow covering the ground.

  13. I hope all your plants make it, Annie. Here in Portland we had a couple of inches of snow mixed with freezing rain and it's like a layer of styrofoam out there (I'm glad it's not ice on top -- that's the worst!).

    I don't have a blog on Blogger, just an ID, but I can tell you I had major problems posting comments on other blogs that had switched to the beta version. It took an average of six tries each time because the vertification graphic would disappear or the comment pane wouldn't accept what I had typed in.

    Blogger claims it's out of beta now, but I think they exhibited poor judgment unleashing an actual beta version on the general public, mostly because there was no way to register feedback (which is the point of a beta release!) unless you re-registered with Google and joined a forum. It seemed to be some kind of half-baked attempt at an open-source development environment, like Mozilla, without the concomitant attention to the user experience.

    I'm sorry to go on at length, but I live with a QA engineer and I've beta-tested in the past, so this is something I have an interest in.

    Generally speaking, you can't go wrong in software if you aren't the first on the block to get the new version.

  14. Blackswamp Kim - thanks for saying "girl"! No matter what our ages, we still say girlfriends, too, I've noticed.

    Richard, I'm glad you also had a good experience with new blogger. I've been told that my large, sectioned, blogroll will be a pain, and also that some people have trouble posting comments to their own blogs.

    LostRoses and Kerri, the iris bud has expanded somewhat in the vase, but hasn't opened. Although this one isn't purple, I have some others that should turn out that color. Kerri - shipping goes both ways if you want a piece of the orangey one.

    Firefly, your last sentence is close to what my own husband said, just on general principles since he's not a blogger.

    This week I've had trouble posting comments anyway - not just on blogspots, but on typepad, too.

    I've been looking around at other bloggers' posts about moving to beta, and many of the people who hate the new blogger are creative, html-savvy people who find the new version limits what they can change and add.
    Changing the template is beyond my ability, but what worries me is that there are also complaints about setting up a new blogroll the way I'd want it. Mine grew organically as I went visiting and people came in to comment, and I love it!! I hate to screw it up so am still in waiting mode.

    Thanks to all of you from Annie

    [now to see if I can pass my own word verification test]

  15. Well, Annie, I am so new to the blogging world, but the beta is easier for me to navigate around in. For those more knowledgeable, it might be a pain, but for me, it's quite manageable!
    I'm a Midwest girl, though I've been living near Dallas for 25+ years. My goodness, if it doesn't warm up soon, I'm staying in til it does. Everything looks dead in my backyard with the exception of an odd Hollyhock (which should be gone by now). It wilted and looked like it was on it's last leg a couple of days ago. Today, it's rained all day and that little puppy has flat perked up. When it gets warmer, I will post a photo of it...it has geranium shaped leaves and when in flower, a varigated lavender/purple stripe. I had a hard time finding a lot good in this weather with the exception of ther rain, which we desparately needed. Reading you post helps me see the evil of my ways... One thing, it was hard posting a comment on this blog...I had to log into to my google account and if I hadn't cut and pasted, I would have lost the whole message in doing so...not sure if it's something I'm doing wrong or what!

  16. I feel the same way. I lived in Michigan for almost 7 years, and then moved to the Gulf Coast of Florida - then to South Carolina. I have felt colder here on rainy cold winter days than I ever felt in Michigan - something I've just attributed to being more of a 'damp' cold instead of my own whimpiness. But I must say, more than a day or two of dreary weather, and us coastal south carolinians whine incessantly. We're unbearable. So I know exactly where you're coming from!

    I love the blue (but not so blue) iris - gorgeous! And cheer up - spring will be here soon, I promise.

  17. Welcome, Chris - I have a feeling that your hollyhock is Malva sylvestris 'Zebrina', one of my own reseeding favorites. The google signing in problem is a frequent complaint from users of new blogger.

    Pam, Michigan to South Carolina might be pretty similar to someone going from Illinois to Texas, in terms of thermal readjustment!

    MSS - I've been pondering your suggestion to move the Divas of the Dirt to a blog, and am meeting you half-way: the stories and projects will stay on the website, but the Divas now have a blog for announcements, links and comments. Thank you for the idea!


  18. Annie, I'm very late to comment here, but I wanted to share my experience with Beta.

    My blog was lost for about two days -- I almost had a breakdown -- but suddenly it appeared again and everything was fine. Apparently it was a problem way back when and others have said that theirs switched instantly.

    I like having categories (I call them topics), especially for a blog like mine that is all over the place. I like being able to show the latest comments on the front page. Oh, and I like the drop down arrows for the archives.

    I don't know HTML but have been able to figure out enough to do some things a little differently. You can personalize it beyond the standard things by editing the template in HTML view -- in fact you can do that without knowing a whole lot of HTML. And of course there are other things that you can do in the new version without using HTML at all.

    Most important -- make a backup copy of your template before you switch. Then after you switch, if your blogroll doesn't show properly, you can simply copy and paste that section into a widget in your template with no problem. Mine is sectioned, too, so I couldn't use the standard link widget but it's simple enough to cut and paste.

    Overall, I don't think it is all that much different. The category feature was really the only reason I wanted to change.

    I hope that helps with your decision.

  19. Hello, LaGringa - thank you so much for this note full of good advice. The disappearing blog would have sent me into a panic - I can't believe how attached I've become to my little space on the internet!
    I knew the topics was a good idea, but didn't realize the comment display was part of blogger - thought it was another thing added by those who know HTML and customize their pages.
    Now I have to go look up 'widget'...

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose


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