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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, March 12, 2007

March Means Hauling & Planting

Last week our tree service informed us that the stump-grinding machine was temporarily broken, so we can't procede with our plans for that area.

We plunked a birdbath on the stump of the Arizona Ash and ignored the front yard to concentrate on the back.

This was a hunter/gatherer weekend for the Transplantable Rose, with stops for a few tomato and pepper plants, several trips to the U-dig place for organic compost and decomposed granite and a trip to pick up more rocks.
Last year we planted a good-sized Barbados Cherry/Malpighia glabra in an existing border, evicting what was left of a corky spiraea. At that time, we cleared out every visible bit of the hideous Asian Jasmine, decided to leave some mini-roses in place and put off thinking about the wooden border edge until some future date.

M Sinclair Stevens had shared some of her Oxblood Lilies/Rhodophiala bifida., She kindly handed the bulbs over to me while they were still blooming last September, which meant we enjoyed the flowers even before the bulbs were were planted here.

There was space at the very front of the border for some Oxblood lilies, a few bargain daffodils, a motley collection of former holiday Amaryllis and small divisions of the purple oxalis from another border.

This doesn’t sound like the kind of project you’ll see in a glossy magazine, does it? So much of our puttering is making small changes, reusing what’s already here, nibbling away at the parts we don't like and doing a lot of things just to see what will happen.
After the ice and cold this winter, I was disappointed but not surprised when the Barbados cherry showed no sign of life. [Both Durantas, some Lantanas and both Tecoma stans/Esperanzas look like goners, too.] So last weekend we pulled up the dead cherry and decided to make the back half of the border into a raised bed, using some good-sized rocks from our stash as walls. But that meant hauling more compost, and a lot of decomposed granite.

Finding what you want in a garden center or material yard can be easy, but buying it can take forever. Over the weekend, some nurseries were fast, some not, and at the U-dig place things did not go well either on Saturday or Sunday. People running registers didn’t know how to enter the prices, and on a return trip we ran into non-functioning computers.

Unfortunately, after too many long lines, I behaved as erratically as the computers. I was inside waiting to pay for compost & gravel while fretting that Philo was doing all the grunt work. At one point, distracted by photos of gigantic, organically-grown Alaskan vegetables, I mistakenly thought that a young man was line-jumping and got quite cranky with him. He was perfectly innocent, and even worse – the guy had on an Austin Film Society shirt, and I’m a member of the same group. At least I didn’t have on a Divas of the Dirt t-shirt, because I wouldn't want the other Divas to be disgraced by my public display of grumpiness!

By the time I got outside, Philo had done all the heavy loading work for a second time, and we went home to finish planting the bed.

Although the Barbados Cherry didn't work out, we hope to make a different native evergreen grow in our garden. In the raised part, we planted a Rhus virens/ Evergreen Sumac bought at the Lady Bird Johnson Winter tree festival. That's a narrow decomposed granite path behind it, so I'll have somewhere to stand when clipping and fighting the wiry, insidious jasmine. The sumac is small, but has an interesting shape and beautiful leaves. I really hope this one survives! And maybe by the time it has gained some height and substance, we’ll be able to replace that clunky wooden border with something better.

This post needs a beautiful flower photo. Last November, Pam/Digging gave me a division of her ‘Amethyst’ iris, and on Sunday it produced this flower. In the past, two other Iris plants labeled purple turned out to be orange. I'm still hoping that another, not-yet-bloomed iris will be somewhere in the promised purple range.
But when Pam says it's a purple Iris you can count on it.

I’m thrilled, Pam! Thank you so much.
We had two-and-a-half inches of rain last night, for which I’m also thrilled and thankful.


  1. I love your approach to gardening.

    By the way, I have a stump from a 60 year old green ash in my garden. I intend to get rid of it. maybe this year.

  2. I'm surprised about your Duranta. The three I had in pots near the house did freeze...but only the leaves fell off. The stems remained green and now they're sprouting new growth from the base.

    I've mangaged to plant the largest one last week (which I should have done last fall) and it is taking off. I still have to find spots for the other two. Now that the ground has been softened by the rain, maybe it will be easier to dig the holes.

  3. And hauling and planting will keep us busy, too. Even though your photos show a work in progress, Annie, I can foresee and fantastic spring and summer ahead! It seems like yesterday we were talking about snow... We will be approaching 80 degrees today.

    And don't worry about a little tantrum...we all have them waiting in lines ;o)

  4. I like evergreen sumac too, though I don't have any. I'll be interested to see how it does for you.

    I was worried that my giant Barbados cherry wasn't going to come back after the ice storm. It still looks bare, but new green leaves are coming out on its branches finally.

    I'm glad you're enjoying the iris.

  5. Gary, I like your approach to gardening, too.

    Mary, I hope you have as much fun working together as we do. There are a few plants that have been in the garden a couple of years and they're looking good.

    No more tantrums~ I felt so terrible afterwards.

    MSS and Pam/Digging, your passalong plants are both beautiful, just like you!

    When the Duranta and Barbados Cherry first froze back in November, they'd recently had a new growth spurt from the cooler, damper weather; they never looked good again after the third freeze hit in December. The Ice Storm may have been just the finish. When I dug them up, the branches and stems on the other Cherry, Durantas, Esperanzas and Lantana were totally brown to the roots.

    One Barbados Cherry looks alive, but that one is smaller, and has been in place for well over a year.


  6. When it comes to the heavy lifting, I'm very good at "snoopervising," but not actual work.

  7. I think the Barbados cherry is only marginally hardy here (native to the islands and South Texas), and the duranta and esperanza aren't native to central Texas either, are they? Again, the Valley and points farther south are their native range. Since your garden freezes more often than central Austin, I suspect it just got too cold for your marginal "natives." Although why you lost a lantana, I don't know.

    However, the evergreen sumac IS native to central Texas, though it grows naturally on thin, caliche soils. Since you garden on clay, I'd suggest you plant it high on mounded soil and in a spot that drains well. I hope it succeeds for you.

    I suspect your native-plant conditions are more like north-central Texas and the blackland prairies to the north and just east of us. I'm certain you can grow native stand-bys like Texas mountain laurel, cenizo, and redbud. Lucky you!

  8. Annie your post made me smile. We are worlds apart yet did exactly the same thing last weekend. Fortunately we had no problems in the garden centers we went to.

    How nice you finally got your purple iris. Don't you just hate it when a plant starts to flower and it's the wrong colour? So annoying!

    I'm curious to see all the new developments in your garden.

  9. I love to see gardens in progress. I went to a garden center around here on Friday afternoon and the place was deserted! Still too soon for us to figure out what damage has been done by the winter... but that will soon change!

  10. Really fabulous post, Annie.

    I'm sorry for the loss of your Tecoma stans. That's a fabulous plant.

    (Note: That's my second use of the word "fabulous". Will there be a third? I don't know yet.)

    If I had a dead stump, I'd try to core it and plant something inside. I guess it has to be a pretty wide stump for that to work.

    I appreciate that you shared a moment of intemperate behavior with us. I did something really bad the other day and I lost my nerve about including it in a blog post.

  11. What an absolutely exquisite color in that Iris. I would love to do a painting of it, but where on earth would I find a pigment like that? Gorgeous! It's iridescent. The iridescent Iris.


  12. I love these working posts too -- there was a closing essay in the latest issue of Horticulture that mentioned gardening as a process, and the garden as ever-changing, which is the sense I get here.

    I do have one question, though: what is 'decomposed granite' (I know granite, but 'decomposed'?) -- I've never heard of it, though we have plenty of granite in the ground here.

  13. Holy cow, that iris is amazing!
    That is a very nice passalong! Waaay better than the bearded guys I always had!

  14. What fun to be gardening! I wish we were! I did plant some seeds in containers yesterday (I'm trying the winter sowing method). It felt good to be outside and was such a gorgeous day. Warm again today, but gray and wet. Lots of melting snow up here!
    I'm so sorry you lost those plants, but glad to hear you've picking up, dusting off, and starting something new!
    I had to giggle about you losing your temper, and sharing that with us :) I'm wondering what the young man's response was.
    Loved your song!!! You always make me smile Annie :)
    That content stealing is disturbing. I hope you'll do an update if you have any success or other news to report.

  15. R Sorrell, I couldn't stand to just watch someone else work in my garden:)

    Pam, we made the bed raised and with granite - now just hope it works. We haven't done much in front. Who knows what kind of soil we'll find there?

    Yolanda Elizabet, I saw that new bed in your garden - good luck!

    Carol, this garden may never be anything but "in progress", but that will be okay.

    Chuck B, thank you. The Tecoma stans were grown from seedlings so I hated to lose them. I'll try again.

    I told Philo about your stump-as-planter idea, and if the stump-grinder doesn't appear, we may need that idea!

    Josie, I'm glad you like the 'Amethyst', too. If you go to Pam/Digging's garden blog you'll see a large number of this iris.

    Firefly, it sounds corny, but we do love the process as much as the product!

    I never heard of decomposed granite until we came here and have no idea how to explain it. Not sand, not gravel - it's found all over, used for paths and as soil amendment. We used it to make our patio bigger.

    Sissy, I hope you'll get lucky and meet Illinois gardeners to swap with.

    Kerri, the Duranta was lovely last year - maybe I should just think of them as annuals and try again!
    The young man was pretty calm, just said something like, "Is this Kindergarten?" Which was a fair assessment of my behavior!


  16. Annie, I'm always amazed at how much you know about gardening in your area, and how gorgeous your gardens look. Whenever I hear myself whining about having to learn how to garden in sand after being a clay-dirt girl for so long, I think of you skipping a few zones down and think I'd better just suck it up already and be quiet!

    I really like that birdbath, by the way.

  17. Blackswamp Girl, if I were really good, there wouldn't be so many dead plants! Sand gardening would be totally different for me, too.

    I'll pass the compliment on to Philo - first he built a wooden mold, then made the birdbath out of Hypertufa.


  18. Oh wow... it's hypertufa, and homemade?!!! Add a few compliments before you pass that along to Philo, then... amazing. He does good work!

  19. When I first saw your evergreen sumac with its purply stem and dark green leaves I though it was a Sambucus nigra 'Purpurea' the black or purple European elderberry that nurseries are trying to sell as a replacement small tree for the Japanese maple in cold climates. Fooled me.


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