About Me
My Photo
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.
View my complete profile

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Awash in Purple and White

It looks like someone’s been camping in the back yard, doesn’t it? We had frost warnings last Saturday night, and after we hauled the Plumeria and other tender plants into the garage, Philo rigged up some temporary tents with sheets over the tomato stakes, held together with clamps. We had icy rain and some hail, the official temperature was 34º, and there was ice on the roof, but on Easter Sunday, the tomatoes and peppers were uncovered and look okay.
I hope the peach orchards of the Hill Country made it through the night, too – although we’d hate to lose our tomatoes, we aren’t depending on them as a crop – and we are not expecting crowds of people driving to our house to buy our produce. Fredericksburg’s peaches are not only a crop, but a reason for people to visit Central Texas, enjoying restaurants, shops, Wildseed Farms, an herb farm and the Nimitz museum of the War in the Pacific, a thought-provoking place which juxtaposes weapons of world war two with a Japanese Garden of Peace.

I also hope you like photos of Mockorange and Purple Iris, because I’m still thrilled at seeing them every morning. This particular Mockorange seems to be Philadelphus inodorus, with large individual flowers but not scented, at least none that I can detect. Here’s a closeup to show how really large the flowers are – I’ve heard that an old Southern name for them is English Dogwood.
Maybe this photo can give you an idea of how overwhelming the shrub can be when you stand next to it – the wooden fence is six feet tall, and the mock orange behind the fence extends another 4-to-5 five feet above that. Here are Ellen’s iris once again, still blooming and with more buds in reserve. Ellen handed me the sack of iris divisions in mid-March 2006, when this iris bed was still in the planning stages. The Divas had already planted the three spiraea, but I was still clearing and digging the ground around them. The iris corms sat in a paper bag on the garage floor for weeks, then took off once their roots hit the soil. I was amazed that these iris bloomed so well just one year after transplanting, and even more amazed at the high bud count of this passalong iris.
The iris are planted in the side garden, fairly close to the sidewalk, in a sort of Bat-shaped bed, honoring Austin’s famous free-tail Bat colony. The three shrubs of spiraea are just finishing their bloom cycle. Until this spring, there has been little in our front yard to slow down anyone who is passing by on foot or bicycle, but this display of purple makes the moms and kids stop.They instinctively lean in to see if the iris smell good, and this variety does have a light, but very pleasant fragrance.

As long as we’re in the front of the house let’s look at the space formerly occupied by the Arizona Ash.
A few weeks ago Austex called to say the stump-grinder was fixed, and I watched this powerful tool in action, cutting through the enormous footprint left by the tree, churning the bits of wood together with the surrounding black clay. Since I really wanted the chips and dirt, I asked the workmen to leave the debris… they were kind enough to shovel some into sacks so I could use it for another project, leaving most of the wood/soil mixture mounded in place. For now, we’re just letting it settle and start to decompose.

Philo set the birdbath at the edge, and we planted a new tree off to the side, where it could frame the house rather than block it. We chose a native tree, one that doesn’t get enormous. Here are the leaves of our new Texas Redbud, Cercis canadensis var texensis. The tag also promised that it’s the white-flowering form – the long-desired Texas Whitebud - a promise that I hope will be fulfilled with white bloom next spring. I love the shiny leaves.

There are lots of other plants with buds that should be open for the April Bloom Day, but today I’m happy with green, white and violet-purple. I'd also like to say how grateful and overwhelmed it was to have so many comments on the post about enjoying blogging. Those of you who are still being clobbered by The Winter That Won't Leave touched my heart with your concern at how we in Texas made it through our little cold spell. I hope you will be awash in spring colors very soon!


  1. Wow!! You have been so busy!
    Annie, that mockorange knocks my sox off! Scented or not, it is spectacular!
    I am so amazed at how far along your tomatoes are. It's incredible to me.I guess a person's perception really is their reality and my reality is 40° and wet snow, today.
    My tomatoes come from Jewel.
    (unless, of course, you want to send me some!!)
    Your Yankee Friend,

  2. Finally you have the much desired purple irises in flower and how good they look! Love that mock orange, just too bad that it has no scent, but it looks very pretty.

    And what a lovely thing to look forward to next spring: the Texas Whitebud. I have seen the beautiful Texas Redbud on Pam's blog. Very pretty!

    How lovely that you had so many responses to your previous post, well done Annie!

  3. Hi annie,

    I love your tall irises. i hope mine look as nice when they bloom (right now they're buried under 3 inches of snow. Do you miss it?!)

    do they ever need to get staked? or does that tell you when they need to get divided?

  4. Wow - very nice photos!

    I like your camping tents. I didn't cover my broccoli and lettuce because I thought they could handle the cold. Oops - my broccoli is the first casualty of the 2007 garden season :(

  5. I love the iris!

    It's strange seeing tomatoes in the ground in April. My ground is well covered in snow again.

    Too bad there's no scent to the mock orange, but it's still lovely.

    Don't you just hate to have to cover plants during cold spells? I almost always have to do that in late May/early June when I put mine out.

    Have a wonderful, evening.

  6. Annie... thank you for sharing more of your garden today. I am thinking after seeing those stunning purple irises that I need to grow more irises in my garden. I just have a tiny clump next to some peonies. NOW I WANT MORE!! And that mockorange can not be described with just a few words. My mockoranges appear half-dead right now.

    This is indeed the winter that won't leave... though the weathermen talk like next week we'll start to return to normal... which isn't soon enough!

  7. Annie — I've never considered planting any irises in my garden but your pictures are making me think again. They are beautiful.

    I'm considering a redbud for a bare spot in our back yard (our across the alley neighbors are apparently building a second story; we're waiting to see whether it looms over us but we may need a tree to block the view). I think I'd have to go for the red color. It's one of my favorites of spring time in Texas.

  8. The texas redbud looks gorgeous! And a white-flowering form? I'll have to look that one up. Are the leaves just new and fresh, or are they actually fleshier than the more common redbud? The mockorange looks amazing - mine (which is much smaller - more like an individual shrub and it isn't spreading - I need to check out this name - and the southern name, English Dogwood - I haven't heard that before, but it suits!) - isn't flowering yet. We had a freeze for one night and a frost for three - and although I covered many things, the tips of my potato plants got burned, as did the newest lives on my fig and kiwi vines. But I think that in a day or two one won't be able to notice. South Carolina's peach crop took a huge hit though - and some folks are estimate a near total loss.

  9. Great pictures, Annie. Your passalong purple irises are gorgeous. That's a much deeper purple, I think, than the one I gave you. I now have mock orange envy to go with my Lady Banks rose envy. And how thrilling that you're trying out the new Texas whitebud. I'd never even heard of it, but I'll be watching with interest to see how yours turns out.

  10. I'm really impressed by how florific your garden is, and Pam's too. Spring bolts in Texas, doesn't it?

    You get a neat (as in neat-o) effect by having the fence separate your mock orange from the bigger one behind it.

  11. Hi again, Annie,
    I came back to see if you had pics of your impatiens and potato vine baskets. I did a search,but nothing came up. I'd love to see them if you have any pictures. I am wondering just how long the potato vines got and the color of the impatiens.

  12. Does your purple iris smell like grape koolaid or lollipop? My mock-orange has much smaller blossoms but does have the wonderful fragrance. I wonder if your kind of mockorange deals with the Texas climate better?

  13. Sissy, that blank triangle of grass bugged me from day one, but we're too old to move fast... it's great to finally have some flowers over there!

    Thank you, Yolanda Elizabet - there's also a young Texas Redbud in front, which hasn't done much, but maybe next year? Will the Eastern Redbud grow in Holland?

    Hello Marc, thank you so much for coming and commenting. I thought broccoli could handle the cold, too! What a shame - I hope you have a few extra plants or can get some more. I intend to go look at your organic garden blog.

    Zoey, it was so different to grow tomatoes in Illinois... once we were past frost we had all summer to let them grow. But here, we have to move fast, because the plants stop setting fruit and sometimes die outright once it gets hot.

    Carol, thank you for coming and commenting. I love these iris, but there's not room for much more in the bed but the batfaced cuphea and coral nymph salvia. You have a fair amount of room, so have fun!

    Hello Susan, I've heard that the gorgeous hybrids seen in catalogs don't do too well here in Austin and demand treatment for rot. Mine are all less ruffly passalongs, which means that when I next see you, they can be passed along to you, if you'd like?

    Chuck B, our bloomtime has to happen fast, before the heat. I have a lot of young plants, so go visit Susan/South of the River, Pam/Digging and MSStevens/Zanthan to see a larger variety... but I'm working on it!
    The Neat-o effect came from just allowing the Mockorange to come over - maybe it's also Cheap-o ;-]
    [the words make me laugh, because I still remember when 'neat' was replaced by 'sharp', back in the sixties.]

    Zoey, the only photo was on the Veranda post. It mostly shows the potato vines, but my impatiens were white and pale lilac. I was going for a cooling effect for our super-hot summer. I had some blue torenia in there at first, but they kind of melted.

    Kathy, yes! It's faint but grapey. Do you have this one, too? In my secret garden there's a small heirloom Mock Orange that blooms in June, with smaller, fragrant flowers. I also left a huge, fragrant, double flowered one behind in IL, and sure wish I had a piece of that one! Although, my heirloom has grown very slowly here, so it's possible the double would also have a hard time in the heat.


  14. You may think I am crazy but your plants look so exotic to me. I wonder if I will be able to grow the new kind mainland Mock Orange? I know it grew in Florida.

    My what shiny leaves your Whitebud has and those Iris bloom stems are so tall.

  15. Darlin, I just love watching your garden grow and reading your thoughts. I've been chewing on thoughts about your last post for too long I guess... it was a very thoughtful thing (but I'm coming to find that you are quite a thinking person.)

    Love the purple iris. Like mama's. So beautiful. I can feel the sun shine when I see those purple and gold beards.

    Keep writing and snapping photos...

    and by the way...

    we havn't heard any musical performances lately.

  16. Annie,

    We had the same freezes over the weekend. Our neighborhood looked like a ghost town - draped in sheets and blankets. I few of mine blew away to a few houses down the street as we had high winds that I didn't anticipate. Sigh. So I had a lot of damage over the weekend - brown and mush and black.

    Your gardens are way ahead of us and your photos are breathtaking! Don't we all wish this was the last frost of the season? Hey, I'm not planting anything new until May 1!!! I don't trust the weather anymore.

  17. That mockorange is something! I didn't know there were any scentless ones. Imagine if that one was scented!

    Your purple irises are lovely too. No other color glows quite the same way.

  18. Annie, good for you for foiling that frost! Aside from the "camping scene" your garden looks very summery and I'm envious. The shiny leaves on the Texas Whitebud are amazing, as is your mock orange. But it wouldn't dare not do well in Annie's garden!

    Still trying to shake ourselves loose from The Winter That Won't Leave, but awaiting 8 inches of snow to begin falling about midnight, so they say. Arghhh!

  19. Your beautiful flowers are a sight for sore eyes to us folks up here enduring "The Winter That Won't Leave". I can imagine how pleased you are with those wonderful purple iris. What a glorious color. I don't thing my purples are as tall.
    We need to put a stump grinder to work in our yard too. We still have the stumps from a few trees cut down last spring. Looks like some good mulch.
    It's interesting that the larger flowered mock orange doesn't have a fragrance. Do they grow in zones 4 and 5?
    Your Texas white bud is going to be beautiful. It's already pretty with those shiny leaves.
    I'm glad your tomatoes survived the frost. Philo did a good job with the tents. Now please leave Old Man Winter. You are no longer welcome! :)

  20. Your iris look so wonderful! Mine are just beginning to bloom. I like the look of the shiny Texas Whitebud leaves, too...I hope it does well for you!

  21. Annie — Thanks for the offer of the irises. I do love the idea of passalong plants (any desire for an agave american pup? That's the kind of passalongs I have).

    What kind of situation do those irises like? I'm running out of room in most of my beds but I do have spots with less sun, maybe half day? And what would happen if they got kind of covered over later in the summer? Would they be smothered? I don't know from irises. I guess I should go read up.

  22. Hallo,
    Ich wünsche alles gute und grüße aus Stuttgart/Germany

  23. That mock orange is really impressive. My irises are still blooming, but they all fall when the flowers open.

  24. Annie,

    I love your Mockorange! And looking closely at the flowers I can see why some called them English Dogwood. Simply lovely!

    My mother is coming down in a few weeks from Missouri and told me she's bringing some iris that she's divided from her garden. The original iris were my great grandmothers. Hard to believe they are still making viable plants, but they are. I hope they will grow in Texas too. If they look even half as good as yours I'll be pleased.

    Take care,

  25. Well, this is weird. I commented yesterday, but it doesn't seem to have gone through. First my blog, now yours, right? What can I say--it was probably user error on my part. ;-)

    What I tried to say was that I now have mock orange envy as well as Lady Banks envy. Gorgeous photos. Your irises look lovely too.

  26. I didn't realize there were scented and unscented versions of Mock Orange. My grandmother had a Mock Orange bush and it had the most wonderful scent; I still remember it. Scented or not, though, I think they look beautiful.

  27. I left a comment yesterday too - strange indeed! I love the mockorange - and am curious about the redbud. Are the leaves more fleshy than other redbuds? The leaves are very interesting. I need to plant my tomatoes tomorrow - yours look great!

  28. Guys - I don't know what's going on with the comments - I can see comments from Hank the County Clerk, Christopher in Hawaii, Pam in SC, Rosemarie in IL and Pam/Digging in my email notification... but they don't show up here. Phooey!


  29. Chucks been having weirdness with his comments and Elizabeth at Gardening While Intoxicated has word verification letters that are only a red X, like when a picture does not show up. Blogger must be doing more work on the system.

  30. Annie, Thanks for looking that picture up for me. They were beautiful!

  31. I thought it was just my newby status that was causing me to have problems posting comments. Yesterday I couldn't respond on my own blog to your posts. It was really weird, but seems to have stopped misbehaving (knock wood).


  32. Thank you all -
    Christopher, whenever the red x's show up for me, I right-click and copy my comment, then refresh it. If a new CAPTCHA appears, I paste my comment and try again - sometimes it works. I'm in and out all day, so for my blog it seems just as easy to use comment moderation without bothering with the CAPTCHA.

    Rosemarie, so far the iris have stood up fine on their own, but they have a lot of sun. Semi-shade seems to make the flowers last longer but the plants lean more.

    I missed snow more at first, because I actually liked to
    shovel it, but my personal thermostat is reset after nearly
    eight years in Texas, and I no longer know how to drive in it.

    Pam, the leaves do have more substance, and are less pointed than the Eastern varieties. I've never
    seen a mockorange like this, and I've been planting them since the middle seventies. Losing the peach crop in your area is terrible, both for the farmers and those of us who love Carolina peaches...

    Pam/Digging, yours are more blue, but these flowers are larger. Do you want to try to get Lady Banks or this Mock Orange started? I wanted an Eastern
    Whitebud when I lived in Illinois, so just transferred my
    affections when we came here ;-]

    ChristopherC, this was one of the rainiest Marches on record, so that may be giving my garden a
    veneer of tropicality! I've seen your Murraya on Florida websites, but if I were starting up an empty garden, I'd plant a double, scented Philadelphus.

    Clerk Hank, you still talk like a Texan - no matter where you live. Reading your posts are like brain exercise, even if I have to sit out some sessions!
    Maybe your mom has the same iris - this one is a passalong from South Austin.

    If you dare, watch this blog for a new YouTube tomorrow!

    Mary, North Carolina is usually safe by now, isn't it? We've seen so much tropical vegetation when we've
    been in your state... hope your plants recover!

    Entangled, it was disappointing to find out that it
    had no scent that first spring, but it has such huge flowers that it evens out. I'm very happy with this glowing iris!

    LostRoses it was Philo's idea... he was worried about sleet and hail as well as cold. Eight more inches - good grief! At least you had a few weeks respite in

    Kerri, if the tree hadn't been right in front of the porch we could have tried drilling holes and filling them with compost, then watering to help it break down. But that spot is the view from my dining room, and I want to
    see something better than a stump. So if you can see those stumps from your windows - go for it!

    Leslie, I always think yours is the garden that's blooming faster... the shiny leaves are another of those heat and drought-resistant techniques thought up by Mother Nature.

    Susan, I killed a little agave from Pam [well, that
    ice storm did it] - can I be trusted?
    These Iris are late and enormous, and need a lot of sun. The early white ones bloom in semi-shade and stay short.

    Hallo Sonja, danke schön.

    Hi R Sorrell, I don't know why they fall over unless they're in too much shade?

    Dawn, that's very cool! I love heirloom plants - my sisters have divisions of a peony that's been in my family for a century, and I could have some, but doubt
    that it could grow down here.

    Pam/Digging and Pam from SC, your comments were not visible to me, then suddenly showed up on Blogger last night - out of sequence. Good luck with the tomatoes.

    Christa, I'd never seen an unscented mockorange before either. My mother has two old shrubs of the double variety, which when cut can scent a large room. I hope you can find one like your grandmother's.

    Zoey, you're welcome - you reminded me to look for some more potato vines for this summer.

    Dawn, Blogger takes no notice of how long you've been blogging when it decides to annoy you ;-]

    Now we all have to get our posts ready for

    Bloggers Bloom Day


  33. So glad your tender plants weathered the frost OK in their comfy tents! I wait patiently (in other words procrastinate) on the planting.

  34. Hi...a friend directed me here...I had posted a picture today of an UFO (unidentified Flowering object) and she directed me here...I think we have a match on the English Dogwood or Mock orange...I hope mine ends up looking as pretty as yours...


A comment from you is like chocolate - maybe I could live without it, but life is more fun with it. I'll try to answer. If someone else's comment piques your interest, please feel free to talk among yourselves.