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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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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Surrendering to the Pink

Last June I whined about too much Barbie pink in my garden and in my neighborhood, refusing to love the Pink Crepe Myrtle which grows in the area connecting our front sidewalk and drive to the garden gate.

This space was lawn when we bought the house - we Divas of the Dirt started the changeover to garden in March 2006, by transplanting three spiraeas into a group near the front sidewalk.
After my friends left, I used the spiraeas as the frame for a Bat-shaped bed, planting passalong iris, coneflowers, balloon flowers and a pink bat-faced Cuphea among them. The scorned pink crepe myrtle stands at left in the above March 2007 photo. The white trunk in the background is a Yaupon holly.
This spring I chose to embrace La Vie En Rose. Instead of fleeing rosy tones, I'd wallow in Blush & Bashful, Hot Pink & Magenta, and create a Pink Entrance Garden as an extension of the Bat-bed. Using a weed whip, I scribed a deep groove into the lawn, enclosing the pink crepe myrtle as an anchor at the outer edge. Once the shape looked right, Philo and I removed the turf, dug up the whole bed and added compost and decomposed granite.
Hardscape can be expensive and tree removal ate most of this year's garden budget. I'd like to install brick or stone edging some day, but these rocks also qualify as hard, and they were free for the hauling.
[Don't give up .... the photos won't all be beige and brown.]
We chose medium to large rocks with pink or rosy tones and picked up flat ones for stepping stones. Evergreens added green bones to the design - a Spring Bouquet Viburnum and a Texas Mountain Laurel from the Natural Gardener . The souvenir Weigela from Howard's Nursery should do well here.
Then I went shopping in my own garden - digging up pink plants that warred with adjacent flowers, taking divisions of crowded plants and rescuing pink plants that needed more sun.
I wanted everything to bloom in shades of pink, lavender, blue, purple and white, but with lots of contrast in foliage shape and size. I planted passalong White Iris, Pink Skullcaps/ Scutellaria suffrutescens and a small Hesperaloe, also called Red Yucca. I transplanted extra seedlings of Larkspur, Verbena bonariensis and Malva zebrina, teased a small piece of Grandma’s Phlox off the main plant, unpotted pink Chrysanthemums, sneaked out an Amarcrinum bulb from a container, added Liatris/Gayfeather from the plant-rescue table, moved Sedum that was too crowded, and transplanted Platycodon/Blue Balloon flowers & Echinacea purpurea/ Pink Coneflowers from the Bat-bed.
Soon the 'Pinocchio’ Daylily had sunlight again; the 'Champagne' Mini-rose found a home; native white Cooper's Rainlilies were released from a container. Most of what I chose was fairly tough stuff, some of it was native and much of it would be drought-resistant if I could get it established.
While the new bed was being developed, the bridal wreath spiraea in the Bat-Bed distracted the eye and kept the focus on its froth of white flowers in April.
As the spiraea faded, Ellen’s purple iris burst into glorious bloom. Today the liriope edging is filling out while flowers in the Bat-bed include ‘Coral Nymph’ Salvia, pink rainlilies, purple coneflower and the large pink bat-faced cuphea.
Once the too-close coneflowers and Balloon Flowers were moved to the pink bed, the Cuphea had room to grow tall and full.
I opened my wallet and paid for a few plants. Our local grocery store wanted $5 for a one-gallon pot holding three plants of dwarf Pink Gaura. I bought a Rugosa Rose called ‘Therese Bugnet’ described as tough, pink and fragrant. I found Pink Pansies for the hanging basket in late spring, [replaced with Evolvolus 'Blue Daze' for summer] and planted a strain of Heirloom Petunias in pink, white, magenta and lavender.

Garden blogger-turned Mommy-blogger Martha passed along some unnamed Crinum bulbs, which were tucked in on either side of the Crepe myrtle. Pam/Digging passed along a young Mexican Oregano which went in front of the tree. Liriope divisions from another bed are tiny now, but will someday define the back edge. I planted seeds of Amaranth and Cosmos.
We added more hardscape with a repainted old bench from the back yard, placing it between the new bed and the garden gate to act as bait for strolling chlorophyll lovers.

So how did My Life in Pink work out?
We rushed to make the new bed before the heat & drought arrived. A rainier-than-normal spring meant that the native plants like Liatris, Coneflowers and white trailing lantana looked wonderful in May and June and the Cooper's lilies bloomed.
The rains helped settle in the larkspur, balloonflowers, skullcap, 'Champagne' mini-rose, heirloom petunias and malva. I was sure that if the plants looked this good in June, they'd look even better by the time the pink crepe myrtle bloomed.
It's now late in July, the heat hasn’t arrived yet, and Austin is in the middle of the rainiest year ever recorded - we've had another 3 and 1/2 inches just since Monday. Many plants look kind of beat-up and overgrown - like this 'dwarf' 3-foot tall gaura. The Texas Mountain Laurel is not happy to be living here. The Scuttelaria is looking cranky. The bed is looking very shaggy! I'd hoped that keeping the grass edged around the bed would give it definition, but the electric edger can't be used when every day is rain day.

The phlox is alive, but neither the new division nor the original plant bloomed this year. The cosmos has had a couple of flowers, the amaranth never sprouted.
I'm still hoping that the pink garden can bring other gardeners to my garden gate.
But we can sit on the bench and bask in the watermelon pink glow of the crepe myrtle that started it all.
We can also look at that ‘Therese Bugnet’ rose, appointed as the Queen of Pink...she's a beauty, but her name is not Therese.


  1. You've been busy! How nice it must be to sit on the nearby bench and gaze on your new garden (when it isn't raining). And what is more tempting to a gardener than an open gate that tempts you to go through and see what is just around the corner?

    I love stories about how gardens are made, the process of assembling all the plants and putting it all together.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

    Carol at May Dreams Gardens
    (And while your new garden drowns, my new garden begs for water!)

  2. I'd love to go through that gate and sit on your bench for an up close look at your garden. You have certainly put a lot of thought into it and it shows. I hope it stops raining. Why is it either feast or fathem with Mother Nature??

  3. What a great post- I just loved watching the progress and I think the end results look great.

    Although it is a funny feeling to have all these plants that normally thrive in dry and hot getting so waterlogged and looking grumpy.

    Looks like even more rain in store tonight and the next few days.

  4. Well even if it's not happenin' this year (although sounds like it is for the most part--you had a good May/June), you won't have to do anything in this bed next year. And who knows...the rain could stop anytime.

    I have a gaura care question. Would you cut it to the ground when it's 3' tall and overgrown?

  5. If you can't beat pink, join it! Your pink garden looks wonderful. You added enough variation in color and texture to make it interesting and not monotonously pink.

    Chuck, I do cut my white guaras back by 1/2 several times each summer to keep them compact and blooming.

  6. Annie...your pink bed is lovely! The rocks look great...I do love rocks in the garden! Although I've never had to deal with rocky soil so I've never seen the down side. And I really like the bench placement...so you can enjoy the fruits of a big project.

  7. Annie, I'm so glad you decided not to scorn pink after all! I think your efforts and the story behind them are going to reap great rewards if the rain ever stops. But the thing I'm most impressed by is that you can remember the names of everything you planted! And I would like to wander through your garden gate too.

    By the way, as much as I always seem to go for the pink, even I had to draw the line at the bubble-gum pink of most mandevillas I've seen at the garden centers. Until I found a Sun Parasol Crimson yesterday. That's taking pink to the limit!

  8. Annie: How satisfying to create such a lovely bed! And the motivation is priceless...making a tree you don't love look like a million bucks. I would love to grow crape myrtle but, alas, it is not hardy here so I will have to enjoy yours. I guess the Rose of Sharon would be a good substitute if trained to tree shape. Love the process, love the garden!

  9. It was fun to see the progressive steps toward the creation of your pink garden Annie. Lots of thought and work! And interesting to see how it evolved.
    I love your crepe myrtle tree in all its watermelon pink glory :)
    I'd definitely be peeking through your garden gate, and it would be fun to sit on that bench and chat with you about the flowers.
    Funny how Therese turned out to be red. She's beautiful!

  10. I think your new bed is looking pretty established for having been planted only a few months ago. Isn't it fun to be able to "shop" right in your own yard?

    It would have cost a small fortune if you had to buy all those plants!

    I love the crepe myrtle tree. The pink is very eye catching.

  11. I love how you ended the post with the misnamed rose. Some day you'll look back on this wet summer fondly . . . hopefully not too desperately in the middle of a drought. I always thought larkspur hated to be transplanted. Maybe I'm thinking of something else?

  12. The 'barbie pink' made me laugh - it's how I feel in the springtime here, when those hot pink formosa roses are in bloom. I can't have many of them - and I find myself buying other colors to ton them down (because I'm also horrible at not removing something that perhaps I could or should!). I couldn't believe it when I saw that you guys were getting yet another batch of rain - and quite a bit of it. My coastal strip of land is still dry - and my texas mountain laurel is very happy. Other things are struggling though. Oh - love your rocks - when I traveled to Austin a few times awhile back, I was always envious of all of the rocks in those hills.

    Thanks for the tour!

  13. Carol, as you well know... as long as there's a bench we can enjoy the idea of sitting, without actually doing it. Rain and mosquitoes make eating on the patio less interesting than enjoying the sight of the table through the window!

    Hi Bev, you would be welcome! The drought/flood thing appears to be normal when one lives in the middle of a large continent.

    Hello Bonnie - thank you - I like to read about process, too.

    This weather does make me glad I've got a big variety of plants - something will be happy no matter what the weather. We just had another downpour here.

    Yes Pam/Digging, you can't fight Mother Nature- she loves magenta! I plan to add a few bulbs like white or pink-cupped daffodils - maybe I need some big leaves, too. There will be a lot of tweaking.

    Leslie, we were lucky to get these rocks free from someone else with rocky soil. When we dig in our own yard we get mainly fist-size rocks from the clay.

    Hi LostRoses - I like these hot pink plants much better in front than screwing up my backyard yellow/blue/orange /purple combinations or the red hummingbird bed.
    I don't have to remember the names - my plants are on a spreadsheet! It would be a thrill to see you come through that gate!
    I looked at the Sun Parasol Crimson photos and like it better than the usual pink.... but the one I covet is the Yellow Allamanda.

    It worked out pretty well, Layanee - the proportions are still odd, since the shrubs are very small. It will be interesting to watch the balance shift as the whole bed matures.

    Kerri, maybe I've gotten to like pink more after visiting your blog! With luck a hardier crepe myrtle may be devloped some day so you and Layanee can have them, too.
    Therese's red seems to add some punch to the pink and looks better than my idea... but I really wanted the Therese fragrance.

    Zoey, if we were having last year's summer I'd be watering struggling plants - they have made phenomenal growth for small starter plants.
    Some of that 'shopping' was relocating earlier experiments that didn't work out!

    Kathy - when the first bud started showing the petals I couldn't stop laughing - it's so obvious that I'm not in control of much!
    Larkspurs don't always transplant well, but when they're about 6" tall, you can sometimes move them with a large shovelful of dirt from one bed to another - an overcast day helps. With any luck they'll reseed here for next spring.

    Pam - the roses are probably shorter anyway - the neighborhood pink crepe myrtles stand 6 or 8 feet taller than the privacy fences - no escape!

    It's like another planet here - sun for a few hours, but late every afternoon the clouds appear and it pours.

    It's fun to have some large chunks of rock - I had to buy them by the pound in Illinois.

    Thank you all for the comments!


  14. You must be sending out pink shockwaves...the Labuffarosa rainlilies you gave me finally bloomed this week. All this rain and not a peep out of them until now.

    You and Pam/Digging wrote up such great DIY success stories this week that I'm envious. I'm looking forward to the day when my garden will be released from this construction project and I can get back out there and start tending it. Right now it's completely overgrown and everytime I start to mow the grass it rains.

  15. I really enjoyed the progression of this post! Funny how things turn out okay regardless....maybe you can find a true-to-name pink rose next year, and move your "red imposter" to your backyard hummingbird area. Glad to hear somebody's getting rain, cuz' it sure ain't me! :(

  16. Thanks for that *The making of the new bat-bed* saga in your garden. How wonderful to see a new part of your garden taking shape with its triumphs and the occasional downfall. ;-) I like it that you recycle stuff from your garden and work with a budget. Any fool can make a beautiful garden when one has pots of money, but to make a garden on a budget (as most us do) well that's quite another story. :-)

    The new paint job on the old bench goes wonderfully with the pink bed. I hope you sit there often and enjoy a rosy view of life. ;-)

  17. Annie,

    I think you have had enough rain. I'm sorry I'm so far behind and didn't make the party on time.

    I am learning that pink is good (for the hummers). As I go, I'm trying for the blues this year but it's been so difficult... We are finally getting rain once a week and low clouds every evening. I don't think our gardens in Charlotte will peak until September, honestly.

    I hope you are getting sun to enhance your wonderland? And I mean WONDERLAND.

  18. It is incredible how mature your bat-shaped bed looks after all the rain you've had. I can't quite imagine having a crepe myrtle ...

    It is so cool the Divas of the Dirt work collectively and have fun too (just read the Divas diary)!

    I also had no idea that you had embarked on this big project. This must have been a ton of work! Your new garden looks great and will continue to look even better as it matures.

    However did you make those tiny carrots and ears of corn adorning that yummy-looking chocolate cake?

  19. Annie, your garden transformation is amazing! You've certainly got the touch and I enjoyed seeing its birth.

  20. It's neat to see how the garden developed and how it's taken off. As a newer gardener it's great to see how masters bring it all together. I learn a lot from you Annie, thanks!

  21. We have the same "Barbie" pink crepe/crape myrtle and I find it sticks out like a sore thumb now that it grew to almost twice its size in a year. It dwarfs all the small plants around it and seems very much out of place now. I do like your solution of a bed of smaller plants with the cm anchoring one end. Maybe using pink flowers like you did will make it not so prominent.


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