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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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Friday, August 31, 2007

Three More Movies and A Blue Planet Update

Yes, we've once again managed to see three more movies in a real theater, not on cable or DVD. What can I say? It's hot and buggy, the wonderful Austin Film Society treated us to a couple of previews, and I can't resist Seth Rogen's voice.

As stated a few weeks ago, I'm no critic - just a movie fan who likes to talk about them. My children are adults so I no longer worry about ratings. Foreign films, bad language, interesting sex, nudity, inhaling, subtitles and endless conversations won't keep me from seeing a film that looks good, but excessive violence and lame dialogue might do it.

A few years ago The 40 Year Old Virgin was pretty raunchy, and pretty funny, had lots of interesting things going on around the edges, yet was somehow sweet and life-affirming. The movie was directed by Judd Apatow and it featured Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell and a charismatic young guy named Seth Rogen. Once I read that Knocked Up was also directed by Judd Apatow and starred Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd, I wanted to see it. So we did. It was raunchy, way too full of potheads, very funny, had lots of interesting things going on around the edges, and it was ultimately sweet and life-affirming. When the DVD comes out I'll probably see it again.

Movie number two was 2 Days in Paris - written and directed by Julie Delpy. I couldn't find downloadable wallpaper for 2 Days in Paris, so the poster has Julie with Ethan Hawke in the Richard Linklater film Before Sunrise. She and Ethan were also in Linklater's Before Sunset, and in his Waking Life - did you see any of these?

Delpy has made a very entertaining movie about the relationship between a quirky Parisian-to-New York woman, played by herself, and a neurotic American man played by Adam Goldberg. It's been interesting to watch him evolve from one of Linklater's scruffy Dazed and Confused high school kids into a lead actor in this movie.

Julie Delpy's movie parents are played by her very real parents, who are actors in France but have different occupations here. The humor comes from the conversations, the interplay of personalities, stereotypes both French and American, the language problems and the collision of American standards with Continental attitudes, in both sex and cuisine. There is artistic nudity, and given a French woman at the helm, the nudity deals less with the female body than with the male. There are memorable scenes in taxis and train stations and markets.

The Austin Film Society hosted movie number three, which opens tomorrow. Self Medicated has won a score of film festival awards in the last year, but independent films can win prizes without ever landing a spot on a marqee. It's having a limited run in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, Dallas, Houston, Austin, Phoenix, Boston, Seattle, Portland, Denver, San Diego, San Francisco and Indianapolis.

From the title you can guess we're going into addiction territory - set this time in Las Vegas with trips to an adolescent substance abuse hospital. The story is intense and emotional with a surprising amount of humor stirred in. The lead character reminds me a little of Clint Eastwood back when he was Rowdy Yates- those eyes, those cheekbones, athleticism, an impression of intelligence and a quality of stillness in the acting. Like Clint Eastwood the beauty has brains - twenty-something Monty Lapica not only stars in the film but is also the writer and director. Diane Venora plays his pill-popping mother and you'll probably recognize others in the excellent supporting cast.
Philo thought the cinematography by Denis Maloney was outstanding and I found Anthony Marinelli's score quite compelling. There were some parts of the story that strained belief, but the movie is an impressive debut which deserves to be seen by a larger audience. I'd like to thank the Austin Film Society for letting us see it.


While we've been watching fine movies in a cool theater, Mary Chervenak and her clean water team have almost completed their circuit of the globe. I wrote about Mary and the Blue Planet Run at the beginning of July. Since then Mary has run across Europe, Russia, Mongolia, China, and Japan, and traversed the width of the US to New York State. Mary's parents live in the Corning area so she brought the team there for an overnight stay. They're now heading in the direction of Washington DC, where there will be some kind of public event on the 31st. Here's a link to some photos taken earlier this week.

Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend, and if you see any movies, let me know!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Painters Inside - Janitors Outside

For the past couple of weeks painting and rearranging the inside of the house has been more interesting than being outside or writing. I've enjoyed reading many of your posts but I haven't much to say about my garden right now.

Philo did most of the hard work - spending days balanced on ladders working on the raised ceilings and the gabled end walls while I puttered around at ground level, covering the color chosen by the previous owners - a mauve so pale it approached off white. This color looked fine with their stuff, but for three years it's been sucking the life out of our furniture. Now the stalactites of the sprayed-on popcorn ceiling have been banished, the floral pink stained glass skylight has been replaced with translucent white, the 'Belgian Waffle' paint is on the walls and for the first time the living room and halls feel as if they are entirely our own. It's fun playing house, reorganizing every bookshelf and cabinet, immersed in the details of what goes and what stays, swapping pictures between rooms, enjoying the harmonious effects.

Between the paint project and the August doldrums, our relationship with the garden has become janitorial rather than horticultural. We've gone out to prune bagworms from the pecans [as in the photo above], to mow grass, to water containers, and to prune trees so their branches clear the sidewalks. Although the tree guys did a fine job in March, record rainfall induced 6-to-8 feet of new growth on some overhanging limbs. I've watered borders and beds and new trees, but the grass has stayed green with no help from me - and it's so thick I can barely push the mower.
Even with few flowers in bloom now, some parts of the garden look fine because of the leaves. This purple foliage is prettier than many flowers - it's Persian Shield, Strobilanthes dyeranus.

You've probably seen Silver ponyfoot, a form of Dichondra, in the photos of Pam/Digging. Austin gardeners love this stuff! I brought a hanging basket of ponyfoot from the other house deck in 2004 and a few strands fell off and rooted near the herb bed in the back. They've gently increased and spread, and I like how the silver looks against the old sidewalk in the photo above.

Three years ago I bought another small pot of the Silver ponyfoot to put in this terra cotta bowl near the front steps, letting the ponyfoot drape over the edges and touch the ground. It tip-rooted and has spread into a silver carpet between the rocks and containers, softening the edges of the concrete drive.

When I lived in Illinois, flowering oxalis was grown as a houseplant or as a summer annual. Here it stays outside all year, both in the ground and in containers. But in many summers the heat and dryness overcome the white-flowering Oxalis, causing the leaves to fall off and sending the small bulbs into dormancy. This summer the oxalis has stayed green and it hasn't stopped blooming. I always tuck in an impatiens plant or two, ready to take over once the oxalis is asleep. That impatiens has had to fight for space and light in 2007.

The triangle bed is not showy but the plants please me when I go out to fill the birdbaths each day. On the obelisk the Blue Butterfly Pea keeps blooming by day, and the white moonflowers open in late afternoon. The purple at the left of the photo comes from the 'Black Knight' butterfly bush. Against the housewall in the background blue plumbago flowers harmonize while the rusty brown undersides of the 'Little Gem' Magnolia look ready for autumn.

I guess August is ending in green and purple, blue and silver and white - but wait until next month - September should arrive bearing gifts of red.

Monday, August 20, 2007

My Cottage Has A Name

I'd been playing around with the idea of a name for our place ever since we moved here three years ago. We'd never named any of our four previous house-and-gardens, but living here felt different. Was it the single-story cottage-style house that called for a name? Are there too many English novels on my bookshelf? Perhaps it was the combination of a long, covered front porch and an enclosed fenced garden with a wooden gate?

Last spring inspiration struck, and my intention was to paint the name on the top board of the green bench in the new Pink Entrance Garden, take a photo and write a post about it. The paints sit unused next to sketches and print-outs of fonts, so there's no decorated bench to photograph as yet, but Carol at May Dreams has asked if our garden & house has a name, and my answer is Yes!
In October 2004 we bought a 'Forest Pansy' redbud tree for the shaded area at the far right of the front yard - the photo at the top of the page shows the newly planted sapling. After a few rough summers our young tree is becoming established, and so is the American Beautyberry/Callicarpa americana to its left in the photo above.
In 2006 we bought a Texas Redbud/Cercis canadensis var. texensis and planted it to the far left of the front yard, then added the Pink Entrance Garden this spring:

Because we lost a tree this year - the immense Arizona Ash of my YouTube song- we decided to plant a new tree in the left center of the front yard. It seemed like fate at work when we walked into a local nursery right after some small trees of the white version of the Texas Redbud were delivered. I'd always wanted a Whitebud!

So here we have them, left, right and center - three Redbuds chosen from the genus Cercis, growing in the garden of someone who loves to sprinkle her pages with botanical Latin ... what else could the name be but

What do you think?? Is it a keeper? Maybe I'll get around to painting the name on the bench one of these days.
Every circus needs a Sideshow, so step right up to the obelisk and see the moonflower in close-up just before dark:

In the daytime the Butterfly Peas open blue flowers, with the long white buds of the Moonvine poised to work the night shift.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day for August

Today is bloom day, but where are the flowers? To the south there are deep green shadows under the pecan trees, with the only color coming from a bright yellow chair. The shade is welcome since Austin has had several weeks of normal dry summer weather with temperatures hovering near 100º F.
Around the corner to the right, past the green settee, is the 'Incense' passionvine, star of the August 5th post. A hungry Gulf Fritillary caterpillar takes the place of the purple flowers that hung there a week ago.
From the patio I can see two red flowers - a Cypress vine~Ipomoea quamoclit, and the faithful native Coral Honeysuckle~Lonicera sempervirens, entwined to form a hummingbird's delight.
The vines cover the top of the metal arch - how could there be a bloom day post without a photo of that arch? Through it a spot of red is visible along the long back fence...

I called this tropical tree a Plumeria when I showed you the buds ten days ago, but Kerri knows it as Frangipani, a beautiful name that means both the flower and the fragrance.
Crossing to the gate and looking forward to the northeast brings the length of the North fence into view, with a few flowers remaining on the two 'Acoma' crepe myrtles, a 'Bengal Tiger' canna, and the tall self-seeded sunflower at right on the back fence.

Looking to the right while standing at the gate, one sees a bed along the housewall. The Brugmansia finally bloomed and the expanded Angel's Trumpets are yellow - very pale and lightly fragrant. Even with flowers the Brugmansia plant looks like a big weed to me, and the blue tumble at its feet has a weedy habit, too.
This flower is the semi-tropical Plumbago auriculata - grown for that wonderful blue color.
In the front of the house, Impatiens and Oxalis bloom in baskets along the veranda, and a small pink crepe myrtle leans into the picture.
August Lilies/Hosta plantaginea bloomed in my Illinois garden, spilling fragrance near Grandma's white phlox. I brought some of the phlox to Texas and in some summers it's looked happy. But this year's rain nearly drowned my phlox - it finally made one flower this week.

The fragrance no longer comes from August hostas, but from Hedychium coronaria, White Ginger. After I brought one tiny root back from Hawaii, six summers in Texas turned that root into several plants, enough to share with MSS one recent afternoon.
Fragrance also comes from Cestrum nocturnum, the Night-blooming Jasmine, which has a demure and dainty appearance in the daytime, but whose evening personality is rated at least PG-13.
It's evening now, and the jasmine scent insinuates itself into the landscape as one last flower uncurls - atop the obelisk the Moonvine has climbed over the Blue Butterfly Pea and raised one white disk to the dark sky.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

INSIDE: Three Movies, 27 Links

Once in a while I like to write about movies - not as a critic - just as a person who dearly loves them. Somehow we've managed to see three current movies so I'll ignore the borders until Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th, and take you where the lights are dim and the scents aren't of gingers and amarcrinums, but of popcorn and fake butter.
As members of the Austin Film Society Philo & I occasionally get to see movies before they're released. A couple of weeks ago we saw Stardust, which opened on Friday. The trailers made me think of old favorites like Time Bandits , Willow, and The Princess Bride, where the tongue is held firmly in cheek as the hero wields his weapon. Stardust did resemble those movies, but with modern computer effects and sensibilities reflecting changing social attitudes.
I liked how the movie looked on the screen, large and romantic with some lovely sweeping views. Claire Danes and Charlie Cox play the hero and heroine, but with Robert De Niro out-Depping Johnny, and Michelle Pfeffer shedding her leading-lady skin to emerge as a wickedly funny villainess, the young actors have to fight for leading status. This is not a great movie, but I think it's a good one - and it was lots of fun to see it with a summertime audience in an airconditioned theater - I even got the souvenir poster above to bring home.

When the Austin Film Society sent a notice for a screening of Werner Hertzog's new movie, Rescue Dawn, I told Philo about it so he could act fast and snag a pair of tickets. Philo really liked the 1997 documentary Little Deiter Wants To Fly, about Dieter Dengler's experience as a prisoner and eventual escapee in Laos during the Vietnam War. My husband wanted to see the new fictionalized version but was surprised to hear that I did. It kind of surprised me, too - but I'd heard about the documentary from Philo, heard interviews about both movies with Terry Gross on NPR and most compelling of all - it starred Christian Bale and Steve Zahn. That's one reason I can't be a movie critic - I like actors way too much to be impartial.

Philo noticed big differences between Little Dieter Wants to Fly and Rescue Dawn. In the documentary, Dieter goes back to Laos, speaking of his adventures in a very matter-of-fact way while meeting many people who helped him. Christian Bale is more of a superhero in the film, which was very intense and dramatic and gripping. I liked it a lot, was completely blown away by Steve Zahn's performance and was surprised at how much dry humor threaded through the story. There are reports that relatives of other men who were in that camp are angry that Hertzog used the prisoners' real names while fictionalizing their personalities and changing events. That part does bother me - why didn't he just give them different names? It also surprised me when some glossy scenes that seemed unreal turned out to be factual, while other, quite believable scenes were fabricated.

Is there any way to watch a movie set in a tropical jungle without past images coming to mind? I guess after decades of watching actors push through greenery in the rainy season, those visions are embedded on my cortex - I saw flashes of The Deer Hunter, The Emerald Forest, The African Queen, Anaconda, Hertzog's own Fitzcarraldo, the documentary about the making of Fitzcarraldo called Burden of Dreams and The Vertical Ray of the Sun. I couldn't forget other prisoner of war movies like Stalag 17 , The Great Escape, and Bridge On The River Kwai. A few scenes echoed such unlikely movies as South Pacific, The Sound of Music and Camille!

I don't, however, think this means Hertzog was derivitave - I think it means that I've been watching movies for a long, long time!

My fast work in getting tickets for Rescue Dawn gave me trading points when choosing the next movie to see - I'll bet this kind of bargaining is common! We'd watched The Good Shepherd on DVD a few days after the Hertzog movie. While I liked The Good Shepherd, it was yet another story that involved interrogation and torture. I demanded a movie with some fluff, some songs, some Johnny Travolta in a dress!

Some people who loved the original Hairspray are ready to hate this new musical version - but by thinking of it as a completely separate movie I thought it was lots of fun. All the versions use music to celebrate individuality, acceptance of body size, interracial romance and the vanquishing of snobs, but things have changed in the nearly twenty years since Edna was played by the outrageous transvestite Divine followed by Broadway's Harvey Fierstein. With so many actors gay & straight vying to don that outsize bra, playing Edna in Hairspray may become the pop equivalent of the celebrity guest role of Mother Ginger in the Nutcracker. Here's a link to a site that compares the three versions.

While watching John Travolta in the new Hairspray, I was struck by how natural it seemed to have him play the mother, and realized that I've been watching him for over 30 years - not just in movies or TV but in interviews and on talk shows where he frequently shows the nurturing side of his personality. His Edna seems genuinely maternal and what fun it is to watch Travolta make Edna dance - both on her own, and with Christopher Walken as Edna's husband Wilbur.

I liked the energetic young Nikki Blonsky as Tracy, and was glad to see Queen Latifa get some time to shine as Motormouth Maybelle. Jerry Stiller played Wilbur in 1988, but shows up here as the proprietor of a plus-sized clothing store. Maybe you know the other young stars like Zac Efron, Elijah Kelley, and Amanda Bynes - they were new to me although I'd seen Brittany Snow before.

The actor playing TV show host Corny Collins is James Marsden - known for the X-men movies. I'm keeping my eye on him in future. Allison Janney, Paul Dooley and Ricki Lake, the original Tracy Turnblad, show up in small rolls. And circling back to Stardust - Michelle Pfeiffer has a lot of fun playing another villainess - and gets to sing and dance this time.

Next time I promise to show up with flowers.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

After the Sun Came Back

A roof and a tree and some sky? Not very exciting is it? But if I'd taken a before photo, when the branches still lounged on the roof, and no sky showed through the solid wall of greenery, you'd see a big difference. The rain stopped a week ago and the sun came out, so when we pruned back the pecan trees from the house and shed roofs, it was normal weather for August 5th - humid & 95º. The garden has responded to the sunshine. I walked around with the camera after we finished to see what was new- like these buds on the yellow Plumeria, above, and the red Plumeria, below.
Both Plumeria were in full bloom last year by July 26 . I think the same cooler, rainier weather that extended the season for plants like roses, has delayed the bloom for heat and sun lovers. My garden phlox just started to form buds this week, while they're almost done in the midwest. Another plant is making its debut here - the 'Incense' passionvine has leaves and buds for the first time in several years. The tendrils grab onto anything - even a brick wall.

The Gulf Frittilary caterpillars ate every passionflower leaf, tendril and bud in previous summers - they'll probably still show up, but the vine has finally had a chance to get established - maybe larvae, food plant and gardener can all be happy in future.

The 'Celeste' fig has tripled in size from last summer, and has a few figs forming in the junctures along the branches.

I ate two figs from this tree last month - those fruits were probably formed last autumn and somehow survived the icestorm. This set of figs is forming on new wood.

Here's a plant that's looked like a big weed for a few summers - a Brugmansia, labeled as yellow. It's finally forming buds! While I'm still hoping it will turn out to be yellow, by now I'll be thrilled with any color from this Angel's Trumpet.

Hidden behind the still-flowering white hibiscus I found the purple dahlia flowers were open. The only way I could get a photo was by threading through the weary tomato patch.
This dahlia deserves a better place and should be moved in fall.

I bought a chili pequin plant last year, which did nothing all summer - didn't grow or make peppers. Although it's usually an annual, it survived the winter ice to grow and make some fiery hot fruit. I like the way it looks with Silver pony foot and decomposed granite.

The second bulb of the oft-discussed probably 'Fred Howard' amarcrinum cross is blooming again in the shady border, and a third bulb, planted in the big pot with the passalong corkscrew willow, decided to bloom for the first time this week. They look identical to me. The plant in the border has made a flower stalk twice as long as the one last year, giving it a gawky look.
In the above photo you can't even see the stalk on the amarcrinum in the container - all you can see is one happy umbrella papyrus in a year with enough water.

Chuck thinks we should have long shots as well as closeups, so this is what the back garden looks like when one is seated at the patio table, looking past the umbrella shaft, over the herb bed to the NE. The gate is around the corner to the left. The Brugmansia is at left under the overhang. The lighter green blob over the chair back is the 'Little Gem' Magnolia.

Remember when I bought those citronella incense cones last week? They work pretty well - letting us once again sit at the table in the evening.