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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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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.


  1. Annie,

    A fresh coat of paint in the color of your choice makes it home. We still have builders' paint and I'm itching to brush over it.

    Even when your flowers are blooming much, you have a wealth of color! I especially admire your thick, green grass. I can only dream of green right now. You'll have red in September and I'm hoping for green!

  2. For not much going on, you left a lot of things to comment on.

    Your moonflower vine looks gorgeous. You know I enjoy silver ponyfoot; yours looks like a cascading waterfall and pond. You juxtaposed photos of the ponyfoot and Persian shield. Wouldn't those look nice together, in a part-shade location?

    My white oxalis has gone dormant, despite the rain. The purple oxalis is going strong though.

    Your interior decorating sounds like a cool way to get through the end of summer. I like the Belgian waffle color.

  3. Belgian Waffle looks as good as it sounds!
    When you are ready, I have boxes of books you can organize, Annie! I don't find it as fun.

  4. I really like the silver ponyfoot, and how you let it just go its own way in the garden. I love seeing plants like that throughout a garden.

    Yes, sometimes the inside of the house needs our attention, too. Here in zone 5, January and February are good times for indoor painting and decorating.

  5. Not even the beauty of your garden can distract me from something you hinted at a bit earlier... are you saying that Philo spent so much time on a ladder because he wasknocking down a whole ceilingful of those godawful popcorn stalactites??! Egads. I despise the terrible popcorn job in my kitchen--and it's a tiny, old house kitchen--but I still haven't managed to get up the gumption to tackle them here. Hats off to Philo!

  6. I can see why you love that Triangle Bed. And the brown underside of the magnolia leaves look soft like suede... are they? And do they stay that brown all year, or is it a fall color for them?

    (Sorry for so many questions, but your garden always seems to stir the delight--and questions--of a 3-year-old in me for some reason. I hope you take that as a compliment, because it is.)

  7. I truly know how you feel. I went through an eight month interior makeover last year and my garden suffered so as a result.

    My hubby's favorite colors of white and beige have been on the walls since god knows when. O.K. You've had your choices, now it's my turn. A craftsman-style house such as ours requires warm colors so I selected a sedate sage green, yellow and cream combo. It's wonderful and so warm.

    You'll be happy once the dust has settled and everything's done.

  8. The silver ponyfoot is interesting...and I don't see it in my Sunset book. I wonder if it would grow in zone 9? I like the way it flows along the edge of the path...
    And how fun to shuffle everything and get it feeling fresh and new to go with the new paint!

  9. Good luck with your redecoration. I can imagine how much time that is eating, but it will all be so worth it when its done. The silver ponyfootand triangle bed are quite pretty.

  10. I suspect that this is the calm before the coming gardening storm - Fall planting in Austin!

    Belgian Waffle sounds like a great colour. It is a great feeling putting your own stamp on your walls.

    The 'Black Knight' butterfly bush is gorgeous and I am so envious of the Blue Butterfly Pea. Your Moonflowers are lovely.

    I did a little searching and there are several Gentians that grow well in the Austin climate. I searched the plant database at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Centre. There's a gorgeous Gentiana Parryi liksted there that I would love to grow.

    More pics of your interior work would be fun. I can't imagine Oxalis overwintering here. Lucky you!

  11. I'd love to live in a house that smelled like Belgian Waffles but I guess the color is nice too. :)

    The Silver Ponyfoot looks great and like most of the other commenters I think I want to give it a try. Can you please give us some more information about it? Will seeds labeled as Dichondra look as nice and have those little flowers or do you have the find the Silver Ponyfoot variety?

    They way you mixed the potted plants with ground cover look really nice.

  12. Now that the floor tiling is complete I can commiserate and revel in your painting the interior of the house as I'm doing the same. Trouble is it took us about 10 gals of paint before we found the right white to match the tiles. After 5 years it's good to finally get rid of the yucky dark brown/olive drab color in the family room.

    I see that your magnolia is still blooming. I saw some 'Little Gem' Magnolias a the Bitmore estate that were blooming too. The trees were about 20-25 feet tall and quite beautiful I think you will enjoy yours more in the coming years.

    I remember many years back when Dichondra was being touted as the next best lawn plant. One of our neighbors in Hawaii actually planted his yard with it but it required constant watering to keep it lush. It felt strange under bare feet - sort of like stepping on soft little cups but it could take light foot traffic.

  13. Hi Mary - I guess builders' paint is white? We've never had a new house - always walked into someone else's world! The green grass is not normal at all.

    Pam/Digging, when we first came to Texas I saw ponyfoot at Zilker and just loved it. I'm not sure it could grow with the Persian Shield, but the idea is intriguing!

    Hello Sissy, guess I could play 'library' with your books, right?

    Once the ponyfoot looked happy, Carol, I had to let it roam. It gets knocked back in winter - which may be a good thing!

    BlackswampKim, the last house had LR popcorn too, but we'd have needed scaffolding to reach that ceiling. Philo hates this stuff and has been removing it room-by-room for a couple of years, inventing techniques and equipment with each project. So far he's done our master bedroom and bathroom, the entry hall, hall to the bedrooms, living room, kitchen and breakfast room. If he gets around to the DR I may turn the process into a post.

    But our popcorn was done by the builder in the seventies, instead of finish coating the ceiling, apparently! It might not be the same thing if yours was installed by some previous homeowner.

    The Magnolia is a hybrid called 'Little Gem' and I think one of the parent magnolias has this suede-like leaf. It gives a different effect from the saucer magnolias and the large evergreen kinds. Hey, I love questions!

    Carolyn, eight months is a heck of a long time! This was mainly painting - no real construction or wall replacement so it was less than a month.

    I like the warm colors you chose - we've used yellows and pale golds for several living rooms and I wanted that 'glow' back again.

    Leslie and Anthony, the botanical name is Dichondra argentea, and the cultivar is called 'Silver Falls'. We're zone 8B, and the roots usually live over with some dieback to the trailing parts. It needs well drained soil - mine has only rooted where we've brought in decomposed granite.

    Silver Ponyfoot is listed as a native Texas plant on many websites, including the Missouri Botanical Garden database, and it's available in Austin so I've never had to look for it or grow it from seed. I don't know if it could be a takeover plant in a warmer climate, but could probably be an annual in a colder one.

    The color of the paint may resemble Belgian Waffle batter more than the baked waffles, and it had very little odor at all, thank heavens!

    Leslie, we've downsized twice, but four decades of marriage means lots of stuff that sometimes is in a storage area - sometimes on a mantle.

    Thank you, Nicole - it's pretty well done now. I love the way the LR looks each morning as I walk from the bedroom to the kitchen - so my day starts off with a smile!

    Hello Kate - there may be a few new plants and dividing of the old ones in about 6 or 7 weeks!

    I looked at the database after reading your comment. It lists wildflowers that grow all over the country, so many of them won't live here. That Gentiana Parryi wants mountains in Colorado and Wyoming! The only one that said Texas in the details also called for moist soil... so not Central Texas. Too bad!

    Ki- you may be more of a perfectionist than I am - that's a lot of white paint!

    The magnolia had very few flowers until this summer.... may be the rain, but it may also be the roots are finally getting established after 20 months in the ground. It's been popping out one or two flowers every few weeks all summer.

    This silver form of the Dichondra doesn't seem to need much water, Ki - it's native to dry areas of the southern and western US. I'm pretty sure the dichondra used in those lawns came from Asia.

    Thank you for the comments!


  14. Oh wow, Annie... that makes me shudder even more. At least mine appears to be an add-on, which means I would have a level base to work down to. I can't imagine all the work he must be doing to get rid of it all. Thanks for answering the question about the magnolia, too. I must investigate further at the local garden center, methinks. :)

    An aside to northern gardeners where the 'Silver Falls' dichondra is not hardy: You can often find it in small pots in the springtime near the sweet potato vines, golden creeping jenny, and other specialty trailing container annuals. I had a tiny amount planted in with my potted bay laurels last year, and it died back over the winter when I brought them inside... but to my amusement it just popped up in one of the two pots again a couple weeks ago.

  15. How exciting to have fresh new paint! Every room in my home needs to be repainted, but I can't DH inspired to start it.

    There is nothing that makes a room seem as fresh and clean as new paint.

    Your grass certainly is plush. I am so jealous.

  16. Whew. You're painting inside, and we're doing it outside. Well, my long suffering spouse is, and I'm writing to pay for the paint etc. It's somewhat disruptive to the gardens around the house, but he's very careful and there have been no mortalities, just some broken stems, and those are easily renewed--and the house is lookin' great.
    Last year, LSS built me a new office in the house, and while it didn't take that long, it took me longer to move in and get settled--and there are still books upstairs rather than down here! I actually sought refuge in the garden some days because I'm not much into the home improvement stuff other than to make some colour suggestions and clean up the mess afterwards.
    Your garden is awesome still--and I so covet those blue peas. I had some one year, and didn't keep seed, and should have. Oh well...

  17. I can hardly wait to see it! I've been gathering my paint swatches and have begun filling in cracks in the drywall in the front bedroom and bathroom. I'd like to get those rooms painted before AJM's mom comes to visit in late October. My projects tend to move VERY slowly. I need a handyman like Philo to do the hard work for me. Getting rid of those acoustic popcorn is nasty work. At least I don't have that problem!

  18. The Persian Shield would have looked good as a houseplant against your formerly mauve walls, Annie! How nice to have the colors you like - I don't blame you for the smile each morning.

    I have to echo everyone else on the Silver ponyfoot, and I love what you've done with it. I think I'll take Blackswamp Girl's advice and see if I can find some next spring to use as a "pot stuffer."

  19. I clicked on the comments soon as I read "stalactites of the sprayed on popcorn ceiling"; we had that in the house I grew up on in, and they put glitter in the mix too, so the ceiling sparkled with little gold flecks. Seems so incredibly weird now (& I'd almost forgotten about it), but people used to do that kind of stuff. Okay, now I have to go finish reading the post.

    the verification word is "ieeooaky"

  20. I bet that room turned out really nice, I'd love to see an overview pic! I think your garden looks good....my moonflower vine is just now getting ready to bloom. I guess my season is so short, that the flowers bloom on for all they're worth until frost, cuz' I have a lot of stuff blooming still. Good to get indoor projects done though, my house suffers terrible neglect all summer except during rain-of which we've had practically none.

  21. Blackswamp Kim, Philo not only has scientific and engineering skills, he's even ambidextrous, which lets him work in tight places. It was a very hard job but he's figured out how to keep the debris contained.

    Thanks for the northern info on the 'Silver Falls'!

    Zoey, did you at least choose the colors that are on the walls now? We're guessing that our bedroom wallpaper and paint are probably 20-years old. Maybe we'll get to that room some day ;-]

    Hi Jodi - we've done outside painting and doing it yourself probably did save the gardens! No one else would be that careful.

    Hello MSS - having a set date to be ready used to work for me, too - good luck with the swatches.
    There practically had to be an Act of Congress to make my dad paint interior walls - it was a big surprise, and a very pleasant one, when Philo started painting the walls of our student housing quonset hut a couple of months after we were married. Who knew!

    Pretty funny, LostRoses - I never tried that! The ponyfoot seems to be gaining in popularity and may be easier to find next year.

    Oh Chuck, just the stalactites were bad enough - but with glitter? Yipes!! This house also had carpet [the oral history says it was shag] going partway up the wall in the sunken living room.

    The verification words always seem to have a lot of f's, c's and k's in them... makes you wonder just how random they are.

    Lisa, the room could give a decorator fits, and get no stars on Rate my Space... it's too much like a museum...rocks, lots of pottery, art made by our kids, lots of old books, seashells, shelves of sheet music and two 8-foot sofas.

    My moonvine bloomed until frost in Illinois- hope yours will do the same. Henry Mitchell said he gave his plant a bucket of water every day to keep them going. Good luck!

    Thank you all,


  22. It always feels good to make a place more your own. It's also fun to weed out and re-arrange. We are slowly tackling one room at a time in this old farmhouse. Everything seems to be a little more involved than we plan but with each change it's more "ours" and more "home." Your timing to work inside is great since it's so hot outside there righ now!

  23. New paint always makes me happy. I have a couple of rooms that I've put off too long.

    The silver ponyfoot certainly does soften the cencrete with lovely effect.

    My Black Knight doesn't show up very well, I guess I should have planted it closer to a wall. Yours looks so pretty and well defined.

  24. Our living room badly needs a facelift. We talk about it now and then, but haven't yet taken the plunge. Seems like an awful lot of work and mess! I like the color you chose and am happy for you that Philo likes to paint and apparently isn't squeamish about tackling nasty jobs. I'm thankful we don't have popcorn ceilings...or shag carpet halfway up the walls. Yikes!!
    I tried the Silver Falls Dichondra this summer as a filler and love it. I learned a lot about it here. Thank you :) It's gorgeous as a ground cover in your garden and spilling from the container. I'm also loving the Persian Shield. I have it in silver too and am not quite as fond of that one.
    I can't wait for my butterfly bush to grow larger next year. It's new this year. Your triangle bed has some wonderful plants!
    Reading your comments was as much fun as reading your post Annie...both very entertaining!

  25. Ooh! Love that ponyfoot! It's cute, and goes a bit wild, two qualities I love in a plant.


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