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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, June 28, 2007

Central Texas News Roundup - Few Photos, Lots of Links

[Image from the Lower Colorado River Authority website showing the system of dams which made the Colorado River into a series of reservoirs called the Highland Lakes]

[We're fine in my neighborhood - the flooding happened Northwest of here]

Maybe you've seen some of the stories or photos already? Over seventeen inches of rain fell within a few hours on Marble Falls, NW of Austin, with flood waters engulfing other Central Texas towns like Smithwick and Kingsland. Area map, with Austin in the lower right corner.

The flood-tumbled, mangled remains of a vehicle was found today, but the teenagers who were in it are still missing. Residents of that area have lost houses, property, cars and trucks, and one organic chicken farm has lost all their hens. People were rescued from rooftops and the municipal water system isn't working. The parts that need fixing are still under water, so the townfolk are doing the best they can with bottled water.

Mystery writer Susan Albert lives not too far away... she's okay and her house is on high ground, but she had a few adventures with livestock as the storm hit.

Fellow Austin Blogger Mrs Quad has some scary photos of what the water's done.


In this little corner of Austin the only drama was recorded in this not-too-clear photo of a 3-inch slug, an unusual shape here. We get lots of those little roundish slugs that look like a kindergardener couldn't find a tissue and used a leaf instead. This particular speciment was heading toward a clematis but did not arrive at that destination.
Some of the garden plants have been thrilled with a year's worth of water in just a few months, while others resent it. The peppers, sunflower and Tropical Milkweed/Asclepias curassavica are growing, but could use some sun. The tomatoes look terrible, and most of what fruit remains is fit only for a compost heap.

The City of Portland Cannas, on the other hand, surrounded below by Salvia guaranitica, are looking fine, without the usual crispy edges seen in drier years.

I've been growing the lime green and purple potato vines for a decade, valuing their cascading foliage in hanging baskets.
In all that time none ever bloomed - but this purple one produced flowers! Is it a result of our eighties instead of nineties with everyday rain?

Here's the Clematis viticella, rescued from the awesome slug, making another flurry of buds and blooms. The pale blue flowers at its base are a Plumbago, a plant that throws lanky branches up to 4-feet high by mid-fall, and sometimes makes it through a NW Austin winter. This spring it was killed to a couple of inches in height, so it wasn't blooming when the clematis was scanned in April.

The big weedy looking leaves at the lower right belong to a big weedy Brugmansia AKA Angel's trumpet. It's supposed to be yellow and fragrant. It's never bloomed, in spite of water, fertilizer, great soil and what should be a perfect location with morning sun and protection from the hot afternoon sun.

The paint on the green loveseat from the previous post was fresh when the rain began so we put it in the shed to let it cure. Any guesses on when the new garden furniture gets into the garden? Storms are in the forecast through the 4th and the weather radio goes off a few times each day, warning us of flash flood danger.

One of the quirky Austin places we've loved is the downtown location of the Alamo Drafthouse, the original nucleus of the burgeoining Alamo Drafthouse group. Food and drink accompanied a movie- the movie could be something new and weird or old and cult-oriented, or even a silent movie. We've watched Buster Keaton in The General and Louise Brooks in Pandora's Box up the screen, while musicians Guy Forsyth and Graham Reynolds played music specially composed for the movie. We've been there quite often when the Austin Film Society screened Essential Cinema. On the Tuesday night just passed we went to the Alamo Downtown, watched a truly extraordinary British Science fiction movie from 1961, The Day The Earth Caught Fire, and drank a last toast to this particular Alamo. Wednesday night was the big final party before the Alamo moves to a new location on 6th Street. This wonderful place will be no longer be quite the same, but the concept and the proprietors will still be here, and the memories have been blogged for posterity.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Back in Texas and Trying to Catch Up

These 'Blue River II' hibiscus were the subject of my first blog post in June 2006. They weren't blooming when I left, but two weeks later are in full sail, cheering me on to weed, prune, clip and mow our damp, buggy, mildewy jungle, making it look like a garden again.

My plan for Illinois was to stay with my mom at her house as she recuperated from surgery, and to try to persuade her to sleep better and eat more. I wasn't very successful with that last part, but in between household reorganization, a little yard work, adventures with plumbing, and electrical outages, it was great to have the time to look at photos, sing a little, talk a lot, and watch movies, including the newer version of The Parent Trap and Helen Mirren as The Queen. It was also great to see all my brothers and sisters, Philo's sister, and their extended families, along with our dear daughter & son and their wonderful spouses.

Most of you are younger than I am - maybe staying at your parents' house is something you've done routinely? I've returned as a visitor on hundreds and hundreds of occasions during the 40 years since I left the family home, but usually stayed overnight elsewhere. It felt very odd to sleep once again in the house in which I grew up, where some things are unrecognizable, and other things haven't changed since I was a young school girl.

Back then I first encountered what we called 'the locusts'. Here's a souvenir photo of one of them- actually one of the brood of 17- year, periodic cicadas that are humming again all over the Chicago area. I was glad that my visit to Illinois coincided with their June appearance. My mom's trees were full of cicadas, and we enjoyed sitting on her patio in the afternoon when the little buzz saws were at peak volume.

Some people hate them. One of the health care visitors shocked me by stating that everyone should exterminate the insects now so there'd be none in 2024. But my mom and my sisters and I enjoy them as a fascinating natural phenomenon, and my sister's dog considered them to be a delicious treat! The cicadas provided a 'white noise', muffling the sounds from nearby highways and the racket produced by several neighbors engaged in remodeling projects - their background sound almost seemed like ocean waves.

So many cicadas emerged from the roots of Mom's bur oak that the shells looked like mulch on the ground:

These cicada photos were taken by my daughter. She & her husband and our IL son & daughter-in-law took Mom and me one afternoon on an outing - to a restaurant with great pizza, some history and perhaps a few ghosts. The building had an old-fashioned interior, and a very comfortable atmosphere. Supposedly Al Capone owned the century-old building at one time. There are tales of paranormal events in the bed and breakfast upstairs: radios turn on by themselves and alphabet blocks spell out words. I don't know whether the ghosts are real, but if you prefer thin, crisp crust for your pizza, with quite remarkable sauce, homemade Italian sausage and good beer, it's worth the drive out to Willow Springs.

Last year this restaurant featured bocce ball, but the area has been converted to a cornhole bag court. You may all know about it, but this beanbag-type game phenomenon, with sewn cloth bags of corn thrown toward an opening on a slanted wooden board was new to me.

Everyone in Illinois seems to play it now - a brother-in-law compares it to a more democratic version of horseshoes. Back in the nineteen-fifties the women kept the kids out of the way while the men tossed the heavy iron shoes, aiming at a metal stake but frequently taking out nearby trees, shrubs and ankles.

Tossing bags is safer, but still requires skill. It needs less space, and both males and females of every age can play, so when the boards were set up at a family gathering, the entire group of kids and adults had fun together.

While I was listening to cicadas, cooking, and talking nonstop, Philo was here in Austin, engaged in a furniture project he'd been planning for a long time. Shortly before I left he finished this sunny Adirondack chair:
After I left, Philo designed and built a settee version for another part of the garden. On my return, we pulled into the drive and he hit the garage door opener, revealing a classic garden loveseat built for two.

You've all been writing like mad - it will take quite awhile to catch up with my real garden and your many posts. But right now I have to get the flashlight and go outside. According to some calenders, including Entangled's, Midsummer's Day falls on June 24, the Feast of St. John the Baptist. So tonight is Midsummer's Night Eve, and there might be fairies in the garden.

*** Added Monday, June 25th - Carol's comment sent me back out with the camera to see if the hibiscus really were as big as a dinner plate. The plate measures 11-inches across - guess the flower is about 10 inches. And not a single fairy/faerie showed up, just mosquitos. ***

Friday, June 08, 2007

Passalong Plants - The Daylilies

Last fall the Austin Garden Bloggers met, and PAM from Digging brought me a division of this daylily, “Best of Friends”. You’ve probably seen Pam’s May 23rd post, filled with buds and blossoms of this beautiful daylily. I’m thrilled to see it flower in my garden. ‘Best of Friends’ is the newest of my passalong daylilies, treasured both for the beauty of the flowers, and the friends who passed them along.

Above is the passalong apricot daylily seen in the May 15th post and still unfolding flowers every morning. It was one of a group of unnamed ‘Stella d’Oro’ descendents, seedlings that were sold like living raffle tickets for a few dollars back in the early 1990’s at house #3. My friends and I bought a few, and waited for them to bloom. Some turned out pretty, some looked almost like the ubiquitous ‘Stella’ herself, and some were pitiful. My friend VIOLA was pleased to get a nice apricot form, and when it increased after a few years, she gave me a start. I grew it in Illinois, dubbing it ‘Vi’s Apricot’, and carried it to Austin. It’s quite a small flower, as you can see below when a bloom from ‘Vi’s Apricot’ is tucked in next to the large flower of ‘Best of Friends’.

Vi is retired from gardening now, but at one time she was very active in her Illinois Garden Club, donating time and labor toward community issues while enjoying the social aspects of the club. Visitors loved her enormous perennial borders, jammed with plants collected over the decades. Vi would guide the visitors around the garden, trowel in hand, ready to send a friend home with a living token of their tour.

More than a decade ago I bought this small maroon daylily as a gift for Vi. She was delighted to find out that Hemerocallis ‘Pinocchio’ could produce a second flush of bloom. Once the plant grew large enough, Vi insisted on passing a fan of it back to me and ‘Pinocchio’ also came with when we left for Texas.
Thirty years ago, as a just-moved young gardener at house #2, I met BERTHA. My new neighbor was a retired businesswoman in her early seventies who volunteered her clear, cultivated speaking voice to record technical books for the blind. Bertha grew flowers that had come from her own mother’s garden, and she shared one of her mother’s daylilies with me.

I’ve grown it in four of my gardens, and remember my friend fondly but I can’t call it ‘Bertha’s Yellow’ – this one already had a name, Hemerocallis citrina. Here’s the second bloom of 2007 on this tall, light yellow daylily, which opens in early evening and has a faint but pleasing scent. It stays open overnight, closing as the sun comes up.

Of the nearly 50 daylilies that I grew in Illinois, only 6 made the cut and traveled to Texas. Two came from nurseries- four were Passalongs.

I brought Vi's ‘Pinocchio’, ‘Vi’s Apricot’, Bertha's Hemerocallis citrina, the purchased ‘Prairie Blue Eyes’ [blooming in the photo above], a purchased ‘Catherine Woodbury’ and a passalong ‘Eenie Allegro’ from Vi. These daylilies had a rough life, spending 5 years confined in deck containers. I nearly lost them all at one time or another, and both ‘Catherine’ and ‘Eenie’ succumbed to the intense heat. The four survivors are doing better since 2005, when they finally traded life in pots for roots in Austin clay.
They've grown and if this summer lets them continue to thrive, these daylilies are ready to become Passalong plants once again. I think that both Vi and Bertha would be pleased and perhaps amused, to know that their daylilies were growing and being handed around deep in the heart of Texas.
In a few weeks I'd like to tell you about some plants that were passed along by other Austin gardeners. Until I get back from Illinois - Happy Gardening to all of you!
[This post was begun May 31, but completed, photos added and posted June 8th.]

Out of Order Posts

[The Passalong Daylily post can be found below with the date of May 31-apparently Blogger puts the posts on with the date of when you start writing it - not when you finally finish it and hit publish!

So long~]

Thanks to Susan at South of the River they're back in order.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

One Whole Year

When my family and friends lived near me, it was easy to grab someone by the arm, drag that person over to a flower border and say, “Look at this!” The people who came to our house in Illinois knew that a walk around the garden might well be part of the visit and many of them enjoyed seeing the changing floral scene.

For the past 12 months, thanks to Blogspot, I’ve been able to do the same thing on a larger scale, posting a photo and saying “Look at this!” to other gardeners around the world. We can enjoy conversations, and if they're also bloggers, I can have the pleasure of visiting their gardens. I’ve even met some Austin garden bloggers in person, and feel as if I know many more of you. You’ve been so kind and generous with your comments, have touched my heart with the Mousie nominations, and you even let me sing and play the piano.

Thank you all for a wonderful year!

My first post on June 7, 2006 had a photo of the Blue River II Hibiscus, but in 2007 those buds are not even allowing a glimpse of their white petals. Another large white flower carries fewer blooms on its branches, but has the advantage of fragrance, and it graces the page today. There were five Magnolia blossoms, from bud to blown on the ‘Little Gem’ tree this morning.

Tomorrow should bring a story about passalong daylilies – and that will be my last post for a couple of weeks. My mom has been recovering from surgery and she's doing well, thank heavens. At this point it looks like I can be useful in person, and I’m heading up to Chicagoland to be with Mom and the Illinois family. My mother’s home is an internet-free zone, so I’ll catch up with you when I get back - Philo is keeping the camera, ready to take photos of what is happening here in Austin garden while I'm gone.
Happy June Gardening to everyone!

Friday, June 01, 2007

June Roses

This has been an unusual spring, with plenty of moisture releasing us from a couple of years of drought. Having water in the lakes is a relief, but with off-on rain, plants don’t dry off fast enough to keep molds and fungal disease in check, and the bugs are going wild. Both Pam/Digging and MSS from Zanthan Gardens have experienced some problems with their roses and that's happened to our sprawling old dark red roses on the south fence.

But for the other roses? On their behalf I’m tempted to riff on Field of Dreams – “Is this Heaven”… “It's Austin…”... "Austin? I could have sworn this was heaven..."
Since the literature promised that Julia Child could rebloom, I was happy but not too surprised to see her developing a new set of butter-yellow flowers. There are about 10 buds on this 2-foot tall shrub rose which was just planted in March.

This 'Champagne' mini-rose arrived in a gift box in December. It was very unhappy inside the house so I hurriedly stuffed into a holding bed, hoping it would be alive when we returned from Christmas in Illinois. It froze but survived and was moved to the new side border in March. The little shrub has rebounded and is covered in buds - it's margarita weather, but we're also enjoying ‘Champagne’!

It was totally unexpected to see these buds when they began to develop on the tall pink rose on the trellis where walk meets gate.
Yes, that's the rose I described in April as 'once-blooming' pink rose. Each spring for 3 years it made long wands with roses at the tips. After the flowers faded, I pruned it back, gradually shaping it, trying to make the rose build a sturdy scaffold of branches, fed and watered it. Each May it shot out long wandlike branches, growing to 12-feet tall but there were no flowers until spring came again.
This year the spring show was fine- two dozen clear pink, nice-sized roses… and as they faded I once again cut the canes back & gave it a foliar feed. On June 1st we had an unprecedented rebloom.

As a gardener I can't just think "Wow, how nice that old pink rose rebloomed this year"... no, not me! I'm compelled to try to understand why it happened! Is it totally weather related? Instead of getting water from the garden hose, Mother Nature watered the rose this May, while the temperatures stayed under 90º F. Was that enough of a reason?

We've changed things in that bed - removing a 6-foot tall nandina from the center of the bed late last fall. Could it have cast enough shade on the rose to make this difference?

Until March the path next to the bed where the rose is planted was made from a wooden board, a hump of grass, and some inset stepping stones; Philo pulled out the wood and we got out the grass, made the bed wider, flattened the hump, and Philo made a proper walk. This could very well have had some effect.

When we moved here at the end of summer in 2004, this unnamed rose extended a couple of long canes over the shoulder-high nandinas and crepe myrtles that grew in front of it, and I fancifully imagined it asking me to free it, to feed it, to rescue it. Is it a once-blooming climber having an odd year? Is it a rebloomer that's taken three years to recover? What's the name of this rose? I don't know any of the answers yet, and will keep on wondering but in the meantime I'm enjoying the second flush of 20 roses.