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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, February 29, 2008

Garden Bloggers Geography Project

This post, "Garden Bloggers Geography Project ", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.
Pam/Digging's post about Austin is wonderful and comprehensive - go there for the main dish about our city. I'm posting a few photos of places that Pam didn't mention as my addition to Jodi's fun project. Some of you with sharp eyes may note the presence of a small paper person in a few of these photos - we've taken several editions of Flat Stanley out to tour Austin.

Nine years ago I landed at Mueller Airport and saw Austin for the first time - our Illinois house was up for sale and we intended to move to Austin at the end of the summer. It was a whirlwind meeting - just a couple of days driving around to get an idea of what it might be like to live here. Later that spring I returned for house shopping - but didn't land at Mueller... within that time frame Mueller closed and the Austin-Bergstrom Airport opened. So you bloggers coming in for Spring Fling will land at a converted Air Force Base, while ex-airport Mueller is now the site of Austin Studios and innovative new housing.

Until companies like 3M moved in (this explains the high percentage of ex-Minnesotans in Austin) and the high tech boom began, Austin was a two-horse town. One horse was government - Austin is the capital of Texas - above is the dome of the state capitol.

The other horse was the University of Texas - UT. Burnt orange pennants of alumni fly all over town but if the flags are red and white they'll belong to rival Texas A & M alums, subject of many an Aggie joke.

Soon after we got here the University of Texas unveiled a wonderful new sculpture of Dr Martin Luther King - we've frequently taken visitors to see it.

When visitors come we also take them for a ride along Loop 360, originally a scenic highway, now a crowded but still scenic thoroughfare. The Pennybacker Bridge, opened in 1982, caught my eye on the first trip.

Drive a little to the north and you can visit Innerspace Caverns in Georgetown - this cool cave was discovered by the highway department when IH35 was being built.

Drive to the Southeast and you'll find McKinney Falls State Park... here the falls are flowing. It was strange to walk over this area on a day when drought had dried up the water and the air temperature was 110 °F.

[edited Friday morning: Philo noticed that last night I'd posted a photo of Bull Creek rather than McKinney Falls. McKinney comes off Onion Creek. You now see a photo of the real McKinney Falls above with Bull Creek below.
Bull Creek is on the NW side of Austin. Both of these streams were at flood stage when the photos were taken, and can look quite different depending on the amount of rain that's fallen.]

Drive far to the Southwest and you can find Hamilton Pool. When approaching it from the top you'll see what looks like more of the usual juniper-live oak landscape, but deep in a crevasse is another world, with bald cypress trees, ferns and a stream attached to the Pedernales river, ending in a grotto. The preserve, home to endangered species, is part of the Balcones Canyonland Preserve. This enchanted world is endangered by development and pollution.

Maybe there are some Stevie Ray Vaughan fans among you - this iconic blues guitarist died in a helicopter crash in Wisconsin in August 1990, and the city where he paid his dues as a young man erected a memorial to him on the banks of Town Lake - well it's not called Town Lake any more - now it's called Lady Bird Lake, in memory of Lady Bird Johnson.

We say "Lake", and the system of Highland Lakes also include Lake Austin, Lake Travis and more - but these are actually reservoirs formed from the Colorado River [no not that Colorado River in Colorado - this one in Texas] which traverses more than 850 miles of our state. Before the dams were built, the Colorado was just a stream under normal circumstances, running through the small capital city - but when a storm hit, the floods were horrific. Dams were built - some failed causing death and destruction- some held, allowing this part of Texas to grow and prosper and allowing this peaceful paddleboat scene in downtown Austin.

In Hyde Park, north of the University area, you'll see another peaceful scene - the Elisabet Ney Museum, once the studio of an interesting Austin sculptor, a German artist who came to Austin in the late 1800's with her husband Edmund Montgomery. He was a philosopher and she created dramatic biography in marble, riding from their farm to what was then the outskirts of the city. I can't explain why, but this is one of the places I love best in Austin.

Thanks for letting me tell you about the city where I live.
This post, "Garden Bloggers Geography Project ", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Adding A Water Feature

This post, "Adding A Water Feature", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Are any of you Social Garden Shoppers? I sure am - happily volunteering when a friend wants company on a trip to a nursery or garden center. What's not to like? Wandering the aisles while talking to another gardener is one of my favorite things! Sometimes I find supplies or a few plants and sometimes I just look and think and dream.

I'd been up to Cedar Park's Hill Country Water Gardens with Philo a few times, looking and dreaming, then last summer I tagged along when a couple of other gardeners wanted to go there. On each visit I found myself gravitating to the same area of the display yard and my dreaming found a focus.

A few weeks ago Philo & I went back to HCWG - not to look, but to buy. This place is fun to wander, with large demonstration ponds, plants, fish, pottery, all kinds of fountains, fun garden art and water-work supplies fanned out for the visitor. They arrange for installation or give advice to those who want to do the work themselves.
I threaded my way back to the stone fountain bases and showed Philo the one that had been calling my name.

At Hill Country Water Gardens we met a very knowledgeable guy named Nicholas. He told us that this interesting stone came from Lueders, Texas. Then he explained the process of making a base into a fountain and we made decisions - delivery or take-with, tub size, the pump, concrete blocks and screens. He went for a forklift and soon the parts were ready to load.

We could have had the stone delivered but my old car has hauled heavy garden supplies and plants for years. Philo decided it could carry the block of Lueders Stone. The door opening was a tight fit but the guys made it work. Our son was glad to help unload the stone once we had it home.

The block sat on the sidewalk for days while I reworked the patio area. We planned to install the fountain in the decomposed granite area right outside the breakfast room window. Some pots and troughs needed to move aside and a lot of self-sown fennel had to be pulled out.

Swallowtail butterflies lay eggs on fennel so I'd let it grow wherever it sprouted for a couple of years. We liked seeing the larvae, but the fennel's shadow was killing sun-loving herbs like thyme, and the space was needed for something else now. (Don't worry about future generations of Swallowtail larvae - I've established a second patch of fennel in the long fence border and have young plants in containers.)

While I puttered with pots, Philo measured and planned. He tacked together a depth gauge from pieces of wood, a useful tool for knowing how to dig the hole for the black plastic reservoir tub. He sketched and took notes and made a cardboard template of the base.

I did not want to rush this part - wouldn't a Dress Rehearsal be a good idea? Philo dollied the burlap-cushioned, heavy stone to the spot we'd chosen. We thought we knew which side should face the house, but wanted to look at it from the patio, from the walk, and through the window before we started to dig. Even without water we really liked looking at that stone!

We needed rocks to hide the black plastic tub and screen - Nicholas told us to check out Jacobs Stone and Landscaping , a wonderland of building materials where we found a medium-size mix of Texas river rocks that we liked. We only needed a few 5-gallon buckets and shoveled them ourselves, reusing 5-gallon sacks from our previous expeditions for compost and decomposed granite to tote them home.

(The story of how we extended our standard rectangular concrete patio by using thick layers of pea gravel and decomposed granite is told in this 2006 post. )

We wanted to save and reuse those layers, so once the stone was moved out of the way, Philo spaded up the gravel onto a screen made to fit across the garden cart. The larger gravel that stayed on top of the screen was scooped into more of our handy sacks and the smaller stuff scooped from the bottom of the cart went into separate sacks.

With the good stuff cleared, he then started on the black heavy clay underneath. He dug and I hauled the soil away with the wheelbarrow, returning to use the Cobra head tool to pry out rocks when he hit them.

It took a long time to get that hole dug, use the depth gauge, get out rocks, add back finer screenings as a base for the tub, level and readjust the base and that tub moved in and out of place a number of times.

I'm not going to detail the fun with concrete blocks or fitting the pipe and motor or describe the access hatch Philo constructed - each installation will be different. The gravel and granite were packed in around the black tub.

The most nerve-wracking part came next - it took strength to move over three hundred pounds of solid rock across gravel or concrete, but now Philo and our son needed precision as well as strength.
They used the dolly and boards, getting the heavy stone up over the lip and onto the plastic grate with the concrete supports underneath.

We filled the reservoir and watched the water come out the top, then I started adding the rocks, hiding the black plastic.

The rock placement has already changed and evolved, and they'll be moved again for cleaning or possibly raccoons will rearrange them. Maybe rocks from other places will be added by visitors.

One recent visitor found out that adding and subtracting rocks where the water emerges from the rock results in different sounds and sprays, and she also improved the arrangement of the rooks at the base.

We can now sit at the table, listening to the peaceful water sounds of our dream-turned-real. Appropriately for a place called Circus~Cercis, the name of this kind of water feature implies that it performs a trick -
Ladies and Gentlemen...presenting for your amusement...

the Disappearing Fountain!

This post, "Adding A Water Feature", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for February '08

This post, "Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for February '08", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Once again Carol of May Dreams has sent us out to wander the garden in February, hoping for something in flower. Most signs of spring in my garden are new leaves, like those on cilantro, iris, daylily, ranunculus and anemone or the less welcome leaves of weeds.
The few flowers are almost identical to what I posted last February for the very first GBBD, but instead of three yellow daffodils, this time there are six at once. In closeup the cups have a little orange to the yellow - when we ran into the bulbs while building the shed I relocated them here.

These simple flowers can't be exciting for those of you with large daffodil collections, but any daffodil with enough stamina to not only return but increase in Austin is worth keeping!

Can you see the red on the ground to the right of those daffodils? Yes, there were some warm and windy days this week. Today the camellia has only a few flowers left, with the faded flowers at its feet.

The 'Grand Primo' narcissus blooms in a few places - here waving three heads of small fragrant daffodils near the garden shed in the morning light .And the same daffodil in the early evening. When I take photos in the middle of the day the sun is so strong it washes out all detail. Now, while the pecan trees are leafless, our back yard is at its sunniest.

At left that 2-year old Pelargonium/geranium keeps flowering on the window shelf, accompanied by two cyclamen plants.
The Coral honeysuckle has put out a new set of leaves with buds ready to open. Blackswamp Kim wants to try this one - I hope it grows for her.

The hanging baskets always have violas and pansies in winter, but each year we meet new faces. I like this little no-name viola in black and violet.

Pam/Digging says her Carolina jessamine has lots of open flowers. The buds on my plant are not so far along as they were a year ago - I had to search for an open flower - these were down low about a foot off the ground.

If I hadn't picked up this 'Bon-Bon Yellow' calendula last month there wouldn't be a single new flower outside - is this a plot to make us buy more plants? Calendula's use in cooking, the reason for the 'pot' in pot marigold, means this yellow flower belongs with the herbs so it's in a hanging basket near the herb troughs.

Not pictured but blooming are:
Osmanthus/ Sweet olive
White flowering oxalis and Dark purple oxalis
Upright rosemary and prostrate rosemary
Looks like February is still a yellow, white and purple month.

Although Carol's invention is now beginning its second year, I was out of town last summer and had no June GBBD post - I'm pretty sure Chuck made the full dozen blooming posts for year one - did anyone else do one every month?

This post, "Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for February '08", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Terra Cotta Shuffle

This post, "The Terracotta Shuffle", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin

The large containers that edge the patio have been bugging me - first I just switched the containers around and generally tidied the plants. Sometimes that's enough, and the shadier end did look better but the sunny end needed more. The Mexican Fan Palm bought last spring looked happy but the poor 'Celeste' fig was on the decline. After some of the branches were killed by a late freeze a couple of years ago, the rest of the tree gave up - bearing no fruit and with the leaves becoming smaller each year. Eight years in a pot was too long - even when the pot is a large terra cotta souvenir.

We'd picked up this container from a garden pottery dealer along an Oklahoma highway on the way back to Austin from Illinois in late 1999. After a bout of pneumonia at Christmas, I was so weak the shoulder strap barely kept me upright in the car but I was strong enough to croak "Stop!" and to stagger around the pottery yard long enough to pick out one big clay pot; Philo had to stuff it with our luggage to fit it in the car. We continued on to Austin and as the sun grew stronger I started to feel stronger, too. Soon after we got back I planted the fig tree. It grew fast and I rooted a cutting in 2003. That cutting was planted in the Secret Garden after we moved here -it took hold and made figs last year. Now it was time to let the original fig go and plant something that we'd like to look at while sitting on the patio. The roots of the dying fig were entwined with creeping fig and 'LaBuffarosea' rainlilies in one solid mass. I clipped and pulled and clawed, tugging out bulbs but trying to leave the fig vine on the outside wall of the pot. Finally I could flip the root ball out with the roots of the creeping fig attached like an umbilical cord to the green part. I scraped and cleaned the inside of the pot.
John Dromgoole has advised using window screening fabric cut to fit inside the bottom of containers before planting to help keep the drainage holes clear and to help keep out insects like pillbugs. I now do this every time I repot anything so that was the next step.

I cut away most of the root mass, preserving a chunk of roots from one part of the creeping fig that had attached to the outside of the pot. But instead of setting the creeping fig loose again, I stuffed its roots into a smaller plastic pot to slow it down a little, using chunks of styrofoam packing blocks to raise the black pot level with the big pot's rim. The fig vine looks cool against the terracotta so I hope it lives, but am not counting on it.
So who is the new main inhabitant? I found a second 'Mutabilis' rose last week, at Hill Country Landscape Garden on Pond Springs Road and was pleased to find that the plant came from the Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham.

I'd looked for rose soil at a few places with no luck, but found it at the Austin GardenVille - I'm trying to do things right from the beginning with this new 'Mutabilis' - soil and rose went into the terracotta pot. Are any of you growing roses in containers? Are you using special soil? Does it make a big difference?
I'd bought enough rose soil to repot the three mini-roses, too. The pale apricot mini-rose from my daughter and her husband had been potted last fall using the piece of screen at the bottom. It was doing well and needed a larger container, but the roots of the two 'Champagne' roses were avoiding the soil at the bottom of their pots - a sign they weren't draining fast enough. I cut two screens and then all three were planted in the rose soil.
Thanks to the squirrels I found wanna-be trees in every mini-rose pot ... either live oak or pecan. Mr McGregor's Daughter calls her garden "Squirrelhaven", but that name would work here, too.

If the rose likes its new home this end of the patio will have a 'Butterfly Rose' blooming this spring where we can see it from the breakfast room window.

The idea for this post came from Kate, who said she craved seeing any kind of garden work - I hope this bit of gardening puttering qualifies, but what's an Austin post without a flower photo? With warm, windy weather and no frosts in the forecast, the 'Pius X' Camellia japonica hasn't held one bud in reserve. It's thrown caution to the wind and believes in spring.

This post, "The Terracotta Shuffle", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin