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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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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Shovel Pruning the Vignettes

This post, "Shovel Pruning the Vignettes", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

The Garden Bloggers arrive in Austin in a few days and we who live here will no longer be photos on a page but living, breathing human beings with gardens that are actual, not virtual. You've seen Pam/Digging's photos and the garden she designed and built from below the ground up, yet Pam has confessed to some pre-Fling jitters! MSStevens just posted about her mixed up, exuberant, wild at heart meadow garden , complete with poetry she wrote as a 17-year old prodigy. The also jittery MSS says she wrote this post to set expectations for visitors to her garden and the laid-back, artistic neighborhood around her. Dawn's garden blog is just fine but her real garden is on hold. She must wait for long-planned construction to be completed before she begins to turn her dreams into reality. While she waits, she takes us on tour around the Austin area and shows us places we might otherwise miss.

I don't have much to be nervous about - only a few bloggers are intending to trek northwest to my bits-and-pieces garden, full of passalongs and plants I grow just to see what will happen. There's a hint of Lady Bird Johnson in the front yard and a lot of plants beloved by Mrs. Whaley in the back yard. And one rather cranky, gettin' older lady trying to keep the plants in control.

Last fall I planted ranunculus bulbs after reading a post about them by the wonderful Julie of the Human Flower Project. I gave them a good spot in the long fence border.

This spring the ranunculus opened their delightfully rolled flowers. What fun to see a chrome yellow followed by an orange - the flowers were more vivid than I'd prefer, but they seemed to blend with the lighter yellows, purples and silvers already blooming in this border.

Then number three opened deep fuchsia pink and I couldn't stand it. For nearly thirty years I've made one garden after another with layers of small trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and bulbs to form vignettes - small pleasing scenes with the center focused and the edges blurred.

On my series of small small suburban lots I used these vignettes to draw the eye to a defined area of horticultural interest, away from neighboring house roofs, TV antennae, garage walls, basketball hoops and backboards, pool slides, sports banners, trash containers, compost heaps, oversize vehicles, boats under blue tarps, power and electric lines and dead trees.

You'll find every color of the rainbow somewhere in my yard and in a large sweeping meadow I'd love them all swirled together, but vignettes are small. Certain areas have limited palettes - this secluded corner is mainly corals and lavenders -

The hummingbird bed is predominantly red and the pink border near the gate is the spot for pinks, magentas, whites and burgundies. Those ranunculus bloomed in a bed of yellows, blues & silvers along the fence.
A few days ago Pam/Digging told us one of her bluebonnets bloomed
pink instead of blue and she wavered between moving it and letting it bloom. Most of her commenters told her to let it be. I said to move it. I follow my own advice.

I used the garden fork to lift the deep pink ranunculus with a nice chunk of soil, relocating it to the bulb bed near the anemones. Two days later the flower doesn't seem to have noticed that it's on the opposite side of the yard. Julie says these bulbs usually bloom once without returning, but if it does decide to act like a perennial, it will be in the right place.
This way I can enjoy both the deep pink ranunculus and the more coherent long border without being annoyed each time I looked at that 'riot of color'.
More shovel pruning was needed in the front yard. When we worked on the
Pink Entrance Garden, last spring, I planted a bareroot rose labeled 'Therese Bugnet' toward the middle of the bed, a good spot for this pink shrub rose. When the rose bloomed dark red I was surprised but decided to keep it since the flower was lovely, nice for cutting and the color looked okay with the pinks and burgundies.

But in the last few months our 'Not-Therese' Rose started making long, wandlike canes... not only was it not pink... it was also not a shrub! When the Divas of the Dirt came here a few weeks ago, DivaMattie volunteered to adopt the unmasked red climber and took it home.

The Pink Garden still needed a Pink Shrub Rose. Instead of taking a chance on another bareroot rose, I bought a shrub rose in a container that was already blooming pink ... it's supposed to be the Texas-tough 'Belinda's Dream' and this time the girl looks like her photos.

The styles of M.S.Stevens' garden, Pam's garden, Dawn's garden and my garden are as different as the style of our garden blogs and our styles of writing. I think these differences are something to celebrate - if you'd like to read more on the topic of rejoicing in the differences among bloggers , please see Kate's thoughful ode to individuality, "A Gentle Plea for Chaos" at her KateSmudges blog.

This post, "Shovel Pruning the Vignettes", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Second Nature by Michael Pollen, GBBClub

This post, " Second Nature by Michael Pollan, GBBClub ", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

The writer studies literature, not the world. He is careful of what he reads, for that is what he will write. Annie Dillard

Annie Dillard’s quote appeared in the bridge column of today’s newspaper – guess she’s relevant everywhere! Those words remind me of my own history with Second Nature. I first read the book when it was new, partly because of an April 4, 1991 review in the New York Times. The yellowed newspaper article paper was still clipped between the end sheets of our copy.
I remember enjoying the book tremendously but didn’t feel the earth move – by that time Philo and I had owned 3 different houses with landscapes and gardens to tend. We’d already had our own battles with groundhogs, squirrels, raccoons, invasive plants and the tyranny of lawn as we tried to figure out what to keep and what to get rid of in each successive, pre-owned suburban yard.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to find this book as a beginning gardener looking for a guidebook. Reading Michael Pollen felt less like life lessons and more like the tales of a companion in the garden – a very well-educated, extremely articulate, confident, slightly bratty companion who was a few years younger, and who grew up on the East Coast, with different weather and plants, a lot more land, from a family with a great deal more money. It was fun to hang around with him, even when he did things that made me shake my head in disbelief – planting a Norway Maple? On purpose?

But I liked many of his ideas and his book influenced me to try a few things. At that third Illinois yard I mowed a path from the gated square garden behind the house out to the vegetable garden, past the fruit trees, leaving the grass to grow on the sides of the path all summer as a symbolic meadow. Few meadow flowers appeared but I noticed that the groundhog was so happy with the green and juicy clover growing along the path that he seldom bothered to go all the way back to the vegetable patch.

I loved the way Mr Pollan pondered the many possible consequences of actions in the garden – trying to guess what could happen. We bonded over the idea that Nature has no set plan for an area, that randomness was more true than Disney tales, that there is no way to be a gardener without making decisions, taking sides, choosing favorites and sometimes destroying trees and plants in order to make things better.

In the real world, all the trees may want to be the only tree and some plants will kill to be the main plant, but we don’t see the strife and battle because it all happens in slow motion. That Coral honeysuckle and Lady Banks rose make a lovely blend of color and leaf on the arch but they are engaged in deadly combat and only I with my garden shears enforce the peace.

After 17 years in publication, Second Nature is still lively, funny, thoughtful and worth reading – not as a road map for gardening but as a very personal account of one young man’s journey in the garden. As Annie Dillard warned, reading this book has influenced my own writing, and maybe some of my thinking.

One chapter in the book tells of a wild forested area destroyed by a monster storm and what could happen if it were left untouched, or was partly repaired, or bulldozed or treated like a garden. That led me to consider my own yard. Left to itself what would my own garden become? I’ve heard that the land around here was graded and filled many decades ago and that not much remains of the original landscape. Whenever I weed the borders it appears that my garden wants to be a pecan grove choked with understory invasives like Nandina, Waxleaf Ligustrum and Asiatic jasmine. If any open spots are left after those plants take over there may still be room for the native Ten-petalled anemone, Cooper’s Lily and Copper Lily, all of which popped up here on their own.

But most of what seeds or spreads here didn’t start out in Texas but in Asia.
Most of the native flowers in my borders are here because I, the gardener, planted them and because as a gardener I prune back trees to give the native plants sun and keep aggressive plants from overwhelming them.

This new front bed has tough garden plants like the ‘Mutabilis’ rose, cannas, Verbena bonariensis and larkspur , It also has Texas plants like salvias, bluebonnets, lantana, Gaura lindheimerii, Gregg’s mistflower and Anisacanthus wrightii. My managed landscape may not be “Nature”, but there will be something here for birds, butterflies, insects, lizards and humans.

Although the land in my neighborhood was probably changed a lot, I think Central Texas author Susan Albert’s land was altered less and it didn’t lose its wild plants and wildflowers. Susan’s Nightshade Blog Tour will stop here in a couple of weeks to talk about “Unbecoming A Gardener”, about her relationship with wild plants. The first stop in this Blog tour was today’s post at Carol/May Dreams Garden.

Carol is also the founder of the Garden Bloggers Book Club. For the February/March meeting Carol wrote about the Rabbit War Rules – these musings on Michael Pollan’s book will be my contribution to the book club.

This post, " Second Nature by Michael Pollen, GBBClub ", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Coming Soon - Susan Albert's Blog Tour!

This post, "Coming Soon - Susan Albert's Blog Tour!" was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Once I realized my 2008 turn as hostess for the Divas of the Dirt would land on St Patrick's Day weekend the menu choices were quite clear - we had to have steel cut Irish Oatmeal at breakfast and Corned Beef sandwiches with coleslaw for lunch.

As I stood in the kitchen mixing the coleslaw, the scent of dill reminded me of one of my favorites in Susan Albert's China Bayles Herbal mystery series ... A Dilly of A Death. Thinking of that book reminded me that Susan Albert will be a guest at the Transplantable Rose in a few weeks, visiting on April 8th as a stop on her Nightshade Blog Tour. Among the blogs on the tour are some familiar names, including friends Carol of May Dreams on March 24th, Cold Climate Kathy on the 26th, Rurality on April 1st, Crafty Gardener on April 4th, and Zanthan Gardens on April 10th. At each stop along the tour you'll be invited to enter a drawing for a first edition of the newest book in the series, the ominously titled Nightshade - eight stops makes you eligible for the grand prize drawing of an audio book of Susan's personal favorite in the series, Bloodroot.

Some of you may also know Susan Albert as the author of another series, the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter - with Beatrix as the heroine. I intend to read the first book in this series soon. But will I love Beatrix as much as I love China's best friend Ruby? To anyone who knows me, my identifying with a youngish, slender, six-foot-tall, redheaded owner of the only new age shop in Pecan Springs might be ludicrous... but inside my head - I am Ruby!

More details on the Tour will be coming soon - in the meantime check out the first bluebonnets on Susan's Lifescapes blog from the Texas Hill Country outside Austin - and have a Happy St. Patrick's Day!
This post, "Coming Soon - Susan Albert's Blog Tour!" was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, March 2008

This post, "Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, March 2008", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Warm weather has arrived in Austin - please come in through the garden gate and see what's blooming! Carol of May Dreams established the Day of Blooms over a year ago and we gardenbloggers are now so well trained that as the 15th approaches, we go into Pavlovian trances, automatically snapping flower photos.
Most perennials are green but the 'Acoma' crepe myrtles above are still leafless. Can you see the vegetable garden? It's turned over and after more compost is added it'll be ready for tomatoes and peppers.

Old fashioned white iris bloom in the bed just to the south of the vegetable plot. This nice clump was started when I rescued a couple of deer-gnawed corms from my old garden. Once in containers they thrived and multiplied.

Just beyond the iris is a Bridal Wreath spiraea in bloom, with a few of the fragrant little 'Thalia' daffodils and some grape hyacinth at its feet.

More 'Thalia' grow near the shed - this time with a sometimes-evergreen groundcover called Mazus reptans.

We planted a native evergreen sumac in this area near the south fence last spring. It's alive, but not really thriving. Hey - squirrel! Quit digging up the plants in that pot!

What has thrived in this bed are bulbs - even Christmas-gift amaryllis rebloomed when planted in this ground. A few dollar store daffodils called 'Pink Charm' bloomed last spring and returned this year. After its photo was taken, I cut a few 'Pink Charm' and 'Thalia' daffodils for a vase inside the house - although my post may make Austin look like a spring dream, our temperatures reached 94°F/34.4ºC this afternoon.

I had no idea anemones like this 'St Brigid' variety could grow in Austin until South Austin blogger and gardener Rantor told about the ones that return to her garden each spring. Many thanks, Rantor!

One inexpensive bag of mixed bulbs last fall has produced some red anemones

And some fuchsia pink anemones in both single and double forms.

Over on the patio the faithful coral honeysuckle is making buds. This spring is more colorful than last year in spite of sneaky frosts - all the iris had started to open when a couple of cold nights grazed us. Any flowers or buds showing color froze, but the less developed buds are opening now just in time to be frizzled by heat.

These "Amethyst Flame' iris are a Passalong from
Pam/Digging - aren't they [and she] wonderful?

Let's take a closer look at the peach iris. They're blooming in the bed that was enlarged and replanted by my friends the Divas of the Dirt in October. In early winter I added small starts of yellow snapdragons and dark purple petunias.The annuals established roots in the unfrozen soil but didn't make much top growth until the last few weeks. Many of the snapdragons are beginning to open.

As we head out the gate to the front we pass the small Scabiosa 'Butterfly Blue' whose winter fortitude was admired by Kate in previous months. It's now covered in buds.
Except for more white iris and a few petunias not much is happening in the pink garden - a little cluster of dark pink hyacinths opened and finished during the 4 weeks between bloom days. This petunia is an old fashioned cottage variety that made it through last summer and fall... it's also a reseeder and has produced the tiny plant to the right.

Two of the Redbuds that give our garden its name Circus~Cercis are in bloom. This one is Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' - the leaves are dark purple when new, fading to green in summer's heat.

We bought a Texas Whitebud last spring, Cercis canadensis texensis 'Alba', to plant where the Arizona Ash once grew. There were no blooms on it so we had to trust the label - yay! The buds are white!
I'll be around to see the other bloom posts but not right away - my 2008 turn as hostess for the Divas of the Dirt landed on St. Patrick's Day weekend. This lovely 'Mutabilis' rose will soon be planted in the footprint of the departed Ash - just one of the plants that the Divas will use to change a once-shady lawn into a flower garden.

This post, "Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, March 2008", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Left Coast Garden Consultant

This post, "The Left Coast Garden Consultant", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Garden bloggers like Carol of May Dreams and Frances of Faire Gardens report the presence of wee fairy folk in their gardens but I've never seen evidence of them here. Luckily for me, an experienced maker of fairy gardens happened to be visiting Austin a couple of weeks ago and she graciously consented to a consultation - accepting root beer floats, barbequed brisket and gift shop souvenirs in place of her usual fee.

The Fairy Garden consultant liked many parts of the garden. She appreciated the deep fuchsia color of an emerging anemone but felt that the most likely place for the fairy folk to dwell was in the Secret Garden, kept warm in winter by a brick wall and southern exposure, but shaded by deciduous trees in summer.

This small garden is planted with a fig tree, shown with summer leaves in the photo above - how many fairies would it take to eat one ripe fig?

Apparently, the fairies didn't feel at home because they had no small benches to perch upon. The cute little caps of the live oak acorns weren't set out on tiny tables.

Pot feet that could be useful to fairies weren't placed in the secret garden but were stacked on shelves. Seashells from a vacation were kept inside a large plant saucer. How could the fairies use them if they weren't handy?
The consultant arranged shells, rocks, wood and terra cotta in a more pleasing way. She liked a heart-shaped rock and some tumbled glass mulch.
Some fairies don't mind manufactured items but these fairies are the Austin hippie type, disdaining all but natural materials ...the pot feet get by because they're clay
and the tumbled glass started out as silica sand.

The stars were cut from paper, which used to be wood.

It's possible that I won't see any fairies attracted by these efforts but I'll keep watch for traces of them dwelling in the secret garden.

The consultant rested on the bench for a moment, looking at her work.
I started to believe that there had been a fairy in my garden after all.
This post, "The Left Coast Garden Consultant", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.