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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.


  1. The uniqueness of each garden and each garden blogger is definitely something to celebrate, like each new flower as it arrives in the spring. Life would be dull indeed if all were the same... flower, garden or blogger.

    I'll keep thinking of the lovely gardens, and more importantly the gardeners behind them, as I bravely get on that plane and fly to Austin in a few days!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  2. Thanks for the shout-out. If I learned anything in software development it was to set expectations--preferably quite low.

    I love how different we all are and how our gardens reflect our differences. It really makes me wonder about the challenges facing any author of any garden book, especially one directed at the entire country. Gardens are so specific, to the climate, to the siting, and to the personality of the gardener. I know there are principles of design that we can generalize but I can only imagine making my garden. Which is why I've never tried to design a garden for anyone else, although some people have asked me. That's beyond my talents, beyond the scope of my imagination.

    I still can't believe that you have neighbors who view your flower beds with the suspicion that someday they might break loose on suburbia and go all flowery. They sound like Blue Meanies (if you remember how they Blue Meanies were stopped at the end of The Yellow Submarine.)

  3. Too funny about Therese. Isn't that a David Austin rose?

  4. Oh I would definitely have yanked out those fuschia flowers! And given them to someone who would appreciate and love them. I read Pam's post about pink blue bonnets and thought about leaving a comment but since everyone was telling her to leave them be, I refrained. I loved your coral corner. --Curmudgeon

  5. Annie, I love how you start a post in one direction and finish in another, and your lovely writing leads us from start to finish like a winding but well-laid garden path.

    I thank you for the shout-outs as well. Regarding those naughty pink bluebonnets, it is actually 2 out of 3 that are pink. I generally do whatever I want, even if I do ask advice, but the real reason I left those pinkies was to show them to Carol, who professed a desire to see pinkbonnets. I don't have another gravelly area to move them, so it was keep them or give them away. Now all the Spring Flingers can share a laugh with me over the pinkbonnet mix-up.

    One final note: you will love the 'Belinda's Dream.' When in bloom in my garden, it often slows traffic, and passersby frequently stop to take a whiff. I hope it does well for you.

  6. Great story- it's amazing to hear about the style of gardening that each of us follow as well as the things that vex us. Like Pam and her bluebonnets- I can just see her coming out and seeing that blooms and saying "Dangit!" or some such verbiage (maybe not as nice).

    Looking forward to more pics of the Belinda's Dream. I am sure it will be the push I need to buy one.

  7. Carol, you are one of the people who keeps life from being dull, but I couldn't use your garden as an example. I only talked about gardens that I've visited in the real world. Maybe some day that will happen if I can be as brave as you!

    Your posts are always interesting, MSS, but I felt the need to respond to the last two.
    I don't know where general gardening books work - down here they're more for entertainment than information, and in Illinois seemed to taunt us with plants from zone 7... why does the best stuff like zone 7?!
    I've seen other Beatle movies, have their albums and books and know the songs, but don't remember actually watching the Yellow Submarine. Animated films tend to put me to sleep.

    You're the funny one, Chuck. Therese is a scented rugosa from the 1950's. No Austin roses in the Austin garden, but I grew and loved 'Graham Thomas', 'Heritage' and 'Abraham Darby' in Illinois.
    I've heard that GT grows weirdly here in Austin - and that my 'Julia Child' was a better yellow rose for my area. So far, so good.

    I can take some fuchsia and magenta as long as they don't mess up what's already going on, Curmudgeon.... but it's not a favorite.
    Coral, on the other hand, is something I can't resist.

    Thank you very much, Pam/Digging - winding but well-laid is a fine phrase.
    Sure, blame Carol for the pinkbonnets!
    Belinda was a name I once considered for a baby...my family hooted it down and the baby was a boy. I like the name and the rose - planting it feels sweet.

    I wonder what Pam does say when she's annoyed, Bonnie? I've never heard her cuss.
    I hope there will be Belinda photos - my camera started acting weird this week.

    It was always a point-and-shoot but now won't let me change the focus so it's really a point-and-shoot!

    Thank you all,


  8. I thought I recognzied 'Belinda's Dream' even before I saw Pam's comment. I remembered another Austin blogger had, but wasn't sure which one. Anyway, I had somehow got the impression you were shovel pruning the whole garden from the excerpt in my feed reader, and I'm relieved to hear it isn't so!

  9. Annie, you are quite particular about your color schemes, your garden must be an artist's dream. Belinda's Dream is the perfect pink, and the form looks like what I think a rose should look like. I had Graham Thomas in the Houston garden and squirrelly is too kind a word for it. It is one of the only things that have ever been ripped out and tossed. But I am still hunting for the right yellow rose, heard that Carefree Sunshine might be the one. Now if I can only find it. Kate's post was a wonderful one, I agree.

  10. I do wish I could be a Flinger and see all of your lovely vingnettes. I will just have to settle for photos on the net.

  11. I have heard so many raves about Belinda's Dream. I have it and the blooms are indeed very beautiful but it doesn't seem to be a fast grower. I'm hoping it will really take off this year.

  12. I think the only "failure" in the garden can be when it's not the garden you want. I used to be so nervous about moving plants around, mostly because I had so few growing that I was afraid to kill one that was doing well. But as I've learned more, I've become more willing to move plants that just aren't making me happy in one spot.

    So I like to hear your stories of moving plants. Gives me more courage.

  13. Annie: A lovely post as always! As a spring flinger I look forward to seeing the individuality of each garden. As a gardener I know that perfection in the garden is usually an unfulfilled aspiration! Once achieved, there would be nothing to do anyway! Who wants that! Leave that to the crew at Butchart and give us the reality!

  14. Oh Annie, I do so love getting a look into you garden! Everyone gives so much thought to color when planting... I hope I haven't missed that garden gene. I tend to look more at size than color. I suppose I need to concentrate more on that. I have a difficult time determining what goes with what.

  15. I'd have moved the ranunculus too... when I see something that didn't work the way I'd hoped it draws my eye until it's gone. I like the idea of vignettes...someone mentioned that my garden was a collection of vignettes and I realized that it's true...although accidental. I think those of us on small suburban lots deal with the need to have short range focal points and those vignettes fill that need.

  16. Good for you! Your garden is about you and what you like...that's what makes it so interesting! I should have asserted myself some years ago but, alas, I now 'enjoy' the pink dogwood and the orange azalea in close proximity (it was supposed to be pink...like your rose! I think there are gnomes or something at work mixing up tags!)....

    Belinda's Dream resides here in VA...straight from The Antique Rose Emporium...and lives up to its billing. No complaints (how often have you heard that about a rose??).

    Here's to bloggers doing whatever they want!

  17. Wow, I need to plant some ranunculus. I don't know why I haven't. The leaves look rather like the De Caen anemone but I guess they would look rather strange flowering together. Luckily the anemones bloomed earlier for you. I'm not as scrupulous about the 'riot of color' so we have plants with clashing colors planted higgly piggly. Now isn't that an old expression. Had to look it up. From Google answers: Subject: Re: Etymology of "higgly piggly"
    Answered By: pinkfreud-ga on 30 Oct 2006 16:49 PST

    Higgly-piggly (often spelled "higgledy-piggledy" or "higly-pigly")
    first appeared in print (using the spelling "higledi-pigledie") in
    1598, in John Florio's "World of Wordes," a dictionary. The exact
    history of the term is unknown, but most sources speculate that the
    disorderly appearance and behavior of pigs may be related.

    One definition of "higgle" is "To buy and fatten up an animal such as
    a pig for market." "Higgly-piggly" probably owes its existence to the
    resemblance of the word "higgle" to swine-related words such as
    "piglet," and the tendency toward reduplication of sounds in slang

    "Sound repetition is also illustrated in the many reduplicatves with
    which slang is crowded. Reduplicatives involve partial or total
    repetition of a single morpheme or word. Examples would be tom tom,
    ding-dong, and higgledy-piggledy. Such reduplicatives are
    characteristic of slang. Samuel Johnson in his 1755 Dictionary of the
    English Language took special note of such 'low', 'vile cant' as the
    aforesaid higgledy-piggledy or twittle-twattle. They were, he claimed,
    'too gross and vulgar for the delicate'. But such formations were not
    new then. Hotchpotch goes back at least to 1292, hurly-burly to 1530,
    and higgledy-piggledy to 1598."

    Sorry for taking up so much band width.

  18. Annie, I SO wish I was joining you all this weekend... and I would definitely make a trek to see your lovely garden. (Bits and pieces, bah! Not if you're moving ranunculus around to make the colors match. :)

    How funny that your pink shrub rose turned out to be neither. You know that I usually don't like pink (NIMG, anyway) so you'll understand that surprise with which I admit that 'Belinda's Dream' is a real stunner of a pink rose. She'll have a great home there.

  19. You're really good at recognizing roses, Kathy - and Pam made her look so beautiful she's probably upped the sales totals for 'Belinda'.
    Don't worry about the garden, I'm slow and deliberate ;-]

    Frances, most of the garden is shades of green right now, but that's pretty, too. I wonder if the GT's sold now are different from what I bought in the late eighties or if being killed down to 6 inches each winter kept them in control?
    Good luck with finding your yellow.

    The vignettes change all the time, Lisa at Greenbow - so there's no big picture, but it's seldom boring!

    Hi Phillip - not fast would be okay with me, because it's just a medium size bed. It's so hard to tell what a rose will be like until some time goes past - is this what you've found, too? It has to go through a winter to show its true nature!

    Well, the garden I want would have lilacs and peonies, Vert, but that's not going to happen in Texas! Maybe we get more ruthless with time and experience - I sure am.

    Thank you, Layanee - there's no danger of running into perfection here! Our plot is a quarter-acre, with half the land taken up by house, garage and drive. And on that remaining 1/8 acre there are 7 large trees and a bunch of small ones. Butchart was fun - but it's not exactly subtle is it!

    Thank you! Planting beds in limited colors colors seems to go in and out of fashion, Randy and Jamie, influenced by older English garden writers like Vita Sackville West and Gertrude Jekyl, I guess.
    If you like the colors mixed up just enjoy it! But if a combination bothers you, don't wait too long to change it or the disparate elements grow too big to move.

    That's it exactly, Leslie, it annoys you over and over until you change it! The first time I saw your blog it seemed you had a similar space and a similar privacy fence. So it doesn't surprise me that we use the same term to describe how we garden.

    Thank you, Gotta Garden - of course our reading, traveling and garden visiting influences what we like, so it changes, doesn't it!
    At least your dogwood/azalea combo only lasts a short time, and you can always say you modeled it after the center and petals of a coneflower ;-]
    Your 'Belinda' report is good to hear!

    I don't know how hardy they are, Ki - the package said only 'Mixed Ranunculus', no species, and they were 15 bulbs for $3.98. So far only 4 plants have bloomed. I guess they're Ranunculus asiaticus, sometimes called Persian buttercups. Anemone, clematis, meadowrue, delphinium and aconites are all in Ranunculaceae and some of the leaves do look alike.

    When I hear higgly-piggly it makes me think of Mrs Piggle-Wiggle in the children's books. Hodge-podge might be used more than hotchpotch.

    Don't worry about bandwith - haven't you seen the length of my comments?

    BlackswampKim, if you could be here it would be wonderful and if someday fate sends you to Austin you'd sure better let me know you're in town!
    Pinks used to annoy me when they were mixed in the borders, changing the relationships between flower colors or being too assertive, but since I've given them their own garden, they're actually starting to grow on me!

    Thank you for the comments,


  20. Annie,

    Lots of comments and all good reads, as is your post.

    As a gardener I am making myself edit, it is the hardest job in my world...besides stopping myself from impulse plant buying. I have a tendency toward a clown pants look and while I don't mind I think some refinement would help!...oops, this is turning into a post not a comment!

    Looking forward to meeting you this weekend...love the photo of the rose...Belinda's Dream.


  21. Wish I'd "known" you when we passed through Austin several years ago. Beautiful area - hope to get back there one of these days. We only made it as far west/north as Llano and as far south as Corpus Christi, so we've still got at least half of TX to cover, I guess! :) Have fun meeting the other bloggers!

  22. I really like your roses. I have been terrified to try growing them here, for fear they would be quickly fried to death. I may have to hunt down a 'Belinda's dream' rose and give it a go ;)

  23. I've enjoying reading all your comments, Annie. Tell Lee17 that there are lots of tough, drought-tolerant roses to grow here in Austin. Just ask the Antique Rose Emporium---or other local garden bloggers.

  24. I've had fun reading through your comments as well as your post. Mis-labelled plants seem to be common everywhere. It might be a perfect theme for a song ...

    'Belinda's Dream' looks gorgeous - I hope we see many photographs of your garden as well as those of all the other Austin garden bloggers. If we can't be there in person, at least we can enjoy seeing lots of pictures and reading about it!

    Thank you for mentioning my post - I am even more aware of what a wonderful garden-blogging community exists.

  25. My ears were burning so I came back by... I accept the responsibility for Pam keeping "pinkbonnets" in her garden and promise to make a fuss over them when I see them!

  26. Annie, this was the most enjoyable post I've read all day. And, I've read a lot. Our differences are what make us fun reading. Our individual gardens spark our creativity. I can't wait to meet you in person Friday.~~Dee

  27. I love ranunculus. Imagine being able to grow them outside.

    The red climber was likely Dr Huey, right? That is the plat they graft onto for non "ownroot" roses, I think.

    I've had Dr. Huey appear in my garden; not a very interesting rose, unfortunately.

    Looking forward to seeing the Austin gardens. I'll try not to cuss, though I'm sure it wouldn't be prompted by any of the beauty I see here.

  28. Hello Gail - I'm glad you enjoyed the post and am looking forward to meeting you, too...whether or not you're wearing clown pants ;-]

    That would have been fun, Rurality - Texas distances are so huge that daytrips won't get you very far! It should be a memorable Weekend.

    Lee, in the next comment you'll see that Pam/Digging left you a note about the Antique Rose Emporium. My mutabilis is one of theirs. The 'Belinda' came from Countryside Nursery on Pond Springs Road in far NW Austin.

    If I write that song you'll get credit as the Muse, Kate, instead of Thalia. I think the photographs will all be at Pam's rather than here.
    It was my pleasure to tell other people about your fine article.

    Carol - when you see Pam's garden in person you will have tons better things to fuss about!

    Thank you so much, Dee/reddirtramblings~ I like what you said about creativity. Only a few days!

    Hello EAL,, in the North I'd grown the perennial buttercups of the ranunculus family, but only knew this typee as cut flowers.
    The red rose doesn't look like 'Dr Huey' - the rootstock rose shows up all over Austin including one in my back yard. This was a really good-looking flower with a burgundy leaf, but not crinkled like the rugosa it was supposed to be. I think it was just a label mix-up by the grower in Tyler, Texas, a town that's famous for its roses.
    I will try hard to behave myself, too!

    Thank you for all the comments!


  29. You'll love your Belinda's Dream -- it's my favorite of all my roses, followed closely by Mutabilis and Iceberg. It just blooms its head off with no attention whatsoever. Enjoy!

  30. Ahhh...it's nice to hear that there's a touch of Charleston in your Austin garden. Mrs. Whaley is revered in these parts.

    It looks like your garden is definitely ready for guests - I'm guessing that you guys will have a great time. I hope that you have a blast.

  31. I love the photos...will stop by again.

  32. You will love love LOVE Belinda's Dream. Mine's having a bloom out right now, and I can catch the scent from my front door. Better yet, she'll keep on blooming all summer and through a lot of the winter. :0)

  33. Annie:
    Good luck with your Garden Bloggers tour. Your vignettes are charming, and your reminder from Annie Dillard so apt. (I'm reading Cormac McCarthy now - an assigned reading from our bookgroup - and am duly warned! I hope I never sound that stilted.)
    And Michael Pollen is a very familiar name to me. I'm sure I read his book way back when. I'll have to take a look.

  34. I loved seeing your ranaculus -as I only grow them every 4th or 5th year. I miss planting them early enough - or when I consider them early enough, I remember how tasty rabbits think they are and decided against them! Many years, the plants have been eaten so much that they NEVER bloomed. . . . They're one of my favorite cut flowers.

  35. Annie...there is an award for you over at Growing a Garden in Davis...

  36. Dear Annie,

    Your photographs are lovely. I found your blog about two weeks ago and am hoping that you can help me locate a plant. Would you know of where I can get the pandan plant (Pandanus amaryllifolius Roxb. Pandanaceae [ Screwpine Family ] ) in Austin/San Antonio? My mom wants one and I like to get it for her for Mother's Day. I have called It's About Thyme and Barton Springs Nursery with no luck. Thank you for your help.

  37. How wonderful to see so many things blooming! I'm with you, move it if you don't like it where it is. I can't wait to read the posts about the get together. Have fun!

  38. I had one particular spot at the top of my driveway garden that bothered me last year, but I didn't get around to moving anything. A lovely tall, red Asiatic lily is probably going to have to be moved to another spot for me to be happy.
    I'd have moved the fuchsia pink rununculus to a spot where it would blend better too. My mum used to grow them, but I've never tried. They certainly are lovely in shape and color!
    Your Belinda's Dream is gorgeous! I hope 'Not-Therese' is making your friend happy now because she's a beauty in her own right.

  39. Hi Annie!

    What a beautifully written post. Now if only the weeds in my flowerbeds were dreams rather than reality. Dang! ;-)



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