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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, July 29, 2008

I Get Whimsical With a Little Help from my Friends

When the security guy pulled our daughter over to the side at the Seattle Airport back in 1993 it wasn't a total surprise. Our irresistible souvenir from Molbak's wouldn't fit in any of the suitcases, and Lily had gamely volunteered to haul it home in her backpack. The shape was unrecognizable on the screen so the guard opened the zipper and looked down at a concrete statue of a Fu Dog, sometimes called a Foo Lion. After inspection we were waved through to the plane.

We bought this small Seattle
version of a ferocious guardian lion partly because he reminded us of The Fu Dog Garden at Allerton Park in Illinois and partly in tribute to Henry Michell's foo dog. Our dog~lion stood in a clump of hostas in our Illinois garden for a few years, and when we moved to Texas he came along as the dean of our whimsical objects, here guarding a wax begonia.

This wacky confection greeted the people who stopped at our Illinois garden during a garden walk in the 1990's: Philo & I turned an old broken bedframe and some chickenwire into a whimsical Garden Bed - and if you look carefully at lower right you'll see the companion piece - a open suitcase rescued from the trash, painted and planted to complete this fanciful guest suite.

These dips into garden whimsy are rare - my natural tendency is to the functional and rather plain - a metal obelisk, wooden benches and chairs, undecorated clay pots, a natural stone fountain, hypertufa troughs and things like this windchime.

Long ago at a
Renaissance Faire in Wisconsin we met a vendor from Austin and fell in love with these simple tubes of metal, large and tuned to a Mongolian scale. The sounds they make are harmonizing low notes of genuine music rather than clanking or tinkling. It's my kind of wind chime.

But fear not - all is not Spartan here at Circus~Cercis! Thanks to friends and family there's no lack of whimsy in our garden. Although the attrition rate from Texas weather (and critters) is high and some decorations from friends and family have melted, faded and disintegrated, there are survivors:

A motion-detecting frog was a fun gift from one dear daughter-in-law with the turtle sundial coming from one of our sons. Our other dear daughter-in-law and and another son gave us the St Francis statue. While we still lived in Illinois one of my sisters gave us this wooden angel that has miraculously survived nearly a decade in the Texas sun.
A strong wind gust picked up the heavy ceramic St Francis and slammed him against a peach tree last year. Philo filled the decapitated statue with cement and put it back together.

sy seems to gravitate toward the secret garden - My friend-of-40-years, Roberta, sent the hand-painted wildflower sign. My friend Barbara sent this young girl, who reads and dreams under the pomegranate tree. Philo reused three discarded sections of ornate white iron fence to enclose the Secret Garden and that frog bench is a memento of last spring's visit from the fairy garden consultant. The squirrels and birds take it apart once in awhile and I rebuild it.

Many small decorations from the Divas of the Dirt are scattered around inside and out - including this sign Another sign came from Roberta - when she read the word "Diva" she knew who to send it to
Carol in Indiana had better avert her eyes now - here come faces in our garden!!

Philo and I bought a terracotta sun to hang on the chimney in Illinois and this face seems even more at home in Austin
Titania has led a rough life in the 15 years since Philo gave me her planter head - she's no longer pristine but bears repair marks from storms and squirrels and weather damage. Maybe someone else would evict her for being too battered, but I look weathered, too, and find her companionable.

Early this year Dawn and I spent a day together, each finding pretty pots. Now this seashell planter reminds me of days on the beach in Carolina.

Are any of us completely resistant to whimsy? Once upon a time I gave this sign to my no-nonsense, vegetable-gardener uncle and was touched that he kept it. The saying was amusing, but it turned out to be untrue - this final bit of whimsy returned to me as a sentimental legacy from an old gardener. I miss him.

This wallow in whimsy and nostalgia was written by Annie in Austin, photographed with the help of a borrowed camera- go to Gardening Gone Wild for links to other bloggers who are joining in this months Garden Design Workshop.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Entertainment Weekly’s list of the top movies of the last 25 years

One minute I was with Philo and MSS on the Pond Tour, snapping away while listening to the owner's tale of why they needed the extra bit of splash provided by the blue jar...

And the next minute I was looking at a permanently black face on our digital camera...

While I ponder what to write about the tour (and we go out to look at affordable cameras) here's a list from Planet Pooks to play with. It's Entertainment Weekly’s list of the top movies of the last 25 years.

The original instructions say to " 1) Bold the ones you have seen. 2) Put an asterisk after the movie title* if you really liked it. 3) Cross it out if you saw a film and really disliked it. 4) Underline the ones you own."

That may work for you "J" types, but these rules didn't work for "P"-type Annie, so I made up my own.

1) Bold the ones you have seen.

2) Put an asterisk after a movie title if you saw it, then watched it at least one more time on purpose.

3) I'm not a crosser-outer. There have been too many movies that I disliked when I saw them, but later came to appreciate. But if you want to do it - go for it.

4) Underline the ones you own.

It's not a meme or a tag - just a little game that was interesting on a day when the temperature once again had 3 digits and started with the number 1.

The instruction to underline had me baffled for a minute, so I first made my list as a word doc, put the underlines on there and clipped and pasted. Then I looked at it in the blogger Edit Html and the code appears to be just small letter u and /u enclosed in pointy brackets. Is it really that simple? You can stop laughing now. Here's my list - accuracy is not guaranteed but I did try!

1. Pulp Fiction (1994)

2. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03)

3. Titanic (1997)

4. Blue Velvet (1986)

5. Toy Story (1995)

6. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

7. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)*

8. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) *

9. Die Hard (1988)*

10. Moulin Rouge (2001) *

11. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)*

12. The Matrix (1999)

13. GoodFellas (1990)

14. Crumb (1995)

15. Edward Scissorhands (1990)*

16. Boogie Nights (1997)*

17. Jerry Maguire (1996)

18. Do the Right Thing (1989)

19. Casino Royale (2006)

20. The Lion King (1994)

21. Schindler’s List (1993)

22. Rushmore (1998)*

23. Memento (2001)

24. A Room With a View (1986)

25. Shrek (2001)

26. Hoop Dreams (1994)

27. Aliens (1986)

28. Wings of Desire (1988)*

29. The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

30. When Harry Met Sally (1989)

31. Brokeback Mountain (2005)

32. Fight Club (1999)*

33. The Breakfast Club (1985)*

34. Fargo (1996)*

35. The Incredibles (2004)

36. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

37. Pretty Woman (1990)

38. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)*

39. The Sixth Sense (1999)*

40. Speed (1994)*

41. Dazed and Confused (1993)

42. Clueless (1995)

43. Gladiator (2000)

44. The Player (1992)*

45. Rain Man (1988)

46. Children of Men (2006)*

47. Men in Black (1997)

48. Scarface (1983)

49. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

50. The Piano (1993)*

51. There Will Be Blood (2007)

52. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad (1988)*

53. The Truman Show (1998)

54. Fatal Attraction (1987)

55. Risky Business (1983)*

56. The Lives of Others (2006)

57. There’s Something About Mary (1998)*

58. Ghostbusters (1984) *

59. L.A. Confidential (1997)*

60. Scream (1996)

61. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

62. sex, lies and videotape (1989)

63. Big (1988)

64. No Country For Old Men (2007)

65. Dirty Dancing (1987)

66. Natural Born Killers (1994)

67. Donnie Brasco (1997)

68. Witness (1985)

69. All About My Mother (1999)

70. Broadcast News (1987)

71. Unforgiven (1992)

72. Thelma & Louise (1991)*

73. Office Space (1999)

74. Drugstore Cowboy (1989)

75. Out of Africa (1985)

76. The Departed (2006)

77. Sid and Nancy (1986)

78. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

79. Waiting for Guffman (1996)*

80. Michael Clayton (2007)

81. Moonstruck (1987) *

82. Lost in Translation (2003)

83. Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)

84. Sideways (2004)

85. The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)*

86. Y Tu Mamá También (2002)

87. Swingers (1996)

88. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)*

89. Breaking the Waves (1996)

90. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

91. Back to the Future (1985) *

92. Menace II Society (1993)

93. Ed Wood (1994)

94. Full Metal Jacket (1987)

95. In the Mood for Love (2001)

96. Far From Heaven (2002)

97. Glory (1989)

98. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

99. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

100. South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999)

Stay cool!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Real Life Visit

Today was a good day - actually any day when I see MSS of Zanthan Gardens is a good day! She came over for a few hours this afternoon bearing Japanese sweets, ready for conversation and garden viewing - mostly through glass. I tried to impress her with a salad containing some of our homegrown tomatoes and basil as we sat at the kitchen table and looked out the window to the fountain, where a constantly changing cast of avian characters acted out small dramas and comedies on themes of status, dominance and impudence. MSS took a photo of the view and posted it on Twitter.

We talked about the upcoming
Austin Pond Society Tour that we all look forward to each July.

It will be hot this weekend when we're on the tour, but since the waterlilies are happiest in sun and warmth, like the Mad Dogs and Englishmen in Noel Coward's song we'll go out in the midday sun, hoping to catch some mist from the waterfalls on our faces. Tickets are only $15 - and for that price you get two days full of wonderful water features - don't miss it!

A hummingbird visited the Salvia coccinea while we ate our international snack of tomatoes and basil and soba cookies and talked and talked... about birds and weddings, journeys and parents, movies and restaurants... we may have even mentioned a few flowers. Unfortunately the sun had already wilted the flower I'd most wanted her to see! This morning a young Bauhinia from my friend Ellen opened its first white flowers but they were merely withered petals by mid-afternoon. From our air-conditioned seats we could see the fountain, and the back border, and the magnolia flowers, and the two triangle beds but we had to go outside to look at some other just-opened flowers. I planted two Amarcrinum bulbs along the back wall of the house a few years ago. This border gets strong morning sun but is shaded in the hot afternoon. I was pretty sure this was a good spot when one bulb bloomed last summer. This year that bulb came up with two tufts of leaves, and each tuft has made a flower stalk. Today the other bulb joined in and bloomed for the first time. One stem of delicate pink trumpets would be very welcome this year - a trio of these fragrant lovely flowers was totally unexpected. There was another plant blooming for the first time - one that was impossible for MSS to overlook before she said goodbye. Former Garden blogger MarthaChick was responsible for this show - she'd shared some Crocosmia bulbs in spring of 2007. In the hot sunny border along the fence this flower looks perfect with a background of Setcresia/Purple Heart.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Notes from Near and Far

The photos used in this post, "Notes from Near and Far", belong to the family of Annie in Austin.

Do any of you email garden photos to your family? Do they send garden photos back to you? I'd like to share some photos from our garden and some taken by family members in other states. My part of town had just over one inch of rain Sunday night to Monday morning and the rain lilies have responded. The pink ones are Zephyranthes 'Labuffarosea' The native white rainlilies are called Cooperia pedunculata by the Wildflower Center - but there seems to be some disagreement on the name.
Let's just call them Cooper's lilies - here they are with Pink Skullcap/Scutellaria suffrutescens. A month ago these peonies bloomed at middle sister Josie's house in IL - bet her daylilies are unfolding now On Thursday, someone in Washington State enjoyed a radish sandwich While rereading Eric Grissell's A Journal in Thyme I discovered that garden blogging can change how you read a book. This paragraph about making labels for small starts of rock garden plants made little impression on me during previous readings:

"I checked the names in the various books and catalogs at my disposal. One name, in particular, gave me trouble: Paxistima or Pachistima. This is a native American dwarf evergreen that looks like a prostrate boxwood (at least from a few feet away.) I've seen it spelled both ways, but I spelled it yet a third - Paxistema- another nomenclatural hybrid. Fortunately, I caught the mistake after writing only half of the labels."

But when I read it a few days ago the word Pachistima jumped off the page - Kate/Smudges made me recognize the botanical name for Kate's Ratstripper!

Jake's peaches looked great a couple of weeks ago- I sure hope there will be another photo when they're ripe.

This year's heat and drought did something weird to the 'Best of Friends' daylily from Pam/Digging. Last June it looked like this but last week the solitary bloom looked like a small, pale shadow of the formerly robust friend. I'll do my best to help this Passalong daylily recover and bloom again, but right now am just glad it's still alive.

In June the rose 'Sheila's Perfume' bloomed with pansies for our son and dear daughter-in-law in lllinois.Their pansies have faded in the last couple of weeks so they sent another picture when the marigolds and zinnias took the stage. Can you see the lily in bud at right? Although Oriental lilies are sometimes called "expensive annuals", this lily has bloomed for our son and his wife for nearly 10 years.

ack in Austin this unnamed oriental lily has fewer blooms in this hot, dry year but it looked
good on Thursday and was amazingly fragrant in the dappled shade of the back border
he birds planted a tall annual sunflower like this a few years ago. Now each spring we look for seedlings, and if they're growing in a good spot, we let one or two grow tall again. This year's sunflower is at the NE corner of the tomato frame.
Although it looks a little ratty, Philo and I are really glad we let it grow. We've been watching a pair of small birds hang on it - at first we thought they were American Goldfinches but the photos didn't quite seem right. They didn't look like photos of the Lesser Goldfinches either. Instead of a black cap - the male has a black head and back. After viewing many pictures and reading descriptions, we think they are Arkansas Goldfinches, a Western species that wasn't named for the state of Arkansas but because they were found on the Arkansas River in Colorado.

ur young GrandDog Penny lives on the left coast with her two avid gardener
-ownersIs it any wonder that she's already learned to help out in the garden?
or the first time in a decade we've managed to grow a few big tomatoes - the kind of four-inch fruit that fills a slice of bread. We've planted many varieties in the last 10 years and kept records but our records can't help us this year. We'd like to find this variety again we bought the plant at Shoal Creek Nu
rsery and the flat wasn't tagged. No one was able to come up with a name... just saying it was "definitely an heirloom variety." It's wonderful! If anyone out there recognizes it we'd love to know the name of this delicious tomato.

Tomato sandwiches, acrobatic goldfinches and an amazing local firework display have enlivened our three day weekend - I hope yours has been fun, too!

The photos used in this post, "Notes from Near and Far", belong to the family of Annie in Austin.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Design Workshop - Decks, Porches and Patios

Annie in Austin wrote this post about her patio as part of Gardening Gone Wild's Garden Bloggers Design Workshop- Decks, Porches and Patios.

Each month the designers at Gardening Gone Wild ask bloggers to post about a different element in their gardens' design. I've enjoyed reading those linked posts and would like to join in this one. We like the long narrow veranda across the front of our house - but the space we use the most is the patio.

A realtor took this photo of the back of the house before we moved here in late summer 2004. We were glad to have that slab of level concrete - it would give us somewhere to put the metal table and chairs and the grill. But would anyone want to sit out there? It took a couple of years to change that barren rectangle into a place we want to be.
In October 2006 I wrote about the evolution of our patio, describing how we'd dug out grass and used packed decomposed granite to extend the usable area of our patio. We didn't want to add more concrete, but we wanted more space... the granite worked for us, and it's also permeable rather than a hard surface to encourage water runoff.
We added an arch with a Lady Banks rose, a coral honeysuckle and a clematis taking turns at bloom. We used flowers, shrubs and trees in large containers around the perimeter and made an herb garden in hypertufa troughs at the sunny end. Now the patio feels more like an outdoor room.Earlier this year I wrote about adding a disappearing fountain to the granite area right outside our breakfast room window. So far this seems like one of the best projects we've ever done. The fountain is not only beautiful, but it's been life-giving for insects, birds and animals in this hot, dry year.

Instead of a hard line between inside and outside, we now have someplace that blurs the line and connects the spaces where we live. The back of the house faces southeast, so from October to April, this is a good place to sit and have coffee, watch the birds, read, snack, converse, relax.
But in summer, when daytime temperatures are in the normal nineties, or when we get a scorcher of a year like this one, when the high temperature approaches 100°F/37ºC each day, the chairs are used more by birds waiting for a turn at the fountain than by us.

In the afternoon the sun swings around the end of the house, and pecan trees shadow the patio, giving the plants a break. The table is handy as a work bench or to set things down as I go in and out for short stretches of time - to look at what's blooming, to water the containers, to watch the birds or to do a little gardening. The sound of the fountain is pleasant as I putter around. I use the long axis to travel from one end of the yard to the other within the shadow of the house.
The grill is in shade by afternoon - we seldom eat outdoors in summer but cooking out here keeps heat out of the kitchen. If we want to sit outside we use citronella cones, oil lamps and torches to discourage mosquitoes on these hot and humid evenings.

Sometimes the mornings aren't too humid, and it's pleasant enough for coffee and a newspaper. But midsummer is not Austin's finest season. We're more likely to stay in the air conditioning and wait - remembering how wonderful it felt last winter to sit at this table, in a space open to the south and protected by the bulk of the house. That's when we'll really appreciate the patio, as we eat lunch and bask in the sun under the bare pecan tree, with a nearby sweet olive wafting its scent on the pleasantly cool air.

Here's a link to Nan's wrap-up of gardeners who wrote about Decks, Porches and Patios.

Annie in Austin wrote this post about her patio as part of Gardening Gone Wild's Garden Bloggers Design Workshop- Decks, Porches and Patios.