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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, September 28, 2008

Shutter Snapping, Spraying & Shopping

Does anyone out there know what caused these bumps on clematis buds? I've never noticed them before this year. Vertie is taking an entomology course - maybe she'll know the answer.
After that bud opened the flower still looked pretty against the white wall, but the bumps showed through the reddish-purple petals as white spots.
Root Beer Plant/Piper auritum has huge leaves that are used in Central Mexican cuisine. It's more common name is Hoja Santa and its odd white flowers were so hard to photograph that I just listed them for bloom day instead of showing them. I hope this photo can finally give you an idea of what they're like. I also hope the photo will enlarge if you click on it.
Although the Hoja Santa planted in a border is struggling, this plant is in a container and had enough water to bloom. Mine are interesting novelties but the Hoja Santa at EastSide Patch is a major player in the landscape!

Last October Pam/Digging took us along when she visited the Chicago Botanical Gardens. and showed us Salvia madrensis. I found a pot of this tall yellow-blooming salvia at the Natural Gardener last spring and watched it grow slowly from a small plant to its present seven-foot height. Can you see it peeking out behind the plumeria? No wonder its common name is Forsythia Sage! But it's so tall that any photos of the blossoms are either lost in green foliage or washed out against the unrelenting blue sky.
So many things that I want to photograph are way over my head! This mockingbird has been singing non-stop. I watched the bird for half-an-hour as it flitted from one branch to another within the canopy of a large yaupon. I'd previously noticed mockingbird feathers scattered in several places around the front garden and wonder if one of the wandering neighborhood cats caught this bird's mate.
Is he disappointed in love or just dismayed that the gardener was too busy taking pictures to brush out and refill the birdbath?

Philo and I had a great time at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market yesterday - a friendly, lively place with live music, wonderful food and many cool plants.

I'm still browsing through recipes for the White Patty Pan squash but these incredibly delicious tomatoes, the wonderful whole wheat pita from the Mediterranean Chef and delicious Rosemary-Spinach pesto from Sgt Pepper's Sauces didn't need any recipes!
This small Kaffir lime tree was only $6! The leaves are used as flavoring, especially in Thai cooking. (This is something I learned from the movies - not from real life.) It's a tender tree so I'll grow it in a container and bring it inside during cold weather.

We scooped the last gallon of compost tea from the Ladybug Products booth. Fresh compost tea is perishable - buying it meant we had to use it in the garden within a few hours. We sprayed it everywhere and hope it helps the plants deal with the stresses of this year.
Last night I took the camera out to play with the night flash again, snapping one of the geckos that hang out under the roof overhang.
Because the intense yellow of the Forsythia Sage/Salvia madrensis didn't show up against the sky in daylight, I got the idea to see how it looked with the night flash. Pretty dramatic, isn't it?
I then turned the lens to the Moonflower vine/Ipomoea alba once again, using the night flash to see its heart, glowing like a star in the night.

Today is the last day of the Austin City Limits Fest - and as a loyal Austinite, I'm glad the crowd stayed dry. But once the fest is over, I sure wish we could sing along with the Beatles to September In The Rain.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Garden Blogger's Bird Day

This post, "A Garden Blogger's Bird Day", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

kay, it's not really one day... it took a couple of weeks.
And there aren't that many birds, but if I wait any longer to add photos the leaves will be falling.

In the middle of July a very striking rusty orange & black bird began appearing at the fountain - but I had no camera. He kept appearing while we borrowed a camera, purchased one, returned it and bought another and I kept trying to catch my pretty bird visitor with no success. Then a couple of weeks ago our son was standing at the window with the new camera, experimenting with the settings, when the small bird appeared and posed. Showing us not only the rusty orange front but the striped feathers, too. Using links from local blogger Mikael at Birding on Broadmeade, I've tentatively identified the bird as an Orchard Oriole. The photos of the female at the link resembled a bird I'd been seeing, but thought was a female Lesser Goldfinch. I'm still not sure, but this bird has a beak more like an oriole than a goldfinch, so I think it's the female Orchard Oriole. I delayed posting the photos my son took, hoping for a chance to show the pair. Both male and female appear off and on and I finally took a couple of not-so-hot photos of what might be his missus through the window. Unfortunately that window is double pane glass and it's got moisture trapped between the panes. - replacing the windows is on our "must be done" list!

Both birds have been around this week, too. Since these sightings were spread out over three months, I think there must be some source of the fruit and pollens that they need nearby. The hummingbirds remain elusive - instantly leaving the yard if I so much as peek out any door. So I'm trying to entice them closer to the window. A month ago I used twine to make an arch from the crook of a shepherd hook near the fountain up to a large 'S'-shaped hanger attached under the eaves outside the breakfast room window. Then I trained the cypress vine along it - knowing how much those hummingbirds like the little red trumpets. Maybe some day I'll get lucky. And yes... I do know there will be a million cypress vine seedlings next spring. These were some of the million seedlings from this spring!
The Blue Jays pose so often that they're on my blog banner and in this photo from May. But most of the birds I see all day long - sparrows, wrens, housefinches and White-Winged Doves - are so common, and at the same time so jumpy - that I seldom attempt to photograph them.

Iris at Society Garlic once mentioned that she wasn't even sure what a White-winged dove looked like so yesterday I stalked them. They're Baby Huey birds - nervous and clumsy when landing
next to each other and scattering if a leaf falls off a tree. This dove landed on the old bird bath, far enough away from the back door that it let me take a photo. I've read that twenty years ago these White Winged Doves were rather rare birds in the Austin area, found mainly in the Rio Grande Valley. We never saw them around our previous Austin house, less than 2 miles from here, but our present neighborhood is thick with these birds and their cooing call of "Who cooks for you?" Another common bird soars high overhead, too far away for good photographs - My new camera takes such large photos that I can clip that tiny dot and enlarge it into something that's at least recognizable as a vulture.

Cooing is one way that birds talk to each other...twittering is another. Look in the left sidebar and you'll see that I'm trying out Twitter as a way to communicate. It took Hurricane Ike to convince me to join after wavering for months. With Houston area friends in danger, I could read Twitter updates to follow the storm and then felt enormously relieved when bloggers sent messages via Twitter. There was a comfort in that connection! And tweets are faster than making posts if you have a quick thing to say.

The Moonflower vine in the last post got so many compliments that I may have to include a different photo of it every post! FaireFrances has been having fun photographing her moonflowers, too.

This picture is a genuine "point and shoot"... the point of the metal obelisk is 7 and 1/2 feet tall, and I'm about 5' 6". So I couldn't focus and aim...all I could do was hold the camera way over my head and point it at the flower while pressing the shutter button.

Before leaving bird day let's look at this close-up of a Stapelia flower. My collection
comes from one plant given to me by my aunt Phyll long ago. A small descendant of that first plant bloomed in the laundry room this week, pressing its flower against the window as it developed, deforming the edges. I'd hoped the heart of the Starfish Flower would resemble one of the flower Mandalas that Healing Magic Hands finds everywhere. But I'm not sure this heart qualifies as a Mandala ... it looks as if belongs to zoology rather than botany. Am I the only one who instead of feeling centered, had a sudden mental image of Robin Williams?

This post, "A Garden Blogger's Bird Day", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for September 2008

On the 15th of each month fellow gardenblogger Carol of May Dreams Garden asks us to join Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. I've posted photos on this blog, but a complete list with botanical names can be found at my other blog, Annie's Addendum.
It's mid-September in Austin, and while the days are still hot, there are fewer hours of baking sun on the plants and more hours of restful darkness as we move toward autumn. Annieinaustin, Oxblood liliesThere may not be many restful hours for friends and family hit by monster Hurricane Ike in the Houston area (including Herself, Nancy and Cindy) and those washed out by the greatest recorded calender day rainfall ever for Chicago . You are in our thoughts, even as we rejoice and share the ways the earth speaks in flowers. Annieinaustin, oxblood lily nr fenceLast year I walked the chicken path when MSS of Zanthan Gardens gave me some of her Oxblood lilies. Instead of following her lead and planting the Rhodophiala bifidia bulbs all in one place for a big display, I tucked a few bulbs into 6 small patches, in front, back and side gardens. Just a few of these Schoolhouse Lilies can brighten a small area like the fence at the entrance to the Secret Garden above.

Annieinaustin,brugmansia, plumbagoThe blue plumbago next to the back door has bloomed for months - now it's joined by the pale yellow Brugmansia, with a pink Cuphea barely visible at lower right.

Annieinaustin,tropical milkweed The two tropical milkweeds had gone to seed, so a few weeks ago I chopped them back. They're blooming again, attracting aphids and milkweed bugs. I've seen Monarch butterflies checking out both plants but if there are any Monarch caterpillars they're hiding too well.

Annieinaustin, julia child rose The 'Julia Child' rose is finally looking good again - especially from a few feet away where the cut-out shapes on many leaves are less apparent. The damage hasn't stopped the buds and blooms and is probably done by leaf-cutting bees so I'll ignore it.

Annieinaustin,front gardenThe Divas of the Dirt helped make this front garden in March. The Mutabilis rose, striped cannas, 'Black & Blue' salvia, Gregg's Mistflower, Flame Acanthus, white Gaura and yellow Bulbine strive to fill the footprint where an Arizona Ash once grew.

Annieinaustin,Mutabilis roseAs you can see in this view from the other direction, the 'Mutabilis' doesn't really need any help, just some water and some time.

Annieinaustin,bulbine Here's a closer look at the Mistflower/Conoclinium greggii, 'Black & Blue' salvia and Bulbine frutescens. Annieinaustin,poliomintha, mexican oreganoMexican oregano is an herb in the kitchen, but looks like a small flowering shrub in the borders.... I planted two small plants in 2005 and then Pam/Digging gave me one for the Pink Entrance Garden in 2007. Until this summer I didn't want to cut them too much, so still used the dried Mexican oregano when cooking dishes like black beans. (Who was asking about what to cook with this herb? Was it Entangled?) The plants now have enough substance so that harvesting some won't leave a noticeable gap.

Did you notice those hot pink petals scattered around the light purple oregano flowers?
Annieinaustin,crepe myrtle over fenceOur neighbors' enormous hot pink crepe myrtle sheds petals with every gust of wind. I'm not fond of the color, but the birds like the dense branches and it adds privacy in addition to the pink confetti.

Annieinaustin,clereodendron ugandense, Clitoria ternateaYou've seen the colors that I do love over and over in photos of the intense Blue Butterfly Pea/Clitoria ternatea and the delicately shaded Clerodendrum ugandense/Blue butterfly flower. They're not only blooming continuously, both plants are growing vigorously.

Annieinaustin,malvaviscus Some of the Salvia 'Nuevo Leon' died soon after the heavy rain three weeks ago, but this red-flowered native is less finicky about heavy clay. Both plants of the Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii have grown well and are covered in flowers, ready for a daily visit by a pair of hummingbirds.

Annieinaustin,lightning bugDoes your town have rules about when you can water your garden? We're allowed to hand water with a garden hose or watering can here in Austin but the use of sprinklers is regulated - my days are Wednesday and Saturday before 10 AM and after 7 PM.

On Saturday night I placed a 'bubbler' in the root zone of the 'Forest Pansy' redbud and turned on the kitchen timer. When the bell rang, I went out to turn off the water and had a lovely surprise!

It looked like June instead of September as a scattering of
Lightning Bugs (or maybe you call them Fireflies) flitted around the front yard, grazing the box hedge and swooping over the 'Mutablis' rose. I caught one and took it inside, intending to get a closeup under the kitchen light. The beetle escaped and flew to the top of the wall.

I aimed high and snapped the photo to see what the camera could do - it's not a closeup, but it's a recognizable lightning bug.

Both the blue pea vine and the Moon vine got a late start this summer - I delayed planting them on the tall metal obelisk because the 'Cupani' Sweet peas didn't stop blooming until mid-June! The Blue Pea had already seeded itself from last year, and it grew fast and bloomed quickly. I had to soak and plant a couple of saved Moonflower seeds, and it took a lot longer to climb the tower, finally opening flowers this week.
Annieinaustin, moonvine, blue pea vine

You can usually tell if a moonflower bud will open that night by the way it looks in the afternoon.
I went out in the dark and tried out the new camera, testing its ability to capture the texture of the Moonflower petals.

Annieinaustin,moon vine bloom moonvineHow cool! The new camera lets me see in the dark.

Go to Carol's Bloom Day post and read the comments to find flowers in bloom all around the world.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Visit to Plantescapes Nursery with MSS

While MSS was touring a castle in Wales, I was happy to babysit a few of her potted plants back in Austin. Most of the plants did okay - one thyme plant didn't live.
I was also happy to bring the plants back to her - because we'd get to visit and continue our September tradition of hitting a few fun South Austin places. MSS declared we must eat dessert first, so we went to Buenos Aires Cafe for soup, empanadas and Quatro Leches. (yes Quatro!! Tres was not enough!) We stopped at the oft-mentioned Great Outdoors Nursery where we bought a few pots and seeds and also visited a nursery new to me -

Plantescapes Nursery is in a house on South First - and it feels a little like visiting the home of a plant obsessed friend, who welcomes you at the door,
and then lets you wander around looking at the cool garden decor both stunning

and whimsical
MSS and I moved through areas with cactus and succulents

and onto other plants. I'd been thinking about buying another Pineapple Guava for the secret garden. My friend Diane first introduced me to this evergreen shrub - hers bears fruit in mild years. At Plantescapes I found a nice group of Pineapple Guava to choose from and then in another area I found a starter plant of Spicy Jatropha/ Jatropha integerrima 'Compacta' and decided to try that, too. There were also unusual ginger-type plants as well as natives. Inside the house you'll find rooms with unusual and eclectic decorations and furniture. I'm glad MSS introduced me to this smaller local nursery and maybe you'd like it, too. For the dog lovers in town an added attraction will be the chance to make the acquaintance of Scrappy.