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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 06, 2009

Departures, Arrivals and Amaryllis

This post, Departures, Arrivals and Amaryllis, was written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose Blog.

POST-FREEZE REPORT FROM NW AUSTIN Mother of Thousands, AnnieinaustinRemember the Mother of Thousands standing tall against the window in January?

Frozen Kalanchoe, AnnieinaustinAlas, it exists no more - frozen to mush by three repeated hard freezes, with temperatures in the mid-twenties.

Frozen bulbine, AnnieinaustinThe necks of dozens of blooming stalks of Yellow Bulbine in the front garden were snapped by the same freeze .

Surviving lavender, Annieinaustin For most of the summer the Fern-leaf lavender threatened to engulf two other varieties, blooming month after month. After the freezes the sweet lavender and Spanish lavender look fine, but the Fern-leafed lavender looks dead. It's been a rather mild winter here so none of these losses are more than what was expected.
Now temperatures are pleasant, but it's really windy and no rain means warnings about fire danger.

Annieinaustin, abstract barline

In a recent blog post MSS of Zanthan Gardens says the hard freezes in some parts of Austin never arrived in the central part of town. She also notes that she's busy transplanting Larkspur seedlings. Larkspur seedling, Annieinaustin I have no intention of disturbing the single larkspur seedling seen above. It sprouted in the Hummingbird garden - sure hope there will be more! A few radish sprouts popped up in the vegetable plot, but there's no sign of the Cilantro that usually self-seeds all over the place. In a panic at the thought of no Cilantro, I planted fresh seed a few weeks ago but have seen no sign of germination yet.

Seed starting tray, AnnieinaustinIn the early 1990's, Philo built a large, lighted and heated plant table. We had a big garden then and needed to start lots of seeds. That set-up had to be left behind but we kept this earlier, smaller edition with us as we moved from house to house. I recently found it and plugged it in for the first time since we arrived in Texas in 1999, hoping that it can still sprout tomato plants.

Annieinaustin, abstract barlineCAN YOU TELL THEM APART?

Small Narcissus blithely ignore most freezes. I showed you some early Narcissus in the January Bloom Day post, and mistakenly said they were 'Grand Primo'. I don't remember planting them, but a few weeks later the mystery narcissus were joined by the real Narcissus tazetta 'Grand Primo', which I did plant, less than a foot away . The differences are subtle.
January narcissus, AnnieinaustinThe unnamed variety above bloomed in mid-January, with flowers on stalks about 2-feet tall.

Narcissus Grand Primo, AnnieinaustinThe narcissus labeled 'Grand Primo' open in mid-February and they're about 15" tall.

Narcissus & ruler, AnnieinaustinMSS suggested the unnamed narcissus wasn't a paperwhite since those have thinner leaves. Maybe it's 'Avalanche' or 'Nazareth'? To me the individual flowers look slightly smaller than the 'Grand Primo', with more of a point to the petals. The long strappy leaves are wider than paperwhites but narrower than that on 'Grand Primo.

Grand Primo & ruler, AnnieinaustinThe 'Grand Primo' flowers seen seem to be a little larger and the petals seem to flare out a little more before coming to a point. The cups in the earlier photo are closer to the real-life color - the cups in this one aren't quite yellow enough, although they do fade. This identification is tentative but one thing is sure... the scent! Lori is looking for a good smelling small narcissus. The unnamed narcissus isn't too bad, but it's a sure bet I would never let 'Grand Primo' bloom inside. You'll have to keep looking for a sweeter scented variety.

Annieinaustin, abstract barlineMICROCLIMATES

All is not frost and freeze - as
May Dreams Carol has discovered, Microclimates make a difference. Passionvine caterpillar, AnnieinaustinIn a protected corner where fence meets wall in the Secret garden, the 'Amethyst' Passionvine stays green, providing the habitat for what looks like a Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar.

Feb microclimate, AnnieinaustinA few feet away from the Passionvine a bedding geranium stays in bloom. The white impatiens in the same pot has had some freeze damage, but it's alive and rebudding.

Baby Meyer lemon, AnnieinaustinWhere's the safest microclimate at my house? Inside the breakfast room! The Meyer's Lemon lives there for winter, and it's loaded with buds. A couple of open flowers smell sweet and some tiny lemons are developing.

Stargazer Amaryllis, AnnieinaustinThe dark 'Red Dragon' amaryllis at right slowly opened six huge double blooms over a period of nearly three weeks. The first stalk is now reduced to one fading flower and the second stalk has stayed tight at the base. Attention turns to the two flowery stalks of a taller, flashier striped amaryllis named 'Stargazer', with almost all the flowers open at once. The show won't be as long but for the moment, it is spectacular.

This post, Departures, Arrivals and Amaryllis, was written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose Blog.


  1. Wow, I'm sorry about the hard freeze, Annie; had no idea you got clobbered too. You're probably right about the fern-leafed lavender, it's pretty spleeny and I don't try to grow it here except as an annual or pot plant. Don't know about the narcissus, but no one will scold you for incorrectly naming things, least of all me, who lives with "Lost Label" syndrome.

  2. That amaryllis sure trumps mine, which only opened two flowers and is now withering on the windowsill.

  3. That 'Stargazer' Amaryllis has to be the prettiest, brightest, most festive one I've seen blooming this year. Outstanding!

    And my condolences on the Mother of Thousands and the other plants that didn't make it thru the freezes. I've decided that getting cold and staying cold like we do in Indy is easier in the long run than riding the roller coaster of an Austin winter.

    Thanks for a delightful post about what's going on in your garden.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  4. Ooooooooooh! What a beautiful amaryllis! We started another one a couple of weeks ago. I hope it sends up a flower spike soon!--Randy

  5. This is an absolutely delightful post Annie. I am sorry to hear that a freeze might be what brought it on. That amaryllis is gorgeous. I can just smell the lemon tree. Mmmmmm...good.

  6. My Pink Diamond amaryllis just opened. I really appreciate the color it brings to the house at this time of year. Your Stargazer is spectacular. Amaryllis bulbs are such wonderful bloomers.

    Always Growing

  7. That amaryllis is amazing! So beautiful. I'd like to add a lemon tree to my collection. So the Meyer doesn't is your favorite, huh? What do the other citrus who get the fabric covering say about that?

  8. I remember that 'Red Dragon' amaryllis quiet fondly from our Obama-rama. It was unbelievably gorgeous in person...much more dramatic than my 'Black Pearl'.

    Here's my comparison of my two narcissus--one possibly 'Grand Primo' the other N v. italicus. The italicus have petals that twist back, are more separate from each other, and the color is a more ivory. Regular paperwhites are pure white; all the ones you show have yellow cups. I think the scent of both in my garden is heavenly.

  9. Hi Jodi - we get hard freezes every year but the list of what lives and dies does not always seem logical. A large container of 'Provence' lavender has lived through half-a-dozen winters, while lavender planted in the ground usually dies. The narcissus might be hybridizing themselves so any names I have would be irrelevant!

    Sorry yours didn't bloom well, Pam/Digging! This striped beauty was a post-Christmas rescue from a big-box store...a lucky scoop.

    It was marked down to $7 and I thought the included container was kind of neat, Carol - just luck. There are more Mother of Thousands safe inside. I hedge my bets!

    This post was partly to show what different weather we get in the various parts of Austin, Lisa at Greenbow - my part of Austin is usually colder so we should be used to it!

    It's fun to have inside plants, isn't it Jan? We still have green outside but want the color.

    Hi Vertie - one Meyer's lemon lives in a pot inside and gives some scent to the room. Another lemon and the Mexican lime are outside, and both are covered in fabric with lights during freezes. When they bloom in spring the citrus smell good but you have to be next to them to catch the scent. You can enjoy Sweet Olive while working in the garden - it wafts around more.

    Whatever is happening in your garden sure looks similar to what happens in mine, MSS of Zanthan Gardens! The earlier-blooming unnamed tazettas are pointier and the later-blooming, shorter ones have wider petals coming to a point. I bought the later-blooming narcissus in Austin labeled 'Grand Primo'.

    The weird thing is that I planted two groups of the unnamed narcissus, a few in the back border and a few near the shed. They come up in both spots each year. I planted a couple of 'Grand Primo' near the shed and a few more in the front bed near the veranda.

    But both kinds of narcissus now grow near the veranda! Maybe crossing & seeding is the answer. (I also added this comment to your linked narcissus post).

    Thanks for the comments!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  10. Annie, you make me want to get an Amaryllis next year! I always think I don't have an appropriate window for one, but I may have to try it anyway after seeing yours. This has been a rough winter, hasn't it? Lots of freezing nights with no water at all. I lost my lovely snail vine and I was so looking forward to spring blooms and scent from it.

  11. I think our weather has mirrored yours - warmth, with a few hard freezes mixed in. We're dry too - I actually watered some things today! Regardless of the name, those Narcissus sure are pretty - I've got daffodils blooming now too, and they didn't blink at last week's 20 degree temperatures (thankfully). Wish I could send you some larkspur seedlings - I noticed today that they were just about everywhere!

  12. I have found the Martinette and Grand Soleil d'Or, and Golden Rain tazettas to be the sweetest smelling.

    It seems that the more yellow and orange these have, the more pleasing the fragrance.

  13. I kept my Amaryllis outside and bugs munched into the flowerstalks and killed 'em.

  14. So sorry you've lost some of your plants to the freeze, Annie; it's been a strange winter throughout the country. I love seeing your narcissus in bloom right now; I planted quite a few bulbs in the fall and am eager to see what comes up. Even though I wrote down all the names, chances are I won't remember where I planted them:)

    I'm still waiting for my amaryllis to bloom; it grows taller and taller, but no blooms. I'm beginning to think I did something wrong.

  15. I don't believe your mother of thousands is dead - just held back a little. These plants were terribly invasive in Houston. I had a plant on my deck and finally got rid of them - gave them to a friend to plant in a dry bed in Galveston. She left the pots in her yard for several months and now still finds babies a year later.

    And I went out of state for 4 months over the summer and returned to find 2 plants growing in cracks of my cement stairs. No dirt, very little water but still hanging in there.

  16. Oh, how sad to lose your Mother of Thousands. I've had no luck wintering lavender in the ground, but reading your reply to Jodi above, you've given me an idea to try wintering on our unheated porch in a container. I'd really love to have lavender, so I won't give up!
    I'm looking forward to starting some seeds :)
    No matter what the names, the narcissus are beautiful. My mother grew tiny scented jonquills which I loved dearly. Someday I must plant some in my own garden. It will be a lovely reminder.
    My look-a-like square pot Amaryllis (Pink Diamond) has 3 glorious blooms at the moment, Annie. The round pot (Romance) is just opening it's first. What a treat! Your stargazer is fabulous with all those blooms!
    I wish I could smell your Meyer's Lemon and taste the fruit. Mmmm :)

  17. I always thought the fern leaf lavender was an annual although I suppose it should winter over in mild climates. What medium did you use to start your seeds? I bought some special stuff this year but I am very disappointed in it. I am just going to revert to my own mix if I can't find something better.

  18. Hi,

    I used to grow this Mother of Thousands, only I didn't know it's name.

    While you re having cold weather, at the Southern hemisphere, it is too hot and my son's tomatoes and potato plants have shrivelled up.

    Thanks for lovely photos and commentary.

  19. Annie,

    Wow on the amaryllis...floriferous poster child that it is! Those little microclimates are always amazing...a little hill, some trees, a hedge...can really help.


  20. Hi Robin/GetGrounded - Amaryllis are fun to grow so go for it! Can't remember where I read it, but some Texas gardeners grow Snail vine in large containers that are stored in the garage each winter. It was fun to meet you!

    Pam in SC - your photos still make me want to move to South Carolina, freezes or not! We had some lovely rain and now I see a few more larkspur seedlings.

    Thanks for the recommendations, EAL - and the fragrance theory is interesting, too.

    Oh, that's terrible, ChuckB! The squirrels eat some buds on the amaryllis planted in the ground but I hope they leave the bulbs alone!

    This is not tropical US, Prairie Rose - so it's all normal. It appears my confusion is because I didn't realize these little daffodils can seed themselves here!
    Sometimes Amaryllis come up all leaves, but 20 years of experience have taught me how to buy a bulb that will bloom.

    Hi MKirkus Thanks for visiting. I've been growing the M-O-1000's for a few years and always bring a couple of plants inside to keep them going. The plants left outside usually freeze and die.
    NW Austin gets a lot colder than Houston! That's one reason I'm not concerned about this species of Kalanchoe becoming invasive.

    The only surprise was when the freeze was going to happen, Kerri! In Illinois I had one patch of lavender that made it through some big winters. The spot had extremely wonderful drainage with some shelter from the wind. Hope your porch idea works!
    Guess we're both pleased with our look-alike pots from that big chain - the pots are a plus!

    For me most lavender has been annual, Lancashire Jenny! They hate clay in winter. Last spring I bought one each of 3 varieties just for the fun of it, with no expectations any would live. It's only February so the Spanish and Sweet lavenders are not safe yet.
    With so few seeds to start I just bought the only seed medium that showed up, Schultz, but don't like the additives.

    Hello Ann - thanks for visiting from New Zealand. Your son's Tomatoes looked good, so I'm sorry he lost the plants. It was also interesting to find out about the Monarch Butterfly Trust.

    The amaryllis flower is fading fast, Gail - a short life but a very merry one!
    As to microclimates - in Austin, pretty soon we'll be hunting for places that stay just a little cooler & shadier for a different set of prized plants!

    Thanks for all the comments,


  21. Oooh... Annie, both of those narcissus are pretty, but I think that I like your mystery one a little bit better for some reason. Maybe the tapering on the petals?

    Funny that you still have such activity in your garden (re: the gulf frit cat)... here, the only movement in the yard comes from the dog, and the grasses. February is when I start to miss the insects around here! :)

  22. Despite the hard freeze you suffered, I really envy your climate this time of year! (Now, in July...not so much :)

  23. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  24. Annie,
    Wow! Double wow!! Your 'Red Dragon' amaryllis is spectacular.
    This is such an interesting post full of lots of stuff...I too was busy transplanting larkspur seedlings yesterday as well as a few red poppy babies (even though they dislike being moved...I had to do it).

    Hope y'all have a very Happy Valentine's Day.

    Jon at Mississippi Garden

  25. Sorry about the freeze! You had lots to get frozen too, sadly. Around here all I have is snowdrops and crocuses at this point, but they don't care if they get frozen, they just wait for it to warm up and then bloom some more.

    That amaryllis is stunning. I may just have to get one. I will have to decide what to get rid of under my plant lights in order to make room for it.

    When you have time, you really must come by the havens and see what we have wrought in the back yard in the last month. Now it will have plenty of time to season and settle and the lawn underneath can die well before I plant the shrubs I'll be ordering in the next few days. I am so excited I can hardly stand it.

  26. Those Amaryllis are wonderful. That Stargazer looks like a showoff.

  27. I love the amaryllis. They rarely fail to please (although I had ONE that bloomed on a very short stalk, then fell off within 2 days). Have no idea why...but, usually have great luck w/them.

  28. Hi Annie,

    I just moved from Austin to Shreveport, LA two years ago. Why haven't you put your Meyer lemon in the ground? I'm trying to decide if I should do that to mine, and I'm just curious what you think. It gets a little bit colder here, but I hear they are really hardy and can handle low to mid 20's.

  29. Hello Heidi,

    Back in 2006 I asked the question whether to plant the Meyer's Lemon outside and my readers had many opinions!One reason for the hesitation was that the lemon tree was so lovely to have in the house.

    I ended up planting a second Meyer's lemon at the back of the house where I could easily cover it with thermal wrap and plug in mini-lights during cold snaps. My NW part of Austin seems to get colder than South and Central Austin.

    Both plants have survived and made lemons. The one in the ground sustained some hail damage in March, but in spite of that it's now large enough to have landscape value and the one in the pot makes the breakfast room prettier in winter and adds scent.

    Whatever you decide to do, good luck and thanks for commenting!



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