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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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Monday, February 23, 2009

Wandering through February

Wandering through February was written by "Annie in Austin" for her Transplantable Rose blog.

From gate,AnnieinaustinIf you were gardenblog-hopping last week you may have been surprised at how widely winter temperatures can vary in different parts of Austin. Around 2003 or 2004 I discovered that both Zanthan Gardens and Rantomat wrote about what grew in their Austin gardens. Their posts clued me in that freezes in Central Austin were fewer and less severe than those hitting my far NW Austin garden. As more and more garden blogs have appeared, the differences between gardens in all parts of town surprise me. Toward the east Renee's salvias and Mexican honeysuckle bloomed unfazed by cold, Pam/Digging had aloe and abutilon blooming in her new garden, and to the SW Lori had bulbine and Rainbow Knockout Roses and Robin had Spring Bouquet viburnum and potato vine in bloom. Yellow chair and jessamine,Annieinaustin Up here in my NW Austin garden, the salvias, abutilon, bulbine, Mexican honeysuckle and roses were all nipped back, and only the yellow flowers of Carolina Jessamine echo the yellow chair in the sun. But don't feel sorry for me! Although I hate to see perennial plants totally die...it's just fine if they die back or go dormant. This year the fountain, the triangle borders, a few trees grown taller than the fence and evergreens with some size on them have added structure and hint at that sense of enclosure we're trying to achieve. View from table,AnnieinaustinWhen I sit at the patio table and look around, I don't need flowers in bloom to know that I'm in a garden and as someone who spent most of her decades in climates with true winter, the spare look doesn't say dormant to me...it says tranquil. I don't think this works the same way for people who are from Texas or other warmer places - the unrelieved green makes them antcy and they want to know where the flowers are!

Feb loquats,AnnieinaustinSo far it's been a comparatively mild 'winter'. This year the loquats haven't frozen - growing to the size of almonds, still attached to the tree. Durantas have been an annual here, so I buy new plants each spring, but this year one Duranta is acting like a perennial and making new leaves. The Philippine violet/Barleria cristata usually freezes to the ground but now I see new leaves pushing out along the undamaged stems. Philippine violet,feb,Annieinaustin Last week I crossed into an even warmer climate zone by driving a few miles to Zanthan Gardens to meet MSS. In her plan for the day dessert came first so we drove to Moonlight Bakery on South Lamar. MSS likes to introduce me to new places...she's been here before but it was new to me. The shop is of modest size but the variety is amazing and everything looked (and tasted) wonderful. It was hard to choose just a few kinds of pastries from such a variety! Finally I asked David Coleman to package some Chocolate Croissants & Cherry Danish and when he mentioned that the Ciabatta was good for sandwiches, decided that to take a loaf home. David was a good sport and let me take his picture - thanks, David- we enjoyed meeting you! David Coleman,Moonlight,AnnieinaustinThe pastries were delectable - best Cherry danish I've had in years. At dinner that evening Philo & I agreed that the bread was perfect for fish sandwiches. MSS drove from the bakery to South Congress and we picked up Tres Leches Coffee at the Garden District Coffee House, just above the Great Outdoors Nursery (audio starts when you click the nursery's informative website. ) We sipped and strolled and made plans for future purchases and talked. I bought some annuals and a new hat rated high in sun-protection, just right for garden strolling. We stopped at another fun nursery on South Lamar but I didn't get a chance to take photos or talk to the owners so will just have to make a return trip!

Annieinaustin, LaurelbarposterAbove is a poster-photo I made of Texas Mountain Laurel in 2004. We saw tall laurel bushes blooming on the way back to Zanthan Gardens, and lots of redbud trees, too. Once arrived we were greeted by the heavenly-scented 'Souvenir de Malmaison' roses in bloom along with Port St Johns creeper, narcissus, snow flakes, and more. The larkspur grew 9" tall, in enormous swathes of fresh green. Arugula & peapods sat ready in the vegetable garden. Luckily for me some of that cilantro had seeded in the wrong place. MSS weeded out several stray plants and I brought them home. The germination has been terrible for my coriander/cilantro seeds - just a handful of one-inch tall seedlings. I used some of the cilantro leaves from MSS for shrimp spring rolls and planted the rest. Maybe they'll inspire my puny seedlings. So is it really spring? The leafing-out Arizona Ash seems to think so. The early daffodils have already frizzled up and some of the Bridal Wreath spiraeas have buds. The small Texas Mountain Laurel has buds, too. The flowers froze off in other years, but as Pam/Digging so sensibly advised me, if we get frost this year I'll throw a cover over it. The Loquat tree has dozens of developing fruits but I can't cover a 12-foot tree - to keep the loquats safe all I can do is cross my fingers.

Wandering through February was written by "Annie in Austin" for her Transplantable Rose blog.


  1. Sigh, right now spring in Texas looks wonderful to me, sitting up here in the midwest suffering through winter mixes and still looking for that first crocus bloom.

    Your garden looks lovely, all your work is paying off. I can feel the sense of enclosure and imagine it as a great place to sit out on the patio, by the fountain, sipping some iced tea.

    Thanks for sharing it with us today!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  2. How will you know to expect a frost if the micro-climates vary even within the few miles between you and MSS?

    Like you, I sometimes have the most inexplicably bad luck with the easiest of seeds, including cilantro. Argh!

    That cheery yellow chair is a great anchor point in the garden. My garden needs better chairs. Alas, the budget for that is very low right now.

    Fortunately, that so-vital structure and sense of enclosure is coming along nicely in my g too.

  3. Your garden does look tranquil...just waiting to take off soon. I hope you have good luck with the cilantro. Are you planning to be at Spring Fling? Your hat would work well for garden tours there!

  4. Those micro-climates can sure throw a garden for a curveball. After gardening in the warmest spot in Austin for so many years, I've been anxiously keeping tabs on the temps in my new garden a few miles north. It seems to be comparable, maybe a little cooler. But the elevation is higher than in the old garden, so perhaps that helps to avoid the cold sinks that freeze back those buds.

    Your outing with MSS looks like fun. I need to try that Moonlight Bakery one day.

  5. It's spring it's spring!!! I believe it!! I'm in Lakeway. We moved here a year ago from Steiner Ranch...just miles away and across the river (Lake Austin). It's actually a bit warmer here and doesn't seem to freeze as quickly as it did at our last house. Some of that must be the way we're situated and how the house is bigger and protects more of the garden.

    I went to Natural Gardener today and bought Carolina Jessamine and some other little bits for around my pond. I've put them in because it seems like spring is here. I don't have a Redbud anymore but the ones down the street are full of pink!

    I am waiting on seeds though. Just until March.

  6. Hi Annie, this sounds like a real spring post to me. Your garden of green forms and foliage is relaxing to the eye and mind. Lovely. You day with MSS sounds perfect, cherry danish included. I remember the look of her garden in back with larkspur and cilantro everywhere, heaven!

  7. I'm totally shocked by the temperature differences around town, too! Even between me and Robin, who lives basically on the other side of the highway, we'll have completely different thunderstorms and freezes. I don't know if this is a weird facet of Austin's geography or completely normal and we're all noticing it just because we have so many bloggers here, but it's interesting.

    In my neighborhood, I know spring is here when the many, many Mexican plum trees on my block burst into bloom. I'm going to have to take a picture this year-- the effect is spectacular.

    I also wanted to say I love how the jessamine echoes the yellow on your chair. Did you guys do that on purpose?

  8. Also, I wanted to say that I've had lousy luck with cilantro this year as well. I planted a bunch of seeds I got at Walmart around November and then MSS gave me a whole bunch of seeds a month or so ago...and I got nuttin'.

  9. Annie, Your garden does look peaceful; the lawn and the shrubs flow very nicely. I remember the fountain and it is an attention getting! I made a decision to add a tiny bit of lawn; the calming effect is greatly needed in my busy garden. Calm is often underrated. Your day with MSS sounds lovely...gail

  10. The difference you describe between Austin microclimates is interesting; the same thing happens here in WNY, and I'm sure the same thing happened in Illinois where you lived before.

    Nonetheless, I love your garden and yellow chair. My patio cannot even be looked at now, as it is coated in my neighbor's roofing debris.

  11. How do you use the loquats? I like your garden.You must spent a lot of time on it.We are coming to the end of summer here in New Zealand. My pennyroyals are dying, I don't know why. I keep them on window sills and water them.

  12. I woke up wondering if it froze up your way last night. It seemed awfully cold here. They said it was above freezing but one of my new basil blackened. And the rest of the week it's supposed to be in the 80s!

    Thanks for writing up our day. I felt like I was on vacation in my own part of town. It was fun to zip around. I'm glad you liked the Moonlight Bakery and I hope more Austinites stop buy. I'm totally hooked onit and I want it to stay in business.

    My cilantro was a little slow to get started this year but know it's everywhere. I can't pick it fast enough, so if you want any more seedlings...I'll dig them up for you properly rather than just yanking them unceremoniously from the ground.

  13. I imagine if I ever moved back south, my perspective on winter would definitely be different after living here in Indiana.

    I have seeds for cilantro. I love to make homemade salsa with lots of it.

  14. Your garden still shows a nice structure as you say while it waits for the wakening of spring. You are so lucky to have perennials starting their growth. We are still in gray and very cold winter here...although no snow or freezing.

  15. Annie,
    You sure do have alot of green going on in your garden. Our's is still brown. I love the Texas Mountain Laurel. I've tried to start one from seed, but no matter what I do they don't germinate. :-(--Randy

  16. It looks VERY springy there to me. I'm buoyed up by every single crocus that's blooming here, but I'm ready for early daffodils too. And I'm hovering over my Carolina Jessamine, wondering if it survived its first winter - I may have to admire it in blogs instead of in person.

    Moonlight Bakery looks great too!

  17. This post was scrumptious, Annie, and there was a lot to consume. Thank you! Your comments about microclimates were right on. I've noticed a similar phenomenon right here where we live, and I'm sure other areas experience it. If you think about it, those pockets of resistance to the norm present a subtle yet persistent challenge to widely accepted theories about climate in general.

  18. Sometimes I wonder if we more Southern gardeners are doing you a disservice, Carol, teasing you with glimpses of spring in February. For people in the North it's normal to have winter in February and most of March.
    I'd make green iced tea for you, but it's coffee, coffee, coffee for me!

    Some of the weathercasters give a range of predicted low temperatures for the whole Hill Country area, Chuck. I end up cover things unnecessarily, but that's better than losing them!
    The cilantro is particularly annoying because it reseeded like mad last year!

    Hello Leslie - cilantro reseeded every year in Illinois! Why can't it cooperate here?
    It's doubtful that I'll be at Spring Fling unless a deus ex machina is written into the next chapter of my life.

    You have slightly sloping ground and an in-ground pool, Pam/Digging - two pluses for microclimates!
    I plan on getting to that bakery again - think you'll like it. Unbleached flour!

    Welcome Mandi from Lakeway - maybe being close to the water has a moderating effect? The warmest parts of my garden are where the house blocks the Northeast wind - bet that's happening for you, too.
    Doesn't the Carolina Jessamine smell wonderful?

    Thank you Faire Frances - as time goes on the look of Mrs Whaley's garden appeals to me more and more!
    The cilantro & larkspur are still everywhere at Zanthan gardens - but all is promise, not in bloom.

    Maybe a combination of factors, Lori? Just a few miles make a difference everywhere, but the Balcones Fault means we have hills & canyons. Rivers and winds change things, too.
    Please do take the Mexican plum photo!
    The chair was originally made to go in another part of the yard, nowhere near that jessamine, so it wasn't on purpose...pooping birds changed the location!

    Thank you -


  19. Thanks for the tour through your garden, Annie; I needed that plant "fix." I keep raking through leaves and mulch looking for any sign of new growth, but it's pretty much wishful thinking.

    It's interesting that you can have such variance in climate in the Austin area, but I'm just learning about microclimates, so I'm not surprised. Sounds like a fun time with MSS; I can't wait till the nurseries around here start stocking up so my friend Beckie and I can go shopping.

  20. Annie, great post. You reminded me of how I take the green-ness of my yard for granted, and am always wanting more color. I stop seeing all the green or appreciating the native evergreens during winter because I miss that lushness of spring and summer.

    When the perennials die back or I cut them back are the times I wish we were blanketed in snow so I wouldn't just see an ocean of dirt and mulch, looking so empty. When someone visits, it is embarrassing to show empty-looking beds, not knowing if they can see the vision or not. In this drought, I kind of wish the plants could take a break and go completely dormant and rest.

    Austin weather has always seemed strange to me. I grew up in N. Texas, where thunderstorms were a wild adventure that would last for hours(and I miss them terribly). Here, most of the storms end up in the Hill Country and break up once they reach the edges of town. I do believe the hills, the fault line and the rivers change our climate to be ridiculously unpredictable. I've noticed that the weather people here, even though professionals, often can't even predict the next 24 hours accurately. It's really odd. Like MSS, I've covered my plants much more than necessary because of dire predictions that never materialized. Exhausting sometimes, isn't it?

  21. Your garden doesn't look winter-ish to me. Those pastries look great too!

  22. Lori - second comment- I planted cilantro a couple of times, using saved seed. But also let other plants go to seed in the beds and NONE of that appeared. I wonder if birds and insects like the seed - after all it's really Coriander seed and people eat it so why not animals?

    Hi Gail, thank you for being here in my garden! After a year with the fountain I can't imagine not having it.
    We keep removing lawn and you add it - somewhere we'll strike a balance!

    You're absolutely right about the differences, EAL, nearby friends in Illinois sometimes got rain when I didn't and house orientation always counts big...but maybe it takes gardeners to notice and document those differences? Other people don't pay the same kind of attention ;-]
    That's too bad about the patio - remember having a roof done a few years ago and even with careful workers, please watch out for those nails!

    Hello Ann -glad to hear from you! We've only had a few loquats since the tree started bearing in 2004. The tree itself grows well but usually a freeze knocks off most of the fruit before it ripens. We just ate what we got as fresh out-of-hand fruit.
    I don't know pennyroyal- isn't it an herb? Since your seasons and ours are reversed should we wish you happy autumn?

    No freeze here, MSS at Zanthan Gardens, but basil gets cranky under 40°F, one reason mine is grown in portable containers. No matter what I do there is never enough basil!
    I also hope Moonlight Bakery becomes an essential stop for Austinites - like their pastries and wish I'd taken a photo with the list of ingredients.
    The fresh cilantro in the spring rolls was wonderful - thank you! Just putting the roots in water seemed to keep them alive enough to transplant, but if you're still thinning them I'd love more.

    That makes sense, Robin at Nesting Place. Maybe it takes living in a climate where you don't even see bare ground for weeks on end to appreciate a brown lawn & evergreens!
    We grew cilantro in Illinois because Philo made salsa. We still use cilantro for salsa here, but Vietnamese restaurants have taught us to like it with Asian-inspired food, too!

    Hello Tabor - it's too small a space for much scope but something is working visually. I'm not sure if having gray & cold is normal for you at the end of February but bet you're ready for spring!

    Thank you,


  23. Hi Randy & Jamie - my yard had only bare branches and brownish grass the first winter and spring here...it was depressing because we have so many choices in zone 8, with no need to be brown & bare. Each year we add more.
    Texas Mountain Laurels are really slow growers - never tried seed. We added two good-sized Laurels to previous TX house - the photo was taken there. So far we've put in 3 smaller Texas Laurels in this garden and there might be more!

    Guess I should just buy some crocus blooming in a pot, Entangled - I miss them! The Jessamine is supposed to be zone 7 - hope yours blooms and that you like the scent!

    Walk2write, thanks for liking the post - it was rewritten twice in an attempt to be coherent.
    Sometimes I don't think Austin has any climate, just weather ;-]

    We also peek under mulch and hope for new growth, PrairieRose - there were leaves at the base of the fernleaf lavender so maybe it will live again.
    Maybe it's time to go to a bakery with Beckie even if the nurseries aren't ready?

    Hi Robin at Getgrounded - you can't be faulted for thinking green is normal when you spend your life in Texas! We had conifers in IL but few broadleaved evergreens. To me the Mountain laurel leaves are as wonderful as the flowers.
    I like your observations on Austin weather and how hard it is for professionals to predict it. My lot is small, so running out to cover things is possible - couldn't do that with more land!
    Not too long ago the Twitter community posted updates on a large storm as it passed through the area, and the updates were retweeted by Statesman Weather. It was fascinating to see what areas got rain and in what order. Maybe the accumulated data from individuals added to Twitter and Weather Underground will give us clues to what really happens here?

    Moonlight Bakery even had Almond twists, bear claws and eclairs, Phillip! It felt like spring in the garden and a party on the palate ;-]

    Thank you for all the comments!


  24. I'd go for all green right now. Thanks for the photo of the Texas Mountain Laurel, I just love seeing photos of them. I'm so looking forward to visiting garden centers again.

  25. These beautiful images of a nostalgic air to have you share with us thank you very much for your size.

    See myblog

  26. That photo of your backyard brought back memories of my time there last April. It is wonderful to look at that sunshine and green and to think that spring has started and will eventually make its way north. Carol is chafing at the bit, but I usually don't see any flowers until mid-March.

  27. keeping my fingers crossed for your loquats!

    And that Arizona Ash has really budded out--ours has started budding (as is the Rose of Sharon), but nothing major like the one in your neighbor's yard.

  28. Thanks for all the details you share in your posts - I love being able to see the differences in temperature, varied times our plants come back from their winter dormancy, and what grows in other Austin gardens. It's amazing how different they are just miles apart.

  29. Thanks for a wonderful website. I understand what you mean when you say "Although I hate to see perennial plants totally die...it's just fine if they die back or go dormant". Here in the UK, though my new garden is in its infancy, I have always loved to watch the seasons change as the plants die back and come again. Winter re-emphasises the garden's skeleton, it's structure.

    I don't do a garden blog but if/when I do I shall be inspired bymThe transplantable rose

  30. Annie, if you are not a conscientious bigbox objector, you might try your local Home Depot for Hardenbergia. I picked up a 30+" tall plant (gal pot?) for $10 a few weeks ago.

    It promptly dropped all its blooms, but there are a few more coming.

    I'm dreaming of a green screen wall of plants that can tough it out in Phoenix's summers. This plant is one of those I'm collecting for that wall.

  31. I enjoyed your article and pictures. I could taste the goodies and imagine the sweet conversation. Your garden does look lively compared to ours here in NC.

    I was just studying the NC weather patterns through the end of March and it's suppose to be cold. So no early planting for me.

  32. Annie,
    It is indeed amazing how diverse the growing situations and temperatures can be in just one area, isn't it? So many variables factor in. I often am stunned at the differences in my front and back yards micro-climates and the results I get.

    Thanks for this interesting post.
    Jon at Mississippi Garden

  33. Annie, Austin is one of the saved locations on my weather page that I look at daily, so that I can see what your weather is up to, and picture you pottering in your lovely garden. Your weather been looking pretty darn good to me!
    The Carolina Jessamine echos that lovely yellow chair so nicely. I could sit there very happily in your tranquil garden, sipping iced tea and chatting with you about the various plants :)
    Your day with MSS sounds like lots of fun, especially that wonderful bakery.
    I'll keep my fingers crossed for your loquats.

  34. I think your garden looks wonderful Annie. We just got back from the LRGV where it is so dry and crispy looking. We had to wear our coats for the first time ever while visiting there. There were still a few blooms to be seen. I love the Carolina Jasmine. It was blooming everywhere. Your chair matches it perfectly. Such a cheerful color to have in the garden.

    I bought one of those hats before. I found that it indeed kept the sun off but it made my head too hot. I hope yours is vented better than the one I had.

    Just seeing your garden about to rev up for the spring/summer is exciting to me.

  35. My plants look more dormant than yours, Annie. Though my lavender is still blooming a bit. We've just had too many extreme dips in temperature at my house. I went out and bought some annuals a couple days ago. A leap of faith perhaps, but I'll probably wait until after this weekend to try to plant them.

  36. It so looks like spring there and the yellow chair is a beauty. I can see you sitting there in your new hat with a glass of lemonade!

  37. It's amazing what a difference in temperature there is between gardeners in Austin. I love the look of the fuzzy fruits of the loquat tree. To me, your garden looks delightful and lovely ~ there's green everywhere (besides evergreen trees and shrubs, it is something I haven't seen outdoors since November).

    The colour of the Arizona Ash is gorgeous. Life looks great in Austin in February!

  38. Hi Annie, all your spring green looks inviting and yes, very tranquil. The freshness of spring is everywhere in your garden, and the ash tree looks beautiful. I just love those first weeks when the trees start leafing out!

    Sounds like you and MSS had a wonderful time hanging out - that pastry case is making me hungry, and I LOVE your new hat! Spring in Austin is looking wonderful.

  39. Annie, I like living vicariously through you Austinites until spring truly gets here. We have until April 20th before no more freezes. That's our "for sure" date, but I start planting earlier. I miss talking to you and wish I could visit my friends in Austin. Didn't we have a splendid April last year.~~Dee

  40. Oh, I'd love to come sit in that yellow chair for a bit. Visit. Get caught up. Are you coming to Fling? Say yes!

  41. It's two weeks later - definitely spring here. I'm glad we have a chance for some cooler weather with a chance of rain due on Wednesday, as long as we don't freeze.

    Hello, MMD in IL - it's fun for me to have a TX Laurel blooming this year, too, since last year's flowers froze. Have fun in the garden centers!

    If you are real and not just an ad, thank you for visiting John Harris.

    It was wonderful to have you visit my garden last April, Kathy. I hope we see snowdrops popping up on your blog pretty soon!

    The squirrels and birds are watching that loquat tree, too, Katina!

    Thanks, VBDB - I've been lucky both in TX and in IL to be able to compare weather and bloom time notes with other gardeners in the same region...big differences in temperatures between Chicago suburbs, too!

    Wow, Ed Rowe - don't quite know what to say but thank you. The garden writer Henry Mitchell has had a strong influence on me. I hope you like this quote:
    ... it is the Spectrum not the color, that makes color worth having, and it is the cycle, not the instant, that makes the day worth living...

    Jenn, the Hardenbergia was pretty, but I read it's really zone 9. That means it would probably survive in South and Central Austin but croak here. I hope it works for you and helps you make that green wall!

    Hello Flowergardengirl! North Carolina may start up a little later, but the variety of plants you can grow seems much broader than what we can grow - no wonder famous nurseries and garden writers originated in NC.

    Isn't the micro-climate effect fascinating, Jon? I made bad guesses when we first moved here, but a few years in, hope to figure them out!

    Having our town on your weather page is an honor, Kerri in NY, although the sight of me working is more suitable for a comedy page. There's a reason the front yard is less tended than the privacy-fenced back yard!
    You'll have to picture Philo sitting in that yellow chair - I just take pictures of it.

    Your Texas trip looks great, Lisa at Greenbow- even though like all of Texas, the valley needs rain. The color pairing of chair & jasmine was serendipity.

    With temperatures in the high 80's over the weekend, bet your garden is awake now, Dawn - it felt like summer for a couple of days, didn't it?

    Have to work on that mental image, Layanee in Maryland...the new hat is for visiting! And the chair is Philo's! It's amusing that you imagine lemonade and Carol always says iced tea. What's more likely is Annie in a beat-up old hat on the green chair with a cup of coffee ;-]

    Austin is spread out over a diverse area, KateSmudges, with lakes formed by dams along the Colorado River and the geologically important rift called the Balcones Fault. The altitude of my NW edge of the city garden is probably about 500 feet higher than the Central garden of MSS of Zanthan.
    Hope you get some green, soon.

    Spring came suddenly, Garden Girl in IL - the redbuds are blooming now! You'll be seeing new leaves soon.

    You are so right, Dee of Red Dirt - those late frosts are sneaky. I've had to cover tomato plants in other years but if we don't plant before the "for sure" date, the heat will stop the plants. Last April was really special.

    It was great meeting you and Dee last year at the Austin Fling, MA - but it's doubtful I can go to the Chicago Fling. You will have to help all us non-attenders with your posts about it in May!

    Thanks for the comment - hope that even if you can't be in the garden yet, at least the ground is showing where you live.



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