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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, March 27, 2009

A Hail of A Spring Storm

The garden looked pretty good when the Kitchen Garden post went up on Wednesday morning, but by that evening it was a pitiful sight! Around 6 PM Wednesday a major hailstorm hit parts of Austin and our neighborhood was on the hit list. If you read the comments on the last post you know that some hailstones were 2 and 1/2 inches in diameter. Hail dented my car, destroyed the patio umbrella, did some damage to the house and covered our streets and yards in shredded small branches and leaves. So no catastrophe, just a lot of stuff that needs addressing. An interesting thing happens when you are a blogger - sometimes you can avoid panic in an unpleasant situation by going into reporter mode and picking up the camera. That's why we have video taken during the storm and photos afterward. We made this YouTube so you can share the excitement. (If you can't see a video image to click below, try going right to our YouTube station Kaefka

Pam/Digging gave me some African aloe last year and one pot had put up a bloom stalk. The flower was chopped off and just look at the impact craters on the plant!

The magnolia has lost about 1/4 of its leaves...and some of them now have windows in them.

The tree itself is probably okay but will look raggedy for awhile.

The ground under the loquat is covered in leaves and knocked-down fruit, but the tree itself just bent and blew.

Both Philo and I have friends who were driving home from work when the storm grew strong - several of them had windshields shattered as they drove, which must have been terrifying.
I'm sure we'll all be cleaning and repairing for awhile. Hmmm....the
Zilker Garden Festival takes place this weekend in Central Austin - maybe we'd better go there and pick up a few replacement tomato plants.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Our Kitchen Garden

Here at Circus~Cercis we have a Kitchen Garden. It's exciting to see and read about people all over the country deciding to grow food for the first time by starting "Victory Gardens" - we wish all you Victory Gardeners the best of luck! Our relationship with Kitchen Gardens is longstanding, so for us that name sounds better. Growing vegetables wasn't something we decided to do - it's something we've always done.

Little gardeners, annieinaustinPhilo remembers long drives to the small town where his grandfather lived, the small frame house and the garden with rows of beets and onions .
I remember my grandmother's small Chicago garden with Swiss Chard and Rhubarb and parsley and remember 'helping' my aunt with her suburban garden.

Tomato Boy, annieinaustinWhere Philo and I grew up, even if there were no rows of vegetables, most yards had some kind of food plants - apple or pear trees, a grape vine for jelly, a clump of rhubarb or a raspberry thicket.

Almost everyone had a tomato patch. I well remember the gross-out chore of picking hornw
orms off tomato leaves and there's a permanent photographic record of Philo's early success with tomatoes.

s newlyweds in the late 1960's we planted flowers and a few vegetables near the door of ou
r aluminum graduate school hut and squeezed in a few tomatoes and flowers around a rented townhouse in the early 1970's. Once we bought a house on a quarter-acre of land, we could begin the first of 5 real kitchen gardens. In all five gardens we've dealt with clay soil, semi-shade, tree roots and ravenous animals. The first three houses were in the Western Suburbs of Chicago.

Seventies veg garden, annieinaustinGarden #1 (1973-1977) had several large wild cherry trees on the lot but there was a sunny place behind the garage to grow beans and tomatoes and squash and peppers.

Gardening with pear trees,annieinaustinGarden #2 (1977-1987) was on a lot with old pear and crabapple trees and wild grape vines. Philo fitted the main bed into the semi-sunny corner of the back fence, eventually adding raspberry trellises and garden grapes.

Sandbox kids and veggie garden,annieinaustinAnother patch in sun on the opposite fence let the kids in the sandbox watch the zucchinis grow and a trellis on the side of the garage let us enjoy the new Sugar Snap peas.

1991 veggie garden, annieinaustinAt Garden #3 (1987-1999) we had a reasonably large space at the back of a long narrow lot. Even though the lot was overhung with wild cherries, mulberries and Box elders, this garden really pumped out peppers and tomatoes! Philo had all the salsa he could wish for but I never had enough zucchini. The fence helped keep out rabbits and groundhogs but couldn't save the squash from the squirrels.

Texas wirehouse garden,annieinaustinThen we moved to Texas, and instead of owning arable land we lived in the deer-filled Austin hills. At Garden # 4 we did our best to grow a few peppers in pots on the deck and tomatoes inside this 4 and 1/2 foot tall, deer-resistant wire enclosure. The soaker hose failed in this situation and the deer nipped every leaf that dared to stray outside the wire. Philo's tall tomatoes,annieinaustin Philo started our current Kitchen Garden #5 in fall 2004, a few months after we moved to this house and had Swiss Chard & tomatoes by June 2005. As usual, the plot isn't in full sun, the soil is heavy clay and tree roots creep in from the other side of the fence, but after 5 years of stooping over to fit into the wire house, this feels like a real garden!Meyers lemon, annieinaustinInstead of either Kitchen Garden or Victory Garden, Yolanda Elizabet uses the term Potager, encompassing not only her decorative vegetable plantings, but grapevines, fruit trees, cold frames, a greenhouse & conservatory. That very cool word may be a little too grand for a 9 X 10 sort-of-raised bed of tomatoes, peppers and a few salad vegetables. We have no greenhouse or conservatory but we've grown wonderful lemons, we hope each year for loquats, pomegranates and figs, were astonished by a crop of edible pecans one memorable autumn and all year long use the herbs planted in troughs and tucked into flower beds.Herbs in hypertufa trough,annieinaustin Marjoram and thyme grow in the hypertufa trough above, along with a plant of Italian parsley shared by Rock Rose Jenny. Squirrel with pecan,annieinaustinNo matter how long you garden, there are new things to learn. We no longer incorporate pecan leaves from our two large trees into the soil, but once the juglone-free Arizona Ash leaves fell this winter we had enough to redo part of the garden using a modified version of Renee's lasagna method. Lasagna bed,annieinaustinWe used timbers to hold up the 'lasagna' in two areas of the garden, one 3' X 4' square and another 2' X 3', making layers of existing soil, decomposed granite, various composts and the dry leaves, then watered regularly and waited.Veg garden ready,annieinaustin The front edge got a sprinkling of radish and spinach seeds, some shallots and a line of red onions. About 10 days ago I dug the rest of the bed over and made cedar mulch paths. I hunted around to find the soaker hose and decided to give it another try. Tomato scaffold,annieinaustinLast week Philo revised and reinforced the Tomato Scaffolding from last summer and we set it into place. On Sunday we planted a few tomato and pepper plants, adding more soil, compost and granite as we planted. 'Juliet' already has a few flowers but I'm still trying to decide whether it's a good idea in this climate to cover the soaker hose with mulch - what do you think? Juliet tomato plant,annieinaustinEven if the drought breaks, the intense summers mean we can't get yields in Austin like the ones in Illinois, but we'll enjoy whatever we can get!old wooden box,annieinaustinIn the back of the garden I'm experimenting with an old wooden box discarded by my youngest son and his friends. For years the guys kept it behind the shed, hauling it out once in awhile to use as a backstop. After long exposure to Austin weather one end started to rot off and the box was moved to the trash area, waiting for Bulky Trash Day. But then I had the idea to talk Philo into fixing the bad end and drilling drainage holes in the bottom. I lined it with roll window screen, put it near the fence where nothing ever grows, filled it with potting soil and even though it was a little late in the season, planted seeds. To keep the squirrels and birds out of it I covered the soil with some old racks from the garage. seed box with racks,annieinaustin On a recent visit my son took a look at the vegetable garden, and I showed him the seeds sprouting in the repurposed ammo box, saying that it might need a decorative sign. Peas have a chance,annieinaustin My son knows me too well...he raised an eyebrow and asked, "Peas on Earth?"

Pretty close - what I'd been thinking was "Give Peas A Chance".

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, March 2009

Annieinaustin,rain in gaugeA rain gauge is not a bloom, but without rain there would be no flowers to show May Dreams Carol for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Rain crept in early on Wednesday morning and it has stayed a few days, refreshing our gardens and making a small dent in the ongoing drought. Above is the old reliable gauge...the new rain gauge from the last post knew how to be a vase but it did not know how to be a weather instrument.

Annieinaustin, Circus-CercisThe rain kicked the three kinds of Redbud tree in the front yard into bloom. A play on the Latin name for the genus Redbud, Cercis, led me to name our place Circus~Cercis a couple of years ago.

Annieinaustin Cercis Forest PansyOur first redbud tree was planted at the end of the house in the front yard under the canopy of a live oak in October 2004 - the purple-leaved Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy'.

Annieinaustin, Tx RedbudThen in October 2006 we bought a Texas Redbud/Cercis canadensis var. texensis from a Tree Folks sale. The tree grows next to a bat-shaped bed formed by three Bridal Wreath-type shrubs, part of the Pink Entrance Garden leading to the gate.

Annieinaustin,TX whitebudWhen the largest of our three Arizona Ash trees died and was cut down in Spring 2007, first I sang a song about it, then we planted a Cercis canadensis var texensis 'Alba' - a Texas Whitebud. When seen in close up, the small flowers are enchanting and it's easy to see they're in the pea family.

Annieinaustin, Mutabilis rose & WhitebudHere the Whitebud is a background for the 'Mutabilis' rose, growing in the middle of the front yard in what was once the footprint of the Arizona Ash. This rose just started a bloom cycle.

Annieinaustin, Pomegranate budIn back, around the far end of the house in the Secret Garden, buds suddenly appeared on the small pomegranate tree. Last year was the first time it bloomed- we've never had fruit from this tree.
Annieinaustin, Mexican lime flowersThe Mexican Lime, bought last fall and growing in a pot, seems to be setting some fruit already.

Annieinaustin,geraniums & impatiensNear the lime a few of last summer's bedding geraniums and impatiens managed to survive the mild winter and have begun to rebloom.

Annieinaustin,Dwarf pomegranateBack in the main part of the garden behind the house another pomegranate grows in a pot. Unlike the full-size tree which is deciduous, this dwarf pomegranate can be evergreen in the right place. given protection.

Annieinaustin, Meyer Lemon flowersWe have two Meyer's Lemon trees - one in a container brought into the breakfast room for winter, and one planted in the ground outside. The one in the kitchen bloomed earlier and now has small fruits developing. The Lemon growing against the back wall of the house began to open flowers a week ago.

Annieinaustin, Butterfly Blue scabiosaThis little Scabiosa 'Butterly Blue' is sometimes called Pincussion Flower. It blooms off and on for 8 months of the year.

Annieinaustin, rained on peach irisThe iris kept opening flowers even on drizzly days so this clump of pale peach iris has only a few buds left to open.

Annieinaustin,white iris in rainThe white iris and the few remaining narcissus petals turned almost transparent from the soaking.
Annieinaustin,Amethyst Flame iris in rainThe petals of the 'Amethyst Flame' iris shared by Pam/Digging kept their violet-blue color even though bedraggled from the weather.

Annieinaustin,Iris,Salvia greggii budsOne 'Amethyst Flame' bud sneaked in when I tried to capture the buds of a Salvia greggii. I've planted dozens of salvias here in 4 and 1/2 years and have lost track of identities - this might be just plain Salvia greggii alba or could be Salvia greggii 'Navajo Cream'.

Annieinaustin, yellow snapdragon basketHere's another example of why I enjoy Slow Gardening - a year and a half ago I poked a couple of rescued snapdragons into a hanging basket with pansies. One plant lived but just sat there and refused to bloom. When the pansies were done I pulled them out but left the snap alone, tucking summer impatiens in next to it. All year I watered the basket and gave it occasional doses of fertilizer & seaweed, and the snapdragon hung on, growing slowly and making roots in the basket. Once the cold weather killed the impatiens, that snapdragon saw its opportunity to shine, draping almost to the ground, covered in two-toned yellow flowers and buds. I didn't even know what color the flowers were until two days ago!

Annieinaustin,coral honeysuckle archThe real show in the garden this week is still the arch covered by the Coral Honeysuckle/Lonicera sempervirens and the Lady Banks Rose/Rosa banksiae 'Lutea'.
Annieinaustin,ladybanks rose & loniceraThe light yellow perfectly echoes the interior of the honeysuckle trumpets. In Illinois tulips and snowdrops and crocus said 'Spring' to us, but now this vibrant combination is our surest sign that winter is gone for good.

Annieinaustin,Whitebud & bulbineHere's one last photo of the Whitebud. This tree would be a sign of spring almost anywhere in the United States - but look down at its feet...you must be somewhere in the South if there is sub-tropical Yellow Bulbine blooming under your Whitebud tree!

Have fun visiting Carol's blog for more bloom day posts from around the world! The complete list of everything in bloom at Circus~Cercis will appear soon on the Addendum.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Thought Pops, Edition 5: Buds to Iron Man to Rain


Annieinaustin, Michelia figoThis Michelia figo was in bloom on April 3rd, 2008 when MSS of Zanthan Gardens brought MayDreams Carol to my garden but this year the flowers are open in March. We're expecting visitors in a few weeks and I hope a few flowers hold on so the guests can feel the silkiness of the petals and catch the fragrance that gives this plant its common name "Banana Shrub".

Annieinaustin, Bee TX mountain laurelMy April guests won't be here in time to drink in the grape soda scent of the "Big Drunk Bean" above (Nicknames for Sophora secundiflora include Mescal Bean, Big Drunk Bean and Texas Mountain Laurel) but this March guest buzzed in on time.

Annieinaustin,lady banks rose & coral honeysuckleA month from now the Coral Honeysuckle/Lonicera sempervirens might still be blooming but the 'Lady Banks' rose/Rosa banksiae 'Lutea' will be done. The entwined green leaves enhance the metal arch year-round but this electric combination happens only briefly each spring.

Philo was quite surprised when I moved Iron Man to the top of the queue because he didn't think it was my kind of movie. We watched it last night. It was pretty silly, and it sure would be great to see Jeff Bridges in a more Dude-like role instead of as a typecast power-driven executive with a shaved head. But I enjoyed most of it. Apparently any movie that has Robert Downey Jr in it is my kind of movie.

Annieinaustin, Hesperaloe parvifloraSLOW GARDENING
When our guests come the white iris will be done but the native Red Yucca above should be flaunting its first flowers along that stalk. In Spring 2005 I paid less than $2 for a tiny plant of Hesperaloe parviflora, but had no flower bed ready for it. The small plant grew and I repotted it into a larger container. Then in March 2007 Philo and I began the Pink Entrance Garden and the Hesperaloe had a home.
Could I have had instant impact by buying a blooming-size plant right away? Of course - but I would have lost the pleasure of seeing it grow and develop until it become mature enough to bloom.

Annieinaustin, Palm flowersPALM FLOWERS Do those weird yellow growths on the Mediterranean Fan Palm look like a promise of flowers to you? If Kerri hadn't blogged about flowers on her potted palm I might have thought it was some kind of fungus. Isn't it cool that an Illinois-born woman gardening in Austin, Texas can learn about Palm flowers from an Australian-born woman who gardens in upstate, snowbound, non-Mediterranean New York?

Annieinaustin, yellow snapdragonsDRY SPRING IN TEXAS
The white iris (probably Iris albicans) are blooming in three borders - seen here with some snapdragons that just started reblooming after making it through a second winter.

Annieinaustin, 3 kinds iris, snapdragonsIn two facing borders the tall, fragrant, pale peach iris are in full bloom. Now 'Amethyst Fire' iris from Pam/Digging are in flower, too.
I hope Henry Mitchell is wrong, and that the perfection of the iris will not call down a major hailstorm. But if the iris must be sacrificed to make the clouds rain down on us so be it - we need rain that badly!
Annieinaustin, TX barometer bushThe Leucophyllum frutescens, AKA Cenizo AKA Purple Sage AKA Texas Barometer Bush says it might rain and so does Jim Spencer. Annieinaustin, rain gauge readyAnd I have a new rain gauge ready to go.