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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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Thursday, September 03, 2009

September Restart

It's so easy to not write, to not take photographs, to not enter this summer's losses on the semi-permanent record of a blog. There seemed little point in joining Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. I wrote nothing full of facts and numbers like the posts by MSS of Zanthan Gardens, no posts rejoicing that drip irrigation kept most of the garden alive like the vacationing Rock Rose, no celebrations of serene stock tank lilies and stately agaves like Pam/Digging, no struggles with enormous water harvesting projects like Bob of Draco, nor dramatic storm photos like Nature Sharing Diana or hopeful words about fall vegetable gardening like Renee & Iris & Katina or contest-winning photos like East Side Patch.

II loved Julie and Julia (the photo of the wonderful Meryl Streep is from @JulieandJulia on Twitter) but said not a word. A week slips past, and another - the neglected inside of the house gets attention, closets are rearranged, the Diva website is caught up, a book or two read, music put in written form, stuff tossed out. We hope for a shower to christen the rainbarrel. We're painting and shopping and hanging curtains and cooking as old movies play on Netflix.

Writing a blog post takes too long while jumping on Twitter takes 10 minutes, a simpler but more limited connection to other gardeners.
Then a post by Linda from Central Texas Garden made me laugh as she led a cheer for the heat, calling for just a few more days over 100°F so we can beat the record and hearing Linda's voice as I read made me want to speak. I took the camera out on Monday, planning to ease back in via Cindy's Through the Garden Gate. I missed that deadline, but Cindy didn't make it either! Annieinaustin, through back gateFrom the gate you can see what gets hand-watered - small trees, shrubs, plants that make flowers, fruit, seeds and nectar for bees and birds and butterflies. And what only gets the 'slop-over water' - the nearly dead grass away from the edges. Looking around the garden I've realized that most of the lambs ears are dead, the abutilon is gone, most of the callibrachoa croaked, as well as some of the sedums, some of the salvias and the native Texas betony, too.Annieinaustin,what livesFrom the other side of the triangle bed we can see that some Salvia coccinea are green and even the picky Blackfoot daisies look happyAnnieinaustin, lavender died In the same bed we don't see several Ex-lavenders, Ex-snapdragons, missing Balloon flowers and even native Ex-scutellarias. All the lavenders in the ground died but the very old 'Provence' lavender in the clay pot and cuttings from it in the hypertufa trough live and even bloom. A small 'Catawba' crepe myrtle is okay, the 'Mutabilis' rose isn't blooming but isn't dead, and the lived-over Jatropha integerrima/Spicy Jatropha is doing fine, with daily visits from hummingbirds.

Annieinaustin, blue plumbago Afternoon shade provided by the house wall wasn't enough to help the clematis but it let the blue Plumbago and Mother-of-Thousands thrive.Annieinaustin, pecan nuts and husks Do you see that seedling mixed in with the pecan debris? It's one of hundreds of invasive ligustrums sprouting in the beds and paths. I don't have any ligustrums, but they grow in all the yards surrounding mine. Native plants die while invasive ligustrum, Chinese tallow, nandina and Chinaberry stay green. Annieinaustin, wet chickadeeThe greenest spot on the lawn is under the birdbath - water is essential for the Chickadees Annieinaustin, black crested titmousefor the black crested titmouse who shows up every day and for the bees, wasps and all the other creatures who come here to drink Annieninaustin, housefinch Keeping the birds alive keeps me from giving up. I give water to the red house finches, water to the giant native sunflower and to the shrubs that make berries. I try to keep the hummingbird favorites alive. Shouldn't the cardinals, blue jays, gold finches, wrens, doves, grackles, hummingbirds and starlings recognize me as their friend by now? But no - they still only let me photograph them through the window. You'd think the squirrels would be grateful, too... Annieinaustin, shell tossing squirrelbut they'd rather toss pecan shells down on my head. Annieinaustin, dropped pecansSurvived August...check. Now the tiny tips of the Oxblood Lilies are poking up again, giving me hope we'll survive September. Annieinaustin, oxblood lilies emerge


  1. Good grief, your post brought it home to me (finally) how tough gardening can be in Austin Texas. That's quite a few casualties you have there Annie but I'm glad to see that many, many plants have survived.

    Over here it's cold and raining, it actually feels like Autumn today, very chilly (I'm wearing a thick cardigan today), which is nothing to blog home about. ;-)

    Keep watering the birds, they do appreciate it even if they don't show it. Yet!

  2. I am not surprised you lost your baloon plants. I can't keep them alive here in a good year. I do hope the weather breaks soon. Hang in there.

  3. How sad to lose so many plants. I'm so glad you have your fountain for the birds. I love the little chickadees!

    I haven't watered here at all this summer but thankfully we've had some rain. I have still lost a few things though.

    Hopefully some cooler weather will revive your garden and your spirit.

  4. So glad to have you back, Annie! The irony here is that my tomato plants are dying, apparently because we've had TOO much rain here this summer. And many of my annuals have given up, too, but because they live under the roof eaves, where apparently (duh) they don't get the rain to water them. Your feathered friends do appreciate your caring for them, even if they won't pose for you; I think you have your priorites straight. Wishing you a better--and wetter--September!

  5. I've missed your posts, Annie. I know you Tweet, but since I don't I rarely follow anyone else's. Your paragraph about your dead plants---your "ex-" this and "ex-" that---made me think of the old country song "All my exes live in Texas." I bet you could make a play on that for your YouTube collection! :-)

    I keep looking for signs of my oxblood lily transplants from my old garden, but I haven't seen any yet. I hope they come up soon. I need some flowers in my mostly green, increasingly populated by succulents, garden.

  6. Hi Yolanda - maybe if it were cold and wet I'd whinge instead of whine? It sounds like a loser year for people in northern climates, too. Cardigans! Eeek!

    Thanks, Lisa at Greenbow - the lost balloonflowers were newer plants bought here. But one clump in front came with me from IL as seedlings in 1999 - they look okay!

    We've had chickadees at all our houses, both in TX and IL, and I love them, too, Robin of Nesting Place - wow, a summer with no watering has to be weird! Hope you get some nice warm autumn days.

    Is there no happy medium anywhere this year, Prairie Rose? Oh, yes - the roof eave desert! An Illinois friend planted cactus under a south-facing eave and had great success!

    Thanks, Pam/Diggin - and I am impressed by your ability to make beautiful posts through everything!

    When MSS gave me the bulbs I experimented by planting a few in all kinds of exposures, sun, shade, front & back. They're visible in only a few places so far. Hope yours like the new garden!

    Thanks for coming back & commenting,


  7. Wow, it must be really hot to kill lavender. Well, summer's almost over. Can you get in another round of tomatoes before "winter"?

    I envy all your pretty bird visitors. All I have this year are sparrows, starlings. and blue jays.

  8. I miss those oxblood lilies since we moved farther north. Wishing you milder weather.

  9. I've been too exhausted by the heat and the drought to garden, photograph, OR write, so I totally understand. My "garden" shows it, too - only thing I'm gardening these days is bermuda grass. But I'm reveling in the slightly cooler temperatures and waiting patiently for fall to arrive.

  10. Annie, this is wonderful! I love the bird and squirrel pictures. And I really enjoyed spending a minute pretending to watch old movies with you while painting, organizing, and fluffing. Ahh! The dead plant pictures made me feel kinship, since there are a lot of blank holes where normally tough plants finally had to give up.

    I'm go glad that you decided to blog (even though it is a lot of work) because it reminds the rest of us that we're not alone!

  11. I hear you! I'm doing what I can to keep the important stuff alive, and making sure there's a nice place for birds. Otherwise, it's too depressing to be out there or even to think about the situation.

    After this summer I too, am hoping for just 3 more days of fiery heat so that we can beat that dang record and move on. Hopefully to a year with tons of rain. I'm praying to the weather gods to bring us a very kind El Nino!

  12. Yippee--you're back! Very much enjoyed this post and love the bird photos.

  13. Hi Annie! It was not much fun being here in Seattle this July either. It felt a little too much like TX! We hit 103 and not a drop of rain for weeks.

  14. All I've done this summer is wait for it to be over. Between the depressing nothingness of the yard right now and the ease of chatting to one another on Twitter, I find it difficult to post anything thoughtful. And when I do think of something to say, I discover I've written it all before. Apparently there are only so many things I can thing of to say about devastating drought and heat.

    I take refuge in movies and books, too. Glad we saw Julie and Julia together.

  15. Glad to see your post! We're all surviving and almost through it. Some plants didn't make it, but the others will bounce back. Despite the toll on the garden and my overall energy, the summer amazingly went by much faster than I expected. I think it was because it was my first summer with a garden to care for, and paying attention to it and garden blogging gave me something to do other than just dwelling on the miserable (which is what I did in the afternoons, haha).

  16. Hi, Annie in Austin,

    Like Robin's Nesting Place, I have not had to water this summer, except for the containers on the patio and porch. That is odd, even for us. We've been blessed with rain for the most part when we've needed it, and then some extra, too. The weatherman this morning said we had 8 days that were 90 or above this summer, and we should expect no more of those! I hope that you all do break the record for heat, quickly, and then that things improve dramatically for you. You all deserve it.

    And I like how you've prioritized your watering, taking into consideration the wildlife.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  17. At least lavender is easy to find and replace, ChuckB. You're right, I should try 2nd crop of tomatoes!

    Welcome Mothernaturesgarden - sorry you can't grow the Oxbloods, but bet you can grow the lilacs & tulips we can't! Thanks for the wishes -

    Rachel, you poor girl! I hope you get recharged and fall lives up to our expectations.

    Thank you so much, Linda/Central Texas Gardener - have a feeling if we get some rain and a cooldown, refilling the blank spaces could be fun. Your posts have been a gift to Central Texas gardeners this summer!

    Hello Mandi - love that you call yourself a 'Fabric Princess'... we made 100°F yesterday so one more to tie and another for the win!

    It's nice to hear this, Iris - and hope that fall garden is a winner for you.

    At least we have A/C here, Curmudgeon - my Seattle family had some tales of woe when that heat hit..does your house have ceiling fans? Also heard the tomatoes in Seattle are still green in spite of the hot summer!

    It was fun to see J & J with you, MSS @Zanthan Gardens and also fun to see it a second time with Philo... maybe talking about the movie should be a post, because another round of dead grass photos would not be fun!

    It's good to see gardeners like you ready to bounce, Meredith/GreatStems - and your blog is lovely!
    Wish I could believe that Central Texas will really break this cycle so I could move forward.
    Or maybe the mental exhaustion of trying to keep plants alive for 11 Texas Augusts in a row has fried my brain!

    No watering at all! That never happened in all my years in Illinois, Carol -simply can't imagine it!
    It only takes a few gallons to keep the birdbaths going - and the rewards are great and it seems much saner than wasting that water on grass in a hellstrip.

    Thanks for the comments,


  18. I really appreciate this post. I thought my plant deaths were due to my laziness/lack of gardening knowledge. Now I know it's happened to all of us, even the best!

  19. It's raining now! Hope you are getting some at your house!!

  20. I was wondering what you had been doing all summer annie. I loved Julie and Julia too. Could watch it again any day and I don't often say that about a movie. Like you I have lost many plants. Most of the ones I have left are the truly tough ones. I went out yesterday to get some rosemary. The bushes out front have had no water all summer and are yellowed and sick looking. I snipped some stems but didn't use them in the end as they just didn't smell good. The basil is strong too.
    I hope you got some rain last night. We had our first 4/10" Can't wait to get outside this morning and see if things have perked up. Surely the oxbloods will respond. I love your little birds. I am happy to see them coming to the bird bath and am leaving all the dead flowers so they can enjoy the seeds. Life will come back to your garden, I am sure, and with it your enthusiasm.

  21. Annie, I could have written your post--though not nearly as well. I too have lost many plants to the heat as well as my ability to do any gardening. We will survive! We will make it to October, and here's to El Nino, rain, and an early Fall!!!

  22. Although I can do lazy quite well, Vertie, maybe even being energetic couldn't have save our plants this year ;-]

    Good for you, Cargol - we ended up with not-quite 1/10 inch late Friday - none since then.

    If you've seen my latest post you know J&J became a bit of an obsession, Lancashire Rose!
    Like the lavender in pots, rosemary in pots is alive but not good in the ground. My new theory is that when we water and it's hot, the crappy clay holds the water just long enough to cook the roots. In the containers it drains before the sun/air can raise the temps?

    Thank you for that sweet compiment, Morning Glories in Round Rock - if nothing else, this summer is showing us which locations are the best and which plants are tough!


  23. Oh, Annie, your poor, dear garden. It will recover as will you once the death rays from that brilliant orb in the sky begin to lessen. I've actually prayed for rain for poor Austin this year and Houston too. We Okies understand that drought. We've had some years when we were afraid the well would truly run dry, and who can forget the dust bowl?

    I'll keep praying for intense moisture to fall from the sky.~~Dee

  24. Geez. I can understand why you didn't want to write about it - I know for the past few years, when we were in a drought, that going outside in August was just depressing. It's humbling. Hopefully cool breezes and some rain will head your way soon!

  25. Welcome back Annie...Isn't it wonderful when something totally unexpected re-excites our interest! Celebrating a record breaking heat wave is the best reframe I've heard in a long time! A good reason to smile! Watering the trees and shrubs that feed the critters and providing water for them perfect even for those pesky squirrels! gail

  26. Some Mondays I just can't make it through that garden gate ... I'm just now catching up on blogs and appreciated this post. It's helpful to hear what's struggling or not making it in other Texas gardens. My one balloon flower, which was a 50 cent clearance plant from Lowe's, is starting to look pretty puny. It made me feel better to read that you've had problems with them, too.

    I'm so glad Austinites got rain last week. I hope your garden got a good soaking!

  27. Guess you have a direct line, Dee of Red Dirt Ramblings - thank you! We've had some nice rain since this post was written... could you shift the request over to the area that feeds into Lake Buchanan? Our gardens are okay but the lakes aren't budging - down to 39% full.

    Maybe it would be less scary if I could be convinced this is not the new normal, Pam of SC? It's cool and damp today, at least!

    Hi Cindy - some balloon flowers died, some are fine. I've been growing them for decades but still don't know exactly what they want ;-]

    Thank you all,



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