About Me
My Photo
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.
View my complete profile

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Harold Angel

I belong to a sentimental kind of family - the kind that remembers loved-and-lost people, that revels in sharing images in old photos, in old home movies and on video, the kind of family that not only emails candid photos to each other on birthdays and anniversaries, but also has the birthdays & anniversaries of departed relatives marked on their current calendars.

Sometimes we remember those we loved by raising a glass to toast their memories. Sometimes we remember them in .... the kitchen. Does anyone else connect certain relatives with their favorite foods? We do! Oral history tells us that Grandma Kitty loved kidney stew, horseradish and coconut macaroons, Grandpa Jim ate a whole raw onion every night before dinner, Uncle George was a broccoli fan and the key to Uncle Ollie's heart was a big dish of stuffed peppers.

Beloved Uncle Harold's favorite pie was mince - so his wife, my piano-playing Aunt Helen, made sure that a mincemeat pie was always included in the holiday desserts - a choice that was soundly rejected by the kids in my generation. Luckily for us, Harold's other favorite pie was banana cream - one we were happy to share. His December birthday plus St Nicholas Day plus Christmas also confused us into thinking that Herald Angels were Harold Angels.... not too far off the truth! He died a long time ago, but some years I find myself making a banana cream pie on my uncle's birthday and thinking about him.

Harold grew up in Chicago, second son in a big family. His dad had a furniture finishing shop where Harold learned to like making furniture as a hobby... as a young man he worked in the office of a big furniture company, falling like a rock once he saw my cute little aunt -the feeling was mutual. Annieinaustin, H&H w carHarold's generosity and courtesy soon made the whole family love him. A few years after they were married, the Second World War separated them, and Harold served with the Army Air Corps (forerunner of the US Air Force) in the Mariana Islands where he worked on the cameras of reconnaissance planes. He contracted malaria, returning to the US many months after the war ended.Annieinaustin,Harold in Marianas

With no children of their own, Helen & Harold shared love and worldly goods with the children of their brothers and sisters. They were wonderful godparents! Annieinaustin, experienced godparentsHarold bought a 16mm home movie camera to record family parties and the antics of the youngsters... and this attention made more than two dozen nieces and nephews feel special, and as time went on it was hilarious to watch ourselves grow up when the projector came out for movie shows. We saw Helen and Harold at least once a week when we were growing up, but he was usually behind the camera - not in front of it, so we don't have enough photos of him.

Aunt Helen and Uncle Harold hosted family picnics at their small, perfect cottage on a large lot - with landscaping that he designed, planted and maintained - even letting a small, flower-loving niece believe she was helping.Annieinaustin, gardening with uncle HHarold's post-war work was in textbook publishing - and that lead to a perk for us! The display books from the office were nicely bound outside but with blank pages inside. They were replaced periodically and he passed along the outdated models. Having real books in which to draw & write our thoughts let us pretend we were real writers and artists.Annieinaustin, Harold at desk
Helen's piano was replaced by a Hammond Organ - she delighted in leading family singalongs. Once the group stopped singing and began talking, Harold would take a turn on the bench - coaxing a different set of melodies from the keys as background music for the conversation. How I wish for a recording of even one song!

The old camera was replaced around the time the older nieces and nephews traded dolls and baseball bats for mortar boards and bridal veils - now Uncle Harold was ready to film the great-nieces and great-nephews , traveling to see the younger generations as they set up housekeeping in distant suburbs and other states. There's the camera in his hand below - outside our rickety student dwelling. They drove 1000 miles to see us, and acted as if they were visiting a palace instead of a dump, complimenting our newlywed culinary experiments as if they were dining in a fine restaurant. That's the kind of gentleman he was. Annieinaustin, H & H w camera
Harold died too young - long before retirement age - breaking the hearts of all he left behind. Many years later as we ring in 2011, gone is not forgotten... in this Christmas season, you are still our Harold Angel!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for December 2010

It's time for the December GBBD -our traditional monthly roundup of what's in flower, started by MayDreams Carol almost four years ago. I took time off from baking and shopping to take a few pictures because December has been pretty nice here in Austin! The photos may show you how different the light is now with most pecan leaves down in back, and with the leaves of the Arizona ash trees in front now turning from green to gold. (Many of the photos will expand if clicked.)

Repeated light freezes have killed off many of the October and November flowers - the Blackfoot daisies and cosmos, the peppers and basil, the mistflowers and moonflowers, the evolvolus and Mexican Mint marigolds, the Blue Butterfly clerodendron, the tips and leaves of 'Pam's Pink' turkscap and all but two species of salvia are done. Most of the view seems green, brown and straw-colored. Annieinaustin,Back yard in December
The larger showy flowers are gone, but if you go in closer there are small delights scattered over front and back and side gardens. 'Marilyn's Choice' Abutilon lost a few flowers to freezes, but the plant has new buds developing

Annieinaustin, Marilyn's choice abutilonThe Camellia sasanqua 'Shishi Gashira' that was beginning to open a month ago is now reaching the end - but what a show it put on!
Annieinaustin,Camellia sasanqua shishi gashira
The pink camellia was a 1-gallon starter plant in 2005. Next to it is another camellia - a japonica called 'Morning Glow'. It's been in this container just over a year, bought November 2009 all budded and ready to go. 'Morning Glow' is budded again - today opening the first flower of 2010.
Annieinaustin, camellia morning glowAround the corner in the Secret Garden is the shrimp plant seen last month, with even more flowers. I tried to take a photo that would show you where the name came from:

Annieinaustin, Shrimp plantNow back to the patio where the Loquat still blooms against a blue sky
Annieinaustin, Loquat bloom in DecemberAnd the Pineapple sage has somehow remained unharmed and in bloom after at least 5 nights with temperatures well below 32°F. Annieinaustin, Salvia elegansThe summer flowers are gone from the hanging basket on the patio, along with the coir liner - picked to pieces by birds. To plant these black pansies, I had to improvise with plastic screening and old pieces of artificial pine garland. Annieinaustin, black pansies hanging basketThe Rosemary Birdbath Fountain has two Rosemarys blooming around it.. the upright which blooms whiteAnnieinaustin, Rosemary Birdbath FountainAnd the prostrate rosemary which blooms blueAnnieinaustin, blue rosemary flowersOne of the nearby patio containers has a 'Mutabilis' rose - not exactly in bloom, but definitely in budAnnieinaustin, mutabilis rosebud
In another nearby container a 'Provence' lavender defies the frosts with a few flowers, the tallest wand seen here with the triangle beds and long fence bed in the background. Annieinaustin, triangle & long fence bed in DecemberThe long fence bed has a few blooms - one bud on the 'Julia Child' roseAnnieinaustin, Julia Child rosebudAnd a trio of colorful blossoms closer to the gate: yellow Salvia madrensis, orange flowers on the fresh green-leaved Mexican Honeysuckle, and more orange from the cuphea, its leaves turned bronze with coldAnnieinaustin, madrensis,cuphea,justiciaA glance at the Tropical milkweed with blue plumbago at its feet Annieinaustin, Asclepias curasavicaand we're out the gate, walking over to the bright pink Gaura in full bloom and the pink skullcaps with a few flowers brightening the Pink Entrance Garden. Annieinaustin, pink gauraThe central butterfly bed in front is pretty quiet from the sidewalk side, right now - but from the house side it's very colorful Annieinaustin, birdbath with leonatusPurple creeping lantana and a few unfrozen Blackfoot daisies combine well with the finally-in-bloom Lion's Tail plant. Here's a closer look at the flowers- it's only marginal in my far NW Austin area so each look may be the last! Annieinaustin, lion's tail plantLet's go to the front door - a couple of plants have flowers inside, too. I've had four plants of Schlumbergera/Holiday cactus for quite awhile. This year the peachy pink one is already in bloom near the dining room window. Two more plants in other colors are budded but the fourth plant is having an off-year. This window gets some light... but no real sun.

Five florist Cyclamen look quite content in a brass planter on the tabletop. Annieinaustin, cyclamen & holiday cactus
The breakfast room window gets the strongest sun so it's jammed full of overwintering plants. The four-year-old 'Fantasia Salmon' geranium blooms next to a 'Black Pearl' pepper popped out of the triangle bed before the first frost a couple of weeks ago. Annieinaustin, salmon geranium w Black Pearl pepperMother of Thousands, a plant in the Kalanchoe family, grows in pots on the patio for summer. The bigger plants often freeze and die but a few babies live over to keep the strain going. If a plant has buds it gets a space inside before the first frost Here's this year's winner of the Bay Window lottery. Annieinaustin, Bryophyllum daigremontianum

Carol's post and links to many garden blogs is found here at the May Dreams garden Blog.

Better get back to baking... some day the complete list of what's in bloom (with botanical names) will appear on Annie's Addendum. Hope your December is going well!

Edited Dec 19 - List of all in bloom in December is up on Annie's Addendum.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Little Fall Color for Thanksgiving

This post has few words - just photos of the Oakleaf Hydrangea looking good in its first autumn in Texas soil Annieinaustin, Oakleaf Hydrangea

and another look at the 'Marilyn's Choice' Abutilon...a plant that grew large but bloomed little since spring. Annieinaustin, Marilyn's choice abutilonThe buds began to form on the abutilon almost as soon as the first leaves fell from the pecan tree, which may be a sign that its spot is too shady.

Whatever the trigger, this Abutilon is now covered in flowersAnnieinaustin, Abutilon,camera test, Face recognition
just in time for freeze warnings on Friday.Annieinaustin, Abutilon Marilyn's choice
This is the abutilon's first year in my garden- can Marilyn keep blooming after a freeze?)Annieinaustin,Marilyn's Choice abutilon in November

The fig tree made a small, late crop following the 12" rain in September. These 3 figs are almost ripe. Shall I pick them now or take a chance on a freeze?
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you from Philo & Annie

Monday, November 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for November 2010

The monthly recording by Garden Bloggers of what's in bloom in our yards was started by May Dreams Carol in February 2007. It became an instant tradition, letting us share our garden flowers while acting as a useful tool to keep track of how the plants we grow act in different years.

Many dependable plants will make a fourth appearance in this November GBBD post. But there are downsides to keeping records... a glance back shows what is not here - cold January 2010 weather killed the Duranta, defeated the Confederate Rose and disappeared every bit of the yellow bulbine, a plant that had grown so exuberantly in 2009 it was thinned and divisions were given away.

With records to tell me what to expect, should I now feel cheated because the usual November bloomers didn't flower? Woe, woe, for the spindly Passion vine, the struggling Brugmansia and what remains of the Toad lily! The roses are 'resting' and the Sweet Olives are off schedule. There is not one Meyer's lemon for Thanksgiving cranberry relish? No fair!

Annieinaustin, Meyer lemons for relish

Enough of the whining - one advantage of being a plantaholic is that no matter how many plants bail on bloom day - something will have flowers:

It's ironic to see the Camellia 'Shishi Gashira', beautifully budded and with glossy foliage after a year that knocked off plants more suited to Central Texas.

Annieinaustin, Camellia Shishi Gashira
The Loquat tree is also well-budded, now opening the first flowers - so even without the Sweet Olive's fragrance, November smells sweet.Annieinaustin, loquat buds
Just a breeze across the leaves can make the Pineapple sage release scent, too. One plant grows in the Hummingbird bed.. this one is near the Blue Butterfly Clerodendron on the patio. Pineapple sage seldom lives through winter but it's usually easy to find starts in spring. Replacements for blue Clerodendron are hard to find and expensive. After helping me find this large potted Blue Butterfly, Robin told me that cuttings root easily. I've taken her advice and have rooted a few pieces to grow indoors as insurance that blue butterflies will float over my garden next year. Annieinaustin, Pineapple sage and Blue Butterfly Clerodendron

Salvia regla would prefer life on a rocky hillside in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend, but it survived the 12" deluge from Hermine in September and has been popping orange flowers for weeks. Most sites call it a shrub, but it freezes back so hard in my garden that it never attains much size.
Annieinaustin, Salvia regla, mountain sage

More orange and yellow come from Tropical Milkweed/Asclepias curassavica and Mexican Mint Marigold. The milkweed doesn't always survive winter but usually reseeds somewhere nearby. The Mexican Mint marigold/Tagetes lucida, has been perennial in my garden since 2004.

Annieinaustin, Mexican Mint Marigold & Tropical Milkweed
A paler yellow color comes from the Salvia madrensis/Forsythia sage, seen here leaning onto the Mexican Honeysuckle/Justicia spicigeraAnnieinaustin, Salvia madrensis

I've grown Moon Flower vine/Ipomoea alba for decades but don't remember buds and flowers in mid-November - they look defiant against yesterday's grey afternoon sky
Annieinaustin, Moonflower vine bud in November

Because two plants of Ageratina havanensis survive & bloom in the front yard, a third plant of the native fragrant mistflower went into the yaupon bed this spring, mingling with Salvia vanhouttei. The salvia is pretty tender but the mistflower should return.Annieinaustin, Ageratina havanensis
The pink gaura looked horrible in late summer... a severe pruning and cooler weather produced intensely colored flowersAnnieinAustin, Rose pink gaura
The pot of 'Provence' lavender started blooming in May and hasn't given up. Neither has the Evolvolus 'Blue Daze'. These plants don't do well when planted in my clay soil but they can do well in containersAnnieinaustin, lavender and Blue daze evolvolus

If we can avoid a freeze for a few more weeks, these tiny peppers might make it to the kitchen. Annieinaustin, peppers in November
All the above blooms have made previous November appearances - but this is the first November for some new plants.

'Marilyn's Choice' Abutilon was a 1-ft tall rooted cutting when I planted in the new yaupon bed last spring. It made a few flowers, then turned to branching and growing into a gawky shrub. This abutilon looked like a big weed all summer, not reblooming until now. The flowers are not thrilling me but watching them develop is interesting. Annieinaustin, Marilyn's Choice abutilonI planted another plant in the mallow family, Pam's Pink Turkscap/Malvaviscus 'Pam Puryear' in the same bed. It also grew into a large, gawky, branched plant that looked like a weed as summer waned. It had a few pink flowers at the beginning of November but they're gone for GBBD.

After planting the 'Marilyn's Choice', I hedged my bets by moving the other small abutilon into a container so at least one of them could be taken in or covered in cold weather. The second abutilon was just called 'Patrick's', but Linda of the Central Texas Gardener TV show let me know it's named after Central Texas garden designer Patrick Kirwin. This plant never branched but steadily produced one lovely flower at a time on an ever-taller stalk. Annieinaustin, Patrick Kirwin abutilon

The Shrimp plant/Justicia brandegeana was planted in late spring. It opened a few flowers, then looked stressed. Apparently what it wanted was relocation! Instead of trusting the gardener to catch on the Shrimp plant grew an elongated stalk, leaned that stalk onto the ground, rooted it at the end and sent up a healthier plant 2-feet away from the spot I'd chosen. The flowers do look like seafood, don't they?Annieinaustin, Shrimp plant
Lion's Tail is another new plant that resented being planted this year, not growing at all for months. After Hermine is perked up, grew steadily and now has buds. But we're getting close to average frost date and it's only borderline hardy in my part of Austin - any bets on whether these buds will open before the plant freezes?

A final November bow by a newcomer is made by the miniature climbing rose 'Red Cascade' rose, described as a miniature climbing rose. It wasn't planted until midsummer and I don't know how it will do longterm, but how good it is to see in bloom on this November day. Annieinaustin, Red Cascade climbing miniature rose

For a bloom-tour around the world go to Carol's November GBBD Roundup.

For my list of everything that has a flower, with my best tries at botanical names, go to Annie's Addendum