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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, January 28, 2010

Lose Some, Win Some

This post, "Lose Some, Win Some ", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

ED Jan 29: Looking into the back garden at house #3 Illinois - mid-1990's

Winter in Illinois meant -15°F/-26°C, shoveling snow, chopping ice and growing a garden full of dormant plants. Eleven winters in Austin have taught me to expect occasional snow, some spectacular ice storms, occasional dips to the 20's and have taught me that many marginal plants will make it through with a little help from a gardener. It's unlearning time when January 2010 brings the coldest temperatures in decades.

Some of the effects of the 13°F/10.5°C measured in my garden won't show up for months - some of the editing was sudden, but the garden will change and this blog will help me remember what happens.

Although the loss of perennials also means the opportunity to try new ones, I'm grateful that the deep cold barely touched the Green Bones of the garden. So far the evergreen yaupon hollies and Burford hollies, the loquats and sweet olives, live oaks and Southern wax myrtles and 'Little Gem' magnolia, the boxwoods and Mexican oreganos, the camellias and roses and abelias, the Pineapple guavas, Magnolia figo/Banana shrub, Dwarf Myrtles, Buddhist Pine/Podocarpus, Bay laurels, Gregg's salvias, cast iron plants and sturdy evergreen vines of Star Jasmine seem fine. The Carolina Jessamine vine didn't even lose its buds.
Another cold front is on the way now, poised to banish the balmy 63°/17°C of the last weeks so the 25°F/3.8°C can return. It's time to once again cover tender plants and move others from the patio back inside the garage. But there are fewer plants to worry about this time - any lingering annuals and most of the marginal plants have bailed!

After that hard weekend some plants died immediately. A warm house wall and layers of covering couldn't save the African aloes - their gel-filled leaves felt like water balloons, collapsing when temperatures rose. This Aloe vera and skullcap huddled side-by-side under the layers against the wall - that was enough protection to keep the pot of Scutellaria indica 'Dorota Blue' looking fresh and green but the Aloe has collapsed.

Obviously dead was the Zone 9 Mexican flame vine, an iffy choice when it was planted on the new trellis last fall. After 15-seconds of mourning it was replaced by the Ramona clematis blooming in its holding container since 2007.

Many plants died to the ground - there's no sign that the Duranta erecta, the cupheas, the Mexican honeysuckle, the Blue butterfly clerodendron, the tall yellow Brugmansia/Angel Trumpet or the Milkweeds/Asclepias curassavica will have enough strength to resprout from the base. I don't know how far the chill entered the ground - if it went down a few inches even normally hardy salvias and the southern bulbs like canna, calla, amaryllis, rainlilies, agapanthus or the Butterfly Gingers in the open borders may be dead. If the Amarcrinums don't live I won't be one bit philosophical about the loss!

Many plants, especially the Texas plants, have dropped leaves but the stems are flexible so they'll probably survive - defoliating now are the Texas sage/Cenizo, native wisteria and all three Barbados cherries (largest one seen above). Semi-evergreen non-natives like roses and dwarf pomegranates have dropped leaves, too and the native Silver Ponyfoot/Dichondra argentea has died back in large sheets to a few places where the silver grey leaves are alive.

The larger Meyer's Lemon tree also had special covering and and lights. It didn't look too bad at first, then the leaves started curling. Last weekend the lemon leaves turned brown and started falling. I'll cover it again tonight and turn on the lights, hoping that green stems mean the tree can recover.

Covering won't help several dead-looking palm trees or the bicolor iris or the bulbines. Just in case they're not dead I'm crossing my fingers and leaving most of those plants alone for now. The clump of bulbines above were dug out for another reason - they'd taken over a space earmarked for a pomegranate tree.

Some fall-planted cilantro didn't care about the cold but I was surprised to see that smaller bluebonnet and larkspur seedlings were missing after the freeze.

Apparently some seeds were still underground - a few bluebonnets, the larkspur above and more cilantro germinated and popped up after the freeze.

Every border, front and back, has a sprinkling of Verbena bonariensis seedlings eager to fill in blank spots.

Birds eat berries from the Wax-leafed Ligustrum in my neighbors' yards and drop the seeds here. This Asian invader wasn't bothered by a mere 13F so I've pulled hundreds of these seedlings.

The new white camellia 'Morning Glow' lost a few buds, then opened others with brown edges. The rose pink Camellia japonica never opened its buds but hasn't dropped them.

All three Sweet Olive shrubs have pushed off the frozen brown buds and popped a new set of fragrant flowers.

The Loropetalum AKA Chinese Witch Hazel AKA "Razzle Dazzle" is defying whatever weather comes next.

Ranunculus bulbs are pushing up leaves all over the garden. I grow a few every year and they look much more robust with rain and cooler temperatures than in the last couple of years.

Inside the house a Smith & Hawken Amaryllis blooms on the windowsill. This doesn't look one bit like the picture of 'Apple Blossom' on the label but it's a winner.

This post, "Lose Some, Win Some ", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Garden Blogger Bloom Day, January 2010

When the amaryllis bud refused to unfold and the rain pelted down, I thought January Garden Bloom Day was a wash. But inspiration hit after I took the camera and an umbrella outside.

Just under the wire, here's my parody tribute to the great Fats Waller for May Dreams Carol and Blooming Day:

It's only 90 seconds but Philo and I fit in a lot of photos - we hope you enjoy it!

Go to Carol's blog for the January Garden Bloggers Bloom Day Roundup.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

How Low Can They Go

My friend Pam/Digging recently made a great post for a regional gardening roundup of writers, all celebrating the kind of garden designs that emphasize what makes a region of the country unique - those styles, materials, plants and way of blending with existing landscape that makes sure no one will mistake a Texas gardens for one in New England or Alabama or even California. In a modest way I'm using these ideas in my front garden and parking strip.

But while I love the Austin in my garden - cherishing those yaupons and native plants - to look out every window at a garden grounded too strongly in Central Texas would feel claustrophobic. There are so many other places that hold my heart, so many beautiful plants that I've loved, so many years of gardening elsewhere, so much history.

What Philo & I have here isn't a reflection of the State in which we find ourselves at present, but a contrived world fitted together with pieces of our past, hints at other places we've lived, places we always wanted to see, of the areas our ancestors lived and the regions where our grown children and sisters and brothers now live. Moving to zone 8 meant I could finally grow plants beloved by garden writers like Miss Elizabeth Lawrence, Allen Lacy and Henry Mitchell In an attempt to connect with my mentors' worlds, a Magnolia and a Banana Shrub, Crinums and Loropetalums, Camellias and Myrtles were invited to live here.

I don't know which of the four previous owners of our house planted the boxwood and have no idea if they chose it for a special reason or just because it's common and available. What I do know is to that to me a Box Hedge was the stuff of historical romance, the bones of a classic old garden. I was shocked when my Austin friends suggested ripping them out! There were Bridal wreath spiraeas and Abelias scattered around the yard, and I kept them, too - enjoying their resemblance to shrubs that bloomed in my grandmother's garden, at my parents' house, and at three of our Illinois homes. I've allowed sentimental additions of daylilies, a gardenia, Weigela, my beloved clematis, Rose of Sharon, outdoor amaryllis and Siberian iris, while pushing the zone boundaries with marginally hardy Meyer's Lemon, Blue Butterfly Clerodendrum, Firecracker plant, Mexican Honeysuckle, Jasmines, Angel's Trumpet/Brugmansia, Duranta, Fan Palms and Evergreen Wisteria/Milletia. I took a chance on less hardy Central Texas plants like Barbados Cherries.

Last summer's heat and drought followed by wet weather knocked off some plants, including native scutellarias and salvias and some passalong heirlooms like phlox, corkscrew willow and a mock orange brought from Illinois in 1999.

This weekend may be the last one for other marginal plants as Central Texas experiences the lowest temperatures in many years. It appears my NW area of Austin dipped to 13F overnight, with another cold night to come. We had to unplug the bird-watering fountain to keep the motor from burning out. This morning John Dromgoole reminded us that with defrost, we'll become familiar with the scent of cold-slimed plants as they decompose.

Pam/Digging, Diana and MSS of Zanthan have already posted about Aloes & Agaves in danger. Unlike my friends, I'm not worried about agaves and aloes - the horrendous hailstorm of last March reduced my plants to a few pups. Obviously less hardy plants like Plumerias, Variegated Ginger, potted lemon, potted Mexican Lime, stapelias & Sambac Jasmine were moved indoors.My concern now is for plants that are supposed to do well here - the rosemary plants, the loquats, the Barbados Cherries and abelias, the star Jasmine and Coral Honeysuckle, the pomegranates and figs and the exposed flower buds of Texas Mountain laurel.

It will be a bad day if we lose the garden dreams along with the frozen plants.
And what happens if the plants that come through best are the ones we like to poke fun at? What if along with Steve Bender's "Cockroaches playing beneath a Trumpet vine" the survivors are the boring and potentially invasive Ligustrums & Privets, Photinias, Nandinas, Japanese Honeysuckle, Asiatic Jasmine and Bermuda grass? Now that would really be a bummer.