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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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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Snow Big Deal

It's a Snow Day in Austin - just these few inches of large fluffy flakes have sent the town into a tizzy and sent me to the photo archives... snow makes me nostalgic and it triggers my record-keeping instincts.

This is what we called snow in Illinois! I liked shoveling smaller snowfalls, but it was tough clearing 20" from our drive and walk in January 1999

Then we moved to our first house in Texas where this February 25, 2003 sifting was also called snow

We might have missed the few inches that fell in the middle of the night on February 14, 2004 but a 2AM phone call took us out on the roads...slushy snow, steep hills and road surfaces built for warm weather combined to give us an exciting ride

In December 2008 a thin layer covered the drive, grass and car - enough to make Sleetman a hit on Twitter!

Look fast and you might think you're looking at snow... look close and you'll see it was the destructive March 25, 2009 hail - resulting in billions over $160 Million dollars in damage (and a new roof for Annie & Philo).

Can the 16th largest city in the US can handle today's snowfall without too many problems? I sure hope so - want to enjoy these decorative February flakes without guilt

Here are 14 seconds of the fountain in the snow - listen for the birds!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

GBBD, GBBC & Foliage: A Portmanteau Post

Apparently Valentine's Day, Chinese New Year and the 2010 Winter Olympics weren't enough for one weekend so we're also observing Garden Bloggers Bloom Day with May Dreams Carol, Foliage Follow-up with Pam/Digging and the Great Backyard Bird Count with Cornell University's Ornithology Lab.

In the race for available time an extensive genealogy-photo project for Valentine's Day took Gold, watching Moguls and Pairs Skating got the Silver and the Great Backyard Bird Count won Bronze... with just a few photos of Spring trying to come to Austin, Texas for Pam & Carol.


Some of the usual suspects appeared during the times I kept watch for the Great Backyard Bird Count, but the Chickadees hid and it was surprising to see only one White-Winged Dove. If the Cedar Waxwings would come to the fountain we could see their faces better but these seasonal visitors swoop into the neighbors' yards for Waxleaf Ligustrum berries, then perch high overhead in the pecan trees making all my photos look like this
The numbers weren't very high for this count - lower than what I see on many a non-counting day - I think the strong winds encouraged the birds to hide in the large old evergreens all over my neighborhood for much of the weekend. I know they were just out of sight on the other side of the fence! Will our shrubs ever grow big enough to provide the thicket they crave in my garden?


Most of the flowers are reruns from last month - both white-flowering upright and blue-flowering trailing Rosemarys are blooming, the Carolina Jessamine opens flowers that sometimes freeze, but the hundreds of buds ensure they'll keep coming

The oldest Camellia japonica kept its buds, but 'Pius IX' is not supposed to be striped! That's freeze damage.

The early paperwhites froze at 13 in January, but the 'Grand Primo' narcissus aren't bothered by the lighter freezes

Out in the parking strip some daffodils blaze yellow

'Woodstock' Hyacinths planted in 2007 have returned - opened on their stalks near the brick wall of the Secret Garden

but just showing florets in the more exposed Pink Entrance Garden.

The Dianthus 'Telstar Hybrids' are opening flowers again - they'd be annuals if I had them in the ground, but in well-drained containers can go on for years.

This winter-planted Pansies is now blooming on a shepherd's hook near the big loquat. The loquat tree is fine, but most of the small fruits were frozen and the few still attached don't seem to be developing.

The Coral Honeysuckle did not get a swelled head over being the star of last month's music video, just buckled down to replace the frozen foliage and keeps pumping out flowers. Against the sky on the other side of the arch the Lady Banks Rose is also beginning to releaf.

The weather was beautiful at midday when we drove down to the rather new Sunday HOPE Farmers Market on Sunday - bumping into friends made it even better. Philo liked the Four Onion Soup from one vendor and I had terrific Ricotta-Spinach pie from Me Myself & Pie. After buying vegetables we decided a stroll at Zilker Botanical Gardens would be perfect for Valentine's Day.

For Foliage Follow-up come walk the Bamboo Path with us and listen to that rustling sound. Most of the bamboos looked okay, some palms were frozen, others fine, and there were very few flower buds developing on the Texas Mountain Laurels.

Many of the water features were drained for cleaning and sealing but turtles sunned and koi flashed in this pond while children ran and squealed on every path

Eventually we wandered over to the Hartman Prehistoric Garden and found drained ponds and work-in-progress there, too. That palm tree was hit hard by cold!

This year has not been kind to cycads either - wherever we go browned Sago Palms show how cold it's been - but I'd hoped that the more sheltered and protected location of Zilker Park would have made a difference. The bases of the plants above still hold some green - maybe they'll survive but how can they ever regain their perfect form and magnificence? This garden will never be the same.

Other cycads look dead and their bronze color has a weird beauty.

I keep the camera near the breakfast room window, hoping for new birds. The official bird count may be over but trying to catch images of the winged visitors is a game that never stops -And trying to keep the many wandering neighborhood cats from reducing those bird count numbers is another game with no end....hey, you lurking in the garden - go home!

Ed 5:19PM - forgot to include Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras and Lithuanian Independence Day in that list, along with Westminster Dog Show as Linda notes...now trying to think up a menu that combines Lithuanian & Louisiana cuisine! Also - thanks very much to Mikael Behrens' Birding on Broadmeade website for help with bird ID's

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Great Houseplant Census of 2010

Mr McGregor's Daughter has suggested a mid-winter diversion - to number and share the houseplants currently in captivity in our dwellings. I'm granting myself a lot of permissions here - #1 is permission to be late! #2 is to count anything that's within the walls for the winter, including some stuff in the garage. #3 is to call everything by its common name instead of trying to hunt down the botanical one.

Our house was built in the late 1970's, with overhangs and a veranda to keep out the sun's heat rather than let its light shine in on leaves. Most of my plants are crowded into the bay window in the breakfast room. In a few feet of space you'll find:
2 water-filled bottles with rooting pieces from an ornamental chartreuse potato vines
1 small cactus from my niece some years ago
2 pots filled with Alligator Plant/Mother of Thousands from DivaAnnie
1 Thanksgiving cactus
1 Thai lime
2 Jade Plants
1 half-dead Pothos
1 Allspice plant - found on an expedition with MSS
1 cyclamen in full bloom
1 Meyer's Lemon tree
2 stapelia plants
1 amaryllis just finishing bloom
3 amaryllis not yet waked up
2 rooted cuttings of Cuban Oregano and
1 rooted cutting of some kind of succulent from Diva Mindy (think she said Donkey's Ears?)
1 badly-treated bonsai fig won in a drawing years ago and
1 salmon geranium that saves many a bloom day.
1 Haworthia does well here -
2 others are not so happy in the nearby laundry room window. Think that adds up to 27 in the kitchen area.

Out in the garage are 1 Mexican Lime, 3 plumerias and 1 piece of plumeria hopefully making roots, 1 more Stapelia/Starfish Flower and 1 Sambac Jasmine.

1 Shell Ginger still has leaves in the garage - it would have died to the ground this year outside. There's 1 small rooted piece of the Angel's Trumpet Brugmansia hiding behind it, bringing us to 36 plants.

Under the skylight in the living room there's 1 large red ceramic bowl that currently holds a ratty looking peace lily rescued from a big box home store. On the other end of the bookcase is 1 large basket of mixed houseplants... the kind you bring home after a funeral and do your best to keep alive.

On a shelf in the bedroom there's just enough light to keep yet 1 more piece of Stapelia/Starfish flower and 1 start of Kalanchoe (also from Diva Mindy) going.

In the guest room 3 more Thanksgiving Cactus hope for an errant sunbeam before the Arizona Ashes releaf. 43?

In the dining room a Staghorn fern pouts and I wonder if it would do better in the cold - instead of counting to 44 I should open the door and put it out on the veranda! Wait - on the other side of the room I forgot an aspidistra/Cast iron plant that also spends time on the porch, and yet 1 more Stapelia. All the Stapelia plants are rooted pieces from a single plant my Aunt Phyll gave me about 1987 or 1988. So I guess that's 46 pots of plants, although some of them have multiple plants in one pot.

If Mr McGregor's Daughter hadn't asked us to count our houseplants would I have noticed that this cactus turned red because its spot against the window glass was very cold in January?

Without her idea would I have thought to not only snap a photo of the venerable original Jade Plant from the front as we see it every day....

but also to pull out the stand and turn it around to capture the cool way the Jade branches have cascaded toward the light? Thanks MMD! The Jade plant has moved with us from house to house and from state to state, ever since we bought it at one of the greenhouses attached to Hausermann's Orchids in Villa Park, Illinois. I don't know if they sell anything but orchids now, but back in the early 197o's Hausermann's had aisles and aisles of houseplants and my sister & I especially liked to walk through and breathe the warm misty air in winter. One fine day about 1974, this Jade Plant came home with me.