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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, November 17, 2011

November Bloom Day - Expected and Unexpected

Written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose blog

There's a complete list of blooms for November 15th (along with more photos) over at my Annie's Addendum blog. Please take a look! I did my best with the botanical names but I'm not a botanist - let me know if you think something is wrong.

Spot watering/hand watering has kept quite a few things alive in spite of drought and heat. The almost-3 inches of rain that fell on October 9 helped the shrubs and the cooler weather has helped everything - including the gardeners.
Annieinaustin, monarch and abelia
A few weeks ago the Abelias began blooming and suddenly Monarch butterflies appeared. Now the Monarchs have moved on and the A-Bee-Lias bloom for another kind of winged insect
annieinaustin Bee on abelia
Their flowers are lovely whenever they appear but that bees will love them is expected.

Another lovely thing is the Loquat tree, mostly recovered from bad freeze damage last winter, and just beginning to open its fragrant flowers.Annieinaustin loquat blooming
That scent now says Thanksgiving to me, so it's not unexpected in November but after the hailstorms, flood, deep cold, extreme heat and unprecedented drought it's experienced in the last couple of years, I'm grateful that the scent of the loquat still floats on the air.

What is unexpected is to see bluebonnets with buds in November. Apparently some seeds had sprouted in late winter or early spring but were immediately overshadowed by the nearby seedlings of Cosmos. The bluebonnets lurked underneath the jungle of tall orange cosmos leaves and stems, only revealing themselves when that generation of cosmos died off so a new crop could start. My neighborhood has only had a light frost so far - it will be interesting to see whether this flower will be able to bloom blue or if it will freeze.Annieinaustin,November bluebonnet buds
The usual milkweed grown in Illinois was the orange perennial Asclepias tuberosa. I've tried that here with no luck. So a few years ago I planted the tropical milkweed, Asclepias curassavica , and now it is a reseeding annual in my garden. Seeds often sprout in inconvenient places so some are pulled up, but I always let a handful grow on to bloom with colorful yellow petals & red-orange sepals. This month there are many flowers on four plants but there seems to be something unusual about the sepals. Although I can't remember them being anything but solid red-orange in previous years, this year all four plants display white blotches on some of the sepals.
Annieinaustin, white sepals tropical milkweed
Darned if I know why... they seem to be opening solid first and then the white streak shows up. Has anyone else seen these white marks on tropical milkweed? Does anyone know why it happens?
Annieinaustin white sepals asclepias curassavicaAfter you've checked out the list on the Addendum you can find more than 125 gardens linked to May Dreams Carol for November Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day August 2011

My original intention was to ignore May Dreams Garden's GBBD for this month - here in Austin we've had 62 days over 100 degrees F - just a few days from the record. Rain is just a memory and the few plants with flowers seemed to be the same ones that appeared in July - so what was the point? But then on Saturday a Texas Star Hibiscus that I'd been babying along rewarded me with one bright red flower

I stubbornly held out... then this morning I noticed an open flower on a Stapelia gigantea plant that I'd moved to a semi-sunny spot on the patio. I took the pot to the patio table for a closer look - not just one flower but with 2 more budsI couldn't ignore this! My current herd of Stapelia plants descend from one given to me by my Aunt Phyllis over 20 years ago. "Herd" may not be the official collective noun for Stapelia, but doesn't it seem appropriate for members of the Milk-weed family? Stapelias are container plants here - our winters will kill them if they're left outside. Carrion flower is another name - the meaty scent draws flies.

The Blue Butterfly clerodendron bloomed for July GBBD - but the BLUE is a transient characteristic now, rather than a permanent attribute. Look how bleached the blooms become in this intense sun: The little annual native Zinnia linearis (or if you prefer, Zinnia angustifolia) have been in bloom only because I handwater them. The grass is not so lucky.I also water a container of 'Sun Gold' tomatoes - soaking it well every day. The runoff seeps into the ground, ending up in the roots of the native Sunflower just below the container, keeping the flowers and seedheads in production for the finches.
A similar relationship has developed under this not-quite-established 'Zuni' crepe myrtle, put in last winter with hopes it will someday shade the breakfast room windows. I planted a 'Mexico Midget' tomato under the young tree so watering one waters both.

Keeping the Sunflower and Crepe Myrtle alive means keeping the tiny tomato plants alive & keeping the tomatoes alive means I get a small handful of little tomatoes a couple of times a week. They're very tart and go especially well in tuna salad. The heat means I refill birdbaths and saucers at least once - usually twice- a day. I've been diligent about watering other plants with flowers that are not just decorative, but are important to wildlife. The bees need flowers like the tiny pink & lilac blooms on this Cuphea
Usually my assorted collection of tubular red and blue Salvias keep blooming most of the summer, but this year some Salvias have bailed and others refuse to bloom at all. Some extra water coaxed the Mexican Honeysuckle into taking up the slack as a nectar source for the hummingbirds.
If you think things have gone to the birds around here, you're right! The lawn is toast, the vegetable garden abandoned, and even the cooking sage may have croaked, but I won't give up trying to keep my friends with wings alive.
For a complete list of what's in bloom with botanical names go to my Annie's Addendum blog. To see the GBBD posts of other gardeners go to May Dreams Gardens.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day July 2011

Some of you have already heard how I feel about living in Texas in July. The 2011 heat & drought is worse than when I wrote this song in 2009! The last couple of winters finished off the Aloes, Agaves and cactus, so there's already a nostalgic quality to the photos in the video:

"I Don't Want to Be in Texas in July" via my YouTube Station Kaefka

But with the help of a few long hoses and a big hat, I helped quite a few flowers to survive and pose for May Dreams Carol & Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Most photos will expand when clicked.

The plants on the patio and along the back of the house look the best. The house shields them from the searing sun of late afternoon and they're close to the back door and the hose.
A Blue Pea vine/Clitoria ternatea sprouted near the rain chain, now fitting in quite nicely with the resident Blue Plumbagos and Tropical Milkweeds. Annieinaustin, Blue Pea and MilkweedThere's only one flower head on this newly planted, hand-delivered in person, division of my Grandmother's phlox but it's good to see this heirloom in bloom. A tiny-flowered pink form of Batfaced Cuphea peeks in from the side. AnnieinAustin, Grandmas white phlox
Near the birdbath fountain the red & purple batfaced Cuphea is out of bloom but the Blue Daze Evolvolus has not stopped. A 'Red Cascade' minirose draped a branch over the container, substituting its own red blossoms for the missing cuphea flowers. Annieinaustin, Evolvolus w Red Cascade minirose
Last year a large pot of Blue Butterfly Clerodendron was the star of the patio but an exceptionally harsh February nearly killed it, reducing the crown by 2/3. The plant is barely half the size it was last July but it's alive and it's still blooming blue. (You may find this beauty under various botanical names: Clerodendrum ugandense, or Clerodendrum myricoides 'Ugandense' or Rotheca myricoides 'Ugandense'. )

Annieinaustin, Blue butterfly clerodendronIris/Society Garlic gave me a couple of tomato seedlings last spring. One is blooming and making tiny tomatoes near the back door - this one was labeled 'Mexico Midget'. Annieinaustin, Tomato blossoms, Mexico Midget

This miniature tomato plant and the equally tiny 'Sungold' tomato in a container are the only tomato plants still making fruit. Annieinaustin, tiny tomatoes
Around the corner of the house in the Secret Garden there's only one perennial in bloom - Buddleja lindleyana is dangling its wandflowers against the house. Part shade helps this shrub survive, and so does being in the drip line of the live oak. The drip line rather than the area close to the trunk is where slowly watering can help our stressed trees. Annieinaustin, Buddleja LindleyanaLife is tougher away from the house in the full sun triangle bed - the native Blackfoot Daisies look exhausted Annieinaustin, tired Blackfoot Daisies

Just a few feet away, native Zinnia linearis looks much fresher. The bedraggled long leaves belong to an Amarcrinum. Last fall I moved that non-blooming Amarcrinum from a shady spot, hoping more sun would kickstart flowering. Maybe I should have left it alone! Annieinaustin, Zinnia linearisAt the other end of this bed the Orange Cosmos bloom, go to seed and regrow.
Annieinaustin, orange cosmos w seedsIt looks messy but this patch is not for people - it's for the finches, as are the nearby tall native sunflowers. Annieinaustin, Sunflowers in July
Dicliptera suberecta/Uruguayan Hummingbird Plant is also for the birds. AnnieinAustin, Dicliptera suberectaLater on the seedheads of Crepe myrtles may be eaten by birds, too - but right now we appreciate the foliage and flowers of the cool white 'Acoma' crepe myrtles.
Annieinaustin, cool, white Acoma crepe myrtlesLast month I showed you the small 'Catawba' crepe myrtle planted in 2010. We ran into a tree sale at the end of June & now there's another 'Catawba' on the opposite side of that path.
Annieinaustin, Catawba Crepe myrtle newLast month I showed you buds on the crepe myrtle labeled "Zuni' - the promise was kept and delicate, pinky-lilac flowers are open on the small tree outside the breakfast room window.
Annieinaustin, Zuni crepe myrtle newThe tree sale was a good one with varieties we wanted in sizes we could haul home ourselves. We bought one for the front but instead of planting it, repotted it into a larger container for now.

So if we ever get cooler temperatures, if we ever get rain, and if we can manage to dig a hole in the baked front yard, there may be someday be a Garden Bloggers Bloom Day featuring a tall, 'Muskogee' crepe myrtle covered in lavender flowers.

May all your days be Blooming Days!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day June 2011

This GBBD post for June 2011 was written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose blog.

The ever-quotable Henry Mitchell once said, "It is not nice to garden anywhere.", a phrase from his essay on "The Defiance of Gardeners". This afternoon I defied our Austin weather by buying 5 cut peonies at the local grocery story. The inside of our house may not be cool enough to let them last long, but for now, they smell like peonies! Annieinaustin,grocery peoniesOutside it's hard to summon up defiance after more than 10 days of temperatures over 100°F with the last rain a distant memory and little hope of a break. I've managed to hand-water beds & borders a couple of times a week, water the containers almost every day and have filled the birdbaths over and over. Little is in bloom in front - no roses, no gauras, one surviving purple coneflower, 'Black and Blue' salvias barely alive - even the tough anisacanthus looks ragged. At least in the back yard there's a ring of green grass at the base of the birdbath and a few plants in bloom for June GBBD (photos will expand when clicked).

Annieinaustin,Sunflower, white crepe myrtlesKeeping the sunflowers out of the borders but letting a few grow in the "lawn" is working so far- with less water they're still pretty tall but seem less likely to topple or crack.

Hey, sunflower - let me see your face. The finches have probably calculated how many seeds fit on each flower head.Annieinaustin,sunflower faceThe orange cosmos makes a steady supply of seeds for the lesser goldfinches - the few they miss have sprouted and will make the next crop of buds and flowers. Annieinaustin, orange cosmos

Another yellow daisy-type face is Rudbeckia hirta 'Irish Eyes'. It's not a big plant but there's enough green around it to make the color pop. The fragrant foliage of Mexican Mint Marigold/Tagetes lucida can be seen at upper left, Salvia farinacea at lower left, one of the last larkspurs still blooming purple at bottom center, an evergreen dwarf yaupon at lower right, and the grassy leaves of Garlic Chives right top, behind the blooms. Annieinaustin, Irish Eyes rudbeckia
Last year Linda from KLRU's Central Texas Gardener featured Dicliptera suberecta, sometimes called Mexican Hummingbird plant and other times called Uruguayan Hummingbird plant or Uruguayan Firecracker. I ran across a starter plant soon after reading her post and it did OK last fall. I like the name Firecracker because the top froze off but this spring the plant came back from the roots with a bang! The hummingbirds do love it. Annieinaustin,dicliptera suberecta
Tropical Milkweed/Asclepias curassavica grows with Blue Plumbago in the bed along the back of the house. The rainchains haven't had any rain to carry in a long time but look closer... a seed from last year's Butterfly Blue Pea Vine/Clitoria ternatea landed there, sprouted and is using the chain for a trellis
Annieinaustin,tropical milkweed & PlumbagoOn the other side of the walk I hope the small 'Zuni' Crepe myrtle is making roots and getting established. The 'Diamond Frost' euphorbia took awhile to catch, but is now starting to spread lacy white skirts around the slender crepe myrtle trunks. Annieinaustin,diamond frost euphorbia

The 'Zuni' flowers are supposed to be Violet but it hasn't bloomed yet. Today I saw buds developing - sure hope the tag is right! Annieinaustin, zuni crepe myrtle buds

The 'Catawba' crepe myrtle was planted in March of 2010 - it hasn't grown much but it's blooming along with the 'Blue River II' Hibiscus. Can you see the browned flower heads of the Oakleaf hydrangea in the background? I hope it will forgive me for planting it in Austin. Annieinaustin,Catawba crepe myrtle, hibiscus
In addition to these two smaller purple-toned crepe myrtles, Philo & I bought and planted the two white, semi-dwarf 'Acoma' crepe myrtles in the NE border.
But the pink ones came free with the house. Full-size hot pink crepe myrtles grow on the three borders of our garden, just outside the fence in all the neighboring yards. We still have six hot-pink crepe myrtles in our own yard. I'm not crazy about the color but this year the smallish one at the entrance to the Secret Garden is looking pretty good. Since the pecan trees were trimmed in February that spot gets more sun, and when the Mediterranean Fan Palm froze back over winter, I tucked the potted palm stump in between this crepe myrtle and a holly bush and the runoff from watering the palm was good enough to make the crepe myrtle happy. Annieinaustin, Crepe myrtle near archSee what's blooming for other gardeners all around the world at Carol in Indiana's June GBBD roundup at May Dreams Gardens.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Thought Pops - 5th Blogiversary, Tomatoes and Ponds

("Thought Pops" started in September 2006 - this is Edition 7)

At the Start of Year Six
On June 7, 2006, the Transplantable Rose blog featured a photo of 'Blue River II' Hibiscus. In swift succession came a complaint about hot pink crepe myrtles, a link list of other blogs in the sidebar, my thoughts on three movies (Prairie Home Companion, Jumping Off Bridges and The Puffy Chair) , a lively discussion with several commenters about mislabled plants, dips into genealogy & passalong plants, notes on a local nursery, ruminations on the botany found in the book Gone With the Wind, a look at the Austin Pond Tour and a photo of a bowl of tomatoes.AnnieinAustin bowl of tomatoes
During the first few weeks comments came from local Austin people and others very far away. MSS of Zanthan Gardens, Pam/Digging, RSorrell, pioneer bloggers MarthaChick and Linda Ball were all from Austin. But Amy Stewart, Trey Pitsenberger, Andrea & Bliss-ful Angela were in California, Anthony was in New Jersey, Amy in Alabama, May Dreams Carol in Indiana, Illegal Hannah and Blackswamp Kim were in Ohio, Lost Roses in Colorado, Xris in Brooklyn, Kerri in New York State, Janet in Ontario, Christopher in Hawaii (he's now in Carolina), Silvia in Ireland, La Gringa in Honduras and Stuart in Australia. What a thrill! Visiting one blog led to another and I reordered the ever-growing linklist by geographic location. It made me feel good when people said my idea helped them find other gardeners with similar conditions.

Five years isn't long ago by most standards but blog-years may be more like dog years. Many blogs I loved to visit are now dormant or disappeared (oh, Hank! How we miss the County Clerk!). Some of those first commenters are gardenblogging superstars! Blogs both active & dormant are in the old sidebar list. Active blogs are also in the blogger list module on Annie's Addendum.

As for me, I'm still here - the posts are less frequent and more conversations take place on Twitter than in the comments, but it's still good to be part of the garden blog world.

Hibiscus 'Blue River II' and Crepe Myrtles
Annieinaustin, Blue River 2 hibiscus, catawba crepe myrtle
The 'Blue River II' Hibiscus moscheutos, subject of my first post, has bloomed for me every year since 1993, moved from Illinois to Austin house #1 to this house. Early heat & no rain have kept the stalks under 4-feet tall this year... in rainy years they've stretched to more than seven feet. Although the pink crepes in post #2 still reign in the neighborhood, my crepe myrtles also bloom in white and purple. I love the white of the hibiscus with the purple of this young 'Catawba' crepe myrtle, which is about the same height as the Blue River 2. Another youngun was labeled 'Zuni', but until it blooms we can't be sure.

Tomatoes of 2011
In cooler 2006 the tomatoes didn't even get going until late June. In super hot, super dry, super windy June 2011 we already had tomatoes in late May ... some large enough to slice for tomato & red onion sandwiches,Annieinaustin,sliced tomato w red onion
Most of the larger tomatoes are already gone and what's left has been pulled off their crisping stems to ripen inside. The regular tomatoes turn red slowly, 2 or 3 at a time along with a few Juliets. We'll enjoy the steady, modest supply while it lasts. ('Juliet' and a couple of cherry tomatoes are the only tomatoes still forming new fruit.)Annieinaustin tomatoes ripen indoors
This year we even savored vine ripened(!!) tomatoes thanks to a couple of passalong wire compost bins from the Wabi-Sabi Home & Garden. (And thank you RBell/ The Lazy Shady Gardener for loading them into my car!)Annieinaustin, passalong compost binInstead of using the bins for compost, my idea was to flip them over to keep squirrels from eating the tomatoes. The protective cages looked pretty cool after Philo painted them and added handles salvaged from previous projects. (That counts as Wabi Sabi, doesn't it?)Annieinaustin upside down compost bin w handleThis cage covered a container planted with 'German Johnson'. MayDreams Carol calls this her favorite tomato, a memory of her grandmother, and I wanted to try it! Would it grow in a pot? With plenty of compost, organic fertilizer and water it did OK - we harvested 5 beautiful tomatoes - true slicing size and absolutely delicious. Annieinaustin german johnson tomato slicedSince critters have swiped most of the netted 'Black Krim' tomatoes that were planted in the garden, my plan is to try 'Black Krim' in a pot under wire next time!

Those are NOT 'Black Pearl' Peppers
In 2011 I bought a couple of 'Black Pearl' ornamental peppers and quite liked them, although birds or critters also liked them so the peppers didn't stay on the plants very long. In late fall I potted one for the windowsill. It survives and now decorates the patio table with its round, almost black fruits.Annieinaustin Black pearl peppers in pot
This spring I noticed unlabeled, dark-leaved peppers in the vegetable section at Countryside Nursery and planted three of them nearer the house. Well, surprise, surprise... my original ID was obviously wrong since the once-dark leaves surrounding the almost-black peppers are purple and green and cream. A search of varieties makes me pretty sure this is 'Purple Flash' pepper. 'Black Pearl' looked good in the triangle bed last year with the orange cosmos, but this one looks just fine in the wall bed. Annieinaustin maybe Purple Flash peppers
The Annual Pond Tour
In July 2006 I made four short posts about the Austin Pond Society's annual Pond Tour (at the time, it was really difficult to upload more than one photo per post to Blogger). We returned for the next tour in July 2007
Annieinaustin 2008 pondFor 2008 we did something a little different - my husband Philo made a music video of my Garden Pond Song filled with photos and video footage of many beautiful gardens we'd visited on the tours. We couldn't attend the 2009 tour but reported on both Saturday and Sunday in 2010.

The 2011 Pond Tour will be held this weekend, June 11th & 12th. Details are at the Austin Pond Society website, linked above, with a preview at KLRU-TV's Central Texas Gardener You-Tube site. One of this year's ponds was a favorite in 2008 - a genuine original home made Austintacious tropical paradise - where even the humble water closet became a water feature:

Annieinaustin, mosaic toilet from pond tourThanks to all of you who have taken the time to leave a comment over the past 5 years. I will keep hoping to meet many of you in person some day.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose