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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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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ideas from Zilker Garden Fest

The annual Zilker Park Garden Fest takes place toward the end of March here in Austin. This is the modern name for our annual plant spree, and while it's descriptive, long-time Austinites like MSS of Zanthan Gardens still call it "Flora Rama". Was gardening more fun years ago? In 1978, Mayor McClellan declared an entire Flora Rama Week.

It's always fun to wander the winding paths filled with vendors of every kind of plant and decoration - we found interesting plants and stopped to buy another Cobrahead from Geoff. You'll also find music & food, a flower show and lots of information. There are garden talks - in 2007 we heard Felder Rushing. The park itself is always beautiful and inspiring - before I had a place for my own Mutabilis roses, seeing them blooming at Zilker Park made me even more determined to grow them.Annieinaustin, Mutabilis rose at Zilker

The Hartman Dinosaur Garden was begun while we still lived at our previous house. From the first sight I fell in love with the Hartman garden and the Hartman plants - Magnolia/Michelia figo/Banana shrub, large Magnolias, evergreen plants similar to Podocarpus, Purple-leaved Loropetalum, palms and sago cycads, orchid trees and horsetails, with Texas Mountain Laurels and palmettos tucked in. We began to add some of those plants almost as soon as we moved in to this house.

Sometimes what grows at Zilker Park does well here -like the Loropetalum, Podocarpus, 'Little Gem' magnolia and the Banana Shrub... and sometimes my attempts at copying have failed. After 4 years in my garden, two miserable leaves of Bletilla striata struggled to the surface. They've never bloomed.Annieinaustin, Ground ORchids at Zilker ParkAbove is the patch of Bletilla/Chinese Ground Orchids at Zilker Park last Sunday! This week my underperformers took a ride on the garden fork to a different border - maybe they'll like it better and bloom some day.

One of the informational booths was run by The Austin Herb Society, tucked in next to the charming herb garden with raised beds so you can see the plants up close, and benches so you can rest and people-watch.
I fell into an enjoyable conversation with Ann, the volunteer at the booth, telling her that seeing the thriving rosemary shrubs reminded me of an odd sighting in my garden last week. Annieinaustin, Austin Herb Society booth Zilker 2011 A pair of goldfinches (my guess is Lesser Goldfinches) spent more than 15 minutes working over the rosemary just outside the breakfast room window. They tugged off petals and tossed them to get to the ends of the branch where the seeds developed. They were so intent on their work that they didn't fly off when I held the camera to the window pane for a blurry photo.Annieinaustin, Goldfinch pair on Rosemary
Ann's theory was that some of the usual seed plants for finches were so affected by drought that they didn't make seeds, so even the tiny rosemary seeds are sought after in this dry spring. This idea makes sense to me, too. Ann also thought it would be a good idea to post about this interesting behavior and I agreed.

Has anyone else seen birds eating rosemary seeds?Annieinaustin, female goldfinch on rosemary


  1. A really neat observation. Finches eating the rosemary seeds. I will have to see if our regular goldfinches hang out at the rosemary plant in my yard.

  2. How neat! A dinosaur garden! We hang a thistle feeder for the finches, sometimes have twenty or so hanging on, waiting their turn! We are never warm enough to see rosemary seeds!!

  3. I have never seen finches eat rosemary because I have to treat it as an annual here. Our finches (goldfinches and house finches) pick at lots of different plants though.

  4. Hey there, Annie in Austin. All these posts about Zilker Park remind me of my visit there with you and MSS. Can you believe it has been 4 years since I was there?

    I have some Bletilla striata in my garden. I'm waiting for it to come up this spring because I need to move it to another location.

  5. Oops, I meant 3 years ago, 2008, when I visited!

  6. Carol- I was going to say, it can't be that long. Sorry I missed the garden show this year but I did make the cactus show. How lucky you are to have the finches. Wow betide any birds that comes round here. The Cooper's hawk will have 'em for dinner! Such a cruel world. Thanks for the visit.


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