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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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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Relatively Pink but Quite Charming

When a bag of 4 daffodil bulbs labeled 'Pink Charm' showed up at the dollar store in fall 2006, I paid the $2 and planted them in the bulb bed. At that price I didn't really expect them to be pink... at least not pink like the Narcissus cultivars 'Accent' or 'Salome' or 'Filly' had been in my Illinois garden. I just hoped they'd live long enough to make a few flowers of any color before disappearing the way so many daffodils do in Austin. Annieinaustin, pink charm daff just openedInstead of disappearing, they've made flowers for 4 of the 5 springs they've been planted here. And although the small trumpets don't look pink right away, look what happens after the flower has been open for a day! {click to expand the photo and look into the heart}
Annieinaustin, pink charm daffodilEven a Coral narcissus is Pink enough to make me glad I took that $2 chance.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Grape Hyacinths

These little grape hyacinths used to grow in deep shade near the back fence where the squirrels liked to dig them up and leave them on top of the ground. Last spring we made a long bed in semi-shade, so I poked in the grape hyacinths to accompany daffodils and narcissus and scilla.

The freezes killed the buds of the daffodils, leaving the stage without headliners and the spotlight shining on the bit players.

For Monica the Garden Faerie, who needs to see some spring.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

February Daffodils

The no-ID daffodil bulbs were planted in the parking strip by someone else, some other person who lived in this house - perhaps ten years ago or more. One or two flowers struggled up through the liriope edging each spring so when bulbs appeared during our Divas of the Dirt project in September 2009, I knew what they were. Annieinaustin, B4 parking stripWe turned that parched and ugly strip into a native-and adapted bed, taking out most of the liriope, adding penstemon, rosemary, Blackfoot Daisies, a tiny Texas Mountain Laurel, lantana, Gulf Muhly grass, Skullcap & Silver-leaved germander. Here it is in September 2009:Annieinaustin, after parking strip

Some of the daffodil bulbs that turned up were replanted in the renewed & amended parking strip - some were planted in the central bed made where an Arizona Ash used to stand. Annieinaustin, February daffodilsThey didn't do much last year but today I counted 18 daffodils in bloom with a few buds coming along... more daffodils than I've seen at a single time in a dozen years. Annieinaustin, Feb daffodils 2
After inflicting photos of pitiful frozen daffodil buds upon you in the last couple of posts it only seemed right to share the happy daffodils with you today.

Happy Un-GBBD!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for February 2011

Four years ago on February 15, 2007, May Dreams Carol invited us to post for the first-ever Garden Bloggers Bloom Day . The only flowers I could find were a few blossoms on the Carolina Jessamine and Coral Honeysuckle, a few yellow daffodil buds and 'Grand Primo' narcissus, some pansies, barely developed buds of Texas Mountain Laurel and a salmon geranium on the windowsill. Wouldn't you think there would now be more, rather than less?

The Carolina Jessamine/Gelsemium sempervirens began to flower 2 weeks ago -then was badly hit by the recent cold spell. Most of the plant looks like thisAnnieinaustin, Frozen Carolina Jessamine buds A few of the interior vines were more protected and look like this - my guess is that the buds that are browned will fall off but the yellow ones will open.Annieinaustin, buds of carolina jessamine
I planted hyacinths near the yellow daffodils and very warm 80º F weather in early February spurred them to show buds. The temperature dropped rapidly from the 70's to the 20's -not that unusual here - but then it stayed below freezing for several days and dipped to 14º F, which is not usual. Annieinaustin, frozen hyacinth and daffodilThe stems of the daffodils had broken but a few heads seemed OK -so as our GBBD Inspiration Elizabeth Lawrence might have done, I cut the stems and took them inside, hoping they'll open in a vase of water.
Annieinaustin, cut buds of daffodil in vase
For the first time since 2005 the flowers on these Narcissus 'Grand Primo' won't open.
The containers of pansies look much same as they did 10 days ago, but the Coral Honeysuckle lost not only flower buds but most of its leaves. And that 'Fantasia Salmon' geranium in flower for the first GBBD? I bought that plant on sale back in February 2006! I was quite pleased when it lived through the first winter, never expecting to someday look in the window and see a 5-year old plant still in bloom. Annieinaustin,Fantasia Salmon pelargonium geraniumThat's it, May Dreams Carol! Maybe you'll get a better GBBD next month. The bloggers with the inside bulbs have the flowers this time.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Garden Nostalgia- Fernleaf Peony

When a fragrant white ginger or a loquat tree or the Little Gem magnolia is in bloom, being in Austin seems to have advantages over colder places ... but when Dee of Red Dirt Ramblings put up last year's peony pictures, it makes me feel as if we Zone 8 folks have the short end of the stick! Ah, Peonies!
Annieinaustin,Fernleaf peony
Dee talked about the possibility of peonies living longer than their owners, and she also mentioned ordering her peonies from Klehm's Song Sparrow Nursery. That made me remember a plant given to me by a long-ago neighbor. Lee said that her lovely Paeonia tenuifolia came from the personal collection of a Klehm family member decades before we met. One autumn she split off a small piece and shared her Passalong peony with me. It grew for a few years before showing the first flower and by 1996 made the May bouquet in the old photo. I knew that trying to bring it here was equivalent to murder so regretfully left it behind. In my mind the fernleaf peony is still there, and still blooming every May.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Iris reticulata 'Pauline'

This little beauty might not make it until Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th so I took its photo even though the light was already gone from that bed. What a surprise to see a new flower after last night's 20ºF! The prediction for tonight is 24ºF - then no more hard freezes for a while.

This is Iris reticulata 'Pauline', bulbs bought at the Natural Gardener in December. I used to grow several varieties of this iris in Illinois but haven't seen one in flower since 1999. Somehow it feels like a symbol of hope on this historic day.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Two Bad Winters in a Row

Annieinaustin,2011,02,snowy viewThis winter was supposed to be different! I was sure there would be less frost damage because the wimpy plants had bailed after the very unusual 13ºF of January 2010, right? The covers and lights used on the in-ground Meyer's Lemon & Mexican Lime trees helped keep the stems alive, but they'd still lost all their leaves and had no fruit in 2010.

We had space for the two medium-size plumerias, a ginger, Stapelias, the allspice bush, staghorn fern and the smaller lemon inside the house & garage. So if we had a normal winter, all should be well.

But the big plumeria had grown too tall to fit inside the garage.... what to do, what to do?

I decided to ignore the citrus - they no longer fit inside their N-sulate fabric pillowcases - and in November I took that fabric, ripped out the stitches and tried a different idea.Annieinaustin,2011,02,N-sulate curtain The rain barrel had been moved and the little brick-lined sun-catching cove next to the chimney was accessible. I sewed the fabric into one large curtain and Philo put a rod close up against the wall over the window. Annieinaustin,2011,02,plants coveredMy idea was to shove the too-tall plumeria and more marginal plants against the window, using the curtain to trap any heat that escaped through the glass from the house, counting on additional heat being captured and released from the bricks. Annieinaustin,2011,covered plants from inside
Winter came, things froze, and you know, the idea worked great as long as the low temperatures were in the mid-2o's - that plumeria still had leaves 10 days ago! Annieinaustin,2011,02,fabric on rod

Then last week, as the north was buried in 2-feet of snow, we were hit with a long-lasting cold snap, going down to 14ºF or 15ºF . A power glitch hit Monday, while we were still warm - and it was farewell, computer! On Tuesday February 1st, before the cold came, I piled burlap bags around the pots and swagged a big sheet across the bottom of the curtain. We unplugged the birdbath fountain so the motor wouldn't burn out... and crossed our fingers. Annieinaustin,2011,02,tucked in plants

The wind howled all night long, whipping things around the yard and unsettling the sleepers as the temperatures dropped. With daylight on Wednesday we could see the wind had flipped the yellow adirondack chair and tossed a patio umbrella across the yard like a javelin. The wind kept pulling the curtain off the plants. Each time I'd go out to tuck them in the wind would whip the clothes off again. There was no sun in the cove, so no extra heat gathered by the bricks.

The temperatures stayed below freezing so we set up makeshift birdbaths, tapping out the ice blocks and refilling with warm water when the water froze. Rolling brown-outs didn't hit our neighborhood too hard but Vertie's neighborhood didn't have power stay on long enough to keep warmAnnieinaustin,2011,02,whitewing doves
The power was more stable the next day, and early Friday about an inch of snow lay softly on the garden, looking extremely decorative for awhile- Annieinaustin,2011,02,tossed umbrellaand melting by Saturday as we returned to the 50's or 60's.Annieinaustin,2011,02,flipped chair in snow
Another cold snap is predicted for this coming Tuesday night, so today I went around with the camera. With luck, the plants that usually lose their tops, go dormant and return -the Mexican mint marigold, cupheas, Mexican honeysuckle, crinum lilies, salvias, etc. - will still come back in spring. But I have no experience with other plants that were new in 2010 - will the Lion's Tail or the two Abutilons live? How about the pink Malvaviscus?

Can these blackened Shrimp Plants spring new life from the roots? Annieinaustin,2011,02,frozen shrimp plants

Will the frozen Meyer's Lemon drop this set of leaves and have the strength to releaf two springs in a row?Annieinaustin,2011,02,frozen meyer's lemon tree

The asparagus ferns in the hanging baskets don't look too bad, but I was fooled last yearAnnieinaustin,2011,02,chilled asparagus fern

I brushed my hand across one and the resulting shower of fern bits does not bode well for their longterm survival

An African aloe from Pam/Digging that survived January 2010 looks bad - and feels mushy. Annieinaustin,2011,02,squishy aloe

The native Barbados Cherries and the two dwarf pomegranates are already dropping their leavesAnnieinaustin,2011,02,dwarf pomegranate tree frosted

Inside the fabric tent the Thai Lime looks good at the base but frost damage shows on leaves at the top. I still don't know if any parts of the tall plumeria will live. The fragrant ginger always loses its top so that doesn't worry me yet, and the 'Dorota Blue' scutellaria looks fine, as does the Scilla peruviana in the front container.
It seems the curtain idea is a qualified success so far - and if there had been a better system for keeping the curtain tight in wind it might have been a real success. Annieinaustin,2011,02,plants uncovered
The evergreens that made it last winter look alright so far... and there are still flowers! The pansies weren't impressed by a mere 15 degrees - Annieinaustin,2011,02,pansies did not freeze

Nor was the parsley - although the Sweet marjoram behind it was shockedAnnieinaustin,2011,02,parsley did not freeze

And if the Variegated ginger could talk, it might have thanked me for bringing it into the garage. Annieinaustin,2011,02,variegated ginger inside garage