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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, April 21, 2011

Identifying Things With Wings

Many of the birds that come to the birdbath fountain are common ones, not mysterious: the Blue Jays in my blog header, pairs of nesting Cardinals, omnipresent Mockingbirds, the English Sparrows who have taken over neighbors' Purple Martin houses, hoards of White-winged Doves, noisy Grackles and the most welcome Chickadees.

Robins were my companions when I gardened in Illinois, waiting for me to throw a grub their way, but we went a decade after moving to Texas without seeing a single one. What a thrill when they began to visit our Austin garden: Annieinaustin, american robin
House finches flew in-and-out of a huge blue spruce at my friend Ruth's house near Chicago, but they didn't come to our Illinois houses. They're regular visitors at this house. Annieinaustin, house finch pair
We saw waxwings 30-years ago at house #2 in Illinois - that house had a berry-covered Mountain Ash tree and a row of large, berry-covered junipers. Cedar waxwings began to stop here a couple of years ago. Annieinaustin, Cedar waxwings

Goldfinches (think it's lesser goldfinch?) didn't come to our previous Austin house, but they come here. Titmice and hummingbirds come here too, but are usually too fast for my camera. Annieinaustin, goldfinch pair,rosemary

Local birder Mikael Behrens has a wonderful website- Birding on Broadmeade. The people who go with him on birdwalks find themselves checking many species off their lists without ever leaving NW Austin - even Bluebirds and Caracaras! Birding along Mikael's magic creek sounds like fun if you're able to walk & look through binoculars at the same time.

Birdwatching takes practice and study, but it's probably necessary to have good vision in the first place. When the description tells me to notice if there is "a black smudge below the second wing bar" - it's a lost cause - I can't discern that even when the bird is right outside the breakfast room window and a bird book is in my hand. But even if being a true birder is beyond me, when something more exotic than the usual White-winged doves and Mockingbirds show up on the next Great Backyard Bird Count, it would be great to turn in the correct identities.

Mikael also uses the birds' songs to help identify them, but only certain voices can be heard through my windows - like grackles, jays and mockingbirds. Outside you can hear the calls of a chickadee, wren, cardinal or titmouse and it's easy to tell when a flock of cedar waxwings is in a neighboring yard.

Last year we had what I think was a male Yellow Rumped Warbler and it looks like another (or the same one) is here now, looking like a wet, real-life version of an Angry Bird through the breakfast room window! Hope this one is right, Mikael:Annieinaustin, angry yellow-rumped warbler

Could this be the female Yellow-Rumped Warbler? Annieinaustin, could be yellow-rumped warblerHere's the back of this bird Annieinaustin, maybe Yellow-rumped warblerA similar bird was around in January, so maybe they're not just passing through.Annieinaustin, psble YR warbler January

In March I took a photo of the male yellow-rumped warbler, perched on an herb trough at right, waiting a turn to bathe. Reflection from the water spoiled the image of the bird at left, but at the time I thought it might be a Nashville warbler.Annieinaustin, 2 warblers March
I'm not sure if the same bird was here yesterday, but with those white eye-rings it looks a lot like the Nashville warbler from last year- Annieinaustin, maybe Nashville Warbler

Could the bird with white eye-rings at top left in this trio also be a Nashville warbler ... or maybe the same one, rumpled and wet? As to the other two - any chance the one at right is a Ruby Crowned Kinglet? Annieinaustin 3 birds, one Nashville warbler

Here's another shot of the trio. Did I get anything right? Annieinaustin, maybe Nashville warbler w 2 birds

Insects with wings can be confusing, too - this is some kind of Swallowtail butterfly on the Carolina Jessamine but which one? Annieinaustin swallowtail on carolina jessamine

A few days ago a mammal with wings rested for a short time on the wall in the Secret Garden - my guess on this is a Little Brown Bat. Some sites suggest a full moon can throw off the bat's normal schedule... my hope is that a night of eating mosquitoes made the bat too full to fly straight home. Annieinaustin prob Little brown batThanks for any input ... there is some video footage of the little birds hopping around on the fountain - it can go up on YouTube once they have names.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day April 2011

When we learned that family members were coming from the North to bask in the sun for a few days, the plan was for the 'Belinda's Dream', 'Mutabilis' and 'Julia Child' roses to be at their most perfect on April 10th, while still looking fabulous for GBBD on the 15th. Well, that was the plan...

Annieinaustin, Mutabilis Rose, april'Belinda's Dream' was already an overblown beauty when our son & his dear wife arrived; 'Julia Child' still had buds and the Mutabilis rose was in full glory. But too many days with heat & dry winds made most flowers open too quickly and fall apart even faster.

Today I noticed that 'Julia Child' looks much better when seen from across the garden, veiled by larkspur. Would that work for falling-apart garden bloggers, too?

Annieinaustin,far view,larkspur,Julia Child rose
The timing was absolutely perfect for the Confederate-Star jasmine/Trachelospermum jasminoides... one plant grows near the steps of the veranda near the drive. Its fragrance is not something you can ignore so luckily our daughter-in-law liked the scent!

Annieinaustin,Confederate jasmine & rainbarrel
The fragrant yellow double Oleander didn't open its first flower until after the guests drove away Annieinaustin,double yellow oleander
The usual show of spring wildflowers along the highways has been muted somewhat by drought. Irrigating all the roadsides in Texas can't be done, but it doesn't take much water to keep a little patch happy in the garden and deadheading extends the season. Here are Blackfoot Daisies, Purple & White Annual Phlox, Texas Paintbrush & Bluebonnets, with the orchid-purple Salvia greggii in the bottom right corner. Those strappy leaves at lower left belong to the native white rainlilies - they've bloomed on and off all week but not on the 15th! Annieinaustin,paintbrush, blackfoot daisies,phlox
Here's the view from the other side of the bed - Bluebonnets and Paintbrush with the orchid-purple Salvia greggii at left. The salvia and rainlilies are perennials. The Bluebonnets are annuals - this time from seed given to me by MSS of Zanthan Gardens. The Paintbrushes can be perennial. These have been around a couple of years.
Annieinaustin,Texas paintbrush,bluebonnets,salvia greggii
My best guess on the name of the white rainlilies is Zephyranthes drummondii - or perhaps Cooperia drummondii or even Cooperia pedunculata. They grew on the hill behind our first Austin house but to see them bloom, I had to dig up a few bulbs and grow them in deck containers where the deer couldn't get them. I brought them along when we moved here so the white rainlilies now grow in garden beds. This one in the Pink garden was open for GBBD.
Annieinaustin,Zephyranthes drummondii
Another wildflower was timed perfectly for the visitors: Herbertia, a tiny iris relative that appears in April. Its proper name seems to be Herbertia lahue. The first plant surprised us when it popped up in the grass in 2005. A few flowers reappear each April but the numbers haven't increased. This is a native Texas plant, but it may have hitched a ride to my yard. Herbertia is reported to grow in large swaths near Houston and I've been told that when our subdivision was built in the 1970's, some of the fill soil came from East Texas. Some wildflower books call it Prairie Nymph - other books say that name belongs to a different flower. Under any name it's worth getting down to ground level for a closer look. Annieinaustin,Herbertia lahue in lawn
The gauras and salvias in the front beds are budded but not in bloom so let's go around the far side of the house where another Confederate AKA Star Jasmine blooms in the Secret Garden. (The name 'Confederate' is interesting - some references say the plant originated in Asia and the name dates from the 1890's when part of Malasia was the Federated or Confederated Malay States. But with that unsettling hint of Civil War in the name, I sometimes opt for the more neutral 'Star Jasmine'. )Annieinaustin,star jasmine on trellis
A few feet away, the pomegranate tree has a scattering of flowers and buds. This tree was labeled as variety 'Wonderful' but it's never made a single pomegranate fruit. Look how doubled and ruffled the flower is on my tree:Annieinaustin,pomegranate flower
Last weekend we took our family to Mayfield Park and the pomegranates were in bloom there. I took a photo of the Mayfield variety and noticed that the flowers are simpler and not as congested. This makes me wonder if our pomegranate's blooms are too fluffy for successful pollination.Annieinaustin,pomegranate flower, Mayfield Park
There's a delicate pink flower not far from the pomegranate in the secret garden - an Indigofera/Pink False Indigo. This plant has a reputation for being a spreader, but in 5 seasons here it's behaved well, tucked in with native ferns and Cast Iron Plant:

Annieinaustin,Pink false indigoAlso in the Secret Garden is the Blue Sky vine from the March GBBD post. The plant was already budded and in bloom when I bought it but now it's down to the last blossom. The vine itself is growing like mad and has reached the top of the arch - maybe there will be more flowers on the new growth?
Annieinaustin,last flower on Blue Sky Vine
Through the arch and over to the bed where a bright coral, unlabeled mini-rose planted by some previous owner is in bloom. We've added bulbs like Iphieon/Star Flower, Oxalis and Hippeastrum, the familiar holiday Amaryllis, which can survive outside in Austin. Annieinaustin,coral mini-rose & amaryllis
Also in the bed are other flowers with flowers in the orange/coral range - a few plants of Mountain sage/Salvia regla that will bloom in fall and this native columbine:
Annieinaustin,columbine with oxalis
We made a small bed for a 'Pride of Houston' yaupon under the canopy of the back pecan in 2009. That small bed turned into a new long border in early 2010 and most of the young plants are doing well. Cedar sage/Salvia roemeriana grows at the high end of the bed near the original yaupon and it looks pretty happy. Annieinaustin,Salvia roemeriana in my garden

Then last week we all went to McKinney Falls state park and for the first time I saw Cedar Sage in its natural environment of hill & rocks in an oak forest. Now my Cedar Sage is demanding a dramatic stone backdrop, too. Annieinaustin,Salvia roemeriana at McKinney Falls

The Oakleaf Hydrangea has produced five large flowerheads. Behind the Hydrangea is Ageratina havanensis, a native fragrant white mist flower, and it's making buds! I'm not sure what's going on -we have two more of these mistflowers in front but they've never bloomed in spring - just in fall. Annieinaustin,Oakleaf Hydrangea flower

The front edge of this long bed is in sun - here are Four-nerve daisies, Bluebonnets, Creeping phlox, larkspur, Louisiana iris and Siberian iris
Annieinaustin,Blues & Yellows, april garden

In the background below you can make out a white 'Climbing Iceberg' rose and the original plant of a passalong Siberian iris. A small piece of the iris came from Chicago back in 2005. The small piece took years to become a clump and was finally large enough to divide last year when we made the new bed. Siberian iris sometimes take a while to settle in, so it was a pleasant surprise to get flowers on the new division this spring! Annieinaustin,Siberian iris flower
Near the birdbath fountain the 1-year old 'Red Cascade' climbing miniature rose is in bloom, its pure red color looking good against the Lueders stone.Annieinaustin,Red Cascade climbing mini-rose

The clematis known as 'Starts-out-ruby-red-then-fades-to-reddish-purple' is in full bloom now - a good surprise. The tangle of vines had become so buggy and moldy that in late winter I cut it down almost to the ground, carefully removing every leaf and washing the trellis. The plant sent out new shoots to cover the trellis by the end of March and the first flower opened the day our family arrived. Annieinaustin,reddish purple clematis
Late on Friday afternoon one flower on the 'Little Gem' magnolia swelled to open... but so high up that the zoom couldn't get a good viewAnnieinaustin,Little Gem magnolia budAnd finally, here is my contribution to the Odd Poppy posts from Austin Garden Bloggers (Robin Getting Grounded, Rock Rose Jenny, MSS of Zanthan Gardens) who all experienced unexpected results when they grew Frilly Pink Poppies from seed. Scattering poppy seed hasn't worked for me, so I bought a few started plants from the Natural Gardener on March 6th. The only color I could find was labeled 'Maroon'. A few days ago they looked like this: Annieinaustin,Annieinaustin, maroon poppies
But soon after the other bloggers mentioned frilly pink poppies one appeared in my garden... maybe a stray seed in with the maroon plant? Annieinaustin,maroon & pink poppiesThis one's a bit salmon-pink but it should be good enough to get me in the Frilly Pink Poppy club!Annieinaustin,frilly peach-pink poppy
As you can see we're long past tulip & daffodil season here in Texas - to see those traditional spring favorites and to check out what's blooming all over the world go to Carol's round up over at May Dreams Gardens. , the Garden Blogger Bloom Day headquarters.

For more about Mayfield Park, see Carolyn's Caroline's delightful tour of Mayfield Park on her blog, The Shovel Ready Garden. We fell in love with this garden museum more than a decade ago - maybe you will, too.

For the complete April list of blooms with my best guess at botanical names, please go to Annie's Addendum.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Good Things Emerge in April

Last night the predicted temperatures ranged from low 40's to mid 30's F. We weren't worried that the vegetables would freeze, but tomato & pepper plants sometimes sulk after being that cold so we rigged up some sheets and curtains - hopefully for the last time this spring. Since the thermometer showed 38°F it was worth the effort.

Early this morning the tent was still up -that cloud of white is Philadelphus inodorus, the native Southern scentless mockorange, single-flowered, and a beautiful background shrub for a fence. Annieinaustin, tomatoes coveredWe've just about finished playing 'Dead or Dormant' here at Circus~Cercis, with only a few plants whose fate is undecided. My head is telling me the big Bay Laurel is dead as a doornail, but my heart made me pretend it's dormant for now. Some plants don't need pretending - they're alive!

Whether called Clerodendrum ugandense, Rotheca myricoides 'Ugandense', Blue Butterfly Bush or Blue Glory Bower, it looks as if we'll have Blue Butterfly flowers here. Although the large container I bought last summer froze badly, one sprout has emerged and a few cuttings that I took last fall seem to be rooting.

Even better, the original plant that had looked like a goner after the February deep freezes was tougher than expected - three new sprouts are emerging. Annieinaustin, emerging leaves Blue Clereodendron
In the long fence bed the Dietes bicolor/ Bicolor iris was alive, but barely half the blades were green. When I bought this plant it was labeled as a Butterfly Iris /Dietes grandiflora - that's the one I wanted, but Bicolor Iris is what I got. So a plant I didn't want in the first place was badly winterkilled two years in a row and it never even bloomed in 2010. I decided to just dig the whole thing up - even had the garden fork ready, then a closer look showed not just one but 4 flower stalks.Annieinaustin, buds on Dietes bicolor
How could I trash a plant that was making such an effort? I set to work with garden scissors and spent 40 minutes making it presentable. Annieinaustin, cutting back frozen Bicolor IrisA few days later the open flower still seems more interesting than beautiful, but the plant can stay for now. annieinaustin, bicolor iris flowerThe 'Marilyn's Choice' abutilon was shrub-sized last December, then possibly dead in March and now just a few inches tall. But at least this abutilon is alive - unlike 'Patrick's' abutilon -definitely dead, not dormant. Annieinaustin, Marilyn's choice abutilon sprouting at base
Last spring the 'Ramona' clematis began to bloom almost exactly the same minute that the 'Julia Child' floribunda roses started - a spectacular combination. This year Ramona jumped the gun and was more than half open by last weekend. The many buds on 'Julia Child' were barely showing color yesterday: Annieinaustin, Julia child rose w Ramona Clematis... but today it looks as she's shouting Hey, Ramona - Wait for me! Annieinaustin, Ramona clematis and Julia Child rose
Our Texas Superstar shrub rose 'Belinda's Dream' came through rough weather and is covered in buds - here's Belinda in the area rather grandly designated as The Pink Entrance Garden:Belindas Dream in bud, Annieinaustin
In 2006 I bought a 1-gallon pot with a starter plant of Weigela 'Rumba' at the closing sale for Howard Nursery on Koenig Lane. The stock was down to just a few plants so I picked it up for sentimental reasons - in Illinois we called it 'Cardinal Bush' - not expecting it to live long. But here it is, at 30" tall, slightly larger than last year, and blooming for the 5th spring not far from 'Belinda's Dream'.Weigela Rumba, annieinaustinIt's annoying that the Hesperaloe/ Red yucca at lower left has not been inspired to floral display by its neighbors... although alive and larger than last year, this native plant has produced the desired tall spires of coral-pink-red flowers only once in 6 springs. Annieinaustin, nonblooming Hesperaloe
I pruned the large Mutabilis rose quite severely in mid-February which only made it bloom more - and the scent in the front butterfly border is wonderful. This is its 4th year in the ground. See that spot of orange to the left of the birdbath base? It's a Texas Paintbrush, back for the 3rd spring. Annieinaustin, Mutabilis rose & birdbath
Mutabilis, my sweet baby... Happy April & welcome back!
Annieinaustin, mutabilis rose closeup