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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, August 08, 2013

When A Ginger Is Just A "Ginger"

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

What do you think of when you hear "Ginger plant"? The first one that comes to my mind is Hedychium coronarium, the fragrant white-flowering ginger, also called Hawaiian White Ginger or
Butterfly Ginger. I brought a tiny root back from the airport gift shop in Hawaii more than a decade ago and have it growing in a few places in my garden. I can still remember how thrilling it was when my plant first bloomed in 2004.


You can find fancier, named varieties of Hedychium with larger flowers in many colors but I still love the white one... reminds me of the loved and long-discontinued Avon sticks in Hawaiian White Ginger scent.
Each summer I hope for the return of the fragrant blooms - in some years they are few but this year buds have formed on one plant.

Maybe Ginger to you means true, edible ginger, Zingiber officinale? I once started a plant from one of the fresh ginger roots from the produce section but it was very tender and didn't survive. The leaves look similar to my white ginger but it's grown for the root, not the flowers.

Perhaps, like many people in Austin, you think of the large-leaved variegated ginger grown in containers and in the ground. A few years ago I picked up a pot from the bargain table at a big box nursery for a couple of dollars. I'm pretty good about keeping lists of plant purchases, but I didn't even bother to write this one down, sure it was just a tender, one-season foliage plant.

Over the first winter the foliage died back badly but the leaves struggled back up to form a sadly diminished foliage plant that summer.

Its fortitude earned the ginger a place in the garage for Winter 2009-2010, safe from freezes but subject to dust and sawdust.

With the return of warm weather the pot was dragged back onto the front porch.

Then in 2010 my friend Ellen bought a couple of Variegated gingers from the reduced-for-quick sale section at a big HEB store - she brought one to me and I put it in another pot, to have one on each side of the front door.

Both pots of variegated ginger grew and were dragged back in the garage for winter 2011-12.

Last spring they came out front to grow some more. But they didn't grow in quite the same way - one had clusters of leaves on stalks and one sent more pointed leaves sprawling in every direction.
Finally I got the message - these plants were not the same plant.

Ellen's gift was definitely a variegated Shell Ginger, best guess was Alpinia zerumbet 'Variegata'.

But my bargain baby was something else.
It seemed to be some variety of Ctenanthe lubbersiana - maybe just variegata or maybe one of the named varieties. Some sites called it Bamburanta and others Prayer Plant. Some people on GardenWeb called it California Ginger - this seems to be a name used by home centers when they sell Ctenanthe as tropical plants.

By late fall 2012 both plants needed repotting.
After a redo, the Shell Ginger was in a larger decorated pot set in a corner of the porch.

I split the Not-Shell Ginger into two rather gawky plants, one for each side of the door.

When I cut off some stalks with browned leaves, I noticed the way the leaves were attached in small fans at the top of the stalks. I pulled off a few fans and poked them into another pot on the patio, and stuck a few more fans in smaller pots.

My instincts were right - the fans rooted and soon I had a third plant growing with a Blue Butterfly Clerodendron, something that also needed to be in the garage for winter.

This summer the front pots of Ctenanthe/California Ginger look pretty good, under the overhang of the veranda, in partial shade from a large tree.

They need water a few times each week in warm weather, but not every day.

And after a recent grooming session I have more pieces stuck in pots in hope they'll root.

The porch was too small for the Shell Ginger - in back it can get a mix of sun and shade and spread out.

As a foliage plant it is just fine, but now I have higher ambitions for my Shell Ginger! In June some friends and I went on the NXNA garden walk and saw this enormous plant in bloom against a brick wall. Wow!

Two mild winters in a row meant that flower buds on Shell Ginger plants all over Austin didn't freeze but lived to bloom, surprising many of the gardeners who had nurtured them for years without ever seeing a flower. Sometimes patience is rewarded with great beauty.

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

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A surprisingly Pleasant, Rainy GBBD for July, 2013

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

Rain is a big deal here, and it rained today! I watched through the kitchen window as the rain ran down the chain into the barrel and then stood on the front porch listening to the welcome sound. Instead of dust we had raindrops. Instead of the 104°F of Saturday afternoon, temperatures on Monday afternoon never broke 80°F.
The chance to make a Garden Blogger Bloom Day post featuring petals and leaves dampened by raindrops doesn't come along very often! I caught a few photos, mostly of plants near the house, and mostly of flowers with petals that hadn't disintegrated to mush in the rain.

There are two more rain chains directing water into the very important, long back wall border. This very desirable morning-sun, afternoon-shade spot is jammed full with Blue Plumbago, Tropical Milkweed, a Meyer's Lemon, a Satsuma orange, 'Carmen' peppers, a climbing rose, Grandma's phlox, Blue Butterfly Clerodendron, Pink cuphea, Burgundy oxalis, black Ophiopogon, Coreopsis 'Crème Brulee', three passalong daylilies and more, in the rain

Some years ago a couple of bulbs of Amarcrinum were given positions in this special, long border - the fragrant pink flowers appeared in the last post and even more flower stalks are up now. Here is  x Amarcrinum 'Fred Howard' in the rain

Over by the garden gate the Cenizo/Texas Sage had popped into bloom

Across from the Cenizo a daylily that had bloomed a while ago is surprising me. It appears that the developing bloom stalk stalled and shut down when we started seeing temperatures over 100°F. Now the stalk has extended and the buds are swelling, long after the other flowers faded. Here is Hemerocallis 'Devonshire' in the rain.

Behind the daylily are a Firecracker plant and a creamy white Salvia greggii. Let's take a closer look. 

The daylily, Firecracker plant and salvia have all been here for years, but on the other side of the daylily is a more recent addition, Asclepias currasivica 'Silky Gold'. This all-yellow selection of tropical milkweed seems to be settling in well and it sure does look pretty in the rain

Closer to the back fence a young 'Catawba' crepe myrtle bows down with the weight of water-logged blossoms. This tree is only shrub-sized right now, but it has the potential to transform this part of the garden as it grows into a tree.

Blasting afternoon sun combined with deep morning shade and a very dry winter is not the recipe for happy Phlox, but some handwatering and compost helped this Fanick's phlox in the pink entrance garden survive to make a few flowers. I was afraid I had lost this plant so am very happy to take a photo of it in the rain

There are a couple of beds in the garden that usually bloom with red, white & blue flowers around  Memorial Day or the Fourth of July. Those beds did not deliver this year, but a large patio container is displaying patriotic colors today. Here's a white Datura AKA Angel's Trumpet, with blue-violet petunias, white hummingbird sage and red hummingbird sage, in the rain.

So far my rain gauge has measured a little over 2" - there's been much more in some parts of Central Texas and much less in other parts of Austin. Y
ou may be tired of reading that little phrase, "In the Rain", but I'm sure not tired of saying it.

Carol of May Dreams Gardens started Garden Bloggers Bloom Day and keeps the links for all who want to be part of this pleasant tradition. This is her July post.

If I can get a complete list of what's in bloom along with the botanical names, it will appear at Annie's Addendum.  

(That list is now up, with a few more photos)
This post was written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose blog. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

When the Garden Is In Heat

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

The plants aren't howling and writhing like cats in heat, but gardeners in Austin would probably like to howl today...

Even though my garden has a lot of shifting, filtered shade, the combination of sun and heat makes the blossoms on some plants change color. Here's 'Vi's Apricot' daylily on May 1st - there is a rosy blush over the petals

The first flush of blooms finished weeks ago, but the daylily sent up more stalks and is now reblooming. The flowers have lost the rosy blush, but the diamond-dusting shows up even more strongly.

 One of the 'Fred Howard' Amarcrinum bulbs bloomed a few days ago. Yesterday it had faded to this

while another bulb - just opened - showed the true color

Today that second bulb is fading fast

I bought a new little crinum from the Travis County Master Gardeners tent at the Zilker Park Garden Festival a couple of months ago. This is Crinum oliganthum, a dwarf Caribbean variety. The beautiful flower lasted one day.

Passalong Crocosmia came from Austin friend Martha in 2008 and were planted in front of one of the 'Acoma' crepe myrtles. They've declined in that spot so I moved a few bulbs nearer the patio arch and watched them thrive. I'm not sure what makes this spot better, but I love the orange Crocosmia with the violet Calibrachoa! 

The sweet name fooled me into planting Angelonia in a sheltered spot when I last bought it. That plant bloomed a wishy-washy pink but this gleaming Angel can take very strong sun & heat. I took a photo with the thermometer at 107°F and the sun still blazing on the container.

The blue plumbago does not like prolonged cold spells - they can knock it down to the ground - but these last days of 100°F, 105°F and 107°F haven't discouraged it one bit. The color hasn't faded, either.

Has the heat changed the color of my newest crepe myrtle? Is it really the 'Muskogee' that the label promised or do I have an imposter? I've wanted that variety for years after seeing it bloom around Austin, especially after Pam/Digging planted one in her front garden and the flowers looked a lot like the lilacs I grew in Illinois. I bought a 'Muskogee' in 2011 but it didn't do much last year. This June it is finally in bloom, but the flowers don't look like lilacs to me - they look almost exactly the color of Mexican Oregano.

Planting at this time of year may not be wise, but I did it anyway... we'll see if I get away with it. One of the hypertufa troughs was planted with snapdragons. They looked good for months but last week did them in so they needed to be replaced. Maybe this portulaca from Barton Springs Nursery will do OK, and if the Dicliptera suberecta lives the hummingbirds will be happy. Jewels of Opar is a new plant for me - it has a reputation as an opportunistic reseeder so I've been hesitant so far, but the variegated kind was irresistible.   

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

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Gaudy Redefined

 This post, "Gaudy Redefined" was written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose blog.

Seven years ago I started a blog on a whim, mostly so I could comment on other blogs (back then you needed a Blogger ID just to comment). I named the blog The Transplantable Rose and posted a photo of my white perennial hibiscus with the title "Define Gaudy". The Hibiscus 'Blue River II' is still alive but the ground warmed up slowly this spring, so we have buds instead of blooms this June 7th.

And a new Passalong Plant from Pam/Digging, called Monarda 'Peter's Purple', is currently wearing the crown as Most Gaudy. I have tried Monarda over & over since we moved to this house nearly nine years ago... only a couple of those plants lived at all and none bloomed until this powerhouse took root last summer.

A glance at the first few posts reminds me that plants can grow a great deal in seven years - the first triangle bed with the 'Little Gem' Magnolia was brand new in June 2006.

Yesterday there were 12 flowers open at once on a tree that is dwarf by Southern Magnolia standards, but still quite a presence in this small garden!

A post about the double Mock-Orange from my dad's garden showed it blooming in the newly-made Secret Garden. I took the photo for the blog, but it ended up being a memory - that Mock-Orange didn't make it through alternating days of flood & drought. But do you see that tiny fig tree close to the white iron fence? It is no longer tiny.

The Secret Garden seems a little more Secret today, with the now-large fig tree, crepe myrtle and pomegranate casting shade, borders on all the edges, a different bench and the usually-unhappy grass replaced by stepping stones & decomposed granite.

Another summer is on the way, perhaps preparing to draw its twin daggers of heat and drought to murder the plants I love. But just for today, I will celebrate that the garden is fuller, the shrubs are larger, a few tomatoes and peppers are getting ripe, the beds and borders are stuffed with plants native and adapted, the containers are stuffed with plants that are totally inappropriate and/or beloved for sentimental reasons, and the birds, insects, lizards, and squirrels think it's just swell.

I may not write often, but I'm not giving up yet. Year 8? Bring it on. 

 This post, "Gaudy Redefined" was written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose blog.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day May 2013

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

The May garden has few surprises, but unexpectedly cool nights, days under 90°F  and some rain in the last month have made the garden look greener than usual. Funny thing - although the rain wasn't heavy enough to refill the reservoirs and it didn't sink deep enough for the trees and shrubs, there was enough near the surface to pump up the grass paths around the Trapezoid Walk.

In other years the daylilies have been in full swing by mid-May. In this odd year, the passalong dwarf daylily 'Vi's Apricot' has some flowers - here mingling with the annual larkspur:

 Another passalong, the Orange Daylily/Ditch Lily from Gardener of Good & Evil, has bloomed with more larkspur, a patch of Salvia farinacea started with shared plants from Rock Rose, and a brand new 'Silky Yellow' tropical Milkweed from The Natural Gardener...

 Other varieties like the 'Best of Friends' from Pam at Digging have made buds but none are open yet. Our weather is now changing from damp to dry with temperatures soaring up into the 90's F - sure hope all these buds won't be blasted!

Seedlings from the annual larkspur turn up all over the garden each year in late winter. Some seedlings are weeded out - many are left to bloom in the spots they have chosen - larkspur popped up with the Oakleaf Hydrangea. This variety is 'Snow Queen' and the plant is in bloom for the third spring in a row.

Salvia coccinea, Hummingbird sage, also seeds around. I planted the lavender but these Hummingbird sages not only planted themselves - they've selected their own color scheme. Behind the scrim of salvias and lavender you can glimpse the climbing mini-rose, 'Red Cascade'.

Also self-selecting are the annual poppies. This one turned up in a hypertufa trough on the patio.

Near the trough are two small native wildflowers that were purchased and planted so we could see them from the table. Four nerve daisy blooms most of the year but the Blue-eyed grass usually makes a short visit. The unusual weather has kept it blooming.

A couple of feet away is a little tapestry composed of Silver ponyfoot, White-flowering sedum and a wandering Ice Plant.

After seeing Renee Studebaker's garden on tour last year, I came home and pruned the fig tree and the pomegranate tree in the Secret Garden, hoping to make them more productive. That pruning also gave more sun to the Pineapple Guava and it has more flowers than ever before! Will there be fruit this year?

Another shrub in bloom now is a fragrant, double, yellow oleander, growing in a bottomless wooden box. Twelve years ago this large shrub arrived as a one-foot-tall rooted cutting from Plant Delights. If you want to grow one, check out the current Plant Delights catalog.

Near the Sweetheart Arch the Shasta daisies have started, backed up by Salvia 'Hot Lips', Salvia guaranitica and Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue'. I like the way the rusty reddish brown of the arch at right is echoed by the burgundy-leaved cannas on the left

When the flowers are in bloom the insects are blooming, too! These 'Bush Early Girl' tomatoes are making fruit in the vegetable garden near the cilantro, which has mostly gone to flower. I saw ladybug larvae on the cilantro (Good) but also saw a cluster of tomato-wrecking Leaf-footed stink bug young-uns on a patio plant (Bad). The ladybug larvae are still there, but the stinkbug offspring are departed.

From what I can gather from various sources online, this cute little Shiny Flea Beetle appears to be of Texas origin and seems to specialize in Scuttelaria - the Skullcaps. It seems to be more of a problem in places like Florida, where it is not native... but with 6 kinds of Scuttelaria in this garden, I'd better keep an eye on it. (Looks like friends on the Texas GardenWeb are also seeing these little beetles on their skullcaps.)
(The botanical name of the insect was misspelled on original photo so this was edited with redone photos and added links, May 19, 2013)

There's another type of insect larva that hasn't appeared this year, although I've certainly tried to attract them by growing milkweed in many close-together beds and borders. Maybe the Monarch butterflies skipped my garden this spring because they heard about the Titan School Garden here in Austin!   

More photos and the complete list of what is in bloom with botanical names can be found at Annie's Addendum.

Links to Garden Bloom Day posts from all over can be found at the May Dreams Garden Blog. Happy May Dreams, Carol!

This post, Garden Bloggers Bloom Day May 2013, was written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose Blog.