About Me
My Photo
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.
View my complete profile

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Felder Rushing at Florarama

The answer to all of the questions at the end of the last post is Yes! I did get to hear Felder Rushing speak in person. Philo & I did get to Florarama [AKA Zilker Garden Festival]. I bought the two replacement Duranta plants, and also found another Barleria-Philippine violet, a Pigeonberry, a Denver Gold columbine, a Dwarf myrtle, a Bletilla-ground orchid, another hot pepper for Philo, raffle tickets to benefit Zilker Park, and bought Felder Rushing’s book Tough Plants For Southern Gardens, seen above with my well-read copy of Passalong Plants, which I've scribbled in, stuffed with notes and filled with post-its.

You know, that passalong book has been in my possession since the middle nineties. It had me craving Crinum lilies and wanting Banana Shrubs/Michelias when I lived in Zone 5-Northern Illinois. I’ve read and reread it, and made lists of plants I’ve been given and plants that I've given away from three different gardens.
When Felder Rushing walked up to the podium and started talking it was like hearing an old friend – a very wise and funny friend. He talked of left-brain horticulture and right-brain gardening. He talked about his ancestors and his descendents, about plant societies and rules, bottle trees like Pam’s, using plants that want to grow where you live, told how to use plants in combinations, and then he shared the his “Gardeners’ Bill of Rights”, which was quite empowering! He introduced his radio partner, Dirt, who spent decades as a chef, but is now a radio gardener with very unusual advice, a mellow voice and very interesting stories.

Can you imagine how glad I was that we were in that audience?
Apparently with age comes boldness - because after the talk I not only asked Felder Rushing to sign my book, but mentioned that the Garden Bloggers' Book Club had chosen Passalong Plants as the next selection. I even gave him one of the little business cards Philo made for me with the girl-in-the-hat icon and my blog address.

This was my second burst of courage. Earlier in the day, I approached John Dromgoole [John is the garden guru I linked to in The Gardener’s Year post] and told him that there were a bunch of Austin Garden Bloggers who were fans, that we loved his nursery and that we had links to the Natural Gardener’s website on our blogs, so that people all over the country may have heard that rooster crow. And I gave him one of the little Annie cards, too.

For the Wisteria fans, let’s close with a photo of Zilker Botanical Garden’s method of dealing with this lovely, rampant vine. Their venerable Wisteria is pruned into a tree-form on a small, manmade island in the middle of a koi pond:

Friday, March 30, 2007

THOUGHT POPS, Edition Three

I WON A MAJOR AWARD! And it was Fra-gi-lé!

Did any Christmas Story fans immediately think “leg lamp”? The box was smaller, but I won something equally cool,
and all I had to do was identify this mysterious photo on La Gringa’s Blogocito:

There are lots of cycads, including Sago Palms at the Hartman Gardens, and this photo sure looked like new growth unfurling to me. Then La Gringa showed the
Cycad, fully unfurled, and said that I was the winner.

La Gringa has been my guide to so many fascinating people, plants, creatures, customs and places that I was a winner just by visiting her blogocito, but she also sent me a surprise, all the way from Honduras.

First some Honduras souvenirs – note pads. Then out came a bag of Honduran-grown coffee. Philo & I brewed coffee and like it a lot – it’s a very smooth brew.

And then even more prizes appeared!

La Gringa sent the cute magnet girls to represent the ‘Divas of the Dirt’, along with this very useful case for glasses with zippered pocket and neck cord, and a beautiful windchime made of polished coconut shells, which makes a cool, clicketty-kind of sound. La Gringa put such thought into the prize that she even wrapped these treasures in interesting pages from the Honduran newspapers - even the packaging was fun!

Thank you so much, La Gringa and El Jefe ~ you made me feel very lucky, and very special!


The Lady Banks opened fully earlier this week and is blooming with the Coral Honeysuckle.
When I planted the new honeysuckle last year my hope was that the yellow centers of this coral-colored vine would harmonize with the pale yellow of the Lady Banks. I’m pretty happy with this ephemeral combination – what do you think?

In the side garden three Bridal Wreath spiraeas are blooming with a few bluebonnets.

Can you see that iris foliage at far right? My friend Ellen was given some iris last spring and the person who gave it to her promised that it was purple. Ellen shared some with me, and now we’re both hoping they will bloom in the violet shades that we crave.

Above are both varieties of spiraea and the Lady Banks to compare their bloom and leaves. That’s Rosa Lady Banks Yellow at left, with the longer-leaved, larger flowered Spiraea cantoniensis(?) in the center. I’m not sure of the botanical name for the other, rounder-leaved Spiraea at right, but this is the kind that grew in our Illinois gardens.

This name is no longer in use – our annual horticultural extravaganza was already called the Zilker Garden Festival when we moved here, but some longtime Austinites like M Sinclair Stevens prefer the original name, and so do I.
The festival may be somewhat soggy – we have had some tremendous downpours here in the last few days – but the weather forecasters are still promising that the rain will have moved out by mid-Saturday.

Now for the part guaranteed to turn some of you green with envy – the bigshot speaker this year is none other than FELDER RUSHING!! Yes, the coauthor of the beloved book Passalong Plants, which has already been announced as the next choice of the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club.
Will my luck hold? Will I get to hear Felder speak in person? Will I even make it to Florarama? Will I find new Duranta plants to replace the ones that died over winter? Watch this space – I hope the answers will all be Yes.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Wisteria Gone Wild

Philo and I were on an errand yesterday and passed this amazing sight near the freeway. We were not far from the house so we went back for the camera, and I jumped out to take a couple of shots from the sidewalk.

Susan South of the River recently posted her Wisteria; and last night I saw that Gotta Garden found a huge plant, too. I’ve often wished that I had this vine, but after seeing how far it’s traveled down the creek, maybe it’s better to visit Wisteria than to own it!

The Gardener's Year

Last year I noted that that a book called The Gardener’s Year by Karel Čapek was one of the recommended books at the Zanthan Gardens site of M. Sinclair Stevens. When I saw a copy on sale last fall, I was delighted, and then was delighted a second time when it became the March selection for the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club.

The edition I bought is part of the Modern Library Gardening Series, published in 2002, with an introduction to the series by Michael Pollan, and a forward by New York Times writer Verlyn Klinkenborg. This forward has biographical information about Karel Čapek, and a note that the pronunciation of Čapek is chop-uk, which I’m trying to remember. I found this quote via D.G. Jerz:

Čapek's obituary in Newsweek (January 2, 1939) said of the play R.U.R.: "Although he believed it the least interesting of all his works, it brought him greatest fame."

In 2007, the play R.U.R. is till famous and read by students of drama, but doesn’t it seem as if this little volume of garden philosophy has a wider readership? Perhaps Karel Čapek would be amused at that.

The Gardener’s Year was written in the Czech language and was first published in 1929, then in 1931 was printed in an English translation. 1929! That’s 78 years ago, but its descriptions of ridiculous, obsessed, yet still hopeful plant people sound like gardeners in the present, even though there have been changes in gardening over the decades. We still take the weather personally, forget what we’ve planted, buy too many plants, use the feasts of saints as days for planting crops, and struggle with garden technology – and we garden bloggers are all bonding with the author over our still unmanageable garden hoses.

Josef Čapek, the author’s brother, drew the whimsical illustrations, so full of wishful thinking, with winged gardeners suspended over the flowerbeds. I don’t think we’d love the book quite so much without the drawings! When Josef caught the Czech gardeners in action, the only women seem to be a couple of flappers mowing the lawn in dresses and heels. Was this really true at that time and place, I wonder? Did women not garden? Perhaps using men was a way to avoid indelicacy in the illustrations, so that Josef did not have to draw females astraddle rock gardens with rump in the air.

For me one of the most amazing and endearing aspects of Karel Čapek’s writing was the specific way he spoke about plants and soil. He doesn’t give you three names and then add ‘etc.’ His lists tumble on, his similes stretch for paragraphs and the descriptions are complete rather than suggestive, as when he speaks of of cactus:
There are cacti just like porcupines, cucumbers, marrows, candlesticks, jugs, priests’ caps, snakes’ nests; they are covered with scales, teats, tufts of hair, claws, warts, bayonets, yataghans and stars; they are bulky and lanky, spiked like a regiment of lancers, sharp like a column brandishing swords, swollen, stringy, and wrinkled, pock-marked, bearded, peevish, morose, thorny like abatis, woven like a basket, looking like excrescenses, animals and arms; the most masculine of all plants which were created on the third day, bearing seed according to their kind.
[I had to look up Yataghans and abatis – how about you?]

The military references seem appropriate in hindsight, since Karel Čapek was only in his forties when he died, departing as the Nazis took over his land. For a heartbroken man so in love with soil, with earth, with humus, he may not have minded the leaving. As I read those passages on soil, it occurred to me that a few years after Karel Čapek’s death, another man was born with the same kind of passion for soil. And I kept imagining our John Dromgoole and Karel Čapek in conversation, spreading the word that you shouldn’t feed the plants, you should feed the soil!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Iris, A Meme and Nostalgia

The County Clerk asked for more iris photos – remember the mystery iris that had been labeled purple? It opened and looks exactly like the big clump of pale orange ones, which had also been labeled as purple. There must be a colorblind organic gardener supplying these mismarked divisions to the fundraising sales!

Here is one of the pale orange ones at left, cut from its stalk and held in my hand. The mystery iris is at right… they look identical to me.

The County Clerk also tagged me for a même, so I gave it a try.

1] I’ve spent months researching the perfect tree or shrub for some area we’re revamping, then dragged Philo from nursery to nursery hunting for it. Several times we brought our treasure home and set the container in the designated place, but… there were no bells, no skyrockets, no tingles of delight. I set the poor reject aside for some other use, and went back to the research.

2] I can trap myself into doing projects by using psychology. Trudi Temple has a wonderful garden in Illinois, which I visited over and over back in the nineties. The first time I went to Trudi’s, I came home wanting to emulate her, but knew I’d have second thoughts if I waited too long. I knew exactly what amount of destruction would keep me from turning back, and before going in to cook dinner, had ripped out a band of grass wide enough to delineate the boundaries of a new huge front yard border. When I wanted a new side garden this spring, I used a weed whip to scribe the basic shape, destroying the turf so I wouldn’t chicken out. [This border is coming along and there will be photos in a few weeks.]

3] I didn’t even realize this might be considered crazy, but Philo recalled how puzzled the old neighbors were when I used our children’s wagons and carts to roll trees and shrubs around the yard. I would move them to possible locations, sometimes leaving them in place for a week or two before making final planting decisions. The neighbors may also have been amused when I persuaded family members of differing heights into letting me position them with arms stretched outward overhead, then maneuvered them around the yard so I could estimate how a tree or shrub would look in the landscape.

4] Maybe this one really was crazy. When my mother-in-law gave me money as a birthday gift, she probably hoped I’d get my hair restyled, or at least buy some new clothes. I took the money to the material supply yard instead, and bought boulders for my garden.

5] I may never know if this was the craziest thing I’ve ever done or if it was the sanest. Eight years ago I let myself be talked into leaving our families, our home and the tree peony, the iris, the lilies, the Pagoda Dogwood, the wildflowers, the lilacs and so much more that grew in our 12-year old garden in Illinois, in order to live in Texas.

We thought it would last 3-to-5 years, and there were many good reasons to move, both professional and financial. But I must confess that there was an element of horticultural greed influencing my consent. I wanted a chance to grow the plants in the Plant Delight Catalog…all those plants from warmer zones. Well, I'm plenty warm now.

Friday noon: Carol's question about the vines on our Illinois garage roof sent me to the photo albums. Maybe this should be crazy thing # 6? I talked Philo into putting a lathe and chicken wire stripe from side to side, over the roof point. A long-established Sweet Autumn Clematis climbed up from the left, blue morning glories grew quickly on the right, and they swirled together by August. The open garage door and basketball net don't do too much for the photo, but it was pretty cool to see in person!

Many of you are swamped with spring cleanup, so I hesitate to tag anyone. If you read this, and would like to do the meme, please go to the County Clerk's site and find out how to make a post. Those of you who are whining that you can't be out in the garden right now, consider yourself tagged!


Monday, March 19, 2007

That Ten-Petalled Anemone

Several commenters asked questions about that Anemone heterophylla shown in the bloom day post. I took another photo once this morning's drizzle let up.

Here's the Ten-petalled Anemone with more of the foliage visible. These leaves sure do resemble columbine's leaves, maybe because both Aquilegia/Columbines and Anemones are in the Ranunculus/Buttercup Family? This time I included a ruler for scale - it's a very petite flower! They look cute in the grass, but are not going to compete with the kind of Anemones you buy from bulb dealers in the fall, like Anemones de Caen or St. Brigid.

Since the 15th more flowers have opened.
The Lady Banks yellow rose is completely full of buds and has opened a few blossoms. I kept this rose in a series of ever-larger containers for about 5 years, then last summer finally planted it next to the patio arch. It isn't an repeat flowering rose, blooming just once a year in spring. It also comes with the warning that growth can be rampant, but I don't care. This is one of those plants often mentioned in garden books, and occasionally seen on the Southern segments of the Victory Garden show on PBS. So for me, growing it is a kind of statement of place - that I live here now.

These iris were all just buds on the fifteenth, but look at them now!

The Iris buds burst open on Sunday morning - both the simple, rather small white iris, frequently seen as a passalong - and the larger, more ruffled, slightly fragrant pale orange variety. There's another bud on the mystery iris which froze in the ice storm , and if this one opens, I'll show it to you.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for March

Carol of May Dreams Gardens has asked us to post what’s in bloom today, and thank heaven one of the previous owners planted spiraea in this yard.
The Texas Redbud is a sapling and the Texas Mountain Laurel is a tiny shrub, both displaying a few barely swelling buds, but the Spiraea has been here awhile, giving a little substance to the back border, with a few Thalia daffodils and some grape hyacinth.

The small Forest Pansy Redbud is now fully open.
And thank you, Carol for letting us post buds, or there would only be photos of the same Camellia, Coral Honeysuckle, Carolina Jessamine, and Meyer’s Lemon that appeared here recently.
This Loropetalum has been refreshed by the rain, and is ready to open.
Sometimes it's called Chinese Fringe Flower and I've also heard it called Raspberry Razzle Dazzle.
Under any name, I'm glad to have it.

Many Iris stalks are extended, with the petals just beginning to peek through.
These passalongs look pale blue now, but the flowers will be white. The bud at far left will bloom a fragrant light orange.

Finally, here’s a reason to mow high and to avoid weedkillers on the lawn – a little native Ten-petalled Anemone that appears early in spring

Monday, March 12, 2007

March Means Hauling & Planting

Last week our tree service informed us that the stump-grinding machine was temporarily broken, so we can't procede with our plans for that area.

We plunked a birdbath on the stump of the Arizona Ash and ignored the front yard to concentrate on the back.

This was a hunter/gatherer weekend for the Transplantable Rose, with stops for a few tomato and pepper plants, several trips to the U-dig place for organic compost and decomposed granite and a trip to pick up more rocks.
Last year we planted a good-sized Barbados Cherry/Malpighia glabra in an existing border, evicting what was left of a corky spiraea. At that time, we cleared out every visible bit of the hideous Asian Jasmine, decided to leave some mini-roses in place and put off thinking about the wooden border edge until some future date.

M Sinclair Stevens had shared some of her Oxblood Lilies/Rhodophiala bifida., She kindly handed the bulbs over to me while they were still blooming last September, which meant we enjoyed the flowers even before the bulbs were were planted here.

There was space at the very front of the border for some Oxblood lilies, a few bargain daffodils, a motley collection of former holiday Amaryllis and small divisions of the purple oxalis from another border.

This doesn’t sound like the kind of project you’ll see in a glossy magazine, does it? So much of our puttering is making small changes, reusing what’s already here, nibbling away at the parts we don't like and doing a lot of things just to see what will happen.
After the ice and cold this winter, I was disappointed but not surprised when the Barbados cherry showed no sign of life. [Both Durantas, some Lantanas and both Tecoma stans/Esperanzas look like goners, too.] So last weekend we pulled up the dead cherry and decided to make the back half of the border into a raised bed, using some good-sized rocks from our stash as walls. But that meant hauling more compost, and a lot of decomposed granite.

Finding what you want in a garden center or material yard can be easy, but buying it can take forever. Over the weekend, some nurseries were fast, some not, and at the U-dig place things did not go well either on Saturday or Sunday. People running registers didn’t know how to enter the prices, and on a return trip we ran into non-functioning computers.

Unfortunately, after too many long lines, I behaved as erratically as the computers. I was inside waiting to pay for compost & gravel while fretting that Philo was doing all the grunt work. At one point, distracted by photos of gigantic, organically-grown Alaskan vegetables, I mistakenly thought that a young man was line-jumping and got quite cranky with him. He was perfectly innocent, and even worse – the guy had on an Austin Film Society shirt, and I’m a member of the same group. At least I didn’t have on a Divas of the Dirt t-shirt, because I wouldn't want the other Divas to be disgraced by my public display of grumpiness!

By the time I got outside, Philo had done all the heavy loading work for a second time, and we went home to finish planting the bed.

Although the Barbados Cherry didn't work out, we hope to make a different native evergreen grow in our garden. In the raised part, we planted a Rhus virens/ Evergreen Sumac bought at the Lady Bird Johnson Winter tree festival. That's a narrow decomposed granite path behind it, so I'll have somewhere to stand when clipping and fighting the wiry, insidious jasmine. The sumac is small, but has an interesting shape and beautiful leaves. I really hope this one survives! And maybe by the time it has gained some height and substance, we’ll be able to replace that clunky wooden border with something better.

This post needs a beautiful flower photo. Last November, Pam/Digging gave me a division of her ‘Amethyst’ iris, and on Sunday it produced this flower. In the past, two other Iris plants labeled purple turned out to be orange. I'm still hoping that another, not-yet-bloomed iris will be somewhere in the promised purple range.
But when Pam says it's a purple Iris you can count on it.

I’m thrilled, Pam! Thank you so much.
We had two-and-a-half inches of rain last night, for which I’m also thrilled and thankful.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Someone Is Stealing My Content and Words

I know that stealing blog content goes on all the time, but I'm still hopping mad that my words are being stolen.

A thief by the name of Kosartheg is reblogging my articles, including those called "Directed by Duplass", "The Evolution of the Veranda", "Decisions Were Made", "Wish For A Walk", "Not Zanthan's Mystery Weed", "Destiny or Delusion", "Enjoying the Evergreens", "The Essential Earthman", "Read All About It", "Rain", "Living It Up In South Austin", "In Transition", "Luke, Mike and Idiocracy", "Calling Garden Prodigy", "Is My Name Fred" .... and so on - without my name, Annie in Austin, or the name of my blog , The Transplantable Rose, or any links back to the author - just outright clip, paste and steal.

The BLOGGING THIEF is using WordPress and has the title DuskDiary. The comments don't work, and it appears that I need a WordPress account to flag this blog. The Flying Monkeys are still on Spring Break, so until one of my wonderful friends in the blogosphere helps me notify WordPress:

This is to advise you, Kosartheg, that you are using copyrighted and protected material on your website/blog. Your illegal use of All the above listed articles at DuskDiary are originally from my website/blog called The Transplantable Rose at the address annieinaustin dot blogspot dot com. This is original content and I am the author and copyright holder. Use of copyright protected material without permission is illegal under copyright laws.
Please take one or more of the following actions immediately:
Re-write the post to include excerpts with a link to the original content.
Credit the material specifically to me, as author, and my website The Transplantable Rose.
Remove the plagiarized material immediately.
I expect a response within 5 days to this issue. Thank you for your immediate action on this matter. Annie in Austin

If you're just arriving at this post, please read the comments. The theft of posts from my garden blog is just one just a small part of a larger problem, and the commenters have a lot to say.

March 26th
Another user has reblogged my stuff again. This time it's at a different WordPress site under the aegis of financehelpblogdotcom which is not cooperating in letting me report the stolen posts. The user is kingarthur11460. If you are watching out for reblogging of your own content, financehelpblogdotcom may be a place to look.
Why have the stolen blogs all been reblogged under WordPress? Is there something about WordPress that is making it attractive and easy to use for spammers and thieves? But the stolen content is mainly from Blogger blogs. There are no answers, yet - just more questions.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Arizona Ash

From the first minute we saw them in the front yard, we knew the aging Arizona Ash trees would be trouble, but we liked this house, bought it anyway, and moved here in summer 2004. By the following February I'd written a comical song called "Arizona Ash" for my Roots in Austin collection.

When the trees budded out this spring, barely a third of the biggest Ash was alive. The day of reckoning had come so last week we called Austex and got out the camera.

Arizona Ash

[Two other songs from Roots in Austin are also on YouTube, "We Are the Divas of the Dirt" and "Transplantable Rose".

Friday, March 02, 2007

Flowery First Weekend In March

My post is just photos today - we're in the middle of several projects. Up in Northwest Austin spring comes a little later than it does to Pam's garden in Central Austin, but we're catching up!

Last week it was all fuzzy buds, but today our neighbor's Saucer Magnolia is opening on the other side of the back fence.

One of our redbuds is this Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy', planted in fall of 2004. It's barely grown in height, but the branches are fuller, and each spring there have been more flowers dotted along the branches. Some of the buds froze and dropped off when our temperatures fell to the low twenties a couple of weeks ago - how wise of this tree to hold more buds in reserve. When the leaves emerge, they're a dark purple color, which fades to green in the heat of summer. The evergreen vine behind the tree is Star Jasmine, Trachaelospermum jasminoides, which will have fragrant white flowers in late spring.

The Carolina Jessamine, Gelsemium sempervirens, is now in full, fragrant bloom.

The coral honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, is blooming on the arch. In the background you can see the still-blooming Camellia japonica 'Pius IX' and the top of the tall saucer magnolia. The tree trunk is the pecan tree.

Tea Olive, Osmanthus fragrans, is mostly evergreen in our yard [although cold weather can damage some foliage] and it blooms in winter.
Although the individual flowers are tiny, just a few open blooms can fill the side garden with their fragrance. That reddish color is new leaves forming at the ends of the branches. We had one in a container at our previous house which we planted in back. We liked it so much that we bought a second Tea Olive last fall, and so far it's doing really well.

The Meyer's Lemon has been out on the park bench for air and a little sun. There are a few new baby lemons! The tree is coming back inside tonight, just in cast the 'possible light freeze' that is predicted for both tonight and Sunday nights turns out to be more than a possibility.