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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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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Images of April

This post, "Images of April", was written for my blogspot blog called The
Transplantable Rose
by Annie in Austin

Several garden bloggers have successfully scanned flowers, including Ki, Carol and Kathy. In her April 21st post, Pam/Digging displayed a rather spooky 'scanograph'. This term comes via Kathy of Cold Climate Gardening. Ki told me to give it a try, but also warned me that my brand of scanner would probably not work, since its light source would give little depth of field. Ki used M&M’s to test the colors, but bringing a bag into this house would be way too dangerous!

Two clematis vines grow in back, one on either side of the door. The larger flowered clematis had some flowers for the April Bloomday, but the other one – possibly a Clematis viticella from the appearance of the leaves and flowers - just opened the first blossoms this week.

I draped a black velour dress over one flower of each clematis, a ‘Nuevo Leon’ salvia, and one tired Mockorange blossom and scanned them, using the autolevel corrections from P-shop Elements to make it clearer. The scanograph colors look different from the flowers in natural light – one clematis is velvety purple with magenta-red bars adding a glow down the center of each petal, the other a ruby red washed with purple overtones – but the scanner seems to concentrate on the red. The live Salvia is a lighter, bluer purple.

When I looked at your flowers, on your blogs, the scanographs were interesting, but when the flowers are my flowers, from my own garden, I don’t think I like the effect – actually- it’s kind of creeping me out.

The large-flowered clematis in morning light:
The possible Clematis viticella:


As the peach and white Hippeastrum/Amaryllis from Bloom Day faded, this one opened. It could be Red Lion, since that was among the old Christmas bulbs which were planted out, to live or die. This flower survived in spite of 23º and an ice storm.


Alophia drummondii, above.These miniature members of the Iris family are native to south Texas rather than Central Texas, but in 2006, two of them appeared in our front grass. I mowed around them last year, letting them mature, which resulted in a scattering of these delicate flowers today. Because Skip Richter and John Dromgoole advise Central Texans to mow high, the flowers were able to grow tall enough to be visible, rather than be mowed before they had a chance to bloom.

Edit Jan 2008: Some photos from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center suggest that rather than Alophia drummondii the right name for my little flowers may be Herbertia lahue.

According to McMillen’s Texas Gardening/ Wildflowers book, another name for this wildflower is Herbertia, and a rather pretty nickname is Purple Pleat-leaf.


This week I received a postcard from Premiere Magazine, my favorite flick rag since the early nineteen-nineties. I’ve stuck with it through several moves, and bought many a gift subscription over 15 years. I’d heard the rumbles, so although I will miss the magazine, it wasn’t a shock to learn the April issue was the last. Ever.

With more than a year left on my current subscription, I was interested to see what the company would do. The postcard informed me that they’ll substitute the same number of issues that are owed to me, but the magazine they’re sending will be US Weekly.

Huh? A weekly gossip magazine is considered to be the equivalent of a monthly magazine with absolutely killer writers like Glenn Kenny and Paul Rudnick as Libby Gelman-Waxner? Not in my opinion. Phooie.

This post, "Images of April", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Two Much Fun

These Salvias grow at my friend Mindy’s house, scene of last Saturday’s project for the Divas of the Dirt. We Divas are a group of Austin women who work together on each other’s garden projects. I joined the group in January 2001, making this my seventh season as one of the seven Divas. On Saturday we were eight, when Mindy’s houseguest, also a gardener, joined us for great food, interactions with nature, and conversations. The Divas worked on one short project and one very long one, and as we left, Mindy shared some extra Salvia greggii and a few pots of Barbados Cherry seedlings. By the time my friend Sophia dropped me at home just before 8 PM, I looked so wrecked that a family member handed over the bottle of Ibuprofen and pointed to the shower. But any day spent with seven wonderful gardeners is a good one, even if exhausting.

Sunday was shared with a different group of seven gardeners - all of them write about gardening and are informally known as the Austin Garden Bloggers. Two April days, each spent with a distinct group of seven other gardeners – what could be more fun? Pam/Digging, R.Sorrell/The Great Experiment, Julie/The Human Flower Project, Vivé/Something About Blooming and Butterflies, Susan/South of the River, Dawn/Suburban Wildlife Garden, and MSS/Zanthan Gardens and I carpooled around the city, stopping to wander around six gardens with some delicious finger-food in one hand and a glass in the other, talking nonstop.

Certain familiar plants were seen in almost every garden, while others were unknown to all but the owner. We have may have trees that are still saplings, or venerable trees that have survived generations of Texas weather. Some of us garden where the land is flat, others with slopes. The houses vary in ages, types and designs, and the gardens used so many plants and contained so many ideas that my head is spinning now as I think about the exhilarating day. But unlike Susan and MSS, I didn’t like awake and think about it last night – for the first time in weeks, I was too tired to think, and fell asleep immediately.

It’s ridiculous how pleased I can be by a single flower. Near the back fence there’s an area planted with red flowers to entice hummingbirds in summer, and a few months ago, I planted some Anemone coronaria ‘The Governor’ to add a little red in spring. Out of 20 corms, only 2 came up, each making a few flowers - this one was gracious enough to be open when the Garden Bloggers were here. One anemone would be lost among the hundreds of flowers in the lush and established gardens I saw yesterday, but one anemone had to be enough in this otherwise green bed.

Although its bud was visible on Sunday, the Siberian iris waited until today to unfold, refusing to perform for the guests. While it’s true that Siberian Iris don’t grow well here – and this single flower took three seasons to appear – it wasn’t a foolish choice ordered from a catalog, but a passalong from my friend Barb in Illinois. We used to trade starts of Siberian iris when I lived up there, much as Pam/Digging and I have traded Iris here. I like to see passalong plants blooming, celebrating our friendships and standing as the emblem of garden friends everywhere who like to plant things just to see what will happen.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Happy Birthday, Kitty

When gardening with seeds was the subject, I wrote about my sturdy gardening grandma, who was born on a farm. This is my other grandmother, Grandma Kitty, a 4’10” bundle of spunk and style. She was born in April, and she's still remembered every April by her descendents. In this photo, Kitty is 21 years old, wearing a pleated dress that she designed and sewed.

Kitty died when I was quite young, so it's likely that my few actual memories of her have replicated themselves into memories of remembering her. But I’ve seen photos and watched old movies and heard a lot of stories about Kitty.
A city-loving apartment dweller with no chance to be a gardener, Kitty was pretty and kind, frequently taking in relatives who needed somewhere to stay for a while. The tale is that everyone loved Kitty – she’s seen in many group photos, never separated from the people near her, but always with someone’s arm enclosing her. Every Friday she baked and cleaned the house like a tornado, getting ready for whoever would drop in over the weekend. You might get her famous kidney stew, or the children's favorite Burnt Sugar Cake, or her own favorite coconut macaroons.

Having a houseful of company was Kitty's delight. With a large extended family just a stroll or a streetcar away, casual visiting was easy and children grew up in a expansive social network, where the cousins were as close as sisters, and the friends were as close as family. There was always someone in the group who could play the piano in Kitty’s parlor, so everyone could sing as they passed the refreshments – which probably included a bucket of suds fetched from the nearby tavern.

I heard that Kitty would spread a sheet of newspaper on the carpet, have one of the children lie down with arms extended to the side, and make marks on the paper. She'd send the child off to school and make a well-fitting coat by the time school was out. [Carol of May Dreams Garden posts the diaries of her grandmother Ruth, who was also a lightning-fast seamstress.]

I’d dearly love to be able to talk to my grandmother, finally find out the answers to genealogical mysteries, ask her if she remembers the Chicago World’s Fair, and quiz her about the photo taken at a pre-World War One party where all the young wives dressed as men and smoked cigars. But tomorrow, it would also be great if Kitty could clean my house like a tornado, whip up some macaroons and magically sew me some new clothes, because company’s coming and I could use her help.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Mouse & Trowel

A week ago, Philo and I rented the Christopher Guest comedy, For Your Consideration, in which actors in an independent film become entranced with the idea that they might be nominated for academy awards. As I watched Harry Shearer, Catharine O’Hara and Parker Posey, I realized that my bonds to their characters were not just cinematical.

Colleen of In The Garden Online thought Garden Blogging needed recognition, and her idea for the Mouse &Trowel awards was immediately accepted. Since the day another garden blogger told me she had nominated me as the Blogger You’d Like as a Neighbor, I‘d let myself hope for that Mousie nomination.

My hope came true! And I was given a second nomination for writing! To be placed in such company is a real honor for which I thank you.

And who are the other nominees for 'Neighbor'? Pam/Digging, Carol of May Dreams and A Study In Contrast’s Blackswamp Kim.

Well, here’s where I got the giggles, imagining the four of us living in some imaginary town [with perfect weather, of course] trading plants and livening up the street.

In our own individual neighborhoods, each of us is the neighbor with the landscape that doesn’t quite fit in: on Pam’s street, her stunning front courtyard with abundant native plants stops cars in their tracks; Carol may be more discreet in the front garden, but her beautiful, fenced vegetable garden breaks the mold for her neighborhood. Kim contrasts unusual colors, textures and blossoms with glee, under the gaze of statuary lions. And I’ve opened my garden gate, come out to the front with tools in hand and dug flowerbeds in the lawn.

Sometimes our neighbors in the bricks-and-sticks world don’t appreciate anything but manicured lawn and precision-cut shrubbery, and they are not fond of our horticultural experiments. So it’s especially wonderful to be selected as neighbors by you plant and nature lovers from the world of garden blogging. Thank you.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Petals and Parody

Spring has been eluding so many of you, but it's already arrived in my Austin garden. White Mockorange and purple Iris filled the last post – here’s another purple flower for April Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

In March 2001, a Clematis labeled “Comtesse de Bouchaud” came with two vines in one container. Both vines lived - one is the white clematis at the base of the Lady Banks Rose. The other one is this reddish-purple clematis near the back door. Neither of them look one bit like the lilac-pink “Comtesse de Bouchaud”! Now on to some coral colors -

In spring 2006 I planted my motley collection of Christmas amaryllis in the ground. Some lived, and three amaryllis flowers are opening in this partially shaded raised bed. A previous owner planted the unnamed, day-glow rose.

Two tall, once-blooming roses were already here, too. The roses are pretty, but the foliage is usually a mess. I occasionally feed and water them, pull off the worst leaves a couple of times a year and otherwise ignore them.

Another legacy! This big pink climbing rose also blooms once a year, with huge fragrant flowers that lean down to make me notice them whenever I go out the gate. They have an old-fashioned, real rose smell.

This spring a few of the dropped seeds from last year's plant of Nemophila menziesii AKA Baby Blue Eyes sprouted, and four of them bloomed. The flowers are small, barely visible from 3-feet away. Maybe one day I’ll have them established like the colony growing at Zanthan Gardens, or in the wooded areas of Zilker Park.

Mazus reptans, a low, spring-blooming groundcover plant, grows next to the Baby Blue Eyes.

Another reseeder is Salvia ‘Coral Nymph’, which hitched a ride from the last house, and has established itself in several beds. My Cape Cod weeder makes swift work of unwanted seedlings, but I leave a lot of them in place.

More coral from Stachys coccinea, Texas Betony – nicknamed ‘Stinky Sage’ by some Hill Country residents. It looks nothing like its fuzzy gray Stachys cousin Lambs Ears.

I didn’t take any photos of plants like the pansies, violas and various containers of ‘Telstar’ dianthus, since they’ve been blooming most of the winter. Summer heat will kill the pansies, and the dianthus will stop blooming and rest before starting another bloom cycle.

Posting this photo may not be too different from buying a bakery cake, sliding it onto a pan and passing it off as homemade. I just planted this golden yellow rose on Thursday! It's reputed to be heat resistant, disease resistant, scented, and was personally chosen by Julia Child herself before she died, perhaps because the flower color is close to her beloved butter.

Yellow roses have always been our special flower. When I graduated from high school, Philo gave me a dozen yellow roses. They appeared at our wedding, at anniversaries and the David Austin rose ‘Graham Thomas’ flourished in our Illinois garden. I hope ‘Julia Child’ will thrive to become 'our' yellow rose at this house.

And for the last flower - here is the tiny blossom that most of you yearn to see, wanting them even more than roses!

That concludes the PETALS portion of this post – now on to the PARODY.
As station KAEFKA, we're working on an original song for our YouTube collection right now, [the ones we've already made are in the side links] but we paused to have some fun with an old tune. Nick played the ancient folk song “Greensleeves” on resonator, I wrote some new words, and Philo added photos.
Have any of you seen articles and shows about the 'new green'? I respect people who aspire to green living - many of them have been plugging along for decades. Their valid concepts were ridiculed & ignored at first, before becoming mainstream with time. But lately, green living seems to have been co-opted by the wealthy and the fashionistas. The home-fashion press is splashed with pages of green renovations for mansions rather than normal homes. When I read that the cost of redoing a 1000 square-foot attic rec room to make it 'green', was three times the price of my house, I could weep or gnash my teeth, or I could make it into a musical joke.

You can use this link to our YouTube site - GREENED HOUSE VIDEO .

Or, if the YouTube screen shows up below you can click on the screen.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Awash in Purple and White

It looks like someone’s been camping in the back yard, doesn’t it? We had frost warnings last Saturday night, and after we hauled the Plumeria and other tender plants into the garage, Philo rigged up some temporary tents with sheets over the tomato stakes, held together with clamps. We had icy rain and some hail, the official temperature was 34º, and there was ice on the roof, but on Easter Sunday, the tomatoes and peppers were uncovered and look okay.
I hope the peach orchards of the Hill Country made it through the night, too – although we’d hate to lose our tomatoes, we aren’t depending on them as a crop – and we are not expecting crowds of people driving to our house to buy our produce. Fredericksburg’s peaches are not only a crop, but a reason for people to visit Central Texas, enjoying restaurants, shops, Wildseed Farms, an herb farm and the Nimitz museum of the War in the Pacific, a thought-provoking place which juxtaposes weapons of world war two with a Japanese Garden of Peace.

I also hope you like photos of Mockorange and Purple Iris, because I’m still thrilled at seeing them every morning. This particular Mockorange seems to be Philadelphus inodorus, with large individual flowers but not scented, at least none that I can detect. Here’s a closeup to show how really large the flowers are – I’ve heard that an old Southern name for them is English Dogwood.
Maybe this photo can give you an idea of how overwhelming the shrub can be when you stand next to it – the wooden fence is six feet tall, and the mock orange behind the fence extends another 4-to-5 five feet above that. Here are Ellen’s iris once again, still blooming and with more buds in reserve. Ellen handed me the sack of iris divisions in mid-March 2006, when this iris bed was still in the planning stages. The Divas had already planted the three spiraea, but I was still clearing and digging the ground around them. The iris corms sat in a paper bag on the garage floor for weeks, then took off once their roots hit the soil. I was amazed that these iris bloomed so well just one year after transplanting, and even more amazed at the high bud count of this passalong iris.
The iris are planted in the side garden, fairly close to the sidewalk, in a sort of Bat-shaped bed, honoring Austin’s famous free-tail Bat colony. The three shrubs of spiraea are just finishing their bloom cycle. Until this spring, there has been little in our front yard to slow down anyone who is passing by on foot or bicycle, but this display of purple makes the moms and kids stop.They instinctively lean in to see if the iris smell good, and this variety does have a light, but very pleasant fragrance.

As long as we’re in the front of the house let’s look at the space formerly occupied by the Arizona Ash.
A few weeks ago Austex called to say the stump-grinder was fixed, and I watched this powerful tool in action, cutting through the enormous footprint left by the tree, churning the bits of wood together with the surrounding black clay. Since I really wanted the chips and dirt, I asked the workmen to leave the debris… they were kind enough to shovel some into sacks so I could use it for another project, leaving most of the wood/soil mixture mounded in place. For now, we’re just letting it settle and start to decompose.

Philo set the birdbath at the edge, and we planted a new tree off to the side, where it could frame the house rather than block it. We chose a native tree, one that doesn’t get enormous. Here are the leaves of our new Texas Redbud, Cercis canadensis var texensis. The tag also promised that it’s the white-flowering form – the long-desired Texas Whitebud - a promise that I hope will be fulfilled with white bloom next spring. I love the shiny leaves.

There are lots of other plants with buds that should be open for the April Bloom Day, but today I’m happy with green, white and violet-purple. I'd also like to say how grateful and overwhelmed it was to have so many comments on the post about enjoying blogging. Those of you who are still being clobbered by The Winter That Won't Leave touched my heart with your concern at how we in Texas made it through our little cold spell. I hope you will be awash in spring colors very soon!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Reasons to Enjoy Blogging

A couple of days ago Sissy tagged me to write about why I enjoy blogging. I thought about the question as I wandered around, enjoying spring in the garden.

In the last post I pointed out the iris from Ellen in the side garden… the ones I hoped would bloom purple-violet in color. Once the buds showed color, I knew this was the spring for purple iris!

This shade is probably too far toward the violet side of the spectrum to thrill Hank, the Lake County Clerk – I think he wants a little more red in the color, but it looks good to me.

Several crepe myrtle saplings and a few nandinas grew on the back garage wall when we moved here, but we soon banished them, and smothered under the crepe myrtles we found a spindly rose. I gave the rose a chance - cut it back, watered it and Philo made it a trellis. This unnamed pink climber throws ridiculously tall canes 12-feet into the air every spring, makes one big splash of blooms in April, and is severely cut back again after the flowers fade. Along the back fence our neighbors have a gloriously full hedge of Southern Mock Orange. Some of the suckers sneaked under the fence, making smaller versions of the big shrubs on our side, so now we have Southern Mock Orange, too.

These three plants are in full bloom now, but they’re in different parts of the yard, and it’s impossible to look at more than one at a time. Out came the floral shears and now the three kinds of flowers form a more exciting composition by being together.

This kind of combination is a reason why I like blogging. It can be very exciting when each of us, blooming in our different corners of the world, has found a place to get together – a place where our talents, personalities and ideas can play off each other, and where they can be seen close up, not at a distance.

I loved reading blogs for a few years, then graduated to commenting on them. Once I started the Transplantable Rose it turned out to be more fun than expected, especially getting to know the other bloggers. Some of us have developed relationships with each other, and we’ve gradually revealed ourselves as time has passed. People are so complex, and have such unexpected things to tell and to teach, that things never get boring. I like surprises, both in blogging and in gardening. That’s why I tucked this small clematis, survivor of the deck at our last house, in at the base of the Lady Banks rose. Surprise!
I could say that I enjoy blogging because I like to write, or take photos, or enjoy learning more about other gardens, and say that it’s been fun to meet other bloggers in real life. These things are all true, but here’s a reason why I think blogging is not only enjoyable but magical:

Although we have no trouble talking, whining, discussing, joking, arguing, laughing, teasing and seeing the value of each other’s opinion in the blog world, this might never happen in the ordinary world. We’re sequestered in our separate circles – at work, in organizations, with family & friends, at children’s soccer games, in clubs, or on vacations. You might zip past my house on a bike while Philo and I would be inside the gate, working on a garden project. I might wave hello if we were in front, and you might wave back, and say hello, too, and that would be it.
But here, through the magical Blogosphere, from all over the world, women & men, of every lifestyle and orientation, old & young, with or without kids, with or without pets, with or without money, or health, or beauty, or physical strength or status - here is a place where disparate people can have genuine conversations.

It is a busy time of year, and I'm not sure who has time to read, let alone write, but if Mary in North Carolina, Gary in Houston and La Gringa in Honduras would like to answer, consider yourself tagged.