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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, September 30, 2007

Jumping Off Bridges, revisited

In June 2006 I posted about two movies with Austin connections. One of the two was Jumping Off Bridges, a fine, independent, small-budget movie by Kat Candler and Stacy Schoolfield of Storie Productions. The cast included some professional actors, some young actors in their first screen roles - and one recognizable star, Michael Emerson , the multi-nominated "Ben Linus" from Lost.

A movie dealing with the effects of suicide on those left behind wasn't easy to package and getting it distributed became a long and difficult process. Along the way, Kat and Stacy's movie has found advocates and an audience, and has been presented by former First Lady Roslyn Carter. The filmmakers recently announced that J.O.B is being released on DVD. Congratulations to everyone connected to Jumping Off Bridges!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Book Club - Thyme of Death

I enjoy mysteries, and some of my favorites are the kind that come as part of a series, with an amateur detective as the main character. For the Garden Bloggers Book Club, Carol has invited us to read a mystery connected to the garden - a sub-species of the mystery that may have its origins with Agatha Christie's Miss Jane Marple and Jane's garden-mad friend Dolly Bantry.

I considered reading the official choice, but decided instead to make the club a reason to buy another volume of the China Bayles series, by Susan Wittig Albert. China's adventures as a lawyer-turned-shop owner are fun to read no matter where you live, but since both she and her creator dwell in Central Texas, for me the local angle is irresistible!

The book I bought is called Thyme of Death - the first China Bayles book, which began the series in 1992. Shortly after we moved here I was introduced to China with a book belonging to the middle of the series so I thought it would be interesting to see how we first meet China Bayles. Susan Albert introduces China as a fully-formed character, with her personality and beliefs evident right from the beginning. I do think that a couple of the other characters seem slightly stereotypical in this first book. China and her friend Ruby lose a terminally ill friend to what looks like suicide, but may actually be murder. We find out a lot about everyone in town as the story unfolds. Thyme of Death was nominated for both Agatha and Edgar awards - the plotting is pretty good, the conversations engrossing, and the details of life in the town of Pecan Springs make the start to the series special.

In real life, Albert's fans have been heartbroken to discover that they can't actually go to China's Thyme and Seasons Herb Shop with it's adjacent garden full of fragrant herbs. Alas! Pecan Springs is not a real town, although after reading one book, you may sympathize with those confused fans and wish that you could visit China's shop, too. There is a genuine sense of place in these mysteries - the town may be fictional, but the geography, biology, botany, genealogy, and meteorology are real. The medical and forensic details of the murders seem well researched, and with a Texas lawyer as the main character, there are opportunities to explore how local laws work, along with some comments on political events. Each book has a relevant plant or herb in the title, and many of the later ones have a recipe or two, including these two favorites.

Susan Wittig Albert is also the author of another mystery series called the
Cottage Tales, with Beatrix Potter as the mystery solving protaganist. We recently rented the recent movie Miss Potter, and enjoyed it very much. I don't require a film biography to be all that accurate - it's a movie! But once the credits have rolled, I want some facts about the real person. I read Susan's review of the movie and found out that most parts of this Beatrix Potter bio-flick were factual, but some scenes were pure fiction, and that timeframes were shifted for dramatic reasons. Now I'd like to read some of the Cottage Tale series, to see how Susan imagines Beatrix - and to guess what kind of actress should be calling her agent and optioning the book!

Susan Albert not only tells a good yarn and spins a fine mystery - she also spins, dyes, weaves and knits real yarn. And she's even a blogger, writing about her Hill Country home and garden, wildlife, and fabric arts at Lifescapes and appears on local PBS, visiting with Tom Spencer at the Central Texas Gardener.

Knowing something about the author is fun, but you can enjoy China Bayles without any backstory - just open the book and head down the path to Pecan Springs.

Added Oct 1st: Carol has links to the other reviews at her Virtual Book Club meeting.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

She Came, We Met, She Conquered

Kathy Purdy from Cold Climate Gardening came to Austin and met local garden bloggers today. She and her friend Cynthia toured our gardens and we had lunch together. It was darned hot... but it was wonderful! Pam has photos.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Passion Playing

Since my passionvine does not look like the photos of Passiflora 'Incense' from other sites like Tom Spencer's, it was apparently mismarked when I bought it a few years ago. I've been scrolling through a bunch of sites and think it may be either 'Amethyst' or 'Lavender Lady'... apparently they look quite similar, but 'Amethyst' can set fruit if pollinated by another passionflower.

Did you know there's an entire Passiflora Forum at GardenWeb? That forum sent me off to other sites. The sites don't agree with one another, of course, and only some of the photos look like each other. Before I started forum-hopping I'd taken closeups to see if any readers knew the name, while playing with the camera to see how it photographed the blues and purples.

I may have gone a little overboard with this! All photos were taken in afternoon so they're a bit washed out. All were cropped and reformatted for size, but that's all - no brightening, contrast, color balance, or sharpening. I took the photo above while the flower was still attached to the vine.

Then I popped off the flower and poked the stem into the passionvine to show the bud, leaf and flower.

Hmmm, let's see how it looks over here in the shade with the Buddleja lindleyana...

To me the color of the petals looks purple, with guard filaments that look blue. Let's put it in sun next to a true blue flower - the Blue Butterfly Pea. That blue makes the passionflower tendrils look deep violet, I think.

Okay, let's go back in the shade - will it still look blue next to Salvia guaranitica?

Now for dark purple contrast - the 'Black Prince' buddleya davidia. Oh, dear, the flower has been handled and dropped so many times by now!

A final portrait in the shade with light blue Plumbago auriculata. I love the way these flowers look together... maybe some plumbago needs to grow near the passionvine.

Total immersion in purple passion works for me! I hope you enjoyed it too. Maybe I should just call this one 'Probably Lavender Lady'. Pam from Digging commented that she just bought an 'Incense' - I'll bet hers will match the label.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

High Wire Act

[More 'Incense' passionflowers opened on Monday afternoon. Check the previous post - Aw, Nuts - to see why the photos didn't get up until now.]

The strands of the passion vine [planted at the far right of the bed], and of the Dolichos lablab/Hyacinth vine [planted at the far left of the border] had both outgrown the fence by August, so Philo helped me tie some twine for them to grow on. The twine reaches from a board about 5-feet high at the fence across to branches at the nine-foot level on a nearby magenta crepe myrtle.

Unless you look closely, you might think a hyacinth bean is producing passionflowers - the vines and foliage have become intertwined, but only the passionflower is blooming. I hope the bean catches up so that these two rather odd flowers will be open at the same time, resembling gaudily dressed performers twirling from the high wire at Circus~Circus.

Aw, Nuts

Late on Monday afternoon I noticed that the passionvine that had been budded for Blooming Day had opened. I went back inside for about 20 minutes, then brought the camera out. As I turned the corner to walk toward the Passionflowers, something felt odd - where had those pecans on the fence come from? They hadn't been there 20 minutes ago!

I looked up to see a bend in one of the largest boughs - this year's rain has produced an unprecedented crop of nuts and the weight was apparently too much for the tree's structure. An enormous amount of branches and leaves were resting on the fence, tangled up in nearby shrubs, and in crepemyrtles and some young Arizona Ash trees on the other side of the fence. I called Philo out to look at what happened, and we tried to decide what to do. This job might well be too big for us to handle, but we also knew it was best to get the weight off the other trees and shrubs as quickly as possible.

We got out the loppers and pole pruner, thinking that if we cut away some of it, we could at least see what we'd be dealing with. As you all know, once a pruning job is started, with one small cut following another, it's almost impossible to stop. Pretty soon we had the ladder out, along with ropes, the chain saw, brown yard bags and twine for tying up brush.

Philo did the heaviest lifting and sawing, while I held onto ropes and hauled the boughs out to the center of the yard. He somehow hauled that enormous branch up over the top of the fence and away.

An hour later the shrubs were freed, battered but mostly intact, the crepe myrtles looked okay, and the flexible Arizona Ash tree was already straightening out. The fence is old and beat up already, so a few more nicks in the top are barely noticible.

We were impressed with the pile of debris, and set to reducing it, bundling up branches cut to the regulation 4 feet, with smaller stuff clipped so it would fit in bags. There were a few pieces that could be firewood, but pecans grow with many, many dense shorter branches. By 8 o'clock we were tired and hungry, and it was getting too dark to work safely. We thought we'd done pretty well for two people who get senior discounts at the movies - this was all that was left to be done the next the morning.

We're still wondering whether we'll ever get any edible nuts from these trees - whatever pecans were not eaten by squirrels each fall have been either hollow or wormy. Unfortunately the branch broke before the nuts were mature - the husks were still green and tight. And we've still got to saw that broken part smooth.

Aw, nuts.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for September

Do you remember July? Many of the plants seen on July's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day haven't forgotten it: A new stalk of Amarcrinum 'Fred Howard' suddenly shot up next to a pink cuphea full of bees. The pink gaura never stops, the balloon flowers keep opening as long as I pop off the old buds, and there are a few mini-roses, too.

The container plants like impatiens and this lantana-and evolvolus combo may not stop until Halloween. The blossoms continue on Oxalis, butterfly bush, orange cuphea and Batfaced cuphea, dianthus, Turkscap, Rock Rose/Pavonia, Salvia greggii and Zinnia linearis. One or two buds appear biweekly on the 'Little Gem' magnolias. The Russian sage plants all look ratty and the phlox does, too, but I'll count their few florets as blooms. When mealy bugs attacked the 'Black & Blue' salvia and the Salvia guaranitica I cut them down to ground level.

Do you remember August? September doesn't look much different here, still decorated with one open stalk of Hedychium coronarium/White Ginger, the delicate Cypress Vine, Coral Honeysuckle, Plumeria/Frangipani, Bengal Tiger canna, night-blooming jasmine and blue plumbago.

Looking out the back door I see the obelisk concealed beneath moon vines and blue pea vines. At right, nearer the fence, the Blue River II white hibiscus is balanced by the white 'Acoma' crepe myrtles at left. My neighbors on the left and at the back grow tall pink crepe myrtles which loom overhead. Something tall & yellow is missing - the native Sunflower is just a browned stalk now.

Once again the passionflowers have buds, with no new caterpillars in evidence. I hope they get the chance to open.

All the yellow trumpets turned white and fell from the Brugmansia/Angels Trumpet, leaving buds as promissory notes for next week. I feel a little guilty about this, since gardeners like Kate in Saskatchewan have already had to cover plants at night.

The most exciting September openers were a gift from MSS at Zanthan Gardens, the Oxblood lilies/Rhodophiala bifidia seen in the last post. I planted the bulbs in small clumps in six parts of the yard, and they've opened one after another [ perhaps in response to sun exposure?] then faded. This bouquet opened just in time.

Two large plants of Pineapple sage/Salvia elegans are barely budded, opening only one flower. I love the smell of the crushed leaves and have read they can be used in fruit salad, teas, and jelled desserts. Last winter knocked my plants back to the ground but in gentler years flowers also form in spring so they're here to greet the hummingbirds upon their return. I'm not sure if the salvia will open fully before our hummingbirds leave this fall.

The annual portulaca sulked during the rainy part of summer. It's a chunkier cousin to moss rose which never grew much, but I like that coral color.

This summer's odd weather also delayed the blooming of the tropical milkweed/Asclepias curassavica - I haven't seen any Monarch caterpillars as yet. Several generations of larvae grew on last year's plants and these flowers are ready if the Monarchs return.

Two of the three plants of Blue Skyflower/Duranta erecta finally deigned to bloom. The flowers on both are in the blue-purple range, but this one has white edges that reflect light in an interesting way - all I did to the photo was to resize it.

Oh - here's another new blossom. My friend Ellen, giver of the gorgeous grape-scented iris, also gave me a start of an unusual kind of Butterfly bush. We're pretty sure it's Buddleia lindleyana. Unlike butterfly bushes such as 'Black Prince'. this one is not upright but weeps, dangling long droopy flowers that don't start until late summer.

Okay, May Dreams Carol! Here's the final flower for September Bloom Day - I can't leave without posting this night photo with flash, celebrating the fragrant flowers on the Moon vine.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Blue and Red and Yellow

It's primary colors today at Circus~Cercis - another three ring show:
* * *

First look toward the Blue Ring to view the successful finish of the Blue Planet Run.

Mary's husband Paul followed the team across much of the US portion of the run - he took this photo of Mary and her brother Jay at the completion of the Elmira run, and Mary's mom sent it to me for this blog. The adventures of the team as they traveled the globe were quite wonderful to read about - even with the injuries, losses of luggage and clothing and exhaustion.

To see Mary cross the finish line in NYC go to the Blue Planet Website.

If you want to make a donation to help the cause of clean water, this link will take you to the right page. Congratulations to the entire team and their families!
* * *

In ring two we present the oxblood lilies:

The Rhodophiala bifidia are blooming! They're also called School House Lilies.

Most of my clumps of school house lilies were shared by MSS of Zanthan Gardens. Since hers were in bloom a good 10 days before mine appeared, I'm not only delighted but relieved to see them! Here's a Zanthan Gardens profile of these lovely flowers. Julie at the Human Flower Project has posted an article on them by Jill Nokes.

* * *

In ring three are some showgirls of September, all wearing yellow:

The hanging bells of yellow brugmansia - Angel's Trumpet wear a train of Blue Plumbago.

Our yellow 'Julia Child' rose still sends up a flower or two every couple of days.

The yellow Plumeria/Frangipani has opened in pale gleaming yellow - not as flashy, but more fragrant than the pinky-red plumeria.

As to refreshment - no lemonade yet at Circus~Cercis, but a couple of the Meyer's Lemons are turning yellow.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Two Posts with One Stone

What could be more appropriate for Labor Day weekend than a Labor-saving post which takes in both Garden Bloggers' Muse Day and the new International Rock Flipping Day? These are rhyming lyrics rather than poetry - vaguely following the tune of 'Yankee Doodle' - so hum it as you read


Philo and I went in the yard
With cam-er-a on Sunday;
We planned to take some photos
for another blogger fun-day.

Flipping rocks and flipping stones,
Whatcha think we found there?
It can be a big surprise
What's living in the ground there!

An earwig wasn't a surprise,
Nor were the ants and ant eggs.
My camera is not that good
Plus they climb up your pant legs.

Flipping rocks and snapping pix,
makes a gard'ner take stock
Of what's living in the garden
Under every big rock.

I was glad to see two toads in
Borders where I putter.
But this cutworm didn't live
once I had clicked the shutter.

Flipping rocks and flipping stones
Whatcha think we found there?
It can be a big surprise
What's living in the ground there!

Next we found two slimy things-
Striped and in a co-il.
Howard Garrett recommends
A dollop of orange o-il.

Flipping rocks and snapping pix
makes a gard'ner take stock
Of what's living in the garden
Under every big rock;

They were flatworms and I read
That earthworms are their pre-ey
This worm may be grate-ful
That we joined rock flipping day!

Flipping rocks and looking under
Tryin' to get a good peek.
Running in to look on google
Proves I'm just a bug geek.

Annie in Austin

September 2, 2007

Inspired, as usual, by Thalia the Muse of Comedy

NOTES on the Planaria:
Here's the Howard Garrett flatworm reference.

This site notes that the planaria flatworms are a problem in warm, damp climates, endangering earthworm populations.
But as usual, What's That Bug had the best photos for making the ID.

Both Bill at Prairie Point in Texas and Salix Tree in Ireland posted for Rock Flipping day, along with lots of other bloggers.
Here's a link to Via Negativa with other Rock Flipping blogs.

EDIT Sept 5, '07
You've overwhelmed me with the great comments!
Below is a cut-and-pasted list from Via Negativa:


(last updated Sept 5, 8:30 a.m. EDT - newer additions at bottom)

Flickr photo pool

Bev’s Pbase gallery

Windywillow (Ireland)

Heraclitean Fire (London, England)

Sheep Days (Illinois, USA)

Earth, Wind & Water (somewhere in the Caribbean)

Pocahontas County Fare (West Virginia, USA)

chatoyance (Austin, Texas)

Fragments from Floyd (Virginia, USA) - GRAND PRIZE WINNER

Watermark (Montana, USA)

pohanginapete (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

Fate, Felicity, or Fluke (Oregon, USA)

Thomasburg Walks (Ontario, Canada)

Idle Thoughts of an Idle Woman (Queensland, Australia)

The Transplantable Rose (Austin, Texas)

Nature Woman (New York state, USA)

Marja-Leena Rathje (British Columbia, Canada)

A Blog Around the Clock (North Carolina, USA)

Busy Dingbat’s Sphere (West Virginia, USA)

Hoarded Ordinaries (New Hampshire, USA)

Congo Days (Kinshasa, Congo)

this too (London, England)

Roundrock Journal (Missouri, USA)

Wanderin’ Weeta (British Columbia, Canada)

Blaugustine (London, England)

A Honey of an Anklet (Virginia, USA)

Looking Up (Ohio, USA)

Ontario Wanderer (Ontario, Canada)

Bug Safari (California, USA)

Riverside Rambles (Missouri, USA)

Pure Florida (Florida, USA)

Burning Silo (Ontario, Canada)

Musings from Myopia (Texas, USA)

Cicero Sings (British Columbia, Canada)

Joan (Missouri, USA)

Nature Remains (Kentucky, USA)

prairie point (north Texas)

Cephalopodcast.com (Florida, USA) - VIDEO

The above post is Part 2 of a four-part series on IRFD festivities in Plummer’s Hollow, Pennsylvania (USA). See Part 1, Part 3, and Part 4.