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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, January 20, 2008

Embrace The GADS!

This post, "Embrace the GADS!", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.
Over at May Dreams Gardens, Carol gave some hints for living with GADS [that's Garden Attention Distraction Syndrome] while admitting that she no longer tries to overcome it but goes with the flow.

I agreed with her advice to go with the flow and commented that gardeners might do well to act "less like ants glued to a task and a trail, and more like bumblebees among the hollyhocks, appreciating every blossom." I had some ant moments today, but even without hollyhocks, it was better to Be The Bumblebee.

Friday and Saturday nights were relatively cold for Central Texas - down to 26 degrees F/minus 3.3 C. Before the freeze I hauled 4 potted roses and a few other containers inside the garage where the plumerias wait for spring.
For the Meyer's Lemon planted next to the garage I tried a method I'd heard about from several sources - one may have been horticulturalist Skip Richter on Central Texas Gardener.
In theory, the heat from mini-lights suspended under a sheet or floating row cover may be just enough to keep citrus from being killed by cold, without cooking or overheating the plant.

The air was well below freezing this morning when I ran out in my robe to pour warm water on top of the ice in the birdbaths. A few hours later the sun had warmed the patio so I buzzed out to look at the camellia - the open flowers were frozen, but there's a good chance the buds will be okay. I counted at least 2 dozen buds still unopened. The flowers look interesting - like faded fabric flowers pinned onto a real shrub.

I didn't like what I saw on the left end of that border - once again a branch on the 'Chindo' viburnum looks bad in spite of the zone 7 hardiness rating. More than half the original plant has died in the two years since it was planted, one limb at a time, always right after a dip into the twenties. This Viburnum awabuki 'Chindo' should have been a functioning member of the Green Screen team by now - maybe it's time to interview new candidates.

Back to the garage I went, staying glued to my trail, removing the sheets from lemon and palm and remembering to unplug the mini-lights. I started bringing out the roses but stopped before putting them where they belonged. As I passed the patio table I got the idea to first pull off some yellowed or black-spotted leaves, clip off dead twigs and remove dried tree leaves from the surface of the soil.

Hmmm - with the leaves gone I could see a funny sort of depression in this container - aha! A squirrel planted a pecan about 6-inches down. It had begun to split open, ready to germinate.

The other 'Champagne' rose had no pecan, but an acorn from a live oak landed in the pot, split and sent a root down. A seedling of "Coral Nymph' salvia hid in the base of the rose. With dozens of seedlings popping up in every border we're not likely to run out of 'Coral Nymph', so the Cape Cod weeder is fetched to tease this one out before it overshadows the intended inhabitant.

As I carried the roses back to their places in the Secret Garden I looked up at a scraggly crepe myrtle and remembered that mid-February is a good time for shaping them.... wasn't I supposed to look for a special pruning tool? And oh, look - there's something green next to the fence. I flew over to check it out.

I'm pretty sure these pretty, fresh-looking leaves belong to Ranunculus. Julie of the Human Flower Project wrote a compelling post about these flowers in the buttercup family. Last fall I finally remembered to buy and plant a package of Ranunculus asiaticus.

On the way back to the patio I stopped to admire more green leaves - they look similar because they're also in the Buttercup/Ranunculacea family - these leaves belong to Anemone coronaria - not the perennial anemones grown by Ki - but Windflower types sold in packages of corms in autumn.

Back at the table I took a photo of the nuts, feeling that it was a good idea to be the bumblebee today, stopping to groom the roses and admire the tiny red leaf buds. If I'd kept walking the ant-trail with those pots, instead of roses there would soon be a pecan tree growing in one pot and an oak tree in the other. Darn it - the camera shut itself off before I got a good shot - weren't there some batteries in the desk drawer?

Nope - no camera batteries in the desk drawer, but as long as I'm in the office I'll check email and oh, yeah - maybe google around and see if I can find out where to buy something called a concave cutter.
Another gardener told me this bonsai tool would be useful for the kind of shaping I'm doing on the crepe myrtles.
Maybe there's a source at the Austin Bonsai Society and ....oh look - here's a dealer in Pflugerville, not close but not a bad drive...and the shop is open now.
Philo is interested enough in bonsai to go for a ride - just has to turn a pot of turkey soup down to simmer first.
We find MBP Bonsai Studio without getting lost - and meet the owner of this charming place. Mike and Candy Hansen have studied bonsai for 35 years, first enjoying it as a hobby, then establishing their first bonsai studio 25 years ago.
I buy just one tool, but notice wonderful pots, books and decorative items. I also notice Philo examining the array of tools and looking out at the plant nursery. He has "that look" - and I know we'll be back for another visit.
Embracing the GADS enabled us to find this new tool, oust unwanted trees, meet a fellow gardener, discover an interesting place, and we bumblebees even remembered to buy batteries on the way home.
This post, "Embrace the GADS!", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for January

This post, "Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for January", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

It was lucky for me that Carol of May Dreams Garden hadn’t invented Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day last January - all of Austin was encased in ice in the 15th of that month! This winter has brought repeated freezes – but it's also been very dry – and no water means no ice. The cold was deep enough to freeze the iris buds and send even sturdy pink skullcaps into a sulk.

The Angel Trumpet had one flower and a couple of buds on the 15th of last month but then cold weather killed the leaves and made my poor Brug into a brown stalk. Will it be able to sprout from the base in spring? I hope that being close to the south wall will keep the roots alive.

The Pineapple sage and Hummingbird salvia froze to the ground, along with the five cupheas. The clematis looks dormant and we've raked up the leaves on pecan and crepe myrtle trees. What you see clinging to the pecan branches are the open husks left after the nuts fell to the ground. We've never seen this happen before - in previous years the squirrels took all the husks while they were green.

Some of you may suspect you’re being set up with this parade of brown, wintery photos – this is the blog belonging to one of those sub-tropical Austin gardeners, after all!

Well, maybe I have been teasing you a little – the landscape may not be lush, and the blooms are small, but if you look closely there are definitely flowers here at Circus~Cercis, even after repeated dips into the mid-twenties [ that’s minus 2-to-3 degrees Celsius].

To have pansies in bloom here isn’t a surprise – it’s the norm. On Saturday morning we Divas of the Dirt held our annual planning breakfast and a couple of us stopped off at Shoal Creek Nursery for a few plants. I picked up some small starts of alyssum, and have been tucking them into the containers with the pansies. With a little luck the small plants can stay alive until early spring transforms them into scented sprigs of white.

Four hanging baskets of pansies line up along the veranda. They can tolerate most cold snaps without too much damage, but growth is very slow.

The ‘Julia Child’ and ‘Mutabilis’ roses have green leaves and no flowers, as do two of the ‘Champagne’ mini-roses and a pale pink mini-rose from my daughter. And every rose in the garden shows some sign of blackspot. But one of the ‘Champagne’ roses has a couple of buds, and Carol’s rules say buds count!

The small plant of Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’ doesn’t mind what we call winter here. Faded flowers and new buds surround one open bloom.

The Camellia sasanqua ‘Shishi Gashira’ holds onto one last hot pink flower.

The light red Camellia japonica ‘Pius X’ started its show this past week. I took this photo through yet another basket of pansies. Then I held petals of the two camellias together for a color comparison.

The sasanqua petals at the bottom are a rosier pink, while the ‘Pius X’ tends toward sour cherry color – less pink and more red.

Austin gardeners force paperrwhite narcissus bulbs for indoor bloom but I ignore the usual advice to discard the bulbs after bloom, choosing to plug the bloomed-out bulbs into a borders and let them rebuild. The tiny daffodils may flower outdoors in subsequent winters. This clump came in kit form a few years ago and has bloomed three years in a row.

A plant of the purple oxalis blooms in a sheltered spot near the house wall.

This white oxalis blooms in a bowl on the veranda

Cold has darkened the leaves on a trailing white lantana but the tiny flowers are undaunted.

Under the house eaves, one expanding bud from the unnamed pink climbing rose is rather startling to see.

Inside the house the Thanksgiving cactus are almost done, and at least one of them is making a new seedpod.

The peach-colored Thanksgiving cactus, the red cyclamen and the faithful coral pelargonium/geranium bloom on the windowsill ...

while the Mother of Thousands seen in the January 3rd post continues to open buds near the breakfast room window.

The temperatures were in the sixties today, not tropical, but quite pleasant in the sun. Actually, taking the photos was difficult because the sun was too strong. Nine years ago Philo and I were spending sleepless nights as we tried to decide whether to move to Austin. Pioneer garden blogger MSS of Zanthan Garden hadn't started her blog yet and we knew little about Austin plants. I now wonder - would seeing photos of an Austin January on someone's blog have made our decision easier?

See what's blooming in other gardens at January Garden Blogger's Bloom Day.

This post, "Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for January", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Two-Faced Janus

This post, "Two-Faced Janus", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

The name January comes from the Roman god Janus - usually depicted with two faces- one looking forward and one backward.

Looking Forward: You've all probably heard about Spring Fling, the garden bloggers' celebration to be held here in Austin on the first weekend in April.
Pam/Digging and MSS of Zanthan Garden have planned a memorable meeting. You can find details and links on Pam's blog and I'm already giddy at the idea of meeting some of you. Spring Fling is something to look forward to!

Garden Bloggers Spring Fling 2008

Looking Backward: I'd like to join other garden bloggers who wrote January retrospectives - taking a glance over our shoulders at the past year -

January 2007 brought an ice storm to Austin, bending the trees to the ground and turning them into glazed sculptures.

When GardenRanter Amy Stewart brought her book tour to Austin in February 2007, some of the Austin Garden Bloggers were there to greet her. On the 15th of the month Carol of MayDreams initiated Garden Bloggers' Bloom day. In addition to listing the blooms, I broke down and answered one of those "5 things about me" memes.

March 2007 meant spring flowers and wildflowers, a face-to-face meeting with Felder Rushing, the arrival of contest prizes from La Gringa, a book report and the Austin garden festival known as Florarama. My song about the demise of our Arizona Ash appeared on YouTube and some photos of my old garden appeared in the County Clerk's crazy gardener meme.

April was a full month - scanning flowers, a tribute to a grandmother, hanging out with Garden Bloggers and Digging With The Divas. An April 5th post about why blogging is so enjoyable is one that many of you liked. It was a thrill to be honored with two Mouse & Trowel nominations - one for writing and one as the blogger you'd like to have for a neighbor. I pondered a life living near my fellow 'neighbor nominees' - Carol, Blackswamp Kim and Pam/Digging.

May the posts told of Passalong Plants, the garden, movies and books. To celebrate the arrival of summer the first tomato appeared on a platter and when the Austin garden bloggers met in person, the event appeared in our Austin newspaper.

A trip to Chicago took place in
June . My mother and I enjoyed the return of the 17-year locusts while Philo stayed in Austin building garden furniture. Flooding rains made slugs happy in Austin, this blog had an anniversary and a post about Passalong Daylilies let me tell you about some generous friends.

Those incredible early summer rains pumped up the flower power for the
July Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. In July a different meme called for answers, I wrote doggerel for Muse Day, reminisced about our last 3 gardens and talked about the Divas of the Dirt. Philo and I went on the Austin Pond Society Tour and we described how an area of boring grass became the Pink Entrance Garden.

August was hot - we stayed inside for much of the month and I wrote about painting the living room, told about movies seen in dark, cool theaters, and our home gained a name.

There was another movie in September, along with books, the peripatetic passionflower, a wonderful visit from Kathy Purdy of Cold Climate Gardening, a very floral blooming-day post and a song parody doubling as a Garden Muse post and an entry for Rock Flippin' Day.

The environment, red and purple in the garden, photos from the 1970's and the effect of latitude on day length filled the October posts, but the star of the month was undoubtedly the first [and possibly only] Pecan Harvest here at Circus~Cercis.

November brought Harvest haiku, a pretty spectacular blooming-day, the concept of some plants trying to stop other plants from growing, and a tribute to Aunt Phyl and her Passalong Stapelia. Philo constructed a window shelf for the tender plants that had to be brought inside.

December was just a few weeks ago - and my personal favorite was the post about the "Spinning" music video of my song about the Zilker Christmas tree. But the post that got all the comments began with a rant about a manufactured website's use of garden bloggers' posts - with advice and links to Cold Climate Kathy's Help Blog and Mr Brown Thumb. We hoped it was useful, but regretted the need for this kind of advice.

This retrospective may not count as a real post but it reminded me of how many surprising things happened in 2007 - some good and some not. Bet 2008 will be even more surprising - so hold on... it's going to be a bumpy ride.

This post, "Two-Faced Janus", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Stubborn Irish People From Chicago

This post, "Stubborn Irish People From Chicago", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.

As some of you may have guessed, we were away from Austin for a few weeks and I'm having trouble returning to everyday life. It will take a long time to get reordered and catch up with all your posts, but that's not the reason why my Christmas tree is still up and the outside lights are still lit... the reason is that my maternal ancestors were a bunch of stubborn Chicago Irish people who always kept their trees up until Epiphany, the 6th of January. And at this time of year, I'm proud to be one of them.

My brothers and sisters and I were raised in this tradition, calling the day "Little Christmas", a time for visiting with aunts, uncles and cousins. Sometimes we stayed at one location - other times finger food was served at one house and desserts at another, with mixed drinks for the adults and 'Kiddie cocktails' for the youngsters - would anyone dare serve them today? Most houses had a piano or one of the electric organs that were so popular in the fifties and sixties - a couple of the aunts could play and everyone could sing. The party may have been stressful for the hosts and hostesses but we kids thought it was all wonderful.

Although I'm far away from my family and many of those people are no longer around to celebrate Little Christmas, the lights will shine here for a few more nights, to puzzle the neighbors and add a little sparkle to the January darkness.

There were a couple of hard freezes while we were gone and we came back to a garden that had changed greatly from the one we left - MSS from Zanthan Gardens referred to her rosebuds as 'freeze-dried'... I like that phrase enough to swipe it to describe the iris buds as they look now. A 2006 birthday gift from my mother and sisters was a miniature rose bush... I divided it into 3 plants last spring and one of them was still blooming yesterday near the shelter of a brick wall.

The Sasanqua camellia 'Shishi Gashira' seems untroubled by the colder weather - with just a few more buds not yet opened.

Inside the house the barely budded Thanksgiving cactus from the previous Blooms Day post had opened in the hoped for peachy-apricot color, which I like very much in the breakfast room.

Peachy-apricot must be the in color this January - back in November I decided to bring the Mother-of Thousands inside rather than let it freeze - my reward was a few delicate flowers in that shade... but they didn't appear on the usual 3-foot stalk. The plant was already taller than usual when I brought it in and it kept elongating all of December. Now the flowers hang almost at eye level, 58 inches above the surface of the potting soil.

Happy New Year to all of you who have made the world of garden blogging such a warm and interesting place!

This post, "Stubborn Irish People From Chicago", was written for my blogspot blog called The Transplantable Rose by Annie in Austin.