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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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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Midsummer Visit from Puck

"Midsummer Visit from Puck" was written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose blog.

Until the solstice on June 20th the 'Cupani' sweet peas managed to open new flowers each day, but they turned to straw over the weekend. I pulled them up today and looked for seeds but found only three small undeveloped pods on the vines - did the 'Cupani' use all its strength to bloom instead rather than make seeds?

Once the sweet peas were gone light fell on a few seedlings from last year's Blue Pea Vine, Clitoria ternatea, also known as Blue Butterfly Pea. Their growth was so rampant last year that the obelisk could barely hold them so this late start may work better. There should be a Moon Vine, Ipomoea alba, on the obelisk, too - I don't see any sprouts so am soaking a few saved seeds.

The very last flower of Hemerocallis 'Prairie Blue Eyes' opened yesterday for Midsummer's Eve. This daylily is pretty tough, opening every one of the flowers on the scapes as the blooms grew progressively smaller through the days of relentless heat.

I thought about celebrating Midsummer's Eve - but if any fairies were dumb enough to stay in Austin this summer they're lying low now! Squirrels disturbed some of the work done by the Fairy Garden consultant last spring, but until a couple of weeks ago the little pool was in place. I'm only showing you a few feathers, but one morning there were wings on the lawn of the secret garden - ripped off and left by one of the many cats whose owners let them roam the neighborhood.Finding bird wings was bad enough - what if it had been a pair of ripped-off fairy wings, instead? So I closed the pool by turning it upside down... it can still shelter a fairy from a hailstorm, or allow a toads to hide underneath.Frances of Faire Garden is a sort of fairy garden expert, who stocks her garden with plants fairies like - ferns and mossy beds and elfin thyme. Although the pink false indigo is alive, the ferns are drying up here, the sparrows keep the thyme clipped short and moss dislikes hot, dry alkaline soil. I think most fairies have moved to Tennessee or Washington State or Maryland, but it seems that the mischievous Puck has less fear of heat and drought.

Since we moved here nearly four years ago the trees behind our back fenceline grew unmolested, leafing out each spring and casting dappled shade.
In response I've chosen plants that were suitable for shade and have enjoyed the illusion of privacy provided by those leaves, especially admiring the saucer magnolia which draped down on my side of the fence, masking the bulk of the looming house on the other side, with its windows and balcony all seemingly designed to look into our yard.

Who else but Puck could have been at work yesterday, whispering into my neighbor's ear? Why else would anyone employ a tree service to raise the canopy of the trees on June 23rd with the temperatures rising to our daily 100 degrees?

From our back door and from the breakfast room windows we now see ugly bare trunks and that looming stone blockhouse instead of leaves. Since their house is on a slope the pruning allows them a much better view into our garden and windows. It looks much worse than in the photo; I'm trying to respect their privacy.

We on small lots are always at the mercy of what happens next door and this year's storms have changed many of your gardens. MSS at Zanthan is dealing with
sun on shade lovers since a neighbor's tree fell in a storm, Garden Girl Linda suddenly lost her private spaces, Zoey will soon have a view of a huge garage, and back in fall 2006 a gigantic house was built behind Ki. Several of the Divas of the Dirt have seen shade gardens suddenly exposed to sun when trees were removed on the other side of the fence and then had to scramble to redesign their gardens.

ow it's my turn to try to see a pruning as an opportunity instead of a minor disaster. I repotted the larger plumeria and stood its pot in the border - maybe it can cast enough shade to keep the plants below from dying from the sudden increase in light. I also rearranged the pots on the 'growing on' table so the most sun tolerant can act as parasols for others - and will need to monitor them closely. I will fertilize and water my young evergreens while urging them to grow taller than the fence and I'm already planning what will be planted in late fall.

Luckily the area where the 'San Antonio Rose' hippeastrum grows was unaffected by the pruning and it still has dappled shade.

Yesterday was a very unsettling day. It was good to get a few tomatoes big enough to slice for sandwiches. It was bad to lose our privacy. But it was even worse to lose George Carlin. That news put the tree trimming into perspective.

My favorite routine was his comparison of baseball and football.

There are many versions of this classic comedic comparison, including one he used for the very first Saturday Night Live show, but this one was on YouTube.

hank you, dear readers, for letting me vent about my unhappy Midsummer's Eve experience! Now if you'd like to see someone properly celebrate this ancient festival, go over to Faire Garden where Frances describes
an evening filled with whimsy and glitter.

"Midsummer Visit from Puck" was written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose blog.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Baghead - Review from an Extra

"Baghead - Review from an Extra" was written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose blog.

You can't do this until next month, but last weekend we went to see Baghead, the latest indie film from Mark and Jay, the Duplass brothers, who work on a shoestring budget to turn their stories into films. This movie is premiering in Austin - even New York and Los Angeles have to wait!
Philo and I loved the 2005 Duplass feature, The Puffy Chair, so we'd have wanted to see the latest Duplass movie in any event, but we had a special reason to see Baghead on opening weekend - to find out if either Philo or I could be glimpsed in the final film.

Most of Baghead was filmed at a cabin in the woods near Bastrop, Texas, a town Southeast of Austin. Hilarious, scary and surprising things happen to the two men and two women who are attempting to finish a screenplay for a movie - while also making sure the movie will provide roles for themselves.
Before they leave for the cabin, the story starts at a film festival, and back in October of 2006, Philo and I were both extras for a scene of an audience watching one of the film festival entries in a theater. I was directed to a seat right behind the four main characters and Philo was on the aisle, so we're both visible on screen for a couple of seconds - the sleeve of my light green blouse gets a few more seconds as background!

Baghead is said to use a comedy form to combine a scary movie with a relationship movie. That's not a bad description, and I'll add that we both liked the characters and story. It's an 'R' movie, which means casual profanity, nudity, and some violence. (These things don't bother me but I'm not sure who's reading this blog and thought you should be warned.)

And it's an indie movie which means some jiggly hand-held camera moments - and also some wonderful closeups. That visual intimacy with the actors' faces is something that's always been essential to the film experience, but recent movies are so stuffed with special effects, explosions, iconic landscapes, distant vehicles and petty details of historical recreation that there seems to be little time for dwelling on the individual landscape of the human face, keeping the audience at a distance from the people in the movie, sometimes leaving an unsatisfied feeling at film's end.

In contrast, the Duplass brothers let the camera linger on the faces of their four main characters, played by Greta Gerwig, Elise Muller, Steve Zissis and Ross Partridge and all of them were very watchable. We'd already seen Greta Gerwig when she starred with Mark Duplass in another indie movie called Hannah Takes the Stairs. Although I wasn't crazy about that movie it was interesting and I wanted to see the quirkily charming Greta Gerwig again - she's a naturally charismatic actor. Seeing Baghead let us know how amazing Steve Zissis can be - we hope to see him in more movies!

When the post about our experience as extras who'd been directed by the Duplass brothers went up in autumn of 2006, we didn't know whether we'd be in the movie - now I harbor delusions of grandeur and wonder whether a couple of seconds of screen time would qualify me for an entry on the IMDb. Could there be really be some filmmaker looking for a sixtyish, well-upholstered, grandmotherly type who sings songs to the trees?

"Baghead - Review from an Extra" was written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose blog.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, June 2008

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for June, 2008 was written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose Blog.

When temperatures hang near the hundred degree mark, it's tempting to hang out near the disappearing fountain in the garden we view from the breakfast room window...

But it's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for June 2008 - time to show the front gardens, too.

We Divas of the Dirt planted this 'Mutabilis' Rose when we made the new front garden in March. It's doing quite well in spite of the heat - and so are those white bedding geraniums in the hypertufa containers near the steps.

Some of the plants in the Pink Entrance garden have stood up well to the weather - the pink gaura and skullcap are still blooming, now joined by the 'Purple Stars' coneflowers.

From the other direction we see the old-fashioned self-seeding petunias, the Mexican oregano and Platycodon 'Miss Tilly' - those blue balloonflowers.

We're through the gate now, and looking at a white coneflower that finally struggled up in the long fence border. A yellow daylily is in its second bloom cycle - that's Hemerocallis 'Happy Returns', along with lambs ears and the yellow snapdragons first seen last December. I wish there had been a variety name on the tag!

The last post had many photos of the back borders - those flowers are still blooming so rather than show them again, here are a few floral close ups instead.

The 'Blue River II' perennial hibiscus with its 9 to 10 inch flowers that last one day.

A second 'Mutabilis' rose, growing in its patio container. This is how the flowers look when they're newly opened- later changing to ever-darker shades of pink.

One bloom appeared on the back door clematis - this photo was taken in late afternoon when the sun had moved to the opposite side of the house and the color seems more true to life...the photos looked too red when it's appeared here in spring.

Here you can see the strong line between sun and shade on the patio - such severe light can fry a delicate plant, but the red bedding geraniums in the pot near the rocker can tolerate the changes.

There's one more flower I'd like to show you - it's up in front in the shade of an Arizona Ash.
Yes - this is a hydrangea ....not a sensible plant to grow in Austin perhaps, although in amended soil, with shade and attention from the watering can this one is growing and now flowering. I hadn't planned on buying a hydrangea last summer - but when it appeared on the 'rescue table' at the home center the price had been reduced from over $30.00 down to $5.00. And then I saw the name of the hydrangea on the tag.

This is a hybrid beauty, a Hydrangea macrophylla/seratta cross - and its name combines two of the most famous and honored garden bloggers. Take a close look at the tag.My plant is a Bliss Hydrangea x 'Sweet Carol' - it made me think of both Yolanda Elizabet and May Dreams Carol, so I just had to bring it home!

Enjoy visiting all the participating gardens at Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, hosted by Sweet Carol in Indiana.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for June, 2008 was written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose Blog.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Year Three - Day Four

"Year Three - Day Four" was written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose Blog.

It's hot and dry and the rain that splashed other parts of Austin has missed me so I've been hand-watering the borders to keep the summer flowers alive. Please come in through the garden gate and look to the left. The two white 'Acoma' crepe myrtles started blooming a few days ago - as much a marker for true summer as any other sign from nature. They survived 5 years in pots on the deck of our other house, and were barely 3-feet tall in spring of 2005 when we ousted the existing hot pink, mildewed crepe myrtles so we could plant these here. Now they're almost 8-feet tall, softening the view with white flowers.
If you now turn and look to the right you can see across the whole garden back to the dark corner with the shed at the left and the patio table with its striped umbrella at right. The larger of the two triangle beds is closest to us - it has a 'Little Gem' magnolia and a tall metal obelisk. We made this bed two years ago. I didn't exactly plan this riot of color but that's what happens when tropical butterfly weed, a 'Black Prince' butterfly bush, Salvia farinacea, 'Cupani' sweet peas, lantana, pink coneflowers and Platycodon/Balloonflowers bloom at once. I hope they "clash well", as Henry Mitchell used to say.

The second triangle bed comes next - only a few months old, it's a jumble of plants and looks a little too McDonald's right now. Some were bought on purpose, like the three lavenders, the Cherry Pepper, narrow-leaved zinnias and moss roses, and some lifted from other beds like the Hummingbird sage/Salvia coccinea and yellow snapdragons.

Off to the right is the patio, with the disappearing fountain attracting birds and animals. Philo and I have seen a pair of hummingbirds taking dips in the water, but haven't been fast enough to take a photo of them. This squirrel stayed still while I snapped his picture through the window.

Along the edge of the gravel near the fountain is a pot of lavender in bloom. It's been growing in that clay pot for nearly seven years, but none of the lavender I've planted in the ground have lived through a winter. Will the three new plants in the triangle beat the odds?

Behind the lavender is a 'Mutabilis' rose. It opens individual flowers that change from pale yellow to apricot to pink to deep rose in the course of a day.

Behind the rose is pot of salvia and behind the salvia is a Mexican Fan palm in a big pot.

The salvia next to the rose is Salvia 'Hot Lips' - temperature seems to affect the colors. There are a few solid red, a scattering of 'lips' and some solid white flowers right now.

I spray out and refill this birdbath several times a day and now the area around it has the best grass in the entire yard. The flower bed along the back fence has red flowers for hummingbirds, tall white flowers in the center and large white leaves in front of some glossy-leaved shrubs toward the right.

Take a closer look at those white leaves - they're caladium bulbs that were planted in the ground back at the beginning of May. They have nice patterns but no names - the bag just said 'White caladium bulbs'. Next fall I'll try to remember to dig the bulbs before the leaves disappear. They'll bloom again if kept in a bag of perlite in the garage until spring.

Do you recognize the tall white flower? It's the 'Blue River II' perennial hibiscus - a division from my old Illinois garden. This plant has done really well in Austin - a suitable subject for my first blog post two years ago.

Past the flower beds the deep shadows begin - with more than half the garden under the canopy of two big pecans. A bed edged with timbers and full of Asiatic jasmine was here when we came - the timbers are gone, I fight the jasmine and we're playing with rocks along the edge. Some kind of sandy soil was used to fill the original bed. Now bulbs like this calla lily seem to like it here where the shade is dappled. Two years seems like a long time right now. Those garden bloggers who have passed the five year point, like MSS of Zanthan Gardens (September 2001), Kathy Purdy at Cold Climate Gardening (August 2002), Entangled at Cultivated (April 2003) and Bill at Prairie Point (March 2003) have my deepest respect and admiration.

And to all of you who have stopped here during the past two years, many thanks!

"Year Three - Day Four" was written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose Blog.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Swashbuckling, Wood-chunking, and Bug-sloshing

"Swashbuckling, Wood-chunking, and Bug-sloshing" was written by Annie in Austin for the Transplantable Rose

he adventures may have been bloody but they were cinematic and the blood was not real in the new arthouse movie called The Fall. This visually compelling movie came with recommendations from both Roger Ebert and a trustworthy friend, so Philo and I went to see it at the Regal Arbor a couple of nights ago. We liked it a lot and were enthralled by the performances of a young Romanian girl named Catinca Untaru and by an actor who was unknown at the time this long-in-progress movie was filmed, Oklahoma's own Lee Pace. (Lee is now a favorite for those of us who have fallen under the spell of Pushing Daisies.) Lee's character is Roy, an injured stuntman confined to a Hollywood hospital in the 1920's. The wonderful Catinca plays Alexandria, also a patient, also injured, but mobile and so charming she has the run of the hospital. Roy tells Alexandria "an epic tale of love and revenge" - interrupting his story like Scheherazade in "One Thousand and One Nights". We see Roy's words inhabited by the kind of characters seen in old movies and visualized against some amazing settings. The hospital scenes were filmed first, but it took four years and location filming in 18 countries for Tarsem Singh and his brother Ajit to get this story on screen. The official site is here. A review by Reel Fanatic is here. If this looks like your kind of movie, try to get to it while it's still on the big screen.

The blood is real elsewhere. Mpst of us have discovered that deer, woodchucks, raccoons, squirrels and other animals don't share - they're able to turn an entire crop to compost by taking one bite of each fruit or tomato, or are willing to destroy a garden seemingly on a whim. Most of us just write posts in order to vent our anger and grief over lost crops or plants, but some people go after the varmints with everything from guns to hammers. Read all about it in the New York Times article on Garden Vigilantes. Philo saw the story first and brought it to my attention as soon as I woke up this morning.

Sometimes I read the paper right away with that first cup of coffee, but lately have bee
n taking a quick run out to the tomato patch before breakfast to look for Leaf-footed stink bugs. I don't like to use pesticides anyway, but after reading the level of poison needed to control these bugs it would be out of the question - I don't want to kill off the bees, too! So I take my small bucket with a couple of inches of water in the bottom, lightly sprayed with something like Simple Green to break the surface tension, and in the other hand carry the Green Shears of Death, a pair of stainless steel garden scissors. The bugs are too fast to cut in half, but but by using the point to hold the insect's attention while stealthily moving the bucket underneath him, one jab forward and many a stink bug falls into my pail and drowns. As I scurry around the tomato frame in a nightgown, carrying a bucket and scissors and making triumphant little grunts as another bug falls to soapy death, the idea of me tending a front yard vegetable patch grows ever fainter in imagination.
Some adventures are best kept behind the garden gate.

There will be Flower Photos next time! I promise!

"Swashbuckling, Wood-chunking, and Bug-sloshing" was written by Annie in Austin for the
Transplantable Rose Blog.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

He Saw/She Saw

He Saw/She Saw was written by Annie in Austin for the Transplantable Rose

She said

I love to look across the fountain

At the green and white caladium

Under the tree

It looks so peaceful

In the shade

He said

I like to look across the fountain

Where the chair glows yellow

At the vegetable garden

Where tomatoes grow

In the sunWhat would happen if they switched chairs?

Happy Garden Bloggers Muse Day from Philo and Annie!

Beautiful At All Seasons by Elizabeth Lawrence for GBBC

This post on the book Beautiful At All Seasons was written by Annie in Austin for The Transplantable Rose.

Elizabeth Lawrence wasn't a TV star in charge of garden makeovers- she lived with her mother, made gardens in a couple of Carolina cities, wrote columns for local newspapers, corresponded with other gardeners and was the author of several beloved books, including A Southern Garden,The Little Bulbs, and Gardens in Winter. Bill Neal gathered up many of her columns in Through The Garden Gate, published in 1990. Now, more than twenty years after Miss Lawrence's death, we gladly pony up the price of another collection of her columns, written for a local audience back when the president was named Eisenhower, Kennedy or Johnson. The plants Elizabeth Lawrence speaks of may be regional, but her thoughts are abounding and universal and what a trip you can go on when following her words! Do not think she writes only for the South or that she has nothing to say to modern people. This classically educated woman may look ladylike but she is interested in everything and to get to the plants she'll join her friends in crawling across the forest floor hoping to catch a scent from early wildflowers, or confess to sneaking into the University of Padua Botanical Garden when it was inconveniently closed, only to be chased out of the park by furious Italian guards.

Beautiful in all Seasons, Southern Gardening and Beyond with Elizabeth Lawrence was put together by North Carolina writer Ann L. Armstrong and Lindie Wilson, the woman who bought Elizabeth Lawrence's house in 1986, thinking she'd bought a house but discovering that she now owns a garden shrine. The earlier collection, The Garden Gate, consists of columns written between 1957 and 1971, arranged rather like a daybook, taking you throughout the year. Beautiful In All Seasons is divided by subject matter, allowing you to read what EL wrote about the same plant, idea, principle, or holiday over the years. Since both books consist of short newspaper columns, they're perfect for quick refreshing dips when time is tight.

The introduction to Beautiful At All Seasons speaks of Miss Lawrence's "well-furnished mind" - a concise and exact description of what it's like to read her books. Do any of you know the Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn movie Desk Set, seen here in a poster from Amazon.com? The 1957 movie pits research and information person Katharine Hepburn's memory and retrieval skills against Spencer Tracy's EMERAC, the room-sized Electronic Brain. Somehow I think Elizabeth Lawrence would not only triumph over EMERAC, but would be a whiz on getting the best out of Google if she were around today.

I'm so glad MayDreams Carol chose this book for the Garden Bloggers Book Club! Although I didn't receive my copy until Friday, I've already taken quite a few refreshing dips, and was pretty pumped up when I read the article titled 'Importance of Garden Details'. Both Elizabeth Lawrence and I came up with the same Aspidistra/Holly Fern combination after trial and error. But she discovered this in 1963, while my reinvention took place in 2005.

Last week something EL wrote in 1970 added an extra dimension to my day. The cilantro was going to seed all over so I'd been harvesting some of the little round seed capsules, leaving some to reseed. You probably know that while the leaves are cilantro, the plant is Coriander.

I was collecting these coriander seeds for Chicken Mole, bu
t while gleaning the seeds off the stems, I remembered that in a column called "Savory Seeds" from Through the Garden Gate, EL had talked about coriander seeds, along with others in the umbelliferae like caraway, dill and fennel. She said that coriander seeds were once coated with fondant to make a type of comfit, used to bribe children to be quiet in church. She noted that, "Alice had a box of comfits in her pocket when she followed the white rabbit down his hole. She produced it at the end of the Caucus-race....there was exactly one apiece all round."

I looked at the seeds - trying to imagine something that tasted like cilantro as the center of a candy, rinsed off a couple and gingerly bit them. The taste was quite different from the leaves - it was like some kind of citrus. With the outside temperatures approaching 100 °F and the A/C chugging away, it didn't seem like a good idea to pull out pans and a candy thermometer and make fondant...perhaps there was a simpler way to make a coriander candy. A few Ghirardelli 60% chocolate chips smooshed around a couple of coriander seeds tastes enough like chocolate-covered orange peels to keep even me quiet for a few minutes.

This post on the book Beautiful At All Seasons was written by Annie in Austin for The Transplantable Rose.