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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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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ideas from Zilker Garden Fest

The annual Zilker Park Garden Fest takes place toward the end of March here in Austin. This is the modern name for our annual plant spree, and while it's descriptive, long-time Austinites like MSS of Zanthan Gardens still call it "Flora Rama". Was gardening more fun years ago? In 1978, Mayor McClellan declared an entire Flora Rama Week.

It's always fun to wander the winding paths filled with vendors of every kind of plant and decoration - we found interesting plants and stopped to buy another Cobrahead from Geoff. You'll also find music & food, a flower show and lots of information. There are garden talks - in 2007 we heard Felder Rushing. The park itself is always beautiful and inspiring - before I had a place for my own Mutabilis roses, seeing them blooming at Zilker Park made me even more determined to grow them.Annieinaustin, Mutabilis rose at Zilker

The Hartman Dinosaur Garden was begun while we still lived at our previous house. From the first sight I fell in love with the Hartman garden and the Hartman plants - Magnolia/Michelia figo/Banana shrub, large Magnolias, evergreen plants similar to Podocarpus, Purple-leaved Loropetalum, palms and sago cycads, orchid trees and horsetails, with Texas Mountain Laurels and palmettos tucked in. We began to add some of those plants almost as soon as we moved in to this house.

Sometimes what grows at Zilker Park does well here -like the Loropetalum, Podocarpus, 'Little Gem' magnolia and the Banana Shrub... and sometimes my attempts at copying have failed. After 4 years in my garden, two miserable leaves of Bletilla striata struggled to the surface. They've never bloomed.Annieinaustin, Ground ORchids at Zilker ParkAbove is the patch of Bletilla/Chinese Ground Orchids at Zilker Park last Sunday! This week my underperformers took a ride on the garden fork to a different border - maybe they'll like it better and bloom some day.

One of the informational booths was run by The Austin Herb Society, tucked in next to the charming herb garden with raised beds so you can see the plants up close, and benches so you can rest and people-watch.
I fell into an enjoyable conversation with Ann, the volunteer at the booth, telling her that seeing the thriving rosemary shrubs reminded me of an odd sighting in my garden last week. Annieinaustin, Austin Herb Society booth Zilker 2011 A pair of goldfinches (my guess is Lesser Goldfinches) spent more than 15 minutes working over the rosemary just outside the breakfast room window. They tugged off petals and tossed them to get to the ends of the branch where the seeds developed. They were so intent on their work that they didn't fly off when I held the camera to the window pane for a blurry photo.Annieinaustin, Goldfinch pair on Rosemary
Ann's theory was that some of the usual seed plants for finches were so affected by drought that they didn't make seeds, so even the tiny rosemary seeds are sought after in this dry spring. This idea makes sense to me, too. Ann also thought it would be a good idea to post about this interesting behavior and I agreed.

Has anyone else seen birds eating rosemary seeds?Annieinaustin, female goldfinch on rosemary

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Very Merry Un-Bloom Day for March 2011

The UN in Un-Bloom Day doesn't mean there are no flowers - it's just a little riff on the Unbirthday party in Alice in Wonderland - a way to remind myself that the flowers weren't around for 'Official' Garden Blogger Bloom Day on the 15th. If you're still interested, last week I made a GBBD list for Annie's Addendum, but this week it is Full-On Spring here in Austin - nights in mid-60's F and windy, dry days in the mid-eighties making bluebonnets and Texas Paintbrush pop. Annieinaustin, Bluebonnets and Paintbrush

The Divas of the Dirt have had a couple of projects; it's nursery-hopping season; with no rain many hours must be spent soaking, composting and mulching beds, and it's also the season for visiting friends' gardens in the real world. And since the Coral Honeysuckle and Ladybanks Rose are once again blooming together in that real world, it's way past time to make a post in the virtual world.
Coral honeysuckle and Ladybanks rose, Annieinaustin
The parade of dead and damaged plants is still straggling past - the larger Bay Laurel still looks dead and so does one of the Southern Wax myrtles. And the Mediterranean Palm took a real hit. I cut off the dead fronds and used a dolly to wheel the remaining stump from the patio to a more obscure area with best wishes for recuperation.

This week has fried the blossoms but last week the Texas Whitebud was lovely!Annieinaustin,Texas Whitebud, Cercis variety

The Texas Redbud came into bloom with the lance-leafed Bridal Wreath spiraea... next up will be a similar, shorter white spiraea with rounder, scalloped leaves.Annieinaustin, Redbud w Bridal Wreath
I like 'Thalia' daffodil so much that it's planted in little clumps all over the garden, some in sun and some in part shade. The first to open are already done but the last ones opened yesterday.Annieinaustin, Narcissus Thalia Daffodil
White iris - an old passalong type tentatively identified as Iris albicans - is usually the first one of the bearded types to open.
Annieinaustin White Iris albicans

The second triangle has a little bit of everything - bluebonnets from seeds that MSS of Zanthan Gardens gave me, a Texas Paintbrush, Blackfoot Daisies (one survivor and one new), annual white and purple phlox (the cultivar is humorously named 'Twentieth Century Phlox'), Salvia greggii not yet blooming, seedling cosmos with 'Amethyst Flame' iris from Pam/Digging in the background.Annieinaustin, bluebonnets, iris

A few more bluebonnets grow in the sunny end of the Yaupon border - this time with a Four-Nerve Daisy/Tetraneuris scaposa and some very happy Phlox subulata/Creeping phlox in a lavender shade. bluebonnets, Four-nerve daisy, Annieinaustin

The center of that bed is sunny now, but once the pecan trees leaf out it will be shady. That's where I planted the sticklike 'Snow Queen' Oakleaf hydrangea about 1 year ago, with fingers crossed that it had survived January 2010 in a container. February 2011 was even worse for cold, but the Oakleaf hydrangea had settled in and breezed through. Annieinaustin,Oakleaf hydrangea

Look at that developing flower head!Annieinaustin, Oakleaf hydrangea bud closeup

In the mixed sun-and-shade of the long fence bed a few Persian ranunculus survived February 2011, too - but just a few. Many more froze and dried up. I really like this white one Annieinaustin, white ranunculus

And this clump of yellow ranunculus is back for the 4th springAnnieinaustin, yellow ranunculusAt the back of this bed we planted a 'Ramona' clematis on a metal trellis a little more than a year ago. I hope the flowers come slowly, because the 'Julia Child' rose is slow this spring, and the combination of 'Ramona' and 'Julia' was spectacular last year.Annieinaustin, Ramona clematis, march 2011

Near the birdbath fountain another Four-Nerve daisy has not only survived but increased... joined by a sweet little Blue-Eyed grass from Barton Springs Nursery.Annieinaustin,Sisyrinchium & Tetraneuris scaposa

Not all the native plants did so well - although all four of the Texas Mountain Laurel plants survived the freezes, only one tiny floret was left unfrozen from the buds set last year.Annieinaustin, lone floret TX mountain laurel

I couldn't resist a Blue Sky Vine on sale, also at Barton Springs Nursery. It may not be hardy here, but garden forums suggest growing it in a container until fall, chopping it down to 2-feet and bringing the pot into the garage for winter. I'm giving that a try - it's now in a container next to the white arch in the Secret Garden, looking quite at home. Annieinaustin Thunbergia grandiflora
We bought tomato plants at Natural Gardener and Shoal Creek Nursery a while ago, grew them on in larger pots for awhile and planted them last week. Some of the peppers are in, but some are still in the pots until April. That worked pretty well last year. Annieinaustin, tomato plants in wheelbarrow

There are more plants in bloom but the one that said Spring to me today was this small-flowered member of the Magnolia family, bought in 2004 as a starter shrub at Red Barn Garden Center and now 7-feet tall. At various times it's been called Magnolia fuscata, Michelia fuscata, and Michelia figo, (Michelia always makes me think of May Dreams Carol), but it seems to be now called Magnolia figo... at least this week. Annieinaustin Magnolia figo flowerI haven't been a very good Garden Blogger this month - more like the White Rabbit saying "I'm Late, I'm Late"- but I'm still trying to be a good Gardener!

Happy Spring, everyone!