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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, July 31, 2007

The Multi-tasking Garden Blogger

Here's the dilemma:

I met with the Divas of the Dirt on Saturday and wanted to write about it.

I’ve been immersed in a genealogy project and wrote a report.

We had 4 inches of rain last week and I have a push mower.

Philo and I are looking at paint chips. Why do the colors I like always have food names? Like butter, cream or Belgian Waffle?

Hank wrote a wonderful 15,000-word essay centered around Hydrangeas and I read a lot of it. Here's a link to the 15,000 word essay but be aware that downloading his blog entry will take some time.

My book report for the Garden Blogger’s book club is due today.

Sweet Home Chicago Carolyn’s Poetry day is planned for tomorrow.

I decided to knock two things off my list with a rhyme about the book. Here goes:

My Summer in A Garden by Charles Dudley Warner
Is a public, domain-free download from Google.
But a paper book is nicer for relaxing in a corner -
Wish I’d made that choice instead of being frugal.

I viewed the screen and scrolled along as Charlie spun his stories,
Connecticut’s the setting; Eighteen-seventy the time.
For nineteen weeks he hopes for horticultural-type glories,
But deals instead with critters, weeds and clime.

His manner is quite jocular, avuncular and dense.
While making fun of nation, gender, sect.
When sticking to his garden Warner’s words are full of sense
But some parts are not Politic’lly correct.

If you like hoes and vegetables these tales will make you smile
I chuckled at his Devil Grass and produce-swiping folks.
Though Warner’s gone from this world for a very long, long while,
Just search the web – his name lives on in snappy quotes and jokes.

The Divas of the Dirt had a great morning at the Austin Smith & Hawken, enjoying a talk by manager Zach on outdoor entertaining. We later went to brunch and there was shopping involved. That blue cactus mosaic at the top of the page was seen at the new Domain shopping center. Go read about our day, see more new photos and find links at the
Divas of the Dirt blog.
[A bit of clarification, added August 1st:
I'm happy to be a member of two separate groups of Austin gardeners - the Divas of the Dirt, who do garden projects together, and the Austin Garden Bloggers, who write about gardening. I write about them both, but the groups are not connected in any other way.]

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Surrendering to the Pink

Last June I whined about too much Barbie pink in my garden and in my neighborhood, refusing to love the Pink Crepe Myrtle which grows in the area connecting our front sidewalk and drive to the garden gate.

This space was lawn when we bought the house - we Divas of the Dirt started the changeover to garden in March 2006, by transplanting three spiraeas into a group near the front sidewalk.
After my friends left, I used the spiraeas as the frame for a Bat-shaped bed, planting passalong iris, coneflowers, balloon flowers and a pink bat-faced Cuphea among them. The scorned pink crepe myrtle stands at left in the above March 2007 photo. The white trunk in the background is a Yaupon holly.
This spring I chose to embrace La Vie En Rose. Instead of fleeing rosy tones, I'd wallow in Blush & Bashful, Hot Pink & Magenta, and create a Pink Entrance Garden as an extension of the Bat-bed. Using a weed whip, I scribed a deep groove into the lawn, enclosing the pink crepe myrtle as an anchor at the outer edge. Once the shape looked right, Philo and I removed the turf, dug up the whole bed and added compost and decomposed granite.
Hardscape can be expensive and tree removal ate most of this year's garden budget. I'd like to install brick or stone edging some day, but these rocks also qualify as hard, and they were free for the hauling.
[Don't give up .... the photos won't all be beige and brown.]
We chose medium to large rocks with pink or rosy tones and picked up flat ones for stepping stones. Evergreens added green bones to the design - a Spring Bouquet Viburnum and a Texas Mountain Laurel from the Natural Gardener . The souvenir Weigela from Howard's Nursery should do well here.
Then I went shopping in my own garden - digging up pink plants that warred with adjacent flowers, taking divisions of crowded plants and rescuing pink plants that needed more sun.
I wanted everything to bloom in shades of pink, lavender, blue, purple and white, but with lots of contrast in foliage shape and size. I planted passalong White Iris, Pink Skullcaps/ Scutellaria suffrutescens and a small Hesperaloe, also called Red Yucca. I transplanted extra seedlings of Larkspur, Verbena bonariensis and Malva zebrina, teased a small piece of Grandma’s Phlox off the main plant, unpotted pink Chrysanthemums, sneaked out an Amarcrinum bulb from a container, added Liatris/Gayfeather from the plant-rescue table, moved Sedum that was too crowded, and transplanted Platycodon/Blue Balloon flowers & Echinacea purpurea/ Pink Coneflowers from the Bat-bed.
Soon the 'Pinocchio’ Daylily had sunlight again; the 'Champagne' Mini-rose found a home; native white Cooper's Rainlilies were released from a container. Most of what I chose was fairly tough stuff, some of it was native and much of it would be drought-resistant if I could get it established.
While the new bed was being developed, the bridal wreath spiraea in the Bat-Bed distracted the eye and kept the focus on its froth of white flowers in April.
As the spiraea faded, Ellen’s purple iris burst into glorious bloom. Today the liriope edging is filling out while flowers in the Bat-bed include ‘Coral Nymph’ Salvia, pink rainlilies, purple coneflower and the large pink bat-faced cuphea.
Once the too-close coneflowers and Balloon Flowers were moved to the pink bed, the Cuphea had room to grow tall and full.
I opened my wallet and paid for a few plants. Our local grocery store wanted $5 for a one-gallon pot holding three plants of dwarf Pink Gaura. I bought a Rugosa Rose called ‘Therese Bugnet’ described as tough, pink and fragrant. I found Pink Pansies for the hanging basket in late spring, [replaced with Evolvolus 'Blue Daze' for summer] and planted a strain of Heirloom Petunias in pink, white, magenta and lavender.

Garden blogger-turned Mommy-blogger Martha passed along some unnamed Crinum bulbs, which were tucked in on either side of the Crepe myrtle. Pam/Digging passed along a young Mexican Oregano which went in front of the tree. Liriope divisions from another bed are tiny now, but will someday define the back edge. I planted seeds of Amaranth and Cosmos.
We added more hardscape with a repainted old bench from the back yard, placing it between the new bed and the garden gate to act as bait for strolling chlorophyll lovers.

So how did My Life in Pink work out?
We rushed to make the new bed before the heat & drought arrived. A rainier-than-normal spring meant that the native plants like Liatris, Coneflowers and white trailing lantana looked wonderful in May and June and the Cooper's lilies bloomed.
The rains helped settle in the larkspur, balloonflowers, skullcap, 'Champagne' mini-rose, heirloom petunias and malva. I was sure that if the plants looked this good in June, they'd look even better by the time the pink crepe myrtle bloomed.
It's now late in July, the heat hasn’t arrived yet, and Austin is in the middle of the rainiest year ever recorded - we've had another 3 and 1/2 inches just since Monday. Many plants look kind of beat-up and overgrown - like this 'dwarf' 3-foot tall gaura. The Texas Mountain Laurel is not happy to be living here. The Scuttelaria is looking cranky. The bed is looking very shaggy! I'd hoped that keeping the grass edged around the bed would give it definition, but the electric edger can't be used when every day is rain day.

The phlox is alive, but neither the new division nor the original plant bloomed this year. The cosmos has had a couple of flowers, the amaranth never sprouted.
I'm still hoping that the pink garden can bring other gardeners to my garden gate.
But we can sit on the bench and bask in the watermelon pink glow of the crepe myrtle that started it all.
We can also look at that ‘Therese Bugnet’ rose, appointed as the Queen of Pink...she's a beauty, but her name is not Therese.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

2007 Austin Pond Society Tour

A week before the Austin Pond Tour we went to Hill Country Water Gardens to buy tickets and get the brochure. Buying the tickets took only a minute, but we needed an hour to wander around this wonderful place, fantasizing about water features, [oh those disappearing fountains!] admiring the plants, fish and statuary. This year the paper tickets were replaced by wristbands - a fun idea that left our hands free to hold the camera.

We made it to 24 of the 30 locations featured on the weekend of July 14th & 15th, having a slight meltdown up in Pflugerville and Cedar Park where new tollways slash and divide the terrain but don't yet appear on our maps. An organized account of the tour may be posted soon at the Austin Pond Society Website - these are merely my impressions of a few of the delightful ponds and gardens, from small owner-built pools to lavish estates.

We loved the fabric sail over this Wells Branch pond - an artful way to add shade.

I'm not fond of garden bridges with no reason for their existence. This simple bridge lets you move across the ponds, from one side of the garden to the other, so it's not just decorative but functional.

A really cool arch made a gracious entry to this waterfall and pond. I liked the pond but also liked that large fig tree full of fruit. It was interesting to see how many of these pond folk grow Loquats, figs and cannas - some of my own favorites.
This Pflugerville garden was filled with whimsical decor. And I do mean filled.

This garden in the Lakeline Mall area incorporated the existing large trees into the design and truly felt like a retreat.

Many ponds attempt to look as if they're natural outcroppings - this pond, also near Lakeline Mall, made no such attempt, remaining spare and geometric. It's clean lines acted as a refreshing lemon sorbet, clearing the palate at this lavish pond banquet.

A beautiful waterfall and stream like this one would be thrilling in any garden, but it's just the entrance pond for one of the most spectacular gardens in Austin. Featured on Central Texas Gardener and open both Saturday night and Sunday, this Lost Creek wonderland is large and lovely and was very difficult to leave. A wide shot of just one part of the back is below.

In yet another area there was a wonderful stream full of lilies.

MSS of Zanthan Gardens also enjoyed this hillside garden and has posted another view in the
Zanthan Pond Tour Post.

MSS also took photos at this huge and famous estate garden overlooking Town Lake for her post - and it was fun to see that we noticed some of the same things, both posting a photo of the Wall of Buddha Statues in the Lotus Garden.

But I don't think MSS went on hands and knees to capture the floor of the terrace in the Lotus Garden - the elongated pebbles appear to be set individually making a wonderful pattern. It had me crooning, and the texture felt good underfoot.

What a view!

We came down from the mountaintop and drove back to the real world, where pleasure can be found in a long relationship with one plot of land and the fruits of one's labor. That concrete bench in the background is handmade, decorated with impressed Caladium leaves.

Alone in an enclosed garden hearing the sounds of water and birds.
Ah, serenity.

There are no photos of some of my favorite views and pond gardens - it doesn't feel right to put innocent bystanders on my blog, and at many locations it was impossible to exclude recognizable persons when photographing the ponds. One of the impossible-to-photograph places was a delectable, dreamy garden off Barton Creek Road with one of the ponds running alongside the house, and a rock outcropping overlooking green woods. In a perfect blend of urban life and privacy, one could balance on a large rock seeing nothing but pond and garden while inhaling the odor of onion rings wafting up from the Shady Grove.

Edit June 2011- old link to APS doesn't work - linked to revamped website.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Three Gardens - Twenty Years

Sometimes I confuse people, especially new readers, by bouncing from past to present, first talking about the house we live in now, then switching to a past garden in either Texas or Illinois. I thought you might like a post with dates and descriptions of the last three places.

The Former Illinois Garden [1987-1999] was a 60' wide X 300' long rectangle on flat land in the Western Suburbs of Chicago. We'd spent years playing in the dirt at other houses by the time we moved there in spring 1987.
We lived at this house for 12 years, long enough to make a large front garden with mixed borders of flowering trees, shrubs, dwarf evergreens, perennials, bulbs, and annuals surrounding an amoeba-shaped central lawn. The photo above is from late summer, and that's the same birdbath you see in current photos! This garden was enclosed by a low fence with roses and vines growing on it, with a 'hot' border along the driveway.
The photo above was taken on an April day in the mid-1990's. By then I'd spent time at Trudi Temple's Hinsdale garden . Her deep, curving borders had a big influence on my style, and Ann Lovejoy gave this style a name: The American Mixed Border. Gardens in the back included a Square Sitting Garden off the patio, vegetable beds, patches of both red raspberries and black raspberries, fruit trees, native woodland borders and shrub borders. There were also lots of lilacs, tulips, peonies, daffodils, iris, daylilies, oriental lilies, clematis and hostas!

The First Austin House, sometimes referred to as our first House in Texas [1999-2004] had just a few saplings and some overgrown foundation junipers in the flat front yard when we moved there in late summer 1999. The sides and back yard were a steep, rocky canyon covered by decks.
I took a few classes in Hill Country Gardening, realizing that Midwest experience was not always useful here. Deer nibbled everything, so we planted a deer-resistant, drought-tolerant landscape in the front. In the photo above there are santolinas, artemesias, Salvias greggii, leucantha and 'Indigo Spires', various lantana, dwarf yaupon, Vitex, Texas Mountain Laurels and Copper Canyon daisies.Gates kept the deer out of the SW-facing Deck Garden in back. We experimented with all kinds of trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, vines and bulbs, enchanted with the sub-tropical plants that don't grow in Illinois. That's my beloved Loquat in the photo above, still a sapling tree next to the brick column.

Above left is an 'Acoma' Crepe myrtle in 2003, barely surviving and seldom blooming in the container. The lavender at center did fine on the deck, along with the Pineapple sage, Indian Hawthorn, Oleander, Dianthus and oregano. Once we learned that deer eat native wildflowers like Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush, we grew them in pots on the deck, too.
We lived at this first Austin house for 5 years, enjoying the views from the decks. Above are the Lady Banks rose and Confederate Jasmine waving wands of yellow flowers over the deck rail from their container.

At the end of July 2004 we moved to our current Austin Garden in a wooded neighborhood built in the late 1970's.With help from our family, we hauled the one hundred containers [and that birdbath] to this gently sloping, trapezoid-shaped yard with our first-ever privacy fence. It took a couple of years to get the Loquat, Camellia, Cenizo, Indian Hawthorne, Crepe Myrtle, Sweet Olive, Beautyberry, Fig and Boxwood out of containers and into Texas soil. The two 'Acoma' crepe myrtles have been trained into trees and are finally higher than the privacy fence.

We once knew something about Illinois gardening, and then learned something about gardening in rocky, hilly Austin deer country, but we had to relearn gardening once again. Although our present garden is less than two miles from Austin house # one, instead of a blank rectangle of rocky caliche, we're dealing with heavy clay soil inhabited by dozens of existing trees.
We're still learning.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for July

Lady Bird always loved the wild flowers
She wanted us to love them, too.
Here in the city where her wildflowers grew,
We bid our Lady Bird adieu.

The flag flies at half-mast for Lady Bird Johnson in a new garden fitted within the footprint where the Arizona Ash used to stand. I planted wildflowers like Eupatorium greggii - Gregg's Mistflower, Anisicanthus wrightii, also called Hummingbird Bush, and a plain old calico-colored Lantana, adding Salvias guaranitica and 'Black & Blue', a 'Bengal Tiger' canna and Verbena bonariensis. They're growing near the birdbath in a mixture of clay, compost and the ground-up stump of the large Ash tree. These plants are just beginning to flower, bringing an occasional butterfly, bee, or hummingbird to see if it's worth stopping here.

Malvaviscus is another flower planted to please the hummingbirds. It grows in light shade near one of the two remaining Arizona Ash trees and is sometimes called wax mallow or Turk's cap.

More wildflowers - a pink selection of Gaura lindheimerii and Echinacea purpurea 'Purple Stars'.

These Balloonflowers - probably Platycodon grandiflora - were brought along as seedlings from Illinois; planted in fall of 2004, they're now looking settled in their second Texas home.

Buds and flowers keep appearing on this 'Champagne' mini-rose, which was a mid-winter gift from my mother and sisters.

The first Amarcrinum flowers of 2007 opened yesterday. The variety is possibly 'Fred Howard'. If you're interested in amarcrinum, you can read more about it in this older post. Crinum-type lilies are not always fragrant, but this one is!

The White crepe myrtles, Lagerstroemia 'Acoma', are having a fine summer. They were twisted and curled by too many years in deck containers before we moved here and it's taken several more years to train them into tree-form again - this year they've finally grown taller than the privacy fence.

Near the corner of the veranda you can see a Pink crepe myrtle, the boxwood hedge, and hanging baskets with impatiens, ornamental sweet potato vines, oxalis and Evolvulus 'Blue Daze'. I've used only impatiens and torenia in other years, but with the Ash gone, the sun is stronger on this end of the veranda so I'm experimenting with the 'Blue Daze'.

Our 'Julia Child' rose, bought in early spring, is having a third bloom cycle! She's backed by a white coneflower and Mexican Oregano.

The Buddleja 'Black Prince' above right has been in bloom for months; the yellow lantana seems happier now that the weather has turned hot.

Perovskia - called 'Russian sage' with a true sage in the background, Salvia guaranitica.

Three cupheas are in bloom now. This orange cuphea is probably Cuphea ignea, also called cigar plant. It dies back in the cold, then grows into a shrub by the end of the summer. It's planted near another chunk of 'Bengal Tiger' canna and one of the the 'Acoma' crepes.

Above is a close-up of the orange cuphea. You can decide for yourself if it looks like a cigar!

The red and purple flowers of Cuphea llavea, nicknamed Batfaced cuphea, aren't very big, but hummingbirds always find them.

This pink cuphea also has that 'Bat-faced' look, but its growth pattern is more like the orange one - each winter it dies back to a few inches tall. It sits like an undecided lump for a few months, but with sun, warmth and water, decides that Austin is not so bad after all, and by August it's turned into a three-foot tall shrub again, covered in bees and trying to smother its neighbors.

Here's a list of some other plants showing floral action. The sunflower is just starting, plants like the coreopsis are full of buds and blossoms while others like the larkspur are almost done. Dependable workhorse plants like Abelia, Salvias and the honeysuckle have produced flowers month after month.
Salvia 'Coral Nymph'
Coreopsis 'Creme Brulee'
Salvia greggii in several colors.
Pavonia lasiopetala, a native Rock Rose
Blue plumbago
A few apricot daylilies
Purple leaved oxalis
'Blue River II' hardy Hibiscus
Vitex agnus castus
Coral honeysuckle
'Little Gem' Magnolia
Scuttelaria - skullcap
Zinnia linnearis
Happy Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, organized by Carol of May Dreams Garden.
I hope you're all having a blooming July in your own garden. We're spending time at other gardens this weekend on the annual Austin Pond Society Tour.