The Daily Muse

A GardenJournal -- May 2002

Last Update: May 28

Possumhaw Hollow from across the garden, with stone columns at entry.










The opposite view (from Possumhaw Hollow.) The central crossing axis of our geometric grid.

Telephoto view of previous image.

May 2 - evening

I had another magical and unexpected experience in the garden yesterday. I was in full garden frenzy:  weeding, watering, and the like, when I stumbled upon the home of one of the most beautiful creatures I have ever seen, a Texas Blind Snake. Here is a poetic (I hope) account of what happened:

Under the Stone

They were orphans
left over from another project-
massive square cut blocks
of chalky limestone.

I stacked them to form
a pair of stubby columns
that guard the entrance
to my secret garden room.

Over time they shifted,
one slouching east, the other west,
their symmetry settling
in a casual indifference

to my rule. Their posture,
however, always caught my eye,
And I said to myself,
“lift them, set them right.”

But their sullen heft glowered
as if to say, “go ahead, try.”
I made excuses for them,
“They are but siblings grown apart,

unleashed by shifting centers of gravity.
Their turned shoulders
mere tokens of individuality.”
But, my vision of garden precision

tripped over their quarrel
time and again.
Yesterday, my disapproval,
already stoked by the too early heat,

snapped- and I charged, indignant,
to set them straight.
I grunted and cursed as I lifted
the first stack of stones.

Sweat shook and soaked
as I spread gravel below-
I scraped and restacked
until the column stood erect.

Then, I attacked the second-
a blur of righteousness,
chalk covered, and wet.
As I lifted the last heavy stone

my breath escaped,
for, there in the glare
of formerly cool earth
coiled a silvery pink snake.

Delicate and wormlike it shivered
 like a stream of mercury

before slipping away
searching for its home in the shade.

A precious necklace
of glistening scales- the
errant column’s gift, revealed,
thankfully, before my order prevailed.

A pot with Agave parryi, carnation, and yellow hesperaloe. This is where I lost my marbles.


May 7 - morning


Tawny daylily (Hemerocallis fulva)


Still no rain. May is usually our monsoon month, supplying up to a quarter of our annual total. It has been one month since we have had a measurable rainfall and I am growing very worried. The garden, courtesy of our irrigation system, is looking great however. Our first daylily opened this morning. It is a "tawny" daylily, Hemerocallis fulva, the mother species of the daylilies that you see in gardens everywhere. When I was a kid growing up in New York, we'd see the tawnies growing along the roadside, escaped from cultivation, and called them "tiger lilies" because of their orange color. I prefer this plant to its fancier progeny, it is much tougher and doesn't seem bothered by the thrips and aphids that the cultivars suffer from. We do have a patch of the more exotic daylily cultivars and they are about to bloom as well. Right next to them, our "Peter Pan" agapanthus is about to put on a show.


I am about to head outside to thin our wildflower bed- some of the species have been a tad bit too rambunctious for our tastes. I better get to it- it is overcast now, typical for a May morning, but the clouds will soon burn off and the sun will turn the garden into a steam bath.

Our cypress allee from an angle. The "salsa patch" is to the left behind the Tibetan prayer flags.

May 12 - morning


Our drought continues, though there is a promise of some relief in the form of a cool front that is expected to pass through later today. I am hoping that it will bring us a few of those much delayed April showers.


Yesterday, I took a group of folks out to visit the 'Painted Churches.' It was the second time this spring that I have led a tour to the churches. It was so comforting to be out in those tiny communities enjoying the breeze and the beauty of the churches themselves. When I got home, I wandered through the garden and visited with a large tiger swallowtail butterfly. I was afraid that my presence might frighten it off, but it was not to be deterred ( our 'Lynn Lowrey' echinaceas were just too tempting!) Eventually, I went indoors, retrieved my camera, and returned to take some close up images of the butterfly as it harvested nectar from  the coneflowers. It was so intent on its work that I was able to carefully study its technique, which was surprisingly thorough. It probed every available nook of the flower with such precision you'd almost think that the was working from an archaeologist's grid.



Today is going to be a clean-up day in the garden, I will be dead heading the coreopsis which have exhausted themselves with their first round of blooms, trimming the boxwood hedges, mowing the lawn, etc. Perhaps, I will be lucky enough to spend some more time with my prospecting friend.


Since today is Mother's Day, before I close I want to thank my Mom for nurturing my curiosity. Without her I would never have done my own prospecting! Here's to you Mom! Cheers!

An artichoke in bloom.


May 14 - morning


Spring has returned! As I write this, it is a refreshing 56 degrees outside (13.3 degrees celcius.) We received only a trace of rain as the front passed, but the change in temperatures has been enough to lift everyone's spirits.


The first rays of the sun are spreading across the garden and the birds are already very busy at the feeders. I just watched an Inca dove chase one of its much larger cousins, a white winged dove, from a feeder. Score one for the little guys.


One of my Dad's 'Painted Church' birdhouses.

Hohokam agave, blackfoot daisy, and bulbine in our front yard agave bed.

May 20 - morning


Another spring-like morning- cool and delightful. This past weekend we enjoyed nearly all of the benefits of another cold front: pleasant temperatures, but once again, no rain. I found it nearly impossible to be inside and spent many quiet hours simply enjoying the garden with Victor and our friends.


On Saturday, we visited Hamilton Pool, one of my favorite local destinations. Hamilton Pool is where I first fell in love with the Hill Country nearly twenty seven years ago. A friend took me there on my very first week end in Austin where I just was about to begin my career at the University of Texas. I was amazed by the canyon and grotto at Hamilton Pool- it was so un- like the Texas I had experienced up to that point. Part of the longing that I had for my childhood home in the North East faded away that weekend, I remember thinking that I might be able to stay in Texas after all.


One of the things I most love about Hamilton Pool is the trail leading from the grotto down to the Pedernales River- it follows a creek that is lined with ancient bald cypress trees. The effect is similar to an outdoor cathedral, with the trunks of the trees forming great columns and their high, spreading branches a vaulted roof. It is an effect that I have tried to recreate with our cypress allee. We have many years to wait before we have a vaulted roof over our garden, but I love the fact that I am reminded of the place where I fell in love with Austin every time I step outside my back door.


May 28 - morning


Telephoto view down our cypress allee.


Finally, after seven weeks of waiting, we can celebrate a good rain. During the night, we received nearly one and a third inches. We are still far behind on what we need, but, at least we know that rain is possible! This morning the garden looks as if it has recaptured some of its early spring vigor. The agapanthus and daylilies are covered with rain drops and the cypress trees are glistening in the morning sun.


A little touch of Mexico in our garden.


I have just returned from Mexico City where I spent five days doing background research for a potential documentary and performance project for PBS. My schedule was very intense with almost no time for sight seeing. However, I did get a few moments one day to stroll through the Alameda,  the great public park of the old historic district, or Centro. This is a public garden on a grand scale with impressive statues, beautiful fountains, formal geometry, and lots of green leafy shade. We have a lot to learn about urban parks (and gardens) from Mexico. These spaces are as gracious as the people: inviting, filled with life, and completely relaxing. The Alameda is the perfect oasis amid the incredible surge of humanity that is Mexico City. I wish Austin had its own Alameda downtown.


Wish me Buena Suerte on my project. Adios!


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