The Daily Muse

A Garden Journal -- June 2003

Last Update: June 29

Agave lophantha and Hymenoxis daisy from our new front bed.

June 1 - evening

Mad dogs and gardeners out in the noon-day sun...

It has been another frenetic gardening weekend for me despite the record setting heat that we have been experiencing over the last few days. Two days ago it was 101 degrees fahrenheit (38.3 degrees celcius) and summer is still three weeks away! I am glad that I am planting agaves and yuccas, otherwise, I think I'd be a candidate for the local insane asylum.

Speaking of agaves and yuccas, I have just completed the second circular planting bed in our front yard and have included Agave weberii, Agave lophantha, and Yucca pallida as my core plants. I can't believe I was able to get the work done, but I really felt compelled to do it, despite the heat, because I wanted to get ALL of my major garden projects completed before the real  heat sets in. I am sensing a very brutal summer here in Austin and suspect that from here on out, we'll be in survival mode.

As for me, I am praying that a tropical storm will sweep in from the Gulf of Mexico and  sit on us for a week or so. Maybe then we'd could catch up on our growing rain deficit. Let's start the communal rain dance now - maybe by the end of the month, we'll have another shower or two.

The new circular bed as seen over the older one (from street.)

Agave lophantha (background left,) Agave Weberii (background right,) and three Yucca pallida (foreground.)

June 2 - morning

For the past few weeks we have been providing foster care for some kittens for the Humane Society; they are, for the most part, tabby and calico blends and are ready for adoption. These are sweet loving little critters and they all come from the same litter. They have already been neutered, have all of their shots, and are used to a multiple cat household. If you are interested in adopting them, contact us and we will help coordinate things with the Humane Society so that you can take them home without them having to spend time at the shelter.

Smokey (female)

Squeaky (female)

Squeaky (awake!)

Tux (male)

June 4 - morning

Close-up of bald cypress needles after the rain.

Thank you, rain dancers! Last night, we received our best rainfall of the season, just over two inches (5.08 centimeters) fell  as a strong line of storms moved through the region. The best news is that we still have a chance for more! Yeah! The spring has been saved! I was out in the garden before sunrise checking everything out with our trusty flashlight. I could already see the difference that the rain had made - rain, it is what Texas gardeners live for!

"Little Gem" magnolia bloom.

Wide view of our bald cypress allee after the rain.

June 5 - morning

Another line of storms is approaching the city, in true Texas fashion, when it rains, it floods! Thought you might enjoy a few more pictures...

This is the pot and statuary grouping at the end of our allee. The statue is of Soledad, the patroness of Oaxaca. The plants include Santa Rita Opuntia and giant white hesperaloe (in the pots) and English boxwood.

The grouping of pots, rocks, etc at the other end of the garden. This grouping helps to termintate the view from our house, over the pond and through our labyrinth. The plants here in clude Opuntia (prickly pear,) purple fountain grass, and nolina.

Agapanthus and daylilies after the rain.

June 7 - evening

Another busy garden day... I am preparing to finish out my series of round planting beds in our front yard and spent a good part of the day lining up the plants and supplies that I will be using. I also tracked down a palm for a  planting bed I created a few weeks ago in our back yard, Sabal mexicana also known as Texas Sabal Palm. I am pleased with its dramatic form and the tropical touch it brings to the garden.

I have been so busy planting over the course of the past few weeks, I haven't taken the time to list some of the interesting new additions to the garden. What follows is an incomplete list of some of the plants that we have added with links taking you to sites where you can learn more about them.

Nolina nelsoni - A beautiful giant form of our familiar Texas "beargrass." This plant resembles a spineless Sotol.

Nolina texana - Beargrass, the Hill Country native that is not a real grass, but is a fantastic grass substitute for dry areas.

Hesperaloe funifera - Giant Red Yucca, a dramatic plant with branching flower spikes that grow to ten feet.

Yucca harrimaniae - Harriman's Yucca, an extremely dwarf, narrow-leaf form of yucca - very attractive for the front of a raised bed.

Yucca baccata - Banana Yucca. Great color, broad foliage, and strong form make this a potential Texas landscaping star.

Passiflora caerulea "Blue Crown" -  A nice addition to our collection of passion vines with a very interesting fragrance.

Passiflora caerulea "Constance Elliot" - A fast growing white form of passion vine.

Agave bracteosa - A very graceful form of agave that can flower multiple times.

Agave striata - Pencil thin foliage and dramatic form make this plant a great addition to our agave collection.

Sabal minor - Dwarf Palmetto, like those growing in Palmetto State Park.

As I said, this is an incomplete list, there are still MANY more really cool  plants out there to try... I hope you have the chance to try a few of these.

June 8 - evening

The third circular bed with (from left to right) Agave bracteosa, Agave Weberi, and Agave americana "Baby Blue."

More intense work... more results. Hope you enjoy the pictures...

A little closer.

The "Baby Blue" Agave.

Agave Weberi.

Agave bracteosa.

Sabal mexicana.

Sabal mexicana seen behind our pond sitting area.

June 15 - morning

Lily in our pond.

We've enjoyed the best of times in the garden over the course of the past week ... we have been visited by  good friends and good rain. What could be better? We received two inches of rain on Friday, and another light shower passed through this morning. We are now well set-up now for the beginning of summer, and there is the promise of still more rain in the week ahead.

This morning, I had a face to face encounter with another visitor - I was wandering down one of our garden paths when I was confronted by a hummingbird who was intent on chasing me away from a  S alvia guaranitica that she had been enjoying. I was amused by her audacity and decided that our garden could use a few more of these spectacular perennials so that we could both enjoy them at the same time. So, I quickly ran to our corner nursery and picked up three more to plant at the base of our new Texas Sabal Palm. I have always loved this form of salvia, but it never performed well for me until I tried a new cultivar called "Black and Blue." The intense color of the flowers makes this plant a real show-stopper. As you can see from the picture below...

Black and Blue salvia to right.

Telephoto view of our bald cypress allee.

Telephoto view of our conversation room.

Colorado lily.

All three of our water lilies blooming.

June 19 - morning

Yesterday was a very intense work day - I spent the morning completing the last (for the time being) of the circular beds in our front yard and did a lot of transplanting and potting etc.. Then, in the afternoon, I took a crew from our station out to shoot a short documentary feature on a local artist. We worked until midnight shooting his studio/house complex which is also his art. His name is Andy Coolquitt and he has constructed a live-in work that blurs the lines between conceptual art and folk art - architecture and stage sets. We spent some time talking about obsession and art - about what compels an artist to pursue a particular vision. I think we both agreed that we do not know what the source of our obsessions are (his being his art, mine being my garden.) What compelled me to work through the heat of the morning without taking a break - dripping in sweat and covered in limestone dust? I certainly don't know. And why did I choose a series of circular beds as my expression? Again, I don't have a clue.

One of Andy pieces that I really loved was a translucent white wall lit from behind by neon lights. In front of the wall he has installed a series of lines or graphs illustrating unknown upward trends. The graphs are constructed of discarded cigarette lighters. The effect was serene and beautiful, the lighters with their bright, often transparent colors, inched upwards across the expanse of the wall. What did it mean? Why did he do it? Andy could only venture a few guesses. Perhaps it is about value - rising graphs made up of discarded trash... he also wondered about  the expanse of white - did it stand for hope? He thought that it might. It reminded me of interpreting dreams - who knows what they really mean, if anything, but even with this uncertainty, would we ever trade the experience of having them, of being in them? Not me.

I like Andy's art, and the idea of art that you can be in, either as an inhabitant or a visitor. Perhaps that is also why I love creating garden spaces. Who knows for sure? All I do know is that I am glad that you have taken the time to visit this obsession, this space. Thanks.

The four circles.

Close-up of the third (left) and fourth circles. The new bed is planted with a Desert Willow and Bulbine.

Agave lophantha close-up.

Rose of Sharon "Diana."

June 27 - morning

It is a strangely autumnal morning here in Austin, a rare summer "cold" front blew through yesterday leaving us with gray skies, a northerly breeze, and cooler temperatures ( it is only supposed to get into the mid-eighties today.) It feels more like late September than June, but believe me, I am NOT complaining. I am looking forward to a quiet weekend and intend to leave plenty of time for taking care of the small chores that feel like really big ones when the heat is on. You've got to take advantage of every opening Mother Nature offers if you're a Texas gardener!

June 29 - morning

Telephoto shot of our Soledad statue with Rudbeckias in full bloom.

Well, our "cool" weather did not last long, yesterday it got up to about 92 or 93 degrees. Though, I did manage to get quite a few things accomplished in the garden. In a short while, I will be outside trimming a pathway with some cut limestone leftover from some other tasks.

Yesterday we harvested a large sack's worth of tomatoes  and about two dozen peaches from our trees. About half of our peaches were eaten by raccoons... see the guilty paw print below. Hey, where is my  wildlife exemption?!

The tell-tale paw.

On another note... One thing that I have learned through the years is that I need to write down the names of plants that I am using in the garden, because I often lose the tags. I find that this adds to my enjoyment of the plants since I can more readily share information about them. So, I thought I'd just post a few of my new acquisitions here... (This list includes some potted plants that I have had for a long time. I rediscovered their identities when I repotted them yesterday and found their tags.)

Dyckia brevifolia - Also known as "Pineapple Dyckia" this terrestrial bromeliad is said to be cold hardy here in Austin. Does anyone else out there have experience with this one?

Agave parrasana - A beautiful compact agave.

Agave filifera - Another compact agave with pronounced "hairs" and lots of pups.

Agave kichijokan - A japanese garden cultivar. Who would have thought that agaves were incredibly popular in Japan?

Here are two mystery plants... the first is another terrestrial bromeliad that was given to me years ago.

(This has been reported to be Hechtia texensis. Thank you!)

The second is a very hardy perennial that has foliage like a daylily and almost cuphea-like blooms.

Can anyone help me identify these guys? Please be in touch if you can. Thanks!

(Another mystery solved! The bulb pictured above is  Polianthes geminiflora, a relative of Mexican tuberose. It is available from Yucca-do Nursery.)

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