The Daily Muse

A Garden Journal -- August 2003

Last Update: August 24

Lycoris blooming in the morning light. (August 24)

OK, so I can't get enough of these New York Pictures... if you missed the rest, check out last month's Daily Muse. This is the view looking north from the Empire State Building with Fifth Avenue on the right. Notice the 300+ foot spires of St. Patrick's lost amid the towers. Central Park is spread out behind the towers of Rockefeller Center and Midtown.

August 6 - morning

It has been intensely hot for the past week. Our temperature is expected to hit 103 degrees (39.44 Celcius) this afternoon. Yeck! I am taking a few days off from work so that I can spend time with my partner's nieces who are visiting from Mexico. The poor girls are melting in our Texas heat. Americans assume that Mexicans are used to hot weather, but most Mexicans live at a high altitude and summers like ours' are unknown to them. I suspect the daytime high in Mexico City at this time of year  is about 78 degrees. Doesn't that sound nice?

In a short time I will be going outside to cut down many of our spring perennials, they are just crumpling in the torrid weather and so my typical routine is to trim them back and cover them with a bit of compost in preparation for the fall growing season. I had better get started... even though it is still early it is beginning to heat up out there. Check out the new addition to the Library for a few tips on surviving the summer heat!

August 8 - morning

The heatwave continues. Yesterday, it was 108 degrees (42.22 Celcius) the third hottest day I have ever experienced. I was running a few errands in the afternoon and my car thermometer read 115 degrees. That caught my attention.

Despite the heat, I was able to accomplish a good deal in the garden yesterday - primarily cleaning up the perennial beds. Though, I had the good sense to quit by noon. Texas summers feel like an endurance test and I am hoping that the worst is now behind us. In just a few short weeks we should experience our first cool front and I am looking forward to the fall planting season. Yesterday, I almost ordered a few plants for the front yard, Sabal minor palms, known locally as dwarf palmettos.  Yucca-do Nursery has some that come from the HIll Country, the western edge of their range. These should be better adapted to our drier weather than those that pop up like weeds in Houston. Earlier this week, I was visiting my parents in Houston and I collected  seeds from some of the  "volunteer" palmettos in their yard. However, I have decided that East Texas plants probably would not do as well here as those that hail from the limestone canyons of the Hill Country. I think I will place that order today.

August 9 - morning

Fez and Rufous curled up with their adopted Mom, Luna. Victor took this picture a few minutes ago and I had to share it with you!

Well, just when we thought it couldn't get any worse... 110 degrees (43.33 Celsius!) Today, I intend to follow the example of our cats... I'll curl up inside with the air conditioning running at full blast. There is a chance of thunder storms in the forcast now, so all is not lost. I just hope we can avoid having a tornado as part of our heat relief!

August 11- afternoon

Goldfish in our pond. Most of our fish are "native" to the pond and are a mix of different kinds of goldfish we have added from 25 cent "feeder" fish to fancier varieties.

The worst of the heat seems to be over, we've had a few light thunder showers bringing about a third of an inch of rain and the temperatures have "moderated" a bit... the day time high is only expected to be 97 degrees today. I am working from home since I will be at KLRU tonight helping out with our August membership drive. (I hope that we will hear from you!) I spent the morning watering and mulching a few beds. I  must say that I am very pleased with the way that things have stood up to the heat - everything seems to have survived and most things seem down-right happy.

Despite the heat, I am enjoying my time in the garden. I guess that I have been in Texas too long, but I find my self drawn outdoors even in the middle of the afternoon. The cicadas buzzing from the tree tops, the lizards scurrying between the plants in our herb bed, and the dragonflies patrolling the pond all make for good company on a summer afternoon. I need to find a nice shady place to hang a hammock- then the picture will be complete. I hope you are finding a bit of inspiration in your garden as well, remember, just eight more weeks 'til Autumn!

Potted Gerber Daisy in our backyard.


One of the birdhouses my Dad has made for our garden. This one is an Amish Barn!


Incense Passion vine on our back porch.

August 14 - evening

What a difference a week makes! Today our high temperature was only 81 degrees (27.2 Celcius) and we have had nearly three inches (7.6 centimeters) of rain since Saturday. It feels positively autumnal outside... the whole garden has sprung back to life, everything has greened up and seems poised for new growth. I saw the first of our  Oxblood Lilies poking up through the mulch in our back yard, a sure sign that things have changed. I'll post new pictures soon.

August 17 - afternoon

As promised, here are a few news pics...

Here is a wide view of the north side of the garden with the pond in the foreground, the labyrinth behind the pond, and the conversation room and allee in the upper right.


A telephoto shot of the pond from the roof.


The south side of the garden. I think you get a pretty clear idea of the garden's formal geometry from this shot.


A telephoto shot of the conversation room taken from the roof.


Fez curled up with Moma Luna.

August 18 - morning

The heat has returned, but it is not a ferocious as it was two weeks ago. I had a busy weekend planting and tidying up in the garden. I got our little grove of Sabal minor palms (the Hill Country form) planted in the front yard. These are slow growing plants, but in a few years I think the effect will be quite striking. I love seeing the palmetto groves of East Texas and I am trying to emulate them with my own little grouping. There is alot to be said for mass-plantings- the repetition of the bold forms of the palms will definitely show up amid the San Augustine lawns of our street.  I think that they will also help to balance the circular plantings of agaves and other sculptural desert plants on the opposite side of our driveway.

I ended up planting eleven palms, but decided I could use a few more. The bad news is that I had cleaned Yucca-do Nursery out of the Hill Country variant with my first order and so I will have to try another form. I have settled on the Oklahoma version (also available from Yucca-do) which should have more cold-hardiness. According to the literature it should be about the same size as the Hill Country form. It will be interesting to see the differences between the two as they grow.

Our pink "Oxblood" lilies. They bloomed in August last year too. Usually we see these after the first heavy rains in September. (And, usually, they are blood red. Hence the name.)

Another close-up.

August 24 - afternoon

Another typically hot summer afternoon... for some reason or another my gardening gene has kicked in (despite the heat) and I have been in hyper-active mode: weeding, planting, transplanting, watering (of course,) and fertilizing. I just retreated indoors after spraying some  weeds down with 20% vinegar. The acid-bath / searing sun combo is my favorite lazy way to weed in the summer. I can almost hear the spurge screaming. It is music to my ears.

I have finished messing with our Sabal minor grove for the time being. There are now sixteen little palms planted in our "Big Thicket" bed. The south side of our drive way, with our four circular agave beds, has a distinct  Big Bend / West Texas theme. I have decided to give my Big Thicket / East Texas background some equal time on the shady north side of the drive way. I am very excited about seeing my little palm grove establish itself - in the long run I think I will turn the part of our back garden destined to be shaded out by our cypress allee into a palm/cycad/fern grotto... kind of a Jurassic theme garden. Maybe I'll commission a Dino statue... that would be pretty cool. In the meantime here are a few new pics...

Newly planted Sabal minor (Oklahoma form.)


Our veggie patch getting a sprinkling in the early morning light.


Tuberose blooming along our stepping stone path.


Statue of St. Francis in our Possumhaw Hollow.


Orange Hamelia (Firebush) and Salvia guaranitica "Black and Blue."


Graham Thomas rose blooming in the bed surrounding the conversation room.

The conehead bed has been trimmed to the ground in preparation for new growth in the fall. In the meantime, the bamboo muhly grass (upper right) has gotten enormous.

Constance Elliott Passion vine.
















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