The Daily MuseA Garden Journal — July 2005

Last Update: July 31
Part of the July 10 homage to blue
Basho grooming his brother, Issa.  All of our cats
enjoy the window hammock pictured here. We have a bird feeder strategically
placed just outside for their amusement. Basho and Issa are Tonkinese – an
amazing cat breed.
July 1 – afternoon
Another blistering hot day, our car thermometer
read 102 degrees Fahrenheit ( 38.9 Celsius) just a short while ago. I have taken
the day off from work and spent the morning in the garden weeding, watering, and
fertilizing. Its not too bad if you quit before 1 p.m….  All of
the signs are pointing to a particularly brutal  summer  here in Texas
– there is no rain in the forecast and it looks like we will be topping the 100
degree mark nearly every day in the coming week. So far, the heat has not really
affected my enthusiasm for the garden. I seem determined to persevere in the
face of the everything.. at least we haven’t had a plague of locusts (yet.)
I have been in cat-portraiture mode the past few
days. Here are some new pics of our tribe…
Maya, one of our Bengals , wondering what the heck I’m up
A little later, deep in a cat-nap.
Xoxo – he may be our happiest cat, he was a street cat when
we adopted him five years ago.
July 3 – afternoon
Echinacea and Rudbeckia with a back
drop of chartreuse sweet potato vine.
Well, I sound like a broken
record… but the heat is simply brutal. I exhausted myself cleaning up a
rampant bed of mint and have now retreated back into the air conditioning. At
least we are putting the mint to good use – Victor fixed some mojitos and I am
feeling pretty tropical as I write this! I actually have been enjoying these hot
afternoons… after I finish my work, I rest in the shade of our back porch and
watch the birds – sometimes nodding off while listening to the constant echo of
the cicadas. We have a ceiling fan on the porch and it provides just enough air
movement to keep you comfortable, well, as comfortable as you can be when it is
94 degrees in the shade.
This is our fifth summer here
and the fourth with the garden planted. After all of the work, I have come to
the somewhat startling realization that we are only beginning our journey
with this garden. Our garden is still one of broad brush strokes – the trees and
shrubs are almost all planted, but the under-plantings of perennials and
groundcovers are still pretty sketchy. And, with our trees growing rapidly, we
will have significant transitions to make very soon. For example, the area
pictured above, with its thick planting of coneflowers, will be converted to a
full shade bed of ferns and cycads within a few years. The metaphor of the
garden as a journey is certainly ringing true for me.
Here are a few pictures of
our Cappuccinno hybrid sunflowers taken this morning…
I love the color of these sunflowers!
There is a little bit
of variety from plant to plant.
I can see where the ‘cappuccino’ name
came from.
Those aren’t rain
drops, sad to say. I had just watered.
July 6 –
The weather
radar is showing a few stray showers popping up around the region, so there is
hope – still, we hit 100 degrees once again and it has been over a month since
it has rained on our garden. You know its getting bad when the agaves
need water, but I had to dole out emergency rations to them last night. Today
was the last day of a mini-vacation for me- I spent most of the past week
working in the garden and feel rather proud of all that I have accomplished.
Despite the heat, I managed to put in a good thirty or forty hours of work and
the garden is nearly weed-free, trimmed, green, and blooming. Granted that is
not most people’s idea of a vacation, but I take perverse pleasure in standing
up to the worst that Texas can dish out. Not bad for a former Yankee whose
internal calendar still counts the days to autumn every year.
I often call
gardening my spiritual practice, but there are times when observers think I
confuse “practice” with “obsession.” Granted, if they had spent the past week
with me, it would be hard to deny the charge. However, it wouldn’t count as a
spiritual practice if all I did was work in it- I actually do take some time
every day to simply be there… to wander the paths and keep the birds company. 
As I write this I can hear the lesser goldfinches calling to one another with
their odd minor chord notes. I wonder how their calls would translate to our
less charming tongues… a friend of mine recently told me that some renowned
Buddhist teacher was asked to sum up his faith in one sentence and he replied,
“This is it.” The goldfinches may simply be letting their mates know, “I’m over
here.” But what I hear is, “This is it.” Their voices, the way the light falls
through the cypress branches, the scent of our Jude the Obscure English rose,
are all heavenly reminders that this is it indeed. My practice is to be there
when it happens  – and, to pay attention when it does.
(I hope that you
will check out my video meditation on “Paying Attention” on KLRU-TV’s website !)
This morning,
after finishing my work in the garden, I went to Barton Springs ,
Austin’s eternal source of renewal and refreshment and the place many people
consider to be the soul of the city. It had been a couple of years since I had
gone to the pool and once there, I wondered why I don’t go every day (like I did
one lazy summer nearly thirty years ago!) Barton Springs is a spring fed, three
acre swimming hole in the very heart of the city. Its long banks are lined with
ancient cottonwoods, pecans, and shaded grassy slopes which make the perfect
hide-out from the Texas sun. The best part is the bracingly cold water of the
springs, which are 68 degrees fahrenheit all year long (20 degrees celcius.)
After the shock wears off you are left with this lingering delicious feeling
that stays with you for the rest of the day. What a gift! There is a small
community of swimmers who gather there every day to swim laps and enjoy one
another’s company – that is a spiritual practice of a sort too. Maybe someday I
will join them.
(Addendum: I
just learned it hit 104 degrees today! Ouch! That’s 40 celcius.)
July 8 –
I just received
an e-mail that said very simply, “Rain! Yippee!” My sentiments exactly.
Yesterday evening, a line of thunder showers moved through the city leaving us
with about a half-inch of rain. I watched from our back porch cheering it on and
feeling so relieved (especially since it happened after another 100+
degree day.) As I sat on the back porch I was joined by a couple of frogs who
ventured out of their hiding places- and when I looked out into the garden I was
amused to see frogs emerge from nearly every niche and corner. There was a
veritable frog parade as  they hopped along the pathways… a sight I hope
will be repeated soon.
Here are a
couple more portraits from our tribe. These are of Rufous, brother of Fez, our
sweet scaredy cat…
Rufous Rex.
July 10 –
Unused blue pots on our
back deck.
Another great
gardening day… lots of work, intense heat, great satisfaction. I was goofing
with my camera and came up with the following homage to blue glazed pots…
A Japanese Maple beside
our deck in a…
Rudbeckia ‘Goldstrum’
coming into its summer glory.
July 16 –
Fez, brother of Rufous,
feeling a little rambunctious.
We have had
several strong downpours, leaving us with over an inch of rain for the week.
This morning, our weather radar shows another line of thunder showers
approaching – so it looks as if our dry spell has been officially broken, thank
goodness. The garden feels positively voluptuous, especially our cypress trees,
which are literally exploding with growth. I can’t believe it when I look at images
of the garden from as little as two years ago –  it is amazing how much everything has grown. I
will take a few wide pictures later to illustrate this. In the meantime here are
a few more portraits of the tribe…
It was Fez’s time to
wonder what I was up to…
This is Issa in hunter
mode. He was spying on some white wing doves outside the window.
July 17 –
Looking through the entry
of our hidden zen garden towards the allee. That is Rudbeckia ‘Goldstrum’ blooming in the foreground and chartreuse ‘Margarita’ sweet potato vine under the cypress tress . The trunks of the cypress are really beginning to form
the kind of great columns I was looking for in this space. The tallest cypress
are now over 25 feet tall (7.6 meters.)
My folks are in town
for my birthday and, in this shot, my  Dad has his hands full supervising their dog, Daisy, as she
visits the area near our pond.
When I said the garden
was looking “voluptuous” after the rains, I meant it. This is almost a reverse
of the shot of the allee above.
July 18 –
A garden visitor, for Mary Oliver.
Yesterday, a
gentle rain fell throughout much of the day reminding me of last summer which
was so wet (and relatively cool.) I spent an enjoyable day with my family and
between rain showers took a few new photographs…
The allee, to the left is
a newly planted Sabal palm. It was sold as a Sabal texensis , but I
believe it is more likely to be a Sabal texana aka Sabal mexicana.
Echinacea close-up. I
actually took this because of the green backdrop.
The allee showing the
vertical height of the tallest of the six trees.
Echinaceas and green,