Monday, April 28, 2014

Transition time

As Austin bloggers, and heck, most US bloggers know all too well, we had an unusually long and cold winter this year. Spring was slow to take hold, and we had to keep the plant wraps ready as a series of late freezes hit us. I'm not complaining. Mostly, we have been savoring the cool mornings and warm days, all the while knowing that any day we could get back up into the upper 90's here in Austin.

That day came yesterday, though I hear we will have a pleasant little dip back into upper 70s/lower 80s temps this week. Beyond that, getting into May, we're almost certainly headed into late Spring in Austin, which means 90-something degree highs. Maybe 100's, if we're particularly unlucky.

Summer has long been the season I tolerate while waiting for the much more enjoyable other 7-8 months of the year here. (Summer here is 4-5 months long, at least in my mind. May/June - September/October.)

So yesterday we found ourselves suddenly hot, and unaccustomed to dealing with it. I took the kids to a park playdate from roughly 10am - 1pm. My husband went mountain biking with a friend from 11am - 2pm. That's not what smart people do when it's really, really hot out. Outdoor activities have to take place in the 7:30 - 10:30 timeframe (am or pm, take your pick). He came home red and drenched with sweat, and when I told him he could go ahead and shower (don't worry about the kids, in other words), he said something I haven't heard in a long time: "I'm too sweaty, I have to cool off first." Otherwise, the shower would be pointless. He'd emerge almost as sweaty as he was before showering.

We brought out the kiddie pool for the girls, and realized we are woefully unprepared for the onslaught of mosquitos. It hasn't been raining much lately, but I guess it doesn't take much.

On the bright side, all sorts of heat lovers are perking up around the garden. There are tomatoes(!) on both of my tomato plants, which are now gargantuan in stature. The Lantana is blooming again. Lots of pretty colors are coming out to mix and mingle.

The one Crinum 'Summer Nocturne' bulb I had leftover and planted in a pot seems happy enough for now. This spot gets morning sun and afternoon shade.

The Crape Myrtle we transplanted still has its leaves, though it hasn't leafed out as fully as its neighbors in the back strip. I saw a few new sprouts emerging from the sides of the trunks today.

The Meyer Lemon has these cute, plump little baby lemons on it. My daughters already picked off all the ones on the lower branches. It'll be a miracle if these survive.

The volunteer Wild Morning Glories are starting their sprint up the trellis in the Purple Pocket Garden.

Side view of the vegetable garden box. We thought some critters had outsmarted our mesh cage yesterday when I saw two of the panels hanging loose, a missing red strawberry and a severed white strawberry. Then my 4-year-old dutifully fessed up. DH and I were relieved that it was her and not a squirrel.
I harvested those lovely beets from the vegetable garden a few days ago, to make room for eggplant transplants. We had those two beets for dinner, and we've enjoyed a couple of beet green salads, though I think we still have a few greens left in the fridge. 
Here is one of the two eggplants that replaced the beets.
The Crookneck Squash is getting big and bushy. I guess I shouldn't have assumed it would be a climber! There are 3 small squashes under all those leaves.

My kids brought home green beans they grew at school to transplant into the garden. So, of course, we did.
Can you find the tiny jalapeno in this picture? I can't, but I swear it's there!

Our tiny carrot sprouts, planted out of season, are recovering from whatever little critter defoliated them.

The Sweet 100's cherry tomato is a towering 5 feet tall, and well-stocked with small green tomatoes and yellow flowers. Now to see if those fruits will ripen before the mercury hits 100...

The Texas Redbud peeks over the back fence where the vegetable bed is. And of course, the scarecrow.

I've never messed with Geraniums before this year, believe it or not. I have no idea how long they'll last into the heat, but they've been pretty since the freezing days.

Along the back fence, I separated the two trellises and planted a Cardinal Climber vine transplant that I picked up at Countryside Nursery this past Friday. The Wisteria next to it has plenty of leaves, but I don't know if we'll see blooms this year. In between are slowly recovering Tropical Butterflyweed (orange/yellow blooms) and the first recovering leaves of Echinacea/Purple Coneflower. If it ever all blooms together, it'll be a colorful combination: blue-orange-purple-red.

Close-up of the Cardinal Climber. Natalie and tried growing this from seed earlier this year. We managed to transplant some small seedlings that are now struggling to compete with the now-massive Blanc Du Bois Grape in the Western backyard bed. When I saw this transplant, I couldn't resist. The blooms are eye-catching red trumpets that I bet the hummingbirds will love, but equally fetching to me are the cute spiky-fingered leaves. (I'm sure there's a more appropriate botanical term.)

The Western backyard bed is turning out to be the Rainbow Bed. I like that name much better. Knockout is living up to its name.

Lantana flowers are back! Bad photo, but you get the idea.

Yellow Shrimp Plant is blooming in front of another Knockout.

Sunflowers are bringing up the rear--my daughter and I started these seeds at the same time as our Cardinal Climbers.

Gotta keep everything moist for now, though these plants should all be drought-tolerant once established. Fingers crossed.

Finally! A Red Lanterns Columbine is blooming.

Its neighbor is about to show off, too.

Heartleaf Skullcap. I saw thick beds of this recently in another garden, so I'm eagerly anticipating what this might look like next year.

Another side view of the emerging Rainbow Bed. The wilting one is a new addition--Fall Aster.

Here's a peek around the corner that leads to the Purple Pocket Garden, and eventually the vegetable bed. It's fun to see this all green again.

Stay cool, my friends!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Wildflower Wednesday

What? There's a Wildflower Wednesday? I'm a day late to the party, but I love this idea, too. Thanks to Tina at My Gardener Says... for clueing me in, and to Gail at Clay and Limestone for hosting!

My garden is somewhat lacking in wildflowers, though I'm trying to change that this year. When we moved the garden box, I bought a shade-loving seed mix from Native American Seed to sprinkle on the bare dirt left behind. Things are slowly sprouting, but we probably won't see blooms until next Spring, or perhaps if we're lucky, this Fall.

We recently had a Chinese Tallow removed, that was previously shading this area--it should get mostly sun now. Even though I bought a shade mix, the flowers included will enjoy the sun, too.

Mostly bare dirt with some decomposed granite mixed in. Not much to look at yet... next year, I hope this area is covered in wildflowers.

I'm also going to grab some seed pods from those Bluebonnets blooming at the construction site up the street.

Over the weekend, I took a brief bike ride around the neighborhood, and stopped when I spied the rain lilies blanketing our park. We have one in the front yard--if it's still blooming I'll sneak a photo of it today. These beauties are elusive, you know.

Here's our rain lily in he front yard, done blooming for now.

We also have a volunteer wild Morning Glory vine that comes back every year when the weather turns warm. Here are the first sprouts of 2014.

There are some other wild things popping up here are there around the yard. We can count on Horseherb every year when the weather warms (usually more than a month ago.)

Charming horseherb--considered a weed by some people, groundcover by others. I like it, though in my yard it doesn't form a dense-enough mat to be a real groundcover.

The Echinacea (Purple Coneflower) transplant that quickly died last year was roughly around this spot. I hope these leaves herald its return.

Future home of the backyard wildflower patch. There are a variety of seedlings showing up now, though I haven't attempted to identify them yet.

Not much to see from the Wild Red Columbines yet, but I'm starting to see buds... fingers crossed that we'll see those fairy-like blossoms soon!

In the back alley of the backyard, we keep losing the battle against weeds. A few are likeable. This sort of looks like a miniature Yarrow--maybe it is?

In the front yard parking strip, I planted Blackfoot Daisy a couple of years ago, and divided it last year. This is the smallest of the divisions, but it's starting to bloom nicely.

Elsewhere in the parking strip, I gave up on one particular section and just threw a bunch of limestone rocks over the vacant bed of decomposed granite. Our neighborhood is built over a former limestone quarry, and every time we dig, we find rocks of all sizes.

I let the weeds take over for now, and some of them are charming, especially the ones that pop up during cool Spring weather. Pesky bermudagrass will take over during the summer, until I get around to digging it all out.

I like the fern-like foliage of this one, and the dainty purple blooms.

Adding on some photos from our dear neighborhood park, which has an official Parks and Wildlife Department Wildflower Area (and plenty of unofficial areas, too). As far as I can tell, this just means the city skips mowing this area. I don't know whether they seeded wildflowers at one point, but there are certainly plenty of them now.

Where the mowing stops and the wildflower prairie begins. Cedar Elms and a few Live Oaks are the dominant trees.

Vibrant Firewheel/Indian Blanket is picking up plenty of pollinators. The whole meadow was buzzing with bees, butterflies and others.

Bee enjoying... Coreopsis? Chocolate Daisy? I'm a little foggy on my yellow wildflowers. There are so many of them here!

There's the P.A.R.D. sign.

Though most of them are disappearing for the year along with the Bluebonnets, a few Indian Paintbrush still glow in the sun here.

Some of the last Bluebonnets of the year.
In a shadier part of the park, I had to try to capture the beauty of opening Spiderworts and a thicket of Widow's Tears.

Spiderworts opening up in dappled shade.

Widow's Tears. We get this in our garden, too, though I haven't seen it this year. The pale purple blooms are at their best on a cloudy day, when they seem to glow. The sun was washing them out today.

Happy Thursday!