The Rains Came

For over three weeks, I’ve plowed the matter of fertile young brains, and ignored the gardens that feed me calm and provide me with peace.  I have completed the evaluations for the first progress reports, rain has come, and I have progressed into my gardens.

Over Labor Day weekend, we traveled to New Mexico to once again escape the relentless Texas heat.  The sun shone brightly, but the temperatures during the day were cool.  I wore a light cardigan the entire time.  The experimental Little Garden planted by the front steps had not only survived but thrived in the intervening two months. With apologies to William Shakespeare, Alas, poor, Hollyhock! I knew him,  a fellow of most infinite stamina, of most excellent fancy, the mule deer have not allowed you to grow.  We struggled with the return to Austin.

Ruidoso garden two months after planting

Ruidoso garden two months after planting

We did have hope for Another Garden, our neighbor called us in NM to report that it had rained almost two inches in the country.  It seems that the weather pattern is changing due to El Nino’s influence.  All of Central Texas had rain over the span of several days.  Some areas received almost four inches while the Garden received only tenths and temperatures remained in the high nineties.  However, cloudy skies helped retain soil moisture from the limiting Stage 2 Water Restrictions.  The Garden looks good.

It appears that, as of right now, it will not go down in the record books as the hottest summer ever in Austin.  We have had 68 days of temperatures above 100 degrees.  We need 69 days to tie and 70 to win.  Rains came this past week, and temperatures stayed in the eighties or below.  It was dreamy to awaken in the middle of the night and hear the tap, tap, tap of raindrops on the roof.  Unfortunately, the dream turned nightmarish Saturday morning when we awoke to discover four roof leaks.  A new roof is in our future.  We shopped Saturday, and every establishment had buckets sitting about catching drips from leaky roofs.  The drought was hard on things other than trees, lawns and gardens.  Our neighbors had a major water line break beneath the front sidewalk that was attributed to dry and shifting soil.

THE RAINS CAME!  The Garden received about two inches at the end of the week, while some areas to the north and southwest received more than five resulting in flash flooding and road closures.  A weather low stalled over Central Texas and provided the slow, soaking rains and ameliorated the temperatures.  The fifteen day forecast predicts nothing over ninety and several days with temperatures in the low eighties.  I am conflicted though.  After suffering all summer with high temperatures, why shouldn’t we set the record for the hottest summer ever?  At least we would have bragging rights; now we’re just second best!

Smart phones justly deserve their accolades.  David and I intently watch weather radar on ours whenever storms arise.  We have eight hungry mouths to feed at Another Garden.  Grass is our chief crop there, and it hasn’t grown this summer.  David has been weekly feeding an expensive bale of hay to the longhorns and donkey all summer long.   What an extra expense!  We monitor closely for rain there no matter where we are.  Because for several days green and yellow have predominated on the radar map, we drove out Saturday evening. Since David’s last visit two weeks ago, we had received almost four inches of rain.   The creek flowed, and the tanks contained some water.  The temperature of 67 degrees allowed us to sleep with the windows open–a gift that we don’t receive usually until the middle of October.  We both slept soundly.

 I have not been to Another Garden since June because it is painful to my soul to see the landscape and gardens suffer so.  After each of David’s trips, he repeated that it looked like another world.  On Sunday morning, I could imagine what it must have looked like.  The meadows and pasture quickly had turned to a desert like “Pink Sands” or perhaps looked like a supernatural force had scorched everything with a giant flame thrower.  We lost some trees, declining oaks; hackberries; and a few Texas persimmons.  Some native shrubs like white brush, yucca, and lantana are brown and appear to be dead.  Native fall wildflowers are nonexistent. Some of our plantings like the desert willow and yellow bells, and Turk’s cap, and purple sage, and vitex survived only because of David’s tenacious watering.  These are all recommended xeriscape plants.  When we are behind more than thirty inches in average annual precipitation over the past year and one-half, even “xero”scape plants can’t survive.  The pictures below certainly are not typical of those found on a garden blog, but they illustrate the severity of our summer.  Perhaps, the next posted pictures of Another Garden will provide a more pleasing picture.

No grass at Another Garden, September 2009

No grass at Another Garden, September 2009

 

Yucca, a victim of the 2009 drought

Yucca, a victim of the 2009 drought

Frost weed, a fall blooming native wildflower

Frost weed, a fall blooming native wildflower

 

Stressed and dying hackberry trees, September, 2009

Stressed and dying hackberry trees, September, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The sun is peeking from behind the clouds and rain is ending, but perhaps this is the beginning of a more normal weather pattern.  To all my gardening friends, please keep rain dancing and the collective consciousness thinking rain!

What’s New?

“Nothin’!”  The heat continues.  When I wrote about record setting temperatures in Texas early in the summer, I had no idea of what was about to occur.  In June we had at least 15 consecutive days of temperatures over 100 degrees.  So far in July, we have had 23 days with high temperatures over 100.  There is a prediction of cooler temperatures and a possibility of rain early next week.  The weather prognosticators  must love forecasting this time of year.  They are never wrong with “hot and dry.”

David and I worked in the back garden Saturday morning.  I feel much better about its state today.  We pulled up over-reaching plants like blue and black sage (Salvia gaurantica), hardy ageratum(Eupatorium coelestinum), coneflowers (Echinacae), lamb’s ears, and pink evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa).  The Texas beauty berry trees needed pruning, and we trimmed up the Durantia into a small tree (See “Garden Daze”).  The daylilies look better after deadheading and pulling spent foliage.  In fact, there is new growth, a few blooms, and several new buds.

Salvia gaurantica (Majestic sage or blue and black sage)

Salvia gaurantica (Majestic sage or blue and black sage)

Even though I love its deep blue color, this sage has become pesky and overly aggressive in my home garden.  When the garden was redone a few years ago, three plants were included.  Each of those plants now covers a minimum space of 3x3x3 feet tall.   Several times a year, I pull huge stems, roots and all, from the ground to keep it in bounds.  It attracts bees and the occasional butterfly.  On the other hand, in Another Garden, I planted it because of its tendency to grow large and spread.  There, with little water, the plant has only managed to hang on.
Eupatorium coelestinum (Hardy ageratum or mist flower)

Eupatorium coelestinum (Hardy ageratum or mist flower)

Another hardy, blue beauty, hardy ageratum is truly a pest that I have been striving to get rid of for several years.  In my Austin garden, this species has always been a late summer to fall bloomer which offers a refreshing new color to a hot and tired garden.  Because of that quality, I first planted it 15 years ago in the front garden.  Over the years, it self- seeded and took over.  I began the arduous task of pulling most of it out more than 5 years ago, and even  after the front redo, a seedling pops up now and again.  It hitchhiked to the back garden two years ago with a transplant.  Yesterday, I filled a paper garden waste bag with it!  The plants were almost four feet tall and crowding out a rarer Salvia penstemenoides.  Ugh!
Stachys (Lamb's ears)

Stachys (Lamb's ears)

The lamb’s ears looked really ugly unlike those in this photograph.  Trimming the spent blossoms helped, but I think  watering by the irrigation system spoils their foliage.  I didn’t even know that they grew well here, but they too have spread.
For a fun look at lamb’s ears and the source of this picture, visit http://fairegarden.wordpress.com/2008/12/04/lambs-ear-love/

Return to Austin

We returned from Ruidoso, New Mexico yesterday.  Nothing had changed outwardly in Austin.  Although the weather people insist that the high pressure ridge has moved to the west allowing for the possibility of rain, we have yet to see any precipitation here.  Hot, hot, hot!  The Garden looked good after having been ignored for over two weeks.  Emily did a great job of watering all of the potted plants and hanging baskets, and the irrigation system continued to water twice each week.  The casualty appears to be a large , irregularly-shaped patch of zoysia in the back lawn.  A large slab of limestone a few inches below the surface is surely the cause.  Yellow appears as the predominant bloom color now along with the watermelon red of the crape myrtle and a few “Knockout” roses.

We stopped by the Another Garden on our return trip.  We know that it  rained once in our absence; although wilted, plantings survived the lack of moisture.  Some elements of this garden suffered damage from those tricky longhorns.  Early in our vacation we  received a call from our neighbor’s grandson telling us that the herd was in the house pasture.  We asked him to coax them out to the open pasture with “cow candy” or cubes.   They had turned over the wood picnic table, torn down two rails of the split rail fence, upended a large, planted ornamental pot and the glider bench beside it,  pulled down a swing, broken limbs off of several small trees and shrubs, and trampled a few new plants.  Our best guess is that they were unknowingly and accidentally let in when some work was done over the 4th of July weekend.  A day later they were mighty thirsty and demonstrated their ire at being confined in a pasture without water.  Thanks, Grant, for noticing that the herd was in the wrong place at the wrong time and for sweet-talking them (or was that staying out of the way of a stampede?) into the water accessible acreage.

We’ll see if the Little Garden at Sunset House survives.  Four mule deer bucks visited us each day.  Several does ambled through at other times.  A new hollyhock was quickly taste-tested.  Bears checked out the dumpster and birdfeeders almost every night.  Ginger and Candy even chased a small cottontail rabbit early one morning.

Mule deer bucks visited each day.

Sunset House Garden

Sunset House Garden

 

Slavia greggii, Spanish Broom, yarrow and Russian sage make ou this “trial garden” between the front porch steps and foundation of the New Mexico cabin.  Pine cones were gathered and used as a quick and free mulch.

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