Saturday, August 23, 2008

Consider the lilies...

Zephyranthes candida

That's the extent of today's bible quote. Let's turn instead to the modern poet, Sam Beam of Iron & Wine instead.

All the more a pair of underwater pearls
Than the oak tree and its resurrection fern
Underwater pearls. Resurrection. All these things come to mind when beholding the overnight appearance of rain lilies, one of the garden's most welcome miracles.
And all from a mere 1/8 inch in the rain gauge.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

O Happy Day

87 degrees out. Practically a cold front. I've been piling decaying leaves in giant piles on all my baby shrubs (with the terrifying words of Scott Ogden echoing in my mind, "gardeners on calcareous soil must always bear in mind the admonition: to watch and do nothing to cover exposed bare earth constitutes an unforgivable sin." The problem with this unforgivable sin thing is that the application of humus is an ongoing backbreaking process with the giant sucking maw of our limey soil bellowing FEED ME on a nonstop basis. There is no way I can keep up with clothing my naked dirt.

Okay, this was going to be a happy post. A real cause for joy has been the blossoming of the Port St. John Creeper. This fluffy pink bloomer tumbles all over the back garden gate providing a welcome bouquet when I arrive home. Also just in time for the anniversary of Elvis's death (January 8, 1935–August 16, 1977), I deployed the head I got in San Antonio at this crazy plaster import store that sells cornices, Florentine friezes, and all manner of decorative plinths, pedestals, and faux ruins. I always thought Elvis looked just like Apollo.

Friday, August 15, 2008

How Green is My Garden

Lance Armstrong has bad water karma. First he was accused of fouling a pristine swimming hole when he dammed up a creek on his Hill Country ranch. Now he’s been outed on the front page of the American Statesman as being the city’s biggest residential water user.
Give the guy a break. It’s hardly news that the rich have the biggest water bills. In the global sense, we Americans are all scaled versions of Lance Armstrong, especially when compared to third world countries where clean water is non-existent for drinking or hygiene purposes, let alone available for agriculture or esthetic landscaping purposes.
What got me about this story was the photo of Lance’s swankienda, reproduced here. How old can this garden be? How big were the pine standards when they were originally planted? I’m so impatient with my toddler garden and know it’s going to take a minimum of 3 -4 years for the crucial backbone stuff to get settled in and start looking good. Even 222,900 gallons of water won’t hurry that process.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Why do they taunt us with this chance of rain b.s.?

Normally I leave work and head to Deep Eddy to swim. It's better than two martinis, for flushing away work stress. Today I came home and fed everything. Lisa, a neighbor with a phantasmagoric garden (and apparently the last remaining gardener without a blog) came by walking her dogs and said supportive things about my miserable front bed, which frankly looks like an abandoned drive-in movie theater--all rubble and stems. We agreed this has been a challenging summer. Heat. No rain. Both of these are bad enough but not that unusual. It's the aberrant and apocalyptic wind that has us most unnerved. In combination with the heat and drought, it's impossible to combat. Lisa says she suspects she's lost a lot of bulbs, but she won't know til next year.
It's not all death and dying here. The Port St. John Creeper (podranea ricasoliana) is fixing to explode. I planted it right after I moved in, in Spring 2007, but it declined to bloom during its settling-in year. Another bloomer right now is the Brugmansia Charles Grimaldi, which after the sun goes down, scents the deck with its lemon buttercream icing perfume. In the debris that is the front bed, a white plumbago is valiantly blooming.
So I fed it and the rest of the rubble in front hoping that fall comes soon.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

El Infierno

To acknowledge the current intense heat, I thought to post a heat poem. Couldn't come up with one.  And now I'm reflecting why there is not a lot of edifying art born out the experience of extreme temperatures. Off the top of my head, all I can come up with is the crossing the desert episode in the Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence. The best nature poets seem to confine themselves to north of the 40th latitude where they roam misty wetlands in gumboots. In celebrated literature the focus is dire cold, as in To Build a Fire, Into Thin Air, and the Ur-Chronicle of subzero horror, The Worst Journey in the World. This Heat Art Deficit is odd, given that many more people live in the hot zones of civilization as the polar ones and that, without a doubt, heat is as lethal as cold. A couple of years ago I was hiking the Modesto Canyon in West Texas at the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute in early June. We climbed down into the canyon around 10 a.m with water bottles. By the time we climbed back out around 11:30 a.m, the sun was high in the sky. The sun and the heat were brutal. We were only about a mile from the visitor center. On the way back, I had to stop and huddle under the pathetic shade of small shrubs. I was very afraid that I might not be able to get back. Nausea and dizziness ensued; the signs of heat stroke.
In the past few days I've found two dead whitewing doves on my driveway. No signs of cat violence: just dead birds. When I was turning my compost pile, I smelled the distinct odor of some decomposing mammal wafting my way.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

You Are Barking Up the Wrong Tree, Buster!

For the past few months something has been rooting in the soil of one of my loquat trees which are planted in giant terra cotta pots. I placed chunks of spiky driftwood in the planter, thinking this might discourage the perpetrator. This morning, to my horror, I see that a critter has stripped chunks of bark from the trunk of the loquat, and then proceeded to gnaw on the inner pith!
I thought I had left this random wildlife predation behind. Gardening in Rollingwood meant dealing with deer, foxes, armadillos, and snakes. I don’t remember any problems with animal destruction when I gardened at my other former home in the Zilker ‘hood.
What animal is so desperate that they would eat bark? There is plenty of fresh water in the birdbath. My neighbors apparently leave abundant petfood out for any takers. The grackles are so surfeited they regularly leave abandoned bits of kibble marinating in the birdbath. And don’t raccoons have all the delicacies they could possibly need in any convenient dumpster? Squirrels? Aren’t they coming off the largest acorn crop in the past ten years?
I put pipewrap on the trunk of the loquat for the time being. It looks hideous and I am not happy. I may have to go all Elmer Fudd on this varmint and twap the wascally wabbit.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Morning Blues

With our heatwave in full force, I do most garden work either before 9 a.m. or after 8 p.m. due to potential heat stroke. (Note: one of the signs of heat stroke is nausea. Or that sick-to-your-stomach feeling could also be the result of getting your water bill.) In the morning that means enjoying two bloomers that are that rare thing in our gardens: a true blue. The little dayflower (a tradescantia) is growing in a pot with a large twirly-leafed croton that must be twenty years old, as I inherited it from my mother's patio. The tradescantia throws off hordes of skyblue oneshots every day. I brought it back from Port Aransas where it was growing in a St. Augustine lawn, and because it was regularly mowed, it had the matted appearance of a groundcover.

Another early riser is blue daze (evolvulus glomeratus) that also has the benefit of cool blue-gray foliage. Both these little blues are gone with the noon-day heat, but by then I'm inside with a wet cloth draped over my head, fanning myself with the City of Austin water bill that must be wrong because there's no way I could have used 15,500 gallons of water in June because surely then my grass wouldn't be dead, would it?