Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A little bit of ice

Here in Austin, we were on the southern tip of the ice storm that has encased half the country in the frozen precipitation. I awoke to temps in upper 20's and a little bit of ice in the yard. Not too much - just enough to make things sparkly in the bright morning light. Oh - and cause the schools to start 2 hours late, so the kid has proclaimed today "The best day EVER!".

The poppies are squashed down in a thin layer of ice:

Palm tree:

The fence is quite shiny:

A thin layer of ice coats the trees:

Tiny icicles hang from the eaves:

The birdhouse (which I filled with seed right after I took this photo):

And now it is all melting away as the sun warms the garden.....

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy 1-Year Blog-iversary to me!

It just occurred to me that yesterday was the 1-year anniversary of my garden blog. I cannot believe a whole year has already passed! And what a great year it has been. I had no idea when I started this garden blog thing that I was joining such an amazing group of people. And the people of the Austin garden blogger community really are the best! Thanks to everyone for making me feel at home here, including me in all the functions (even though my schedule has not allowed me to attend any yet), and leaving such wonderful comments all the time. Here's to another great year!

And now on to the garden observations for this 25th day of January:

It has been a very warm and dry year so far.I think we have only had a couple days where it was in the upper 20's and only a couple more days where it barely froze overnight. I have many bulbs popping up everywhere and the southern grape hyacinths have begun to bloom.

Daffodils 'Thalia' poking up:

Southern Grape Hyacinth:

The trees all think it is spring already. The Texas Ash is starting to break out the leaves:

The Anacacho Orchid Tree only lost half its leaves this year remaining semi-evergreen and I now am noticing new leaf and flower buds starting to form:

I am also noticing that the leaf buds on Texas Oak are starting to swell up already:

Spring is coming early this year. They say La Nina is back in action. I better get out and plant those Sugar Ann Peas and St. Valery Carrot seeds post-hasty like!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bloom Day - January 15th - 2009

Bloom Day in January. Well, I do live in Central Texas, so I should be able to find something blooming....

Aha - The Abutilon hiding in the entryway is blooming and with a bonus Gulf fritillary butterfly:

Also in the entryway the Meyer Lemon has some fabulously perfumed blossoms. You can see the Christmas lights I leave turned on the tree while covering it with a frost cover to keep just a little heat on it when it gets really cold:

And searching the garden some more, I come across one lone salvia blossom:

And on the other side of the yard...well, would you look at that! The Texas Scarlet Quince is beginning to bloom:

And back in the sheltered south-east corner of the house we have Texas Betony:

And finally some Lavendar:

That's it folks! Happy January Garden Blogger's Bloom day!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Finding Rare Seed Sources

I, for some reason, am always wanting to buy seeds that are almost never offered. I suppose because I really love the native plants and refuse to dig them from the wild or even collect seed from them if it is something on the decline. As a result, I spend quite a bit of time searching the internet for said rare seeds.

Today I wanted to give a shout-out to Oregon's Horizon Herbs. They have a ginormous collection of plant and herb seeds, including some that have been near impossible for me to find. They have seeds for the Montana Bitterroot which I have been looking eons for. It was my mother's most favorite flower on the planet and I have always wanted to have one - so now I at least can purchase seeds to try and grow it! They also have seeds for the Lady-Slipper Orchid - another one I thought I would NEVER find seed for. I am just so ecstatic to find a source of seed for these things!

I even looked up the vendor on Dave's Garden and Horizon Herbs has nothing but rave reviews posted. Oh happy day! My long search is over.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Vote to Build a New Victory Garden at the White House!

During World War I and II the public was asked to grow gardens and produce their own fruits and veggies in order to lower the price of food needed to feed the troops. Eleanor Roosevelt had a Victory Garden built on the White House lawn, even though the Dept.of Agriculture initially opposed the idea. At the height of the Victory Garden movement, 40 percent of the veggies grown in the US were produced by these gardens. 40 percent! That is a lot of vegetables!

Learn about Victory Gardens

Today our food travels thousands of miles to our tables and the transportation alone costs us so much in resources. Ships, trains, planes, and trucks all traveling across the globe consuming fossil fuels that we have less and less of. Our food is picked unripe in order to allow it to travel unbruised and then gassed to ripen it upon arrival. Much of it is irradiated and waxed and preserved to stabilize it for sale and further travel. Do we really need vegetables from 5-10,000 miles away that we can grow in our own backyards? Food, that if it was grown in our own gardens, would be ripe and free of preservatives and taste so much better?

We need to support the transition to locally sustainable food systems thereby reducing the stress on the world ecosystem. Reviving a Victory Garden at the White House would be a great way to lead by example. (Plus, gardens are just COOL)

Vote to Build a New Victory Garden at the White House!

Hurry! Voting ends at 5pm ET on Thursday, January 15.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

It's that time of year again...

...for seed ordering! I have been ordering seeds like crazy with grand plans to plant everything I order. Every year I order seeds in January, and start many of them inside in empty egg-cartons. Those foamy containers work great to start seeds in. I just poke holes in the bottom to create drainage, add some seed-starting mix to the egg-containers, put in the seeds, use a mister to water them, and put them on top of my fridge to get them close to the near-full spectrum fluorescent lights in the kitchen. Then I wait for them to sprout and when they are big enough, transplant them to bigger containers. By the end of February, I have a ton of containers with little plants in them just waiting to go outside.

Of course not everything I plant comes up or lives, but such is the life of a gardener. It is all about trying new stuff and seeing if I can get it to grow. Here is a list of my seeds for this year that I just ordered:

Tomatoes: Last year I grew 'Patio tomato', 'Heat wave', and 'Roma'. None of which I was overly excited about. 'Heat Wave' did great, but I thought the tomatoes tasted an awful like the store-bought kind. So this year I am going with more heirlooms and only a couple hybrids:

-Angora Super Sweet
-Texas Wild (I hear this one gets ginormous, so I will have to find a special location for it)
-Black Krim
-Yellow Pear
-Neves Azorean Red
-Red Zebra (this one more for an ornamental with the added bonus of being able to eat it!)

Other veggies and herbs:

-Tomatillo Toma Verde
-Basil, Sweet
-Cucumber Sweet Burpless Hybrid
-Sweet Pepper California Wonder
-Costa Rican Sweet Pepper
-Mesclun Sweet Salad Mix
-Lettuce Looseleaf Heatwave
-Monarda Bergamo (they say if you plant Monarda by your tomatoes, it improves their flavor. I am gonna test that theory...)

I am going to have to create a few new beds and extend the current veggie bed out to make room for the new veggies and herbs. I can always find some type of gardening activity to busy myself with - even in January ;)

I, Tree Hugger

I was pondering this morning why I tend to be such a tree-hugger and despise the traditional lawn as I do. Part of it has to do with growing up in the Pacific Northwest and spending much of my time outside camping, hiking, and the like. We took nature tours where the guide would point out all the different plants and how they fit into their environment - maybe that is kinda nerdy, but I loved it as a child. I became a lover of nature and all the critters that dwell there. At home, half of our yard was landscaped (and also included a HUGE veggie garden) and the other half was left au-natural for the critters and for us to enjoy a native landscape. I used to love to explore that part of the yard.

But what really made an impression on me was what the new neighbors behind our property did to the native plants on their property after they moved in. I must have been around 8 years old when this happened. Our property looked directly into the next property and the old lady that lived there left a big chunk of that property as nature intended, so all we saw was a wooded area - no house or ugly fence to obstruct the view of the woods. It was filled with wonderful native trees and plants including vine maples, filberts, johnny-jump ups, trilliums, vanilla leaf, red huckleberry, native pacific blackberries, wild strawberries, pacific dogwood, native ferns, salmon berries, pacific red elderberries, big-leaf maples, and mountain ash. All kinds of birds and critters enjoyed the native woodland. But then, she passed away and new owners took over.

The first thing they did was bring in a big bulldozer and proceeded to crush and destroy every living thing on the property. I was HORRIFIED. I tried to save all the little wild plants I could with my little shovel and bucket. I dug what I could up and moved them into our woodland area. I cried when I watched all the nests of baby birds go down and were crushed. Once the land was cleared, they burned off what was left and proceeded to put in a big mono-culture grass lawn and a big ugly fence between the properties. They then put in a kennel for their dogs that they never cleaned and smelled awful (not to mention the rat problems that dirty kennel incurred). I think the dogs were hunting dogs, as they were never let out of the small kennel except when they left on vacation on occasion. I felt bad for those animals. They would bark and bark and bark - I am sure they wanted attention and a clean place to lay down.

Anyway, they never took care of the lawn after they planted it and never ever used it, other than to occasionally drive the riding lawn mower over it and throw piles of fertilizer and pesticides on it only to have that wash down the incline into the creek below. Oh, and to endlessly water it in the summer (again it was on an incline so the water would just run down the hill.) I was so dumbfounded as to why someone would do that to such a pretty landscape. I mean, they had a nice small manicured lawn on the flat part of the property that the old lady took fabulous care of. It's not like they were sans-lawn. Couldn't they have left a little of the wild scape alone? It's not like they used the lawn after they planted it. And all those poor critters lost their home and we had to look at a big-ass ugly fence and listen to neglected dogs bark all day and night.

Now I get that they purchased the property and that they had every right to do with it what they want. But that doesn't mean they should, or that it is right. I would have liked to have seen them show a little more respect for the land than that - not to mention the creek below that got the brunt of the fertilizer. As a result, whenever a see a big-ol lawn, I think of what used to be there and how all those plants and critters no longer have a home. And that my friends is a big reason why I am such a tree-hugger.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

First Night Austin Festival

If you are living under a rock somewhere or you are from parts other than Austin, you may not have heard of the First Night Festival in Austin on Dec 31st. It is a "Public celebration of the arts that revives the ancient tradition of marking the passage of time with art, ritual, and festivity". And it certainly is that! Lots of interactive art displays, music, a Grand Procession down Congress featuring all types of artsy dance, music, insect and critter-shaped conveyances, and fantabulous costumery, and a wooden life-size replica of a clock tower that they light up in a big-ass bonfire complete with fireworks. It is a great time and my kid really digs it. Here are some photos from the event last night (apologies for some of the blurry photos - everything was moving every-which-way ever so fast!):

The Grand Procession begins!:

This rattlesnake was keen. It has 4 or five people peddling bikes inside it to keep it slithering along:

This bat was by far The Kid's favorite (she wanted a turn to peddle it!):

There were lots of groovin tunes:

Bees performing acrobatics:

Performers roller skatin' and tossing fire about:

Bug band:


Bats (there were many bat-themed presentations as a tribute to the bats that live under the Congress Ave. Bridge):


More butterflies:


Kids dancing and pushing a big-ol twig ball down congress:

More kids singin' and dancin':

GAH!! A big scary face-thing. Bwhahahhaha!:

Steel Drum Band:

The glowy plastic people on sticks were my favorite. They were actually kinda disturbing in an aliens abduct you sorta way, but I loved them!!:

More creatures:

There were a couple of different chinese dragons that simply refused to stay still long enough for me to get good photos:

Glowy Hula Hoop dancers:


Butterflies all in a row:

It wouldn't be a parade without a few bagpipes!:

Panda forest:

Navaho costumery:

Roller Derby girls. These gals were really awesome - they were roller skating all over the place moving much to quick for my camera:

Nicaraguan folklore:

And at the end was the Praying Mantis with the groovin' band:

And now on to the clock tower. This is the New Year's Resolution Clock Tower. Local Artists built it and anyone can write down their new year's resolution on the clock tower. The when, the sun goes down, they set it ablaze! Woot! Now that's a good time!

Clock tower:

Here it is goin' up in flames:


Kaboom! Totally Engulfed! YAY!!!! Fire!!

Not only does it have flames, it has fireworks! Wheee-Hawww!!:

This is why I really love Texas sometimes. Where else would a city let you light off a monstrous bonfire complete with fireworks with thousands of people all crowded around?!? It is like an old-time pagan ritual or something. Outstanding!

Here it is starting to burn down. You can make out the skeleton of the clock tower through the flames:

Reduced to a pile of ash and embers:

Needless to say, we had a great time. I love this artsy-festival type stuff and Austin is a great town for it! Happy New Year everyone!