Garden of E


My Info

Austin, Texas
I've lived and gardened in urban Austin for the past 8 years, after retiring from the last of my several careers. BR (before retirement), most of my life was spent in colder places like Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, Montana, Alaska, and Boston MA. Best thing I've done AR-- becoming a Master Gardener. Other passions-- Austin Farmers' Market, grandchildren, and travel.

photo by Elsa, age 7

Friday, June 4, 2010

Catching Up (or Gettin' A Round Tuit)

I know it's been months since I posted, and I have no excuse, but it was a cold and dreary winter, and garden-wise there wasn't much going on except for the winter vegetables. The lettuces did spectacularly this year, and I was practically begging neighbors and friends to come and get some.  Here's the final carrot harvest so I could make way for the tomatoes and peppers.
The 'good' days to get out and cut back dead stuff were few and far between--it was either raining or too cold. Okay, whining is over, and spring has come and gone. A lot of time was spent simply cleaning up and looking for what was dead or alive. Alive won.

The agaves did well, except for the ornithobroma, which croaked. Amazingly, the manfreda undulata "Chocolate Chips" had just a few little tip-burns, and on April 6 I found this bloom stalk shooting up. (Note the size of the mullein next to it-more on that later.)

Only 9 days later, it looked like this!
Today it measures 8 feet. YuccaDo says it usually blooms in June, but it popped out last week. More weird than impressive.

Cold weather and rain produced other miracles, such as these profuse 2 year old petunias in March...

iris at least a foot taller than ever before in April...

what had been 3 little lambs ears exploding over the gravel path (I was always told they hate to be wet)...
the best my Jerusalem sage has ever bloomed...

and a spectacular mullein that I didn't know would grow this big, and that I had to remove since it was covering up other plants.

Another little miracle was the pair of Carolina wrens that decided in mid-April to build a nest in this gourd hanging from the back porch rafter.
For 2 weeks the 'dad' bird constantly brought food to 'mom' on the nest.  It became obvious that the eggs had hatched when one day I noticed that both mom and dad were bringing food to the nest--it was so cute to watch them take turns, sometimes both arriving at the same time and one waiting patiently on the fence top while the other one poked bugs into the invisible hungry mouths.  About 2 weeks after the feeding began, both birds one morning became very animated, hopping up and down on the porch railing under the nest and singing loudly as if to say, "Okay kids, it's time to fly."  By this time I had begun to see 1 or 2 little heads peeking out from the nest hole.  After about 20 minutes of encouragement, the first one ventures out but isn't sure if he wants to try it.

His first flight is about 6 feet to the fence.

And within the next 10 minutes all 5 babies had taken wing, with mom and dad following them around the yard anxiously and noisily.  The birds got very used to me and I felt privileged to have been a bird 'auntie.'

Finally, as one who is constantly on the hunt for leaf-footed bugs on my tomatoes, I have to share a discovery with you.  One morning on a pink poppy plant that had grown up in the patio I found adult, juvenile and hatchling leaf-footed bugs and promptly killed them.  A couple of hours later I looked again and there were more hatchlings--same process.  I've probably eliminated about 100 of these bugs on the poppy plant in the last week.  Next year I will plant poppies much closer to where the tomatoes are growing to take advantage of this new-found trap!


  1. That Manfreda bloom is marvelously bizarre.

    As for the weather, I enjoyed every minute of the cool and rain after the living hell of the summer of 2009. Plus, the wetter than average winter resulted in the best wildflower season of my 37 years in central Texas.

    I haven't found any leaf-footed bugs on my poppies but they were very attracted to my globe artichoke flowers. Like you, I squish 'em as I see 'em. I haven't had any on my tomatoes (yet).

  2. Will the Manfreda survive the blooming, E? or is it like the century plants that flower and die? Amazing, no matter how long it lasts.

    Maybe it's temps more than water but my almost-disappeared Lambs Ear also rebounded... I think they wanted sun but not such hot roots.

    Now wondering if my front porch needs a cool gourd!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  3. MSS, I haven't grown any globe artichokes, but I think we should start a list of what plants attract LF bugs so they'll stay off the tomatoes. I also found a cluster of hatchlings on a green fig--found that strange.
    Annie, what little info I can find on the manfreda indicates that it blooms annually and that pups are possible. Maybe I'll have a raffle if that happens. I got the gourd from my son-in-law, who drilled the hole with a special bit.

  4. Glad you're back! Those blooms on the sidewalk were beautiful, I walked by them a few times trying to catch you at home for that private tour I missed last year...hope to see you in the hood soon!

  5. Well, I'm finally getting around to checking out blogs. Congratulations on wren aunt-hood! They are so cute. Wow on that manfreda. And the jerusalem sage reminds that I want to replant. I lost mine a few years ago and miss it. Beautiful garden you've got!

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  7. I'm rather late to post but I thought I would anyway. How wonderful that you witnessed the whole scene with the wrens. We had a wren nesting in the planter on the gate. There were 5 eggs and then we left. I don't know if it was a successful brood. Also, I love the mullein but it looks best during its early growth when it has the wonderful rosette of leaves. You were right to pull it out. The navajo once told us the old tribes used it for baby diapers and toilet paper.I do let it flower to enjoy those yellow flowers but pull it out before trillions of seeds scatter.