Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


I am an unapologetic word nerd.  As such I am happiest when we can all agree upon terms.  My current quandary centers around how we will precisely define "Winter" after this year.  Meteorologically speaking, February is a winter month. Spring, linked in our hemisphere to March/April/May, is all about triggered plant growth that benefits from the warmer temperatures beginning with and typical for those three months.

"Typical for".  That's the rub.  There are temperature spikes occurring earlier and earlier, but rather than signaling a general easing into freeze-free territory, these warming spells continue to be stand alone events, inserted into the ordinary "Will it freeze?" crap shoot that is a Central Texas winter.  At least, what we used to call "winter"...

If expected temperature cues in our region are regularly misfiring, what will happen to our mutually agreed upon and widely accepted seasonal definitions? With a range of Spring temperatures starting to pop up regularly in what we've designated as the "Winter" months, what are we going to call this new, in-between season?

"Spring adjacent" is quite a mouthful.  Once the warm spells have begun shall we call that "Wring"?  Then once we hit the last two weeks of February we could call it "Sprinter".

Terms aside for the moment, most plants are stuck outside, rooted in place and mandatorily exposed to the full quilt of crazy that is our current weather. I worry for the flora, people. They are getting a lot of mixed signals.

Out I went to check.  This year so far, the winter plants are all reliably getting their winter business done.

A leatherleaf mahonia I was contemplating transplanting bloomed this year, on two different stalks.  I get the message, Mahonia.  No transplanting for you. Times were tough, but you are tougher.  It is good to see this plant blooming and I look forward to it berrying again.

Yarrow is kicking into higher gear right on schedule.  Established yarrow plants begin blooming in April most years, so I'm taking these new stalks as timely.  Will I get blooms on these relative newcomers?  You know I'll show you if I do. Stay tuned.

Speaking of blooms, the branches on our mature redbud trees are all decked out with eponymous finery.  Here's yet another opportunity to right a terminology wrong.  These are called redbud trees, right? For the buds. The buds that you would have every reason to expect to be red.  But they aren't really red at all.  Isn't it time we acknowledged that?
And even if we aren't in consensus about the need to harness a new color name for the buds, can't we all agree the flowers that follow are anything but red? Redbud blossoms are pink.  Actually, a very particular shade of pink that is absolutely stunning when set off against a high pressure blue sky. I'm not sensing a lot of early traction for a switch to calling them Pinkbud Trees, but it certainly would be more accurate.

The redbud shown in these photos demonstrates no set seasonal bloom time.  Every year just as soon as we get three consecutive really warm days, that tree throws everything it has into budding out at top speed.  You can almost hear it blooming.

It makes for some interesting photo opportunities. This same tree initiated flowering over the MLK weekend in January of 2007 when a winter storm, following close on the heels of a several day long warm spell, coated every branch and emerging bloom with ice.
Serendipitous photograph or cautionary tale?
So far that redbud has gotten away with ignoring the calendar.  And, after a run of consecutive afternoons with highs near 80 recently, a host of other plants here seem to have begun similarly tallying up sun hours and responding to soil warmth.  The question of what season it is has been answered, as far as these plants are concerned.

Because forget checking in with the usual suspects for winter interest this February.  Looking around I was faced with so many examples of plants sporting new growth I eventually just put my camera away.  There are new leaves emerging everywhere.  Plants in every bed, in sun and shade alike, are sporting new shoots and blooms indicating their own internal Spring switch has flipped to the ON position.  

Even the lantana are sending out tiny green leaves. I don't have dated photos to prove it but I distinctly recall lantana as being one of the last plants to join the springtime bash.  If the lantana are leafing out, that tells me as far as the plants are concerned, Spring is game on.
Plants!  What are you going to do?  They all seem to have joined the Pinkbud in staging a calendar coup.  Once those leaves get pushed out, they are out to stay.  And, since we are still in the midst of February, we'll have to wait and see if they are able to stay on. 

Hopefully so.  Now it is finally Wring, can Sprinter be far behind?


Tina said...

As I read the paragraph beginning with "Spring adjacent", I thought to myself, "Sprinter!"--and, well, you'd already come up with that one. Bummer. I'd hoped to birth a new word.

Your last bit though about the lantana is what resonates with me: it's not so much that the "winter" and "early spring" things are out of whack, it's that the plants that were reliably much later in their spring flush, are so much earlier--lantana, zexmenia and the like.

I totally love that photo with the ice encased "pink" bud limb and the little floral entity poking out--such a shot!!

TexasDeb said...

Tina: Great minds are definitely working alike. I feel it appropriate to "allow" you to claim co-creator credit for Sprinter once it catches on. You can thank me later.

That redbud shot is a favorite of mine, too. Especially now I'm assured the tree survived the icing down.

I'm NOT imagining that, am I? Lantana are definitely coming out earlier this year. It is just weird (but not necessarily in that good way).

Debra said...

So many pretty things to look at! Love the mahonia with the pink dabs behind it. And the close up. And the iced redbud ... well ... everything. Erratic blooming is one of those predictors/signs of big changes. As much as I like the novelty it does freak me out a bit -- I worry that a late freeze will come along and damage new growth or that the insects hidden in the cold heavy clay might not have gotten the spring message. Will they come out too late? As for pinkbud? Heck yes.

Kris Peterson said...

I love Wring and Sprinter! Of course, the fluctuations here are so frequent that I think even the end of Wring and the beginning of Sprinter would be difficult to determine. By most definitions, my area of SoCal has no winter (although another SoCal blogger recently defined it as the time of rain, however, we've had little of that since December either). Many SoCal garden writers limit their descriptions to "cool season" and "warm season," at least when it comes to seed and vegetable planting discussions.

My "red"bud has just started to bloom too. The color reads magenta to me. Garden color descriptions often seem way off - or at least overly simplistic. Have you ever see the old movie "Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House"? I think it starred Cary Grant. Anyway, there's a scene I always remember when the subject of color comes up. Mrs Blandings is walking about elaborately describing the exact shades of color she wants in each room and, when she's done, the contractor turns and, in an aside to his assistant, says something like "blue, green, yellow."

TexasDeb said...

Debra: I'm with you - I find these out of synchrony blooms and fruitings to be alarming. Timing is everything in these systems. As you say - what if everybody doesn't get the memo!?

Pinkbud it is, then. So let it be written, so let it be done!

TexasDeb said...

Kris: Oh, now that is a blast from the past. I think you're right - Cary Grant and Myrna Loy, I think. So hilarious and applies to this situation so well. When it comes to even common plant names so many were chosen without whimsy or any eye for subtlety.

All right- momentum is building! Can it be long before Wring and Sprinter go viral!? Who's in?

Tina said...

I've been meaning to tell you this, but I just love the fence background on the blog--so different and somehow, warm and refreshing.

TexasDeb said...

Thanks, Tina! I'm so glad you like it and took time to say so.

We have fencing that is somewhat similar (though completely grayed out because it is OLD) so it felt an appropriate backdrop for viewing the garden beds here. I liked the sky backdrop for similar reasons but it was too busy.

Kathleen Scott said...

New format? I like it.

Love the new words Wring and Sprinter. You're on a roll with this.

Looking forward to seeing your Mahonia!

TexasDeb said...

Kat: Thank you! I think if we are stuck with weather that won't stick to the bounds as we understand them then we get to coin phrases for our shifting situation.

That poor Mahonia. It is one tough plant. Have a lovely weekend!

Anonymous said...

I too think about terms and their real meanings - esp. climate!

Your area sounds so variable from blogs and weather reports I see, the humid warmth of the Gulf near, icy N winds near. Even year to year. Our Wimberley blogger Linda says it well - drive-by winter weather (?).

Winter = I think of it as enough <28F hard freezes to shut things down. We had less of that this winter, but enough...most every winter is steady here, with breaks at either end of those 2 months. Where I used to live 2000' higher and a little N, we always had winter with few breaks those 2+ months.

Unless one was from the midwest - they said we had little winter! Terms...

Where I was in high school, Denver, we had all but summer all 3+ month winter, over and over and often every 2 weeks.

TexasDeb said...

DHB: I am willing to lose any and every contest over who has the most severe winter.

Winter (to me) is a lot like troubles. It is minimally helpful to compare situations. Whatever you've got, is probably plenty bad enough for you.