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 12, 2015

Wait, what month is it again?

February.  It is February.  I had to remind myself of that fact several times over the past few days.

February in Central Texas is not particularly brutal. Often following on the heels of a hard freeze or two in January, February typically provides a fair number of days featuring cold but not freezing weather, in combination with rain.  Cooler days and moist soil make winter work in the garden comparatively pleasant.

Especially for me.  I am an inveterate transplanter.  For my purposes, I need every single typical day February can provide, in order to tackle everything I hope to get done before live oak trees begin their annual pollen assault.
I consider transplanting a locational "do-over", a second (or third) chance to get things right.  Some of my favorite plants achieved that designation based upon little more than their repetitive tolerance of my moving them around. It's funny. Once a plant has demonstrated to my satisfaction it will survive a move, I almost always find a reason to move it.

Like the ox-eye daisy mounds shown at the base of the winter bare althea in the photo to follow. They were very recently shifted.  I'm trying out new companion plantings here to provide more year round interest in this bed. The sunny area vacated by the daisy mounds is slated to host native milkweed.

It is a win/win scenario.  Though the success rate of native milkweed seed germination under my care is still in question, the daisy mound moves ought to be a slam dunk. This is February rather than August, so survival ought to be guaranteed.  Right?

Maybe.  This February just refuses to play by the rules.  The past span of days brought sufficient sun and warmth in combination I felt I had to halt rearranging in favor of hauling watering cans.  Walking to and from our rain barrels, I shed layer after layer of clothing as the day and I both heated up.
Relocated wildflowers.  Hang in there babies!
As the weather plays "Guess What Season It Is!?" I'm not the only confused one. Some plants seem to be struggling with how to respond to non-wintery sun warmed soils and bright hot afternoons.  Several bluebonnet rosettes sent up early bloom stalks this year, and at certain times of day, one of them looks practically purple.  
This bluebonnet is definitely blooming to the beat of a different color palette. I'm smitten!
If this plant persists in sending up purplish bloom stalks, I will hold the seed aside and see if the deeper coloring is expressed consistently.  In the meantime, I am throughly enjoying this early start on wildflower season even as I keep an eye out for the colder weather predicted to be heading our way.

Me! Wanting more cold, more grey!  Unprecedented.
Honestly I am only wanting February to be more, well, February-ish.  Hot and dry can wait.  And it ought to! Please?


Toni W said...

Beautiful purple! Cooler temps today and next week, don't worry. Hopefully the plants will sort it out!

TexasDeb said...

THGM: Thank you - I do have a weakness for purple.

And now I AM worried - I see another freeze in our weather predictions and while I'm not ready for it to be 80 degrees (yet) I am sure enough not embracing the idea of potentially damaging cold.

Ha! I am never satisfied, apparently. No wonder Momma Nature mostly ignores me and my wishes.

Tina said...

Or if you're me, the fourth or fifth attempt to do right by a plant. :)

It's been so warm, I've had to remind myself--"It's not April. A hard freeze could happen. Stop moving things around" My mumblings didn't stop me from transplanting, btw.

You have bluebonnets! I know, it's early, but what a nice gift--I love the one with the little bee, working for her hive. And that purple blush! Wow.

Fingers crossed that it's only cold and not REALLY cold.

TexasDeb said...

Tina: Perhaps you need to remind a little louder? So I can hear you way over here?

I'm going to keep a close eye on the next freeze predicted and protect the daisy mounds (though I don't under ordinary circumstances). Come on weather! Work with us here!

Debra said...

Beautiful! I think your body remembers how Austin used to be. I think this is the new normal. At least it feels normal to me -- as someone who has only been here since 2002. I remember being surprised to read a few years ago that the official last freeze date (at a 10% probability) is March 15. Since I've been here I can only remember one year where it actually got cold enough to cover plants after the middle of February. It was a doozy mind you -- an actual hard freeze. It killed my cycad. =(

TexasDeb said...

Debra: Hmmm. I think you may be right. Would there need to be any other evidence offered that I am officially "OLD"? Next thing you know I'll be starting posts with statements like "back in my day...".

There's no coot like an old coot!

Debra said...

Oh gosh. FIM (footinmouth) disease strikes again. These changes are coming so quickly you don't need to be 'old' to remember the way things used to be. Not that there is anything wrong with being old. I love being an old person.

TexasDeb said...

Why, some of my best friends are old people...

Kris Peterson said...

Our weather is seriously out-of-whack too, although I fear that Debra is right and this may be the new normal. Our temps have been in the mid-80s this week and we're expecting 90 tomorrow. Humidity is near zero and, despite supplemental watering, lots of flowers have been desiccated by the relentless Santa Ana winds. I hope we're not headed toward another batch of spring heatwaves like those that hit here last May.

Meanwhile, on the pleasant side of the dialogue, I love your bluebonnets! They'd be welcome here whenever they chose to show up.

Unknown said...

What a pretty mutant you have! Definitely save the seeds and see if you can replicate this genetic divergence! Purple and green... my favorite colors - and even better combined! I'm excited for my first round of surprise bluebonnets this year... apparently they are riddled in the Natural Gardener soil mixture I bought last year, but I'm not complaining!

TexasDeb said...

Kris: Bluebonnets are beloved here, whenever they appear. I'm just a fussy Bonnet Mommy, worrying that if they've bloomed too early they'll get bitten by a freeze. Like somehow I know something the plants don't already have encoded into their make-up.

I've been watching your weather and am sending you serious empathy waves. You are facing significant additional challenges with the heat and wind in combination, especially in areas where plants are still struggling to get established.

If this is the new normal, I guess we'll all just meet up in Canada, eh? Who's up for growing hostas??!

TexasDeb said...

Rebecca: You bought soil with bluebonnet seeds hitchhiked in (and at no additional charge!)?! I think your way sounds smarter and easier. You and the Natural Gardener are clearly on to something.

What should soil with wildflower seeds included be called? Wildflower Jump Start? Wildflower Wowie? Wild About Flowers? Mr. Dromgoole, I hope you're paying attention!

Anonymous said...

This is great, to see so many early spring plants coming on. You get enough warmth over there, to let winter make more visits.

I didn't know you had Althea there...that was a favorite "old shrub" I used to see in the 1950's neighborhoods, but not in newer ones.

Bluebonnets...yours' nice, and on a past ATX visit, I found out they smelled good, too. A natural blog on my blogroll just posted a photo of the species native to the Big Bend blooming on the roadside...I must get some. Any ephemeral wildflowers are welcome, not just our Desert Marigold or MX Gold Poppy...

TexasDeb said...

DHB: I am a total sucker for bluebonnets. Years of effort have yielded a couple of areas with self reseeding patches. Lupines are relatively easy.

Now I'm focusing on getting blanket flowers established. And as soon as the rain predicted this weekend is over, I'm going to sow native milkweed that has been cold stratified for weeks. I'm nervous about that effort...I keep reading how particular antelope horn milkweed can be. Wish me luck!

Kathleen Scott said...

You have an althea! I'm interested in them. Would love to know what your experience has been.

Impressed with your success in transplanting.

Bluebonnets!!! Will be fun to see if your purple-flower seeds run true.

TexasDeb said...

Kat: Oh honey! I have LOADS of althea. Pinky purple ones and a few (mostly) white ones that have resisted all cross pollination attempts to take them another direction.

As long as the deer do not gnaw Althea to the ground they are practically carefree. They don't require a lot of supplemental watering (once established) and though some sun is best for blooms, althea will brighten some otherwise shady situations. I prune some up into tree form, leave others with multiple trunks, keep some short and leave others to grow as tall as they will.

I'll keep an eye out for babies and pot you up a few if I can!

Lori said...

I am not normally a huge transplanter, but this warmer and wetter than usual winter has motivated me to rip apart my back border and add the evergreen contrast and structure that it desperately needed. It's something I wanted to do before the tour last year, but the winter was so cold and dry I didn't dare touch anything. I am so much happier with it now. And hopefully that means everything is in its permanent home and future beautiful winter days can be spent in my hammock reading. But who am I kidding?!! There's always something to do out there!

TexasDeb said...

Lori: Well hey there. Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I appreciate it.

Tour or no tour, I believe I know very close to what you're talking about, that drive for perfection. I looked at one area I'd just finished spending hours on, declared it "Done!" and then laughed out loud as I walked away. I didn't even believe it when I said it.

Linda/patchwork said...

I've moved a few shrub type things around. DH says nothing will ever get to that 'established' stage, if I keep moving them. Oh well...you gotta get it right. Right?

Bluebonnets this early. Well..guess it fits in with the new growth I have already on late starting things. I just hope they don't get bitten back this week...or, later. :(

Great bluebonnet photos, by the way.

TexasDeb said...

Linda: Thank you! I wasn't expecting to be taking bluebonnet photos in February, that's for sure.

As to moving things, once you DO get it right, then things establish a lot faster, don't you think? You can tell DH I said so. : )

Pam/Digging said...

I am astonished to hear that you and other local bloggers are seeing bluebonnets in bloom at this time of year. My few seedlings are still very much just foliage rosettes.

As for transplanting, I'm right there with you. Moving plants is fun and, well, necessary as you add plants and take away others. Getting the right combo can take a lot of finessing!

TexasDeb said...

Pam: I with you - I believe a gardener has not only the right but the responsibility to move a plant when it seems to be failing where it is. At times moving is an easy fix, but of course there are those times when transplanting is simply a final straw.

In July I had a swath of bluebonnet rosettes that started to form in a back bed late last summer, where I'd dug out garlic chives and watered a little extra to support new H. Duelberg and tropical milkweed plants. They are my early bloomers this year. I have rosettes elsewhere that look the way I expect for this time of year.

Shirley said...

I love that deep color! Yes, keep the seed and see if it follows on.

My bluebonnets aren't near that stage yet though I did have a few bloom in December.

It looks like you will get a chance to enjoy the cold a few more times. I'm holding off on things that can't take a late freeze.

TexasDeb said...

Shirley: I hear you. We are not out of deep freeze danger altogether, though with this last blast with temps hovering in the mid-thirties nearly behind us, odds are in our favor to safely plant and transplant. Now if we could manage to get a little more moisture before things warm up... (as a gardener I am all about the weather doing the heavy lifting!).