While I Was Gone

Vacations are great, especially when parents meet up with an adult child living in a far-flung place. We connected with that character-of-a-child in Vienna, Austria, not quite mid-way between where he lives and where we live, adding a side jaunt to Salzburg (with him), and a week-long dash of Paris before Austria. I won’t get out the white sheet to hang on the wall and bore you with my vacation slides, but I will lament my freeze-damaged garden with readers who probably suffered the same, or something similar.

While I enjoyed balmy 40s F in Vienna, Austin dipped to 15 F overnight and remained below freezing for several days over the Christmas weekend. The garden is now a palette of brown, beige, and grey, bits of green suggesting that life exists.

This Purple Heart, Tradescantia pallida, reflects my feeling about the garden when I arrived home and got my first look!

Native plants and those from Mexico or Western U.S will be fine. In fact, all of the annual Texas wildflowers are green and gearing up for a nice show,

Blue Curls or Caterpillars, Phacelia congesta. I have scads of these throughout my front garden.

Evergreen native perennials, even if freezer-burned, are returning from their roots or flushing out new foliage. I’m also seeing a few blooms pop up. Yay!

Native to Arizona, Globe Mallow, Sphaeralcea ambigua, is typically a cool season bloomer.

Some evergreen plants are truly evergreen. This young Softleaf Yucca, Yucca recurvifolia (left) and mature native Basketgrass, Nolina texana (right) are green year-round no matter how hot or cold,

…as is this Red Yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora. Huzzah for the green stalwarts!

The plant that suffers most are the clumps of Flax lily, Dianella tasmanica, in my back garden. This summer drought-tough non-native is the only plant that I always cover before a hard freeze. My peach of a sister-in-law prepared my garden and pipes for the freeze, but some plants just had to weather the cold, come what may.

Sad as this and the other flax lilies look, I’m already seeing some of their striped foliage emerging from the frozen apocalypse. Going forward, I guess I don’t actually need to cover these, which is great news!

The garden is in a dull state, but there are birds (chirping), squirrels (chasing) and even a few butterflies (flitting). The honeybees forage on warmer days.

Bright spots in my garden are silvery grasses. They’re not green and lush of the growing season, but they’re still full and graceful, moving in the breeze, rustling with the wind.

Since those cold, cold few days, Austin’s weather has been mild and dry. I returned from my trip during the first week of January and have worn shorts and t-shirts often. I’ve also begun the pruning process which will require time and patience to help the garden prepare for the upcoming growing season.

I have my work cut out for me in the next 6-8 weeks. Virtually everything will need pruning to the ground. What fun! Would that I could be a resident of old Versailles, France gazing out at the gardens, concerned only with court intrigue and how much powder to put on my wig!

19 thoughts on “While I Was Gone

  1. Welcome back. Now we know what we can attribute your silence to. Still not having seen any native wildflowers after the freeze, I called the Wildflower Center today to ask if anything is blooming there. I was told a few four-nerve daises and a few anemones. The lack of rain works against us, and the warmth works in our favor.

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    • Thanks, Steve. I tried to keep up, but it’s hard when traveling and there are plenty of other distractions. 🙂 Those four-nerve daisies bloom no matter what! I’ve discovered a little colony of four-nerve seedlings and I’m thrilled. I’ll need to cull, but they’ll be ready for transplanting next fall sometime. Funny because I’ve had a couple of them along my driveway for years–love them–but they’ve never seeded out. This crew is in my new, full-sun garden. I guess the conditions were just right.

      It’s dripping a bit as I write. We need more rain than that, though.

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  2. I feel your pain. My garden is also a brown mess. I have started the process of cutting and raking up leaves. Happily, I am seeing signs of life as plants such as my gingers are coming out of the ground. I hope you get some of the rain today.

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  3. Oh, wow, exciting times–both the travel and the garden adjustments. Yes, the native plants will be fine. In this climate, I wait to cut the dead parts back until spring. But I suppose your new plant growth is starting already for the new season. Sorry about the plants that succumbed. I’d love to hear about your trip!

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    • I’m not too concerned about the natives, there’s just SO much to prune! I’m always this way in January, it seems impossible to get it all, or mostly, done by early March. But I always manage, as I’m sure you do, a few months later.

      The trip was great, especially spending time in Vienna/Salzburg with our son. Paris was wonderful; I’d never been, but my husband lived there for a summer when he was a late teen and remembered the museums, etc., fondly. I’m really glad we went, though it was a long trip.

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  4. Hope most things recover, Tina. Always hard to face a deep freeze, esp. when you are away. Good luck with the clean-up. Your race against time is similar to mine, but timing is quite different by several months. 🙂

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  5. Reassuring to know that established things might suffer hardship better than one expects. I need that kind of hope booster right now. I have a lot of evergreen shrubs loosing leaves right now, and I’m not sure if it’s because of the cold snap or if it is a delayed reaction to a very dry summer while I was gone (even though I had watering help). Time will tell, I suppose. Oh, to have the army of gardeners at my disposal that old Louis did… Welcome back, by the way! Glad you had a fun family adventure!

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    • And those gardeners were working! Mostly, like all of us, it’s maintenance and pruning (which they do a lot of!). While I admire the evergreen design work that was so much of the formal garden structure popular in those times, give me a crazy-full-of-blooms English cottage garden any day of the week. Formal gardens leave me a bit cold.

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      • They are perfect for the context they were shaped in, and I admire the kind of mind and skill that could create something like that. That said, I agree with you. They are kind of cold in their rigid formality.

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  6. Oof, leaving when a big freeze happens is always the worst. I left in early March in 2014 just as an ice storm was coming—barely even left the airport!

    I need to cut some things back as well. My chickasaw plum has decided to start blooming this week and I’m noticing a flower stalk on a Texas ragwort. If it stays like this spring will be here a month earlier than usual.

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    • I never dreamed we’d get such a hard freeze in December. I left a few blankets out, but not what I usually cover. So, while watched the weather, I just decided that it’s a good time to see what my plants are made of and I think I’ll be okay with the outcome.

      I’m also seeing some of the fruit trees beginning their blooms. My honeybees will be happy, but I sure hope we don’t have another freeze…not that I have any say in the matter!

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  7. Here’s a secret: I like your garden more than I like formal gardens like those at Versailles! Of course, I’m sure you’d love to have some of the Versailles staff around to give you a hand right now, but nature will help you out. I’ve been watching some Carolina Jessamine coming into bloom this week. It’s so odd to see it, since the bulk of the vine covering a fence is brown and crispy, but those blooms don’t care at all. Just like gold in the hills, there’s life in them-thar vines!

    It’s going to be fun to see how things develop, especially in your newly sunny area. I’m not sure what I saw as I drove the Blue Water highway last weekend, but I think it was a yucca putting on new growth. It was so vibrantly green it’s on my list of things to check out in the future. The native irises are putting up leaves, too — and the cattails. Another month or so, and we’ll be well past the time for a serious freeze — at least, I hope so!

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    • I like my garden more too, Linda. I’m just not a fan of turf-n-evergreens, pruned within an inch of their lives, everything all in a boring order kind of garden. To me, those gardens are sterile and lacking in personality. That said, I’d love to see Versailles again in summer. There are 3 miles of gardens, lots of pathways, and hidden floral gardens, fountains and ponds. We were there on a drippy day, but people who live nearby walk and jog along the wide paths. That’s something I’d love!

      As for the sunny area, I have tons of seedlings, especially from your Basket flowers! Woohoo, I can’t wait until they start blooming! Also my Engelmann’s daisy, four-nerve daisy, and guara have all seeded out–I have to find homes for these! Fingers-crossed for a mild rest of winter!

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  8. Oh, that must have been so deflating. It obviously was for your plants. I hope most are resilient enough to recover this season but barring that another few. We don’t have that problem here as we expect winter to be harsh, which so far it has just barely been, but our summers sometimes surprise us and damage plants during our extended droughts. Of course you have those also.
    I’m glad you enjoyed your European Vacation and visit with your son and I bet most of us will forgive a slideshow (and probably enjoy it) from your trip. 😀

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    • Yes, it’s hard to see the garden in such a bland state. That said, things are already greening up, though it’s not even February yet and we could certainly see a hard freeze. I’m hoping not; I’d like a month of chilly, wet weather, in the 30s and 40s, but not freezing. I’ve put my order for that in, we’ll see what the universe provides. 🙂

      It was a lovely trip, so glad we went and especially spending that time with our son–it was special!!

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