August 2, 2011

There Is No Novelty in This.


Where is the novelty in 48 days of 100+F temperatures?  There is none.  A snow day in February is novel... 13.39 inches of rain from one storm is novel...a huge, gorgeous cloud in an otherwise clear blue sky is novel.  They say twenty one days makes a habit.  We are well into habitual here.


As I stood under an oak canopy with hose in hand trying to salvage my garden, I looked around trying to find bits and pieces of something worth blogging about.  My love of macro photography usually allows me to look past the undesirable and focus on the positive.  But as this blog is a photo-journal of my garden it really wouldn't be fair to gloss over the damage this drought is causing.




Earlier in the summer I was going to show you this striking combination of Texas Betony and Lambs Ear.  The silver, soft foliage combined with the stalks of brightly hued blooms has caught my eye several times.  I never had the right lens or just couldn't be bothered for some reason to stand back and get a good shot of the two  together.   This shot was taken today and although not as striking as when both plants were thriving...it's still pretty (as a close-up).  The reality of a pulled back shot is this:


The Betony is going strong but most of the Lambs Ear has given itself up to the drought.  The scary thing is Lambs Ear is relatively drought tolerant and usually dies when we have heavy periods of rain.   It hates wet feet.


The remains of a Gulf Coast Penstemon.  I planted five the day before we had the 13" rain event.  They were uprooted and washed 'down stream' from their original planting site but I replanted them and they thrived.  Until now.  Within the last two weeks four have died and the fifth looks to be on its way out the door.


What the drought hasn't claimed, the bunnies have.  This is a Fall Aster that has previously survived being uprooted by the 13 inch rain event, being thought a weed and pulled by the guys installing the mulch and now the bunnies.  They've also eaten the impatiens, creeping Jenny, portulaca, diamond frost euphorbia, 'Red Dragon' knotweed and purple oxalis.  They are hungry.  It's hard to be upset knowing how hard their struggle is right now for survival.


This butterfly weed attracted so many Monarch butterflies last year.  It was easily four feet tall and this year it is no more than 8 inches tall.  It wilts every afternoon but rebounds during the evening and morning hours.  I'm praying it will hang in there.  You can see the Black-Eyed Susan basking in the heat.  These flowers can take whatever is thrown at them and they are welcome in my garden any time.


This mosaic of the monarch caterpillar is from last season.  I haven't seen one this year.

Luckily, it's not all bad news.  These long, hot days are giving me opportunity to think about how I can make my garden even more drought tolerant.  When this heat breaks I will be moving the plants that are stressed to cooler spots and adding more of the plants that are doing remarkably well.


The Flame Acanthus was planted this spring and has become a welcome part of the part-sun bed near the back patio.  The hummingbirds love the flowers and visit throughout the day. 


The Firebush is one of my all time favorite plants for Central Texas.  It is drought tolerant but the foliage has a lush look and turns a beautiful bronze color in the fall.  The tubular flowers attract hummingbirds and are formed in tight clusters giving them a more eye-catching appearance than the Flame Acanthus. 


In the herb garden, the mint and oregano have started to bloom.  This mint blossom is so pretty and delicate that it hardly seems possible that it is withstanding our record breaking heat.  No worries, it's planted in a container so it doesn't take over.



We will get through this drought.  I just pray that it is sooner rather than later.  As I type, it is 106F and our city leaders expect Austin to break records for electricity demand today.  The rest of the week calls for more of the same.

32 comments:

  1. Cat, strangely your more downbeat post makes me feel better. I appreciate the solidarity that comes with knowing that even experienced, native-focused gardeners and photographers like yourself are having a trouble weathering the drought.
    I laughed when I read about your lambs ear. My sedums collapsed the other day. I'm sure they'll be back from the roots, but I just took it as a sign that I need to put my energies elsewhere this time of year. Hope you're doing the same.

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  2. Abbey, you're so right about putting your energy elsewhere...I'm trying to do that. I know this too shall pass, but jeeeez - enough, already.

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  3. I'm amazed that any plant or animal can survive this unrelenting heat. Your thought about it being a habit now really struck a chord with me. I'm afraid this 'habit' will continue for some time longer, and I wonder what it will take to break it!

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  4. Hey Cat,
    Wow, 45 days makes me feel like a wimp complaining about our 30 something days. I spent the morning cutting back all of the plants that have taken a beating and taking note of the plants that are thriving. Oddly enough, my Black Eyed Susans are one of the plants that have taken the brunt of the heat/drought and have not done well. Thanks for being brave to post the good, the bad, and the ugly. Trying not to get depressed when I go outside, and just concentrate on what I can do to make my garden more resilient next year. Hang in there.

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  5. You are experiencing what we have during our dry season, because we only have dry and wet seasons. It is rainy season now here and we are experiencing too much rain that flooding and landslides are the consequences. Our dams are already full that they allow water out which sometimes destroy neighboring agricultural farms. Maybe you didn't get the rains because the traffic is here yet! I am so sorry to see your plants suffering. As they say 'life is a ball' rolling.

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  6. Hard days for a gardener! You know it's a bad drought when even the mature natives are dying. I think I'm about to lose my autumn sages, and it smells like someone's grilling rosemary every afternoon in the herb bed. Thank goodness for plants with names that involve 'fire' and 'flame' (yours are lovely), and the reminder of a season of caterpillars.

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  7. Oh, it is a never-ending theme for us in the Texas neighborhood. Being out of town I still have been monitoring the temps almost wishing I was there -- as if I could do anything. I am afraid my garden may have to start over again this fall.

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  8. Oh Cat, what a painful way to learn about which plants can really thrive in baking heat. I don't "speak" Fahrenheit, so I had to look up the conversion. Frankly, I am amazed that anything non desert loving is growing in that heat. Thank goodness for the likes of the firebush and susans.

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  9. I appreciate your showing the damage of the drought. Wow - 45 days over 100 degrees. I thought we were hot in NC but we're "only" at 7 or 8 days. I remember from the drought of 2007-8 how sick and sad it made me feel to watch the garden I'd put so much of my soul into suffer, and not be able to do anything about it.

    Glad to hear a few plants are doing well - I need to do a major revamp of my garden this fall and it's good to hear about the ones that are heat tolerant.

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  10. Your pictures always capture beauty, even when I know the conditions in your area must be horrendous. Your pull-back shots in this post tell quite a story. The drought and the temps are incredible to me, living up here in New England. The sight of your garden must be so distressing, I can't even imagine. And 106 degrees??

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  11. Really great post, Cat. I know your poor plants and garden are suffering. Hopefully things will start to get to more reasonable hot temperatures soon. Maybe in the 95-98 range! ;-)

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  12. Wow..that is really a high, by looking at those poor plants dying and wilting, I guess ours are not that bad! Love your beautiful mosaic with those bright coloured blooms, so attractive!

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  13. Cat, It must be heartbreaking to see your garden struggle so. 45 days of over 100 degrees! I find high heat saps all my energy. I am exhausted just thinking about it. Hopefully, relief is just around the corner.

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  14. I'm glad you posted this, because I've been wondering how things are going down there. 45+ days is amazing (in a bad way). That extra 5-7ºF makes a big difference, especially with no rain.

    Are you considering adding several cactus or other succulents to help your gardening spirit weather any future droughts?

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  15. Thanks for all your encouragement and sympathy. I thought you all might find the reality of this drought unbelievable. It is. We are used to the heat but hand in hand with the drought, it's devastating. Every morning as I walk the neighborhood I see huge, mature trees that may not make it. Keeping my head up and persevering. Please join us in praying for rain.

    Yes, Alan. I'm not a huge fan of cacti but there are some succulents that I've added and plan to add more. No choice :) I think this may be our new normal. In looking at the last decade of records, we've broken more consecutively than any other time.

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  16. Your post was so appropriate today Cat. I read it shortly after coming inside after pulling all my green bean plants that have simply frizzled in this unrelenting heat. I was only able to work outside for about an hour. And in looking at what used to be my beautiful Mo's Garden wildflower area and seeing NOTHING but parched dry ground made me sad. But your post helped me see the bright side...this too shall pass! Thanks, Cat :)

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  17. oh Cat I know just how you feel weird but many of my plants have been dying or under stress because of the COLD! I still wear my winter coat and it's August, we keep getting cold winds from the north(artic) and/or east(siberia) I hadn't been in the garden for a few days and when I walked around yesterday I couldn't believe the 'yet more' damage from those northern winds, I do have more alive than you though, I think trying to find plants that cope with the weather is the best way though they are not what we would like best, sounds silly perhaps but I nearly burst into tears yesterday in the garden, I worry about the small creatures and how are they coping with the unsesonal weather mine cold and yours hot and dry, Frances

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  18. This post made me smile as I too have been thinking of how to make my garden more drought tolerant and our temperatures are much cooler than yours and we havent had 48 days of high temperatures.

    I know it may sound daft but have you thought of rigging up some shading over the plant the Monarch butterflies like? A friend in Italy was telling me about her neighbour who put umbrellas up to shade her plants in the heat of the day. It might just give it a chance to get going.

    I am planning on doing lots over the autumn and winter to improve my soil (clay) and also doing lots of mulching plus I am avoiding buying any more plants that will struggle with the conditions

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  19. Frances, not silly at all...I completely understand and relate.

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  20. It is sad when the lamb's ear shrivels up. I have one small patch that is doing ok. Not sure how long.

    Firebush and Flame acanthus are on my 'have to have' list for next year.

    And, you're right...enough is enough!!
    Stay cool.

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  21. It sounds so frustrating to be experiencing such heat and drought. Watching the plants suffer or die is not fun. I hope things change very soon.

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  22. I am sorry about the heat and I hope it ends soon and your plants come back. The monarch butterfly collage is amazing, I enjoyed it very much.

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  23. That must be so hard watching your garden wither. We only had a few days of high temps in Maine and I prefer this unusually cold and wet weather we're having now. I wish I could blow some rainclouds your way.

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  24. Oh how I feel for you...the heat and lack of rain is mind boggling. Like you I am taking note of those plants that are thriving despite these horrid conditions. Hang in there summer will be over one of these days.

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  25. Dear Cat - not sure how you can stand that heat, let alone the plants. Posting on the trials, rather than just the triumphs, is heartening and educational for us all. Allows you time to take stock and rethink. We have torrential rain here today so hope some comes your way

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  26. Hello, just popped in from rainy Bronte Country in Yorkshire, England, to say how sorry I am about the struggles you are having in the horrendous heat you're all suffering with. The photos of your dry garden are sad, but your dragon fly pix are really amazing! Hope you get cooler weather soon :-)
    Jane Gray

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  27. I really understand what you're going through. We had no rain for five weeks last year and it was heartbreaking watching my water bill climb and my plants still die from the heat. Winston Churchill said that "when you're going through hell, just keep going." This all has to end eventually. You're so compassionate to understand why the bunnies are eating your garden. Maybe if you throw out some carrots, they'll leave your plants alone. I've added rain for Texas to my daily prayer list. :o)

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  28. Oh boy, do I feel for you. Our drought finished this past weekend and we have had rain. Despite that my ferns are brown and crispy and I think I will lose two serviceberry trees. You know how I feel about rabbits. I am sending you thoughts of rain with cooler temps.

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  29. So sorry you have to deal with this, but thanks for the honesty. I think often we bloggers are afraid to post about our true gardens, warts and all. But that's part of the story. I have several areas that need some serious work, so I really should blog about that. Take care, and I'm hoping the rain will come for you soon.

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  30. Thank you TS. You are sweet to remember us in your prayers. They are much appreciated.

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  31. Our drought doesn't compare at all with what you're going through - we haven't had a decent rain in over 6 weeks but our temps are in the high 80's to low 90's, not > 100 like you have. I've been watering about every 2nd day to preserve flowers and veggies. Hopefully the plants that appear finished manage to crawl into the earth to reappear when things cool down.

    I didn't know that people grew lambs' ear - it grows wild here in our lawn and I'm constantly getting rid of it.

    Hang in there Cat - it'll be frosty soon enough :(

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  32. Oh, so sad hearing about the Drought. But I loved where you said, it is giving you time to sit back and plan a more drought tolerant garden. Gardening sure develops our resilience if we let it! We had a errible drought here in Brisbane in last few years, too. I noticed that many of the elderly people I garden with were able to be adaptable, learn new ways of managing their gardens, grow to love the plants that were OK in droughts. It was fun and interesting to encourage this happening...Hope you discover many new (drought tolerant) friends. A few I like are...Rondeletia, dwarf red hot poker (will remember Botanical name later)phyllanthus multiflorus, dietes, native hibiscus,allamanda, ground apple, ixoras, blue boy, heliotrope, Cats Whiskers, holmskoldia.
    I enjoyed reading your blog and look fwd to more,
    Jan

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Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
"Pooh!" he whispered.
"Yes, Piglet?"
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw. "I just wanted to be sure of you."
~A.A. Milne

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