Reflections - Austin Fling 2018

Waterlilies
Waterlilies at the Zilker Botanic Garden

Memories of Austin and the 2018 Garden Blogger's Fling linger with me this wet, lush New England morning. It has been a week since my return and there is much on which to reflect. It was my sixth out of ten flings and while 60% is never a mark I strive for  I do feel fortunate to have been able to attend six Flings. This was my first trip to Austin-attempts to attend the 2008 Austin first fling were thwarted due to airline problems. This time I arrived a day early, just in case. Austin is a friendly city and the people of Austin, Austinites, are happy. They are also very polite (I was Ma'amed several times) and, they are helpful. I am used to New England directness. Austinites have cultivated a gentleness and overt kindness which we northerners may possess but often hide. These traits were and are the hallmark of The Austin Fling team, Pam, Diana, Laura, Sheryl, and Jennifer, who were always smiling and helpful under the stress of the event production. All seemed to go off without a hitch. Great garden choices, great buses, lunches, dinners, entertainment and accommodations.

LauraJeanMargaretHelen
l-r:Laura,Jean,Margaret, Jenny, Helen

I have made lifelong friends because of these planned garden flings. Flings have brought many gardeners together with our shared love of gardening, writing and blogging. These friends, whose lives stretch from one end of the country to another, are keepers. It is wonderful to be able to look them in the eye, give them a hug and spend time chatting about our lives of gardening and family, work and now retirement. I regret not meeting and knowing all the bloggers in attendance but I did get to meet a few new bloggers, Angie from The Freckled Rose and Jennifer of Frau Zinnie, both from New England along with Liz, Margaret, Ellen, Jenny and Mary Beth to name a few. I hope to see  Angie's and Jennifer's New England gardens at some point this year and I truly hope they come to visit me in my garden. (I will make cake).

Glasssculpture
Glass Sculpture at the Donna Fowler garden

Each garden will be remembered both collectively and individually for its unique style and generous gardener. Most owner/gardeners greeted us at their garden entrances. Each is deserving of a separate post. Garden art and garden pools took center stage at this Fling.

Pam's Pool
Pam Penick's soothing pool

Fragrance was also present. I will not soon forget the scent of the jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides, which was growing in many Austin gardens. I was envious of this scent each time I was enveloped in its fragrance. I cannot grow it in my Zone 5b-6a garden but as I walked my garden upon my return I realized that each region is given the gift of scent. I have lily of the valley and lilacs along with the perfume of the early blooming Viola odorata.  I would not trade these scents for that of Confederate Jasmine but I will hopefully revisit that scent with another Texas visit. The lushness of Austin did surprise me. Yes, there were dry gardens. Jenny & David Stocker's garden so reminded me of Beth Chatto's gravel garden. That is a post for another day. Green trees and swarths of lush foliaged areas were abundant. The Colorado river does run through Austin after all and it has been dammed to provide a 'lake', Lady Bird Lake, which was in generous usage while our group was visiting. Austin does seem to have abundant yearly rainfall, 34+",  considering its location. I think most of that fell on our group that first day of touring.

Lady Bird Johnson
Courtyard-Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Mother Nature provided us with a true Texas gully washing event which only made this Fling more memorable.

Articulture-Love
Articulture

Austin Fling's wrap party, it was such a great party, ended with our last visit to Articulture, a unique Austin plant boutique.  Tequila and barbecue were served up with Texas style hospitality amidst laughter and lingering conversations. As I reflect on this Austin experience I clearly understand why Texans love Texas. This New Englander loves Texas as well. Thank you Fling Team for a wonderful time.

 


March-One Step At A Time

Crocus t. Roseus2What can one say about March? From a gardener's perspective, it is full of promise yet fraught with disappointment. This March has been more challenging than the over sixty I have witnessed in my life. Three nor'easters brought snow, wind and debris to the garden. The tide is receding leaving in its wake a lawn full of sticks and branches. It looks as though Mother Nature herself had the Noro virus. SticksThe oaks, which usually hold their leaves until the spring push of buds have been long bare. This is, in part, due to last season's second invasion of gypsy moth caterpillars. There are not too many leaves on the ground as a result. Change is afoot in the garden. The little Crocus tommasinianus Roseus have popped up in the lawn. The snowdrops continue to bloom as do the Eranthis/winter aconites which shrug off their wrap of snow with no ill effects. Snow on aconitesThe hellebore foliage has taken quite a beating this winter and the ever sturdy and faithful Helleborus foetidus, usually blooming on St. Patrick's Day, is black and bruised requiring a quick shear. Some areas of the garden, those north facing, are still covered with several inches of snow. It has been a cold month and while the sun and the earth are warm after a mild February, snow melt is slow. Back borderIn some respects this is a boon to a gardener who has to rake and clear. Cleanup of the bare, south facing gardens allows a bit of recuperation time for winter lazy muscles. It has been below freezing almost every morning in March to date but in spite of the cold temperatures leaves emerge in response to longer day length and warming sunshine among other things. SorbusThe real activity in the garden is taking place sight unseen below the soil as roots begin to awaken and absorb life giving moisture and nutrients. I will not be sad to say goodby to the weather of March this year. The tiny burgeoning beauty of buds and early flowers would be overlooked if they happened at the same time the opulent peonies bloomed. Each daily garden walk exposes a new bud, flower or bird song. March does reveal, in tiny doses, the march of the season. I just have to remind myself, each cold or miserable day, to look for what is right there in the March garden. The tiny things.


Hope Springs Eternal

Eranthis18It is doubtful that the poet, Alexander Pope, was a gardener but his line, 'Hope springs eternal...' from 'An Essay On Man' is certainly a gardener's motto. It has slipped severely from this gardener's mind of late. It has been well over six months since my last post. Last year was a painful gardening year here in RI. I have lived on this ten acres of property for over 40 years and there has been a steady increase in the number of deer visiting and foraging on plantings here. Who can blame them since I have laid out a beautiful smorgasbord of lush hosta, divine perennials and room to roam. 1012gibbsThe newest Garden Supervisor, L. J. Gibbs, a now 2 year old chocolate lab is sweet of soul and has little interest in chasing any four legged pests. He is being stripped of his job title and will be reassigned as the Garden Greeter since all he seems to do is wag his tail. He is much better suited to that job. Adding to this gardener's misery was another year of gypsy moth caterpillar devastation. I am hoping the cycle, GMC problems are cyclical, will be broken this year.  Five stately oaks surrounding the garden and many more in the woods will stand bare this coming season. They will, at least, provide a home for birds. Hope has diminished in the heart of this gardener this past season.....until Friday. On Friday blooms appeared. Snowdrops '18The snowdrops unfurled their white petals showing green chevrons in the hearts. The aconites bloomed bright yellow in their beds of leaf litter. Hellebore flowers, tattered though they may be, also flashed a bright white smile in the garden. Crocus18The surprise of bright purple crocus against the warm foundation broke the monotony of brown littered leaves. My one very pitiful witch hazel put forth threads of gold. Witchhazel18A flutter of hope woke this gardener up from winter's lethargy and yes, hope, once again, springs eternal.