5.12.09

2009 NOVEMBER, DIVA-ANNIE'S GARDEN DAY

Back in January when we set up our garden projects, Annie set her date for mid-October. But things changed by fall - she sent the above photo of her September-blooming Oxblood lilies (they were Passalong plants shared with the Divas of the Dirt by MSS of Zanthan Gardens), reset the day for early November and we all crossed our fingers. A few days before we met, Annie sent out this call to action:

...mid 70's and sunny, sounds like a perfect day! What will make it even better is having the divas come visit and pretty up my yard!! The plan for the day is to do general clean-up, trimming of trees, raising some bricks, adding a few plants and planning for next spring. So bring those pole pruners and other tools of the trade

We arrived the next Saturday for a celebration of fall - complete with a scattering of colorful autumn leaves... artificial ones, of course since few trees add autumn color to Austin.

Annie's kitchen redo was now complete - the new cabinet doors had been distressed and glazed, and the beautiful new counters, faucets & fixtures and decor looked great. Once we were all present Annie scrambled eggs and served breakfast. Annie had a breakfast buffet ready - we piled the plates with melon, blackberries, pineapple, juices, hash browns, a streusel coffee cake and build-your-own breakfast tacos of tortillas, sausage, scrambled eggs, bacon, salsa, and cheese.

One more cup of coffee and we were ready to do her bidding.

A big part of today's garden day was pruning low hanging branches from the Chinese Pistache. It's an attractive, large tree that gives welcome shade but some long low branches had extended across the whole front yard, making it difficult to approach the house on the front path or to see out from the porch. The pole pruner has a long reach but it can't cut branches over a couple of inches in diameter. Some of these branches needed a ladder, a hand saw, muscles and patience.

There's something inspiring about that Pistache... back in 2005 a speeding car had crossed the front yard, first crunching into the tree then careening over to total Annie's parked car. The tree was younger and much smaller then and she'd worried about its survival.

While some Divas pruned, other Divas worked on the long front bed we'd made for Annie in 2006 and the rest tackled the big bed between the driveways. The drive bed definitely needed weeding, cutting back and mulching, and those bricks all needed to be pulled up and made level again.

But looking at it up close you didn't notice weeds or plants needing to be cut back - all you saw was a wealth of lovely flowers proving that Annie's green thumb has the rest of us beat:

Snapdragons that could have died over the terrible summer had bounced back with autumn and the gaillardia was reblooming.

A few years ago Annie rescued an African Foxglove/Ceratotheca triloba from a sale table. This is a rather tender plant that usually dies over winter but so far replacement seedlings have sprouted for her each spring.

The Duranta erecta/Skyflower was not a plant - it was a good-sized shrub. The flowers are sky blue but the berries are rich yellow, giving the plant its other nickname Golden Dewdrop.

Another unusual plant in Annie's garden is Turneria ulmifolia AKA Cuban Buttercup. Ulmifolia means "having leaves like an elm" which describes its foliage well.

The Salvia 'Hot Lips' in the front yard was very, very happy! This is perfect example of the Right Plant in the Right Place.


Here is Buffy pondering what she'll do first to get this bed back in order. Her thought processes are clear, but the background looks a little fuzzy, doesn't it? The parked cars and trash cans were so distracting I tried to erase them - should have asked a certain talented 12-year old relative do it for me!


The long day passed by in a whirl of work and conversation - broken somewhere in the middle by lunch - yummy French Dip sandwiches, shredded ramen salad, potato salad and a meltingly good Chocolate cinnamon cake topped by the kind of vanilla ice cream that has yummy vanilla bits in it.

We dealt with the piles of cut branches, getting the smaller stuff into recycling bags and tying up the longer branches into bundles for yard waste pickup.

Mattie's reciprocating saw made a big difference in how we got that job done!

Some Divas spruced up the front and some sawed and pruned the overgrown Vitex in the back.

None of us even thought about pruning either of these two plants on the fence near the gate - reaching up over the roof here is Annie's amazing Confederate rose blooming pink and a 12-foot tall treelike Pride of Barbados/Caesalpinia pulcherrima that Annie grew from seed. Her Confederate Rose is in the same family with Mallows and Hibiscus -its botanical name is Hibiscus mutabilis. Most sites give the mature height of a Pride of Barbados as 6-8 feet but labels mean nothing when Annie plants something in her rich soil, inside the protection of her fenced back garden with its SW exposure.

As a thank you gift Annie let us each take home one of the irresistible hanging ceramic plant rooters that had decorated the lunch table - I scooped this onion shaped beauty. If there's a gene for finding cool garden stuff - our Diva Annie definitely has it!