Sunday, July 19, 2020

2018 November Glinda’s Diva Day

Back in June 2018 when the Divas of the Dirt met at Karla’s garden, we Divas had been worried about Diva Annie, who was in post-surgical intensive care at the hospital. Over the next few months Annie moved from one facility to another as we all hoped for at least a partial recovery.
Instead of emailing photos of flowers in bloom or planning to get together, we were emailing and texting medical updates and photos of Annie as she tried her hardest to regain strength and mobility.

The summer was long and hot – officially the third warmest meteorological summer. Here’s a twitter clip from a National Weather Service guy. 

Most people had to water to keep plants, birds and wildlife alive. Rains arrived just in time to cancel Mindy’s planned September project day.

Mindy rescheduled her date for October but once again her project was rained out. Mindy wasn’t daunted - she had an alternate plan. Instead of meeting at Mindy’s house, the Divas who could come would go to the rehab facility and surprise Diva Annie with a group visit.
Annie was very weak, but seeing those loving faces brightened her day.

The rain continued no longer bringing welcome moisture but dangerous floods with collapsed bridges. A favorite Twitter account noted how quickly the Highland Lake reservoirs had risen. Officials opened floodgates on the Tom Miller and Mansfield Dams.

Silt from the flood waters overwhelmed the Austin Water filters and on October 22nd Austin woke up to a boil order – city water could not be used for drinking, brushing teeth, cooking, etc. The order lasted until Sunday October 28th.

Our rotating garden day schedule said that mid-November was Glinda’s turn for a work day. Although the floods had calmed down by then, things in the Diva world had not calmed down one bit. Annie did not seem to be getting better and was now in a skilled nursing facility. Diva Mattie was recovering from pneumonia.

On November 1st Glinda asked if anyone would be interested in getting together for a day at her house. The flowers had responded to the rains. Fall Aster was past its prime but still blooming in the parkway.

The center front bed of Salvia madrensis and cannas was still beautiful.

Butterflies were cavorting in the Gregg’s mistflower and lantana. Whether or not any garden work was done, we needed to have lunch together and talk to each other in person. 

But the Divas had to be satisfied with photos of a blooming garden. A couple of days before the Divas met the weather changed (again!) and the temperatures dropped below freezing to 25°F before bouncing back into the pleasant zone. All the salvias, all the cannas, all the mistflowers were frozen – no more nectar for the poor butterflies! Apparently the main project would be cutting back frozen plants. 

Glinda and Oz were ready at 11 am with assorted doughnuts from Crown Donuts, Golden Kiwis and coffee. Karla and Sophia came. Mattie arrived with pup Barbie, followed by Mindy and Buffy. Annie could not be with us but the sweet rooster pitcher that she’d given to Glinda symbolized that she should have been with us.

We went outside where one big job would be to cut down the frozen Salvia madrensis, so glorious just a few days earlier.

The Fall Asters in the parkway were no longer wonderful and the cold snap had ended the long bloom of the hummingbird acanthus. Time to chop it all back.

Barbie found a sheltered spot on the grass and proceeded to bask in the pleasant weather

Oz snapped a photo of the Divas of the Dirt around 5pm – not lunch or dinner but a late afternoon repast.

Let’s zoom in and see what they had to eat:
For the main dish we had a chicken pasta salad with peas, red peppers, spinach, garlic, basil and long green fettucini noodles from Lakeline farmer’s market. The sides included tomato wedges, sweet potato crackers, zucchini slices, a green salad, smoked salmon and pub cheese.

We didn’t get a photo of the dessert but Glinda buys peaches every July from the Kiwanis Club’s benefit sale. 

She uses some of the peaches to make pies and then freezes a few, so she pulled a peach pie from her freezer. With December looming on the horizon, Glinda pulled out a variety of homemade cookies that were also in the freezer and offered them to the Divas. She had an ulterior motive - she needed the freezer space for Christmas cookie baking in December.

The front garden looked so much better with the frozen plants cut back. Plants like rosemary, iris and Texas mountain laurel would stay green through the winter adding texture and interest.

It’s unreasonable to expect a wildlife garden to look as neatly groomed as more sterile and conventional landscapes do – that would defeat its purpose since birds and butterflies and lizards and pollinators do not like tidy gardens! But once the Divas made the bed and parkway look respectable and cared for, the garden could blend into the surrounding neighborhood until spring arrived. Thank you, dear friends!
This post- 2018 November Glinda's Garden Day was written by Diva Glinda/AnnieinAustin for the Divas of the Dirt Blogspot website.

Monday, June 10, 2019

2018 JUNE – Karla’s Garden Day

This post, 2018 JUNE – Karla’s Garden Day, was written by Glinda/Annie in Austin for the Divas of the Dirt blog.

A diminished group of Divas of the Dirt turned up for Karla’s 2018 garden day on a very hot Saturday in June. She hoped we could weed and clip a couple of beds in the back. Luckily for us, Karla’s neighborhood had 2.3” of rain a few days before we came – no weeding in rock-hard ground! Unluckily for other people in the neighborhood, that storm also produced straight line winds that brought down trees.

Only Karla and Mindy were there when I came. Buffy soon joined us but she would be in-and-out for part of the day; DivaAnnie was still in intensive care after surgery, Mattie was out-of-state and Sophia’s medical issues were ongoing.
Karla had used some time off work to good effect in her front garden…it was in such pristine condition that all we could do up there was admire it!

The patio bed had a lovely little Anacacho orchid that was still staked and it needed some adjustment. Weeding and composting were needed along with digging/cutting out tree seedlings and saplings. Most of us live in neighborhoods that are 20 to 40 years old, full of trees like oaks, hackberries (the worst!), cedar elms, pecans, Arizona ashes, mulberries, China berries, Chinese hollies, yaupons, ligustrums and more so tiny trees everywhere are an unavoidable result.
Here’s one part of the patio bed after weeding, before clipping, composting and mulching. It’s all foliage in the photo, but there would soon be tubular orange Mexican Honeysuckle blossoms and the light, true-blue blooms of Plumbago, followed in a few months by the lavender daisy-shaped flowers of Fall Aster. Actually, late May-early June is a good time to cut back Fall Aster – doing that can mean even more blooms in late summer.

The Anacacho Orchid stood a little straighter, with Purple Coneflowers at its feet.

Karla’s long fence border had a lot of color, but she had chosen a restrained number of plant species.

The combination of  holly ferns, giant liriope and multi-colored Impatiens in this shadier spot gave it a feeling of peacefulness and order… 

…while the exuberant Echinacea purpurea/ Coneflowers added some excitement nearer the patio where more sun shines. I’ll bet there were butterflies later on, too.

One interesting effect of working in a small group in just one area was that we had long, uninterrupted conversations… we were all worried about Divas Annie and Sophia, shocked at the news that Anthony Bourdain had killed himself in France and fascinated with Mindy’s tale of being on jury duty. Talking as we worked made the steamy day seem shorter.  

Karla had a very cool lunch ready for this very hot day – a favorite chicken pasta salad, a green salad, tabouleh, rolls and butter.

And her dessert of individual strawberry-rhubarb pies (with ice cream) was as pretty to look at as it was delicious to eat.

I left a little early but Karla, Mindy and Buffy kept going – the high for the day was 96.1°F – whew.

Karla sent a gracious email the next day,
“We were small in number, but we were mighty! … I can’t wait to sit out there when it cools a bit this evening and enjoy the beauty.”

This post, 2018 JUNE – Karla’s Garden Day, was written by Glinda/Annie in Austin for the Divas of the Dirt blog.

Monday, May 06, 2019

2018 MAY – DivaAnnie’s Garden Day

This post, 2018 MAY – DivaAnnie’s Garden Day, was written by Glinda/Annie in Austin for the Divas of the Dirt Blog. 

The rotating schedule told us that DivaAnnie’s turn to be hostess would happen in May, the month of her birthday. Annie really wanted to host the meeting but she was having serious health issues. We knew that Annie was having trouble with gardening maintenance and we wanted to do it for her. She was having trouble with other things too, and many of her friends and neighbors helped with what they could. They took her to stores, helped her get supplies for the garden, drove her to buy groceries, took Annie to doctor appointments and her pets to the veterinarian and helped with mowing. 

A few days before the meeting I took a Before Photo of the fence corner in front – hoping there would be a good After Photo. On the day before the meeting some rain fell on the garden, softening the ground and plumping up the plants.
Annie, Buffy, Karla, Mindy, Mattie and Sophia were already there when I arrived, enjoying coffee with muffins and fruit salad. And ooh, what’s this? A beautiful orchid decorated the table of the birthday girl.
After a while we all went outside and got out the tools. In that front Before corner a seven foot tall Barbados cherry had not done well over the winter – the whole top had died off, but new growth was appearing at the bottom. The Salvia guaranitica was running rampant, covering other plants that Annie liked. In the square bed the top of her magnificent Duranta was all dead sticks. We could fix all of that.

We could weed and clip back all the beds and borders, rescue plants that were being smothered and dig out the oh-so-many tree seedlings that had popped up everywhere. We were going to need a lot of yard bags!
The ‘Marilyn’ abutilon was so beautiful one could almost ignore the weeds in the bed.
You’ve seen Annie’s Abutilon ‘Patrick’ in previous posts…let’s take a closer look at her ‘Marilyn’
The day was quite warm, the ants were out and there was a lot to do. Everyone worked together, trying to make a difference in each part of the front yard while trying to keep an eye on Annie, who was working too hard in the hot sun.
Sweet mascot Barbie stayed in the dappled shade and kept us company.
Eventually the shady end of the front sidewalk looked respectable again
The square garden on the far side of the driveway was no longer a tangle of overgrown plants and saplings.
We couldn’t make the St. Augustine lawn look better, but we could get rid of the weeds in the center bed and clip things back so the Phlomis/Jerusalem Sage, columbines, salvias and other plants had some space. Maybe some mulch could discourage new weeds.
Annie called us in to lunch – really good broccoli salad, a fruit salad of strawberries and pineapple chunks, rotisserie chicken salad on croissants with leaves of romaine to add crunch. We had so much to talk about as we ate – well, we always have so much to talk about!
Annie had requested a lemon cake for her birthday. There were no candles on top, but she liked this old-fashioned 1-2-3-4 lemon cake with cream cheese frosting, made even better with a little ice cream plopped on top.
We puttered around a little more outside and added plants to her porch containers. We wanted to stay and keep working in the garden but Annie said what she wanted was for us to go home, and then she wanted to go to bed.

Before we left I snapped a photo of the now-pretty Barbados cherry-Salvia guaranitica bed so there’d be an After picture to go with the Before picture.

I’m writing about this day a whole year after that meeting, and it’s been an odd and difficult post to write. Back then we were worried about Annie’s health and hoped that modern medicine could make her better, but we couldn’t know the future.

We didn’t know that this would be the last time she had a garden day, the last time we would all be together at her house, that this was her last birthday cake in this the last spring of her life.

All that I can do now is tell you about that day and tell you how we liked being together and tell you how much we loved and miss our dear friend.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

2018 APRIL – Mattie’s Garden Day

This post - 2018 APRIL - Mattie’s Garden Day - was written by Annie in Austin for the Divas of the Dirt Blog.

A few days before her scheduled garden day, Mattie emailed a photo of her native unscented Mock Orange (Philadelphus inodorus) in full, glorious bloom.
Mattie had a few wishes for her garden day – some mulching, some pruning, and maybe a little destruction.

By the time I got there Mattie, Annie, Karla, Mindy, Buffy and Sophia had arrived and were still visiting in the kitchen. We went out to check out the back yard. It looked pretty good but neighbors had planned alterations on the other side of the fence and that would have an impact on Mattie’s view. The idea was to make her side of the fence better. 

The winter had been cold enough to knock the Barbados cherries down. They weren’t dead and were beginning to resprout so needed the old dead wood cut out.

The Cast Iron plant (Aspidistra elatior) also needed grooming. Divas Annie and Sophia went to work.
Mattie thought the variegated Pittosporum should be tamed and shaped. Mindy and Karla volunteered. I can’t dig or kneel, but I can still prune, so joined them.
Mattie pointed out a pear tree along the back fence that wasn’t growing much. She hoped we could dig it out and move it. That pear hadn’t been planted in that spot very long so it probably was not very established. Once the soil around it was loosened, merely holding the trunk while rocking it back and forth was enough to pop the tree out. The tree roots still showed the shape of the container it had once occupied.
 Here’s the Destruction part of the day: When Mattie bought her house it came with a rather beat-up Rubbermaid shed. After a few years of Central Texas weather it was even more beat-up! Mattie had no use for it and it blocked the area where she wanted small trees and shrubs as screening plants.
Karla, Mattie and Mindy looked that shed over and decided they could dismantle it and disappear it.

First the doors came off.
Next the roof was gone, then the sides – soon there would be a blank spot along the fence.
The final step - the pear and another shrub were planted next to an itty bitty redbud, the beginning of a living green screen.
The back looked pretty good by 1:20pm – time for all the Divas of the Dirt to go to the front of the house for a little weeding, trimming and mulching. The ‘Cinco de Mayo’ rose, ‘Julia Child’ rose and St Joseph lilies were beautiful, but we can make this curbside bed look better!
Buffy picked up the hedge trimmer and showed the big boxwood who was boss.
Around 3pm lunch was announced – Mattie had a fun, nostalgic menu planned, with favorite foods from her childhood: Waffle potato chips, baked-not-grilled cheese sandwiches, dill pickle slices, sweet gherkins, a big shredded salad with broccoli and tomato soup with butter.
We caught up on individual news, from projected vacations to fender-benders, from a newly adopted dog to doctor visits. At one point the conversation turned to the variety of British TV detective series now streaming on various services – there are so many available that many other people must also like them!
For dessert Mattie had baked Ghirardelli Brownies, making them with blood orange oil… that alone made them fabulous while a scoop of vanilla ice cream took them over the top.
Around 4:30pm the Divas of the Dirt left a mulched and weeded garden for Mattie – oh, those spectacular roses, even in the harsh late afternoon light!
Barbie enjoyed our visit but was not sorry to see us go – all she wanted to do now was to lie on the grass, squinting into the sun and enjoying the warmth.
A few days later Mattie emailed some After photos taken in morning light –
Here are the Aspidistra elatior AKA Cast Iron plants all spruced up.
And here is the variegated Pittosporum with stray branches removed for a better shape.
Finally, this lovely view from Mattie’s kitchen window – a pair of wrens had moved into the birdhouse.

This post - 2018 APRIL - Mattie’s Garden Day - was written by Annie in Austin for the Divas of the Dirt Blog.