Saturday, October 20, 2007

Looking again

I've been less than enthused about my garden for the past several months for various reasons, some too tedious to go into and some obvious, like the heat that's continued — as I know it will every year and yet still begrudge — into October.

Much of the garden just looks tired, not unusual for this time of year, and the rest looks unkempt or worse. Then there are those parts I'm just tired of: plants that failed in some way to earn their keep or outgrew their spaces, plants I've failed to take care of and whose unattractive state only reminds me of work undone. I had gotten to a point where all I noticed were the problems (that and the spider webs).

Then an offhand comment made me look at the garden with fresh eyes.

A friend was visiting and walked out into the upstairs garden. She looked around for a minute and, just as I was about to open my mouth to make excuses for the sorry state of things, she said, "Oh, your garden looks so lovely." I resisted the automatic denial that is always so easy for me and, after she left, came out and looked around again. I still saw the problems but I also saw things I liked.

This area by the upstairs porch is, despite the problems I also see (but about which I'll keep my mouth shut for now), the bit that caught my eye that day. Not a lot blooming (you can't see the sparks of blue from the sporadically blooming salvia guaranitica in the picture) but I like the forms of the succulents contrasting with each other and with the leafier plants behind. And the fading blooms of the salvia leucantha in the background are still worth looking at, even as the plant sprawls every which way.

And a couple of days later I stopped to look at the far back bed, which from a distance is a tangle of overgrown and underwatered plants. Up close though I saw a combination of colors and textures that I hadn't noticed from a distance: the yellow tubular shapes of the tecoma stans and the smaller orange trumpets of hamelia patens, intertwined with the vivid aubergine straps of purple heart.

When I went to download these images I noticed this picture of pavonia flowers (and that sweetly pillowed bud, or is that a flower just closing up for the day?) that I took a month or so ago but never found a reason to post. The pavonia has stopped blooming for this year but maybe I'll remember to look more closely when it starts blooming again next spring.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Too much of a good thing?

I checked the weather forecast in the newspaper this morning and was deeply bummed to find that the cold front — highs in the 70s, lows in the 50s — that I'd heard forecast for the weekend seems to have stalled somewhere north of us. I often find myself studying the weather maps at this time of year, looking for those curved lines that mark a front headed our way. After nearly 50 years in Texas and 25 years in Austin, you'd think I'd know not to get my hopes up this early but . . .

I know. I know. It wasn't really a hot summer by our usual standards. Not one day over 100 at the official temperataure recording station. And all that rain. More than double our annual total by June. What's not to like?

A Texas gardener would probably be run out of the state for suggesting that all that rain might have been too much of a good thing. I keep reminding myself of recharged aquifers and low water bills. But then I drive through my neighborhood, with its enormous pecan trees in every block, and I wonder if the rain didn't have something to do with the infestation of web worms that has sheathed branches of almost every pecan. I keep trying to convince myself that the white webs — which seem to be continuing to multiply and spread — are seasonally appropriate: nature's Halloween decorations. But I find them creepy, repellent even. Will they disappear when the leaves fall? I hope so.

And then there are the spiders. For several months I watched a spider — my daughter says it was a garden spider — build its intricately zig-zagged web in a corner of the carport. Pretty cool until it forsook the web and took to hanging out on the gate between the carport and the yard. Not quite so cool (it had gotten really big). And at first I thought the little crab spiders that started popping up here and there were cute. Such fun colors. A bright yellow spider. I'd never seen that before.

But enough is enough. Now, a stroll into the garden is an obstacle course of webs. At first I tried not to disturb them, carefully ducking under or stretching a section so I could get around. But now I'm just fed up. There is a web between every upright stem and post in the back yard. I knock one down, come back an hour later and find two more in its place.

I blame the rain.