The Daily Muse

A Garden Journal -- July 2005

Last Update: July 31

Part of the July 10 homage to blue pots.


Basho grooming his brother, Issa.  All of our cats enjoy the window hammock pictured here. We have a bird feeder strategically placed just outside for their amusement. Basho and Issa are Tonkinese - an amazing cat breed.

July 1 - afternoon

Another blistering hot day, our car thermometer read 102 degrees Fahrenheit ( 38.9 Celsius) just a short while ago. I have taken the day off from work and spent the morning in the garden weeding, watering, and fertilizing. Its not too bad if you quit before 1 p.m....  All of the signs are pointing to a particularly brutal  summer  here in Texas - there is no rain in the forecast and it looks like we will be topping the 100 degree mark nearly every day in the coming week. So far, the heat has not really affected my enthusiasm for the garden. I seem determined to persevere in the face of the everything.. at least we haven't had a plague of locusts (yet.)

I have been in cat-portraiture mode the past few days. Here are some new pics of our tribe...


Maya, one of our Bengals, wondering what the heck I'm up to.


A little later, deep in a cat-nap.


Xoxo - he may be our happiest cat, he was a street cat when we adopted him five years ago.

July 3 - afternoon

Echinacea and Rudbeckia with a back drop of chartreuse sweet potato vine.

Well, I sound like a broken record... but the heat is simply brutal. I exhausted myself cleaning up a rampant bed of mint and have now retreated back into the air conditioning. At least we are putting the mint to good use - Victor fixed some mojitos and I am feeling pretty tropical as I write this! I actually have been enjoying these hot afternoons... after I finish my work, I rest in the shade of our back porch and watch the birds - sometimes nodding off while listening to the constant echo of the cicadas. We have a ceiling fan on the porch and it provides just enough air movement to keep you comfortable, well, as comfortable as you can be when it is 94 degrees in the shade.

This is our fifth summer here and the fourth with the garden planted. After all of the work, I have come to the somewhat startling realization that we are only beginning our journey with this garden. Our garden is still one of broad brush strokes - the trees and shrubs are almost all planted, but the under-plantings of perennials and groundcovers are still pretty sketchy. And, with our trees growing rapidly, we will have significant transitions to make very soon. For example, the area pictured above, with its thick planting of coneflowers, will be converted to a full shade bed of ferns and cycads within a few years. The metaphor of the garden as a journey is certainly ringing true for me.

Here are a few pictures of our Cappuccinno hybrid sunflowers taken this morning...

I love the color of these sunflowers!


There is a little bit of variety from plant to plant.


I can see where the 'cappuccino' name came from.


Those aren't rain drops, sad to say. I had just watered.

July 6 - evening

The weather radar is showing a few stray showers popping up around the region, so there is hope - still, we hit 100 degrees once again and it has been over a month since it has rained on our garden. You know its getting bad when the agaves need water, but I had to dole out emergency rations to them last night. Today was the last day of a mini-vacation for me- I spent most of the past week working in the garden and feel rather proud of all that I have accomplished. Despite the heat, I managed to put in a good thirty or forty hours of work and the garden is nearly weed-free, trimmed, green, and blooming. Granted that is not most people's idea of a vacation, but I take perverse pleasure in standing up to the worst that Texas can dish out. Not bad for a former Yankee whose internal calendar still counts the days to autumn every year. 

I often call gardening my spiritual practice, but there are times when observers think I confuse "practice" with "obsession." Granted, if they had spent the past week with me, it would be hard to deny the charge. However, it wouldn't count as a spiritual practice if all I did was work in it- I actually do take some time every day to simply be there... to wander the paths and keep the birds company.  As I write this I can hear the lesser goldfinches calling to one another with their odd minor chord notes. I wonder how their calls would translate to our less charming tongues... a friend of mine recently told me that some renowned Buddhist teacher was asked to sum up his faith in one sentence and he replied, "This is it." The goldfinches may simply be letting their mates know, "I'm over here." But what I hear is, "This is it." Their voices, the way the light falls through the cypress branches, the scent of our Jude the Obscure English rose, are all heavenly reminders that this is it indeed. My practice is to be there when it happens  - and, to pay attention when it does.

(I hope that you will check out my video meditation on "Paying Attention" on KLRU-TV's website!)

This morning, after finishing my work in the garden, I went to Barton Springs, Austin's eternal source of renewal and refreshment and the place many people consider to be the soul of the city. It had been a couple of years since I had gone to the pool and once there, I wondered why I don't go every day (like I did one lazy summer nearly thirty years ago!) Barton Springs is a spring fed, three acre swimming hole in the very heart of the city. Its long banks are lined with ancient cottonwoods, pecans, and shaded grassy slopes which make the perfect hide-out from the Texas sun. The best part is the bracingly cold water of the springs, which are 68 degrees fahrenheit all year long (20 degrees celcius.) After the shock wears off you are left with this lingering delicious feeling that stays with you for the rest of the day. What a gift! There is a small community of swimmers who gather there every day to swim laps and enjoy one another's company - that is a spiritual practice of a sort too. Maybe someday I will join them.

(Addendum: I just learned it hit 104 degrees today! Ouch! That's 40 celcius.)

July 8 - morning

I just received an e-mail that said very simply, "Rain! Yippee!" My sentiments exactly. Yesterday evening, a line of thunder showers moved through the city leaving us with about a half-inch of rain. I watched from our back porch cheering it on and feeling so relieved (especially since it happened after another 100+ degree day.) As I sat on the back porch I was joined by a couple of frogs who ventured out of their hiding places- and when I looked out into the garden I was amused to see frogs emerge from nearly every niche and corner. There was a veritable frog parade as  they hopped along the pathways... a sight I hope will be repeated soon.

Here are a couple more portraits from our tribe. These are of Rufous, brother of Fez, our sweet scaredy cat...

Rufous Rex.


Rufous in repose.

July 10 - evening

Unused blue pots on our back deck.

Another great gardening day... lots of work, intense heat, great satisfaction. I was goofing with my camera and came up with the following homage to blue glazed pots...




A Japanese Maple beside our deck in a...


Rudbeckia 'Goldstrum' coming into its summer glory.

July 16 - morning

Fez, brother of Rufous, feeling a little rambunctious.

We have had several strong downpours, leaving us with over an inch of rain for the week. This morning, our weather radar shows another line of thunder showers approaching - so it looks as if our dry spell has been officially broken, thank goodness. The garden feels positively voluptuous, especially our cypress trees, which are literally exploding with growth. I can't believe it when I look at images of the garden from as little as two years ago -  it is amazing how much everything has grown. I will take a few wide pictures later to illustrate this. In the meantime here are a few more portraits of the tribe...


It was Fez's time to wonder what I was up to...


This is Issa in hunter mode. He was spying on some white wing doves outside the window.

July 17 - afternoon

Looking through the entry of our hidden zen garden towards the allee. That is Rudbeckia 'Goldstrum' blooming in the foreground and chartreuse 'Margarita' sweet potato vine under the cypress tress . The trunks of the cypress are really beginning to form the kind of great columns I was looking for in this space. The tallest cypress are now over 25 feet tall (7.6 meters.)


My folks are in town for my birthday and, in this shot, my  Dad has his hands full supervising their dog, Daisy, as she visits the area near our pond.


When I said the garden was looking "voluptuous" after the rains, I meant it. This is almost a reverse of the shot of the allee above.

July 18 - morning

A garden visitor, for Mary Oliver.

Yesterday, a gentle rain fell throughout much of the day reminding me of last summer which was so wet (and relatively cool.) I spent an enjoyable day with my family and between rain showers took a few new photographs...

The allee, to the left is a newly planted Sabal palm. It was sold as a Sabal texensis, but I believe it is more likely to be a Sabal texana aka Sabal mexicana.


Echinacea close-up. I actually took this because of the green backdrop.


The allee showing the vertical height of the tallest of the six trees.


Echinaceas and green, again.

July 18 - afternoon

Two more pics...

A Gulf Fritillary butterfly visiting our Tithonia.


The same butterfly on a different flower.

July 22 -evening

The stream at Hamilton Pool with its natural allee of bald cypress.

I spent a rather intense day with a crew from KLRU shooting more visuals for my Soul of the Garden videotape features. One of our locations was Hamilton Pool. We had done some shooting there earlier in the year, but I wanted to return to get more footage of the stream that runs through the canyon. I hope you will enjoy the finished product... and these new photos.


The stream.


Cypress roots and ferns.

July 29 - morning

An 'Aussie Plume' Curcuma or ginger in our garden.


I attended the last of the Seton Cove's Summer Spirituality Series at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center this past week. While I was there I spent a few minutes photographing the grounds. Everything was looking very lush courtesy of our recent rains. Here are a few of the images...


Damianita in bloom. I used a lot of this in my last garden it is an exceptional plant for our region.


Eryngo. What a beautiful color!


A native sunflower with muhly grass.


An urn with Salvia greggi 'Teresa.'


Native grasses.

July 31 - evening

Issa and Basho snoozing by the window.

We have had a very pleasant Sunday with a little gardening mixed with a quiet in-door routine. The weather today was hot and much drier than we have been experiencing, indicating that we might be heading back to a more normal summer pattern. However, the garden is stil responding to the generous rains of the past three weeks with many plants blooming and nearly everything growing by leaps and bounds. Here are a few new pics...

Issa seems to have achieved cat nirvana.


Our other pair of brothers, Fez and Rufous.


A 'California Sister' butterfly that I chased around the garden this morning. It is a bit larger than a Gulf Fritillary. I am not sure that I have ever seen one of these "gals" before.


Our tuberose are in full bloom (and fragrance!)


The house seen from our coneflower bed.


A small cactus blooming.


A 'Colorado' water lily and some of our goldfish.


Crinum asiaticum in bloom with 'Goldstrum' Rudbeckia.


A bit wider showing some maiden grass, a Nellie Stevens holly, and daylily foliage.

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