Sunday, December 21, 2008

We Finally Got That Pony for Christmas

Matt & I bought our main Christmas present this year, a riding lawn mower. To my intense amusement, we ended up with a model named "Pony." Since we only have half an acre, we chose a model that's on the small side. Which makes it (...wait for it...) Our Little Pony (TM).

For some time now, we've been getting by using an old push mower that came from goodness knows where. Half the time, it's out of order. And even when running, it takes half a day to mow the entire yard. And if we let the grass get too thick, the mower actually dies on us as it wrestles with the grass. So this will be a huge improvement.

It's a zippy little thing, as Matt demonstrates in this dramatic reenactment.

You put it into gear and the rocket thrusters kick on.

So that's our second major purchase of the year. (1) the sofa and (2) the lawn mower. Exciting stuff. A few years ago, we wouldn't have been able to afford either. It's nice not being completely impoverished.

In other nice(ish) things, our garden is trying valiantly to stay in bloom. 'Ducher,' '4th of July,' 'Souvenir de la Malmaison,' 'Green Ice,' 'Burgundy Iceberg,' 'New Dawn,' 'Comtesse du Cayla,' and our camellia, 'Yuletide,' are all (sort of) in bloom. I'm not sure why, really; we haven't had any rain. But perhaps they're celebrating the end of the miserable heat of summer.

Sadly, the weather gods have not favored them with the kind of benevolent conditions that their efforts deserve.

We've already had one or two hard freezes, and we're in the middle of a third. The poor plants get a flower half open, it gets nipped by the frost, and what's left is this balled-up, asymmetrical, brown wilty thing.

Our 'Yuletide' camellia. Look, it's doing the best it can.

I'm particularly impressed with 'Yuletide's efforts. This is a camellia that supposedly grows well in Austin and blooms around Christmas. You can see what a sad twig ours is. It can't handle the ongoing drought at all. Nevertheless, it is gamely attempting to live up to its name by giving us several big, vibrant pink flowers the week before Christmas.

The interesting colors of cold-stressed 'Burgundy Iceberg'

'Burgundy Iceberg,' the infelicitously named Floribunda, seems to have almost profited from the freezes. Its half-spent flowers have turned this really interesting crushed-raspberry shade, and if you look very closely, you can see tiny darker purple/pink streaks.

Ever-blooming, ever adorable 'Green Ice'

And, that outstanding trooper 'Green Ice' is still blooming like mad. Freezes manifest on this one as splashes of pink at the tops of the petals. I feel, by the bye, that GI is an under-appreciated wonder. I love the old-fashioned shape of the flowers and the sparky green eye, but its most valuable quality is that it blooms all the time. It outperforms 'Cramoisi Superieur,' 'Duchesse de Brabant,' and even the odious but prolific 'Knockout.' While those other roses will have a scattering of blossoms during the really tough seasons, like August and January, GI has great big heads full of flowers. It isn't just that it blooms all the time; it's so enthusiastic about blooming. Yet no one ever raves about this rose. I just don't understand it. It came out in the 70s, so perhaps it's too modern to be noticed by the antique rose crowd and too old to be cherished by modern rose lovers. But there it was, getting western exposure in one of central Texas's dryest and hottest summers, seemingly having a perfectly fine time. And here it is now, facing down multiple freezes in the 20s with cheerful aplomb.

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