Monday, November 11, 2019

Veteran's Day 2019

Typically the sight of a police helicopter will send me scurrying indoors.

This time I stayed outside to watch police helicopters flying in formation above the funeral procession of firefighter Greg Garza who died in an accident while answering a fire call.

A large church just north of us opens its doors for first responder's funerals.  There have been quite a few of these funerals in recent years.

Greg Garza, like so many of our first responders, served in the Marines before becoming a firefighter.

Just outside my neighborhood fire trucks raised a giant flag on an overpass to salute the procession.

Here's to all the Veterans who served and continue to serve their communities!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Butterfly Gardens for Wildlife Wednesday November 2019

It's Wildlife Wednesday and I'm bending the rules just a bit to go outside my own garden and bring you along on my garden club visit to The Butterfly Learning Center at Hardberger Park in north San Antonio.  Wildlife Wednesday is hosted by Tina at "My Gardener Says..."

Designed by Drake White of The Nectar Bar for San Antonio's Hardberger Park it's designed to highlight "mostly" native plants that support butterflies.  Drake shared her extensive knowledge of how to support butterflies in our gardens.  One of the most important things I learned was that a caterpillar inching along on the ground knows where it is going and it's best not help them out.

It's a teaching garden designed for hosting butterflies.  Red flags indicate dormant plants and remind volunteers not to dig in those spots.

So where's the wildlife?  Drake holds up a Monarch caterpillar.  Monarchs generally make their fall migration without breeding but a few do stop and breed in our area.   Love her shirt!

Close up.

Butterflies need both nectar and host plants.  Plants in the garden are labeled with names of the plants and butterflies they host or provide nectar for.  I need this false mint in my garden!  Pretty purple blooms in the fall and nice, upright foliage.

A butterfly shaped garden but where are the plants?

No plants because it's a puddle garden.  "Puddling" is just what it sounds like and provides butterflies with moisture and minerals they need.

Drake checks seeds on a Swallowtail pipevine.  It's a difficult plant to spot because it disguises itself as grass.  I couldn't even find a definitive botanical name on this one though it grows naturally in Central Texas and I have seen it in my yard from time to time.  She has placed a net bag over the flower to collect seeds.  The seeds take two years to germinate.

We were mesmerized by the massive Passiflora vine taking over the fences.  It's Passiflora incarnata x cincinnata which is not native to San Antonio though it grows beautifully here.  Good to know because when the caterpillars are out they can decimate a pretty good supply of vines.

A beautiful host for several butterflies.

The Butterfly Learning Center is open by appointment only.  Contact The Nectar Bar for more information.

There are two additional butterfly gardens at Hardberger Park you can visit any time the park is open.  One is in front of the main park building off Blanco Road and the other is near the Urban Ecology Center which is where we are headed next.

Beautifully designed and maintained by Alamo Area Master Naturalists.

Maximilian Sunflowers are good for butterflies, bees, and birds.  The fence keeps out deer but not people since the gate is unlocked when the park is open.

I was captivated by all the Texas Broomweed (Amphiachyris amoena) in the garden.  It's so light and airy and covered with tiny yellow blooms.  I found a place to collect seeds in a field near my house.  Most of the information out there focuses on how farmers and ranchers can get rid of it so I might think twice before planting.  It provides good winter cover for birds among other benefits.

While there were plenty of bees and butterflies in the gardens we visited I found it a challenge to photograph them with a group.  That means we've only had one wildlife photo of a caterpillar so far. To finish up I'll borrow a Monarch butterfly photo from a visit to my friend Melody's garden the next day.

There, that's so much better than posting one photo of an anole on a screen which is all I found in my October photos.  Maybe I'll save that beauty for another time.

Be sure to check out Tina's blog for more Wildlife Wednesday

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Happy Halloween from San Antonio Botanical Garden

The San Antonio Botanical Garden is all decked out for fall festivities and Halloween!

We recently enjoyed the gardens during an evening event sponsored by San Antonio Water System to thank Partners in Conservation who help with public outreach and education on water conservation issues. 

 A giant spider and web are so appropriate for the season.  

Another giant spider in the nearby culinary gardens part of "David Rogers' Big Bugs" on display until December 8th.

"Wow Garden" at the entrance is in full bloom.  A recent 20+million renovation created a functional and beautiful new entrance area to better meets the needs of visitors.  The old entrance was small and confusing with no place for groups to assemble.

"Wow" is right, the garden is stunning and features plants in bloom despite the summer's heat and drought.  I love how this sculpture picks up lines of the glass conservatory in the background.

Fluffy "Scott's Turf'" sedge softens stone edges.

Fun spot for nesting pumpkins.

I could see this being used for several seasons.  Ornaments and Easter eggs come to mind.

Recycled curbing from the old parking lot. 

More pretty views near new office/classroom buildings.

We were treated to a cooking demonstration of Wilted Kale salad with citrus vinaigrette in the outdoor kitchen.

Family photo opportunity!

The new Adventure Garden for children.

Following the new trail gently up to the highest point in the city.  Much improved from the old steeply graded walkway.


Walking to the top we encountered the beginning of Scarecrow Trail, an annual event featuring the work of community groups like the Epilepsy Foundation.

The trail goes on through the gardens but we were here to enjoy the sunset from the high point of the city.

Even provided Halloween colors.


Enjoy your Halloween!


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Wildlife Wednesday October 2019

Hummingbirds were the stars of our October garden keeping me busy refilling the feeder.  They also keep us entertained with their fights so they are first up for Wildlife Wednesday.  Hummingbirds are sweet, delicate little birds but there's always one bully that won't let the others feed.

Their fights look almost like dancing.

Best seen on video, these two chased and fought for hours one day.

A hummingbird in the screen room kept trying to get out through the screen and would have none my efforts to gently coax it toward the door.  Then I had the idea to put the feeder on a chair near the door and go inside the house.  That must have done the trick because the bird was gone when I returned about twenty minutes later.

A Stapelia flower briefly brought out the flies.

Gulf Fritillary butterfly on a Pride of Barbados flower. 

Sulphur butterfly on Zexmenia.  Not enough info to decide which one.

An adorably curious Black-crested Titmouse looking at us through the kitchen window while sitting in the fig tree.  Its limited range fortunately includes South Central Texas. 

Deer antlers are rarely symmetrical.  Sometimes each side is fairly close to even.

An then there's this lopsided guy.

Just a few bumps instead of points. 

And a little velvet left to rub off.

Not in my back garden where they are fenced out.  We do get some damage in the front but no practical way to fence that off.

Bucks tend to stay in the brush where their antlers are not as prominent.  How they know this is anyone's guess.

 That's the wildlife I captured in my yard for the last few weeks.

Visit "My Gardener Says..." for more wildlife posts hosted by Tina and an amusingly inside look at a Woodpecker family.