Sunday, May 12, 2019

National Wildflower Week 2019

National Wildflower Week (May 5-12) celebrates our native flowering species and I'm thinking about the "wildflowers" in my garden based on a common definition:

"A wildflower is a flower that grows in the wild, meaning it was not intentionally seeded or planted."

With such a narrow definition I wonder if the flowers in my garden qualify as wildflowers.  We'll take a tour while I share my thoughts.

These bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) were intentionally seeded from seeds I collected in an undeveloped area just over my back fence.


We started with a small patch that struggled during our drought years but has been spreading quickly recently.  Some reseed naturally while we help others along to make sure the patch grows where we can enjoy them.



Then they are not wildflowers?  Not so fast, that also would mean bluebonnets at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center are not technically wildflowers.  As the Texas state flower bluebonnets are intentionally seeded along highways and public areas throughout the state so I think bluebonnets always qualify as wildflowers no matter where they are or how they arrived.



Purple Prairie Verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida) and bright yellow-orange Greenthreads (Thelesperma filifolum) arrived as volunteers so they qualify as wildflowers.



Or not?  They started out wherever they chose to grow but then I intentionally seed them where I would like more.



The same with Firewheel or Indian Blanket flowers (Gaillardia pulchella).  Here again I intervene by pulling about half of these out each year to keep them under control.



Are these wildflowers or not?



That original narrow definition would indicate this is not a patch of wildflowers even though they are clearly going wild.


Their parents volunteered the garden years ago but then I intentionally seeded them across the path.



Eventually wildflowers will take over the entire back slope with the exception of shady spots.


Wildflowers are filling in the opposite corner where I scattered seeds over the last few years.  Looks like wildflowers to me.


What would I say is not a wildflower?  I'm undecided on larkspur.  While there are a few native larkspur in North America these are likely not.  So even though they grow among my native wildflowers and  Larkspur is a favorite in my garden they don't qualify.  I sure do enjoy them though.


No question about Horsemint (Monarda citriodora), another volunteer and a bee favorite.  No surprise since one of its common names in Bee Balm. 


Bee Balm goes through color stages starting pale then going to deep purple.


Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana) grows as a wildflower in open areas but these were purchased as landscape plants at a local nursery.  



Texas Gold Columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha ‘Hinckleyana’) is a native wildflower now growing in a garden bed since it was shared by a friend.


Wildflowers by definition or not, I enjoy them all in my landscape.



Just one note.  To have wildflowers you have to be prepared for the browning state.  Those pretty bluebonnets going to seed turn brown (as seen on the lower right) and are not so pretty for a while.  Fortunately, the golds and oranges take over and help out.  If you want flowers next year, there's no getting around the seedy phase which is why most of my wildflowers are in the back yard.

So enjoy the wildflowers and even try a few in your garden since so many have crossed over into landscape favorites.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Wildlife Wednesday May 2019

It's Wildlife Wednesday and time to share my wildlife sightings from the last month or so.  Wildlife Wednesday is hosted by Tina at "My gardener says...." as a meme to share wildlife sightings from the garden on the first Wednesday of each month.

My monthly gif is a Giant Swallowtail enjoying 360 degrees of a Verberna Bonariensis bloom.


From our golf course correspondent we have mating monarchs in full public view!  A couple weeks ago I spotted a monarch caterpillar racing away from the garden after most of the milkweed had been consumed.  Today I saw a fresh monarch butterfly enjoying my garden.  I'd like to think those two events are connected.  San Antonio is a Monarch Champion City and we are proud to host these beautiful butterflies twice a year.


A softshell turtle on the edge of a creek along the golf course.  I don't know enough about turtles to venture a more specific guess as to whether this is a smooth or spiny softshell.  Looks pretty smooth to me.  I quit researching when turtle soup came up over and over.  These guys eat plenty of insects so carry on.


That's the round up of wildlife from my garden (and the golf course where my husband spends much time) over the last month or so.  Hey, I'm happy he enjoys observing wildlife along with his favorite pastime.  To share wildlife from your garden or see what other bloggers have shared be sure to check out the comments section in Tina's blog.  Tina has a fascinating take on "Lizard Brain" for you today.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Wildlife Wednesday April 2019

It's Wildlife Wednesday and time to share my wildlife sightings from the last month or so.  Wildlife Wednesday is hosted by Tina at "My gardener says...." as a meme to share wildlife sightings from the garden on the first Wednesday of each month.

A bright red male Northern Cardinal is a welcome sight any time of year but spring is especially fun to see them.  They are with us most of the year though they are brighter red in winter.  Very affectionate birds, the male often feeds his mate and I enjoy their cheerful and varied mating songs.


A female Black Swallowtail nectaring on Prairie Verbena.  Female identified by the bright blue dots on her hind wings.


Monarchs stopped by on their way north.  We haven't had much sun in March but they took full advantage of what little we had to offer.

Mexican Buckeye flowers.


Resting on a Pomegranate branch.


Several baby Monarch caterpillars munched on the Tropical Milkweed.  Tropical Milkweed has been the subject of controversy but so far it's the most reliable host plant in my garden so I keep it going or add new ones each year.  The caterpillars were quite tiny, not much bigger than the diameter of a phone charger cable.  Their appetites were good though as they had already eaten quite a lot of the leaves.



I purchased this pretty sign from Texas Butterfly Ranch after registering my garden in the 300for300 list of San Antonio Pollinator Habitats.  Monika Maeckle drew on her experience in public relations and marketing to design an attractive sign to let your neighbors know why your landscape looks a bit different than a typical lawn.  That's not a problem in my neighborhood but I still enjoy displaying it in my circle garden.  If you live in the San Antonio area consider including your butterfly garden on the list.

Those are ants in the bottom right corner!

A beautiful Crested Caracara doing a pretty good Hawk imitation.  When it circled back around I saw the white markings on its head.  Caracara most often hunt by walking around or waiting on a branch so this was a treat to see it soaring high in the blue sky.


Blue skies this time of year are nice, but now we need rain again.  We are honored these magnificent birds also known as Mexican Eagles choose to spend time in our neighborhood each year.


The Whitetail deer herd has plenty to eat outside the fence this year.  We have started leaving fresh water out for the deer and other wildlife since there was no rain in March.  New fawns will arrive soon and the herd will grow.  While they do have outlets to migrate and spread out quite a bit along a system of interconnected creeks and parks which run throughout much of north San Antonio there is still quite a bit of pressure on available plants in a neighborhood like ours.


That's the round up of wildlife from my garden over the last month or so.  To share wildlife from your garden or see what other bloggers have shared be sure to check out the comments section in Tina's blog.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Wildlife Wednesday March 2019: The Squirrel's Tale

It's Wildlife Wednesday and for March 2019 we have a garden mystery solved.

My curiosity was piqued when I spotted a number of freshly trimmed green-leaved oak twigs on the ground.  Dropped branches and twigs typically turn brown before the wind or age takes them out.  But not these.


It took several weeks to identify the perp as a Fox squirrel newly moved in among the oaks above our deck.


I had heard her chattering whenever we went outside.


She also fussed at the cat daily.  The cat didn't care.


She has definitely taken over the territory.


Those twigs on the ground were the product of nest building.  She scampered along the limbs to a suitable twig and gnawed around it with her teeth.


After acquiring the twig she ran back along the branch and climbed high into the tree to add it to her nest.  (She's camera shy so I couldn't get a good shot of her with a twig.)  If the twig dropped along the way she just started over leaving the lost twig on the ground below.  From the looks of all the dropped twigs, I think she must have lost half of them.


We had fun observing all this activity.  It's been a while since we've had squirrels in the garden.  Both male and female squirrels build the nest though I'm pretty sure we mostly saw the female.


Apparently squirrels can damage trees by chewing bark although we won't miss a few small twigs.

Last month I showed our squirrel friend going after the bird feeder.


She broke the dome (it was brittle from the sun) and we need a replacement.  In the meantime we decided to try recycling plastic bottles.  She managed to get down the wire but couldn't perch on the feeder with the new topper there.  So she decided to go back up--not so easy.  She caught her head inside the top piece and tried to push it up.  After a short time she dropped to railing below and scampered off.


We haven't seen her at the feeder since!


"You lookin' at me?"


In deer news, the Whitetail bucks will drop their antlers ahead of new fawns arriving this spring.  Would love to find these on the ground.  It's not easy since they often drop antlers in the brush and smaller mammals will haul them off to chew for mineral content.


Wildlife Wednesday is hosted by Tina at "My gardener says..." on the first Wednesday of each month.  You can read more about wildlife in the garden by checking out the comments on her blog or, even better, participate by posting about wildlife in your own garden.



Friday, February 22, 2019

Another day in the garden?

Just us sitting around the kitchen table....


.....with a TV crew and mics on!

Photo by Steve Maedl

We made our garden available to PBS show Central Texas Gardener (CTG) on short notice due to a cancellation.  It was one busy day because a freeze the night before had us running around covering and uncovering plants.  Since the temps were barely above freezing the interview (which is normally conducted outdoors) was obviously moved indoors to the kitchen with my favorite view of trees through the back window.  We put on the coffee and I somehow found time to make a coffee cake (mix) to welcome the crew.  Ed Fuentes, director of Central Texas Gardener (CTG) is Technical Director at Austin City Limits and also does the location camera work for CTG.  Producer Linda Lehmusvirta is across the table doing our interview.

Ed on the porch, Photo by Linda Lehmusvirts

The "Bottle Branch" was inspired by Lori in Austin whose garden I visited in 2017.  (Note: The branch was already dead.)

My view of Ed on the porch.  It was cold out there!



Steve Maedl worked with Ed.  Steve is originally from a cold climate so he looks remarkably comfortable.


With our appearance on Central Texas Gardener airing this weekend I thought it would be fun to give you a bit of background on the tour.

In addition to short notice we had to put many plants under cover and then run around replacing them as the temperature dropped below freezing.  Some plants like begonias and orchids remained indoors so the usually full outdoor shelves were a bit bare.  What you see on the video is pretty much how my garden looked if you had stopped by unexpectedly on that day in early November.

Check out the CTG video here:



Like most gardeners, I kept thinking how much better the garden would have looked had they arrived a few weeks earlier in October.  Through my blog I can take you back in time to my October garden tour post.

In front it all looks pretty much the same year round.


The back garden is a different story with many perennials that die back.  Fortunately our plants behaved for a few hours just long enough to get enough on camera.  The light was terrible with bright cloudless sunlight piercing deep shade.   Linda and crew did a great job.  Still I couldn't help but think how it all looked just a few days earlier.

Linda's photo of the tank garden


That same view just a few weeks earlier!



I've known producer Linda Lehmusvirta for a number of years so I (mostly) stayed out of the way and trusted she would work her magic.  And she did.  We loved the resulting CTG on tour segment!

I'll give a few examples of areas we discussed in the interview.  I like to soften the spikiness and rocks with native perennials, wildflowers and grasses.


Wildflowers and spikiness.  Here I give credit to friend and fellow blogger David Cristiani of "It's a Dry Heat."    If there's one thing I forgot to say in the interview it was that these wildflowers volunteered themselves.  Once we decided to put out the welcome mat, wildflowers started to appear on their own.



I mentioned those evergreen bright blooming Damianita replacing Lantana which dies back and looks terrible in winter.  Here they are in full bloom a few months ago.


Two years ago I pulled out a ton of messy liriope and planted sedges.  That's Berkeley Sedge on the left of the path and locally native Webberville Sedge on the right.  They look very close in texture so it works.  This stuff takes a long time to fill in!


How we built our Texas style shed from scratch is outlined in this post which has become one of my most popular posts.  No surprise there because when we went looking for how to build our own shed we couldn't find much help online.  So there may be a lot of copies out there -- glad we could help!


We talked about our deck renovation and you can find our deck "Before and After" here.  That's native Ironweed and Turk's Cap in the bed along the deck.


To learn more about our vintage D'Hanis brick walkway, check out this post.


If you'd like to know more about our landscape process my  "Zeroscape" post shows how we got started.


We even recruited our neighbor Karen Guz of SAWS to do the studio interview!  She is such a pro.



It was so much fun hosting the CTG crew and absolutely love how the show turned out.  Thank you Linda, Ed and Steve!

Linda's blog post on our garden and the show is at this link.  I'll need to read it again because I was overwhelmed with her beautiful photos and text.