Monday, June 19, 2017

Research and the Vintage BOT at UT Greenhouses

Back in early May I joined a group from Gardening Volunteers of South Texas on a field trip to the research greenhouses at The University of Texas at Austin.  My previous post focused on the extensive cactus collection and in this post we'll tour more standing collections and see some of the research in progress at UT.   The tour was conducted by GVST scholarship recipient Garrett Flores.  Each year GVST awards scholarships to a horticultural student at UT and Texas A&M University.

Garrett discusses Ghost Pepper heat which is one of the hottest peppers at 800,000 to 1,000,000 in Scoville heat units.  For reference the Jalapeno pepper comes in around 3,500 on the Scoville scale.  Garrett has tried the Ghost Pepper and says it is extremely hot.  We took his word for it.

These little guys pack a punch.

Blooming begonia among the tropical plants in the greenhouse.

Garrett has been propagating Bromeliads.

He also  propagated plants as gifts for our group and we were invited to take a plant or two home with us.  I chose a white blooming vine of which I forgot the name but I'm sure I'll figure it out when it blooms.

We all enjoyed learning more about the plants and research at UT.

Turn a bunch of serious gardeners loose among beautiful plants and this is what you'll see.  GVST member Pat DeWinne pointing out a blooming orchid.

On to some of the research taking place in the greenhouses.  Cotton is an important crop in Texas and research to improve production is ongoing.  These plants yield 10x more Cotton than current commercial crops.  Cotton is in the mallow family and produces beautiful flowers like the pink and cream bloom shown below near the pot.

We grow a lot of rice in Texas, much of which is exported.  With less land in production, research for higher yields is important to our economy.

Grasses grown for a biofuel study.

After finishing our tour of the research greenhouses we headed past the famous Turtle Pond to the BOT Greenhouse.

This elegant building was constructed from a Lord and Burnham Conservatory kit in 1929 and in the 1950s a couple of additional Lord and Burnham kits were added.

We enjoyed spending time in this space chock full of tropical plants which comprise the standing collection

We were mesmerized by all the beautifully maintained specimen plants.

Orchids in bloom.

Blooming Coconut Orchid which really does smell like coconut.  The orange cells are part of a cooling system, similar to a swamp cooler which was common before air conditioning.  Air drawn through the wet cells cools it for distribution through the greenhouse.  If you've been in an uncooled greenhouse in a Texas summer you know the need for some type of cooling system.

Pitcher plant

It was fun to see this Ramie plant.  I had received one from my friend Melody and we had quite a challenge figuring out what it was.

Ferns and more Ferns.


Another blooming Desert Rose

A Mangrove tree!

Gorgeous Hoya bloom.  I had so many helpers on this trip.  Thank you Karen!

That's the end of our tour.

Much needed new greenhouses are under construction.  At nearly a century old, the BOT has served well but it is hard to maintain so all these collections will eventually move to the new facility.

Currently the greenhouses are open by appointment for educational tours.

If you'd like to join future GVST field trips, check out the Gardening Volunteers of South Texas (GVST) website and sign up for email notifications.  GVST holds gardening classes on the third Monday of each month from noon to 3pm.  The classes are free and open to the public, we do request a $5 donation to help with expenses.  No dues, no required hours or attendance--just a interest in learning about gardening.  For more information see the link.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Wildlife Wednesday June 2017

With a series of rainy days on the horizon during May I spent a lot of gardening time dividing and transplanting perennials plus adding plants to fill in holes left by too much rain and winter freezes.  With less time behind the camera I still found fun visitors to feature on Wildlife Wednesday which is hosted by Tina at "My Gardener Says..." on the first Wednesday of each month.

I've always enjoyed and featured on Wildlife Wednesday an abundance of butterflies in the spring garden so one of the big surprises this year was the small number of butterfly visitors.  Whether it was the rain or the plants were slow to bloom I can't be sure so I'll wait for the fall migration to bring them back this way.

Hummingbirds have kept me entertained in the interim.  Interesting to note the variety of plants they like.  

Salvia darcyi or Mexican Salvia with its long-lasting bright red tubular blooms is quite popular.

Aniscanthus wrightii or Flame Acanthus is a well-known Hummingbird favorite.  As a native plant it is easy to grow but you'll need plenty of space or be prepared to remove seedlings and give it a major cutback twice a year.

Melochia tomentosa or Pyramid Bush is another irresistible draw for hummingbirds in the garden.  This local native plant loves hot, dry, rocky slopes so it's ridiculously easy for a plant that sports such striking blooms.

GIF for June, frenetic hummer!

Though I have cut way back on feeding birds, they still find plenty of seeds from spring wildflowers or like this female Tufted Titmouse awaiting ripening grapes from the vines climbing the fence.

I was delighted to find Lesser Goldfinches having a field day in the Zexmenia (Wedelia acapulcensis).  You can just see three of them since the plant is at the far back corner of the garden and getting closer would have meant chasing them away.

Good to see the birds have found plenty to eat in the garden without supplemental food.

From time to time Neal joins in with a contribution from the golf course where he spends quite a bit of time.  His idea of wildlife in the "garden" is this hawk taking water from rain runoff on a fairway.  Probably a Broad Winged hawk which is known to frequent our area.

Only 15 feet away....must really want that water!

Amazing how close he could get to this beautiful bird!

Bucks have been kicked out of the herd during fawn season and band together in "bachelor herds" until mating season comes around again.

Deer herds migrate up and down the neighborhood along the creek  During May a small bachelor herd foraged plants filled out by plenty of rain.

This guy has a flea problem.

Got it!


A couple more bachelors in the herd that visited during May.

Fenced out of the garden for three years now.  It works for me, not so much for the deer.

That's it for Wildlife Wednesday photos from May.  Be sure to check out other blogger's contributions along with Tina's impressive collection of garden birds this month at her Wildlife Wednesday post.