Friday, November 25, 2016

A few fun things for Friday

Happy Day After Thanksgiving!  Or should I say happy Turkey Noodle Soup Day, which is our favorite way to use leftovers.  We didn't go shopping and plan on sticking close to home all weekend.

There are still flowers in the garden.

Figs and Pomegranates to enjoy.

There are Christmas decorations to get started on and walks to take.  The view outside my window has been a parade of neighbors and families enjoying this beautiful day.  I plan to join them soon.   I hope you are also having a good time.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Tree Down

A tree went down in our little forest and we actually heard it fall.  A quick snap followed by a brushing noise just as I walked by on the sidewalk.

Why did this happen?  The tree seemed fine right up until that moment and it's been a good year for trees with plenty of rain.

First thing first.  As it toppled the top branches snagged on Red Tip Photinia and the heavy tree trunk was hovering over the path to the gate so we needed to cut it down safely.

A little investigation of the remaining stump revealed that one side has rotted.  On closer inspection there was charring at the break and a few more charred spots along the trunk.  Lightning.  Even though the live oak tree was very close to the house and it was not even the tallest tree among others nearby.  Live oaks often grow sideways looking for light creating bends and crooks in their trunks.  Lightning damage was most severe at the bend in the tree about six feet above ground, and that's where it broke off, apparently many months after the event.

A few more chainsaw cuts...which reveal the tree died on one side but not the other.

And it's off to the woodpile.

I'll miss it.  In this before photo it's the tree to the left of the bench is now missing.

The area looks more open and more light gets through the office window.  I'm not sure I like that.  At this point it feels more like something is missing.  Such a different view now.

Are you wondering what happened to the bench?  A few days before the tree fell we moved it to protect newly planted sedge from deer, not as a place to sit.  Deer love making tracks through soft new soil and uprooting new plants so this is just one of our tricks to protect plants.

Just another day in the's always something.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Wildlife Wednesday November 2016: A month of butterflies

Our butterfly season is in full swing.  At the beginning of October I posted a recommended list of native butterfly nectar plants from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center which I also grow in my garden.  As it turns out the butterflies voted with their wings and declared the Crucita or Blue Mistflower (Chromolaena odorata) the undisputed champion of native butterfly plants.  In fact, of all the plants on the vaunted list, only my Gregg's Mistflower attracted a significant number of butterflies.  Meanwhile, our Central Texas gardening community on Facebook has been brimming with stunning butterfly videos that are the envy of our friends in other parts of the country.  Some of you have already seen most of these photos and videos on my Facebook page, but I'm posting again for Wildlife Wednesday to share with readers who might not have seen them.  Wildlife Wednesday is hosted on the first Wednesday of each month by Tina at "My Gardener says...".  Tina features Blue Mistflower and many of the same butterflies this month too but I don't think she'll mind.  We live in the same region, about 70 miles apart so it's to be expected from time to time.

Of course I have them in motion.  A Fall bloomer just in time for butterfly season, it's been hopping like this for 10 days and still going even as the flowers fade.

Like Gregg's Mistflower on steroids, Chromolaena odorata is at least 11' tall, six feet wide and covered head-to-toe with butterflies.

Blue Mistflower is just so amazing as a butterfly nectar plant, especially attractive to Monarchs and Queens.  I counted 10 or more Monarch butterflies at a time on this one plant and I have two in the garden.

Let's take a closer look at some of my other butterfly visitors in October.

Bordered Patch

Common mestra was a new one for me this year.   Usually found farther south along the border, it seems they made their way as far north as Austin according to my blogger friends.

Unmistakable Gulf Fritillary so bright in the sunlight I can see it from the house 40 feet away.

 Locally prolific Queens moved over from Gregg's mistflower for a few days too.

Giant Swallowtail is a favorite of mine.


Mating Queen Butterflies on the Blue Mistflower

Meanwhile, Black Swallowtails prefer Gomphrena 'Fireworks'.

Be sure to check out "My Gardener Says..." for more Wildlife Wednesday.