Monday, May 29, 2017

On the door for Memorial Day

Blue Salvia, White Zinnia, Red Penta are all great plants for a South Texas summer.  They grow quickly so I might need replacements by Fourth of July.  We have rainy day and a rainy week ahead so I'll enjoy a day in the garden to finish up with transplanting and adding new plants before the hot, dry summer sets in.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Cacti (oh my!) and more at the UT Greenhouses

Last week I joined a group from Gardening Volunteers of South Texas (GVST) in touring the research greenhouses at The University of Texas at Austin.  GVST gives scholarships annually to a horticulture student at UT and Texas A&M.  When our UT scholarship recipient for this past school year invited us to tour the research greenhouses we headed up the road to Austin.  It was worth the trip and then some.  I managed to edit my photos down to way too many so I'll break this tour into two posts.

First let's meet Garrett Flores who is in the class of 2017 and already has a job in his field back home in San Antonio.  He'll be researching horticultural uses for recycling coffee grounds by the ton for a local company.  Congratulations Garrett!

Photo by Karen Stamm, GVST
The greenhouses sit atop The Welch Chemistry building on the main campus.  We started off with the research rooms, but for this first post I'll stick to the most popular room--the cacti collection.

The carefully maintained collection has been here for decades and is so extensive they still trade plants with public gardens like the Huntington Botanical Gardens in California.

Serious spikiness on the lower right.

Cacti skyline, campus skyline.

Garrett describing the habits of the Welwitschia plant to GVST President Laura Rogers.   A tall pot accommodates long flop-eared leaves.

It's blooming!

A surprising number of plants were in bloom during our visit.

It's a very crowded space so occasional help is needed to keep the plants upright and the aisles clear.

Tiny barrel cacti from seed show research work in progress.

There must be an agave in here...there it is!  I only saw one-- Agave Victoria reginae.

The aftermath of propagation also apparent.

Haworthia truncata which grows mostly underground in its native Africa to conserve energy and water.  The tops of the leaves are translucent like little greenhouse windows to allow light in for photosynthesis.

A few overviews for perspective.

An aloe headed for daylight.

It would take days to take it all in!

New greenhouses have been built on campus so both the standing collections like this one and the research projects will be moving soon.  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.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

National Wildflower Week on the road

It's National Wildflower Week and I'm celebrating with photos from a recent field trip with friends to Medina Garden Nursery along Hwy. 16 out in the Texas Hill Country.  Near Pipe Creek we pulled over to take a look at roadside flowers.  Those famous Texas Bluebonnets had given way to the warmer colors of late spring wildflowers.  There's still plenty to see if we take a closer look.

This year I'm paying closer attention to the mix of different types of plants in the wild.  Structural plants like Twist-leaf Yucca (Yucca rupicola) mix with taller native grasses while low growers like Four-nerve Daisy (Tetraneurus scaposa) and Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucantha) fill in the gaps.

White floral spikes of Lizard's Tail White Milkwort (Polygala alba) with Antelope Horn Milkweed (Asclepias asperula) and Square-bud Primrose (Calylophus berlandieri) distinguished by their dark centers.

Missouri Primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa) with Blackfoot Daisy (Melanpodium leucantha) and Square-bud Primrose.

Distinctive seedheads on Missouri Primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa) shows why it's also known as Big-fruit Evening Primrose.

Bright yellow Missouri Primrose flower with silvery Rabbit Tobacco filling in along the ground.

I often get questions and comments that Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) is hard to grow. It is tough enough to thrive in asphalt in its native range.  Good drainage and less watering will help it survive in our gardens.

Antelope Horn Milkweed (Asclepias asperula) and friends waiting for butterflies.

One of my personal favorites, the deep burgundy of Rayless Sunflower (Helianthus radula) stands out against the green and yellow of other native plants.  Small rays can be spotted at the base of the flower so they're not entirely rayless.  Blue Wright's Skullcap (Scutellaria wrightii) just peeking in the bottom right of the photo.  It's so much fun to see these plants in their native range.

After our wildflower road stop we headed on to Medina Garden Nursery where they've rebuilt the entry arbor with these amazing pieces of naturally curved native Ashe Juniper wood.

There's a lot of wildflower goodness behind that austere fence in the expansive gardens and meadows at Medina Garden Nursery.

Narrow-leaf Coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia) which is more tolerant of drought and poor soils than Echinacea purpurea.  It's one of the plants I purchased to try in my own garden.

White Winecups and Salvia greggii with a pink Anacacho Orchid as a centerpiece.  They didn't have the Anacacho Orchid in stock so I'll have to go back in the fall.

Penstemon, I think this was Hill Country Penstemon (Penstemon triflorus).

Purple Winecup (Callirhoe involucrata) which defies all attempts to establish in my garden.

Delicate Clematis pitcheri flowers attracting bees.  I purchased one of these as well.

Black Swallowtails were going nuts over the Indian Paintbrush blossoms.

Nolinas, Yuccas, and Texas Primrose in the dry garden.

Two happy guys doing what they love.  Service with a smile from Ysmael and Ernesto who always take their time to give tours and show us what's new in the nursery.

Plant shopping makes us hungry so we headed just 15 minutes away for a delicious lunch at beautiful, historic Camp Verde General Store.

What's with the Camel you might ask?  It's an interesting story about trying to introduce camels as working animals in Texas.  You can read all about the history of Camp Verde and the great Camel experiment here.

Back home with my haul of plants.  Three Muhlenbergia reverchonii ornamental grasses which stay low and produce deep pink inflorescence in the fall.  Pink Guara lindheimeri, a purple blooming salvia, two Texas Greeneyes (Berlandiera betonicifolia), Rudbeckia angustifolia, Roughstem rosinweed (Silphium radula), Texas Bluestar (Amsonia ciliata v. texana), Brownfoot (Acourtia wrightii) and Clematis pitcheri.

They're all in the ground and doing well and I'm ready for more road trips!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Wildlife Wednesday May 2017

It's time for Wildlife Wednesday hosted by Tina at "My Gardener Says" on the first Wednesday of each month.  Here's what's been happening wildlife wise in my garden during April.

First up we have a tiny dancing baby Praying Mantis.  So cute!

I'm happy to have them in the garden as they eat flies, crickets, grasshoppers, moths, and many other insects.  I'll keep an eye on the hummingbird feeder as a Praying Mantis can grasp and eat the much larger and heavier hummers.

Different stages of bug nymphs on a wire garden ornament.  They are all slightly different so tough to ID.  I looked through hundreds of photos, possibly a leaf-footed or assassin bug.

Another stage in development.  Then they all disappeared by the next day so I can't be sure how they look as adults.

Swallowtail caterpillar on a plant I typically pull out as a weed.  The plant is a member of the carrot family and similar to Queen Anne's Lace though this one is probably native.  From now on I'll leave a few for this beauty.

Speaking of Swallowtails, this Black Swallowtail enjoys a native Prairie Verbena.  These native wildflowers weren't planted, they just showed up when I put out the native plant welcome mat.

My garden isn't limited to Texas natives.  This Arizona Sister Crimson Patch butterfly is enjoying South American import Verbena Bonariensis.  Since Verbena is common to the Western Hemisphere, many butterflies on the move stop by to enjoy the flowers.  I spotted a beautiful Tiger Swallowtail (my personal favorite) on Verbena Bonariensis yesterday when I didn't have the camera.  Of course it hasn't returned now that I'm on the lookout!

That's the wildlife report from my garden for May.  Be sure to follow the links at "My Gardener Says" to see garden wildlife from across the world.