Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Water in threes!

In recent weeks I've attended three events in three locations with three different groups, yet the locations I visited were all tied together by one important element.  Water.  With limited rainfall most years, a reliable supply of clean water is vital to our community and three local parks help tell the story of the San Antonio River where our city was founded 300 years ago.

We'll start at San Antonio Spring where the river begins.

My neighborhood garden club recently enjoyed a guided tour of The Blue Hole.  Blue Hole?  This well-like stone structure houses the San Antonio Spring which is the headwaters of the San Antonio River.  From this small spring the river flows south through the famous River Walk then another 250 miles to the Gulf of Mexico and the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge which is best known as the winter home of the endangered Whooping Crane.

The Blue Hole really does look blue.  The water is very pure.

The property also incorporates a nature sanctuary in the city surrounded by the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) campus.  A non-profit organization called the Headwaters at Incarnate Word has recently incorporated to preserve the site and natural areas.  Our guide Pam Ball (with map) discussed history and future for the site as part of the Sanctuary at Incarnate Word.  The spring is considered sacred by indigenous peoples who still visit annually.

Until the early 20th century a 20 ft. high water spout marked the spring.  As more people settled in San Antonio and drilled wells, the spring eventually lost pressure and became the gentle bubbler we observed on our visit.  The spring is flowing nicely now due to plenty of rain.  If this doesn't look like enough water to float those tourists boats along the River Walk you are correct.  The San Antonio River is primarily fed by reclaimed water which was the subject of a previous post.  Volunteers are helping to remove invasives and restore native plants to the site.

With Pam as our guide we walked past huge legacy oaks.

These trees have been documented for size and age though I don't remember exactly what Pam told us.

The Lourdes Grotto is part of the Sanctuary.  Pam has removed invasive plants and planted drought-tolerant natives in front of the grotto.

Then on to the Brackenridge House.  George Brackenridge was an early investor in San Antonio property and water works.

Pam told us he used to sit on his porch to watch the water spout from San Antonio Spring as a natural water feature for his property.

Now owned by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word the house is used for offices and meetings.

On the walk back to our cars we observed this palm growing out of the creek.  This palm will be a reference point later.

The Headwaters Sanctuary is open to the public, however on weekdays you will need a temporary UIW parking pass (request one here) so it's best to go when classes are not in session or on weekends.

If all that planning is a bit much you can enjoy a walk along this same creek at Cathedral Park just behind the Headwaters Sanctuary and UIW campus.  Cathedral Park is headquarters of The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, which was a second destination I recently visited.

When the Blue Hole is flowing so is the creek at Cathedral Park.  If you live in a rainy climate this may not seem like a big deal but the creek here is dry most of the time.

Our destination was a serene tree-house structure.  The palm tree in the creek shown above is directly behind the condo building in the background.

Tree top views from the tree house and a built-in bird feeder on the right.

Cathedral Park is open to the public.  I'll share more of my walk there in a future post. 

Finally, we attended a "Partners in Conservation" event sponsored by San Antonio Water System (SAWS) at the Witte Museum just down the street from UIW and Cathedral Park.  Here the San Antonio River flows through Brackenridge Park on its way south to the San Antonio River Walk.

One of the reclaimed water inlets is just north of the museum so there's a good bit more water in the river at this point.

We had a fun evening exploring the museum which was recently renovated.  There's still a glimpse of an early building on the site where my great-grandmother and her sisters partied over 100 years ago.

The building houses an exhibit dedicated to early pioneers of San Antonio which was not open when we were there so I couldn't check to see if the bronze plaque with my great-grandmother's name is still there.  Thank you to SAWS for a beautiful evening, it's nice to know our efforts at conservation are appreciated.

Three events, three different groups, all tied together by the importance of water in San Antonio.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

From our garden to yours!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Veterans Day 2018

On Sunday November 11, 2018 Americans will celebrate Veterans Day while England, France, Belgium and Canada celebrate Armistice Day and the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.  If you've seen documentaries or movies on WWI, you know it was a terrible conflict.  We visited the famous Flander's Fields in Belgium during a trip to Europe which just happened to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the end of WWII.  We thoroughly enjoyed touring the nearby WWII site of The Battle of the Bulge with the visiting veterans who fought there.

I have noted BBC presenters are already wearing poppies on air as is their tradition.  Veterans sell poppies here in San Antonio during the weeks leading up to the holiday.

Tomorrow morning the Austin-based PBS program Central Texas Gardener will rebroadcast their tour of the Healing and Therapy Gardens at the Warrior and Family Support Center on Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio where a group of dedicated gardeners volunteer on Tuesdays.  Many of us are family members of veterans and several are themselves veterans.  We're honored that producer and friend Linda Lehmusvirta chose to repeat the show this year for Veterans Day.

Through the magic of YouTube the program is available here.  

I also recommend following Central Texas Gardener on Facebook and subscribing to Linda's wonderful, informative CTG garden blog.

My post on what it's like to have the CTG crew visit is here and posts about my first visit to the gardens in 2013 which inspired me to return as a volunteer start here.

And I'll finish by sharing photos from my five years in the gardens which serve wounded active duty soldiers, veterans and their families.

First, a few of our volunteers at work.  Pat works at local favorite Shades of Green Nursery and generously helps out on her day off.

Cliff Bingham, an Air Force veteran, mows the lawns.

Sandra Woodall, a fixture at gardening events around town, logs a lot of hours in the gardens.

There are so many more of us that I don't have photos of yet so thank you all!  In case you're wondering, I do actually work in between taking photos of the beautiful gardens.

A favorite combination with chartreuse and purple potato vine in raised planters from a few years ago.

Monarchs on the purple coneflowers.

John Fanick Phlox has found a perfect spot in part shade.  I have learned so much about how to plant my own garden from working here.

Everybody's favorite bloomer in the heat of August is Pride of Barbados.

Bright orange Mexican Cosmos adds a cheery touch in late summer too.

Giant Celosia heads are a head turner for our visitors in early fall.  They reseed quite nicely all around the garden.

Hibiscus Mutabilis emerges in cream and brightens to deep pink before fading again.

Like my own garden, Queen Butterflies are there most of the year.

Cheerful Zinnias greeted us all summer this year.

The Helping Hand on the stone is a symbol of volunteers throughout the military community worldwide.

Enjoy your Veterans Day, Armistice Day or Remembrance Day as our freedoms were purchased at great price.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Wildlife Wednesday: All in a day for November

I rarely plan my Wildlife Wednesday posts in advance so this one is an exception.  It just happened that one day in late October the garden was busy with so many different and interesting forms of wildlife I decided to show you just one day, "a day in the wildlife" you could say.  Wildlife Wednesday is hosted on the first Wednesday of each month by Tina at "My gardener says...."

My day started with observing what appears to be a female black chinned hummingbird on a small branch.  It is fascinating how their head, and entire body for that matter, never stops moving.  This one might be waiting to dive bomb and chase other hummingbirds away from the feeder.  Oddly, the chasers rarely visit the feeders.

A few minutes later I spent about an hour (off and on) convincing two Carolina Wrens to leave the screened porch and that's when it occurred to me I could make "a day in the Wildlife Wednesday".  The two birds had somehow found their way in and were clearly enjoying exploring their own private aviary.  It was time for them to go out before they made a mess of the furniture and plants.

When I tried to get them out they kept flying up to a cubby near the roof.  It's apparently easier to get in than out.  Here's a bit of the excitement:

When they tired of trying to fly up to the roof they dropped to the floor and began exploring so I just shooed them out the open door.

Meanwhile out the garden, fall-blooming White heath asters were fairly buzzing with activity.

Carpenter Bee

Bug eyes!

I think this is a paper wasp.

No idea.  It looks like a giant fly but I couldn't find a single redheaded fly in the images I searched.

While all the stingers and buzzers were busy in one part of the garden, over in the Gregg's mistflower patch butterflies were everywhere because it's a magnet.

Monarchs are migrating through.

Their cousins the Queen butterfly are here much of the year.

They get along well it seems....sometimes.  

And a Gray Hairstreak posed just right on the Augusta Deulberg Salvia.

Bright on bright with a Gulf Fritillary on Gomphrena 'Fireworks'.

A female Whitetail deer dropped by for lunch

and a nap

All in a wildlife day in my garden.

Tina's garden is all aflutter at "My gardener says..." and you'll find more posts from gardeners to follow in the comments sections.