Sunday, May 10, 2020

National Wildflower Week 2020

National Wildflower Week is always the first full week in May and usually ends on Mother's Day.  The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center used to celebrate with a wonderful tour of Austin gardens which focused on native plants and wildflowers but they discontinued the tour a few years ago and I couldn't find much information out there.  I did find the following quote on a holiday calendar website.

"...commemorates the colorful blossoms that bring our landscapes to life. Whether they are on mountainsides, pastures or our own back yards, wildflowers create habitat, help conserve water and reduce erosion."

I'll celebrate with a tour of the colorful blossoms that bring my "own back yard" to life each spring.

We've had a bit of everything during our spring wildflower season in South Texas.

This week Greenthreads (Thelesperma filifolium) hit their peak so we'll start in the front garden.  Their seeds originally blew in on the wind or floated down the street on rainwater and I just let them grow.  We never water or cultivate them in any way.  A combination of annual and perennial, they will fade in the summer and return in the fall.


Texas Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) are amazingly resilient even after they were hit by a light frost in late February.


They weren't slowed down a bit and bloomed beautifully on schedule.


I've been pulling their spent stems and spreading the last of the seeds this week.


While we're on the subject of blue flowers, Heartleaf Skullcap (Scutellaria ovata) are pretty blue flowers which only show up in the spring.  The gray foliage will soon die back and the roots bide their time underground until next spring.  If I accidentally dig them up when dormant I just tuck the roots back under the soil and no harm done.


A recent addition are Texas Bluebonnets in the front yard, mostly around the Yucca Rostrata.  We pull these as soon as they scatter most of their seeds.  Bluebonnets for all their blooming beauty are ugly seed setters.  Bright yellow Damianita is a native wildflower as well though this plant seeded over from a purchased plant so it is cultivated.


Our May wildflowers had a close call with a neighbor's lawn service.  I found this note on my door one recent afternoon.  He was obviously at the wrong house; actually, the wrong street entirely.  There has always been confusion over street names and numbers here because the street name changes on a curve which is not so obvious and the numbers start over.  You can see the curve in the Yucca photo above.   All the houses in the background are on a different street.  The intended recipient's house has the same number and is just up the hill about a block away.



When I called they advised me that he did not spray anything on my yard.  Our security video confirmed that he did not spray.  An App 3 mix has weed killer and fertilizer both of which could kill our native Buffalo Grass "lawn."   

Weeds?

Let's see what he saw that day.

Gaillardia pulchella or Blanket Flower


Monarda citriodora or Beebalm


On video the lawn guy was seen scratching his head and looking confused by this scene. 


We've had ongoing problems with burnout streaks in our Buffalo Grass and now we think it's possible weedkiller is flowing downhill through our yard to the creek during rains.

I mentioned Bluebonnets are ugly seeders and the brown spots in the photo below are Bluebonnets going to seed.  Not something we want to leave in the front landscape for weeks.


The cat prefers wildflowers to a perfect lawn too.


Happy Wildflower Week and Happy Mother's Day too.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Wildlife Wednesday May 2020

Investigating the decline of a potted agave is the subject of this May's Wildlife Wednesday post.

First task was to dump out the pot.  The agave was in bad shape, with many crowding pups, so no loss.  But it was a surprise to discover large tunnels in the soil under the agave.  Watson, the game is afoot!


And there was a resident of those tunnels, which revealed itself to be an Ox Beetle.  At least according to iNaturalist which I am learning to use after taking an online class sponsored by the San Antonio Botanical Gardens.  Online gardening classes are a bright spot in the current status of staying at home more.

These Beetles are huge!  Biggest I've seen in the garden.


They are said to dig holes about a quarter in size.  This exit opening was much larger.


Mesmerizing...like some Japanese film from the 60's.  The bug that ate my agave.  But really, it was just tunneling.



Ox Beetles are native to an area ranging from Florida to Arizona.  For observation we placed it on the bottom of the pot.



Most likely a male, he was easy to flip over for a moment to show the detail on his belly.  Nice pecs.  Note the eyes on the end of protruding thingies.


(NOTE: No Beetles were harmed in the making of this blog post.)

Ox Beetles are beneficial in the garden because they recycle decaying vegetation and aerate soil.  So this guy simply took advantage of the root bound agave and likely caused no harm at all.


After enduring a bit of our hassle he was happily released into the garden and not expected to return.

Doe, the female deer, are hanging around the compost waiting for treats as I do a lot of springtime cleanup.  They just dropped their fawns.  Probably hungry.  Hi girls!


Wildlife Wednesday is hosted by Tina at "My Gardener Says..." on the first Wednesday of each month.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Happy Easter

I've always enjoyed spending time in the garden and even more so these last few weeks.  This year has been especially nice with rain and cooler weather so I'll share a few inspiring views from this morning:

An Angel with a broken wing


Belinda's Dream roses


The Flower Bed with pink Phlox (I'm guessing this is Phlox Pilosa)


New Grapes forming on Blanc du Bois vines which we grow for the birds.


A view of the circle garden overflowing with blooms this week.


Poppies courtesy of the neighbors




Enjoy your Easter!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Wildlife Wednesday March 2020: Raptor encounter

Caracara or Mexican Eagles have taken up residence in our neighborhood.  Sightings are excitedly reported on the Nextdoor website most often when a neighbor spots one for the first time.  It's no wonder since that bright orange beak and sharp black and white coloring stand out against our late winter landscape.



So why did the Caracara to fly away?  The appearance of an American Black Vulture was the likely cause.  While the Caracara birds live full time in the trees behind our fence the black vultures appear when something dies.  We have an abundance of common wildlife in our little wooded area.  With so many skunks, possums, raccoons, and other animals roaming around there's going to be a few deaths along the way.


 
Turkey Vultures are more common around here but the American Black Vulture seems to turn up when there's something to eat.


They both hunt by looking around on the ground and using their sense of smell.



The Caracara decides to leave whatever it is to the vultures.


You can find more on Wildlife Wednesday at "My Gardener Says...." where Tina has a post on the cutest birds she fondly calls "Butter Butts."

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Wildlife Wednesday February 2020: Another Squirrel's Tale

Our resident Squirrel is at it again!  Nest building season.


The deck is littered with her clippings.  


Even the chairs have to be brushed off before we can sit.


Her success rate is low.  Chewed sprouts are promptly dropped to the ground or deck below and she makes no effort to retrieve the lost clippings.  At this rate I wonder how she will ever complete her nest.

Time out to check the watering can.  We keep bowls of water for wildlife throughout the garden so no need to dip into the can.


And then back to clipping oak sprouts. 


The view from the golf course includes multiple birds and turtles.  Egrets, Cormorants, whistling ducks, Egyptian Geese?  Egyptian Geese are "introduced" in North America.  Primarily found in Florida, Texas, and California.  More study is needed here.


Whitetail deer mating season is finished and this big guy is on his own as new fawns will arrive soon.  He will naturally shed his antlers soon.


He has been injured in the flank.  Possibly in a fight with another buck.  Looks like it's not deep and will heal.


Joining Tina at "My Gardener Says..." for Wildlife Wednesday on the first Wednesday of each month.