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."   


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. 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.