Monday, March 31, 2008

A Cardinal!

As I was out strolling about in the garden this afternoon, I heard a bird land in the orchid tree behind me. I turned expecting to see the house finches making a meal out of all the orchid buds (they love to torture me by nibbling all the pretty flowers off my Anacacho orchid tree before they bloom), but instead I saw a fire-engine red bird sitting atop the tree. A Cardinal! Wow. The first one I have ever spied in my yard. You see, I live in one of those cookie cutter houses that was built on land that was scraped clean of Every. Single. Tree. Sad, yes, which is why when I moved in, I planted trees everywhere around my house. Five years later, the trees and shrubs are big enough to provide some shelter and I am now seeing birds I have not seen before venturing into the neighborhood. So the cardinal is pretty darn exciting! I tried to get a close-up photo, but all I managed to do was to scare him into the neighbor's yard. So I took the best photo I could (my camera is pretty old, has a lame zoom, and is slow to think, so it is a miracle I get pictures of birds before they move on me).

The first Cardinal to visit my yard:

Last spring, a cuckoo came to visit. He was ever-so pretty, but I couldn't get a photo before he flew off. He was making a meal out of the caterpillars that like to mob my Texas Mt. Laurel every year. I hope he comes back to visit again.

IF I had taken a photo, he would have looked something like this:

(Thanks to Fernbank Science Center for the pic)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bugs n' Critters n' Such

So, today I was sitting on the porch happily munching away on my Freebirds Monster Steak burrito when two wasps decided to have a wrestling match on the cement below my chair, a few inches from my bare toes. Being allergic to wasps, and fearing a sting, I just froze and patiently waited for their tiff to be over. I had no idea that wasps fought for territory, but after what I witnessed, I guess now that they do. These guys were full-on attacking each other, rolling about the ground, biting and stinging, and as quickly as it began - it was over. The victor has decided to set up a nest in my bamboo windchimes. Look close and you can see the wasp working hard building the nest (seems like a lot of work for nothing, since I will be knocking that nest right out of there once the sun goes down):

Then there was this Dog-Face butterfly that spent the bulk of the day flitting from flower to flower in the back yard today (I am not really seeing why they call it a Dog-Face. It doesn't much look like a dog face to me, but, whatever):

The bees were all over the Crossvine today. Here is one diggin' in to the pollen:

And I am thinking that a bunch of Green Anole eggs must have recently hatched, because these little guys are all over the yard. This one is sitting in the fuzz of the Sago Palm:

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Spring Rains and Bluebonnets

A thunderstorm passed through last night and appears to have dropped some much needed rain. It seems to have triggered my bluebonnets into finally blooming. I only have five lonely bluebonnets this year. Last year I had 30 or so. They came up all over my lawn and I would not let my significant other mow the front lawn until they had all finished blooming! Every day it was 'can I mow the lawn now? - No.' 'can I mow the lawn now?' - No. 'can I mow the lawn...' - NO, no, aaannd no. Our grass was quite tall when it finally got trimmed up! I wanted all those to set seed. But this past fall our rains were few and far between and even though all those seeds were dropped, I only have 5 bluebonnets to show for it. I don't do any supplemental watering. If I had, I am sure there would have been plenty more flowers, but I prefer to just let nature take its course. So, this year is a bit sparse on the Bluebonnets.

This fall, I will plant more seeds and I will be adding some Indian Paintbrush seeds as well. I just love that orange-blue combination the Paintbrush and Bluebonnets have together. No artist paints a picture as pretty as nature does!

A few of the Bluebonnets:

A much closer look:

Oh! And everyone please take note that today is "Earth Hour' day. Turn out your lights at 8:00pm local time to bring attention to Global Warming.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Igg Musd be Sprigtimb

Well, apparently Spring is in full swing here in Austin as my head feels like an anvil, my eyes are red, my nose is crazy itchy, and I sound like a cartoon character (Scooby Doo comes to mind) when I talk. The weather is so nice here in the spring...too bad the outside air is poison! I love the outdoors so much...but it does NOT love me. The allergens are inescapable here. In Winter it is Cedar pollen, in the Spring it is trees, in the Summer it is weeds and grass and well, year round -mold, mold, and more mold. Thank God for modern pharmaceuticals.

The Texas Red Oak tree in my backyard is belching pollen all over me:

This Oak tree is a Texas Red Oak adapted to the limestone earth in the hill country. I had to go to a local native nursery guy to purchase this tree. It simply does AMAZING (no oak wilt yet *crossing fingers*) in my limestone soil. The Southern Red Oak, on the other hand, does not. I have many neighbors who apparently bought this southern flavor of red oak, and every single one of these is chlorotic, sickly, and dying. It is so sad to see. I do wish the local Big Box stores would become knowledgable about this problem and quit selling Southern Red Oaks to people in the hill country. Most people would not know the difference. It is a good thing I read up on my trees before purchasing, or I too could easily have ended up with the same problem. This such a peeve of mine - one of the yards I can see from my back yard has two Southern Red Oaks that have been slowly dying over the last 4 years...I think the trees may have finally kicked the bucket this year. Good thing too - those poor trees have just sat and suffered for so long....aaand my little rant is finished. (I think I feel better now).

And so as not to end on a depressing, tree-suffering note, here is an image of some blossoms from one of my Anacacho Orchid trees - Bauhinia lunarioides (B. congesta). I figure the pollen from these flowers probably doesn't cause me too many problems since it seems to require bees to carry it from one place to the next - too heavy to float up my nose, I would think.:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

On saving random plants from the lawnmower...

I admit to being a bit crazy when it comes to plants. If I see something coming up in the lawn that looks like it will be torn to shreds by the evil blades of the mower, I perform a plant rescue. I dig it up, ever-so-carefully, and find a nice place in a flower bed for it. I have come across some interesting specimens this way.

Last month I came across what I thought MIGHT be a small columbine in the lawn - but the leaves didn't look quite right and the little plant had tuberous roots. I thought, well, it might be something interesting, and so I moved it to a small shady area under the Windmill palm. I went out to check on it today and what did I find? Well, I will be darned if it isn't a native Wind-flower. How exciting! (Ok, well I think it is exciting anyway)I just love it when fun things pop up in my yard. That is exactly how I ended up with gagillions of Pink Evening Primrose. One randomly appeared in my front bed, I left it alone and now they are everywhere!

Wind-flower (Anemone heterophylla):

A collection of Pink Evening Primrose:

Pink Guara:

Friday, March 21, 2008

Those Darn Birds and Pill Bugs

So I planted a bunch of seeds..and the birds and pill bugs gobbled the new seedlings up post-haste! I will now have to re-start these inside and MOVE them outside when they are big enough to fend for themselves.

One lone Nasturtium survivor (I am SURE it will be gone tomorrow):

No more Cantaloupe seedlings - ALL GONE.

*Sigh* Oh well. What can ya do? I have re-planted these all in pots INDOORS.

On the bright side, I do have some nice Columbines blooming for me:

A closer look:

This is my crossvine. I bought it 3 years ago, and it is finally really starting to take off. I THOUGHT it was the 'Tangerine Beauty' variety(because that is what the tag said), but when it bloomed, it was definately looking more like the native version with the yellow trumpet and red insides. That's alright though...I think I like the native one better anyway.

Then I have these little orange flowers that I think are Carolina Mallow that come up everywhere in my front bed. I really like them, although I suppose they are technically a weed. I pull out some of them so they don't take over, but I always leave a few draping over some of the rockery. Weeds need love too!

And here is some purple salvia that is attracting the first Black-Chinned hummingbirds of the season!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Bloom Day March 15th:

The garden is starting to come alive now! I had a hard time taking some of these pictures because it was quite bright outside, (It was in the mid 90's yesterday!), AND the wind was blowing my plants around.

Texas Betony


A few pictures of the butterflies that were swarming the Texas Mountain Laurel yesterday afternoon:

A wider image of the Texas Mountain Laurel

The Golden Lead Ball Tree is about to bloom (I absolutely LOVE this tree! There is just something about those little yellow powder puffs it gets...)

Prairie Verbena


And here is the nest that those darn finches are building in my red Geranium. You would think that the daily waterings would deter them from building a nest there, but yeah - not so much. Silly birds. Also, if you look closely, you can see they are utilizing my Silver Ponyfoot quite a bit to build this nest.

A Snowberry Clearwing moth hanging out on my window screen. Usually these guys don't stay still long enough for me to take a picture - this one hung out on the screen for 2 hours!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Buying plants...

So yesterday I stopped by the Barton Springs nursery to purchase one item. One. Didn't happen - I left with gobs of stuff. Going to the Nursery is like sticking my hand in a bag of Lays potato chips - I cannot leave with just one.

The one item I went there to purchase was a Texas Persimmon - so I got that, and then I was like 'Oh, I will just walk around and LOOK at the plants', which of course proved too irresistible for me and I also purchased some Chili Pequin (because I thought they might look nice tucked in around my new persimmon tree), some Blackfoot daisy (because some of the seeds I planted didn't come up and I wanted to fill in those empty spaces), Lace leaf lavendar (to replace one I lost over the winter), Red columbine (for that empty pot in the corner in the shade), Sweet basil (because every garden should have some), Mexican bush sage (Again, to replace one lost over the winter), Lyre leaf sage (I had to put SOMETHING in the shade under my orchid tree) and an Agarito (to replace my variagated Agave that got frost-bit).

See? Every item was necessary. Really.

The Agarito:

The Texas Persimmon:

Then I was at HEB this morning and they had a fuschia that said it was 'Texas Tough', and I was forced to buy it. I have been trying to get fuschia to live more than a month for me down here - they always die on me. But, again, this one said 'Texas Tough' so, I had no choice, I had to give it a go. I am determined to make this one live - although it is probably a futile attempt, probably.

In the case of the fuschia, it occurs to me that when one performs the same action over and over and over again and each time expects to get different results, but never does - well, that is really just the definition of insanity isn't it? *Sigh* That darn fuschia WILL live this year...I am going to try a different shady spot this time.

Fuschia 'Angels Earrings Snow Fire' (I did some research on this guy last night and it seems some people out there have this guy thriving in Houston throughout the summer - here's to hoping mine makes it this year)