Thursday, August 27, 2015

Peeks of fall

I had some time this week to clean up the garden. I'm happy to see my heat-weary plants with new promises of fall flowers..

Mystic spires salvia staging a comeback

Lantana promising flowers

A new plant I tucked in various (hot, dry) places is Homestead Verbena- and it is putting out beautiful purple flowers.

I also have a few late summer scraggler veggies popping up. I get a cucumber every once in a while (the one below needs to keep growing!), and I was excited to discover my tired old tomato plants putting out a couple of last tomatoes. I pruned the rest of the plant after this picture hoping that the new growth will make a few more over the next month or so.

I trimmed the autumn sage a few weeks ago and it is now putting out new flowers. 

My volunteers in the back enjoyed the rain from last week, too:

Scarlet sage that has spread through my walkway

A small pigeonberry plant

I have many Drummond's ruellias. Their flowers are subtle but they do really well in my dry dry back area! Now if I can move them out of the walkway closer to the fence..

What are not looking good either in my garden or in the neighborhood are the Mexican plum trees . The one below is in front of Fullmore middle school and it has the same ratty yellowing leaves as mine does. I hope it is just seasonal change.

And it just feels too soon to have to rake leaves (which I did today)! My sycamore is starting to drop so I made a giant pile in the driveway.... now bagged in the front.. The pecans are also dropping in my yard and in the neighborhood. They are mostly green still but that just makes them heavier when they land on my head while I'm walking.

The green plant at the top left corner is a crepe myrtle. It had been a large (25 ft tall at least) tree on the neighbor's side but was chopped down during construction of a new house last year. It looks like it is growing back from the roots and also has flower buds on it's tips. What resilience (or stubborness!).

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Looking around

Back to school tomorrow. The calendar I made for summer break is all filled up- no more weeks left. The kids have visited their classrooms, met their teachers, had playdates with school friends. My youngest is starting kindergarten, so it'll be a big day tomorrow.

But that is then- and I'll process it when it comes. I've been working on mindfulness.. and I'd rather reflect on my garden and summer today.

So- after the rain come rain lillies- filling in a dusty spot between a pecan tree and the street.

And I finally slowed down enough to watch this Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charithonia) flit around my passionflower vines for what seemed like an hour..

A giant bumblebee flew off before I got my phone, but a honeybee was happy to crawl around the passion flowers.

The weather hasn't cooled off enough to get fall flowers yet, but my self-seeding zinnias have held strong, attracting butterflies to my front yard all summer long.

And this rock purslane has been chicken resistant so far. I have native (?) purslane volunteering in my gravel driveway and have left it be. I hear it is edible (maybe, maybe not), but also like it's sturdiness in 100 degree heat.

So the garden is good, even with sycamore leaves everywhere (too soon!!) and ratty mulch from scratching hens.

We went to the coast mid-week to spend time with the in-laws. It was fun swimming, walking and fishing. I loved it tonight when my son told me "This has felt like the longest week- it was great." He's become a fisherman, catching and releasing croakers and the occasional lucky red fish. I don't fish, but can appreciate the meditative nature of it. It's about as still as I ever see him get!

And the coastal scrub land is gently fading into fall. Wild beautyberry bushes are full of purple berries, partridge peas are in bloom and the grasses are long and variegated- green starting to turn to red and brown.

I made a "summer bucket list" this year to motivate me into getting outside and enjoying Austin. It's otherwise too easy for me to fall into "busy work mode" and forget what there is to do around here (even though I've lived here since 1980..) Between the kid's camp field trips and our weekend outings I think we did pretty well. I'll list it in chronological order for me to remember next year :)

Deep Eddy Pool (multiple times)
Field Trip- Neuroscience lab (when can I go to summer camp!!)
Field Trip- Thinkery
Field Trip- Austin Zoo
Movie Day- Inside Out
Field Trip-Wonder World
Field Trip- Boggy Creek Farm (not counting my Saturday escapes there for veggies!)
SoCo- Home Slice, Big Top Candy Store, Big Stacy swim (many many swims there)
Bob Bullock Museum
Field Trip- Austin Nature Center
Fourth of July Fireworks at Auditorium Shores
Peter Pan Golf
Hike the green belt and swim while there was still water!
Movie Day- ET at the Paramount theater
Krause Springs (first time there)
Field Trip- Bartholomew Park
Field Trip- Planetarium
Field Trip- Austin Aquarium
Schlitterbahn (always a winner)
Field Trip- Skateland (do all 7-10 year olds end up going there? That was my roller skating hey day, too)
Field Trip-- Faulk Library
Blazer Tag (I'll admit, the air conditioning was a big draw)
Austin Ice Cream Festival
Barton Springs
Movie Day- Pixels
Hopping House
Movie Day- Minions 
Local library many many times- summer = reading time!

That feels full- a good summer I think. I hope everyone else has had a good one, too.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Dog days and other "wildlife"..

We are in the dog days for sure...

In the shade...

It turns out the phrase was not based on it being so hot that dogs just lie on the asphalt panting. Instead, it comes from the Greeks and Romans. The “dog days” occurred around the day when Sirius (the dog star) appeared to rise just before the sun, in late July. They referred to these days as the hottest time of the year, a period that could bring fever, or even catastrophe. Now, catastrophe is a strong word, but there have definitely been winners and losers in my garden since the rains stopped. Insects have been doing well....
Dragonfly- maybe a skimmer or pondhawk? Cleverly hiding on a dead pyracantha twig 
 Green lynx spider in the goldenrod
 Katydid in the Pride of Barbados
Black and yellow argiope spider.. there were two on the Green Belt on either side of the path, easily two inches long (including their legs)..
As for my plants, well... Some have done fabulously..

This is my first year growing plumeria and I'm impressed by how well it does on a hot balcony with only sporadic watering.. The one below was a gifted cutting that I plunked into a pot just a few weeks ago and it is growing new leaves and continuing to flower.

I planted two Texas milkweeds from the Natural Gardener just before the rains stopped and they have settled in and spread out wonderfully. I have them to host Monarchs, but they also have beautiful blooms too.

I have come to really enjoy Turks cap. Mine haven't formed berries yet but their blooms are going strong.

This Mexican honeysuckle is in a very dry spot that blisters with afternoon sun and reflected light.

I have a number of Flame Acanthuses and most are orange- this red one is a lovely contrast.

My new pomegranate tree 

Mexican mint marigold

Some plants are so so..

Passionflower vine (all volunteer) looking a bit heated in the afternoon- though it is still putting out beautiful blooms.

Mistflower tucked in with the Turks cap up front getting chewed up by some insect..

Soft-leaf yucca looking sunburned

And then some plants are looking crispy..

This bulbine has seen better days

My Mexican Plum is droopy. A leftover patch of (much hated) bamboo roots have invaded the spot I planted it in and I'm afraid they are out competing the plum tree. I have chopped down any bamboo shoots but have not dug the roots as they are close to the plum tree roots (and it's a million degrees outside!). 

Oh well- I hope the plum tree pulls through but I may just be spending more time playing in water and pools than gardening much this month.... 

Green Belt goodness a few weeks ago- ah!

Thanks to Tina at for hosting Wildlfe Wednesday! 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Enthusiastic volunteers..

My common sunflowers have done their annual take-over of the back garden. Spreading their branches in the sun, I have to duck around them to navigate the space..

They are cheerful, native, feed wildlife and my hens, so I shouldn't complain. I only dislike when they become old, dry and woody and I get splinters from their prickly stems..

I have finally ID'ed this volunteer plant:

It pops up all over the back and is a Bladderpod sida (Rhynchosida physocalyx). It is also native if considered a bit weedy. It must benefit native bees somehow since it continues to propagate in my dry caliche back area..

I threw out multiple native wildflower seed packets last fall in the front yard with little success. Perhaps it was the mulch on the ground, or my errant chickens that escape the back and eat everything, but the primary plants that have chosen to spread are coneflowers (native!) and these pink zinnias (not.). The zinnias have popped up everywhere and I'm ok with that since they do fairly well even in the summer. They still attract bees and butterflies :)

I installed a new circular bed in the back this spring and filled it with plants that should tolerate dry heat (a blue nolina, silver ponyfoot, globe mallow and mexican bush sages). Of course I added compost from my bin to improve the awful soil and with all the rain I have a fun collection of squashes and melons (I think). I'll have to water carefully when it gets hotter so the more xeric plants don't get overwatered..

Acorn squash- of course more productive than any I ever plant on purpose!

Perhaps a melon?

My cenizos have made a couple of volunteer plantlets, but I have been reluctant to encourage them since they grow so big. But I may reconsider since they produce such a beautiful show of flowers after the rain!

And finally I have a couple of new natives that I hope will decide to stick around. My Texas milkweed is battling aphids after I squashed some larger milkweed bugs- I'm waiting for the ladybugs to discover the plants and save the day. And I added a white pavonia in a blank spot in the back and am enjoying it's delicate flowers..

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

June Blooms!

Thanks to Carol at for hosting Garden Blogger's Bloom Day. My natives have enjoyed the rain with many blooms:

Purple and white coneflowers in the dry back

My standing cypress and common sunflowers are taller than I am! Each year I plan to weed out some of the sunflowers since they take up so much room but they are so cheerful and easy that I always end up leaving them.

Turk's cap

Butterfly weed hoping to attract monarchs!

Volunteer passionflower vines that popped up near a convenient trellis (a handrail for my steps!). The vines are covered in Gulf Frittillary caterpillars in various stages- it is fun to watch the "nursery" in action.

Coral honeysuckle coming back after its huge spring bloom. I watched a hummingbird happily flit from this to my Peter's Purple Monarda multiple times this afternoon.

Society garlic- protected from the chickens (they think it's tasty..).

A Pride of Barbados bloom in the front. They are not native to Texas but they perform beautifully in dry sunny conditions.

Happy Garden Blogger's Bloom Day!