Welcome to my zone 9a habitat garden near Houston, Texas.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Signs of life

As I work around my garden this week, I continue to encounter more signs of life in both expected and unexpected places. Today it was a hibiscus that I had given up for dead.

This hibiscus had bloomed beautifully for me last summer and into the fall. I had given it some protection during the winter freezes, but recently it has looked like nothing so much as a bouquet of dead sticks. Today I was mulching the bed where I had planted it after the last freeze and, thinking that the plant was dead, I reached to pull it out of the ground.

But, wait! There was something green there! Looking closer, I realized that there were tiny green shoots coming from the roots. So I pulled a layer of mulch around it instead and gave the plant a figurative pat on the head and my blessing. It may live to provide me with some of those lovely blooms once again.

On the other end of that bed, another hibiscus never lost all of its leaves during winter and it is now putting on new growth.

Perhaps the summer will bring me more of these yellow beauties as well.

In other nearby beds where I was also spreading mulch today, I found that the two brugmansias seem to be in a race to see which can first reach the ten foot height they had last summer. This wasn't a surprise. My brugs always die back in the winter and then go crazy with growth at the first touch of warmth in late winter.

The nearby esperanzas, though, not so much. They still look dead, but again they always die back to the roots in winter and then are very slow to get going again in the spring, so I'm still hopeful that they will green up within the next several weeks.

Further on, as I pulled the mulch around them, I noticed that five of the six milkweed plants have green growth now. I hope they will get busy growing so they will be ready when the first Monarchs turn up.

I haven't seen a Monarch butterfly in my garden since the December freeze. This is radically different from last winter when I had a population of Monarchs with me all season and they were producing babies all winter on my milkweed plants that stayed green and lush. What a difference a year makes.

In another part of the garden, two of the five split leaf philodendrons are growing now. These are the two that were on the south side of the house in the most protected spots. The other plants have not shown any life yet, but I know their roots are deep and wide, so I'm still looking for them to come back.

I'm not so sure any longer about my old lemon tree, though. The tree has died back all the way to the ground. Now, it has done this before and then come back from the roots, but I don't think it has ever had quite as cold temperatures to deal with as it had this winter. Once again, all I can do is wait and see. Otherwise, on the citrus front, my Satsuma is doing well and putting on new leaves.

It's not only the plants that are showing signs of life. Everywhere I turned today, I kept encountering green anoles. Well, actually they were more gray or brown than green, like this guy who was sunning himself on the brick wall under the hose hangar.
This is a popular spot for anoles. Whenever the weather is not too cold, I can almost always find one near this spot. But today they were all over the place.

And last night, as I went to the front porch to retrieve my cat Nicholas who was taking care of important cat business outside, a movement on the brick wall caught my eye. I turned to see a tiny Mediterranean gecko scurrying up the wall to find a hiding place under the siding.

If these guys are back on night patrol on my porches, then I think warmer weather must truly be here to stay.

Yes, I believe we've definitely turned the corner on winter. Time to get the rest of my veggie seeds into the ground. Time to get ready for more new life.


  1. How fabulous to have your anoles back, and a gecko! I think we're just a little too far north here in the Hill Country for geckos but I love them. When I lived in Miami they were my non-chemical ant protection.

    I envy your hibiscus. So glad they've come back and you'll enjoy them again this season.

  2. I do love those geckos! They are neat animals and great fun to watch, and, as you say, wonderful non-chemical ant - as well as other insect - protection.