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

Friday, July 5, 2013

This week in the garden - #70

For the most part, this week's weather has been on the pleasant side, though bone dry. The daytime temperatures have been in the low 90s and at night on occasion the thermometer has dipped into the 60s. All that changed today when the temperature rose again to 98 degrees at 1:05 in the afternoon.

I was actually in the garden doing some deadheading and pruning when the high was reached and I can attest that it was miserably hot. I sat down on the patio to rest for a while, but the patio is in full sun. The only shade at that time of day comes from umbrellas. I found it unbearable to sit there and so I moved over to the bench under the magnolia tree near the pond. Instant relief!

Sitting under the magnolia tree felt at least 20 degrees cooler. I felt like I had walked into an air-conditioned room. It's amazing what a difference a tree makes.


While I was sitting on my bench, I had my camera at my side, because one of my purposes in being outside at that time of day was to try to photograph butterflies. I've written here before about the scarcity of butterflies in the garden this summer. The populations of most species seem to be down considerably over recent years, but I've been noticing this week that there are a lot of the small butterflies around. I'm still not seeing so many of the big, flashy types like the various swallowtails or Monarchs, but there are an abundance of skippers and hairstreaks.

The bench, in addition to being in a cool shade, is located right next to the flame acanthus which is in full bloom now.

The flame-like flowers are a major draw for butterflies so I hoped I might be able to photograph some while I sat there.

To my surprise, a different kind of flier showed up. This is my resident female Ruby-throated Hummingbird who I suspect has a nest somewhere in the yard but I haven't discovered it. She loves these blossoms, much preferring them to the sugar water in the feeder that I keep filled for her.

There were several Cloudless Sulphurs like this one around the garden this week.

 As well as a few Gulf Fritillaries.

And I did actually see a couple of Monarchs.

But the stars of the butterfly extravaganza this week were the smaller butterflies.

There were little Gray Hairstreaks everywhere I looked - especially on the almond verbena blooms. There were at least half of dozen of these butterflies on the shrub.

But they weren't the only ones drawn to the almond verbena. There were a number of these unknown species of bees all over the plant.

 In fact, everywhere I went looking for butterflies today, I found various kinds of native bees.

But I also found plenty of little butterflies, like this Fiery Skipper on a purple lantana blossom.

Some of the skippers are difficult to identify for they have no outstanding field marks. This nondescript little guy is (I think) a Swarthy Skipper.

And this one (again, I think) is a Clouded Skipper.

No doubt about this one. It is a Tropical Checkered Skipper.

So, it wasn't a bad week for butterflies. Maybe things are beginning to pick up.


There were several new blooms this week.

 'Pride of Barbados' started sending out its fiery blossoms. (Blooming behind it is yellow cestrum.)

My old yellow hibiscus is blooming again. It dies back to the root in winter and I'm always in suspense as to whether it will come back in the spring. So far, it has come back each year.

The bleeding heart Clerodendrum is not a new bloomer but it has been especially beautiful this week.

And the white 'Texas Star' hibiscus joined the bloom parade this week. Its red cousin has been blooming for weeks already.


The ten-day forecast offers us some chance of rain in coming days, but those promises have a way of dissipating as the day in question gets closer. We'll see if this time is different. There is allegedly some activity in the Gulf that may form up and bring rain our way. Fingers crossed!


  1. Beautiful flowers and butterflies! Looks like they have found a great place to hang out.

  2. I'm amazed at your Flame Acanthus. Mine is in a sorry state, very leggy and spindly, with just a few blooms. However, like you I had a hummer come and visit it today. I felt bad there weren't more blooms on it. I'm glad you were able to get photos of your butterfly visitors, they're lovely.

    1. Well, as I've mentioned here before, my acanthus has been in place for about 20 years so it has had plenty of time to establish itself and get comfortable. The hummers, as well as the butterflies and bees, do love those blooms. They must be full of nectar and pollen.

  3. Fantastic assortment of wildlife and pollinators! And that picture of the hummingbird is outstanding!

    1. Thanks, Jason. I love photographing them. Or trying at least.