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

Friday, February 22, 2013

This week in the garden - #52

Well, this has been a busy week! Busy with just about everything except gardening, as it turns out. I spent very little time in the garden this week.

I have some excuse because the weather was inclement on several days. We got rain again, about an inch overall. The garden is well-watered and is showing its appreciation. Plants are popping out of the ground all over the place. Of course, a lot of them are weeds...

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As our early spring continues, I'm seriously considering putting some vegetable plants out in the garden next week. My tomatoes, tomatillos, and pepper plants have just about outgrown their places under the grow lights. Tomorrow, I'm thinking I'll move them to bigger pots and put them in protected places outside to harden off for a few days. That way, I can easily protect them if it does turn chilly again.

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The trees certainly have decided that spring is here.

The red oak tree in the front yard has put on its spring dress.

But underneath the tree, some winter-flowering plants like these pansies are still in bloom.

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Several years ago, the Carolina Jessamine vine in the backyard liberated itself from the fence where it grew and started climbing the nearby magnolia tree. Over the years, it moved up the tree until, now, it has reached the top. And that is how it came to be that this magnolia tree now "blooms" twice.

In January and February, the top of the tree is completely covered in these bell-shaped, sweet-smelling yellow blossoms. Then, in May and June, the iconic creamy white blossoms burst open all over the big tree. Two types of blooms for the price of one, so to speak.

There's even a third set of blooms.

When the Jessamine is in bloom and we have rain or wind as we did this week, a shower of yellow blossoms blanket the ground in a wide circle around the tree, making it appear that the grass itself is blooming.

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This was the week that we were supposed to get our new patio installed, but as it often does, life intervened and we had to postpone the work. Maybe next week.

I hope that life has not interfered with your best-laid plans this week and that your garden, sans weeds, is flourishing!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The goldfish are spawning - it must be spring!

This past weekend was the Great Backyard Bird Count. (I do hope you counted the birds in your yard.) Yesterday was the last day of the count and I was out in my backyard late in the afternoon, trying to add that last bird to my count. I was sitting by my little pond and I was having a hard time concentrating on the birds because the goldfish in the pond were really rambunctious! They were feeling very amorous and were chasing each other around the pond, the males pressing the females against the ponds edges, trying to get them to expel their eggs. Since I wasn't having much luck photographing birds, I turned my camera on the fish to record their antics.








I'm not in the business of breeding goldfish and, frankly, it is unlikely that any fry would survive in the pond for very long. They would likely be eaten by their parents or by other predators, as some of my adult goldfish have been in the past. There are presently five goldfish in the pond, each eight to ten inches long, and the population has been stable for about a year. They've been in the pond since we first set it up about four years ago.

So, even though I don't expect to have a new generation of goldfish in the pond, I'm glad to see that these fish appear to be happy and healthy enough to at least be interested in producing that next generation.

Oh, yes, I did finally manage to count 33 species of birds in the yard. You can read about them here.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - February 2013/This week in the garden - #51

Spring has come early to my zone 9a garden. Shrubs and trees are developing fat buds that will burst into leaf any day now. Perennials that died back this winter are putting up new shoots, and around the garden, I'm seeing a few more blooms that I can share with you this month. So, let me grab my camera and we'll head out the door!

But before we head out the door, let me aim the camera at a couple of things blooming inside the house.

 This phalaenopsis orchid that lives in my guest bathroom has been in bloom for several weeks now.

And this one which I just received for Valentine's Day, gives promise of many weeks of bloom ahead.

And, lest I forget, these raggedy old Christmas poinsettias are still hanging in there even though they've lost most of their leaves. When it gets a little warmer, I'm going to plant them in a protected spot in the garden, just to see if they've survive here.

 The variegated potato vine blooms twelve months of the year - including February.

The Carolina jessamine blooms only for about a month to six weeks out of the year, but while it blooms, it fills the garden with the most heavenly scent.

This red salvia which came up as a volunteer plant in the garden last summer has bloomed all winter in its protected spot near the brick wall.

And in another part of the garden, another salvia, this cherry red autumn sage, is coming into bloom again.

The first blooms of the blueberries are beginning to open.

And so are the first creamy white blossoms of the antique rose, 'Ducher.'

The loropetalum has been in bloom for a few weeks and continues to be full of these fringy flowers.

Winter violas also are still blooming and attracting passing butterflies.

Aren't these blossoms of the 'Gulf Rose' plum tree pretty? They really do say "spring" to me.

The purple oxalis will continue to bloom as long as the temperatures stay moderate. As soon as it heats up, though, the plants will curl up and go to sleep.

The rose 'Old Blush' is well named, isn't she? Other than 'Old Blush' and 'Ducher,' which were already in bloom, all the other roses in my yard are getting a haircut this week and their blooms will be delayed.  

Yes, the purple trailing lantana is still in bloom. It hasn't stopped since its first blooms late last summer, but it, too, will soon be getting a severe pruning.

Purple pansies bloom in a pot under the red oak tree.

Nearby, a hen planter holds white pansies.

I don't have the best of luck with a lot of bulbs, but I can usually depend on the little leucojums coming back year after year and giving me their distinctive blooms.

This year, even a few daffodils are blooming for me! Maybe the Year of the Snake is my lucky year - even though I was born in the Year of the Monkey.

I hope this is proving to be a good year for you and your garden. Thank you for taking the time to visit my garden today.

And thank you to Carol of May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day again this month.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Point of view, February edition

After two days of rain, mist, and fog, finally today we are rewarded with a day of brilliant golden sunshine. And so, I am out in my backyard, two days late, to offer you my "point of view" shots for February. I think you'll see that not a lot has changed since January, but, trust me, big changes are coming!

Just as a reminder, I'll give you the January shots, too, for comparison.

 Looking at the backyard from my garden shed in January.

And in February. Well, the sun is shining - that's different. And you may be able to tell that much of the cleanup has been done on the two parallel beds that form the center of the picture, but there's not been a lot of growth yet. The grass is slightly greener. That's about all.

 January's view looking straight down the middle of the beds.

And February's view. Again, not much change can be seen.

January - standing between the two beds and looking back toward my house and my next-door neighbor's yard.

And February - standing in almost the same spot. Maybe a couple of feet closer to the house. I think you can see that the dead tops of the cannas around the little sycamore tree on the right have been cut down, but other than that, there are no drastic changes.

As I said, big changes are coming to the backyard. We're getting a new patio put in, which I'll be showing you when it's done, and that will have a ripple effect throughout the yard. Plus, even though you can't really see it in this month's shots, things are beginning to green up. I think March's "point of view" should look quite a bit different.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Get ready to count

(Note: This was the day I planned to do my monthly "point of view" post to document the progress of my garden, but it's raining cats and dogs out there, folks! So, there will be a slight delay. Maybe, tomorrow... Meantime - ) 


Yes, it is just a few days now until the annual Great Backyard Bird Count begins. Are you ready to count? It's easy - and free - to participate. You just go to the website and sign on. Then count the birds in a specific area - it can be your yard or a public area like a park - and report them on the site. Then watch the map fill up with reports from around the country, and, this year, from around the world.

In the past, the bird count only included the United States and Canada, but this year it is going global. I am really excited to be able to see those counts from all over the world. But really the ones that excite me most are the ones from my neighborhood and state. It's always interesting to see what other birders in my area are reporting.

Scientists can determine much about the health of various bird populations by analyzing the data from the bird count from year to year. Even a layperson like myself learns about the movement of birds in her area by looking at those numbers. This will be my eleventh year to participate in the count, and my records from all those years are available to me as a picture of how my yard and its birds have changed.

If you've never participated before, let this be the year that you start your picture of your own backyard. You don't have to have any particular expertise in birds - just be able to identify and count. If you care at all about birds, I can practically guarantee you will enjoy it.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Well-named butterfly

An American Snout butterfly perched on the hook that holds one of my hummingbird feeders this week. Can you guess how it got its name?

These butterflies have such a distinctive profile that they can hardly be confused with any other species. They are one of the species that can stage massive, though sporadic, migrations. They are nowhere near as predictable as Monarchs, for example.

I haven't witnessed any large migrations of these interesting insects, but I have noticed a presence of them in my garden throughout the winter, unlike in previous years when they've only been occasional visitors. This year, hardly a week has gone by without my seeing at least one of them here. They are said to be most numerous in the area from April to November, but, in my yard, I've seen them mostly in winter. They are always welcome visitors.

Friday, February 8, 2013

This week in the garden - #50

Almost there. The Carolina jessamine is just about ready to burst into full bloom.

 The 'Gulf Rose' plum tree is there already - full of its sweet little white blossoms.

This week there can be no doubt that spring has definitely sprung in my yard. True, we may still have a few cool nights ahead of us but the warmer weather is here to stay. There'll be no more frost this winter.

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It's rose pruning time. I plan to spend a good portion of my gardening time this weekend working on that chore. I won't be pruning 'Old Blush' though, because she is in full bloom already.

She's my first rose to bloom this year. Most of the others will be a good bit later, because I'm going to give them a good whacking! It's not that I'm all that ruthless, but most of my rose bushes do grow rampantly, and if I don't cut them back severely in the spring, they can really get out of hand.

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I spent much of the day today clearing beds in my vegetable garden. It won't be long now until it's time to get those plants for the spring garden going and I want to be ready. I'm hoping that if I can get just a little assistance perhaps I can finish that job this weekend.

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There's not a lot blooming in my garden yet, but the fringy blossoms of loropetalum offer a bright spot of fuchsia in their corner of the backyard.

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I'm greatly heartened by the fact that we do continue to get occasional rain. The terrible drought which we endured for two years has been broken, at least in my little corner of the world. This week we got half an inch of rain and the rain barrels are again running over. We know that this good fortune likely will not last long-term, but please allow me to enjoy it while it does!