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

Saturday, April 28, 2012

This week in the garden - #12

What excitement! The birds and the veggies are coming in at the same time!

All week long, I've been seeing new fledglings around the yard, mainly the cardinals and the chickadees. At the same time, the yard has been full of migratory birds, especially warblers, making their way north. And, as if that weren't enough to get this birder/gardener's heart pumping, the zucchini has started to come in and one of my tomatoes is turning red!

 It's a 'Mortgage Lifter.' I can't wait to taste it.

This pretty orange daylily lit up the bed where it lives this week. Compare it to...

Mama's old ditch lilies, the heritage plant from which all our modern daylilies came.

There have been a few mysteries in the garden this week.

Tiny butterflies, often with a wingspan of one inch or less, frequently get overlooked because they are...well, tiny. They're not big and flashy like the swallowtails or fritillaries or milkweed butterflies. But on any given day, there are probably more of them in the garden. I caught a couple of them with my camera this week.

While I was looking at the wildflower garden, I noticed some small butterflies enjoying the blooms. Several of them were skippers of various kinds, but I'm not sure what this one is. In flight it looked like a small sulphur, but I couldn't find any pictures that looked exactly what my camera saw when the critter sat with wings folded.

 Here's a second view. Do you recognize him/her? 

This, I believe, is one of the checkered white skippers, but, again, I couldn't get a good enough picture to pin down its identity definitively. So the mysteries remain. And here's another one.

This guy was munching away on my dill. I'm used to seeing swallowtail caterpillars there, but this isn't one of them and I was unable to find a picture with which to identify it.

Back at the wildflower garden, the tickseeds are raising their pretty, if unfortunately named, flowers to the sun.

No mystery here, but I'm gratified to continue to see a steady stream of Monarch visitors to my garden, and I've had a steady stream of their caterpillars turning into brand new butterflies.

My 4 o'clocks bloom in a myriad of colors, but I particularly like this one.

If you've read the blog for any length of time, you know my feelings about 'Graham Thomas.' He's my favorite yellow rose and I'm always happy to see him bloom.

Now here's a sign of a healthy habitat garden. It's snake poop! I'm seeing this sign more frequently than ever before this year. I know that I have at least a couple of adult snakes in the garden - a Texas rat snake and a beautiful little garter snake. By the time I see them, they are always slithering away as fast as they can move. Their instinct teaches them to fear humans. Canny instinct, but if they only knew how much I treasure their presence here, perhaps they would hang around and visit with me.

I hope your garden is healthy and beautiful and brings you joy this week. Maybe it even harbors a snake, the gardener's friend.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wildflower Wednesday - April 2012

On our trip to Antique Rose Emporium at Brenham, Texas last Friday, we saw some lovely meadows and hillsides covered with wildflowers. Of course, I had to stop to take some pictures.

Poppies, coreopsis, thistles, black-eyed Susans, primroses, phlox and still a few bluebonnets were blooming in gay profusion, and the meadows were full of bees and butterflies. It made my heart glad to see them.

For more wildflower pleasures, visit Gail at clay and limestone for a listing of other bloggers who are participating in Wildflower Wednesday this month, and thanks to Gail for hosting the meme.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast by Carol Gracie: A review

This could easily serve as a coffee table book with its more than 500 wonderful close-up photographs of beautiful spring wildflowers, but it is much more than that. It provides an in-depth look at the spring-blooming wildflowers of the Northeast, from old favorites to lesser-known species, with essays that include the life histories, lore, and cultural uses of many of the species. 

The author talks about the philosophy behind the naming of wildflowers and the reasons that the taxonomy of the plants often changes over time. She also discusses the pollination of flowers and the dispersal of seeds, as well as some of the enemies of the plants such as herbivores, plant pathogens, and insect pests.

Some of the more interesting parts of the book, for me, were those that deal with the uses of the plants by Native Americans and with related species from other parts of the world. I'm always fascinated to see that very similar species of plants (and animals, for that matter) with like characteristics that solve problems in like ways evolve in similar environments around the planet.

Many of these plants, of course, have medicinal uses that were very important in the past and, in some cases, are still used in homeopathic practices. Author Carol Gracie gives space to discussing those uses and also references to wildflowers in art, literature, and history. There is quite simply a wealth of information here; everything you ever wanted to know about wildflowers but maybe didn't know how or who to ask.

The organization of the material of the book is to divide the subject flowers into families so that we see, for example, the members of the orchid family, or the barberry family, or the violet family, etc., shown together where they can be easily compared. Moreover, Gracie writes in a very accessible, easy-to-read style that makes her book useful for all levels of readers, even those, like myself, who consider themselves pretty ignorant on the subject. This is a book that deserves a place on the bookshelf of anyone who wants to know more about these wonderful plants.

(A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of this review.)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day #42

I hope you are out enjoying our beautiful planet today instead of reading this. And if you're not, why aren't you?


Friday, April 20, 2012

This week in the garden - #11

The march of the daylilies that I reported in this week's Bloom Day post continues. Every day it seems that another daylily begins its bloom.

Like this pretty pink one with the yellow throat.

And this clear lemon yellow one.

The bicolors are always striking.

At some point when I wasn't noticing, the old 4 o'clocks also started blooming.

Besides enjoying all the new blooms in the garden this week, I've been busy most days with watering plants, weeding, and with pruning the wild hedge along the back fence that has been threatening to get out of control again. 

Everything had dried out terribly since our last significant rain and the vegetable garden in particular was beginning to suffer, so I spent a good bit of time both carrying water from our new rain barrel and dragging a hose around to provide water for my thirsty plants. Finally, today, they and I got some relief in the form of rain. It was still raining as the sun set so I didn't get a chance to check my rain gauge, but my sense is that it was enough to give everything a nice drink.

This morning, before the rain started, Bob and I had taken what has become something of an annual spring jaunt for us to the Antique Rose Emporium. 

A lot of other people had the same idea today. The parking lots were pretty full and the place was crowded.

Of course, ARE is all about the roses.

We wandered through the display gardens and found many roses in bloom. Unfortunately, they were not labelled, so I wasn't able to put a name to most of them, such as this beauty.

This clear red one formed a natural bouquet with its bunches of blooms.

This shrub rose was past its prime but still pretty and it had a nice fragrance.

Polyantha roses are among my favorites of the antique rose varieties.

I did recognize this one. It was 'Red Cascade' and was in full bloom, which just made me wonder why my own 'Cascade' isn't blooming yet.

Isn't this one absolutely gorgeous?

They did have other things besides roses in their display beds.

Bright yellow poppies, for example.

And beds of colorful larkspur.

After we walked around all the gardens, we headed back to the retail area, where I found a little red wagon load of plants that my garden really, really needed.

I went home with my newly purchased treasures as one happy gardener and found it raining at home which made me even happier. The perfect ending to a perfect day-trip.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

New York Times takes note of Peckerwood

The New York Times online today has an interesting article about Hempstead gardener and Texas A&M professor John Gaston Fairey. His garden, Peckerwood, is a treasure, and the article includes a slide show with several pictures of Mexican native plants that are the backbone of the garden. Follow the highlighted link above to read all about it.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - April 2012

April in my Southeast Texas garden means roses and daylilies.

The old 'Dortmund' rose rested through much of last year's horrible drought, but it has been making up for lost time this year.

One of the plants that I added to the garden this past winter was this David Austin rose, 'Molineux.' It features these luscious yellow blossoms that have just a touch of salmon or orange when first open.

 And speaking of yellow roses, the floribunda 'Monkey Business' has been very happy in its new location next to the fish pond and it has shown it with a shower of wonderful blossoms.

Another David Austin rose is the beautiful 'Litchfield Angel' with its creamy white blooms that have just the faintest blush of pink.

And yet another Austin rose is 'Darcy Bussell' which was also added during the winter.

Unfortunately, most of the variety names of my daylilies have been long-since lost in the mists of time, but with or without their names, they are lovely and they brighten the April garden.

This one is pretty in pink. (That may actually be its name.)

This miniature I do happen to know is 'Stella d'Oro' and indeed when it is in bloom, it does look like tiny golden stars have fallen to earth.

I'm very fond of this simple, old-fashioned mahogany and gold daylily.

There are a few other things blooming in the garden besides daylilies and roses.

In the wildflower garden, the blanket flowers are beginning to bloom.

The pretty yellow Texas primrose has been in bloom for several weeks.

White yarrow glows in the shade of a tree.

The milkweed is in bloom and has had a steady stream of Monarch butterfly visitors.

The Monarchs visit other flowers as well. Here, the 'Red Lion' amaryllis tempts a passerby.

And on a nearby milkweed leaf, one of the next generation of Monarchs munches his way through all the phases of growth until he's ready to pupate and become a beautiful butterfly. This one is almost there.

An old heirloom buddleia that had its origins in the garden of a friend's grandmother is the first of my buddleias to bloom this year.

Another heirloom, a species canna that came long ago from another friend and neighbor's garden, is the first of the cannas to bloom. These plants bloom all the way from now until first frost in December.

The oakleaf hydrangeas are almost in full bloom now.

  I love the sweet little flowers of the 'Blue Daze' plant.

The red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) plant is not really a true yucca. It is a member of the Agavaceae, or century-plant, family and is one of the tough native plants of Texas and the Southwest. It comes in several colors, the most common of which is a coral red, but there is also a yellow variation as you see here. I have both the red and yellow varieties in my garden, but so far only the yellow has bloomed this year. These blooms last for months.

The Southern magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora, usually blooms for us in May, but it, like many other plants, is somewhat confused about the seasons this year and so it started blooming more than a week ago in early April. The beautiful white blossoms almost make up for the mess of the shedding leaves.

The peak of our bloom season will be arriving over the next several weeks. It is a rewarding time to be a gardener as every day brings a new surprise, a new beauty. Come to think of it, every day and every season in the garden is like that.

I hope you enjoyed your visit to my garden this month. Don't forget to stop by Carol's May Dreams Gardens and see who else is showing off his/her blooms. Happy Bloom Day!