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

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Saturday, May 26, 2012

This week in the garden - #16

Butterflies continue to flock to my garden and to leave behind their tiny calling cards in the form of eggs. Everywhere I turn these days, it seems that there is a caterpillar munching away. This week, it was the time of the Black Swallowtails, to my eye one of the more beautiful caterpillars.

  This one and a few of his brothers had stripped all the leaves from several branches of my dill as they grew.

 Now they are nice and fat and just about ready to pupate.

Some of my host plants have been completely stripped of leaves. The butterfly weed lost most of its leaves to hungry Monarch caterpillars early on, but it is just about recovered and ready to host more of the beauties now. A heavy crop of Gulf Fritillaries has completely stripped one passionvine. I noticed just yesterday that they had discovered another vine and there were several tiny caterpillars on it. It will not last long but perhaps it will give the other vine a chance to recover.

Speaking of a need to recover, this poor little spicebush has been almost completely denuded by Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillars. It will grow more leaves in time, that is, if the butterflies will just give it a short break.

Elsewhere in the garden this week, we continue to be overrun with squash, but the plants (mercifully!) are beginning to go down. We are almost at the end of this crop and I'm giving thought to what I'm going to plant next in that bed.

We had our first corn for lunch last Sunday, but I found that I was just a little previous. The ears were not quite filled out and were not that tasty. I'm giving it a few more days before I try again. On the other hand, I've never grown 'Country Gentleman' corn before and it is possible that it just isn't particularly tasty. We'll see.

The tomatoes are just about to reach their peak. I canned my first batch this week and there will be more to come.

The beans are coming on and the potatoes are almost ready. Pammy of Thyme Square Gardens gave me an idea about preserving potatoes by freezing them! I had never even considered that but I may just give it a try when mine are dug.

I hope that you are enjoying a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend with your family and friends. Please take time to remember what the holiday really means.

Happy gardening.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Saturday, May 19, 2012

This week in the garden - #15

I confess that, other than gathering the vegetables and the blueberries, I haven't actually spent much time in the garden this week. Early in the week, it was raining which kept me mostly indoors. We got another 0.7 inch of rain, making a grand total of 2.5 inches in just about a week. Later in the week, I was busy with other things and so the garden had to struggle along without me.

When I did venture out, I continued trying to document the small butterflies in the garden. At the same time I saw plenty of the larger ones, including a beautiful Tiger Swallowtail which, unfortunately, I was not able to photograph. The garden is really "blooming" with butterflies these days.

   Here's one of the tiny ones that I was able to photograph. It is a Clouded Skipper feeding on horse mint.

I followed this little critter around trying to get its picture, thinking that it was a butterfly, but when I looked at the picture later I realized it was a moth, although I'm not sure of its identity. Do you recognize it? It's just about half an inch across.

This seems to be the most numerous butterfly in my yard these days - the Checkered Skipper.

While chasing butterflies, I came across this interesting caterpillar on my little mayhaw tree. I think it may be the larva of one of the sphinx moths, but I'm not sure which one. When I looked for it again today, it had disappeared. There are lots of hungry birds in my yard these days!

A lot of those hungry birds are babies and four of them are in this box. The Eastern Bluebird parents have been wearing themselves out over the last ten days or so trying to keep their hungry brood fed. They should be almost ready to fledge.

We've been enjoying tasty tomatoes, peppers, and squash from the veggie garden this week, and tomorrow we are going to have our very first corn! The vegetable garden has been especially productive this spring. After last year's almost complete failure, I am relishing all this bounty.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May 2012

The early months of 2012 have brought plentiful rain to our area, a welcome change from our recent past. And those showers have brought us even more plentiful May flowers.

The first blooms of the tithonia, Mexican sunflowers, mean that summer has arrived even though the calendar may say otherwise.

 May is the month for buddleias. This one has almost fully bloomed.

 All of my buddleias are in various shades of purple.

This is an old heirloom variety of buddleia that sports long, skinny blossoms and lots of them.

May is when the mid-season blooming daylilies start strutting their stuff.

 I particularly like this one.

The white mistflower which is such an attractant for butterflies is in bloom.

 And so is the white echinacea.

The old-fashioned 4 o'clocks are full of blooms. Opening late in the day, they attract night-flying pollinators like moths.

The many varieties of Salvia greggii in the garden attract many butterflies, including this colorful Gulf Fritillary.

In the wildflower garden, the prairie coneflowers are still in full bloom. They attract a diversity of butterflies as well.

 As does its neighbor, the clasping-leaf coneflower.

Also in the wildflower garden, the Monarda citriodora, commonly known as horsemint, is another butterfly magnet. This is a Variegated Fritillary enjoying its blossoms.

Even blossoms that are past their prime can be an attractant to butterflies, as the 'Belinda's Dream' rose is to this Gray Hairstreak.

I'm still puzzled by the fact that these fall asters that normally bloom in late fall have been in bloom for almost a month now. I'll be curious to see if they blossom again in the fall.

Esperanza, or yellow bells, on the other hand, blooms pretty much continuously from late spring until first frost.

This is my first year to have 'Senorita Rosalita' cleome in my garden. So far, it seems to be a winner.

May is not just about the flowers. Many kinds of fruit are beginning to tempt the gardener and the birds. These LSU figs will soon be ready.

The blueberries are even closer to ready and the mockingbirds know! I think they must sit and watch for a berry to turn blue and then swoop in and snatch it.

 The strawberry plants that I planted this spring are producing a few sweet berries now.

Even my little pomegranate tree sports a few growing fruits.

And the Satsuma's fruits are walnut-sized already.

The shrimp plant which bloomed all winter is now putting on some more of its interestingly-shaped flowers.

The white beautyberry is full of blossoms, promising a heavy crop of the berries so much loved by the birds in autumn and winter.

I've been waiting for a while for this first bloom from 'Lady of Shallott,' one of my new David Austin roses. The wait was worth it.

Finally, my two Southern magnolias are still full of these wonderful blossoms this month and the blossoms are  full of bees, like the one you can see coming in for a landing on the top flower in the picture.

Well, I could go on, but you get the idea. The garden is full of flowers and fruit in May. It might actually be the high point of the gardening year. Our hostess Carol certainly thinks so. That's why she calls her blog May Dreams Gardens. Don't forget to visit her and other GBBD participants.

Happy May gardening!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My mother's lilies

I'm happy to have a few plants in my garden that came from my late mother's garden and none are more precious to me than these old "ditch lilies," the original tawny orange daylilies. Every time I look at them I am reminded of my mother. They are tough plants, able to weather drought and flood and still come up blooming when spring rolls around again. Much like my mother.


Friday, May 11, 2012

This week in the garden - #14

This week has been mostly spent out of the garden. On Monday while working outside, I tweaked a muscle in my back and the rest of the week has seen me bent at a 45 degree angle when I walk and unable to do very much in the garden. On some days, the pain almost immobilized me, but it's getting better. I hope to soon be out weeding and pruning again. In the meantime, I got a lot of good reading done.

This afternoon, I stepped outside and noticed a swallowtail butterfly nectaring on the petunias next to the back porch. I glanced at it and thought, "Giant Swallowtail." Then I did a double take and looked again. No, not a Giant Swallowtail, but something completely different. Something I had never seen in my yard before.

It's a Palamedes Swallowtail! See that vertical orange stripe that is parallel to the butterfly's body? That confirms it is a Palamedes.

Here, you can see the stripe a little better, as well as the stripes that are on the body itself.

 Here is an actual Giant Swallowtail for comparison. You can see that these butterflies are mostly yellow underneath.

I am very excited to have a Palamedes Swallowtail in my yard. You might say it was the high point of my week! Unfortunately, I don't think I have anything for such a butterfly to lay an egg on. Their food plants are listed as red bay, sassafras, sweet bay, and avocado. Maybe I need to run out and purchase a bay or avocado tree.

I happened to have the camera with me when I found the Palamedes because I wanted to try to document some of the butterflies in the yard. After last year's horrendous spring and summer when butterflies of any kind were very rare in my garden, this spring has seen a veritable butterfly bonanza here. And not just Monarchs and the various swallowtails and sulphurs and Gulf Fritillaries, but a very diverse population.

The tiny Common Checkered Skippers have been very numerous. I almost never go into the garden without seeing some of these pretty little butterflies.

I find that the wildflower bed is usually a good place to look for butterflies. This stand of horesemint seems to be a particular favorite nectar plant for many varieties.

Varieties like this lovely Variegated Fritillary. The Gulf Fritillary is very common in my yard but this little butterfly has always been less frequently seen. This year, though, there seem to be lots of them around.

While I was checking out the wildflower bed, which is in my vegetable garden, I stopped by the raised bed that holds the corn.

 The color of the corn silk tells me that this corn will soon be ready. It is an old variety called 'Country Gentleman.' I've never raised it before so I'm very interested to see how it turns out.

The rains that we got this week - 1.2 inches so far - gave a boost to the corn and to everything else. I had begun providing supplemental water to several of my plants, especially the vegetables, that seemed to be suffering in the dry conditions we had had for a few weeks. But the rain took care of that - at least for a few days.  It was a good note on which to close out the week.