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

Friday, November 30, 2012

This week in the garden - #40

My week in the garden has been spent primarily on continuing clean up and repositioning after the recent tree removal and the pruning of the big trees in my yard. I've been picking up dead limbs and sticks and rearranging the outdoor furniture, as well as moving and utilizing some of the sawdust left over from stump grinding.

Another important "chore" has been observing the movement of sunlight across the yard and learning how it has changed. My garden had grown quite shady over the years as the trees grew and the removal of three big trees has definitely changed that in places. I need to rethink some of my plantings, and I will need to move some plants. My preferred time for uprooting and moving plants is winter, so that will have to wait a few more weeks. In the meantime, I'm thinking and planning.

I also did a bit of weeding in the vegetable garden this week. Several of the greens crops there will soon be ready for the table, as are the black-eyed peas now. And the largest of my butternut squashes is almost ready. I can hardly wait!

My plant of the week this week is Euphorbia tirucalli, known as pencil plant.

Actually, this plant has many, many common names. Among them are firestick plant or sticks on fire, Indian tree spurge, naked lady, pencil tree or pencil cactus (although it is not a cactus), and milk bush. That last name comes from the sticky sap that is produced when you cut a section.

For most of the year, this plant, which lives in a big pot with other succulents near my back porch, is bright green, but as the weather gets cooler, it starts developing this orange blush over many of its sections. Easy to see how it gets the name firestick plant or sticks on fire.

This is a hardy succulent. Mine stays outside all winter in my zone 9b garden. If it is going to get much below freezing, I try to give it some protection - not so easy any more since it has grown quite large. A couple of times it has died back almost to the ground in winter, but it has always come back and flourishes again in spring. Moreover, it is exceptionally easy to propagate. I find that if I just break off a section and stick it in the soil, it will generally root. It is a fascinating plant, one that I very much enjoy having in my garden.

'Tis the season and the amaryllises are blooming.

Happy gardening!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Copper Canyon daisy

Autumn is Copper Canyon daisy time in my garden. This tough, drought-tolerant shrubby plant has been a part of my garden for several years and this year it has been particularly floriferous.
This perennial shrub can grow to about three to four feet tall and five to six feet wide. That pretty much describes mine in its present form. It has feathery foliage which gives the plant an airy, rather blowsy appearance. At the height of its bloom (mine is a bit past that point now) the inch-wide blooms can completely cover and obscure the leaves, making the plant look like a big mound of yellow. It is quite a striking sight. This native daisy will grow in full sun or partial shade. Mine is in partial shade.
The original plant was native in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and northern Mexico, but it has been introduced and naturalized in many parts of Texas and it grows extremely well even here in humid Southeast Texas. Yes, this is one tough and versatile plant!
One of the most noticeable attributes of the plant is its scent. It has a very strong "marigold" scent which some people might find objectionable, but which I actually enjoy..The scent may be one of the things that makes this plant deer-resistant, a very important trait in many areas.
Other names for this plant include Mexican bush marigold, Mt. Lemmon marigold, and mountain marigold. The plant was collected by John Gill and Sara Lemmon in southeastern Arizona in the 1880s. The Lemmons developed the plant and introduced it to the nursery trade in California. The botanical name, Tagetes lemmonii, recognizes that contribution.
As our climate changes and we have to deal with extended droughts, area gardeners search for plants that can thrive in such conditions and Copper Canyon daisy can be added to that list. Once established, it does not require any extra water and no fertilizer. It is a lazy gardener's dream plant.
This is my belated contribution to Wildflower Wednesday, sponsored by Gail of Clay and Limestone. Visit her blog to see other entries.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: The tree

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The woolly bear prediction

Consider the humble woolly bear caterpillar. It is the larva of the Isabella moth, a rather nondescript moth which is common from northern Mexico right up to the southern half of Canada. Though the moth may go unnoticed, the caterpillars are pretty visible and they are one of the few caterpillars that most people can actually identify. Moreover, folklore imbues them with psychic abilities. They are said to be able to predict what kind of winter we will have. Will winter be mild or harsh? Look to the woolly bear, the believers say.

The typical woolly bear is black on both ends and has a strip of lighter brown in the middle. In fact, one of the common names of the caterpillar is "black-ended bear." The folk legend surrounding the caterpillar's meteorological prognostications says that the wider that lighter brown band is, the milder the winter the winter will be. A narrow band of brown predicts a harsh winter.

How then to interpret this visitor that I found on my front doorstep this morning?

No brown band at all!

Winter is coming, as all George R.R. Martin fans know. And if this little woolly bear is truly an omen of that winter, it may be a doozy!

Friday, November 23, 2012

This week in the garden - #39

It has been a much-abbreviated week in the garden, punctuated by our preparations for Thanksgiving. The family gathered at our house again this year. Fortunately, the guests brought the smoked turkey and pecan pies, as well as a pot of greens and a Philippine specialty that utilizes purple sweet potatoes and is a kind of pudding. We refer to it, perhaps not surprisingly, as "Purple Pudding."

With all that food being brought by others, there wasn't that much cooking for me to do. I made the family's traditional "Aunt Lurline's Cornbread Dressing" and a couple of other side dishes including a simple but (I thought) delicious cranberry relish that uses fresh cranberries, Clementines, and walnuts. In short, we had a feast! I hope you did, too.

Looking around the garden this morning, I went to check on my citrus trees. All of my citrus has suffered this year from citrus leaf curl which makes them look really ugly, but doesn't actually seem to affect their crops.

 The little kumquat tree has a number of these little fruits, all still perfectly green.

While I was checking the kumquats, I found a couple of surprises in the form of Giant Swallowtail caterpillars. This one was out in the open and easy to see.

A second one was well hidden among the leaves. You can see how their camouflage as bird droppings serves them really well.

The Satsumas that I've shown you several times recently are beginning to change color and will be ready soon.

It's amaryllis time. I bought this one at a local store a couple of weeks ago, but when I unpacked the kit, the stem had already grown in a twisted fashion. Not very decorative for my purposes so it got relegated to my outside table, where it seems perfectly happy, even if it is twisted.

I hope you have much to be thankful for in your garden this week and this year.  Happy gardening!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is hands-down my favorite holiday of the year. I always look forward to celebrating it and this year especially I have a lot to be thankful for.

I hope you have a lot to be thankful for, too, and that your holiday is an especially good one this year.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Almost Wordless Wednesday: November butterflies

American Painted Lady

Dorantes Skipper

Gulf Fritillary

Pipevine Swallowtail - dorsal view

Pipevine Swallowtail - ventral view

Clouded Sulphur

Tropical Checkered Skipper

Variegated Fritillary

Saturday, November 17, 2012

This week in the garden - #38

It has been a truly momentous week in my garden. Its character has been changed forever. The tree people have paid us a visit.

All of the huge oak trees (five of them) in our front yard needed work and the big sycamore tree in the backyard that was much too close to the house - well, much as I loved it, it needed to be gone. In the end, we had the sycamore tree and the two smallest oak trees removed, and the live oaks and remaining Shumard red oak (my favorite) were pruned, all dead limbs and some live ones removed. The result is a much sunnier yard in many areas. I'm going to have to rethink some of my plantings and probably move even more plants than I had previously intended this winter.

It's a drastic change and takes some getting used to, but I think I like it. Plus we now have plenty of oak firewood for our fireplace, so we are prepared for a cold winter. (Well, I guess we will be prepared for winter next year, because I'm told this wood needs to age for a year.)

My main problem with the change is that my backyard shade where I sat every day and watched the birds and butterflies is gone. I will miss that tree.

As a temporary solution, I could use a table umbrella at the table where I usually sit, but I'd like something to provide more permanent shade. A pergola or arbor maybe? I'll have to give it some thought.

Meantime, I'll just have to find another vantage point for watching butterflies.

Butterflies like this beautiful Red Admiral, soaking up the sun on a metal fence on a recent cool morning.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - November 2012

Whoa! Bloom Day snuck up on me this month. I had forgotten all about it until the Bloom Day posts started showing up in my Google reader. So I rushed outside to record what is blooming in the garden so that I could show you.

I went to take a picture of the Turk's Cap which I knew was in full bloom, but my attention was distracted by this green anole on the bricks above the plant. It's a cool day here - temperatures still in the 50s when the picture was taken - and the anole was soaking in the warmth of the bright sun on this south-facing wall.

And, sure enough, the Turk's Cap was in full bloom.

'Tangerine Dream' crossvine is a spring bloomer but continues to send out a few blooms throughout most of the year.

I have a good crop of butternut squash and the vines are still blooming.

The milkweed blooms have all turned to seeds now - seeds that await a wind to send them to their destination.

The milkweed has another crop, too - Monarch caterpillars.

'Caldwell Pink' polyantha rose blooms almost every month in my garden - November is no exception.

 Cape honeysuckle still sports some of its fiery blooms, as well.

A half-opened bloom of the sunny yellow hibiscus greeted me on my early-morning rounds with the camera.

Red firespike is almost done but it's had a good long cycle of bloom.

The purple trailing lantana is still blooming and still drawing butterflies like this skipper. (A Dorantes, I think.)

 And this beautiful Red Admiral.

And, of course, the ever-present Gulf Fritillary.

Blue plumbago has just bloomed and bloomed and bloomed since early spring.

 The shrimp plant is sending out some jumbo-sized "shrimp."

'Radazz' Knockout roses have been putting on a good show recently.

In the herb garden, Mexican mint marigold is beginning to bloom.

Jatropha will continue to send out blooms until first frost.

Tecoma stans is still full of its flowers as well as its bean-like seeds.

Hamelia patens will go to sleep with the first killing frost. After three seasons of heavy bloom, it deserves a rest.

These are the glory days for Copper Canyon daisies.

Bleeding heart clerodendron - these blossoms haven't opened up to show the "blood" yet.

Yellow cestrum just keeps going and going like that pink bunny on the long-ago battery commercials on television.

This half-open bloom of a succulent is criss-crossed by delicate silk strands from a spider.

I know I've gone on too long, but I have to show you my favorite bloom in the garden this month - the lovely 'Litchfield Angel' rose. I love the delicate colors of this blossom.

By the time December Bloom Day rolls around, we probably will have had our first frost here in Southeast Texas and my garden will look quite different. It's been a long year and the garden has bloomed its heart out for me. I'm ready to tuck it in for a few weeks' winter nap.

Thank you for visiting today and thank you as always to our hostess Carol of May Dreams Gardens. Happy Bloom Day!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Getting reacquainted

After having been away from my garden for a couple of weeks, I've been doing my walk-throughs and reacquainting myself with what's going on here.

The Duranta erecta is weighed down with a heavy crop of these golden berries which give it one of its common names, "Golden Dewdrop."  Some of the limbs are almost touching the ground because of the weight of the berries.

But the plant also continues to draw butterflies like this Giant Swallowtail to its few remaining blossoms. Butterflies really, really love Duranta. I'm thinking of adding another plant if I can figure out where to put it.

In the veggie garden, the butternut squash also has a heavy crop. I'm crossing my fingers that the fruits will have time to mature before our first frost, but if the frost comes early, I stand ready to deploy my frost cloth. I'm determined not to lose this delicious harvest.

The wonderful rose, 'Belinda's Dream,' just keeps on producing these luscious blooms.

The matured passion vine flowers are turning into these fruits.

The black-eyed peas will soon be ready. Maybe in time for Thanksgiving!

The Copper Canyon daisies will soon be in full bloom, presenting a solid mass of cheerful yellow to the passerby.

The milkweed bears a nice population of fat, healthy Monarch caterpillars.

 With more to come! A female Monarch deposits her egg on the milkweed.

In another part of the garden, the fruits of the Satsuma are beginning to change color.

And by the gate to the vegetable garden, the 'Litchfield Angel's' blooms look angelic, indeed.

My garden actually looks pretty good. Maybe I should go away more often!