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

Friday, May 31, 2013

This week in the garden - #66

Here we are at the last day of May, five months into 2013 already. Where has the year gone?

Summer may not have arrived on the calendar just yet, but, by any other measure, it is here. Temperatures in the 90s every day. Oppressive humidity. No rain in sight. Yep, it is definitely summer in Southeast Texas, and tomorrow is the first day of hurricane season. Oh, joy.


May means daylilies. There are several different kinds in my garden and nearly all of them have been in bloom this week.

The variety names are lost in the mists of history and my memory, but I love them no less for being nameless.


Long-time readers of this blog, from 2009 or earlier, may remember my posts about Sam Box, the box turtle who lived in our backyard for over twenty years. As soon as the temperatures got warm each year, she (we didn't know her sex when we named her) would show up in the backyard. Over the years, she developed a cat food habit and she would come to the back porch where I fed my two garden cats to filch some of their kibble. I would see her most days during the summer.

2009 was the last year that I saw Sam. We had an unusually harsh winter in 2008-09 and I think she may have succumbed during it. But she had a good, long life.

The following year, 2010, a baby box turtle took her place. Box turtles are territorial and we assumed since he was evidently hatched in Sam's territory that he must have been Sam's son. So, he became Samson or Sammy, for short.

He turned up again in 2011, having grown a bit but still small enough to fit in the palm of my hand.

Sammy in the summer of 2011. Just like mom, he would show up on the back porch every day looking for his cat food fix.

I didn't see him at all last year. It's possible he was around, but I never happened to encounter him. Then, yesterday, once again, a small box turtle, slightly bigger than the last time I had seen Sammy, came to the back porch to enjoy a cat food snack. But, if it is Sammy, he is much changed since I last saw him.

Apparently, he's had an encounter with a predator. His shell was damaged around the head where it looked like something had gnawed at it. Still, in spite of the damage, he seemed none the worse for wear. He appeared to be moving about just fine and enjoying his meal of cat food, just like Sam Box in the old days. I hope he lasts as long as she did.


Elsewhere in the garden, in another sign that summer is here, the Hamelia patens is in bloom.

And the green anoles are busily displaying their flashy red throat patches as an inducement for the female anoles to come on over and play house.

Yep, summer is most definitely here.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The American Meadow Garden by John Greenlee, photography by Saxon Holt: A review

As the earth heats up and droughts become more prevalent across the country, American gardeners are learning, in many cases to their chagrin, that the broad expanses of green lawn that have long been a staple of the American landscape may no longer be sustainable. These lawns are water-guzzlers and, as water becomes more dear, it is more and more obvious that the traditional lawn has to go.

Moreover, that traditional lawn as it has evolved over a century and a half has become a time-consuming, synthetic chemical-sucking monster. It is not good for the environment and it is not good for the humans who must spend an inordinate amount of time grooming it. Although it may appear an inviting place for kids and pets to play, its dependence on chemicals which remain in the ecosystem can make it a dangerous place for even those activities.

John Greenlee, a nurseryman and garden designer with decades of experience behind him, thinks that he has a better idea. He has written this very helpful and beautiful book in support of that idea. He believes that the time for transition to meadow gardens, which rely heavily on native grasses and wildflowers, has come. 

The native grasses and wildflowers are already adapted to their areas. They require minimal (if any) supplemental water and almost no care once installed and established. They are the perfect garden for the times and for the lazy gardener. Like me. 

People sometimes think of a meadow garden as a wild and rather messy place and they may think they don't want that in their front yard. But Greenlee shows that such a garden is not a random assortment of messy and anonymous grasses. Instead, it is a complete mini ecosystem which has as its basis a variety of regionally appropriate native grasses. Mixed in with those grasses are many perennial and annual wildflowers and altogether, these plants form a colorful tapestry that is a background for wildlife.

Meadow gardens are the perfect landscape for a habitat gardener, like myself, who gardens in support of local wildlife, because such a garden is friendly to all kinds of life, including humans. Birds, butterflies, and bees will quickly find a meadow garden and make themselves at home there. Small reptiles, amphibians, and even mammals will make it their home as well.

Greenlee offers his readers specific advice about the preparation of the site for the meadow garden, as well as plant selection and maintenance. Again, maintenance, once the garden is well-established is really minimal. He gives lists of various ornamental grasses and information about how they perform in different climates and areas.

Greenlee's passion for meadow gardens is contagious and he is very persuasive. But if the reader is unconvinced by Greenlee's words, she may find her resistance melting in the face of Saxon Holt's beautiful photographs. Looking at these pictures, it is very hard to see why anyone wouldn't want her front yard - or, indeed, her backyard - to look like that.

Meadow gardens are one of the hot trends in gardening today. They are definitely making inroads into those broad, green, ecologically dead zones that Americans have favored for so many years. One hopes that Greenlee's lovely book might help to push that trend along.

(I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for the purposes of this review. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

Friday, May 24, 2013

This week in the garden - #65

April showers bring May flowers, so they say. We didn't really have that many April showers, but it was enough, I guess, because we surely do have May flowers!

 The Alstroemeria has been in bloom since I added it to the garden several weeks ago.

Each new day seems to bring a new reseeded sunflower in bloom.

May also means sweet oleander blossoms.

In the wildflower garden the horsemint is in bloom now. Bees and butterflies love this plant.

The prairie coneflowers, sometimes called "Mexican hats," are in bloom.

And among them are these tickseed flowers.

I added celosia to some of my beds for a little extra color.

The garden always manages to give me a few surprises. Like these white petunias. To the best of my memory, I have never planted white petunias. And yet here they are - reseeded from...somewhere. A gift of the wind.

 In the bottle tree bed, the red yucca is almost blooming.

Along the back fence, the elderberries are full of these white umbels. Bees and butterflies love them and birds love the purple berries that come afterward.

The old-fashioned 4 o'clocks are full of blooms.

And almost every day, we get a new and different daylily opening. Today it was this one.  

Some insect really seems to like these hybrid datura blossoms. I think every one that has opened so far has had insect damage.

 But the native datura that started blooming this week was unblemished.

On the back porch, the red geraniums bloom in their pot. I have to have red geraniums somewhere in the garden.

 And over it all, the queen of the May garden, the magnolia, still reigns supreme.


We picked our first zucchini from the veggie garden this week, but, in the back garden where the blueberries are beginning to ripen, the birds are picking the fruit as soon as they start to turn blue. I'll be lucky to be able to salvage enough for one batch of blueberry muffins.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Friday, May 17, 2013

This week in the garden - #64

I continue to be amazed and delighted at the unusually pleasant spring we have had so far. It continued this week, even though today it did heat up into the high 80s F. But even then there was a nice breeze blowing, so that working in the yard was still bearable.

Goodness knows, there is plenty of work to be done in the garden. I've spent the week weeding and pruning and deadheading and tying up. Looking across the garden late this afternoon, I was able to see that I had made progress, even though so much more needs to be done. Truly, a gardener's work is never done.


In the vegetable garden, I have tiny fruits on my zucchinis and some of the tomatoes are beginning to turn color. And in the bluebird box there, the parent bluebirds are busily feeding and caring for their five young ones. In a bit more than another week, they'll be ready to fly


I showed you some of my blooms on Bloom Day this week, but there is so much more.

 Another day, another new datura blossom - this one a double purple and white. These double blooms never seem to open quite as fully as the single ones. Something liked the taste of this one and nibbled all around the outer petal.

I really like the soft color of the 'Litchfield Angel' rose with its merest blush of pink.

 The 'Litchfield' color is echoed in these gerberas.

 I'm taking bets as to how much longer these violas will last. They have bloomed all winter and now all the way into the middle of May.

 In a pot next to the fountain, the firecracker plant is beginning its bloom.

Last winter we moved the large almond verbena shrub. It had outgrown the spot where it lived. I cut the plant back by about half and pruned the roots as well. My husband spent about half a day digging it up and then we managed to wrestle into the cart and move it to its new location. The normally vigorous and fast-growing plant went into deep shock and pouted for many weeks after the move, but I kept pampering and petting it and finally, it began to grow again. It hasn't regained its former size, but, today it offered up its very first blooms of the year. I think maybe it has forgiven me.

 I always have "volunteer" sunflowers around the garden. This one near the compost bins is the very first to bloom.

On a sunny day in spring, what better spot for a green anole to laze around than on a corn plant (Dracaena fragrans) leaf? Not only is it comfortable, it offers him perfect camouflage.

I hope you found a spot to laze around in your garden just a bit this week. It's always important to take time to enjoy what we have wrought. Happy gardening!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May 2013

It has been an unusually mild spring here in Southeast Texas where I live. In most years, by this time we would be suffering with daily temperatures in the 90s F. This spring, though, temperatures have stayed more moderate with some cool nights even into May. And, thankfully, we have continued to get some occasional showers. All in all, not a bad spring. The plants have loved it!

May, of course, more than any other month, is full of flowers, too many to catalog them all, but here are a few of the ones that are brightening my garden this Bloom Day.

Weighed down by raindrops from an early morning shower, this is the first bloom for this bicolor yellow and white datura. I planted from a mixed seed packet of datura, so I had no idea what I would get, but I quite like this one.

 The 'Litchfield Angel' rose is almost open today.

'Belinda's Dream' almost always has blossoms open.

 'Mystic Spires' salvia is in full bloom.

 As are the old species cannas.

 Orange bulbine, another constant bloomer.

Oakleaf hydrangea, my favorite among the hydrangeas.

Several of the daylilies are in bloom. Their variety names are lost in the mists of my garden's history.

 The groundcover wedelia is opening its daisy-like blooms.

And some real daisies, the Blackfoots, are open, too.

The miniature rose, 'Red Cascade' is full of these tiny flowers, which still show the effects of the morning's rain.

 Copper Canyon daisy is blooming.

 New Guinea impatiens brighten pots in the shade around the yard.

While wax begonias provide color in sun-drenched pots. These plants may look fragile but they are tough. They can endure heat and drought and keep on blooming.

In the wildflower garden, various coneflowers, rudbeckias, and blanket flowers are blooming.

The Justicia 'Orange Flame' is attracting a lot of attention from the garden's hummingbirds.

The so-called blue hibiscus, Alyogyne huegelii, has been in bloom since the day I planted it several weeks ago. I'm told that it will bloom all summer. We'll see.

Thanks to Carol of May Dreams Gardens for again hosting Bloom Day and thank you for visiting my garden this month.

Happy gardening!