Saturday, November 21, 2015

2015 Fall Season Finale

Precipitation-wise, 2015 was an unusual year. Even though most of the year was dry, this year will be one of the top precipitation years on record in the Dallas area. Not because it rained throughout the year, but because it rained in bucket loads a couple of times during the year.

The year started out very dry and then we had a few weeks of "drought busting" precipitation in May. After that, there was not much precipitation to speak of and the drought came back. (I question whether it really went away.) Then, in the last week of October, we had more "frog strangler" rains.

Since the fall rains were delayed by a few weeks, much of the fall blooming season in my garden was delayed as well. I thought I should memorialize this season because it is all about to come to an end because we are expecting our first freeze tonight.

If any of my plants suffered from the wet and dry periods this year, it was the horsetail reed in the stock tank. It grew normally during the first part of the spring and then it grew exponentially during the wet spell in May. At one point the reeds reached six feet high, including the height of the stock tank. As soon as the hot dry, weather hit and the soil began to dry, the reeds started to dry out and die. The solution was to cut them back and let them regrow. Now they look much like they do when they start to grow out after their annual late winter trim.

Around the stock tank skeleton leaf goldeneye and autumn sage are in bloom.

This autumn sage color developed on its own in my garden. The camera did not capture its true color. It is more like the color of grape juice.

Here is another color of purple autumn sage that appeared in my garden. Plants with white flowers and pale yellow-green flowers have also popped up in the garden. The pinkish red one in this picture was purchased with that color. There is also a red tropical sage in the lower left corner of the picture.

The autumn sage on the right in this photo is probably my favorite color. It is sold as "Coral".

The monarchs missed the gayfeather in bloom, but a few have trickled in from time to time to enjoy the Gregg's mistflower.

Looking at the garden through pine muhly.

Another pine muhly glamour shot with coral autumn sage and spineless prickly pear in the background.

Here is the spineless prickly pear from the opposite side. This is the view I see from the house. The white autumn sage on the right is actually one of the ones with greenish-yellow flowers. They typically photograph as white.

In this photo, the gayfeather flower spikes are starting to dry and drop seeds. Last year I allowed the spikes to stay around for an extended period because they are quite attractive when backlit by the sun. Click here for pictures of last year's plants. They are not particularly attractive otherwise and it seems that every seed sprouts.

So, this year, I cut back the gayfeather flowers spikes before too many seeds had an opportunity to hit the ground.

It gives the garden a much cleaner look too.

With a freeze expected tonight, most of the flowers will probably turn brown, however I will make an attempt to save a few flowers for any lingering butterflies. This area above is my mistflower mashup. It includes Gregg's mistflower (front center), white fragrant mistflower (left), and blue mistflower (back center).

It does not look as good as I hoped it would, but the idea was to have several late blooming flowers grouped together so I could easily cover one area of the garden during those early freezes. It is not unusual to have freezing temperatures one night and then afternoon temperatures in the 80s or 90s a couple of days later. If I can save a few flowers, I can provide food for the bees and butterflies that will return on the warm fall and winter days.

The wind changed directions overnight. It is now blowing strongly from the north and ushering in the dreaded season of trash and leaf collecting. What blows across my neighbor's lawns gets stuck and collects in my garden.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Snubbed by the Monarchs

 All year long, I readied a buffet of nectar rich flowers for the monarchs to feast upon as they make their journey south to Mexico. 

And what happened? My gayfeather, Liatris, nectar feast was snubbed by the monarchs.

Now the gayfeather flowers are past their peak as the peak monarch migration shifted westward this year.

According to monarch sightings reported to the Journey North website, the majority of the peak sightings were west of the Dallas-Fort Worth area this year. I did notice one report from Plano where someone reported 45 monarchs on their Gregg's mistflower earlier this week. I have yet to see that many monarchs at one time this year, although I have seen a few more this week than in the previous weeks.

I did catch a picture of this monarch on the Mexican milkweed. I knew this was not a good picture as it was snapped, but just as I snapped another...

it was gone. Well, gone from that flower. It was still flying around the garden, but I gave up on trying to get a better picture after a few attempts.

This queen butterfly was a little more cooperative. I have seen more queen butterflies than monarchs this year. Still, I have not seen all that many queens either.

Even though the gayfeather flowers are fading, the grasses, like little bluestem and pine muhly, are hitting their peak. 

It is hard to beat the look of grasses backlit by the sun. This photo was taken in the afternoon.

This is another little bluestem backlit by the morning sun.

The aromatic asters began blooming this week. I have not noticed many pollinators taking advantage of these flowers yet.

A single skeletonleaf goldeneye flower with gayfeather in the background and Gregg's mistflower further in the background.

In the backyard, Gregg's mistflower and autumn sage are blooming around the blue bottle bush. The bottle bush is made from rebar shoved into the clay soil. As predicted, the rebar loosened and shifted once the clay began to dry in the summer. I need to come up with a better way of securing the rebar so the bottles do not clank together.

Just around the corner from the autumn sage in the photo above is a beebrush in full bloom. This fragrant flowers of this plant are a favorite of all kinds of bees. It is another plant that glows when backlit by the sun.

Here is a closer look at some of the flowers. Beebrush blooms about a week after a rain or it can be tricked into blooming with watering from a sprinkler. We had a brief sprinkle of rain last week that set off these flowers. We could still use a good soaker. October is normally our first or second wettest month of the year and that sprinkle last week was all we have had so far. Not to mention the temperature has felt more like summer. It is predicted that we will set a record high at 96 degrees today.