Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Autumn Update

It has been about a month since I posted any pictures from my garden so it is time for an update. When we last saw my garden at the end of September, it was filled with purple spikes of Liatris flowers.

Several neighbors commented on the number of butterflies that the flowers attracted. That was then.

This was a few days ago. Sadly, the flowers had faded after about three weeks and I was left with a garden of not particularly attractive spikes that would soon scatter thousands of seeds.

To clean things up a bit, I started removing the flower spikes. This is an after picture. I did not think about taking before and after photos until I was halfway finished so I don't have photos of the same area. Anyway, the garden looks much tidier now.

Autumn Sage, Salvia greggii, glows in the morning sunlight. This sage is not just for the fall season. It also blooms heavily in the spring and lighter throughout the summer.

This aster appeared in my decomposed granite next to the street last year. I think it may be Heath Aster Symphyotrichum ericoides. Can any aster experts confirm or deny?

It is only about a foot tall and I am sure it has an evil plot to rule my garden, but it sure is pretty when it is covered in flowers. The bees and small butterflies cannot get enough of the flowers.

Around in the backyard, I thought I removed all of this Willowleaf Aster, Symphyotrichum praealtum, this year. It aggressively sent up suckers within a five foot radius of the mother plant after only one year. I decided it was not worth the real estate commitment for 2-3 weeks of flowers. I will go after this plant after it finishes blooming.

Here is a patriotic display of red Autumn Sage, white Mealycup Sage, and blue Mealycup Sage, Salvia farinacea.

The pictures above were taken on Saturday. We received a nice rain Saturday night, so I took more pictures Sunday morning.

I have been concerned as to how this decomposed granite pathway will handle heavy rains. Before I added the decomposed granite this year, it was not uncommon for some of the soil to wash onto the sidewalk after a rain. So far, no major problems with the decomposed granite. I think the addition of the steel edging steps helped level out some of the slope and slow the flow of water.

I really like the large rocks I added around the rain garden. I added more Sedum to fill in the spaces between the rocks.

In other areas, volunteer Scarlet Sage, Salvia coccinea, and Gregg's Mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, fill in the spaces. I thin out excessive growth as needed to keep the rocks from being hidden.

The Sages, Yuccas, and Zexmenia are more easily seen now that the Liatris flower spikes are gone.

Autumn Sage.

Zexmenia and Skullcap.

Hesperaloe with Aromatic Aster, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, in the background.

More Autumn Sage and Zexmenia grow near the front of the house. The birdbath is a traveler. I keep moving it around the front and back yards looking for the perfect spot. I think it is rather photogenic.

It is also slightly off level. Here is a shot of the birdbath from the other side.

The berries on the Possumhaw Holly, Ilex decidua, are red. Soon the leaves will drop and the berries will remain on the bare stems until the Cedar Waxwings pick them off in the spring.

Another shot of the blue and white Mealycup Sage in the backyard.

One more sage photo to close this post. This is Mountain Sage, Salvia regla. The large orange flowers bloom for several weeks in the fall.

More rain is expected this week. The ground is fairly moist now, so we should get some runoff to begin filling the lakes. Lake Lavon, Plano's primary water source, is more than 12 feet below its full level.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Texas Native Plant Week at Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

This week, October 20 through 26, 2013, is the fifth annual Texas Native Plant Week. Instead of posting more pictures of the native plants growing in my garden, I thought I would share pictures of some of the native plants I found growing at the Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve in Plano.

This was my visit to Oak Point on the east side of Plano. I arrived at 9 AM on a warm September morning and spent a couple of hours exploring a small portion of this 800 acre park.

Upon parking the car, the first things that caught my attention were the large prickly pear cactus plants in the parking lot medians.

The pads were covered in red fruit and spines. The plants were menacing, yet beautiful. I looked around for a broken pad to take home and start my own plant. I am not sure why because I can be somewhat accident prone and it would not be any fun trying to remove dead tree leaves that would inevitably gather in and around the prickly plants. I am not sure if this particular variety of Opuntia is native to Texas, but the parking lot plantings did include Texas natives, such as Mexican Feather Grass, Gregg's Mistflower, Zexmenia, Red Yucca, and Flame Acanthus. Non-native plants included Russian Sage and Fountain Grass.

Before I entered the park, I spent some time exploring the grassy area next to the parking lot. I was sure I would get chiggers from tromping through the grasses, but tromp I did. There were several prairie grasses growing in this area. I was able to identify Sideoats Grama in the lower left portion of this photo and the plumes of Indian Grass in the right center of the photo. It looks like this area was probably mowed a couple of months earlier.

Switchgrass is in the center of this photo. The blue flowers in the upper left corner are Pitcher Sage.

The Pitcher Sage was a little over a foot tall due to being mowed earlier in the year. When my plants are not cut back, they grow to about four feet tall.

Non-native Johnson Grass grows to the left of Indian Grass which is in the center of this photo. There was also quite a bit of Bermuda grass.

There were several patches of Purple Prairie Clover in this area. I also saw a couple of White Prairie Clover plants.

While trying to get a picture of the Purple Prairie Clover, I ended up focusing on a Little Blue butterfly.

I am pretty sure this is Maximillian Sunflower. They are probably in full bloom by now.

CollageMama often writes about her visits to this park. Through her posts, I found out that Illinois Bundleflower grows there. One of the things I wanted to do while at the park was to try to locate a plant and, possibly, some seeds. As it turns out, Illinois Bundleflower is everywhere in the park. Now I am not sure that I want it growing in my garden. None the less, I collected several seeds. The brown clusters in the photo above are little beans which house the seeds.

I think Illinois Bundleflower normally blooms earlier in the season. I was fortunate to find this one in bloom.

After 30 minutes or so in the parking lot, I finally approached the main entrance to the park.

This structure houses restrooms and a water fountain. A pavilion with picnic tables is on the opposite side of the main pathway. The lake is visible in the background.

For this visit, I thought I would stick to the paved pathway around the lake. Though not visible in this photo, there were several bikers and joggers on the paved pathway.

The edges of the pathway are mowed to keep nature from getting too close. I frequently ventured into the unmowed areas because that was where the interesting plants were.

I will travel down this side path another day.

A couple of Standing Cypress plants were preparing to bloom next to the pathway.

A sign reminds visitors not to disturb the wildlife. Birds, squirrels, fish and insects were the only wildlife I observed.

The sun was already bright, so some of my photos were worse than usual. This is one one of them. At the edge of the wooded area, I noticed some False Indigo, Amorpha fruticosa,
 bushes, but the plant that drew my attention to the area was the six foot tall one with the white flowers.

It looked like a giant Gaura. I had never seen one of this size. The garden plants and wildflowers that you see along roadsides are usually no more than two feet tall. After some research, I think this is Longflower Beeblossom, Gaura longiflora.

Inland Seaoats grass grows at the edge of the woods as well.

I saw several patches of Prairie Verbena along the pathway.

The tree, 
Maclura pomifera, is know by several common names, Osage Orange, Bois d' Arc, Bodark, Horse Apple, and Hedge Apple. The wood of the tree is extremely hard and the inedible fruits are said to repel cockroaches.

This is the entrance to one of the natural trail systems through the woods.

I stepped inside for a brief look around. The air felt considerably cooler when shaded from the sun. It makes me wonder why I have a prairie garden rather than a woodland garden. I will explore these trails on another day.

Canada Wild Rye grows in the shade of the trees.

Back at the lake, a Great Blue Heron was fishing for breakfast. He did not seem to mind all of the joggers and bikers passing by. As I slowly approached to get a better picture...

He flew to the other side of the lake.

He is over there somewhere. At the bottom of this photo are the yellow flowers of 
Buffalo Bur, Solanum rostratum.

This is a prickly plant in the nightshade family.

I thought the fruit of this unknown-to-me plant was interesting.

This was another plant I did not recognize.

It is not overly attractive, but I thought it was interesting. After the pink flower falls off, the pentagon shaped structure remains with a seed in the center. I collected a couple of seeds to see if I could start this plant in my garden. I hope it is not an invasive weed. Update: Thanks to a post on Window on a Texas Wildscape, I think I can identify this plant as a native Four O'clock, Mirabilis linearis.

A clump of Pickerel Weed grows at the edge of the water.

Another path for another visit. I traveled as far as the information sign to the left.

The sign describes the blackland prairie and some of the plants and animals that once resided here (some still do).

Looking up from the sign is a grove of trees and prairie beyond.

This is not a pristine prairie for sure. It is a remnant at best. Much of the short grass is Bermuda. This would be quite a sight if the invasive species were removed and the original prairie species were allowed to grow (and not be mowed mid-summer). The park is in the news right now because the city has contracted to hold an annual weekend music festival in the park and preservationists are concerned about its effects on the prairie and the wildlife. Evidently, there is a purer parcel of prairie not far from this spot that could be damaged.

Back on the lake side of the pathway, I saw several butterflies hovering low and landing on some plants. I had to investigate. The butterflies were Monarchs and the plant was some sort of milkweed vine. I think Cynanchum laeve. The Monarchs were feeding on the flowers and laying eggs at the same time. Apparently, this is an extremely aggressive native plant, so maybe not a good candidate for my garden.

It was nice to see so many Texas native plants, like this Switchgrass, growing wild in Plano. I hope the city continues to preserve these plant species and they do not become victims of "progress". I wonder if any of the bikers and joggers ever slow down and take the time to notice the nature around them. 

At this point, it was about 11:00 and I completed my route around the lake. It was starting to get pretty warm (hot) and the pathways that were filled with bikers and joggers were practically empty now. On the way back to the car, I found this pathetic looking cactus pad. 

I took it home and planted it in a pot. Here is how it looks a little over a month later. I wonder what I will do with a prickly pear cactus?