Monday, April 6, 2020

Social Distancing in the Garden

It is a strange time. A pandemic is sweeping the planet. Governmental authorities are ordering us to stay home, except for essential activities. We are required to stay at least six feet away from people that do not live in our households. It is recommended that we wear face masks when in public. Hospitals and medical professionals are overwhelmed. Medical supplies are depleted. Unemployment is skyrocketing. Toilet paper is a hot commodity.

The garden offers a bit of solace from this crazy time. In the garden, everything is normal. The flowers are blooming. Bees and butterflies are flying around looking for nectar. Birds are looking for materials to build their nests. There is a never ending supply of weeds that need to be pulled. Being in the garden makes it easier to forget everything that is going on elsewhere, at least for a little while.

During this time when so many people are home, more of them are getting out and walking through the neighborhood. I have noticed more people stopping to look at the flowers and take pictures. If I am outside, almost everyone that passes by tells me how much they love the bluebonnets. Who in Texas does not love bluebonnets?

Since I have a little more free time now, I am going to resurrect this blog for a while and share some native plant love. Let's get started.


The Bluebonnets are the star of the garden when they are in bloom. They attract a lot of attention from people and bees. The flowers have a nice scent too.


There are a few less Bluebonnets than there were last year. I think it is because our first fall rains came late and fewer seeds sprouted. In contrast to last fall, to date, this has been the wettest year on record for the DFW area.


I think it was when I was taking this picture or the next one that a neighbor walked by on the other side of the street and said he took a picture from the same angle the day before. We talked for a minute about how you could get some nice deceptive shots if you shoot from a low angle. For example, the majority of the Bluebonnets in this picture are growing in the parkway between the street and sidewalk.


When you look at a higher angle, there are noticeably fewer Bluebonnets in the main part of the yard. I try to find camera angles that maximize the plants and minimize the elements of city living, like houses, cars, streets and sidewalks. If you don't notice the sprinkler riser in this picture, you might think the picture was taken in the country. This picture features Bluebonnets, Pale Leaf Yucca, and Husker Red Penstemon, which should begin blooming in the next week or so. The large green leaves belong to American Basketflower. American Basketflower is still another month or so away from blooming.


Moving a little left of the shot above, Soapweed Yucca comes into view.


Four Nerve Daisy and Bluebonnets make a great combination when the daisies are not squeezed out by the Bluebonnets.


The purple flowers of Prairie Verbena get washed out when photographed.


Husker Red Penstemon makes a colorful accent. Too bad they start to fizzle out after blooming. They can survive the heat and drought. They just don't look good in the summer. That is why I cutback the tall stems after they finish blooming.


One last Bluebonnet shot with the rain garden and stock tank planter beyond.


I used to grow Horsetail Reed in the stock tank planter. I started pulling it out a couple of years ago because it was not looking as good as it once did. My new plans involve blue firepit glass, metal fish, and a few plants. I am planning to get the makeover started soon.


The Golden Groundsel started blooming in February this year. Normally, they still look pretty good when the Bluebonnets start blooming. Maybe they bloomed early because the winter was mild.


Most of them have gone to seed like these. Notice the little green and black caterpillar?


The bright red flowers of Cedar Sage are a welcome sight under a Possumhaw Holly. They also found their way under my largest cactus.


Since so many people are out walking these days, I thought I would help people identify the plants in my garden by putting out some of plant ID tags that I used on a garden tour a few years ago.



One last picture from the front yard. These are Prairie Penstemons. I started with the larger plant with the light pink flowers. After a few years, a few small seedlings started popping up around the original plant. The seedlings are taller and have darker pink flowers. I am going to let these replace the Gulf Coast Penstemon in the front yard since they do not reseed as aggressively. 

Now, for a quick trip around the backyard...


The Bottle Bush is in bloom. It needs a little pruning. The rebar stems are jammed into the clay soil and tend to move around as the soil expands and contacts. A couple of the bottles are close to touching, so I will pull up some of the rebar stems and replant them.


The Coral Honeysuckle looked good for the first time in a while. For the last few years, aphids attacked the new growth and prevented the flowers from forming very well.


The first flowers on the Beebrush shrub.


Hercules' Club trees are about to bloom. The small flowers are very fragrant and attract a variety of pollinators. Giant swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves. When the caterpillars hatch, they will feed on the leaves until it is time for them begin their transformation process.


The native Eastern Red Columbine is beginning to produce its droopy red and yellow flowers.


Nearby, a hybrid Columbine holds its purple and white flowers upright.

This is one of my four vegetable beds. Prairie Vebena, Bluebonnets, and Four Nerve Daisies are growing alongside and overtaking the onions. Elsewhere, I am growing potatoes and garlic. Although my prime vegetable space is getting smaller due to a growing oak tree, I am going to get more vegetables seeds and start a Victory Over COVID-19 Garden. I think a lot more people may be growing their own food this year. 

Stay safe and well.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Frankford Church on the Prairie

In the last post, we covered the Frankford Prairie. Click here to jump to that post. Today, we will look around and inside the historic Frankford Church. 

The photos in this post were taken on my first visit to the prairie and church on 4-6-18 and my return visit the next week for a guided tour.


The church was built in the late 1890s and restored in the late 2000s.


The church was recorded as a Texas Historic Landmark in 1978.


I assume these are Osage orange logs supporting the church. Osage orange (aka bois d'arc, bodark, hedge apple, horse apple, etc.) has very hard wood. It is very likely that these are the original supports for the building. I also saw some more modern concrete pilings under the building.


The back door.






Old and new. The Church of the Holy Communion was founded in 1963 and used the old church building until the new building was dedicated in 2006.


On my first visit to the prairie and the church, I was only able to look through the windows to see the craftsmanship of the woodwork.


When I visited a week later for the guided tour of the prairie, the church doors were open and the group met inside for an overview of the prairie.


From floor to ceiling, everything is wood inside the church.




The organ repairman.




My artistic shot of the windmill through the wavy glass window.

The church building is used for weddings and special events now. A jazz concert was held in the building last night.

Wood on the ceiling.




One last look at the church from the prairie.


The new church viewed from across the prairie.


The new church has a garden courtyard, so I walked in for a look around. The plaque under the bell says it used to hang in the belfry of the old Frankford Church. It was dedicated on the 50th anniversary of the church in 2013.

Friday, April 5, 2019

The Frankford Prairie

Last year, I became aware of the Frankford Prairie and the old Frankford Church. Although it looks like it might be somewhere away from the big city, it is tucked in the middle of a neighborhood in far north Dallas, less than a mile from the busy Dallas North Tollway and about 10 minutes from my house.

I first visited the Frankford Prairie on my own on 4-6-18 and then again on 4-14-18 when the prairie and church were open to the public for a guided tour. The photos below are some of my better shots from both days. See the end of this post for a link to information about the next tour of the prairie and church.

According to the Frankford Preservation Foundation website, landscape architect Rosa Finsley came to the site in 2009 to discuss creating a native landscape around the church, which was undergoing restoration. She noticed native species in the fields around the church and eventually convinced the caretakers to stop mowing to see what would come up. They stopped mowing and were amazed at the number of native species that emerged from the soil. Although the land around the church was mowed, it is believed it was never plowed for farming because the limestone bedrock is too close to the surface. As a result, the native species were suppressed, but not destroyed.


This portion of the prairie is referred to as the East Prairie. It is to the east of the church. It appears to have the most diversity in native plants.

There are no bluebonnets here. The star of this the prairie in spring is wild blue hyacinths, Camassia scilloides. In the fall, prairie grasses, like big bluestem, and wildflowers, like gayfeather and goldenrod, will steal the show.





The wild hyacinths dominate the prairie in early April, but there are other wildflowers blooming too. The green clump in the middle is a large milkweed plant. I think it was either green milkweed or antelope horns.


Crow poison in the foreground.




Crow poison


Wild onion

Blue-eyed Grass


I am not sure what this plant is. It looked kind of like a giant blue-eyed grass. It appears to be in the iris family. 


Four Nerve Daisy



The West Prairie is to the south and west of the church. This section does not appear to have as much plant diversity as the East Prairie. A creek and Indian Springs run behind the tree row.


Frankford - the town that was.




There were several trees near the creek that had grown around tall galvanized fence posts.


A bridge crossing the creek and looking east toward the prairie. On this side of the creek is a flat piece of land known as the Wagon Yard. It is said to have been a popular camping spot for pioneers and Native Americans on the Shawnee Trail. I don't have a picture because it looked like a soccer field of mowed Bermuda grass.


Looking north. The natural spring is somewhere in the lower left of this picture.


Looking south, concrete and bricks have been used to stabilize the creek banks and preserve homeowner's lawns. I like the view from the other direction better.


To the south of the East Prairie is the Frankford Cemetery.




The cemetery is surrounded by roses, irises, and native plants like this golden groundsel.


Mr. Coit has a road named after him that runs though Dallas, Richardson, Plano, and McKinney.


The first known unmarked grave in the cemetery dates to 1862. The first marked grave is dated 1872. The cemetery as two open plots, according to its website.

A simple concrete headstone etched with "T. Brooks".


Wild hyacinths and other native plants are beginning to grow in the area closest to the church. We will take a look inside the church in my next post.

If you would like to see the prairie and church in person, a guided tour will be held this Sunday, 4-7-19. Click the link for more information.