Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Global Warming?

This global warming stuff is crazy. This is the third snow on the prairie this month. It is rare enough that we get snow in December, but three times! I still have a little snow on the ground from the Christmas Eve event.

The weather guessers say the temperatures will warm above freezing overnight. There may not be anything to photograph in the morning, so here is the photographic evidence which includes my icy breath.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Snow

Merry Christmas to all and best wishes for a joyous 2010!

Michael (Bluestem)
Plano Prairie Garden

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

First Snow

The prairie had its first snow of the season this morning. It did not stay around long. Every bit was melted shortly after 10 AM. Fortunately, I took a couple of pictures of the white stuff before I left for work.

In all my 20 (times 2 and plus a couple more) years, I do not recall an earlier snowfall in Dallas.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Open! Open! Open!

It's been cloudy, wet, and frequently cool almost every day this month. A few days ago, I found this little butterfly perched on the flower buds of a white mistflower bush. It looks like he is just waiting for the flowers to open.

White mistflower, Ageratina havanensis (possibly Ageratina wrightii), is a butterfly magnet. The weather guessers say we will have a few dry, sunny days before it starts raining again next week. This should be enough time for the flowers to pop open. When that happens, the plant will be covered with butterflies, bees, wasps, flies, and various other insects and reptiles looking for a feast of one kind or another.

Be patient, little guy. It won't be long.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I used to have a lawn, but now I have...

I used to have a lawn, but now I have more...

...more plant diversity,

...more recognition and appreciation of the changing seasons, January 2009

May 2009

September 2009

...more wildlife,

...more pathways for wandering and more time for wondering.
Now, I have so much more than I could ever have with a lawn.

Earlier this month the Lawn Reform Coalition launched its website. The goal of the organization is to promote change in the American lawn.

The typical American lawn is doused with chemicals to make it green and free of insects and disease. Lawns are flooded in more of our precious drinking water than necessary to keep them green. Lawns require regular maintenance that creates noise and air pollution. After all that work, the lawn is a sterile, monoculture environment that does little to support wildlife and it looks just like the one next door.

Susan Morrison, one of the members of The Coalition, is running a contest on her blog Blue Planet Garden Blog to win a copy of John Greenlee's new book The American Meadow Garden. The premise of the contest is to fill in the blank: "I used to have a lawn, but now I have ______." Thus, the purpose of this post. I believe in the cause and I want a free book!

Check out the Lawn Reform Coalition website and Susan Morrison's website for more information.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

September Bloom Day

A couple of shots from the backyard.
From left to right: Snow on the Prairie (Euphorbia bicolor), Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii), and Pitcher Sage (Salvia azurea).
In this picture are Snow on the Prairie, Flowery Senna (Senna Corymbosa), Bush Sunflower (Simsia calva), Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha), Zexmenia (Zexmenia hispida), and Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Evidence of Rain

It rained on my urban prairie two weeks ago. We received about 2 inches over the course of the week. The temperatures cooled from the 100s to the low 90s; creating a pleasant diversion from our typical hot, dry (but humid) summer.

The rain is just memory now. The the soil is drying out again, however the rain did leave leave its mark. Several plants on the prairie burst into bloom in appreciation of the rain. Below is evidence of the rain.
Beebrush, Aloysia gratissima, was covered in flowers and bees. It filled the backyard with a fragrance similar to vanilla.

This compact Texas sage, Leucophyllum frutescens 'Compactum', was covered in flowers. I did not think about taking a picture until most of the flowers had faded.
These rain lilies, Zephyranthes 'Prairie Sunset', are looking up to the sky for more rain.
I wish I had a steady hand when taking pictures. I like the way the sunlight glows through the center of this rain lily. I believe this one is Cooperia drummondii.
Maybe we will get another round of blooms soon. There is a slight chance of rain this week.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

EARTHQUAKE!!! - The Sequal

We've had a couple of brief, light rains over the last couple of weeks that did no more than make the air more humid. As a result, the cracks in the prairie continue to grow.
These cracks are two inches across and...
10.5 inches deep. That is some deep soil aeration.
Even in the dry, cracked soil, the natives seem pretty happy. The leaves on some of the less drought tolerant plants wilt in the afternoon sun, but they perk up as soon as they get some shade.
We have chances of rain every day this week. Maybe we will get enough to close up some of the cracks. I am starting to get concerned that I will stand near one of the cracks and the soil under my feet will give way. I could fall in and never be heard from again.
Plants in the photos: Little Bluestem, Four-Nerve Daisy, Winecup, Rock Penstemon, Blackeyed Susan, Agave, and Salvia coccinea.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


On Friday the North Texas area experienced its sixth earthquake for the month. The area has had more earthquakes in one month than in the past 100 years. Some believe the unprecedented events are cause by increased natural gas drilling. SMU placed seismic equipment in the area before the last quake. It will be interesting to hear their findings.
The Plano Prairie is too far from the epicenter of the quakes to feel any movement, but the prairie is experiencing its own shifting earth.
The clay that comprises Blackland Prairie is drying out in the summer heat. As the clay dries, it shrinks and cracks.I have not watered this year other than selective hand watering of new transplants. As a result, some of the cracks in the soil are wide enough for my hand to fit.Even with all the cracks, the plants are still healthy and blooming.Growing native and adapted plants sure does make a difference. I don't think begonias could survive these conditions.
If only the foundation of the house could hold up to the shrinking soil without regular watering...

Monday, June 15, 2009

June 15, 2009 Bloom Day--A Study in Purple

Lemon Beebalm or Horsemint. Monarda citriodora. This plant is usually around a foot tall in the wild. With no extra care, it gets three to four feet tall in my prairie.

Purple Coneflower. Echinacea purpurea.

Gayfeather. Liatris spicata in the rain garden. This particular variety is not native to Texas. It is native to the eastern US (as close as AR and LA) however these were grown by a bulb company in Holland. In the background and to the right is a native gayfeather that will bloom later in the year.

What are those yellow flowers doing in this study in purple? Those are Cowpen Daisies, Verbensia encelioids. Mixed in with the Cowpen Daisies is Horsemint. In the background are Purple Coneflower, Prairie Verbena, Agastache, and Garden Phlox from my grandmother's garden.

Winecup Callirhoe involucrata

Pink Hyssop Agastache barberi 'Tutti Frutti'. This plant is not as vigorous as in past years. It may be time to let one of the seedlings take over.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sesame Street

I stood in my yard and looked around my neighborhood this morning. It brought to mind a song from Sesame Street. Sing along if you like.

Ahem. Me Me Me Me. La La La La La La La. OK, ready.

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong.
Can you tell me which thing is not like the others,
By the time I finish my song?
Did you guess which thing is not like the others? Did you guess which thing just doesn't belong?
If you guessed this one is not like the others,
Then you are absolutely...right!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Prairie Update

The front prairie is starting to take shape. At this time last year, I was digging out St. Augustine and Bermuda grass. Now I am enjoying flowers and the wildlife they attract.

Weeds continue to pop up between the four-nerve daisies, winecups, and Little Bluestem. They are easy enough to control with a daily walk through the prairie.

This is my first year to grow winecup. They had a slow start because the rabbits kept nibbling on their stems. They still keep a couple of plants closely cropped. My understanding is that winecup will fizzle out in June. It will be interesting to see what fills the void.

I have a couple of Black Samson Echinacea (Echinacea augustifolia) in the prairie. The flowers are a little smaller and not as colorful as the commercially common Echinacea purpurea, however Black Samson is the variety that grows wild in this area.
This is a plant I "resuced" from a field last fall. I did not know what it was, but it had a dried flower stalk so I brought it home to see if it was anything interesting. I think it is a type of plantago or plantain.
Here is a close up of the flowers. It is interesting enough. I just hope it does not pop up all over the place.