Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

When I started the Plano Prairie Garden blog almost three years ago, it was intended to be an anonymous journal of the transformation of my front yard from a manicured lawn to a semi-controlled prairie garden filled with prairie grasses and flowers. My plan was to produce this blog as evidence that my prairie was an intentional endeavor and not just the result of laziness in the event I was ever reported to city code enforcement officers for violating the 12 inch height limit for grass and weeds. Thankfully, I have yet to receive a citation for any kind of violation.

I never thought anyone else would see this blog. I should have known better since it is on the World Wide Web. It did not take long before other garden bloggers discovered this blog and linked to it from their blogs. People began commenting and leaving words of encouragement. Last year, my anonymity was shattered when Curtis Ippolito published a story about my prairie garden in the Dallas Morning News. Last month, acclaimed garden blogger, Pam Pennick, posted photos and a write up about my prairie on her blog, Digging.

So on this Thanksgiving Day, I want to give thanks to all that support my prairie garden/wildlife habitat adventure. Thanks to the anonymous viewers of this blog. Like you, there are many blogs that I enjoy reading on a regular basis, but never leave a comment. Thanks to all the people that do leave a comment. Your words of encouragement mean so much. Thanks to my fellow garden bloggers that link to this blog from their own. That means as much to me as words of encouragement. I do plan to reciprocate by setting up a page on my blog with links to your blogs. Thanks to all the gardening friends I have made along the way.

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

P.S. More photos of seasonal color coming soon...

P.S.S. For anyone that tried to view the original post this morning. The original post was scheduled for publishing at 7AM. When I got up and realized I had a nice foggy morning for taking pictures, I retracted the original post and added new photos. Then I started changing the text, then I had problems with Blogger, then blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So here it is...finally.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Stragglers

I still have a number of straggler monarchs hanging out at my suburban prairie. 

Since my prairie has escaped hard frosts, so far, the monarchs are enjoying the abundant nectar sources. Their favorites right now are the Gregg's Mistflower and the Mealycup Sage.

These three were kind enough to pose in front of my Monarch Waystation sign.

It is hard to know if new arrivals are coming in or if the same monarchs just refuse to leave. I imagine the migration was difficult this year due to the drought. There were fewer flowers along the way and it will not get any better between here and their winter grounds in Mexico. Maybe these guys think they are in paradise and have decided to end their journey here with a full belly.

I suppose this could pass as a butterfly's paradise. I must say that I am pretty happy with it myself.

Friday, November 11, 2011

What's Good About Mistletoe?

What's good about mistletoe? If this parasitic plant infests your tree, like is happening to my neighbor's hackberry, it is probably hard to see any good.

But there is one good thing about mistletoe. It is the host plant (food source) for the caterpillars of the Great Purple Hairstreak butterfly.

These beautiful butterflies appear in my garden when the Frostweed and Fragrant Mistflower are in bloom. They are close to three times the size of a Gray Hairstreak butterfly and have an orange abdomen, red, white, and iridescent blue/purple markings. The insides of their wings are iridescent blue/purple. They keep their wings closed when they feed, but when they fly around my prairie, you can see the iridescent colors flash in the sunlight. Beauty sometimes comes from things you would least expect, like mistletoe and caterpillars.

Thanks to my neighbors for unknowingly providing a wildlife habitat for Great Purple Hairstreak caterpillars, but I hope the dying hackberry tree does not fall on your house.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

To Every Thing There is a Season

When I snapped these photos on Saturday morning, the temperature was in the upper 30s and there was a touch of frost on the roof.

The cooler weather seems to intensify the colors of the prairie flowers that are still blooming. Other flowers, like the Liatris, bloomed over the last month and now their colors are fading. 

The cool, morning moisture deepens the now coppery colors of the Little Bluestem grass.

Autumn Sage, Mealycup Sage, and Four Nerve Daisy bloomed throughout most of the summer and they continue to bloom through the autumn months. But there are some plants that waited all season for their time to bloom. These are the last plants to bloom on my prairie before frost changes all the vibrant colors to brown. 

The purple flowers of Aromatic Aster, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, (foreground) and the white flowers of Fragrant Mistflower, Eupatorium havanense, (background) started to appear a couple of weeks ago and now the plants are in full bloom. The flowers of both plants are popular with the bees once the sun warms the air. 

Here is a closer look at the Fragrant Mistflower bush. The plant does not get much attention most of the year, but when fall comes around, it catches the eye with its profusion of white flowers and the nose with its strong scent that reminds me of dryer sheets. 

Fragrant Mistflower intermingled with Scarlet Sage, Salvia coccinea.

A close up of the Aromatic Aster with Autumn Sage in the background.

Willowleaf Aster, Symphyotrichum praealtum, is covered in pink flowers. It grew from a single sprig to a four foot patch in just a couple of seasons. Its days may be numbered if it continues aggressively expand its footprint. 

Here is a close up of the Willowleaf Aster flowers.

The large red flowers of Mountain Sage, Salvia regla, would be popular with hummingbirds if they were still in the area. Mountain Sage probably blooms at just the right time to feed migrating hummingbirds in its native range from the Chisos Mountains of west Texas and into Mexico. This is one salvia that prefers some afternoon shade. Mine gets full afternoon sun which causes the leaves to turn a little yellowish. 

Mountain Sage, Beebrush and Mealycup Sage make a patriotic red, white and blue display. A rain and hail shower a week ago triggered another fragrant flush of flowers on the Beebrush.

The spiny Eringo flowers are still interesting as they fade from purple to brown. Since this is an annual, I take the seeds from the dried flowers and scatter them across the prairie for another season of flowers.

The chile pequins, Capsicum annuum, are covered in pea-sized peppers. The peppers are a treat for mockingbirds and are gobbled up whole once they turn red. 

Winecup, Callirhoe involucrata, blooms in early summer and then most of the trailing stems die back in the heat of the summer. In the fall, a rosette forms and stays green throughout the winter. This plant produced a rare late season bloom. 

The cooler temperatures and shorter daylight hours tricked the Redbud tree into blooming out of season. 

As the seasons change, frost and freezing temperatures will eventually change the reds, yellows, blues, purples, and whites in my prairie to various shades of brown. All the while, new life is sprouting in the prairie. The fuzzy leaves of Bluebonnet seedlings bring hope of flowers in the spring. The heart-shaped leaves of Dichondra bring promise of many more seasons on my hands and knees plucking them from my prairies.