Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Water-Wise Garden Tours

First, a public service announcement about a free garden tour:

City of Dallas Water Utilities, City of Dallas Stormwater Management, City of Dallas Park & Recreation, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Dallas County Master Gardeners and the Town of Addison are teaming up with surrounding cities to demonstrate the beauty of Water-Wise and EarthKind™ gardening with the 19th annual Water-Wise Landscape Tour.
Dallas County Master Gardeners will be conducting free 30-minute talks on Water-Wise gardening every hour on the hour at each of the tour headquarters. Dallas County Master Gardener volunteers will also be assisting homeowners and helping answer questions about the plants and landscapes on the tour. 
Click here for additional information, as well as photos, videos, and plant lists for the gardens on tour.
Maps for the self-driving tour are available at and at all tour headquarters. 

Second, even though my garden is not on the tour, I have been happy to give impromptu personal tours to neighbors, interested strangers that drive by, readers of the blog, and a garden blogger in town from San Antonio. 

Shirley Fox, famous for the Rock-Oak-Deer blog, was in town recently and stopped by for a tour of the garden. 

This was Shirley's second visit. When she and her husband stopped by last year, the plants in the garden were about a month ahead of their normal growth because of the warm winter. This year, Shirley had the opportunity to see the plants on a normal growth schedule and to also see my latest finished and unfinished projects. Click on the Rock-Oak-Deer link above for a look at my garden through Shirley's camera. 

Third, this past weekend while the Big Yellow Caterpillar was parked in front of my house and the portable toilet was in the street in front of my neighbors house, I created a moving, three minute tour of my garden. Moving, as in video. Not moving as in emotional, unless jerky, fast moving video makes you nauseous, then you may be moved. 

This was my first time to create and edit a video and it shows. But it was fun and I will probably do this again. Maybe I will add narration next time. And maybe I will even get on YouTube so I can post longer videos. Flickr limits my creativity by only allowing me to post three minute videos.

Finally, this is a photo of Mexican Hat, Ratibida columnaristhat was supposed to be part of my last post's photographic tour of the garden. Oops.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Big Yellow Caterpillar

All of the rain we received since Friday night kind of messed up my outdoor gardening plans for this weekend, so I pulled out my camera this morning to take a few photos.
The horsetail reed in the "galvanized planter" is starting to fill in after being removed while I moved the planter across the garden a couple of months ago. Nearby, the yellow red yucca and red red yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora, are in bloom.

The spineless prickly pear is surrounded by blooms. The stems of winecup, Callirhoe involucrata, are weaving in and around and up and over the other plants in the garden which places the magenta flowers at several heights.

Look at all of those flower buds. The cactus will be covered in flowers this year.

The spiky plant is Soapweed Yucca, Yucca glauca. The yellow flowers are Zexmenia, Wedelia texana, and Four Nerve Daisy, Tetraneuris scaposa.

Pale-leaf Yucca, Yucca pallida

American Basketflower, Centaurea americana, is part of the second wave of spring wildflowers to begin blooming in the last week. 

Heartleaf Skullcap, Scutellaria ovata, also started blooming. It has spread rapidly along the edge of the rain garden.

Horsemint, Monarda citriodora, and Indian Blanket, Gaillardia pulchella, are hearty reseeding annual wildflowers. The Horsemint is especially attractive to bees.

This Butterfly Milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa, has never looked better. The flowers were timed perfectly with the arrival of several monarchs. This monarch is enjoying the nectar of the milkweed flowers. The butterflies have also been laying eggs on the milkweed.

This Purple Coneflower is Echinacea sanguinea. I have had this plant for about six years and it has yet to produce any seedlings. The small plant usually produces five or six flowers and then it blends into its surroundings until the following year.

This Purple Coneflower is Echinacea angustifolia. It grows much larger and has more flowers than 
Echinacea sanguinea.

What's that lurking on the other side of the Purple Coneflowers? It is a big yellow caterpillar, but not of the insect variety.

Yes, I have a Caterpillar backhoe parked in front of my house. I am bored with my current garden design and I want to make some dramatic changes. These changes will require moving lots of dirt, too much dirt to move without the use of heavy equipment. 

Dramatic pause...

(Is this guy crazy?)

More pause...

(Why would he destroy his garden after so much work?)

More drama...

(He can't be serious.)

OK that's enough drama. I am not serious. I must confess that I made up the part about making dramatic changes to my garden. I already made my dramatic changes when I removed all of the lawn and planted native plants. That is all the drama (and manual labor) I can handle.

What is really going on is that the city is removing and replacing several sections of the street. Fortunately, they passed over the section in front of my house and did work in front of the houses on both sides of me. I am not really sure what they were repairing because there were no potholes or noticeable problems with the street. 

I am glad they are not doing any work directly in front of my house because they are also replacing the curb. This requires digging about 12 inches into the parkway, which would damage a few plants and displace some decomposed granite in front of my house. So I have no damage, just a yellow Caterpillar parked in front of my house.

It could have been worse. My neighbors have had a portable toilet sitting in front of their house for the past week.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Rain Lilies and Grasshoppers

We received some much needed rain last Wednesday night. It was only around an inch or so, but it was more than we had seen in quite a while and it really perked up the plants.

These rain lilies began blooming this evening as a result of the rain. They are either Cooperia drummondii or Cooperia pedunculata

As I looked closer, I noticed that grasshoppers were eating some of the rain lily flowers. I was reminded that many lives were disrupted and some lives were lost when the same storm system that brought beneficial rain to my garden also brought destructive tornadoes to several North Texas communities.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Bee Informed

A few months ago, I was contacted by Jessica Rykken, a Research Associate at Harvard University, through Kim Bacon of Texas Bee Watchers. Jessica found photos of my garden on Kim's website and wanted to know if she could use one of them in some educational bee observer cards she was working on for Encyclopedia of Life. Jessica ended up using a photo of my front garden from last year with an inset photo of the front yard when I bought my house nine years ago. 

According to the EOL website, "Observer cards are designed to foster the art and science of observing nature. Sets are [sic] cards are organized around Families of plants, animals, and fungi. Each set provides information about key traits and techniques necessary to make accurate and useful scientific observations. The tool is not designed to identify species, but rather to encourage detailed observations. Of course, identification can be possible with careful observations but the focus here is on the process of observing."

The observer cards are brief and informative. The cards describe characteristics and behaviors that can be used to help you identify and better understand bees. I found out that the bees that collect pollen in my garden every spring and cluster on stems of plants at night are male solitary bees. I have referred to them as homeless bees and it turns out that that is an accurate description. 

This is a photo of the male solitary bees that gather on plants in my garden in the evenings. Once they gather, they kick off all of the pollen that they collected on their legs. According to the cards, male solitary bees do not have a nest to return to at night, as the females do, so they aggregate as a defensive strategy and often return to the same location each night. 

If you would like to know more about these important and, often, misunderstood pollinators, you can open the Bee Observer Cards below. Click the Encyclopedia of Life link above and you can view Ant Observer Cards as well. Be sure to check the Texas Bee Watchers site for information about bees, plants, bee gardens and more.

Friday, May 10, 2013

National Wildflower Week 2013

This week is National Wildflower Week and I would have missed it if it were not for Shirley's recent post at Rock-Oak-Deer. In celebration of National Wildflower Week, here is a look at some of the wildflowers and other native plants blooming in my garden this week. 

Bluebonnets continue to bloom in my decomposed granite pathways. Behind the Bluebonnets are the yellow flowers of Four Nerve Daisies. On the opposite side of the pathway are the purple flowers of Gulf Coast Penstemon and the red flowers of Autumn Sage.

Purple flowers of Mealycup Sage surround the pink flowers of Husker Red Penstemon. Husker Red is a red leafed cultivar of a native penstemon.

More Gulf Coast Penstemon form a backdrop for Four Nerve Daisy. In the right background is an American Basket Flower that is getting ready to bloom.

In the parkway area between the street and sidewalk, the Snake Herb has greened up. This is a fast growing groundcover for hot, dry areas.

If you look close, there are purple flowers on the stems. I found out last year that this plant has seed pods that are much like the dreaded Mexican Petunia. When the dry seedpods get wet, they explode and seeds fly everywhere. I am thinking about the future of this plant in my garden.

A little farther down the parkway are more Bluebonnets. The plants grow very well in the decomposed granite here. The flowers are few now and the seed pods are maturing.

Winecup, Prairie Verbena, and more Four Nerve Daisies grow near Yucca glauca.

The bright yellow flowers of Missouri Primrose open in late afternoon and close the following morning.

Chocolate Daisy fills the air with a chocolaty perfume scent in the mornings.

Lanceleaf Coreopsis blooms after surviving a bout with a beetle that I think is the same one Sheryl described at Window on a Texas Wildscape.

More Husker Red and Mealycup. Black Sampson Coneflower will begin blooming soon. The tufts of green are Gayfeather which will not bloom until the fall.

Shrubby Purple Skullcap is quickly becoming a favorite.

Eastern Red Columbine is a welcome spring blooming wildflower. 

Blackfoot Daisy blooms from spring through fall. 

The unique flowers of Green Milkweed. Plants in the milkweed family are the sole host plants for monarch caterpillars. I saw just one monarch butterfly laying eggs on the milkweed plants this spring and it does not appear that any survived.

This is one of the descendants of an annual Gaura that I collected from a nearby field a few years ago.

Texas Betony grows at the base of False Indigo. Near the Texas Betony are Gregg's Mistflower and Heartleaf Skullcap, neither of which are blooming yet.

Looking up, here are the flowers that cover the False Indigo.

These are the flowers of Pale-Leaf Yucca.

So there you have it, a look at some of the wildflowers blooming in my garden during this National Wildflower Week. Some of these flowers will wrap up their blooming in the next few weeks and others will continue blooming through the end of the growing season. Still, others will not even begin blooming until later in the season. With a little planning or a lot of luck, as is the case with my garden, you can have an ever changing palette of wildflower color all year long.