Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Getting Bugged

Ahh, springtime in the garden. All looks peaceful and serene.

The plants are green and blooming, despite the harsh winter, late freezes, and dry spring.

One of the Pale-Leaf Yuccas has two tall flower spikes.

And one mysteriously writhing flower stalk.

Bluebonnets and Gulf Coast Penstemon bloom around the Giant Hesperaloe.

I finally divided the Brakelights Red Yucca that I bought a couple of months ago. I was hoping to get at least three plants and ended up with five. All divided easily and should survive. I planted three near the Giant Hesperaloe and still need to decide where the other two will go. They are in their own pots until I decide.

But looks can be deceiving. Amid all the beauty of spring, destructive little beasts are lurking around the garden and feasting on some of the plants.

Large numbers of the beetles feed on Missouri Evening Primrose in the front garden. 
I think they are flea beetles. 

Here is a close up of the beetles on the Missouri Evening Primrose. Interestingly, in the back garden, they are feeding on some wild Gaura that I collected from a field and they are not touching the Stemless Evening Primrose, a close relative to the Missouri Evening Primrose.

Four lined plant bugs suck the juices out of the leaves which results in damage that looks similar to a disease, rather than an insect attack. They are quite fond sages. Damage to Autumn Sage is pictured above. They are also attacking the Mealycup Sage and Big Red Sage.

In addition to the sages, the Four lined Plant Bugs are feeding on the Gayfeather. A couple of them are barely visible in this photo. Had I seen them when I was taking the picture, I would have attempted to squash them between my finger and thumb. They are hard to catch because they drop to the ground when threatened. I spot sprayed the flea beetles and four lined plant bugs with light horticultural oil in an attempt to get them under control. That is the strongest insecticide that I will use and it seems to have helped some. I have to be careful with the spray because I do not want to hit any good bugs or predators of these pests. This fall, I will put out some beneficial nematodes to see if that will help control the overwintering pests.

Another pest attacking the Gayfeather and a few other plants are spittlebugs. The nymphs live in the foamy mass they create on stems and suck juices from the stems. Fortunately, they usually do not cause much damage. I will try to get rid of them by washing them off with a stream of water from the hose.

In addition to the flea beetles, hummingbird moth caterpillars are quickly consuming the Gaura leaves and flowers. It is interesting that they are different colors.

I don't mind this caterpillar too much because I will eventually get the benefit of more of the moths in the garden and more opportunities to try to take a good picture of one. This blurry one is feeding on the flowers of Gulf Coast Penstemon.

Too bad for the caterpillars that they were discovered by a female grackle over the weekend. She ate just about every one of them. Who knew grackles ate anything besides french fries in parking lots?

I invite many caterpillars into the garden by planting the host plants that they eat. One example is bronze fennel which supports black swallowtail caterpillars. In this example, the damage caused by the caterpillars is barely noticeable. 

Some insects can be a pest in the garden, but they are usually just a temporary annoyance. The flea beetles and four lined plant bugs should disappear as quickly as they appeared and new growth should replace the damaged leaves. 

This is the second year these two insects have attacked the garden. I hope biological warfare this fall with beneficial nematodes will keep their numbers in check next year.

Is your garden getting bugged too?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Garden Talk

Last summer, the Timberglen Branch of the Dallas Public Library asked me to give a talk about my garden. I guess I was pretty good (or maybe they are desperate for a speaker?) because they asked me to do it again. 

I did not have time to create a new presentation, so I dusted off and updated the one from last year. I call it Lawn Free - Landscape with Purpose.  

Library staff wanted me to discuss why and how I removed my lawn and created a garden of native Texas plants. The "why" part of the presentation (my native plant sales pitch) probably ran a little long last time so I am working on reducing that part of the presentation. This will allow more time to discuss the "how" and answer any questions. I think anyone that shows up is probably already interested in making a change and they are more interested in knowing how to do it. I will discuss what worked for me and what didn't. 

So, if you want to know how my front yard went from this look in April 2004 when I bought the house...

and you don't want to read five years worth of blog posts to find out why and how I removed the lawn to create the garden that grows today...
then join me this Saturday, April 26, at 3:00 at the Timberglen Branch Library. The address is 18505 Midway Road in north Dallas. It is near the Dallas North Tollway and the President George Bush Turnpike. After I do my thing, you may even want to stay for the knitting and crochet talk that follows.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Mid-April Freeze Warning

Here it is April 14 and we have a freeze warning for tomorrow morning. The temperature was in the 80s over the weekend and it will be around 30 in the morning. I hope it will not be cold long enough to do much damage. Just in case t, I took some last minute photos of the garden to document this year's spring wildflowers. Take a look.

The vegetable garden. Peppers are safe in the garage. Tomatoes, onions, shallots, and garlic are all tucked in under their blankets. The asparagus just gets a cover over the top because some of the spears are already five feet tall. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stop and Smell the Bluebonnets

Note: This is an accidental re-posting from 4-17-13. All kinds of things start happening when you mess with Blogger settings and old posts. At this moment, most of my photos are missing from the blog. I hope I can get them back.

The garden looks about the same right now and I did stop and smell the bluebonnets yesterday. The fragrance was overwhelming. It took me a couple of minutes to realize where it was coming from. 

Today, 04-13-14, the garden is receiving some rain to help those flowers grow. There is a chance of storms too, but this is Texas and that chance is there almost anytime it rains.

I always forget that bluebonnet flowers have a fragrant scent. They are not a flower that comes to mind, like roses or gardenias, as having a fragrance, but their sweet scent has been apparent for the last few weeks.

The neighbors have noticed the bluebonnets too. Almost everyone that walks by comments on how much they like/love the bluebonnets. I think the presence of this familiar and beloved flower has helped to build broader acceptance of my lawn-less front garden, at least while the bluebonnets are in bloom.

I have been so busy trying to finish projects lately that I have not had much time to just enjoy the garden and smell the bluebonnets. I am trying hard to finish my ongoing projects before the heat and mosquitoes limit my outdoor time. One of this year’s unplanned projects is visible in the top photo. I emptied and moved the stock tank (galvanized planter as I refer to it around my neighbors) to the other side of the garden where it would be more visible and balance out the red yucca on the opposite side of the sidewalk.

I will have more photos of my completed projects soon. I think I will actually finish my existing projects in the front garden this weekend! Time will tell how long I can go before I start new projects. I hope it is a long time because I need a rest. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Little Leaves

It has taken a while, but after a long, cold winter, it looks like spring has finally taken hold. Stems and branches that were bare all winter (not counting the ice) are showing signs of life again.

The redbud tree was just about to bloom when a strong cold front blew through in early March and the temperature dropped into the teens. Most of the flowers froze in the cold. Now, little heart shaped leaves are developing.

Despite the late freeze, there are a few clusters of pink flowers blooming among the little leaves.

Plants, like this pipevine, are becoming green again. I really like the freshness of new leaves in the garden. Maybe love is a more appropriate word considering all of the heart-shaped leaves. I know the pipevine swallowtail butterflies love the leaves, at least their caterpillars do. It will not be long before the butterflies lay eggs on the stems and caterpillars eat the leaves and that is OK with me. That is what they are there for.

The little leaves of the red oak are a favorite. The flowers hanging down from the leaves are releasing pollen and everything outside is turning yellow. Fortunately a rain over the weekend washed away some of the pollen.

A robin sits near the top of the tree.

Thorny little leaves are sprouting from the thorny limbs of toothache tree. 

Little pale green leaves are sprouting out on the deciduous possumhaw hollies. It seems like the cedar waxwings may have moved on before they ate all of the berries. I have heard that the birds can get tipsy on the fermented berries, so maybe they are just waiting for happy hour. 

American beautyberry is one of the last plants in the garden to leaf out. 

The little leaves of Eve's necklace are have a silvery glimmer when they first emerge due to tiny hairs on the leaves.

Buffalo currant had a few flowers while the stems were still leafless. Once it began leafing out, it was covered in fragrant flowers. 

A new plant in the garden is spicebush. It had little yellow flowers before it began leafing out. The spiders seem to like it. This is my second attempt at spicebush. They are native to east Texas and beyond. I seem to have better luck with central and west Texas plants in my garden. Good luck to you, spicebush. I hope to attract some spicebush swallowtail butterflies if there are any around here. I have been fascinated with their caterpillars since I was young, but I have never seen one in person. 

These little leaves may be growing on my latest garden regret/mistake. It is a prairie flameleaf sumac. I read that they are not as prone to suckering as the roots are disturbed. Well, I disturbed the roots last month by moving it from the front garden to the side garden. I disturbed the roots again by moving it to the back garden. When I moved it, I notices little suckers forming on the roots and there are also suckers coming up from the roots that were left behind in the front garden. Live and learn. I may have sumacs everywhere before all is said and done.

This is best year yet for my coral honeysuckle. Flowers are emerging all throughout the fresh green leaves.

I have not seen any hummingbirds, but think I have heard their humming around the garden.

This weekend I will need to train the vines onto the arbor before they join in the center. The oak tree pictured above is in the near background of this photo. The Eve's necklace, American beautyberry, and buffalo currant pictured above grow under the oak tree. The spicebush will be planted to the right of the pathway near the redbud tree.

The little leaves I am least fond of belong to all of the little oak, pecan, hackberry, and ligustrum seedlings that are sprouting all over the garden. These are in the asparagus bed. 

For a parting shot, the bluebonnets are blooming! Oh, and the blog may change a time or two or three before I settle on a new look and as I learn new tricks. What do you think so far?