Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Day Feast

I noticed two field sparrows feasting on the seeds of bushy bluestem grass. The photos are not the best because they were taken through windows and window screen at full digital zoom.
This was the first time I had noticed birds eating bushy bluestem seeds. Had it been spring, I would have thought they were collecting the fluffy parts to line their nest.

When I first started planting native plants, I generally made my selections based on availability, attractiveness, and odds of surviving. 

Later, I began to notice how the native plants attracted wildlife and I began to consider how my selections served as food and shelter sources for the wildlife. In some ways, my garden became a small oasis in a desert of lawns and concrete.

I hope you enjoy your day of family, friends, and feast. Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Early Cold Snap

It has been cold since the arctic cold front blew in last week. The weekend was cold and damp and Sunday night brought a light dusting of snow. The temperature is expected to drop into the low 20s tonight. Even though a couple of hard freezes turned most of the flowers brown, there is still beauty to be found in the garden. 

The first pictures were taken during a cold drizzle on Sunday morning and the last couple of pictures were taken Monday morning.

The cold and moisture have a way of bringing out the colors in the garden. The blues in the Pale-leaf Yucca and the reds in the Little Bluestem are my favorites. I also like the look of the Variegated Yucca Gloriosa in the center of the picture. 

Agave neomexicana is the toughest of the agaves that I have grown. The others I had froze in a cold winter a few years ago. This one was a little slow to recover when I moved it, but it is now recovered and growing well. This year it had a baby pop up about four feet away.
A closer look at some of the Little Bluestem.

Yucca gloriosa from another angle. This yucca has been in the ground for a year now. It looks a little pale during the summer. I am not sure if it is the sun, heat, dry soil or a little of each. It looks great now. During the winter, the light leaf margins turn pink.

Pine Muhly and old Liatris flower stalks give the garden a spiky look. 

Most of the flowers in the garden succumbed to the freezing temperatures. These Autumn Sage flowers are still holding on to a little pink color. They will all be brown soon.

The Gregg's Mistflower may have a few surviving flowers. It is somewhat protected by the canopy of the neighbor's live oak tree.

I wish I knew how to take better close up shots. The silver leaves and purple flowers of Gregg's Dalea shimmer with droplets of mist.

The Skeletonleaf Goldeneye still looks pretty good. It will need to find a new home next year where it does not block the view of the stock tank.

Soon the leaves will drop from the Possumhaw Hollies, leaving the stems bare, except for the bright red berries.

Next year's Bluebonnet crop is doing well in the decomposed granite I added to the parkway. This is where the Snakeherb used to grow before I dug it out this summer. It is trying to make a comeback. I pull out the occasional sprig that sprouts from the deep roots that are still in the soil.

Ugh! Living one street south of a major thoroughfare and a high school means that trash blows into the garden when the wind comes from the north. Back in my lawn days, most of it kept going. Not now. Trash and leaves get trapped among the plants and need to be physically removed.

So that was Sunday morning. Sunday evening the garden was dusted with an unusually early snow. Next are a few pictures from Monday morning. The Little Bluestem and Liatris look great when backlit by the morning sun.

Here is that Bluebonnet again, now covered in snow. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Timing is Everything

I discovered these two monarch caterpillars on my aphid infested Mexican milkweed a few days ago. Mamma monarch had bad timing with her egg laying because winter is coming a little early this year. Our first frost is usually around November 17, but an arctic cold front is bringing freezing temperatures this week.
That may not be good news for the caterpillars. I did not see them today, so maybe they found a place to form their respective chrysalises. I have seen swallowtail chrysalises survive through the winter and hatch in the spring. I am not sure if monarchs will do the same.

I planted garlic yesterday and picked the last of the green beans, black-eyed peas, and peppers. I guess I am about as ready for winter as I can be, but it sure would be nice to extend the autumn season a little longer. I usually try to protect some plants through the first couple of early frosts and cold spells because the temperatures usually rebound within a couple of days. I don't think I will bother this time because the forecasters are saying that it could be cold for the rest of the month.

So, goodbye butterflies, goodbye bees, and goodbye flowers. It was a good year. I will see you again in the spring.