Monday, February 23, 2015

Frozen in Time

Just a few days ago, I was enjoying the warm weather and taking pictures of butterflies and bees feeding on the flowers of my Elbow Bush shrubs, Forestiera pubescens. The shrubs are also known as Spring Herald because they are one of first native plants to bloom in the spring. 
Of course, Texas is known for its roller coaster weather and the warm springlike days came to a screeching halt yesterday when a cold front came through bringing rain, then freezing rain, and then sleet. Now all of those thoughts of spring are frozen in time.

Flowers were forming on the branches of the Redbud tree, Cercis canadensis. Now the buds are coated in a thin layer of ice.

The Coral Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirenshas several inches of new growth. Also frozen.

The new bottle bush is still in bloom and not experiencing any issues with the cold, rain, wind, or ice. The last test will be to see how it holds up to drought. I am concerned that the shrinking soil will loosen the rebar that I shoved into the ground.

Around in the front yard, one of the Possumhaw Hollies, Ilex decidua, has been putting on new leaves. This one always leafs out earlier than the others and is often hit by late freezes which can limit the number of berries. Compare these branches to the tree in the background.

Here is a close up of the other Possumhaw. More berries and no leaves. Its genetics are better adapted to North Texas weather than the other tree. 

There is another Possumhaw behind the stock tank.

It is easy to see why Possumhaws are my favorite small trees. The red berries really stand out on cold, icy days.

These little Narcissus are another plant that is often caught off guard by the weather. They seem to be a little sad that they popped up before the last of the cold weather passed. I am happy because I got a day off from work.

Plans for spring are on hold for now. There is a possibility of more ice at the end of this week and there could be more after that. Our average last frost date is a little over three weeks away.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Shave and Haircut

Since last weekend was nice and warm, I decided it was time to give the garden a shave and haircut.
This annual ritual of trimming back all of last year's plant growth usually begins sometime in mid-February to early March. The timing varies depending on the weather and the availability of a little extra time. I usually work on the front yard one weekend and the backyard another weekend. There is no huge rush to clear off the old growth, so I can take my time. I actually started on the front yard last month by removing all of the gayfeather stalks because I did not want any more seeds to scatter. Click here for a look at the gayfeather glowing in the afternoon sun.

My tool of choice for this job (at least, the best one that I have) is an electric hedge trimmer. It cuts through the grasses and perennials with ease. I do have to be careful though. My extension cord often ends up a little shorter because I have cut through it on more than one occasion. Fortunately, no sparks this year.

Leaves begin to build up in some of the plants and my hope is that they will blow away when the plants are closely cropped. The Gregg Dalea, Dalea greggii, is not spared from my chopping frenzy. It gets cut to the ground every year.

This photo was taken a couple of days after this Pine Muhly, Muhlenbergia dubia, received its burr haircut. Green blades are already growing out of the stubble.

The only plants spared from pruning are the evergreen plants, like the cactus and yuccas. I did not prune the Gregg Salvia, Salvia greggii, and Skeleton-leaf Goldeneye, Viguiera stenoloba, yet because they can be sensitive to late freezes. 

A view of the rain garden. The only plant that was not cut back was the False Indigo, Amorpha fruticosa.

Even the horsetail reed in the stock tank was cut back to make room for fresh, new growth. 

I still have pockets of leaves that did not blow away. They will need to be removed soon because there are bluebonnet seedlings and other plants that are ready to grow. This weekend is supposed to be nice, so I may find myself removing leaves and trimming the plants in the backyard.