Friday, October 14, 2011

Was it a swarm, flutter, kaleidoscope, or rabble?

It's one of those times you immediately want to tell everyone you know what just happened ...

This afternoon, I came home from work and headed into the back yard with the dogs.  As they rushed out, a cloud of butterflies was flushed up into the air and surrounding yards.  I know that I'm capable of hyperbole, but this was truly a CLOUD of hundreds, maybe more than a thousand, butterflies.

So why don't I have pictures of more than a few butterflies?

Because I have two dogs with waterfowl retrieval in their DNA, and they didn't come packaged with a stealth setting.  They ran happily about, effectively scattering my little miracle to the winds while I dashed back into the house for the camera.  And the remaining few who were too tired to scatter still had enough adrenaline to dash off when I got close with the camera.  (Do butterflies have adrenaline?)  These guys must've flown the farthest because they were too tired to move.


Anyway, I got to see it and that's a fairly amazing way to end my day.




Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My Dad's Sense of Humor

Just returned from 4 days at the Seattle Fling, each jam-packed with garden blogger friendship and tours of amazing gardens.  It'll take several days to sift through all those pixels!  So instead of photos and Fling memories, all I'm sharing today is a little gardening humor from my dad.   We all show love the best way we can. 
   

An old Italian lived alone in New Jersey.  He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work as the ground was hard.  His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison.  The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament:

Dear Vincent,  
I am feeling pretty sad because it looks like I won't be able to plant my
tomato garden this year. I'm just getting too old to be digging up a garden
plot. I know if you were here you'd
be happy to dig the plot for me like in the old days. 
Love,
Papa

A few days later he received a letter from his son.

Dear Pop, 
Don't dig up that garden. That's where the bodies are buried. 
Love, 
Vinnie 

At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left.  That same day the old man received another letter from his son.

Dear Pop, 
Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That's the best I could do under the
circumstances.
Love you, 
Vinnie




Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bloom Day

Seems like spring offers a gardener a lot of excuses.  Not only is there a long list of things to be done in our own gardens, for  master gardeners, there's a flood of teachable moments in a community under the influence of spring fever.  A surprisingly cool day, the first rain we've received in nearly 7 months, and Carol's Garden Bloggers Bloom Day gave me more excuses - simply to be still and focus on the details at home that make my heart smile.  

 These 'Bling Bling' zinnias and 'Music Box' kneehigh sunflowers are grown from Renee's Garden seeds.  This is the first year I've intentionally planted a "cutting garden" at the back of my vegetable bed.  Usually I grow sunflowers there for the Great Sunflower Project (a bee counting program), but these were selfishly planted just for me, me, me.

 This is a terrible picture of a native butterfly bush.  It was started from a cutting snipped in San Antonio.

 'Peter's Purple' monarda in its full glory.  This came from the Native Plant Center at SFA in Nacogdoches, TX, and weathered our sustained freezing temps over two winters and abysmal heat in the summer.

 Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue' - a favorite of the wonderful black bumblebees I very much want to keep healthy and returning every year.

 Dancing garlic scapes.  Hardneck garlic doesn't love our southern heat but still puts on a show and manages to produce some fiery garlic.

 'Senorita Rosalita' cleome was finally added this year after Pam at Digging field tested it for us and gave it a green thumbs up.


Stachys coccinea aka Texas betony growing with Thai peppers at the base of my new pear tree.

 Heartleaf skullcap in its full glory just before it goes dormant from the heat (any day now.)

 Anise hyssop (above) and borage (below) are both bee favorites just starting to strut their flower wares.

 Cedar sage (Salvia roemeriana) reliably blooming in its shady bed.

 One of the simple "ditch lilies", or common orange daylilies (above) and Asclepias or butterfly weed (below) proving there's nothing common about anything bright orange. 

 Persicaria 'Red Dragon' is quickly becoming my favorite shade plant for its colorful foliage and remarkable ability to fill in quickly after freezing to the ground each winter.  The frothy white blooms are simply an unexpected pleasure.

 A good image of this spidery bloom was impossible to capture, but equally impossible not to share with you.  It appeared at the top of a 6 foot stem in the center of a Manfreda undulata 'Chocolate Chip' given to me as a pitiful looking pup just last fall.  What a comeback!  Thank you Eleanor for sharing this great plant with several of us.

Another shade plant that's done well for me is Cestrum.  The red variety didn't do as well, but the yellow couldn't be happier.  I'm told the leaves have a wet-dog smell when crushed, but my dogs disagree. 

  And finally, one of the giant leeks (sometimes called elephant garlic) given to me by Greg Grant.  It came from Greg's grandmother's East Texas homestead that he's restoring.  Here they grow in the midst of larkspur that came from MSS at Zanthan Gardens.  Some of my very favorite things in life are the meaningful connections to friends represented by "passalong plants" from their gardens.  Hope you enjoyed the quick visit this Bloom Day.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Texas Dip - Garden Style

In Texas, we have something called the Texas Dip.  Google it for your entertainment, but basically it's a curtsy unique to Texas debutantes.  It's also a fairly accurate way to describe the central Texas relationship with freezing temperatures.  We flirt, approach, and occasionally "dip" into them, but rarely sink and stay down.  So, it is with increasing dismay that I watch the thermometer reach 17°F and fail to regain its footing on a cold but just above freezing norm.  I know a lot of our garden blogger friends are used to this - and that their experience over the past week of this winter's record breaking storm has been so much harsher than we've seen in Austin.  But we don't plan(t) for this.   I mean, does anyone in Austin think they're going to need a pond de-icer?  



MSS at Zanthan Gardens tweeted earlier this week about her frozen pipes, and it's a good bet a lot more of us will find out we've joined her as the temperatures climb and our previously frozen pipes leak their unpleasant surprises into our walls and yards.  I also heard that friends who keep "backyard chickens" are using their heat mats to keep the water bowls from freezing - move over tomato seedlings!  My own garden looks pretty dismal - even supposedly "cold season plants" like parsley and antique roses look damaged.  It makes me tired just thinking about it.  I'd sit down and rest if I could only find the bench...