Tuesday, September 17, 2013

An Invitation to Natural Discourse


Garden bloggers attending this year's Fling in the San Francisco area were treated to a reception at the home of artist and garden designer Shirley Watts.  A photo I took that evening of the glossy rose hips forming on a Rosa glauca later created an opportunity to speak with Shirley on a number of our shared passions.  She's asked me to spread the word about one of them - a Symposium on Natural Discourse to be held October 10, 2013 in Berkeley.  

Here's their website for details and tickets:
http://www.naturaldiscourse.org/events.html

We simply have no idea who a person truly is when we first meet.  A person's reputation or celebrity is simply a costume worn in particular settings, and we're fortunate on rare occasions to truly know one another.  One of my favorite parts of our annual Garden Blogger Flings is knowing a little more, settling a layer deeper, growing real friendships with others.  


If you have the opportunity, enrich your life and widen your circle of friends by attending this Symposium.  

Friday, September 13, 2013

Monarch Waystation Open for Business



Thanks to Monarch Watch.org for their beautiful graphic.  Check out their website for information on creating your own "Monarch Waystation."

Just a quick note to say that Monarchs are now being sighted in my Austin area garden.  Kidneywood (Eysenhardtia texana) and various Asclepias seemed to be their favorites this morning, but they also flitted without landing among the Gregg's mistflower (Conoclinium greggii) during the time I stood transfixed and delighted.

Please comment with your location if you're also seeing my favorite little southbound fall transients in your garden.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

I've Created Monsters

It seems like building housing for native bees would be a good thing, but it seems I've created some tiny striped monsters.  With so many options available in my garden, they've started to see everything as potential housing.

Today I watched a leafcutter bee for thirty minutes as she tried to decide between the holes in an orchid pot and the hole in the handle of my Cobrahead tool.  If you're not wondering how I could stare at a bee for 30 minutes, you're my kind of people.  Look closely at the hole in the blue handle - that's her butt in there.  She must've gone in and out fifty times, trying to envision where to put her things.



Can't really see her?  Here's a blurry, but full picture of my little friend.


It's not her fault, really.  The old digs were already buzzin' with new tenants and she had to think fast.  That new fancy place with the green bottles may have looked too rich for her taste, and what's a girl to do with kids on the way?   Here's someone moving into the old place ...



Other option was this waterfront property, but it already had several offers.


Update 2 days later:  she appears to have chosen the CobraHead.



All material © 2013 by Vicki Blachman for Playin' Outside
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Bee B & B now open for "beesiness"

Shortly after I first heard about insect hotels, one of my favorite bloggers built one in her "Middle Tennessee" garden.  See Clay and Limestone's Pollinator Condo here.  Inspired by her design, I did what all of us do these days - a Google search - only to find out that those garden crazy Europeans have been wild about insect hotels for years.  There are even national contests in the UK to see who builds the most clever design.  It was clearly time to catch up.

Closer to home, my friend Sheryl who blogs at Yard Fanatic has constructed the most amazing tower of insect friendliness.  Her Austin garden is already awe inspiring, but I just had to keep going back to admire her well-researched and beautifully designed insect hotel.  Hers was completed in time to welcome the spring bees, and served as another nudge for me to get my "bee-hind" in gear.  Recently she and Ed spent four sunny Saturday hours helping me cut branches and drill bee sized holes in materials for my bee house.  They could've been gardening, or resting from gardening, or drinking on the porch and planning to garden, but nooooo - they generously helped me instead.  Wow.  How do you adequately thank friends like that?

My constant local inspiration in all things related to native plants and habitat gardening is Meredith at Great Stems blog.  Just this morning she posted about her Hotel Insecta.  With detailed instructions on every step of the construction, she guides you through the how AND why.  So, guess it's time to unveil mine.

Starting with the idea that I wanted to do something creative and slightly weird, I decided to repurpose a vintage metal rack for empty soda bottles.  Turned upside down, the base provided a support for a small roof and the square bottle spaces gave structure to the branches, twigs, and other materials used to provide bee and insect friendly housing.  With ample nectar and pollen plants in the garden, and some uncovered soil nearby for the "mason" bees, it's shaping up to be a fairly inviting Bee B and B, don't you think?


Since it started out as a bottle rack, it seemed natural to incorporate some empty bottles.   Hopefully that will also satisfy my craving for a bottle tree as my husband doesn't really "get" their appeal.     

All three of my friends' insect hotels are easily broken down and replenished - an important idea to keep in mind as you plan yours.  And I know you will.  Why not provide something to attract and protect the beneficial pollinators in your garden?  If you already have an insect hotel and have blogged about it, please leave a comment and provide a link.  

The more ideas we share, the more interest we can stir up.  No reason we can't be just as hospitable to pollinators as to those European insect hoteliers, right?


All material © 2013 by Vicki Blachman for Playin' Outside
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Damp Wings and Early Flight


Did you know that just before emerging, a Monarch chrysalis will turn dark and you can see the markings of the butterfly's wings?  My stowaway greenhouse guests are giving me a chance to watch their development from a front row seat.  


You did know about the color change?  Well, have you seen a Monarch immediately after emergence as it unfurls its damp wings and pale green jewels of liquid drip from their surfaces?


This is the second of my unexpected guests to fly off this week.  Although I'd happily serve them nectar and allow them to stay until it's warmer, captivity isn't the best thing for a Monarch.  I open the greenhouse door, and like a worried parent let them find their way.

All material © 2013 by Vicki Blachman for Playin' Outside
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Butterfly Bumper Crop


Winter 2013 has been so mild, most of the plants we moved into the new greenhouse probably could have stayed where they were.  However, their tiny hitchikers have provided a reason to learn a new word - "chrysalides".  It's the preferred plural form of chrysalis, and I looked it up today after finding 6 Monarch chrysalides in all their celadon and gold beaded glory in the greenhouse, along with a newly emerged adult.

Thinking it would give the (outside) butterflies an early start, I was overwintering several tropical milkweed plants in the greenhouse as well.  Four are blooming and had provided a temporary nectar source, but unfortunately not enough to sustain the adult..  As the day warmed, I gently showed him the door.  Another reason to be grateful for our mild winter and all of the other plants that have started blooming early.


 Can you find three chrysalides hidden in the ponytail palm foliage?
This guy was a little easier to spot.  It's on the leg of one of the plant benches.


At some point, I had hoped to learn more about how to hatch and release Monarchs, but it looks like it's going to be on the job training this year.  If you have experience with this, please leave a comment.  
And wish them luck!


All material © 2013 by Vicki Blachman for Playin' Outside
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.