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Showing posts from January, 2008

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The world's a different place just before dawn as I walk the dogs. The birds are beginning their morning songs and sometimes I'll catch raccoons or opossums on their way back to their hiding places after their night out. In a neighborhood like mine, it sometimes seems as if the yards have been almost loved to death with fertilizers, sprays, enthusiastic pruning, and our need to conform to the suburban ideal - making these quiet morning moments with nature more precious. Because of where I live, I see most "critters" as a sign of healing and gardening success - each bird, beneficial insect, butterfly, spider, earthworm, frog, or even snake that finds my yard hospitable. The red-tailed hawks and occasional heron are particular delights, even though they sometimes make a meal of fish from my pond. Don't get me wrong, I realize this view is the fruit of privilege. My family's next meal is not dependent on protecting the crop from rabbits or agricultural blight. Bu

Pansies and Crape Myrtles

This winter I've found myself thinking a lot about my grandmother. It took me a while to realize what was triggering the memories, but I finally realized it was two things: purple pansies and crape myrtles. We lived in the Mojave Desert when I was a child, and Grandma always kept a bed of purple petunias growing in front of the house. Given the heat, the sand, and the lack of available moisture and nutrients, you can imagine how much fussing she must have done over those straggly plants to produce blooms. She really wanted violets, but learned to settle for and appreciate her pet petunias. They were unfailingly deep purple - as if they didn't come in any other color. Here in Texas, winter is an ideal time to enjoy pansies. (I know - pansies, not petunias.) You see them mass planted in commercial landscapes and popping out of pots on front porches all over town - the masses of color almost always including Grandma's purple. So, I think of her and how much she would have en

Like a Bird on a Wire

Do you have a Hitchcock moment when you see large groups of grackles or other birds gathering in the trees? The majority opinion seems to be that they are a nuisance, owing to the "paint job" they leave where they roost. Odd as it may seem, I enjoy them. Yes, I find it mildly irritating to have to clean grackle spackle off the rocks around the pond. But I've found a well placed rubber snake is effective crowd control. When pairs of the sleek black males preen and strut and screech with their beaks straight up to the sky, how can you not laugh? And, have you ever noticed that they appear to maintain fairly consistent "personal space" between each individual but still seem to prefer belonging to a larger group? Hmmm....makes me think we might not be so different in some ways. Here's another reason: Years ago, I was the chef at a downtown hotel. One day I realized I had been hearing an odd noise repeating for some time and went to investigate. A female grackl

You Had Me at Woof!

We have a saying in the South - "preachin' to the choir." That's what today's blog is like. If you've ever enjoyed the love and companionship of an animal, there's no need to try to explain the value and difference it can make in your life. If you haven't, it's not something words can convey and you're just going to be aggravated with me for talking about it in a blog that's primarily about gardening. But remember, day one I promised you things that made me stop and think " wow ". That said, today I'd like to introduce you to Simon. He's currently looking for a home in the Austin area, and this is what the Austin Humane Society folks have to say about him: "Oh, Simon! This dog has stolen hearts all over Texas. Simon was found in the Giddings Animal Shelter with a crushed front leg and a terrible case of heartworms. A very nice gentleman saw what a great dog Simon is and was determined to save Simon's life. With h

The Heart of Our Garden

After visiting this blog for the first time, a friend asked who built our pond. She suggested others might be interested in the details, too. Okay ... short answer is that it was Steven's (my husband's), idea, my design, and our combined sweat. We killed the existing straggly ficus by covering it with heavy mil black plastic and let the Texas sun cook it for several months (solar weeding.) Steven dug out the area and cleared plant runners and roots. Then I worked on rock placement that would hopefully discourage our water-loving dogs. I'm also chief maintenance engineer, meaning that anyone can do what it takes to keep a pond healthy with a little vigilance. And, it's another excuse to be "Playin' Outside". In the beginning, I have to admit I was constantly checking the skimmer for fish (one earned the name "Columbus" for its adventures in the skimmer and into the rocks.) Until we made the overflow drain I mention later, fluctuations in water lev

After the Freeze

A crocosmia "Lucifer" and a "Cajun Spice" German iris peeking up through the mulch and leaf litter by the pond. Sustained low temps (last night in the 20's) left icy patches on the pond rocks and pushed the frost damage further down toward the ground. Tips and new growth had been damaged before, but most of the salvias, "Mexican petunias", and other tender items are gone now. This bed by the pond is usually dominated by a salvia puberula. Here's a picture of its vivid blooms as they appear from late summer until the frosts start. They start out a tight ball and slowly unfurl from the bottom to resemble a more typical salvia bloom. Thanks to my friend, Bill Hyland, for finding its botanical name when the nursery could only tell me it was "Rosy Sage". The row cover over the hoja santa is just too tempting a toy for the squirrels. They seem to make a game of tearing it up. The plant freezes down to the ground, but the bit of protection pro
Amazing how exposed it feels when you start this blogging process! I half way expect comments like "What makes you think you're interesting, missie?" Well, I'm probably not. But, some amazing people have shared their time and knowledge with me; so I'm hoping to serve as a bridge between them and anyone who bothers to read my blog. The Travis County Master Gardeners are at the top of that list! take a look at the greenhouse I built after they showed me how. It made it through the snow and ice of winter 2006 and is still going strong this "winter".
These pictures show our pond from its infancy (three winters and one large snake ago) to this past summer when a wonderful Southern Leopard Frog moved in and began serenading us every night. The other frog (in the bottom photo) is hyla cinerea, Green Treefrog.  Go to the Univ of Florida website for info and to hear the leopard frog's two unique songs at the bottom of their page: