Plants that shine in the winter garden…

After a few days and nights at 21 degrees, my Central Texas garden took a serious hit last month.  But, we were due.  Last year it didn’t freeze at all in my garden, so you can imagine how huge some of our perennials were by the end of 8 seasons of growth!

Our typical winter includes a few freezes, but the temperature dips to around freezing for a few hours and then climbs right back up during the day.  Not so this year.

I’m leaving the last of the fall leaves in the beds to help protect the plants and provide habitat for bees, so you are going to see the good, the bad and the very ugly.  It’s an all-exposed tour.  Viewer discretion is advised — you may need to avert your eyes in some parts!


While the ferns and the bletilla striata are dormant, he dry creek pathway is lined with hellebores, a few sedges, a few cephalotaxus prostrata.  Mostly out of view on the left are two leatherleaf mahonias.


The brilliant yellow berries on the mahonias add great color to the garden on gray winter days.


In drought years, the foliage of the hellebores disappears in the summer garden, and reappears in fall and through the spring.  I have a collection of different varieties.  Below is a winter photo of my favorite – ‘Phoebe,’ from several years ago when we had snow.


Isn’t that a gorgeous bloom?


Where the path diverges, a few more sedges and a standard Japanese aralia and a variegated Japanese aralia add a pop of green.  The squid agave in the Artemis statue head was unfazed by the cold.  Farther back, a small clump of cast iron plant draws the eye.


I’ve had this aralia for a long time.  It’s been through drought and covered in ice in bad winters, but nothing seems to slow it down.


This fall I planted another aralia variety – a variegated one.  I was a little concerned that it might be more tender than the other, but it has held up beautifully.


In the front bed, the one we jokingly call the hideous bed, natives and other well-adapted plants are hanging on.  Catmint, skullcap, Mexican feather grass, a whale’s tongue agave, salvias, Mexican sabal palms and a Spanish dagger yucca are all going strong.


Across the driveway, more xeric plants are showing off, like the Jerusalem sage, a Texas sotol, a sago palm,  and some salvia Greggii.


You’ll find Jerusalem sage in many parts of my garden.  It’s unusual color makes an intriguing contrast — and its fuzzy leaves make it completely deer-resistant.


Another variegated fatsia Japonica is keeping a squid agave and a mountain Laurel company.  Sadly, the dianella in the background looks like it’s toast.  I’m hopping it was established enough to come back from the roots quickly, once spring arrives.


A bright edge yucca, several more hellebores and a few almost hidden heucherellas are peaking out of the carpet of leaves.


Bright edge definitely earns its name!


I added a few new compact shrubs to the front beds last year.  These ‘Flirt’ nandinas make a beautiful middle-layer, evergreen addition and their added burgundy tips coordinate well with the larger loropetalum.


One of my favorite plants for winter/spring interest is Japanese quince.  It’s sculptural and almost-bare branches are sporting a flush of gorgeous, salmony-pink blooms.


The butterflies are so thankful that at least something is blooming out there!


And no matter what the plants are doing in the garden, we can always count on at least a few cardinals on our many feeders in the wooded area.

While these aren’t the prettiest pictures of my garden, they allow me to see the true bones of the landscape, and evaluate the beds to determine what projects I’ll want to undertake in the spring.

Baby wren developing wings and feathers…

Those little wings are so much more developed in just two days. If you look back to Monday’s post, you can see how much he’s grown.

I keep calling it a him — of course I have no idea if it’s a male or female Carolina Wren!

Tomorrow morning will be my last chance to check on him for a while. We’re heading to Spain tomorrow, so I’ll have to get photos emailed to me from family staying at home. He may have fledged before we get back, but I hope not.

Carolina wren baby growing by the day…

When Mama wren flies out of the garage early in the morning, I sneak up on the step stool to get a peek at our little guest-in-the-hat.

Baby wren is growing by leaps and bounds.

Barely 5 days old, it now really looks like a bird.

Its eyes are still closed, but the wings and the beak are now clearly evident. I think it has tripled in size since I first saw it on Friday.

The Mama sits in there with it most of the day, but doesn’t appear to by flying in and out very often. She seems unfazed by the construction being done in our driveway as guys are sawing wood out there for our new wood floors inside. She’s just focused on that little bundle of joy.

I doubt the other eggs will open now that it’s been 5 days since this one hatched, but I didn’t think this one would make it either, so I’m not giving up hope. In fact, I’m not ever giving up hope again!

Baby wren alive in the nest, welcome new addition!

After the egg/nest debacle from 10 days ago, I’ve been anxiously watching the comings and goings of Mama Carolina Wren.

You may remember that I thought the eggs were no longer viable after being in the nest for a month, and I put them in the trash. Til I realized that there were more eggs than when I’d first looked – meaning she’d laid another clutch that might be viable. I wrote about that ordeal in a previous post, put the nest and eggs back very carefully and crossed my fingers.

Last night when I was walking into the house through the garage, I thought I heard the tiniest squeak coming from the nest. I stopped and listened – nothing. But later I saw the hat (and nest) swaying just a bit and wondered again if something was going on in there.

Mama Wren was sitting high up on the eggs, and fairly visible to me, whereas before she was far down in the nest on the eggs where I couldn’t see her.

So I took a peek when she was out of the nest.

What a wonderful sight – a tiny little creature – just born – wiggling around down among the other eggs. If you look very closely (maybe click on the photo to enlarge it) you can make out the face on the new baby.

Honestly, after all this watching and waiting, I felt like I was the Mama!

This morning I took a picture when Mom and Dad were gone — they are both now working on feeding duty.

Hatching can take 24-48 hours and there are 6 more eggs in the nest. Some may be from the first clutch, and not viable, but our new little friend might be getting some siblings over the next few days.

And you can bet I’ll be watching (from a respectable distance)!

Birds of a feather …

To enable us to see out to our bird feeders, we put in two big picture windows in our breakfast area.

We also took off the screens so we could see clearly.

It’s great, we love it, but sometimes, the birds try to fly right into the house!

The other day I heard not one, but TWO “THUMPS” while I was in the kitchen.

I ran to the window to check, and sure enough, there were two male cardinals lying on the ground under the window.

I went out to check on them (my neighbor has two bird-eating cats) and found them very stunned.

I picked them up at took them to the driveway and called Wildlife Rescue.

Of course, it was just after 5 pm on a Friday, but someone did answer the phone. She asked if they could fly, and at that time, they were both not able to.

She suggested I put them in a box or a bin with a cover with air holes and bring them in the following morning in case they had broken wings.

I prepared two bins with window screens for the tops. Lined the bottom with newspaper and put birdseed and a little water bowl inside. As I lifted one Mr. Cardinal to place him inside, he fluttered and flew off!


Good result for him. Mr. Cardinal #2, not ready yet. He went into the box without any fuss. Poor guy.
Then I thought – DUH. I have to take pictures of these guys! So I went to get the camera, and when I lifted the screen off the box, Mr. Cardinal #2 flew off.

Guess they just needed to catch their breath. Sometimes these incidents don’t have such good endings, but I was so glad this one did.

[And I told them to quit chasing each other around the window!]

By | October 26th, 2009|birds, Blog, cardinal, Sharing Nature's Garden|0 Comments

My little red friends…

No, not little communists in my garden!

Mr. House Finch, above, has the most interesting mottled feathers. He and his friends love to hang out in the woods outside our breakfast room window and give us a show.

He’s frequently joined by Mrs. Cardinal, her husband and their best friends, the Cardinals #2.

I’m always so interested in watching the birds all interact. Last week, there were 5 cardinals flitting about in there, seemingly unconcerned with territorial issues. Maybe they cut each other some slack in this drought — sharing the food and water in our garden.

We also have White Wing Doves, Scrub Jays, Titmice, Sparrows, Swallows, Grackles, Inca Doves, Purple Martins, Chickadees, Carolina Wrens, Hummingbirds, and a rare Painted Bunting.

Thanks to my DH and his new Nikon D90 camera for these great photos.

Do you have some of these friends in your garden?

By | August 25th, 2009|birds, Blog, Sharing Nature's Garden|0 Comments