birds

Gardening trends in my landscape

I’m always fascinated about the transformations in the garden each year.  From month to month and season to season, small adjustments often result in big changes.

Here are some of the new plants and hardscape changes in my landscape this year.

January:  We enjoy watching the animals that wander, fly and hop into our garden.  My husband keeps about 10 bird feeders full.  We regularly see cardinals, titmice, sparrows, scrub jays and blue jays, wrens, mockingbirds, road runners, woodpeckers, finches, doves, cliff swallows, and every couple of years, a painted bunting.  Several birdbaths and birdbath fountains provide water for sipping and bathing.

February:  Last year, spring came very early, and the nurseries were full of beautiful plants at least a month ahead of schedule.  If they are selling them, we should be buying them, right?

I didn’t count how many trips I made to our independent nurseries in Austin.  Several times a year, I make all the rounds and come home with the SUV full of flowering friends.

 

Orders I placed over the winter also begin to arrive, ready to join the garden.  The slew of catalogs, full of vibrant photos of unique plant specimens give us visions of plants as we settle in for our long winters naps

They provide promise as gardeners experiment with new colors, sizes and varieties.

March:  I was delighted with the spread of my ground orchids this spring.  The Bletilla striata finally began to naturalize in the woodland garden, making the shady path pop with brilliant fuchsia blooms.

April:  When writing about Central Texas gardening, lush is a rarely used adjective.  But, it was the perfect description for our beds after a unseasonably warm spring and much-needed rains.

May:  This month marked the return of the Rio Grande Leopard frogs to the garden.  We often find them resting in plants in the morning, showering in our accessible fountains during heat of the day, and skinny dipping in the pool at night.  Fletcher runs around the pool in the dark, flushing them out from the neighboring plants so they jump into the pool.  He whines and paces around the perimeter, frustrated that he can’t get to them.  No worries, they can jump back out of the on their own.

June: With most of the garden filling nicely by the onset of the heat, I often shift my focus to decor, pots and creative elements in the landscape.  This piece of aged cedar inspired me to place a few bromeliads in the shade bed.  They had to come in later in the summer, but they added a nice touch for a while.

 July:  By now, the veggie garden provides us with an ongoing  variety of great fruits and vegetables.  Sadly, it is also the time for stink bugs and leaf-footed bugs to attack the tomatoes.  Almost impossible to eliminate, I get depressed about the impending demise of my tomato crop. They multiply so quickly, it’s impossible to control them by hand squishing or spraying them with the hose.

 

 

August:  The dog days of summer are also prime time for many of our native and adapted tropicals.  Pride of Barbados, Caesalpinia pulcherrima, is bursting with blooms by now, like electric orange fireworks all over town — and along the sides of our pool.

September:  This month marked the beginning of my major landscaping project for 2017.  The removal of the playscape paved the way for a new garden.  Eager to create something different, I settled on a pie-shaped parterre garden.  Using the same Oklahoma flagstone in the existing garden path, I had my crew create a rough-edged set of symmetrical beds.  To save money and recycle, I kept some of the pea gravel from the playscape area to build the pathway.

October:  More progress on the parterre.  We revised the existing left path to the vegetable garden, taking out the decomposed granite, flagstone steps and river rock.  This path was a continual source of frustration and weeds.  In spring, it brought forth a profusion of bluebonnets and winecup that were stunning.  But the remaining 10 months of back-breaking proved too much.  We then created a mortared flagstone path, leaving a few periodical spaces for plants — a guarantee that they wouldn’t be able to spread.  I added another path to reach the new parterre.

November:  Fall also brought forth blooms from the newly planted Phillipine Violet, Barleria polytricha.  My first experience growing this plant, it was awelcome addition to the tropical garden.

 

 

 

Finally, we finished the parterre and paths.  Well, almost.  I still need to add one more rose bush and all the accompanying border plants in the beds.  I filled the planting holes in the pathways with purslane. You can be sure I will post after pictures in the spring when the beds are full and blooming. To complete the focal points, I added a center birdbath, a wooden framed mirror on the back fence to provide interest and give the space more dimension, and a floral-themed bench to sit on and enjoy the growing garden.  If you look closely, you can see my taking this photo in the mirror. Once those elements were in place, I sat on the bench and marveled that I have never really looked at my garden from that vantage point.  It’s a wonderful and reflective place to sit and I’m so pleased to see my vision come to life.

December:  This month shocked all Central Texas gardeners with a surprise snowfall.  Not the dusting and melting immediately variety of snow we occasionally see, but a solid inch of sticking snow.  It turned the garden into a southwestern version of a winter wonderland.

Luckily, the blanket of snow insulated the plants and we were spared the worst possible damage of the unseasonably early freeze.

Winter has officially settled in and January feels like January, just colder than normal.  Seed catalogs sit by my chair as I cozy up to the fire with my hot tea, dreaming of garden plans to come in 2018.

What were your favorite garden additions in 2017?  New plants, new beds, new hardscape — what rocked your garden last year?

 

 

 

 

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!

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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.

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

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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.

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Isn’t that a gorgeous bloom?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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Bright edge definitely earns its name!

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

Yeah.

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 | 2016-04-14T02:42:38+00:00 October 26th, 2009|birds, Blog, cardinal, Sharing Nature's Garden|0 Comments