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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - Easter Edition

I hope everyone is enjoying this lovely Easter weekend.  It also happens to be the 15th of the month, so I'm linking my post up with Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

I'm enjoying a long weekend, so I've been spending quite a bit of time puttering around in the garden. And of course I had the camera with me.

I think this first photo is my favorite.  It includes the Cleome that re-seeded in the island bed, along with the pineapple sage and I think some Salvia Greggi is visible in this one too.  I also see a Cosmos in there.  If you look closely, you can also see some garden porn -- a pair of love bugs, ubiquitous at this time of year, managed to photo bomb the photo.  Can you see them? (Click to see a larger version)

The penstemons have settled in very well. I'd like to get some more colors of this - perhaps a white, if it comes in white, to round out my collection.

OK - I have two mysteries in this photo.  First, I always seem to have a hard time identifying butterflies.  I'd appreciate it anyone could let me know which this is.

Also, I'm not sure if the plant he's visiting is Salvia sylvestris May Night, or if it's Angelonia. 

I know I had several purple Angelonias growing last year, as a complement to all the orange Profusion Zinnias I had everywhere.  But I did also plant some May Night Salvia for the same reason, but it didn't do very well (I actually planted it first, but ended up supplementing with the Angelonias as the May Knight didn't do well).  However, this lovely plant came up  in two places this spring and I'm really not sure which it is.  

That's it for my Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post.  Now I'm off to see what's growing in other people's gardens.  You can visit them too, by clicking on the link.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Spring is Springing

I do love the sound of birds singing out in the garden. One bird that has a particularly loud and beautiful song, especially for a bird of its size, is the Carolina Wren.

I woke up to hear the beautiful notes of his song and as I looked out the window I saw him approach the patio with a mouth full of nesting materials.  I later managed to catch this photo of him in the pine tree (and check out that pollen!!)

I was getting excited because it appeared that a pair of wrens were going to nest on the patio, this time in  decorative watering can, next to an assortment of bird houses on a bakers rack in the corner.

Unfortunately, last weekend, I thought I'd offer them some more nesting material by hanging a suet feeder filled with horse hair on the rack and as I did so, I accidentally bumped the rack and a bird flew out of the watering can.  To my knowledge they never returned :-(

I took a peek today after ensuring it wasn't occupied.  There's a perfectly complete nest in there.  All it needs is a bird family.

I do know though, that the male wren will build a selection of nests and then the female will choose which one to lay her eggs in.  I guess when I bumped the shelf she decided to pick a nest in a less trafficked spot.

Oh well, maybe next year....

I've been reading good news about the Monarch butterflies leaving their wintering grounds in Mexico and heading north so I wanted to be prepared for them.

A lot of our milkweed was damaged in the winter freezes and some of it never returned, so I got proactive and headed to Plants for all Seasons, where they had just received a shipment in.

I'm also going to get some more which will be kept in containers to go in the new Monarch nursery I just purchased.  The new on is taller than the one I had last year (which I will use also).  The taller height will allow me to keep container plants in it, instead of having to snip cuttings every day and keep them in water picks, transferring the caterpillars to the fresh cuttings as necessary.

When we first moved in here I planted a Vitex tree and since then we haven't really touched it.  It was a total mess with lots of suckers and criss-crossing branches.  Today we had our arborist out to take care of it.  He did a good job and carted off all the trimmings.  However the tree was such a mess, I still think it needs tidying up some more. (No pics today)

While he was here, he also gave one of the Live Oak trees in the front yard a much needed trim. Now my husband Eric doesn't have to do the limbo every time he wants to mow the grass underneath it.

The cosmos I planted last year has reseeded prolifically and is putting on a beautiful display.

We had been wondering what to do with the peach tree.  It had never really put its roots down into the soil and we could move it back and forth quite easily.  It suffered from the freezes over the winter too and when my husband asked the arborist about it, he literally lifted it out of the ground with no resistance at all.  Question answered!

I seized the opportunity, since there was room in the island bed now, to relocate the Angel Trumpets, that was in a half barrel and was getting root bound.  It too had frozen back in the winter, but I was happy to see some new growth, so I'm hopefully it will do well where the peach tree failed.

Around the corner in the veggie garden, the runner type beans I put in beneath a new bean tower have all sprouted (well a couple didn't but most did)  I'm looking forward to seeing these grow up the bean tower, which reaches above my head.

Also in the veggie garden, the "Sir Crunch-a-lot" cucumbers have sprouted.  I hope these do well this year, we've had mixed luck with cucumbers in the past including one year when we had precisely zero -- all the flowers dropped off.  I'll let these establish a little and then probably thin them out

It was so lovely being able to work in the garden when I got home from work today. First of all, the weather was perfect, something we don't often get here, and second - now I'm working locally I no longer have the grueling two-hour commute I used to have.

Life is good!

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - March 2017

It's the 15th of the month, and to garden bloggers, that means one thing -- it's time to put together a post celebrating Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, hosted by Carol of May Dreams Gardens.

I usually forget about it until it's too late.  I think I can count on my toes how many times I have posted a "GBBD" post!

But I'm pleasantly surprised that the garden is perking up, in spite of being largely ignored last year while I was recuperating from my surgeries and the few hard freezes we had over the winter.

I already showed you some of the signs of spring in the garden, now it's time to show you some blooms :-)

Our freezes didn't faze these dianthus one little bit.  They stayed lovely and green all winter and now are covered in blooms.  I've got several in various colors (although I don't actually remember planting them all!)

With it's delicate foliage, you would have thought that the Achillea would have succumbed to the freezes too, but they stayed a beautiful bright, feathery green all winter and are now starting to put out blooms.

it's sharing that section of the border, under the Vitex tree, with the purple Homestead verbena.

More dianthus in the island bed, along with either the Pineapple sage or Salvia Greggi.  I planted them together in the same area and neglected to make a good note of which was which.  So I'm not sure which is blooming here.  There's also a lot of Cosmos coming up so this area will be lovely and colorful soon.

Here's a closer look.

And finally, the Star Jasmine is absolutely covered in blooms.  Unfortunately, it's short on scent. We have always called it our "Scent-less Star Jasmine".  There are actually two of them planted side by side and one has no scent at all, which the other has a mild aroma.  I did catch a whiff of it a couple of times when I was out taking photos in the rain on Saturday but I certainly wouldn't call it highly aromatic, which is a bit of a disappointment.  But I like it anyway, the blossoms are lovely and the birds appreciate the shelter afforded by the thick vines and trellis.

So that's about all I have to show for this Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.  I hope we have nicer weather this weekend than we did last weekend.  I need to do some more weeding and add compost and mulch to the island beds and back border before the temps start heating up too much.

Seem more Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day posts, hosted by Carol of May Dreams Gardens.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Spring has Sprung!

Ooops!  How time flies!  I can't believe I didn't post anything at all in February!  Although, truth be told, all I would have had to show you would have been weeds!

Since I was out of commission so much last year, with my surgeries and recuperations, the weeds really got the upper hand in the island beds (and the back lawn, come to think of it).

I've been making a concerted effort to get them back under control again, at least in the island beds, before we go ahead and add some more soil amendments and mulch.  One thing I love about my new job -- I'm home by 5:15, so even now I can get outside and spend a little time weeding when I get home from work.  Unlike my old job where I didn't get home until 7 pm because of the awful commute.

So now I'm beginning to see some signs of spring, I thought I'd show you some photos, but before I get to those, here are some photos of our winged visitors.

I love this photo of a pair of Mourning Doves.  At least, I assume they are a pair.  They hung out by the feeders and bird bath for a couple of hours together, whereas usually, there's a flock of them.

Here's another spring visitor -- a female Red-Winged Blackbird, if I'm not mistaken.  Amazingly, there weren't any males around the afternoon I took this.

I haven't seen any bluebirds taking interest in the new nesting box I bought especially for them after I had one pecking at the bedroom window a few weeks ago. 

But could something be showing an interest in nesting in this shelf?

Hard to tell whether the leaves just got blown in there by the wind, or whether someone is making a nest.  I'll have to check it out tomorrow and see if there's any progress on it.

And finally - the signs of spring I mentioned!  The Turk's Cap, that I had given a drastic hair cut, is sprouting like crazy.  I need to get after the ant hill in the bed, and also the millet or whatever it is that is sprouting all through that area (I put bird seed out on the wall right above it)

I even have some color in the garden, courtesy of several dianthus that weren't fazed by our December freezes.

I believe these seedlings are Cleome.  They're coming up in the general area of where I had Cleome growing last year, so I hope that's what they are.

And in this area of the island bed I've got some Cosmos that self-seeded from last year and elsewhere are some Achillea that self-seeded from underneath the Vitex tree.

In addition, I'm seeing signs of life in most of the Lantana, but alas, not the Milkweed.  I may have to make a trip to Plants for All Seasons and see if they have any on Saturday.

This last photo is of another little winged visitor I spotted on the dianthus.  I have no idea what variety of butterfly this is and haven't been able to ID it.  If anyone knows, please let me know.

So, for now my main tasks are of the clean up variety.  I've still got a lot of weeding to do in one of the island beds and the veggie bed.  Then we can add some soil amendments and mulch.  (It's amazing how the level of the soil has dropped since we first built the beds.)  But I'm determined to get ahead of the weeds this year, so keeping up with them isn't such a chore in the heat of summer.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

May the Bluebird of Happiness Wake You Up in the Morning!

I was enjoying a rare lie-in this morning, when all of a sudden the peace was shattered by a clattering at the window and the cats going on full alert.

At first I thought it was a bird strike and I looked out the window expecting to see the sad sight of a dead or injured bird on the lawn outside.

But then I heard more scratching and realized there was a bird on the windowsill outside and he was busy pecking at his reflection in the window.

Here's a view from the inside -- can you see him?

I grabbed my camera and put my slippers on and stepped out into the cold morning to investigate.

It was a bluebird!  I have very rarely seen these birds, and funnily enough one other time I saw one, it was having a fight with its reflection in my car window, when the car was parked at the stables.

This one was quite intent on winning it's little battle and spent about 10 minutes hopping about and pecking at the window.

I stood outside in the cold and snapped a few photos, before heading back indoors to warm up.

Here's a view from the inside again - video this time!  This video never loaded properly on Blogger, so I ended up uploading it to and linking to it there.  At least you can see it now!

I enjoy these little unexpected interactions with nature.  Even though our neighborhood is all built in now, and my "Country Garden" would be better described as "Suburban Lot", I'm glad that we do still get birds and other wildlife around.

I'm a bit late, but I'm linking this post up with Saturday's Critters hosted by Viewing Nature with Eileen and also with Camera Critters

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Friday, December 30, 2016

New Year's Monarch!

I've been keeping a close eye on our house guests since my last post. I had to make several trips round the garden to clip more milkweed for the hungry caterpillars.  And in the process I inadvertently brought a few more indoors along with the milkweed!

I ended up with a total of 13.

Thankfully they all pupated without any problems and I no longer had to scour the garden for greenery for they.

Yesterday I noticed one of them was turning color and by the time I took this photo last night, another one was starting to turn color as well.

Over the course of the morning I went into the bathroom to check on them several times, but of course I missed the actual moment of eclosing!

When I went in there just now, this beautiful Monarch was hanging from its empty chrysalis, drying out its wings.

I'll be cutting up some fruit, such as grapes and melon, and putting it on a saucer to feed the butterfly until it's ready to be released.  I learned that little trick from a wonderful Facebook group I found -- Monarch and Milkweed Network, Houston, Texas area.

So -- one down, 12 more to go!  Happy New Year!!!

Update:  A couple of hours after I published this blog, the second butterfly emerged.  Here he/she is still unfolding their wings!

Update 2: We have one boy and one girl so far.  Here they are having just been introduced to some nice juicy cantaloupe.  I hope they like it!

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Jayne's Country Garden.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

On the First Day of Winter -- We Have Monarch Caterpillars!!

Recently we had a cold front come through our little corner of Texas. Check out that thermometer reading on our patio!

We had a couple very cold days and freezing nights that had me going round the garden rescuing Monarch caterpillars and snipping milkweed for them to graze on in my Big Cube mesh cage which I have set up in one of our bathrooms.  

(Don't worry, this bathroom also has a walk in shower and we have another bathroom also, so we *have* been able to bathe ourselves!!)

Today though, the skies were clear and a peek at the outdoor thermometer told me it was much milder so I took a stroll around the garden and what did I find?  Yup - more caterpillars!!

I was amazed that they had made it through the freeze but they seemed okay and were chomping away.  I decided to let Mother Nature take care of these as I already have a total of 12 caterpillars/chrysalides indoors to keep an eye on and not much milkweed left.

While I was strolling round the garden enjoying the warm sun, I saw a Monarch butterfly float through, but didn't get a photo.  I did, however, get a photo of this little bee, enjoying the Salvia Evolution (or perhaps it's the Pineapple Sage, I got those two mixed up when I planted them all together)

Can you see him, right in the middle of the photo?  (Click on the pic to see the larger version)

Two or three days ago, I would have believed you if you told me it was the first day of winter, but today, the actual Winter Solstice and official First Day of Winter?  No -- feels like a lovely spring day!!  Only in Texas!!

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to do some weeding....

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.