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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.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Garden in Winter

Well here we are in the middle of December, just a couple of weeks away from Christmas, and there are still flowers blooming in the garden!

I had been lamenting with my dad on the phone that the garden was past it's best and was looking ratty.  But when I went out and had a look around, I was surprised to see how much was actually blooming.

While the drifts of orange Profusion zinnia that once filled most of the island beds are now dead and brown, there are still a surprising number of flowers in evidence.

The Salvia Evolution that I started from seed in the spring was a real winner this year, and is still going.  Interestingly, I planted red and white, but only the red came up. The  pink and white Vinca is still with us too, while the Cosmos and Cleome have long gone to seed.

This dense patch is a favorite hangout of the local sparrows, who hide in there for hours, scratching around for seeds.  And, of course, the hummingbirds enjoyed the tubular red flowers.

Another bird favorite is the purple Fountain Grass.  In spring many of the plumes showed evidence that they were providing nice cozy nest linings, and the birds seem to like poking around in it for bugs as well.

The other island bed got overrun with Bermuda grass this year, as it seems to every year. With the two major surgeries I had this year, along with instructions not to do any bending, I wasn't able to keep up with it.  Even though it's overrun with grass, there are still some flowers hanging on, such as the pink Vinca and yellow Lantana in the photo above.

I've also still got quite a lot of milkweed, which is good because one of our neighbors put out a call in our neighborhood Facebook group last week that she needed some milkweed to feed the Monarch larvae that her grandsons had in their terrarium.  I was able to take her some cuttings (and while I was snipping, I found a couple of caterpillars that I brought in and set up in my Big Cube cage as we were expecting a freeze.  As you can see, some of the milkweed is even still blooming and, a bonus at this time of year, it's not covered in aphids!

We've had some strange weather recently.  We've had at least one frost where I thought I might have lost some plants, but surprisingly, they survived.  We also had a couple of nights with temps below freezing, but no frost.  The plants made it through that too.

That *may* have been our winter for the year, yesterday the temperature with back in the 70's!

And finally, the Bottlebrush bush is looking quite festive with it's bright red "brushes".  These seem to be a favorite of bees.  I wouldn't have expected that but, back in the summer, it was always covered in happy bees.  The Savannah holly is looking festive too, with its bright green leaves and red berries.  There was enough that I was able to take some trimmings to add to our Christmas decorations on the mantelpiece.

I've got one final surgery scheduled for tomorrow.  Luckily this is a minor procedure to insert a coil into the last aneurysm.  I'll be in hospital overnight and then back home for a few days' rest.

In case I don't get around to blogging again before Christmas, let me take this opportunity to wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and the best of the Holiday Season.

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

Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Perfect Day in Fall

It seems that fall may have finally arrived in my little corner of the world.  The skies are clear and the temperatures dropped into the 50's overnight!  Right now it's a very pleasant 75 degrees with low humidity.  I probably should be doing more actual work out there than I am -- all I've done is a bit of weeding to get rid of the ever encroaching nutsedge and bermuda grass in the island beds.

But I'm also taking the opportunity to sit on the patio and read and enjoy the sights of the garden without sweating. It's all the same stuff I've shown you before - zinnia and cosmos, salvia and cleome.  But now we have lots of winged visitors too (in addition to my own contributions in the form of newly hatched Monarchs)
I've had wonderful success with this Big Cube cage I got this year.  In addition to the 9 Monarchs I was able to hatch in August, we ended up with another 15 chrysalides in the cage and 6 have hatched in the past two days!

This is one of the newly hatched Monarchs, enjoying some nectar before getting ready for the migration. Also in the photo is another visitor - a Gulf Fritillary.  We have five or six of them hanging around at the moment.

Below is a short video of the same scene :-)

Below is another visitor we see at this time of year - a buckeye.  Those markings really do look like eyes, don't they? This one seems a little ragged, but he's not letting it slow him down :-)

And finally here's another video I took showing some of the Gulf Fritillaries enjoying the zinnia.


As I mentioned in my last post, I'm going in for surgery on Tuesday October 11th. It's rather major surgery, so I probably won't be posting in my blog for a while. I'm so glad I got to see some of the butterflies hatch before I went in, and my husband promises he will keep an eye on the other chrysalides and release them once they have hatched.

I'll see you on the other side!

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