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Friday, May 13, 2016

The Garden in May

I was talking to my dad in England on the phone yesterday and he commented "I was looking at your blog yesterday and you haven't updated it in a month!!"

Consider me chastised!  You would think, since I'm currently not working full time, that I would have all the time in the world for things like blogging.  But to tell the truth, since we've been having (so far) a very mild, pleasant spring, I've been more inclined to be outside walking or puttering in the garden than to be inside writing about it.

But in the last couple of days it has felt like summer has arrived in the Houston area.  The temperature has crept up and so has the humidity.  So today I went out early for my walk, and now I can sit in the cool and write about the garden!

The daylilies in the island bad are coming into their glory.  We have a number of different varieties, none of which I can remember the names of now.  I'll call this one "Peaches & Cream" - I'm sure it won't mind.

This is another variety I don't know the name of. Earlier in spring I divided this one and put some of it in the other island bed.  The newly planted cutting hasn't started flowering yet, but the original is bursting into bloom.

The other day I was sitting having breakfast when I caught sight of a hummingbird flitting from bloom to bloom on the Major Wheeler honeysuckle.  Naturally, my camera was not handy!  But at least I know there are hummers around now and am in the process of making some nectar to fill my feeders to put out today.

Here's a close up of the native honeysuckle.  I'm glad it's finally doing something.  I planted it three years ago and it was very puny for a while.

I was reading somewhere that this particular vine is not the sort that will vigorously cover a trellis so it's not great if you want it to hide an eyesore.  As it happens, I have creeping fig growing on the sound wall behind it and the combination of the two vines looks rather attractive and hides the ugly sound wall.

The Rose of Sharon is also bursting in to full bloom.  This has grown from a cutting I bought with me from my previous house, when we moved here eight years ago.  It's a favorite of bees and hummingbirds.

Here's another hummingbird favorite, Turk's Cap. I have a bit of a dilemma with this.  It's in a container, but managed to pop a root through the bottom of the pot and is now rooted to the ground.  It probably needs to be either repotted or planted in the ground somewhere (if I had anywhere for it) but I would probably kill it in the process.  So I'll leave it where it is for as long as it lasts and then replace it when necessary.

Well today is Friday the 13th, which means that Sunday is the 15th - Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, hosted each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

I'm going to link this post up with her May Garden Blogger's Bloom Day when she puts it up.

This post is also linked with the following memes:

Flower Friday, hosted by Aquariann

Floral Friday Fotos hosted by Nick V.

Today's Flowers hosted by Denise at An English Girl Rambles.

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

Friday, March 25, 2016

Enjoying the Spring Garden

With the recent rains, and now the bright sunny weather, the back garden is really starting to take off.

In previous years, the island beds were completely taken over by weeds by this date, but I've been more or less able to keep them in check by weeding five minutes here, five minutes there.

Other than the Nutsedge, which I have complained about before on this blog, the most prevalent weed in the garden is this:

I don't know what it is, but it's everywhere -- in the lawn, in the island beds, in the veggie garden. It's fairly easy to tweak out but it does involve bending over and hand picking, as trying to hoe it only ends up with the roots of the River birch, Vitex and peach trees getting disturbed.

I got most of it out now, which is better than I have done in previous years. If anyone knows what it is, please let me know.

The pansies I put in at Thanksgiving are coming in to their own now and really looking lovely. The yellow, purple and white set the tone and pick up those colors elsewhere in the garden - such as the Homestead verbena under the Vitex and the snapdragons in containers by the birdbath.

Along with the purple Homestead verbena under the Vitex, this Achillea is blooming. I planted this a few years ago and it's spread along the back border, enjoying the dappled shade provided by the tree in the summer.  I haven't really seen many blooms on it before, but it looks like it's getting ready to pop now.  I started some seedlings of this in different colors so I will be interested to see how they do in future years.

Isn't it funny how the smallest birds can make the most noise?  I was indoors this morning and heard what at first I thought to be a mockingbird singing outside.  I realized it was something else and took a peek outside to see who it might be.  It didn't take me long to spot this Carolina Wren sitting at the top of the tree behind our back wall, singing his heart out.

That scraggly old tree is quite a favorite with the birds.  The woodpeckers love it,  and I happened to see this flock of Cedar Waxwings land in it yesterday. Funny how I had never seen one of these birds until just before this year's Backyard Bird Count and now I see flocks on a regular basis.

Another garden visitor I was thrilled to see was this squirrel. Squirrels used to be regular visitors until the lots either side of us were cleared and built on.  It's been quite a while since we have had such a furry visitor.  This one was partaking of the buffet I had put on the wall for the birds.

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

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Signs of Spring

I can't believe it's been so long since I last posted!  Of course, for a while there, nothing was happening in the garden, so each post would have been more or less a repeat of the last one.

But all of a sudden, Spring has Sprung!  New shoots and buds are appearing everywhere.

This little clump of daffodils somehow manages to survive getting flooded every year and reliably pops up in March -- encouraged, no doubt, by the metal daffodil staked into the ground to mark their location.

The Angel Trumpet I transplanted from the pot that fell apart to a half barrel is leafing like crazy.  I hope I get some blooms on it in the fall.

The Sam Houston peach is starting to put out blossoms.Hopefully this year the fruits won't get beaten by a hail storm like they did last year.

All of the Rose of Sharon bushes are leafing out, including this one on the west fence. This came with me as a cutting from a bush I had at my previous house.

This volunteer sapling is a bit of a mystery.  I have no idea what it is and can only assume it was "planted" by the birds that like to hang out around the Southern Wax Myrtle, in the midst of which it is growing.

I was going to hack it down a year of so back, but my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to let it grow and see how it does.  At this point it's about as high as the Wax Myrtle - 15 feet or so - and has deeply lobed leaves. 

Over by the utility boxes, the Homestead Verbena is spreading nicely across in front of the trellises that hide the utility boxes (and the brush pile).  It's also spreading the other direction, under the Vitex tree toward where we have the grape vine.  I love the purple flowers and so to the butterflies and bees, so wherever it wants to spread is okay by me :-)

That's it for today - I need to get out and weed -- the nutsedge is taking over the island beds!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.  Did you remember to move your clocks forward one hour last night?

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

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Winter Work Day in the Garden

I think I have mentioned I'm between jobs (still) at the moment, so yesterday I took advantage of the beautiful weather and tackled an eyesore in the garden that has been bugging me for years.

This section of bare wall at the end of the garden is UGLY!!!  I've wanted to do something about it since we moved in, but since there were originally three pine trees outside the wall, the whole area was so chock full of roots it was impossible to dig.

Obviously, the trees are no longer there (thanks to the developer not taking care to protect the trees in the neighborhood while putting in walls, utilities etc) so I decided that the time had come to tackle the issue.

Up until now, the area has been home to a selection of containers (more or less empty at present), but I wanted to add an evergreen that would (a) HIDE THE WALL and (b) offer some habitat to the birds who visit.

I found what I was looking for in this Hollywood Juniper.

According to the tag, it's a fast grower and will fill out to 30' tall and 10 feet wide.

Getting it in the ground was a bit of a battle. In addition to the tree roots that I knew were there, there's a hard layer of clay about a foot underground.  We broke it up as best we could using the auger that my husband uses to aerate the lawn and filled it in with good soil before planting.  Looking at this photo of it in place, I can see that when it's mature it should fill the area nicely, hiding that ugly wall and offering us some privacy if the field across the street behind the wall gets built on, as I'm sure it will.

Today I refreshed the containers with some cool weather color - white and purple alyssum and some snapdragons, and arranged them around the birdbath.

I also added some alyssum, dianthus, stock and salvia greggi to one of the island beds (the other one will have to wait).  

After all that I took a well earned break on the patio, and look who paid a visit...

These are Cedar Waxwings and I have never seen them before!  I've added them to my "Life List" now.  Amazing to think I might have missed them - I just happened to look up and there they were.  I wonder if they will stop by and be counted at the weekend, during the Great BackYard Bird Count.

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

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Queen's Compost Heap

Whenever my husband and I get back to England, my dad always takes us out in the car and enjoys showing Eric the England that I grew up in.

On a visit a couple of years ago, we went to Windsor Great Park, near the town of Windsor, not far from where my parents live.

I could probably do several posts on the park (and probably will) because it was such a central part of my growing up.  I used to hike there, ride horses there, go for picnics there, there are polo fields, a Deer Park, the Valley Gardens, Savill Gardens and Virginia Water.  It's an absolute paradise for gardeners, which may have contributed to my love of gardening.

 The Long Ride, Windsor Great Park

But today, since this is primarily my gardening blog, I thought I would start by showing you the Queen's Compost Heap and brush pile!

The park covers 2020 hectares with a mix of formal avenues, such as the famous "Long Walk" which stretches from The Copper Horse statue on Snow Hill all the way to Windsor Castle, seen in the distance in the photo above, as well as open grasslands, woodland and gardens.

With all those woods and parkland to take care of, there's sure to be plenty of brush and compost materials.

Don't believe me?  Check out the piles in the photo below! Any gardener would be green with envy!

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

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Birds of Winter - Part Two

I mentioned in yesterday's blog post that I had neglected to get photos of our most colorful and year round  feathered visitors - the Northern Cardinals and the Blue Jays  So this morning, I set seed on the wall and lay in wait, warmly wrapped up on the patio with my camera.

I love the way they watch me from the hedgerow as I set out the seed.  How many birds do you see in this photo? (you can click on it to see a larger version)

They all get along pretty well and will hop around each other on the wall, selecting their seeds of choice.

Can you say "greedy"?  This Blue Jay grabbed not one, but two, peanuts.

Here's another photo of them all in the hedgerow.  Perhaps I should take inventory of the plants there and see what I can add to my own garden to invite the birds to stay.

I'm linking today's post with Camera Critters.

 Here's hoping you had an enjoyable and safe New Year celebration and wishing you happy gardening and birding in 2016!


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

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Birds of Winter

One of my favorite pastimes is sitting, either in the dining room or on the patio, and watching the birds go about their business in our garden (that's English for back yard).

While we have lots of the usual visitors - Mockingbirds, Blue Jays, House Sparrows, Northern Cardinals and Mourning Doves, I've also spotted some seasonal visitors.

 At first I mistook these goldfinches in winter plumage for sparrows.  It wasn't until I zoomed in with my camera I realized what they were.

This one seems to be pointing out the fact that there's no birdseed on the wall.

 This isn't a great photo, but I think this is a House Finch. I've only ever seen one a couple of times before, so I may be mistaken.

We had four male Northern Cardinals in the back yard at one time yesterday, but I didn't have my camera handy.  I was able to snap a photo of this female on the wall though.  They are year round residents in the hedgerow behind us.  Unfortunately, that land has been rezoned, so I fear the days are numbered for the hedgerow.  Perhaps the birds will come and take up residence in our back yard.

Another year round resident in the area is "Woody", the Red-bellied Woodpecker.  He likes to perch on the electric poles behind the house and has been heard hammering on the neighbors' Hardi-Plank siding (that must have given him a headache!)

Two birds I saw but just couldn't get a photo of were the Carolina Chickadee and the Tufted Titmouse.  The Chickadees are year round residents but I've only seen the Tufted Titmouse once or twice, usually in winter, so I'm presuming it's just a winter visitor.  I just wish I could have got a photo of him.

I just realized I also don't have any photos of the Blue Jays.  Oh well, I'll just have to get out and take some and do another post in the New Year.

Speaking of which, I wish everyone a safe and happy New Year celebration and a wonderful 2016.

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