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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Hummingbird Preview at Kleb Woods

We experienced some brutally hot weather at the beginning of August, which of course is no surprise in Texas. However low pressure and rain showers made the latter half of the month quite pleasant, by comparison. The temperatures dropped from around the 100's (we had five days of 100+ temps) to the low- to mid-90's.

So Eric and I decided to douse ourselves with bug spray and head out to Kleb Woods Nature Reserve.

They will be having a Hummingbird Festival on September 10th, but we knew there would probably be plenty of hummers at their feeders already.

We weren't disappointed :-)  The Nature Center has a nice big shady wrap-around porch and feeders are hanging under the eaves about 10 feet apart, more or less at eye level for viewers on the porch.

It's very pleasant to sit or stand in the shade while the hummers zip around between the feeders and among the bushes in the garden.

As always, you can click on the images to see a larger view.   Given the diminutive stature of these little gems, that's probably the best way to see them :-)


I lost count of the total, but there were perhaps 10 or more. Most were Ruby-Throats, which is what we see in our back yard habitat.



We spent a very pleasant half-hour watching them cavorting about and at times there were three or four on a feeder. (We never get that at home, there's always that one who thinks the whole yard is his and sees off all the rest).


As we watched them, I suddenly realized that they weren't ALL Ruby-throats.  I kept seeing flashes of russet as one particularly aggressive little hummer dive-bombed his more sedate companions.  I should qualify that by saying I meant more sedate by comparison.  You couldn't really call any hummingbird *sedate*.

I tried and tried to get a photo of this little whirling dervish, hoping he would settle on a feeder.  But he was more interested in making sure the others kept their distance than actually taking a sip of nectar himself.


This was the best I could do. It's a Rufous hummingbird - the first I have ever seen. You can see his victim in the top right hand corner of this shot, LOL.

Finally, here's a short clip of video that I took -- only about a minute's worth.

video

We're certainly going to try and make it to the Hummingbird Festival as they are a lot of fun and very informative.

If you are in the area from 9 am to 3 pm, on Saturday September 10th, do try to stop by.  Here's a flyer with more information.

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

Monday, August 22, 2016

More Monarch Success

It's been an exciting weekend, and the new week has started with a bang too! Not only because we have more thunder outside today, but because those three chrysalides I mentioned in my last post all hatched overnight!

That's a total of 8 so far -- and I just noticed two more caterpillars getting ready to pupate!


It looks like we have one male and two females this time.



I "encouraged" them out of the cage on my hand so I could close it up and they all hung out for a spell, drying off their wings, while I went indoors for some coffee.

When I went out later two had already flown out to the garden and only one was left on the outside of the cage.

One neat thing about Monarchs at this stage -- you can get a lot closer to them than you can when they are in the wild.  They are still docile and slow moving. I was even able to let the last one crawl on my hand :-)


She was quite happy to sit there for a minute or two before taking off and heading into the garden for some nectar.


As today is the first day back to school for the children in our area, and since we don't have kids, these photos of butterflies heading off in to the wild blue yonder will have to suffice!!!

I'm linking this post up with Camera Critters today.  If you have a few minutes, visit some of the other blogs participating for some great critter photos.

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

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Monarch Butterfly Birthday

In my last post I told you about my Monarch nursery I have going on the back patio.

Well, the last two days have been most exciting!  I went out to check on the cage yesterday morning and what should I see?




TWO of the chrysalides had marched (eclosed) overnight!



I was thrilled to see they were both healthy-looking females.  There were no signs of OE (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha) infection, such as malformed wings, that I have seen in the past.


I opened the flap and, with a little help from me and a ride on my hand for one of them, they exited the cage and rested on the mesh for a while before heading off to the zinnia and milkweed in the island bed.

From what I saw yesterday, there were four more chrysalides and one more caterpillar on the milkweed.    At that time, it didn't appear that any of the chrysalides had turned color, but when I went out to look this morning, a beautiful male had hatched.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of him.  It was so humid this morning my camera lens kept steaming up!

I've been absolutely thrilled with this experience, and we still have three more to go (plus the caterpillar).

I'm going to keep searching the milkweed in the island bed for signs of eggs or caterpillars that can be moved to the cage.

But first, once these have all hatched I need to clean out the cage -- who knew caterpillars could POO so much?!
              Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Monarch Nursery

I know it's been a long time since I posted anything, but this time I do actually have an excuse! At the middle of July I went in to St. Luke's Hospital in the Texas Medical Center to have a pituitary tumor removed.  Then I spent a week in the hospital (even spent my 60th birthday in hospital, can you believe!!!) and since then have been recovering at home.

I literally spent three weeks in bed but have started to get up and about recently.  I was getting headaches at first but they seem to have resolved now, thank goodness! I'm just asking it easy and not overdoing things.

So while I was in hospital, the garden was more or less left to its own resources.  The weeds, of course, grew rampant.  The milkweed got covered in aphids and other crud.

During my recovery I've been spending time sitting out on the patio and one day I saw this young lady busy at work, laying eggs on the cruddy milkweed.


Then, it happened that an ad popped up on Facebook, for the Monarch Butterfly Kit to raise Monarchs. So I went ahead and ordered it.

I think they are really designed so you can raise Monarch indoors, but we don't really have anywhere that the cats wouldn't get to it, so I opted to put mine in the back corner of the patio.


I put a couple of bricks on the bottom, to stop it getting blown around by the wind. Then I went around collecting some milkweed cuttings that had caterpillars on, and placing them in the little picks filled with water to keep them fresh-(ish). I also took some other cuttings and cleaned them up, hosed off the aphids etc., and put them in there as well.



Within a day, one of the caterpillars had already departed it's milkweed and was climbing to the top of the cage! Then I saw two more heading that way as well!


This morning I was thrilled to see three chrysalises (chrysalides)!!

Today I plan to see if I can purchase some fresh milkweed from one of our local stores, Plants for All Seasons or The Arbor Gate, if they have any.  That way I can rescue some other caterpillars, and even some eggs, from the ratty milkweed in the island beds.

Wish me luck!

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

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Garden in June

 In an attempt to keep my promise to blog more often than once a month, here's my second post for June!! 

Back in the 80's, I used to love making macrame plant hangers. A few years ago, I made some for our patio when we first moved in, but I have hunted high and low and been unable to find them, so I made a few more. Happily I discovered Hobby Lobby have a decent selection of cords, metal rings and beads!


We have three Crepe Myrtles in the garden, but this is the best of them.  Last year a hummingbird could be seen daily perched in the branches, keeping an eye on the feeders.


I know I planted several of this Liatris, but this is the only one that came up (or possibly the others got "weeded" before I realized what they were. It's surrounded by Salvia Greggi and Pineapple Sage.

Here's the Turk's Cap I showed in my last post, happily settling in to its new home. I noticed some volunteer Turk's Cap seedlings under the Southern Wax Myrtle that will need to come out.



Another plant that I think suffered from my early spring "weeding" was Zinnia.  Last year the flower beds were overrun with zinnia, but my vigorous hoeing this spring meant that I ended up having to buy more!


Some of the daylilies are still hanging on and shrugging off the heat now summer is here.




Lots of little joys in this island bed this year.  First, the Hamelia Patens that I thought had died actually came back and is flowering.  Plus the Cosmos and Cleome that I started from seed are doing well (no photos).  Finally, the native milkweed I planted earlier in the year are coming along nicely.  No blooms yet, and they are still small, but I hope the Monarch butterflies will be able to enjoy them for a long time to come.

Here's a long shot of the island bed -- earlier in the week I planted some Dallas Red and Pot of Gold Lantana across the front side.  They will spread and fill in the bare patches as summer draws on and the butterflies will love them in July and August.


I'm so happy I managed to bring the Rose of Sharon (via cuttings) from my previous house.  I just love it's happy blooms, and the bees and hummingbirds love it too :-)


 This next photo is rather deceptive.  Unfortunately our Sam Houston peach tree just isn't living up to its name.  First of all, the tree never properly rooted -- if it weren't for be staked up, it would fall over.  All it's roots are in the top couple of inches and none have ventured down far enough to anchor it.  Too much clay down there I guess, even though we dug a pretty big hole when we planted it.



While this looks like a nice big healthy juicy peach, it's rather small and there's a bruise/hole on the other side.  Update:  I decided to go and check on it today and there was another one near it that wasn't too beaten up so I picked it and ate it.  It was the most delicious peach I have ever eaten!  Sweet, juicy, warm from the sun.  We have to try and save this tree!

That's it for today's post - I hope my dad enjoys it after his comment on my last post!

Today I'm linking up with  the following memes:

Friday Flower Photos hosted by Nick V.
Flower Friday hosted by Aquariann
Today's Flowers hosted by Denise at An English Girl Rambles

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

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Turk's Cap Gets a New Home

Oops - here I am posting once a month again! I really do need to step it up a bit!

Last Friday I decided to see if I could do some rearranging that I had been wanting to do for quite some time.   My Turk's Cap , Malvaviscus drummondii , was in a container underneath the wax myrtle and had managed to root itself through the drainage holes.  The pot was leaning and the Turk's Cap really needed to be relocated.

As it happens, I have a small raised bed right next to it with only the native honeysuckle and a recently planted mandevilla, which hadn't had a chance to get going yet.  



So the first thing to do was to snip through the Turk's Cap's roots and detach it from it's current located (ever hoping that it doesn't mind the disruption)


As you can see, it's a pretty decent sized plant.  It was definitely time to move on from it's little container.

The next task was to dig a hole for it in the raised bed.  This proved more difficult that I expected.

On a hot and humid day I was trying to dig through a mass of roots which almost proved too much for me.  I ended up getting in there with snippers and cutting roots to enable me to dig a hole big enough for planting.

The roots appeared to be coming from all directions, so I think there was a combination of honeysuckle, Wax Myrtle and even Turk's Cap roots in there.

Anyway, after several breaks of sitting in the shade of the pine tree, and drinking at least a gallon of ice tea, I finally got the Turk's Cap replanted.


I'm really happy with how it fills the raised bed, and it hides the bare lower stems of the native honeysuckle (as well as the "volunteer" millet that the birds planted behind the trellis).

To learn more about Turk's Cap, visit:
http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/ornamentals/nativeshrubs/malvaviscusdrum.htm

The Mandevilla got a new home too.  I planted it in the container that the Turk's Cap came out of (after it was well cleaned, of course) and set it by the trellis on the western fence.

To learn more about Mandeville, visit:
http://floridata.com/Plants/Apocynaceae/Mandevilla%20spp./68


Finally, to let me know she approved of my rearranging the garden, this little hummingbird stopped by.  (she was actually browsing the native honeysuckle while I was taking a break in the shade, but I didn't get a picture until later, when she visited one of the feeders.


I think my gardening for the rest of the summer will be confined to gently pulling weeds, in the early mornings or in the evenings.

No more digging in the heat of the day for me!

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

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.