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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.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The End of Summer and Even More Monarchs

Ooops - it's been a month since my last post! There really hasn't been a lot going on to share with you.  The Profusion Zinnias, which overflowed the island beds all summer are starting to go to seed and look a bit ragged, but the Gulf Fritillaries and other butterflies are still enjoying them.

Ditto the Cleome.  I collected lots of seeds from each of them, so I'll have plenty to share next spring :-)

The Salvia splendens took up the western half of the island bed and is still going strong.That's the first time I've had much success with salvia.  This variety has small red flowers that I have seen the occasional hummingbird taking a sip at.  I've never had luck with the blue/purple varieties though.

The Cosmos, which was just feathery foliage all summer is suddenly a mass of pink flowers.  I must never have paid attention to when it bloomed before.  I thought it was a summer bloomer, but it's here now and looks lovely.

But the most exciting thing going on in the garden at the moment is the number of Monarch caterpillars and chrysalides I have in the Big Cube  cage I purchased back at the beginning of the summer.

I've got a total of 16 in the cage - more than I had back in August! They have been eating me out of house and home but luckily I have some healthy stands of milkweed in the garden that I can take cuttings from.  I just have to make sure there aren't any cats already there when selecting cuttings!

I'm going to be going in to hospital for surgery on October 11th, so I hope I shall see some of them eclose before I go in.  Then my husband is going to take over the Monarch husbandry after that.

At least they should all have pupated by then, so he won't have to pick milkweed for them.  He'll just have to check daily for new butterflies and release them from the cage when they are ready.

I'm linking my post up with Camera Critters. Please take a few minutes to visit and see what other critters stories and photos people are sharing.
Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

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.


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.