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Monday, May 31, 2010

Closed for the Week

My husband and I are flying up to Indianapolis tomorrow to attend Eric's mother's Memorial Service.  She died peacefully in her sleep last week, in the house she had lived in for 30 years, surrounded by friends and family.

She will be missed.

I won't have internet access while I'm away, but I should be back Friday. 

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Weeds in the Lawn Can Be a Good Thing

Ok - I admit it, I was a bit of a lawn snob. In fact, when we first moved in to this house two years ago, I signed a contract with a lawncare company to come and spray or sprinkle various fertilizers, fungicides and insecticides on the lawn in my quest for the lushest, greenest lawn in the neighborhood.

When the lawn all but upped and died during last year's drought, in spite of the hundreds of dollars I had spent on it -- not from lack of water, by the way, but from ROOT  ROT from my overwatering!!! -- I placed a call to the aforementioned lawncare company and cancelled our service.

My fellow garden bloggers may take the credit for turning me in to a more natural and organic gardener.  I haven't yet read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, but there were various blog posts in February and March which opened my eyes to the dangers of the use of chemicals in the garden.

And while I still like lawn and will probably always have lawn, I'm more casual about it now. Yes, I frowned back in February when the first things to start greening up in the garden were the WEEDS.... 

... but, in a turnaround for me, I didn't grab a large bag of Weed n Feed and hit the garden with it as I would have done in previous years.

Seeing the various feathered visitors pecking around in the lawn, I was glad I had chosen not to spread harmful poisons out there.

Pulling weeds is now a therapeutic form of exercise for me. I don't get them all, by any means, but I get a lot of them and those I don't get to are mowed before they can set seed.   The good thing is that now the lawn itself has greened-up (is that a word?), hey, the weeds aren't so obvious!

I've discovered one more advantage to not using herbicides and insectides on the lawn.  I'm seeing more beneficial insects now, such as the ladybug below.  Notice that she's not on the St. Augustine, she's on a weed.

And this butterfly - an American Lady, I think - is on another weed (which I've been fighting a losing battle with)

So maybe these weeds in the lawn aren't such a bad thing...

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

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Daylilies on Parade

I headed outside with the camera yesterday and took some photos of all the daylilies that are blooming in the front garden.

It occurred to me that the color theme for the front garden is definitely... HOT... HOT... HOT!!

Here are the photos as proof!

As always, you can click on the photos to view them full size.

EDIT:  After I had originally posted this, I had gone in to my husband's den which is at the front of the house.  I happened to look out the window and catch sight of something on the daylilies.  I grabbed my camera and rushed outside, hoping I'd be lucky enough to get some photos of what I had just seen through the window.

I was!!

A Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly!  It really seemed to like the daylilies, sampling first one, then another, before taking a momentary rest on a shrub.

And to think, if I hadn't happened to look outside at the precise moment I did, I would have missed this beauty!

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

Friday, May 21, 2010

Free Booty from the Houston Grows Meet-Up

It's been a busy week at work and with a part time job taking up most evenings as well, it seemed I just never had enough time to blog (any spare moments I had were spent in the garden!), so I'm just now getting this posted.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Houston Grows meet-up at the Houston Garden Center last weekend.  It was the first time I've ever participated in such an event.  I've never been to a plant swap, or a seed swap, or anything like it before. 

To say I made out like a bandit would be an understatement....

Most of the goodies were handpicked in advance for me by the very generous Ursula. After the meetup we went back to her house to load these beauties in my car.  On the way, we ran in to the big storm. I ended up staying at Ursula's for a few hours to wait out the storm, having dinner and making friends with a baby blue jay that was rescued from a neighbor's flooded driveway before I was able to head home with my treasures.

Among the goodies:

Homestead Verbena;
Marguerite daisy;
Indian Blanket;

In addition to the passalongs I got from Ursula, I got a Firecracker lily and a "three for one" pot, with Pavonia, a oak seedling and one other plant in the pot from a couple who were also at the meetup.  I believe their names were David and Carol - and I hope they excuse me if I got their names wrong, I've always been terrible with names!

Hmmm... I wonder what this plant tag means....

Here are some more..

So my task, when I have had time this week, has been to print out Plant Profiles on all my new "babies".  This is because I am a... well let's just call me "detail oriented". 

The plan is to have a profile on each plant in the garden in my garden journal, which I blogged about in December. It's really coming along now and, so far, I have kept my promise to myself to keep it up!

Later in the fall, I'll be attempting to start some of the seeds that I got from Cindy, My Corner of Katy. I'll let you know how that goes...

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

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, May 2010

 I'm happy to announce that I finally have some blooms (other than pansies!!) to share for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

One of the first things I planted, when I moved in to the house, was a variety of daylilies.  I drew a chart and noted where each vartiety was planted.  But at some point along the way, that chart has gone missing so now I have no idea which varieties I have and where they are planted. So I'll just enjoy them for what they are, beautiful blooms, and not worry about which daylily they are.

Here's another.

In the back garden, the hollyhock is really putting on a show. I had to cut off a lot of lower leaves that had rust, but that doesn't detract from the beautiful of the plant.

And back in the front garden, the garden mums are budding out, and have been joined by some volunteer sunflowers. (courtesy of the birds)

I used to have a birdfeeder hanging over this bed, but got tired of the birds scratching around underneath it and kicking all the mulch out of the bed and on to the lawn, so I've removed the birdfeeder for now.  I may try and find a place for it, away from the edge of the bed, where the birds can sratch around, but not displace all the mulch.

I look forward to sharing more blooms in the future.  Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Blogger's Bloom Day on the 15th of each month.

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

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Caught in the Act!

I was putting bird seed out the fence this morning and heard "something."  As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I realized I wasn't alone.  He didn't seem concerned about me being there, so I decided to see if he'd wait while I got the camera.

He was too busy with breakfast to notice...

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

Monday, May 10, 2010

No Longer Hidden...

The gingers, that is....

I've been watering this tub of dirt and gravel ever since fellow Houston Grows blogger,  UrsulaAndres passed it along to me. The plant marker says "Hidden Gingers" and hidden they were.  I was beginning to wonder if there was really anything in there!

Ah, but I shouldn't have doubted Ursula!  While watering them this past weekend, I was thrilled to see little furls of green!

At this point, the tallest is about an inch high and, according to the plant profile at Dave's Garden, they can grow to four feet plus, so these little guys have some growing to do.

I see some transplanting in my future. I'll have to decide whether to repot them or plant them in the ground and find a suitable spot for them. But I'll let them grow a while yet.

Thanks Ursula!

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

Monday, May 3, 2010

Flora and Fauna

Slowly, but surely, the garden is blooming out. The wait has been hard for me, but then I'm not the most patient person in the world.  So while everyone has been sharing photos of all the myriad plants they had in bloom and all I had blooming was my pansies, I'll admit, I was getting despondent.

Then my gazanias started blooming, as I blogged about recently, and I began to have hope that I would actually have some flowers in the garden this year.

So in today's post, I'd like to show you some of what is coming into bloom. And in addition, because I get as much enjoyment from the fauna that visits our garden as I do from the flora, I'll show you some of our recent visitors.

In the front flowerbed, the daylilies that I planted last year have started putting out flower buds.  This is the only one that is blooming at the moment, but several of the others are ready to go too. 

I'm not sure what variety this is.  I got a "Daylily Grab Bag" from Spring Hill Nurseries and at one point I wrote down where I had planted which variety, but of course that sheet of paper got lost.

The front flowerbed is starting to take shape now. I'm looking forward to seeing it develop and bloom this summer.

The hollyhock in the back garden is finally rewarding me with blooms. I had mentioned before that the hollyhock I had in the front garden got completely covered with rust and I had to pull it out.  Well I noticed when taking photos of this one that it is beginning to get some tiny spots on it too. But since hollyhocks are biennials, I'm sure it will be dying off after it has bloomed anyway, so as long as I can enjoy the blooms for a while, I won't worry about some spots.

Here's a close up of one of the blooms in the sunshine. You can see the little spots of rust in this photo.

These Salvia "Hot Trumpets" are passalongs from a fellow garden blogger on HoustonGrows and seem to be settling in to the bed between the milkweed and the Rose of Sharon.

At the other end of that bed are some volunteer sunflowers, courtesy of the birds, and last weekend, I happened to notice this guy...

I believe it's a saltmarsh caterpillar - Estigmene acrea (Drury) - also known as a "Woolly Bear."  Of course, all the websites I found it on referred to it as a pest, but since he was snacking on a volunteer sunflower seedling and not anything I desperately wanted to save, I decided to let him be. I did wonder how long he would stay, since the seedling was rather small and he seemed pretty voracious.  As it happened, he was gone by next morning.  I looked on the other seedlings and didn't see him, so perhaps one of my feathered visitors had a nutritious, but hairy, breakfast.

I hope this ladybug decides to stick around, I'm sure I'll have a plentiful supply of aphids for her as the summer progresses!

This blue jay seems to be saying "Good Morning" to the fairy who lives at the base of the pine tree.

While this Red Cardinal took his turn at the bird feeder.

Since we moved in in the summer of 2008, we've had a steady succession of squirrels come to visit.  I never gave much thought to what type of squirrel they were until someone commented that, judging from a photo I had posted, they were Fox Squirrels.

Fox squirrels (Sciurus niger) larger than grey squirrels and have a rusty-colored underbelly and they are Texas' most common squirrel. In fact, it wasn't until earlier this spring that we saw any other type of squirrel in the garden.

The first squirrels to show up this year in the garden, following our freezing winter, were a group of three grey squirrels. They're quite a bit smaller than the fox squirrels and they have white underparts. Their tails don't seem to be as thick either.

Before I sign off, yesterday evening I got around to pulling out the spent pansies from the beds under the small trees in the front garden.  I left the bluebonnets which are still blooming (although they're almost finished) and which have some hefty seedpods on them. I filled in around them with some blanket flower, Gaillardia "Fanfare" and some Verbena "Hot Lips."

Now the trick will be making sure everything has enough water. It's a cruel fact that while parts of the country are having floods, we appear to be having a mini drought.

The rain barrel we installed a few weeks ago is turning out to be a great investment.  Soon after we installed it we had a couple of gentle rains which were enough to fill it to the brim! So I've been able to do a lot of my watering with FREE rainwater!

This weekend, I'll be setting up the new compost bin, which is our latest investment :-)

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