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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wild America

Neither my husband nor I are native Texans. I'm originally from England, although I've officially lived in the US for more than half my life now.  My husband is a more recent transplant from San Francisco.

One thing that never ceases to amaze us about Texas is the wide variety of wildlife here. Specifically insects. I don't remember being particularly intrigued by bugs as I was growing up in England, except for having a loathing of spiders.

Perhaps its because the insects we see here in Texas are so much more diverse and interesting that I find myself fascinated by them.

Take the walking stick in the photo below.  I found this critter on the wall of our patio last August. Obviously it was some sort of stick insect, but I'd never seen one before so I did some research on and I'm pretty sure it was a Southern Two-striped Walkingstick  (Anisomorpha  buprestoides). Even though it didn't have actual stripes, nor did the specimens I found photos of online.

 I'm not sure why, but I decided this was male. I guess just from the size.  I should have known better...

A few days later I found this pair on the side wall of the house.  That's when I realized the walking stick on the patio had been a female.  And she had found a boyfriend!

Anyway, time went on and I didn't see either of them again. But this weekend as I was weed-eating (is that a valid verb?) along the fence, I happened to see movement a few paces ahead of where I was.  I stopped and looked down because quite often I get frogs frantically trying to hop out of the way of the weed eater. But what I saw wasn't a frog.  It was a stick insect, climbing from a blade of grass to the fence.

As I looked closer, I noticed something odd...

... Aren't they supposed to have six legs?  

I think I can say with certainty that I did not do this with my weed eater. I can see how it might be possible to slice it in two, but to remove two legs on one side and one on the other? No, I don't think so.

So I have no idea what happened to her. It didn't seem to be bothering her though, so after a quick photo op, I just took her round to the wild side of the fence (we have vacant lots on either side of us) and set her down to go on her way. 

Gotta love it - our own little corner of Wild America.

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

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Blooming Marvellous in the Front Garden

At the beginning of June, I took a step back and looked at the back garden with fresh eyes.  This weekend, I was doing some gardening in the front and happened to turn and get a view from a direction I don't normally see, since I come home from work from the other direction and head straight up the drive into the garage.

I thought the garden looked nice and had to grab the camera.

It was pretty bright, so the detail in the smaller photos is lost, but I think if you click on the photo to see the larger version you can see the detail.  This is Lantana "White Gold." It's supposed to keep a compact, mounding shape, which it certainly has done so far.

I hope it stays compact.  I remember a Lantana I had at my other house took over a bed completely.

I originally planted this Verbena "Hot Lips" (and several of it's buddies) around the young Live Oak trees. But they just didn't do well there and I ended up finding homes for them in and among the shrubs and daylilies in the front border. As you can see, they are rewarding me by bursting in to bloom, even though they're still very small. It's amazing how similar in color they are to the crepe myrtle we have in the front.

Now I'm sure if I was a gardening purist, the fact that the verbena "Hot Lips" and the crepe myrtle clash with the daylilies would drive me nuts. 

Well ok, it does bother me a bit. But am I going to do anything about it? Naaaaah!

I'll just enjoy them for what they are, happy plants that are blooming in my garden.

That's it from me today, just a short post.

My apologies for my absence from blogging most of this week.  The part time job I have working on an equestrian website has a large search engine optimization project going on that started this week and will be continuing through the summer. 

The plan is to organize my days allow myself blogging time as well as work time, but we'll see how that goes.  I'll try and visit your blogs and post comments, but it may not be as often as I have done in the past.

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

Sunday, June 20, 2010

We Are Not Alone

 Ever get that feeling that you are not alone?

Most weekends, Eric and I enjoy a glass of wine on our patio.  I guess, being in Texas, we shouldn't be surprised to find that we often share it with the local wildlife.

In the past, we've been serenaded by frogs, entertained by skunks, raided by raccoons.

I was only mildly surprised then when I turned to say something to Eric and noticed a very large, very green "thing" on the window frame.  With apologies to my husband, this photo was too good not to share!!

I did a little research and I think I can identify the bug as an Oblong-Winged Katydid -- Amblycorpha oblongifolia

Here's another photo of it.

Impressive, huh?

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

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My, How You've Grown!

 The pride of my garden where I lived before was a Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) that was given to me as a cutting by my neighbors.  It was a mere stick when I put it in the ground and when I left it was as tall as my one storey house.

Wanting to bring it with me to our new house, I took some cuttings from it. I kept them in containers over the winter of 2008/2009, during which time all but one seemed to have died.  So in February of 2009, I put that little sprout in the ground. (Sorry, you can barely see it in this photo)

It apparently likes where I planted it (the border we put in along the back wall, where it gets some dappled shade from the pine tree) because by June 2009, it was a foot high and BLOOMING!

This is it a year later...

Others that I planted at the same time, in different corners of the garden, are still tiny, so this is obviously the magic spot!

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

Friday, June 11, 2010

I Know the Feeling....

 After a long, busy week at work followed by a hot, steamy lawn mowing session, I can sympathize with this garden visitor...

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

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Guess Who Came For Dinner

I was beginning to wonder if I was going to see any Monarch caterpillars on the Milkweed this year. But finally, my patience was rewarded...

I've got several Milkweeds in the garden.  Some that I purchased online and some that self-seeded from last year's plants.  With all those milkweeds, I was anxious to see some caterpillars.

Finally, when we got back from Indy I noticed one caterpillar, just one.  I've been keeping an eye on him each day and yesterday I was happy to notice there were two caterpillars on the plant.

And then today, I counted FOUR!  Wierd thing is that they're all on one plant, as are a bunch  of aphids - ewwwwwww.  The others are devoid of caterpillars.

Interestingly, the plants without the caterpillars are also sans aphids at the moment, but I don't know how long that will last, there seems to be nothing that can be done about them without risk to the caterpillars.

But hey - at least the aphids are the same color as the flowers and, from a distance, you can't even tell!!

Now, I have a question for you all.  As I was examining the grapes on our grape vine, I noticed this caterpillar.  Does anyone know what it is?

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

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Finally Taking Shape

Eric and I got back from our trip to Indiana late on Thursday night. We're glad we were able to get up there for his mom's memorial service. Per her wishes, it was a quiet and simple service and I'm sure she would have approved.

When we got back, I gazed around the garden and, seeing it with new eyes, I realized that it's starting to become the Green and Serene retreat that I envisioned when I moved in here almost 2 years ago.

Left to right along the wall -- Southern Wax Myrtle, Rose of Sharon, Flame Acanthus, unknown grape vine (was labelled Mars, but now we're not so sure) and Vitex. There are some Pentas in front of the Flame Acanthus and some lilies and other things coming up too.

The Vitex is a magnet for bees and butterflies.

I love the network of shadows our pine tree casts across the garden. Left to right in this pic -- the "no scent" Star Jasmine, with the scented Star Jasmine next to it.  By the garden flag is a volunteer sunflower and an Achillea "Debutante". The Crepe (or is it Crape?) Myrtle in the middle is in bloom now, but wasn't when I took this photo last week. On the right, two tropical milkweeds are blooming like crazy and even have seed pods on them, so I'll have more next year. And finally, some Salvia "Hot Trumpets" seem to like their little corner.

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