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Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Morning at Kleb Woods

I've been hoping I was able to make it to this event ever since I heard about it a few weeks ago.  For a while, I thought I wasn't going to be able to make it because the World Equestrian Games, currently taking place in Lexington, Ky., are going to be keeping me busy on my second job for the next two weeks.  As it happened, I ended up with a free morning (and afternoon, but I'll be working late tonight) and Eric and I were able to get over there.

The event was billed as a Hummingbird Festival and a full day of talks and demonstrations was planned.

We were there in time to see and hear the Silent Hunters program, presented by Mary Ann Weber, Education Director for Houston Audobon. It was a very interesting presentation and I learned things I never knew about owls.  For instance, did you know that owl's ears are different sizes and different heights on either side of their head?

Mary Ann introduced us to a Great Horned Owl, a Barred Owl, and an Eastern Screech Owl.

It was wonderful to see these magnificent birds in person.  Unfortunately, most of my photos came out blurred because I wasn't using a flash indoors, but I did get this one of the little Screech Owl.

Other programs scheduled for the day included a talk on what plants to use in the home landscape to encourage hummingbirds to your garden, presented by two ladies from Arbor Gate.  In the afternoon, after we had left, Fred Collins, Director of the Kleb Woods Nature Center, presented a program on identifying local hummingbirds and caring for wintering hummingbirds.

There was supposed to be hummingbird banding going on all day, but unfortunately when we were there, the hummingbirds were playing shy. Not a one to be seen!  I hope they had better luck in the afternoon, after we had left!

After the owl presentation, Eric and I went for a pleasant walk around Kleb Woods.

Just outside the Nature Center I found this beautiful Hamelia patens.  It's about the size of the one I had growing at my last house.  The one I have now is in a containter and seems to be doing okay.  I'm hoping to get it in the ground next year, by which time the beds should be ready to accept plantings.

Heading into the woods, we saw a lot of these American Beauty Berry bushes. I'd love one in the garden, but from what I can tell, they can grow to be about 15 to 20 feet tall and wide, so I'm thinking we don't have room for one!  That's a pity - I hear the birds love them.

Not far from the Nature Center is Elmer Kleb's original house.  It was open for tours today but we didn't go in.

In front of the house is this lovely bench and arbor.

Several easy, well marked trails allow visitors to stroll through the woods.  These live oaks were very majestic. Strange to think that this is the same tree as we have in our front yard - we may have to move our house to make room if it starts growing this big!!

We saw some interesting fungi, which always fascinates me.

Along the sunny trail on the way to the exit, this lantana was just glowing in the sunshine.

So that was our visit to Kleb Woods.  I'm glad I got to go, even if we didn't see any hummingbirds there.

As it happens, I was able to get a pretty decent photo of a female hummer at our feeder in the back yard yesterday, so all is not lost. I'll share that photo with you instead :-)

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

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Silver Bells

First of all, I must apologize that I haven't been able to keep up with commenting very well in the past couple of weeks.  The next two weeks won't be good either.  The World Equestrian Games starts on Saturday and the website I work on for my second job is gearing up for coverage of that. So the next two weeks promise to be exciting, but hectic.  If you're interested, you can see our coverage here:

Anyway, on to my post...

The first two photos below were taken a week or so back and I just never got around to posting them, so I thought I'd do that today. They were taken early in the morning, after the sprinklers had run.  I went out to feed the birds and noticed the water droplets catching the morning sun, so I had to grab my camera.

You may or may not recognize the plant in the first photo -- it's the fennel that got eaten down to stumps a few weeks ago by the swallowtail caterpillars.  It's been coming back nicely and looked lovely covered in the sparkling 'silver bells" (click on the photo for the full size view)

Doesn't the Rose of Sharon look beautiful?

Finally, I happened to spot this little Phillipine Lily blooming in the front border on a different day from the photos above. What's so extraordinary about it is that it bloomed a full month after the two Phillipine lilies I have in the back garden.  I have no idea why -- I transplanted them all at the same time.  Still, it was a very pleasant surprise and although it's not covered in water droplets here, it's a silver bell in its own right :-) Thanks Ursula, for the beautiful lilies!

Have a great weekend everyone, perhaps I will see you at the Kleb Woods Hummingbird Festival on Saturday.  I'm going to try and fit that in my busy work schedule for the weekend.

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

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Autumn Color in the Garden

As I posted in a previous blog post, I had a lot of hot color in the garden this summer.

But as August turned into September, I began to notice a change.  The garden was dressing itself for fall, all by itself!

The garden mums that I put in two years ago as $1.50 sale items in 3 inch pots are now a foot tall and 18 inches wide.  They're covered in buds and have started flowering in a lovely range of autumn colors.

I have several of these "White Gold" Lantana in both the front and back gardens.  I love them!  They're mounding so they stay compact (athough that's not to say "small" -- they do spread) and have done so well that I recently planted some "New Gold" as well.

In the back garden, the Tropicanna has put out a bloom, adding some fall color back there.  I added a couple more pots with garden mums and some Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' - purple fountain grass.

Since we spent a lot of time out on our shady patio, I added some fall color there too, all it took was a couple of accents on the shelf in the corner.

And finally, when I first saw this moth from a distance, on the wall above the garage, I thought it was the remains of a mud dauber's nest. Only when I got closer did I realize it was a huge moth!  And even he is wearing his fall colors! I'm sure his coloring works well as camoflage against a pile of fallen leaves.

On the wall -- not so much!

Anyone know what type of moth he is?

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

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Morning at the Spa

 Until today, I'd never witnessed our iittle birdbaths actually in use...

I've seen birds (and cats, for that matter) sipping water out of them, but never seen a bird having a bath in them.

This morning, as I was sitting down with my morning coffee, a burst of movement outside caught my eye. 

We have two birdbaths. One, a simple terracotta saucer seems to appeal to the ground feeders such as the doves, but this morning, a mockingbird was having a good old splash - water was going everywhere and I have no doubt it will need refilling again this morning!

Nearby is a small concrete birdbath which I usually just fill with birdseed. It's very shallow and difficult to keep water in, but this week it got rain in it so I hosed it out this morning and left some water in it. Within 10 minutes, a new visitor to the garden had come to check it out.

And, of course, we are still hosting a number of hummingbirds. It's been a joy to watch them and I can't believe how many we are seeing this year - I've never seen this many in my garden!

Wait... that's not a hummingbird.... hmmmm...

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

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Easy Garden Border

There's an area off to the left (west) of the garden that's been bugging me.  We have two jasmines (one scented and one mysteriously scentless) and mowing/edging around them is a pain.  I'm always worried I will get too close with the edger and decapitate one of the jasmines. 

The area called for an expansion of the border along the side of the garden.

However, I'm not one for hard labor.  Especially not in Houston... in summer.... so this past weekend, I you might be surprised to hear that I spent part of the Labor Day weekend lugging large rocks around the garden and laying them artfully in the shape of a new border.

Actually it wasn't that bad.  The weather was a smidgeon coolor and less humid (it's a relative thing...)  And I only carried one stone at a time from my car on the driveway, round to the back fence and placed the stone on the ground.

Where I saved myself from hard labor was in that fact that I didn't do any digging at all. Both jasmines are already planted so I laid out newspaper several sheets thick, watered it down ...

... and then covered it with mulch...

Rinse and repeat...

I love the finished effect as you walk up the side of the house to the back garden. And next year, when the grass has all died off under the paper and mulch I'll be able to do more planting in the bed.

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

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Visit of the Swallowtails

I'm revisitng the post I did yesterday for Macro Flower Saturday, hosted by maiaT at Macro Flower Pictures because I had another visit from a swallowtail today and wanted to show the photos to you.
The original photo that I posted can be seen below. 
It's hard to believe I had never seen any swallowtail butterflies in real life until last year when I saw some Pipevine Swallowtails and Giant Swallowtails at Mercer Arboretum.

Earlier this week as I was sitting at the breakfast table, movement over by the Vitex caught my eye.  It was a huge Swallowtail which at the time I mistakenly took for a Giant Swallowtail.  Unfortunately, when I ran outside, although the butterfly stayed around, the camera lens was fogging up.

I did manage to capture this shot though...

It was only when posting the photo in here, along with the photos I took today of another butterfly that I realized I had mis-identified this one.  Can anyone tell me what this one is? Is it a Black Swallowtail?

Today when I stepped out the front door there was a butterfly floating around the four foot tall Tropical Milkweed. I'm pretty sure this one is a Giant Swallowtail.

I managed to capture several shots of him and noticed in the process that there are NO APHIDS on the Milkweed now! Yay!

It's been such a lovely day today.  The temperature is cooler, the humidity is down.  Fall is definitely on the way. My favorite time of year!

I hope you all had a great day too!

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

Friday, September 3, 2010

Macro Flowers Saturday

I spotted this Giant Swallowtail on the Vitex from indoors and went rushing outside with my camera... only to find the lens fogged up immediately!

Eventually, after cleaning the lens off several times, I was able to get some photos. This was the best one and I decided it would be my entry for Macro Flower Saturday, hosted by maiaT at Macro Flower Pictures

 If you enjoy macro photos of flowers, head over to her site to see her awesome photos and visit the other blogs listed there for Macro Flowers Saturday.

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

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mystery Solved!

I had thought raccoons had damaged my Tropicannas and my Flame Acanthus, but Houston garden blogger Ursula said the culprit was more likely to be the kittens of the stray cat that appeared in our garden a few weeks ago ... I think she was right...

While I didn't get a photo of any of them actually climbing into the pots, they *do* seem to like playing in that corner of the garden and drinking from the large clay saucer I keep filled with water for the birds.

And although the kittens won't come too close to us yet, they are very curious and watch intently as mom trots over to us and rubs against us and lets us pet her. 

I have a four day weekend coming up and, in addition to getting some gardening done, we're going to see if we can entice the kittens and bring them indoors, along with mom, who would probably walk right in if we let her.

Wish us luck!

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