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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Winged Wonders II

At the end of July, I posted  about how my garden was thriving, in spite of the heat and the drought. 

As we suffer on through August, the garden is winding down now.  There's not much blooming at all, except a few lantana in the front border.  In the back there are still some milkweed and the crape myrtles are still blooming.

But the star of the show right now has to be the Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (A. wrightii), known as Flame Acanthus, Hummingbird Bush or the Texas Firecracker plant.  It's a Texas native plant, drought and heat tolerant so it's right at home now!

The reason I mention it now is because of the spectacle I witnessed this morning.  I'll just let the photos speak for themselves and you'll see why this post is called Winged Wonders II.

As always, you can view the full sized image by clicking on the photos below.

The Flame Acanthus is in the back border, within easy view of our patio.  As I sat outside with my morning coffee, a flash of movement drew my attention and I realized that the hummingbirds were out and about.  As I watched, three of them darted, swooped, hovered and generally played around the garden, and finally they settled in around the Flame Acanthus.

I just kept clicking - sometimes there was a hummingbird in the shot, sometimes there wasn't!

They really do love the Flame Acanthus and so do I.  It survived the onslaught of the kittens in the garden last summer, it survived the freeze this past winter and it's acting as though this summer's heat is nothing.  

I need to plant more of these!  But in the meantime, the sugar water feeders are out too, to help the hummers prepare for their migration.

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

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Winged Wonders

Even though we're still locked in the worst drought ever in Houston history, I thought I'd blog about something more cheerful today.

I had seen a hummingbird in the garden a couple of weeks ago.  Although I thought it a bit early, I decided to go ahead and put my feeders out.  This weekend I have been entertained by at least three hummingbirds zooming around the garden, performing an aerial ballet that wears me out just to watch them.

I've only been able to snap a couple of photos, but I thought I'd share them anyway.

Our pine tree was the perfect place for them to sit and watch guard over the feeders to make sure no other hummingbirds came close.  Several times this weekend, I've glanced out the back door to see this little figure up in the tree.

I can never quite figure out how people get those photos of several hummers at the same feeder. The ones in my garden seem to spend all their time chasing each other away from the feeders, even though there were enough feeders to go round. 

I was pleased to see that in between taking sips from the feeders I had put out, or chasing/being chased away from those feeders, the hummers also seemed to enjoy the blooms on the crepe myrtle tree and the vitex. 

In addition to the hummingbirds, there have been some other winged wonders in the garden this week.

Overall this year, I haven't seen many butterflies, compared to years past, but this weekend saw some activity which I was able to get photos of.

I saw this little skipper on the white Texas Star hibiscus - he was so intent on collecting nectar, he was still there after I had gone indoors, got my camera, put fresh batteries in it and came back outside again.

The "Yellow Gold" lantana in the front garden seem to be favorites of many butterflies, including this Giant Swallowtail...

... and this Gulf Fritillary.

As I look over the monitor of my computer and out the back door, I can just catch a glimpse of my little hummingbird friend, resting in the Crepe Myrtle, next to the feeder.  All is peaceful... for now...

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

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Mission San Jose - part of San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.

On a recent trip to San Antonio, my husband and I went on a self guided tour of some of the historic Missions that make up the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.

Specifically, we visited Mission San José, where the visitor's Center is located, Mission San Juan and Mission Concepción.

The park was established to preserve the chain of Spanish missions that were built along the San Antonio River in the 1700s.

We started our tour at Mission San Jose, where these photos were taken.

Around the visitor center and throughout the park, native landscape can be seen and there are impressive cacti and succulents, as well as other native plants which were shrugging off the heat and drought as if it were nothing.


There were informational signs throughout the park, illustrating what the buildings originally looked like, how they were used and detailing life within the Missions during that time.

This is what I meant by "impressive cacti and succulents." These were everywhere!

Mission San Juan is, I think, the most complete of the missions.  Not only is the church intact (although it's currently undergoing interior renovations) but the surrounding walls, gates, Indian quarters etc. can still be seen.

Here's the front of the church.

 Behind the church are the remains of the convento, where the missionary lived, which had an attractive garden growing in it.

 The exterior walls of the Mission compound contained the Indian Quarters, storage rooms and fortifications.

I'm pretty sure this isn't original, but it certainly made a nice shady place to sit and people-watch for a while :-)

In fact, porches with climbing vines seemed to be quite popular.
The main gate was rather imposing, with heavy doors and a row of ports, I guess you would call them, through which marksmen could fire when necessary.

And what's that on the right?

Yup - more cacti, this time growing on a lean-to roof!

Mission San Jose also has a grist mill, now mostly reproduction, and a 270 yr old acequia, or irrigation system. 

During this drought, there was virtually no water in the grist mill, although the acequia still held water, much to the delight of these birds.

Here are some snippets of information from the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park web site that you might find interesting:

* Spanish missions were not churches. They were Indian towns, with the church as the focus, where, in the 1700s, the native people were learning to become Spanish citizens. In order to become a citizen, they had to be Catholic; that is why the King of Spain sent missionaries to acculturate them.

* The four mission churches within San Antonio Missions National Historical Park are active catholic parishes, and hold regular services. They are open to park visitors during park hours, except for special services, such as weddings and funerals. (The church at Mission San Jose is currently undergoing renovations, but should be open again by the end of the summer).

And finally, I'll leave you with a couple of photos of plantings outside the Visitor Center.

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