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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Singing the Praises of Vitex and an Unusual Night Visitor

 I was sitting on the patio, drinking my morning coffee on Saturday and noticed lots of movement around the Vitex.  As I looked closer, there were at least five Monarchs nectaring on the remaining Vitex blooms.

Of course, I couldn't get them all in one photo, but if you click on this photo to see it full size, you can see two Monarchs in it.

 It's funny to think that I'd never even heard of Vitex before I walked in to Southlands Nursery on FM 2920 outside of Tomball, Texas (Now From Rocks to Roses ) and asked for suggestions for shrubs that would attract wildlife such as butterflies.  

The lady there suggested a Vitex, also known as Chaste Tree, Lilac Chaste Tree and Monk's Pepper.

I thought it a bargain at $15 as it was in a large container and they had to hack it back quite severely so I could get it in my car. I was a little concerned about that but they assured me it would be fine and sure enough it took off like gangbusters. 

It's in its third year here and is now 15 ft tall and has been blooming on and off all summer.

Butterflies love it, hummingbirds love it.  *I* love it!

Speaking of butterflies, my husband and I were enjoying a glass of wine on the patio late on Saturday evening when suddenly something, we presumed a moth, started flapping around in the ceiling fans up by the lights.

We realized quickly it wasn't a moth, but a Monarch, although I didn't think they would still be flying around after dark.  It was flying erratically, obviously confused by the lights and I think it got hit by the ceiling fan at one point.

After a few minutes it landed at my feet and just sat there.  I was able to gently grasp it's wings and walked it out in to the garden away from the lights and let it go. However, within minutes it was back, flutttering erratically up by the fan again.

We decided, at that point, to go indoors and turn the patio lights and fans off. As we did, it landed on the window screen and I took a picture before going indoors.

I was late getting up Sunday morning, but I was dismayed when I peeked through the blinds mid morning and saw it was still there, in exactly the same position.  I felt sure it had died and was just sort of stuck to the screen.

 I opened the back door and was about to reach for it, not exactly sure what I planned to do with it, when to my amazement it fluttered its wings and flew away.  I watched and noted it seemed a little unsteady, but perhaps it was just a bit too breezy, but it eventually headed to the Vitex and took some much needed nourishment.

Who know, perhaps this is the same butterfly, photographed later that day on one of the few milkweed plants that hasn't already burst its seedpods all over.

Wonder if we'll ever see caterpillars this year?

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

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Milkweed Fairies are Ready to Fly

 When I was a child, I used to love catching "fairies" as they drifted through the air and then setting them free, with a breath of air and my best wishes for a good flight.  

Back then, of course, the "fairies" were dandelion seeds, with their fluffy white parachutes. 

I mentioned a week or so ago that the milkweed in my border were loaded down with seedpods. 

I've been watching them, knowing that any day now they would start opening up and the fluffy little "fairies" would catch the breeze and  distribute the seeds.

I caught some today, as I noticed some of the seed pods were open.  I put them in a paper bag and shook them gently and when I opened the bag, the "fairies" drifted out and away on the breeze, happy to leave their burden of seeds for me to look after till planting time.

I'll probably be collecting seeds for several days, judging from the amount of seed pods!  If anyone would like any, please let me know.

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

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Rain! Glorious Rain!

The weather man has been teasing us with the chance of rain, to the point where we had given up believing that it was possible.

So when I woke this morning, I mistakenly assumed the sound I heard was the air conditioner running.  It wasn't until I head the rumble of thunder that I realized that was RAIN I heard, falling on the roof, and running down the downspouts!

So what does a rain-starved gardener do when it rains?  She runs out into the garden, barefoot in her pajamas, and starts snapping photos!

 I don't have a macro lens, so I wasn't able to get a super close up shot of a raindrop, and this photo of raindrops on the star jasmine is as close as I could get.  I like the effect.

At the end of a long, hot summer, the Rose of Sharon, here surrounded by milkweed, is putting on another show of blooms.  

The vitex is still blooming too. The Sam Houston peach (front left) and the River Birch (front right) are hanging in and hopefully will show some more growth in the spring.

Look at this!  The rain barrel had been completely empty and after one little rain shower - it's FULL!!

Now if Eric and I can only be sure to turn the spigot completely OFF when we use it next, it won't empty overnight again.

Looking closely at the Southern Wax Myrtle, I noticed it was covered in berries.  No wonder it's such a favorite with the birds!

Speaking of birds - most of the hummingbirds have moved on, but I noticed there was one still around and I put up a fresh feeder.   This morning I saw two out there, playing in the rain and enjoying the feeder.  

I'll miss them when they too move on.

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

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fall is In the Air

Got an email from my dad on the other side of the Atlantic this week, pointing out that it had been two weeks since I updated my blog and that my readership (presumably he meant him) was waiting.

So, dad, wait no more!  It's officially fall and while we're still officially in a drought (I heard it would take 30 inches of rain to get us out of drought conditions) it did get a bit cooler last weekend.  Rather than the 100 + temperatures we were having, there were a few days when the temp didn't get over 90. I spent last Saturday afternoon lounging in the hammock - BLISS!!

The hummingbirds have gone south, although there may still be a straggler or two.  I've left a feeder out, plus there are still lots of blooms in the garden for them, such as the Dallas Red Lantana above and the Tropical Milkweed below.

Speaking of the milkweed -- this photo and the one below were taken about 10 days ago.  Looking around the garden as the sun went down today, I see they are all loaded down with seedpods.  I'm going to collect some seed tomorrow, if they haven't all blown away on the wind.  So if anyone would like some free milkweed seeds, let me know and I'll save you some.

With all the milkweed around, I was rather surprised to see this Monarch on the Southern Wax Myrtle.

I'm keeping a look out on the Milkweed for caterpillars, but haven't seen any yet.

 Oh My Sweet Potato!

 In the bed beside the garage, the sweet potato vines have really taken over this summer! Believe it or not, there are some holly bushes and Indian Hawthorn in this bed.  You can't really see them for all the sweet potato vine.  Only the dark one has blooms, apparently.  I noticed the same thing last year.

 Our pine tree behind the house doesn't look so great in this photo, but it looks better in person.  And believe me it looks a whole lot better than the hundreds of trees around town that have succumbed to the drought.

It's very depressing driving along and seeing whole forests of dead trees.  I'm surprised the county aren't being more proactive about taking some of them down, especially considering the devastating fire in Bastrop County was said to have been started by a tree falling on a power line.

We can only hope that disaster isn't repeated.  And we can pray for rain.

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