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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Monarch Watch Update

Since we moved in here, I have been interested in attracting Monarch butterflies and we now have several stands of healthy milkweed, the only host plant to the Monarch butterfly, around the garden.

Last summer we succeeded in having our garden registered as a Monarch Waystation even though, due to the drought and other environmental factors, we saw few Monarchs and even fewer caterpillars on our milkweed.

This year, we've already seen a couple of Monarchs visiting our garden, in fact just today I watched one flitting from plant to plant around the back garden for 15 minutes before heading off over the wall.  I hope she left some eggs!

I thought I would share with you some information I recently received in an email from

Greeting Monarch Watchers!

Spring seems to have sprung a bit early across the U.S. and we know many of you are anxious to hear how the monarchs fared over the winter in Mexico (we've been anxious too!) - we have that news for
you and more this time around so please take a minute to read through this brief newsletter and share it with anyone you think might be interested. We have a number of other projects going right now and we will posting a lot of new information via our blog at in the coming months so be sure to check in from time to time :-)

Happy Spring!

Monarch Population Status
The size of the overwintering monarch population in Mexico is usually released in late January or February. Early reporting helps all of us plan for the season ahead. Unfortunately, for reasons that are not clear, this report wasn't released to the press until the 15th of March - at the end of the season and a week after the first monarchs from Mexico had made their appearance in Texas.

The total for all colonies, as reported to the press, is 2.89 hectares. There is good news and bad news in this number. The good news is that the population was larger, by almost a hectare, than we expected. The bad news is that this number represents the 4th lowest total for the monarch colonies recorded since the winter of 1994-1995. Further, this population represents a continuation of a trend - the 8th consecutive population below the long term average.

For those interested, we have posted further discussion (with much more detail) via our blog at

Spring Open House & Plant Fundraiser
Saturday, May 12, 2012
Monarch Watch, Lawrence, KS

We're gearing up for another big Spring Open House & Plant Fundraiser here at Monarch Watch.  We will have more than 4,000 butterfly plants (both annuals and perennials), including seedlings of at least nine  varieties. These plants are ideal for starting butterfly gardens or adding to established gardens. Monarch numbers have been declining and we need to plant milkweeds to sustain the monarch migration. Modest contributions are suggested for the plants. A list of available plants and complete details are now online at

We'd love to see you here on Saturday, May 12th so mark your calendars! If you can't make it in person, be sure to check us out online - we plan to post photos and broadcast some LIVE video throughout the day.

If you are planning on visiting from out of town (yes, many people do), be aware that KU is holding graduation ceremonies the same weekend (a week earlier than usual) so all of the lodging in Lawrence is likely booked up. If you would like some suggestions please feel free to drop us a line anytime.

Monarch Recoveries
We've received preliminary recovery reports of approximately 1,000 monarch tags this season and will update the online recovery database as soon as we have received and checked all of the data. If you have not yet returned your datasheets from last fall (or any tagging season for that matter) please make a copy and send us the originals as soon as possible.

Each year we spend valuable resources tracking down tag data for recoveries - please help us conserve our limited resources by submitting your tag data in a timely manner :-)

Monarch Rearing Kits and Tagging Kits
It's that time of year again - we are now accepting preorders for Monarch Rearing Kits and Tagging Kits.

We will begin shipping Monarch Rearing Kits to people that want to raise monarchs at home or in the classroom the first week of April. As usual, Tagging Kits will be sent out in the fall (typically beginning the last week of July) in time for the migration in your area - please place your orders early as we will have a limited number of tags and will definitely run out.

These items (and more) are available via the Monarch Watch Shop at where each purchase helps support our educational, conservation, and research programs. Thank you for your interest and support!

Monarch Watch Monarch Waystation Initiative
As many of you know, "Monarch Waystations" are places that provide resources necessary for monarchs to reproduce and sustain their migration. Most of these habitats are simply specialized gardens at homes, schools, businesses, zoos, nature centers, parks, and other unused (or under used) plots of land.

Since we announced this initiative in 2005, more than 5,000 habitats around the world have been registered with us as Monarch Waystations.

This is a certainly a good start, but we need to do more. In the United States we are losing 6,000 acres per day to development - a major contributing factor to the decline of monarch butterfly populations. To assure a future for monarchs, conservation and restoration of milkweeds needs to become a national priority.

By creating and maintaining a Monarch Waystation you are contributing to monarch conservation, an effort that will help assure the preservation of the species and the continuation of the spectacular monarch migration phenomenon.

Complete information is available at and you can view the online registry of all 5,000+ habitats at

Please consider establishing and registering a Monarch Waystation this year and encourage others to do so as well - thank you!

Wow - Another Record Breaking Month!
As you may know, through our association with - and its specialized stores: Endless (Shoes & Handbags); Amazon Wireless (Mobile Phones); and Small Parts (Hardware Store) - your purchases can help support Monarch Watch.

By using any of the links on our site at to visit and shop at,, Amazon Wireless, or, Monarch Watch will receive a "commission" equal to a percentage of your purchase amount (currently 4-15%). This applies to ANY purchase at Amazon's stores - Apps, Books, Clothing, Electronics, Movies, Music, Office Supplies, Shoes, Tools, Toys, etc.

December 2011 was another record breaking month for us in this regard - a whopping 565 items were ordered using our links and these purchases earned Monarch Watch $908.21 - wow! Our totals for 2011 were 2306 items ordered and $3610.33 earned - thank you!

Don't worry, using our links does not affect your pricing at all - you'll be getting the same pricing as you would if you visited the Amazon websites directly. Also, no personal information is tied to purchases; that is, we do not know who made the purchases, only that they were made via the link(s) from our site and therefore in support of our program.

Please help us by spreading the word to friends, family, coworkers, and any other shoppers you can think of - thank you for your continued support!

Visit Amazon via Monarch Watch at

About Monarch Watch
Monarch Watch ( is a nonprofit education, conservation, and research organization based at the University of Kansas that focuses on the monarch butterfly, its habitat, and its
spectacular migration.

If you have any questions about this email or any of our programs please feel free to contact us anytime.

Thank you for your continued interest and support!

Monarch Watch

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

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mosaic Monday

Last year's bluebonnet season was a bust because of the lack of rain. But it looks as if Mother Nature is setting the stage for a stunning bluebonnet season in 2012.

These photos are just a little patch I happened across on the way back from seeing the horses at the weekend.  Eric and I will be hitting the highway next weekend, in search of more bluebonnets.

This is the first time I have joined Mary at Little Red House in Mosaic Monday.  Visit her site to see lots of beautiful mosaics from around the world.

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

Sunday, March 25, 2012

What's Happened to my Carolina Jessamine?

I was shocked today when I went out and noticed that the Carolina Jessamine was drooping!  It had a lot of new growth on it, but today, every new shoot looks like it's doing it's rendition of the dying swan from Swan Lake.

Any ideas what may be wrong with it?

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

Monday, March 19, 2012

Planting in the Island Bed, and a Welcome Visitor

I was having so much fun outdoors this weekend, either with the horses or in the garden, that I didn't get around to blogging at all!

I've been on the lookout for hummingbirds, as other Houston garden bloggers have reported. I haven't seen any yet, but I was thrilled to notice this little visitor in the garden.

I had a hard time getting a clear photo as it was flitting about and it was breezy too, so it seemed to be getting buffeted by the wind.  I remember verbally chastising it at the moment I snapped this photo. 

"You silly thing, there's all that milkweed blooming there, what are you doing on the Indian Hawthorn?"

It wasn't until I looked closely at this photo that I realized that it *was* on a milkweed, that was poking up through the shrubbery in the front border.  Perhaps I'll see some caterpillars this spring?

Most of my work this weekend was in the back garden.  I spent a few pleasant hours planting an array of flowering plants in the island bed.

 Of course, it still looks pretty sparse, but I hope when it fills in the butterflies, bees and hummingbirds will enjoy it.  

A quick list of ingredients:  Senecio cineraria (Dusty Miller), "Early Bird Frosty" Dianthus,  Salvia splendens, "May Night" Meadow sage, and Artemisia "Powis Castle".  So there's a sort of red, white and blue theme going on (if you don't count the daylilies I already put in there.)

Also in the island bed is the tiny Sam Houston peach tree we planted last year. We've been watching it closely because while other things in the garden have been leafing out, there wasn't anything happening with the peach.  This past weekend, we were excited to notice a couple of blossom buds and some leaves on it.

Around the corner in the veggie garden, things are starting to pop. This is our first experience with a veggie garden, so I'm sure it will be an adventure - hopefully not one of the nightmare variety.

Eric says he doesn't remember planting as many peas as have sprouted, (ditto the cucumbers) and he certainly doesn't remember dropping any on the lawn -- but there are two growing there next to the garden, so they must have jumped out! 

A couple of years ago, a friend was re-doing some of her garden beds and was moving some Brunfelsia - Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow - and asked if I wanted some rooted cuttings.  Naturally I said yes!

However, of the two she gave me, one promptly died and the other just sort of sat there with no ambition. 

It didn't bloom last year, but at least it didn't die. 

As I looked around the garden on Saturday, I noticed it was blooming for the first time, a beautiful purple color.

I had heard about this plant's blooms changing color, but since it had never bloomed for me before I had never witnessed. But this evening, when I got home from work, I checked on them and they were definitely lighter in color.

 They should be white, or almost white, by tomorrow evening.  I'll have to remember to snap a photo.

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Clouded Sulphur?

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

Gifts for Gardeners

Something a little different for my post today.

If you're looking for a gift for a gardening friend, or even as a treat for yourself, you might like some of these garden-themed gifts from

I should mention here that I recently opened my own store at Zazzle -- 3D Designs by Jayne, featuring my own artwork created in the 3D graphics programs Vue and DAZ 3D.

None of the items shown below are from my store. They are the work of other talented designers that appealed to me (I just purchased the first t-shirt shown below) so I felt other garden bloggers may like them too.

You can click on each image to view details of the item. Links underneath will take you to more items in each category.


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

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Nest Watch!

We have two small live oaks in our front garden.  One was planted as part of the landscape package when we moved in four years ago.  It's now about 15 feet tall and nice and full. The other is one that we planted to replace one of the originals that died a year after it was planted. It's much smaller than the first, but it's coming along.

Both of them seem to be bird magnets and last year we had Northern Mockingbirds nesting.  So last weekend, when we were being serenaded all afternoon by a mockingbird, we assumed they had taken up residence again.

However, when I zoomed my camera in to the higher of the two nests in that tree, I was surprised to see it wasn't a mockingbird sitting on the nest, but a Mourning Dove.

I've entered this year's first nest attempt report at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Nest Watch web site, even though the nest is too high up for me to get details like the number of eggs etc. 

She's been sitting on the nest all week, and Eric, whose "man cave"/den looks out to the front garden told me that the mockingbird has been hanging around most of the week too.

We joke that the babies will be probably be some sort of mocking-dove hybrid.

Has anyone else seen this kind of camaraderie between bird species?

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

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Blooming Wonderful!

In my last post, I mentioned that the Achillea beside the Vitex tree had made it through the winter and I pondered whether or not it would bloom this year.

Well today I got my answer!

I was out taking photos and noticed it's covered in tiny flowers. They haven't quite opened yet, but it's going to be lovely when they do.  There also seem to be quite a few seedlings around it and I'm wondering whether I should leave them where they are or move them and risk losing them.  This is my first time growing these delicate, feathery plants so I'm not sure how to treat them.

I've been watching the bulbine with interest too. It's another new plant to me, this is the only one I've ever had.  I really expected it to turn to mush over the winter and was pleasantly surprised when it stayed plump and green.  Now it's covered with these delightful little blooms.

 The Mars grape vines is leafing out nicely.  I wonder if we'll be lucky enough to actually harvest any grapes this year?  Last year, the local raccoons had a feast and left us with nothing.


 Here's a battle I chose not to fight.  Around the back side of the pine tree, a lot of very prickly green briar started popping out of the ground.  I had seen this around the gum tree on the lot next door before it was cleared and it's obvious the whole area was covered in it before they started building the subdivision.  Well when this started coming up, my first instinct was to yank it right out of the ground.

Easier said than done... even with gloves on it proved painful!  

So last summer I decided I'd let it grow and all I do with it now is to whack it back with the trimmer at the same time when I edge the grass around the garden.  It keeps it in bounds and now (for the first time) it's putting out flowers.  I think the birds might have a treat this year if it puts out berries.

I made a start this weekend, planting the island bed. It still looks pretty bare, but at least it's a start.  I put in a couple of pink muhly grass, some burgundy gaillardias, some bare root hollyhocks and some columbines. There are already some day lilies in the bed, as well as the river birch at one end and a Sam Houston peach tree sapling at the other end.

I love the columbines, but had the hardest time trying to photograph them because of the breeze.

While I was working on the island bed, Eric was planting some veggies and herbs in the veggie bed. We're starting easy, since this is the first time either of us have ever had a veggie garden.  We've got a couple of tomato plants, a bell pepper, and some parsley, basil and spearmint.  He also sowed seeds for some peas, cucumbers and carrots.

Wish us luck with our venture!

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

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Spring has Sprung!

I think I probably do a post with that title around this time every year! Even though I've spent over half my life here in Texas, it still excites me when I see the gardens coming back to life so much earlier than they did as I was growing up in England.

But looking around the gardens this week,  there's quite a bit going on (although admittedly, not nearly as much blooming as I've seen on the blogs of more experienced and organized gardeners than I).

In the front border, the Gazania or Treasure Flower has been blooming all winter.  The flowers were actually closed for much of the winter, but I learned they do that in damp and dull weather to protect the pollen.  The day I was out taking photos was dry and warm and the Gazania blooms were wide open.

In the back garden, I was surprised to see the Homestead Verbena blooming already.  This particular plant did nothing last year, but suddenly it's taking off this year.

The Achillea behind it made it safely through winter too, I hope I see some blooms on it this year.

I had mentioned before that my husband Eric and I were thinking of building a small vegetable garden. I'm happy to report that Eric took the reins on this one, and after a couple of weeks of hard work on his part, we now have a small veggie patch waiting to be planted.

The first job was to remove the grass around the outline of the bed, so that a concrete foundation for the brick border could be laid.  I think Eric gained a new respect for the tenacity of St. Augustine during this process.  He was considering how to employ a small thermo-nuclear device to shift it.

Then he had to build a wooden form for the concrete foundation...

He used some of the bricks that were leftover when the house was built, that had been taking up a corner of the garage.  Then he added a cap row to finish it off...

Once the borders were built, we used brown paper and newspaper to cover the grass inside and then made a trip to Lowe's for some bags of soil -- Scott's Miracle Gro Organic Choice in this instance...

We filled it up and Tada!!!  A small veggie bed ready for planting...

It measures 4 ft x 8 ft and is pretty shallow, only about 8 inches deep but we think it will work for us. 

Now we have to decide what we want to plant in it.

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