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Monday, April 30, 2012

We have Caterpillars!

Recently I've seen other bloggers posting photographs of Monarch butterflies and Monarch caterpillars in their garden and I've been a little jealous.

We've got milkweed taking over the garden, but as hard as I looked, I didn't see a single caterpillar. 

 I was beginning to feel that we didn't have the right to display our newly acquired Monarch Waystation sign.

This past weekend, I decided I had to do something with the front border -- it's so overgrown, you can barely see the daylilies which are struggling to bloom between the garden mums, the shrubs and the milkweed.  

Unfortunately, I ended up not getting very far because after an hour or so of leaning over pulling out what seemed like a million milkweed seedlings, such as can be seen in the first photo, and the ever present nutsedge, I had a mammoth headache and had to sit down on an upturned flowerpot and take a break.

That was when I spotted something that made my heart skip a beat -- a Monarch caterpillar!

I didn't feel well enough yesterday to explore much more and see how many might be out there, but as soon as I got home from work this evening, I had to see if I could still find him.  

To my delight, I found not only the one I had seen on Sunday, but at least four of his cousins, all big and healthy and munching away on the milkweed!

I'll probably delay the rest of the weeding of that flowerbed because I don't want to disturb or damage the caterpillars.

The strange thing is, although we have some very healthy stands of milkweed in the back garden, there's not a caterpillar to be seen among them.  Their leaves aren't chewed up at all.  I wonder if it's the proximity to the bird feeders that explains the lack of caterpillars, although I thought I read that Monarch cats were poisonous.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to why the milkweed in the back garden are caterpillar-less? 

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

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day in Jayne's Country Garden

In honor of Earth Day 2012, Eric and I planted a Page Mandarin Orange tree.  Well, okay, let me correct myself here.  Eric and I picked it out, drawn to it by nothing more scientific than the wonderful aroma of the blossoms. Eric did the actual digging and planting by himself. 

He's getting to be quite the professional at planting trees, having planted three in our garden now - the Sam Houston Peach, the Page Mandarin and the River Birch. 

Another little project we've been working on in our on-going efforts to hide and/or disguise the ugly wall at the back of the garden is a trellis, on which will grow a native honeysuckle 'Major Wheeler' - Lonicera sempervirens 'Major Wheeler'.   Since the area in which we want it to grow is thick with roots, we elected to raise up a small portion, using the same landscape bricks we have used in our other beds.                           

Also planted in that section is a Cleyera, which I originally planted in a little raise berm when trying an experiment in this same area in 2010 and a new Hamelia patens which I just planted after we had put the landscape bricks down and back-filled with organic garden soil.

Hopefully, when the honeysuckle gets here it will eventually hide the not-too-pretty pressure-treated 2x4's we used to support the trellis.

Further along the wall, I noticed the first blooms on the Rose of Sharon.  This is the same plant I brought with me as a small twig from my old house four years ago. I'm very happy that it has taken so well to it's current location.  Others I brought over and planted in other locations in the garden haven't done nearly as well.

In the new island bed, the Marguerite daisy is blooming beautifully and is attracted all sorts of winged visitors, including the little one in this photo.  I'm not sure what he is, but he certainly was enjoying the nectar in these blooms yesterday.

I discovered yesterday that the corner of the garden between the island bed and the small trellis hiding the utility boxes is a nice place to sit out in the late afternoon. There's shade offered by the pine tree and also the Vitex tree and it offers a different view of the garden to what we normally see from the patio.

Well that's it from me -- the outdoors is calling.

Happy Earth Day everyone!

Earth Day 2012

The Canopy Project

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

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Weed Identification

The weeds in our garden seem particularly abundant this spring.  They certainly do seem to appreciate the organic fertilizer we put down for the trees, the flower beds and the lawn.

Other than the ubiquitous dandelion though, I'd have a hard time naming the myriad weeds in our garden.

So when the weekly BHG Garden Notes newsletter arrived in my email box this morning, offering several articles on lawn care, my eye (and my mouse) went straight to the Weed Identification Guide!

This consists of 34 slides, with photographs and information about the weeds and as I browsed through, I had several "Aha!" moments as I was finally able to identify some weeds that have been plaguing our garden.

The first "Aha!" came when I got to slide 4 -- the bindweed. It's a vine with arrow head shaped leaves and we've got it in the front border.  I actually quite like it as it's twining around one of our lanterns and looks rather attractive.  I'm sure eventually I'll rip it out, but I think I'll leave it for now. It doesn't seem to be bothering anything.

Click Photo to go to Weed Identification Guide

Another "Aha!" moment came when I got to slide number 6 -- the Nutsedge.  This plant, or at least something that looks very like it, is relentless in its assault on our flowerbeds and borders.  I spend more time pulling those things out of the ground than any other garden chore.

There are several weeds listed that we don't appear to have, but we do have chickweed.  I've been trying to pick it out of the lawn piece by piece and I was dismayed to learn that each plant can produce 15,000+ seeds :-(

 Also, not in the slide show, but I thought I'd mention it here -- now I know why Milkweed is called Milkweed.  I made the mistake of not cutting off the seed heads before they matured last year and I swear we have at least a zillion milkweed seedlings coming up -- including a half a zillion in the lawn itself!  I guess I can call that a lesson learned....

Anyway, now it's your turn -- comment below and tell me about your nemesis -- the weed(s) you have most problem with in your garden.

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

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, April 2012

Each month I promise myself I'm going to put a post up for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

And most months I remember -- on or about the 17th of the month!

But this month I remembered in time!

While the front border is somewhat over-stuffed with some huge indian hawthorn and african lily (courtesy of the builder 4 years ago), the White Gold Lantana and New Gold Lantana I planted are making a good showing along the front of the border, as are the milkweed along the back. (Notice the Monarch Waystation sign in the center of the photo)

There are daylilies in there somewhere too, but just leaves so far - no blooms yet.  Perhaps I'll be able to show them off next month (if I remember in time).

 Lantana is making a good showing in the back garden too -- this one, in front of the wax myrtle is Dallas Red.  The butterflies and hummingbirds love it!

Here's a closer look.

In the "bird feeder" corner, where I gave up trying to plant things in the ground because of the thick tangle of pine roots just under the surface, I have a collection of containers.  

Below is the newest - I love the "half barrel" look, which reminds me of the real half barrels my dad has in his garden. In it, I have some Superbells Grape Punch (calibrachoa hybrid), Supertunia Vista Bubblegum (petunia hybrid), Verbena Babylon White  and a Persian Shield (the tall plant in the middle with beautiful purple leaves).

If you click on the photo to see the larger version, you can see two things.  First, a very sturdy pine root that's come up to the surface (there's a pine tree right on the other side of the wall) and second, a couple of adventurous milkweed seedlings that have sprouted there.  In fact, the yellow milkweed on the right self-seeded there last year.  How it competes with the pine roots I'll never know, but it's doing beautifully, so I'll leave things as they are.

And finally, for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, something else that reminds me of my dad's garden in England -- fuschias.  These are in a hanging basket (with home made macrame hanger, a la 1970's even) just outside the back door. 

I do love them, they remind me of dancing ballerinas.

 That's it for today.  Happy Garden Bloggers Bloom Day everyone.  I hope your gardens are blooming.

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

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Now and Then - How Far We've Come

 As I was playing around with my new camera, I noticed a setting called Panorama, so I decided to play with it.  

It allows you to take 3 side by side photos and once you take one, it shows you the edge of it on the display screen, making it easy to line up the next photo. Edited to add:  Once you have taken the three images, the camera knits them together in one wide panoramic view.

I took this panoramic photo of our back garden as it is today.

You can click on the photo to see a larger version of it.

And now, a couple of photos I took when we first moved in.  Gotta love that expanse of wall and the wall to wall sod! 

The builder did at least try to hide the utility boxes.  Most of these bushes ended up dying and I found the little white trellis as the perfect cover up for that corner.

Unfortunately, most of the trees on the other side of the wall have ended up dying as well.  When we moved in, we had quite the forest out there.  Now, not so much.  But we're doing our part to replace the lost habitat on our side of the wall.

Here's the panoramic photo again. 

I think I'll do one of these each month, not necessarily for my blog, but for my own personal record of what is happening in the garden.  I think it will be interesting to look back on in a couple of years.

Also - I just had a great thought.  Eric and I are going home to England on vacation in May.  This feature will be awesome for capturing some sweeping landscape scenes.  Oooh, now I'm getting inspired!

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

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Leibster Blog Award


At the beginning of February, fellow Houston gardener, Lucy, from Lucy's in the Garden awarded my blog the Leibster Blog Award. I'm embarrassed to admit that life sort of got in the way and I actually forgot about it.  I'm so sorry Lucy, I don't think I even thanked you at the time!

I was reminded of it last week when another Houston garden blogger, Dorothy at Gardening With Nature also nominated me for this award!

Liebster is German for ‘favorite’ and the rules of accepting the award require the recipient to pass the award along to five of their favorite blogs with less than 200 followers. Trying to narrow it down to five is the difficult part.

  • Kathleen at Hill Country Mysteries - Kathleen's blog features some wonderful photography and a little insight into living in the Texas Hill Country. I also appreciate Kathleen's generous advice to novice gardeners such as myself.  
  • Jenny, at Rock Rose is another Hill Country gardener who has truly inspired me to "go native." Like me, she's a transplanted Brit and the advice I find in her blog about gardening in Texas has been invaluable to me as I have struggled to get my garden growing.
  • MaiaT at Macro Flower Pictures has inspired me to really work on my photography.  Her raindrop macro photos are awesome.  I also love her other blog, featuring her original artwork.
  • Kimberly at Garden in Paradise has a wonderful blog full of stories and photos about her beautiful gardens in Florida. Kimberly was one of the bloggers who inspired me to seek certification for my own garden as a Wildlife Habitat.  
  • Pam, at Pam's English Garden, is yet another transplanted Brit (funny how we all love gardening, isn't it?) Pam is a Master gardener who inspires me with the beautiful garden she has created.
The rules for accepting the Liebster Award are as follows:

1. Link back to the person who gave it to you and thank them.
2. Post the award to your blog.
3. Give the award to five bloggers with less than 200 followers that you appreciate and value.
4. Leave a comment on each of the five blogs to let them know that they have been offered the award.

Congratulations to my five award honorees.  Thanks for sharing your knowledge and love of gardening through your blogs.

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