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Friday, August 24, 2012

Like Father, Like Son

I had some days off work this week and was able to spend some time just sitting on the patio and watching the butterflies and birds coming and going in the garden. (OK- I did some gardening too, but I'll blog about that later!)

I've been watching at least three hummingbirds zipping about the garden this week, from the Vitex to the Flame Acanthus to the Crepe Myrtle and  to the feeders.

I assumed I had a male and a couple of females, but it wasn't until I looked at the photos that I realized I was wrong.

Yes, we have at least one female, and we certainly have a male -- as this one spent at least five minutes flashing his beautiful ruby throat for me to photograph today. 

(As always, you can click on the photos to see a larger version.)

But it wasn't until I saw the photo below enlarged on my computer screen that I realized this wasn't the female I thought it was.

See that little red dot on his throat?  I Googled "hummingbird with red dot on throat" and discovered on that while young males and female both look like adult females, the juvenile males can get a red dot on the gorget in late August/early September.

This is the first time I've ever seen a juvenile hummingbird, or at least the first time I have ever known I was looking at a young one. 

I wonder if I'll find a nest next year?

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

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mother Nature Knows Best

I've been sort of grumbling to myself all summer about our overgrown front border and how the New Gold and White Gold Lantana really weren't doing much.  They looked vigorous, and they looked green, but there weren't many blooms.  Not as many as I remembered from last year.

I should have realized that Mother Nature knows best.  I had been expecting blooms at the wrong time!  Just recently, both the New Gold and White Gold started blooming again.  

And today, right on time, the annual Dance of the Butterflies seemed to start in earnest.

I love this time of year! This is when I start seeing Gulf Fritillary butterflies, seen here, as well as Buckeyes and Painted Lady butterflies.

This morning I stood in the front garden, in the shade of our young Live Oak tree, and zoomed in on the flowerbed, snapping photos left and right!

The tropical milkweed is coming back into bloom again too, having been trimmed back a couple of weeks ago.   This Monarch seems to be enjoying it. 

 Is it one that hatched in our garden?  I guess we'll never know, but I like to think it is.

What butterflies are you seeing in your garden this summer?

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

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monarch - The Next Generation, Part II

After my last depressing post, about the loss of our pine tree, I really didn't feel much like blogging about the garden, but there has been so much activity in the Monarch nursery that is our back yard, I had to share it!

The caterpillars had eaten our impressive stands of milkweed down to bare stalks. It was just as well they turned to chrysalises when they did - they were running out of food!

I did quite a bit of pruning on the milkweed and they're already responding by putting out more leaves. (Even more so than in this photo taken a couple of days ago of a chrysalis with water droplets)

We've had chrysalises in the oddest places -- the leg of a patio chair, along the eave of the house, on the garden fence, even the grill cover (can you see it?)

Today my husband got this wonderful closeup of the chrysalis on the grill cover.  It will be emerging tomorrow, I'm sure.


Below is a butterfly recently emerged from its chrysalis on a plant pot.

The three butterflies in the photos below emerged in the same afternoon, while I was at work.  

Luckily my husband is as fascinated by them as I am and snapped these photos for me!

And this isn't the end of them yet.  The chrysalises in the photos above haven't emerged yet, and there are more on the fence yet to emerge.  

 I even saw another caterpillar munching on milkweed yesterday.  I hope there's enough to sustain it!

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

Sunday, August 5, 2012

R.I.P. Pine Tree -- A Sad Tale

I think I've mentioned many times before on this blog that the reason we selected this particular lot to have our home built on was the mature pine tree in the back yard, as well as the little "forest" on the outside of the wall.

The builder did the "ribbon survey" and the tree was comfortably outside the line and could therefore be kept.  Or that was the plan, anyway.

But from that moment on, things started going downhill for that tree.

Before we even chose the lot, the developers put the wall in.  On the homeowner's side of the wall, about 5 feet from it, a trench was dug for utilities -- phone, cable etc. -- right through the tree roots.

And then once our lot was selected, the builder took over and bulldozers drove back and forth,  digging out the foundation and then grading the lot. I don't know whether some builders are more careful in preserving trees than others but ours apparently didn't give them a thought.

We didn't realize it at the time, but the bulldozers were crushing all the tree roots and even by the time they had installed the sprinklers and laid the sod, the tree had a death sentence pinned on it.

Within a few months we realized the tree just didn't look as nice as it once had.  It had millions of pine cones and not so many needles as it had.

Things didn't go well for our little forest outside the wall either.  They too had been stressed by the building of the wall and the laying of utilities right through their root zones.  Then Hurricane Ike further weakened them so that, one by one, they succumbed to pine bark beetles or some other disease and died. 

We consulted an arborist to find out why our tree wasn't thriving and what could be done about it.  That's when we learned that the tree appeared to be suffering from stress caused by damage to the roots from the bulldozers. They said they saw it a lot in wooded areas that had recently been built on.

At first they were guardedly optimistic and offered lots of practical ways in which we could try and improve matters.  They did some deep root fertilization and a deep core aeration to try and loosen up the compacted soil around the roots. They did annual treatments for pine bark beetle and showed my husband how to use an auger to drill holes around the drip zone, drop fertilizer in and then back fill with mulch and water well.

For a while there, we even thought it might be working.  We saw some new growth in the spring of last year, but of course that was before the drought.

We had thought that it was hanging in there and that it might have a chance, especially with the rains we've had this year.

But all of a sudden this year, it started going downhill fast.  It's like it just gave up.

We called the arborist out one more time and this time, instead of talking about things we could do to save it, he was talking about how soon they could be back to remove it.

I was still in denial for a few days and then one day I was coming home from work and the setting sun was shining on it and it looked like it was completely dead already.

My husband called them the next day and they made an appointment to come and remove it. It was a sad day and I'm glad I wasn't there to see it.

I suppose the moral to this tale is that if you are buying a house in a wooded area, you'd be well advised to consult an arborist before building begins and have him consult with the builder on steps that need to be taken to preserve the tree(s).

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