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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - December 2013

 As usual, I had completely forgotten today, being the 15th of the month, was Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.  Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, or GBBD is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens and I only remembered about it when I saw a GBBD post on a blog I follow by Dorothy at Gardening with Nature.

Before I even read Dorothy's post, I had "rescued" a newly emerged Monarch butterfly that was lying on the ground near the bird baths I was filling.  It didn't look so good and when I put my hand down to it, it climbed on board.  So with this butterfly sitting on my hand, I looked frantically around the garden looking for a flower with some nectar for him.

Luckily I discovered that although most of the Dallas Red Lantana has succumbed to the freeze we had at Thanksgiving, there were still a few blooms in the sheltered area underneath the Southern Wax Myrtle.  I put the butterfly there and hoped he would be okay.

 Then I read Dorothy's post and saw that, among many other plants she has blooming, she happened to have some hanging baskets of pansies.  It occurred to me that pansies would be a simple addition, they would offer some color in the garden that would probably last until spring and they would also offer nectar to any other butterflies that happen to pass through.  

So I hit the road to Lowe's and was pleasantly surprised to find that they hadn't completely cleared out the garden center and filled it with Christmas trees, as many places do.  I purchased some 12 packs of different colored pansies and headed home.

Incidentally, as I drove back into my subdivision, I saw a Monarch butterfly floating around the pansies planted in the bed at the entrance.  I like to think it was the one I had "rescued" earlier in the day.

I planted them in containers, among the frostbitten Lantana I'm hoping will come back in the spring, and I planted them in the island bed.

Not much, I'm afraid, but more than I had in the garden 12 hours ago -- and the nice thing is, they will last well into the spring.

Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day!

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

Project Feeder Watch

 One of the things I have enjoyed the past couple of winters is being able to participate in Project Feeder Watch, a citizen science project organized by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 

It's very simple to participate, there are just a few easy steps.

1) Choose your count site -- in my case, it was my own back yard, but I could also count at places like Kleb Woods where they have feeders if I wanted to, I suppose.

2) Choose your count days.  You have to select two consecutive days -- obviously, for me, the weekends are the natural count days.  The Feeder Watch program runs from November 9th through April 14 and you can count as often as every week if you wish.

3) To count the birds, you need to count the number of birds that are visible at one time.  So if you see three birds together, and then another two later on, you would log three, not five birds.  My problem was trying to count the number of house sparrows, of which there seemed to be hundreds, but I think I counted them out to 23 along the wall - by far the most prevelent bird in the garden this winter.

4) As the project is called "Project Feeder Watch", you have to make sure you only count birds that are attracted by your feeders, birdbaths, or other habitat you provide. So things like the these geese I photographed flying overhead back in November wouldn't be counted.

Nor would these Mourning doves, as they sit on the telephone wires.

But I *was* able to include this Cooper's Hawk who visited twice over the Thanksgiving weekend. 

OK so he was probably more attracted by the birds at the feeders than the actual feeders, but he was there, on the bird bath and he stayed long enough for me to walk up to within eight feet of him snapping photos, so I counted him!

I think the sparrow who had been holding his breath under the Savannah holly breathed a sigh of relief when I took a step too close and the hawk flew away. 

Find learn more about Project Feeder Watch and how to join in, visit

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

Monday, November 25, 2013

New Bird for my Life List

I'll be the first to admit that I'm easily distracted. Case in point, this morning my husband and I were about to sit down and have a cup of coffee together when my eye caught something unusual out in the back garden.

It didn't look like the usual run of the mill birds that visit our garden, but I need to get new glasses, so I was unsure as to what it was.

Coffee forgotten, I ran to get my camera and proceeded to snap photos of it -- through the blinds!! 

Most of the photos were pretty lousy, with an area of blur at the top and bottom, caused by the aforementioned blinds I was trying to shoot through.  But a couple of them came out well enough for me to attempt an identification.

I love the search feature on, that allows you to check off various attributes of the bird you are trying to identify, such as the location, it's shape, size, color and identifying marks, and comes up with a range of possible bird identifications.

I believe this to be a Loggerhead Shrike, Lanius ludovicianus, also called the Butcher bird.

Click on the pictures for a larger, more detailed version.

The Loggerhead Shrike feeds on small vertebrates and invertebrates using the hooked bill and is known for its habit of impaling prey on thorns or barbed wire.  So I'm guessing he wasn't in my garden because of the bird feeders....

 While I'm not organized enough to actually maintain a "Life List" as serious birders like to do, but it was sort of neat to see and identify a bird I had never seen before.  I'm also glad I was able to get a couple of photos of it.

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

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Brand New Monarch

We've had quite a lot of success with our certified Monarch Waystation, but with all the milkweed, caterpillars and chrysalises (chrysalii??) I've never actually seen a Monarch emerge.

Until today, that is.

I noticed yesterday that one of the chrysalises had turned color, so I knew it wasn't going to be long.

I went outside this morning, meaning to get a photo of the almost black chrysalis but when I got out there, I was too late for that particular photo, but right on time for the rest of the show!

I stood a couple of feet away, fascinated, and snapped several photos.

I was a little bit worried because although it was nice and sunny today, it was also quite windy and I thought the butterfly might get blown away before it was ready to fly.

In fact, after being buffeted around for half an hour or so, it did get blown down. I went outside and didn't see it so I assumed it had flown away, but actually my husband noticed it on the ground.  I put my hand down next to it and it crawled on to my fingers!

Thinking that what it needed was nourishment, I walked it over to the Dallas Red Lantana and set it down on the plant. The area had the double advantage of being in the sunshine and also protected from a lot of the wind.

It seemed to sit in one place for quite a while and I worried again that something was wrong, and that perhaps the episode would end the same way it did last Christmas when a Monarch emerged and was unable to fly.

But about 30 minutes later I went outside again and as I raised the camera to take another photo, the butterfly fluttered up and away over the wall.  Later still, I spotted a Monarch flying around in the garden looking strong and healthy.  I like to think it was "my" Monarch and that my humble little Monarch Waystation is making a difference.

We've still got three more chrysalises that I know of and I hope all goes smoothly for them too. 

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

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Repotting the Angel Trumpet

 In the corner of our garden, by the bird bath, we have a lovely bushy green Brugmansia, or Angel Trumpet. 

 It was in a container and was doing so well that I scarecely gave it a thought.  However, after the recent rains I happened to look closer and realize the container was full to the brim with water. It wasn't draining for some reason.

I carefully laid it on its side to let the excess water drain out and soon realized why it wasn't draining. At some point I had apparently moved it and forgotten to set the saucer back underneath it and the roots had grown through the drainage holes.

Because one of the roots had broken as I laid the pot over to drain it, I was left with no alternative but to repot it.  First, of course, I had to do some surgery to get rid of the big chunk of root that was holding the plant in the pot. (below you can see the rest of the root in the ground -- no wonder the plant had looked so nice and healthy, look at the size of the root!)

I repotted the plant in a huge container into which my husband had drilled some additional drainage holes on the side.  I'm hoping that will provide it with drainage while stopping it from rooting in the garden.

After that, it was up to the plant.  I watered it and set it back in the border and hoped it would make it. By morning it had dropped a ton of leaves, but the ones it retained looked okay.  When I got home from work, it looked awful, nothing but a few droopy leaves at the end of the stems.

Next morning it looked better and I checked the moisture level and gave it another drink.  By the time I got home from work it was drooping again.

I really thought I was going to lose it, but eventually it seemed to pull through.

It's just a shadow of it's former self at the moment, having lost so many leaves,  but it's got lots of new little leaves budding out so I'm hopeful that it will eventually look as lovely as it did before.  Perhaps it will even grace us with some blooms next year.

Wish us luck!

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

Monday, September 30, 2013

Let It Rain!!

Being from England, I never would have thought I could get excited about rain.  But with all the drought we've been having down here in Texas, any downpour, however brief, is a thing to be cherished.

I watched the clouds rolling in all Saturday afternoon, but we didn't get any rain then.  But when I woke up Sunday morning I found it was gently raining.  I went out and fed the birds anyway, sprinkling the seed along the top of the wall and the fence and the birds soon swooped in for breakfast.

Their feast was interrupted because 30 minutes later, the heavens really opened and it poured for an almost an hour and the birds all took cover somewhere.

And then the rain stopped, the sun tried to break through, the birds returned and the rest of the day was spent very pleasantly pottering about in the garden, and over at the stables with the horses.

That's my kind of weekend:-)

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

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Island Bed in Fall

I stepped out of the back door this morning and realized that the sun was just in the right place to really light up the Pink Muhly grass in the island bed, so naturally I stopped what I was doing and dashed back inside to get my camera.

I'm really happy with the way the island bed has developed this year.  The daylilies have been blooming profusely all year, after doing nothing at all last year. 

And the Zinnia "Profusion" has lived up to its name and self seeded generously throughout the bed, much to the delight of the bees.

I call the bed a "happy mess", but there are a couple of things I need to make decisions on, such as this mystery plant that has self-seeded in the middle of the bed. I have no idea what it is, but you can see it's crowding the Muhly grass and the Hamelia patens.

I was also surprised earlier this year to see a baby Vitex growing in the bed.  It's a couple of feet tall now, and blooming, but I'm debating on whether or not to let it stay there.  The Vitex in the back border is hugely overgrown and I do not want this one taking over the entire island bed, to the expense of everything else.

One of the things I love most about the island bed is that I can lie in bed on weekend mornings, and see it right outside the window of our master bedroom "retreat" :-)

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

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Animal Antics in the Garden

 For my blog post today, I thought I'd share with you the antics my husband and I witnessed as we sat on the patio with our morning coffee.

We've got at least four hummers, gearing up for their migration.  They expend so much energy chasing each other round the columns on the patio and around the garden, it seems like they will be worn out before they even get started across the Gulf.

Usually, I can only get photos of them either on the feeders, or perching in a tree.  I was lucky this morning to be able to capture these photos of a female in flight as she approached the feeder.

The hummers aren't the only birds in evidence today. As I was sitting on the patio, aiming my camera at the hummingbird feeder for the photos above, I kept seeing flashes of color and movement along the back wall of the garden.

This male Northern Cardinal perched and posed momentarily for a photo op, but not for long. As you can see in the photo above (I'm amazed I caught it on film), another male is swooping in to chase the intruder from "his" territory.

At the same time, on top of the wall, what I thought were two adult females, but turned out to be an adult and a juvenile when I looked at the photo on my computer, are happily pecking at bird seed.

The juvenile enjoyed hopping up and down the milkweed stalks.  Do they eat aphids?  I'm not sure, but at least there were no caterpillars in the way.

When we first moved in here and were surrounded by our own personal forest, we seemingly had our own resident squirrels.  Since all the trees died and/or were removed, and since the lots either side have been cleared and built on, we very rarely see squirrels.

I was missing them, but happened to glance out and see one on the fence last week.  This morning, it was back, helping itself to the birdseed and nuts on the fence. 

There such sweet little things, and so entertaining, I welcome them in the garden.  They've lost so much habitat around here, I'll do anything I can to help them survive. If it means the birds have to share their seed and nuts with the squirrels, so be it :-)

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

Monday, September 2, 2013

Monarch Nursery

Last week, I cast a disapproving eye over the tropical Milkweed in the back garden.  They were living up to the "weed" part of their name, they were covered in aphids, they were falling over and generally looking scraggly.

I was about ready to hack them back (which I hoped would encourage some bushy new growth in time for fall) but I ran out of time over the weekend and never got to it.

During the week, I got a surprise when I spotted a tiny caterpiller, less than half an inch long, on one of the plants.

This weekend, I counted and found 9 of them, between an inch and two inches long and looking fat and healthy.

The plants still look pretty awful, but any hacking back will have to wait!

Some of them had almost eaten themselves out of house and home, as it were. So I had to delicately relocate them by removing the leaf (or remains thereof) that they were on, and placing it on a plant that still looked decent.

It didn't take them long to realize there was more food around and transfer themselves to the new plant. 

The photos I have shown, including this one of a plant that is actually taller than the fence, were all taken in the back yard.

We've also got a zillion milkweed in the front, but unfortunately, when we got back from vacation, I discovered they were all covered with white powdery stuff and what looks like spider webs.  I'm thinking spider mites of some sort.  

I really need to get out there and either rip them out or just hack them back but it's too darned hot for me.  I have to do my gardening in 15 minute increments or I end up with something akin to heat stroke. 

I've been here in Texas 31 years and the summers still kill me!

I'll try and get out there a couple of evenings this week and see what I can do with them to save them for next year.

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

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Master of All He Surveys

This mighty little Ruby throated hummingbird has been on duty in the garden this morning, engaging all visitors in an energetic aerial  acrobatics, before returning to his perch in the Crepe Myrtle tree.

This photo was taken from about 30 feet away, through the patio door. Of course, as soon as I tried to get closer, he took off. 

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

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Hummingbird in the Sun

I was so happy when I snapped this photo earlier today. We've seen what appears to be a pair of hummingbirds zipping around the garden for the past few days, but I never have the camera handy.

At breakfast this morning, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and realized it was a hummer at the bottom of the garden.  Luckily, by the time I grabbed the camera, positioned myself at the back door and zoomed in to the feeder, I caught her just as she was landing to check it out.

Unfortunately, since that time I have spent a frustrating morning being frustrated by technology.

Let me explain.. For my birthday, my husband bought me a new iMac with a 27 inch monitor, which I love. 

However, some tasks that used to be simple on my old iMac don't seem to work quite the same way on the new one and I spent a frustrating morning trying to figure out how to edit the photo, add my watermark and save it for the web.

Hubby came to the rescue like a knight in shining armor and all is well with the world.

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

Monday, July 15, 2013

July Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

Here we are in July, and here I am posting on my SECOND contribution to Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Since the last time I managed to post on time was in January, I'll just call this my semi-annual contribution :-)

We have some beautiful rich colors in the summer garden, but they are mostly concentrated in just a couple of areas.  With other areas already past their best, or not blooming yet.

Even while I battle the nutsedge and insidious bermuda grass in the island bed, the blooms, such as the marigold above, are glorious.  They seem to look at the blazing sun with a sort of "back atcha" defiance, and bloom on regardless of the heat and drought.  I've been deadheading them to encourage them to keep blooming and I've also been spreading the seeds in colorless areas of the garden.


Also in the island bed, the Profusion zinnias are blooming.. profusely!  I think I mentioned before that these self seeded and are living up to their name.  I really like them and will have to look out for some other colors in the future.

This is a "Little Lucky" Lantana I planted in a container a couple of weeks ago.  I believe it's "Lemon Cream" although I have another (out of focus) photo which shows a similar plant with more lemon yellow on it.  I like how compact these are.

This Purple Trailing Lantana shares the half barrel with a sweet potato vine and a Persian Shield (which isn't doing too well in the heat, it may need less sun).  I may need to trim it up a bit, to encourage bushiness instead of just a couple of long trailing bits.  I understand the butterflies love it, so I hope it does well.  I haven't had it in my garden before.

Up until a couple of weeks ago, the tropical Milkweed was looking rather puny, but it seems like, all of a sudden, it's all bursting into bloom.  We have a LOT of it, all along the back of the border at the front of the house, as well as around the borders in the back garden.  I've been reading about the low numbers of Monarch butterflies this year, but if they ever get here, we're ready for them.

The final photo is of a Turk's Cap I have in a container next to the Southern Wax Myrtle. I got it last year and it made it through the winter and seems to be doing quite well.  By the way, I played around with this photo a bit, blending in a photographic texture  to disguise the ugly cinder block wall.  I rather like how it came out :-)

That's it from me today.  It's 10 o'clock Central time, so technically it IS still Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.  Please stop by May Dream Gardens to see what's blooming on this date around the country.

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

Friday, July 5, 2013

Nutsedge is Driving Me Nuts!

Soon after we moved in here and I started planting in the beds and pottering about in the garden, I started noticing a grass like plant that kept popping up everywhere.  I would pull it out and it would just come back.  It has become the bane of my existence.  If I don't diligently keep after it, it completely takes over, as it has done here, in the front border, among the milkweeds.

A little investigation quickly identified it as "nutsedge."

From Texas Cooperative Extension:
Nutsedge, often called nutgrass, is really not a true grass, but instead a member of the sedge family. Its proper name is nutsedge or for you Latin lovers, Cyperus esculentus. It is closer 'kin to Papyrus (used to make the ancient writing paper of Egypt) or the ornamental Umbrella sedges, than to St. Augustine or bermudagrass. This African native plant has thrived and spread throughout the New World. Because of its ability to thrive and persist, most gardeners and farmers would agree that to know it is to hate it.

When a nutsedge shoot reaches the surface it forms a basal bulb, from which grow roots and thin, wiry underground stems with new tubers at their ends. In one year, the outward growth from one tuber has the potential to produce 1,900 new plants and 7,000 new tubers. Now you can see why it's so tough to control! If there is any good news it's that individual tubers do not last longer than 3 years (thanks a lot, right?).

For read the entire article visit:

It appears that the only way to control nutsedge is to use chemical pesticides such as Round Up and since I have pledged to keep my garden chemical-free, it appears that I am doomed to pull these bloody annoying little things out of the ground by hand or hoe forever.

I'd be interested to hear from other gardeners who have problems with nutsedge (you know how the saying goes: Misery loves company!)  Or perhaps there's another weed that is the bane of your existence?

Let me know in the comments.

And now, lest you think my garden has completely gone to ruin, here's a shot of the self-seeded zinnia "Profusion" living up to its name in the island bed.

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