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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Spring is Just Around the Corner

 The garden is beginning to show it's appreciation of the rains we received this week.  Lots of little green sprouts all over, including the milkweed, the lantana and some bluebonnets in the front garden.

Also in the front garden, I've been closely watching the milkweed as I've seen Monarchs out there and there haven't been any blooms for them. Well one of the plants is now blooming and looking around I see more flower buds forming.  I would say the Monarch Waystation is open for business!

There's not too much else blooming just yet, but this Cool Wave White Viola, that I got right before Christmas, is blooming nicely... is the Babylon White Verbena which I have growing in the half-barrel planter.

We've had some chilly nights and mornings, even down here in Texas, as this photo of our outdoor thermometer proves.

I heard we're expecting some more freezing nights this week so I hope that none of the newly sprouted plants get damaged. 

I will, I think, cover up the pot of Cypress Vine seedlings I have against the back fence.  Everything else will have to fend for itself as usual.

And finally - a mystery bird. I took this photo last weekend and I have looked in my bird ID books, as well as, and have been unable to identify it.  Can anyone help me out? As always, you can click on the photo to see a larger version.


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

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Great Backyard Bird Count

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are.

And for the first time, this year participants from all over the world will be able to submit checklists, so my dad in England will be able to join in too.

The following is taken from the GBBC website:

 * * * * *

Everyone is welcome--from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes on one day, or you can count for as long as you like each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds.

Participants tally the number of individual birds of each species they see during their count period and enter these numbers on the GBBC website.

All you have to do is set up a free GBBC account to submit your checklists or use login information from an existing account if you've taken part before. Visit the How to Participate page for more details.

As the count progresses, anyone with Internet access can explore what is being reported from their own towns or, for the first time this year,  from anywhere in the world.

Participants may also send in photographs of the birds they see for the GBBC photo contest. A selection of images is posted in the online photo gallery.

Why count birds?

Scientists and bird enthusiasts can learn a lot by knowing where the birds are. Bird populations are dynamic; they are constantly in flux. No single scientist or team of scientists could hope to document and understand the complex distribution and movements of so many species in such a short time.

Scientists use the GBBC information, along with observations from other citizen-science projects, such as the Christmas Bird Count, Project FeederWatch, and eBird, to get the “big picture” about what is happening to bird populations.

The longer these data are collected, the more meaningful they become in helping scientists investigate far-reaching questions, like these:

• How will the weather influence bird populations?

• Where are winter finches and other “irruptive” species that appear in large numbers during some years but not others?

• How will the timing of birds’ migrations compare with past years?

• How are bird diseases, such as West Nile virus, affecting birds in different regions?

• What kinds of differences in bird diversity are apparent in cities versus suburban, rural, and natural areas?
 * * * * *

I know in our particular garden, our bird population has been greatly affected by the loss of habitat around us.  Thankfully, there's still a hedgerow on the other side of the road behind our house.  If that goes, I'm sure the rest of the birds will be gone too :-(

It will be interesting to see how this year's numbers stack up against the previous three years that I have participated.

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

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Signs of Spring

Spring is always an exciting time of year.  Everywhere you look there are sweet green shoots peeping out of the ground, things once thought lost to the winter freezes start coming back to life.

In both the front and back gardens, the milkweed is taking off like gangbusters! 

One in the front even has some flower buds on it already and I saw a Monarch apparently laying eggs last weekend. I'd say this year's Monarch Waystation is well underway!

The front border continues to be a bit of a challenge. Originally there was a row of holly bushes at the back of the bed, close to the house, but they all died.

In my post from February 2010, Little Path to Nowhere, I posted how I laid a stepping stone path through the bed, to allow me access to work on it. I even planted some more holly bushes, making sure to amend the soil in the planting holes.  All to no avail, they died too.

 Interestingly, the only thing that seems to thrive in the no-man's land close to the house is milkweed.  Okay, so some of them are so close to paving stones they make it impossible to actually walk on the pavers, but at least last year, I remembered to snip the seed pods off before they let loose with a gazillion seeds!

The other challenge in the front border is that the Indian Hawthorn and other bushes the builder put in have grown -- a LOT.  They are now shoulder to shoulder and there's no room for me to plant anything in between them. I don't really want to rip them out because they do present a nice green border for the house, and also because I think getting them out would be a nightmare.

I planted New Gold Lantana along the front of the border the year before last, and that's starting to leaf out again, so perhaps the combination of that and the milkweed in the back of the bed will provide enough color.  If all else fails, I can probably nestle some containers of annuals among the bushes for some pops of color.

More signs of spring in the back garden, this Blue Salvia (salvia farinacea) is leafing out nicely. Hmmm - look closely at the label.  Doesn't that say "Upright Annual"?  I wonder if it knows it wasn't supposed to come back this year?

In the veggie garden, the parsley is going strong, as are the garlic chives (not shown)  and I was surprised to see a flower on the strawberry plant. 

We had no luck whatsoever with the cucumbers last year, so we're got going to try those this year.  Instead we want to try some peas and some Roma tomatoes.  And we'll see what else takes our fancy.

I had been planning to do some more clean up in the garden today but we had a soaking rain (with accompanying thunder and lightning) and now the ground is waterlogged, so the gardening will have to wait.

Think I'll sit and watch the birds instead :-)

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

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A little inspiration!

There's nothing like the annual deluge of garden-related magazines and catalogs in the mailbox to get the creative gardening juices flowing!

Which catalog or gardening magazine do you most look forward to

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