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Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Birds of Winter

One of my favorite pastimes is sitting, either in the dining room or on the patio, and watching the birds go about their business in our garden (that's English for back yard).

While we have lots of the usual visitors - Mockingbirds, Blue Jays, House Sparrows, Northern Cardinals and Mourning Doves, I've also spotted some seasonal visitors.

 At first I mistook these goldfinches in winter plumage for sparrows.  It wasn't until I zoomed in with my camera I realized what they were.

This one seems to be pointing out the fact that there's no birdseed on the wall.

 This isn't a great photo, but I think this is a House Finch. I've only ever seen one a couple of times before, so I may be mistaken.

We had four male Northern Cardinals in the back yard at one time yesterday, but I didn't have my camera handy.  I was able to snap a photo of this female on the wall though.  They are year round residents in the hedgerow behind us.  Unfortunately, that land has been rezoned, so I fear the days are numbered for the hedgerow.  Perhaps the birds will come and take up residence in our back yard.

Another year round resident in the area is "Woody", the Red-bellied Woodpecker.  He likes to perch on the electric poles behind the house and has been heard hammering on the neighbors' Hardi-Plank siding (that must have given him a headache!)

Two birds I saw but just couldn't get a photo of were the Carolina Chickadee and the Tufted Titmouse.  The Chickadees are year round residents but I've only seen the Tufted Titmouse once or twice, usually in winter, so I'm presuming it's just a winter visitor.  I just wish I could have got a photo of him.

I just realized I also don't have any photos of the Blue Jays.  Oh well, I'll just have to get out and take some and do another post in the New Year.

Speaking of which, I wish everyone a safe and happy New Year celebration and a wonderful 2016.

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

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Greetings To All

Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values. ~~ Thomas S. Monson

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.
~~ Norman Vincent Peale

He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.
~~ Roy L. Smith

Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection.
~~ Winston Churchill

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.
~~ Charles Dickens

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Festive Colors in the December Garden and a Sad Butterfly Tale

We've had some strange weather so far this December. It's gone from warm and muggy to cold, wet and windy, but certainly nothing approaching "Christmas-y".  But I do have some festive colors in the garden, courtesy of the holly and the bottlebrush.

Earlier in the year, when the Savannah holly was blooming, it was covered in bees, enjoying the nectar.  Now it's the bottlebrush's turn to be the center of bee attention.  If you click on the photo to see the larger image, there are two bees in this picture.

The Savannah holly is now covered in bright red berries, which I hope the birds enjoy, although I've never really seen them.  The bushes are big enough that I can even snip a few branches and bring them inside to add to my Christmas decorations, something I have always wanted to do.


On another note - I mentioned in one of my earlier posts in autumn that I had been seeing butterflies around and then some caterpillars.  Unfortunately we didn't have much luck with Monarchs this year.  In previous years we had 15 or more chrysalises on the fence, the house eaves and elsewhere, and lots of successful hatching.  

This year, not nearly so many and even sadder, it appears that at least one female who was laying eggs was infected with OA, so her caterpillars either never made it to the chrysalis stage, or the chrysalis never hatched.  

I saw one butterfly at the beginning of November whose wings didn't unfold properly - a symptom of OA infection.  All I could do was pick it up and set it the only remaining zinnia I had in the garden at the time.  It had disappeared completely by the next day.

And on December 12th I found this male butterfly with half his wing missing fluttering on the lawn. Luckily I had planted some pansies a couple of weeks ago, or I would have had no flowers at all.  I let him crawl on my hand and set him on the container of pansies and he immediately probed the center of a pansy with his probiscus and starting feeding.

I brought the container on to the covered patio that night as we were expecting heavy rains and a cold front.  He was still alive, but very lethargic the next day because the temperature had dropped, but once I moved the container back into the sun and he warmed up, he started crawling around the pansies feeding again.

Today is December 16th and he is still out there.  I check on him regularly and have had to pick him up off the ground and put him back in the pansy container a couple of times.

Obviously, his days are numbered, and he won't be migrating, but as long as I have pansies, I'll try and make sure he can at least feed.

I've had similar events happen in the past and it always saddens me. I''m not sure what the answer is, but I'll just do what I can.  In fact, I think I'll go check on him now.
Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

What a Difference a Day Makes

We've had some lovely weather this week, and I've been doing some tidy up in the garden - pulling out the finished zinnias, trying my hardest to get rid of the bermuda grass and nutsedge.  This resulted in two rather empty island beds, so I headed to Plants for All Seasons to get some winter color.

These little violas will last from now until spring and will brighten an otherwise drab garden through the winter.

They spread a bit, so I spaced them out and had enough for both island beds, the containers by the bird bath and the raised bed by the trellis on the back wall.

Skip forward to this morning and I awoke to hear the drumming of rain on the roof and the sounds of the water barrel overflowing.

As always happens when we get a heavy rain, the garden flooded.  We keep meaning to get something done about it, but the water usually drains after an hour or so, provided it stops raining.

But what's that I see behind the bird bath?  

Yes, the Angel Trumpet that offered one bloom after a rain storm at the end of October (see my post here) is literally covered in blooms!

Now the rain has passed and the sun is shining again.  Here's a photo of the Angel Trumpet in the afternoon sunshine.

It's bright and sunny outside, but very blowy, so I hope this doesn't get blown over.  That would be a disaster!

I noticed earlier when I was re-positioning it to make it more stable on the sodden earth, that the pot is starting to crack so I'll need to replant it eventually.  I'd like to find somewhere to put it in the ground, but everywhere seems to be a battle of roots.  I'll have to give it some thought and decide where would be the best place for it.

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

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Walk in The Woods

Since I'm, shall we say, "between jobs" at present, and since the weather has been absolutely glorious this week (apart from a torrential downpour on Tuesday, I decided to go for a walk through Kleb Woods and take advantage of being able to be outside enjoying the weather on a week day!

I'm sure I have written about Kleb Woods before, it's one of my favorite places.  We are so lucky to have it close by.

The trails are easy so I headed off, looking for the marsh and bird blind I had visited before.  After swatting at mosquitoes for about half an hour, and not finding the bird blind -- note to management... more signage on that side of the woods would be a help -- I headed back over to the more familiar Nature Center and spent an hour walking around there, watching birds and other critters.

I know many people consider squirrels a nuisance, especially in  the garden, but I find them delightful.  We used to get a lot in our garden, when we were surrounded by trees.  Perhaps we will again one day as the trees in the neighborhood grow and mature.  I hope so.  I miss the lil guys.

The area around the nature center is always inspiration for my own wildlife garden.   Their Hamelia Patens is shoulder tall in summer (unlike mine, which didn't get over a foot tall this year) and I'd like to know what they are feeding this Turk's Cap. It's humongous!! (Although to be fair, this is two plants) 

I don't know if they ever open up the house to visitors, but you can look in the windows and see it's furnished and decorated as it was when Elmer Kleb lived here.

The story of Elmer Kleb and how the Nature Preserve came to be is quite intriguing.  You can read more about it here.

As I was getting ready to leave, I spotted movement out of the corner of my eye and was delighted to see this grey fox (at least I think that's what it is)

He let me get quite close and take some photos before he trotted off into the brush.

All in all, a very enjoyable afternoon in the woods.  I'm looking forward to doing it again soon.

Linking this post with Camera Critters today.

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

Saturday, November 7, 2015

November in the Garden

When I lived in England, I was always accustomed to seeing butterflies floating about the garden in June, July and August.

In fact I remember earlier this year, being rather despondent at the lack of butterflies in the garden.

I should have remembered that our prime butterfly month is October, and often in to November and beyond.

The garden was ready for them too -- the Vitex, which has bloomed only sporadically all summer, now has quite a few lovely sprays of booms on it.  Just in time to feed this hungry visitor.

We still have some blooms on the tropical milkweed too, but in most cases, the leaves have been eaten by voracious caterpillars.

This photo was actually taken several days ago.  When I went back out to see how he was doing, there was no sign of him.  Then later in the day, I sat down on the patio and noticed this underneath the small table on the patio.

Is it him?  I'll never know, but I'm looking forward to keeping a close eye on it while it goes through its transformation.

And elsewhere around the garden, the milkweed is making preparations for next year.

The brush pile in the utility corner was getting out of hand, so I knew I first needed to tackle the compost bin, which has been more or less ignored most of the year, with the exception of the occasional "stir".

I wasn't sure how much, if any, good compost we would have but was very pleasantly surprised to find the bottom half of the bin filled with dark, moist, rich compost.

I dug out several inches worth and added it to the vegetable beds, in readiness for next year.  Then I got out the "Yard Butler" and mixed up what remained in there and encouraged it to move down ground level to replace what I had just removed.

This provided a few inches of space at the top, so I was able to spend a happy afternoon using our chipper/shredder to shred spent annuals, shrub and tree trimmings and leaves.

There is still some work to be done on the brush pile (while still leaving some to shelter the local wildlife) but it's been steadily raining all day today, so I won't be shredding anything until it dries out.

Maybe next week....

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

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Quotations for Autumn Gardens

It's been a gloomy, wet dreary day today -- quite appropriate for the first day of November but not conducive to getting out and working in the garden.

So instead I've been sitting indoors reading, doing crossword puzzles, and trying to decide what to blog about today. I have mentioned in my blog before that I enjoy collecting quotations, especially those about gardening and the seasons. It seems that other people are far more eloquent than I on the subject, so I'm going to include some in today's post.

Oh how we love pumpkin season. You did know this gourd-ish squash has its own season, right? Winter, Spring, Summer, Pumpkin.... We anxiously anticipate it every year.
~~ Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer, October 2010

Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.
~~ Jim Bishop

...I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house. So I have spent almost all the daylight hours in the open air.
~~ Nathaniel Hawthorne, 10th October 1842

October gave a party;
The leaves by hundreds came,—
The Ashes, Oaks, and Maples,
And leaves of every name.
The sunshine spread a carpet,
And every thing was grand;
Miss Weather led the dancing;
Professor Wind, the band....
The sight was like a rainbow
New-fallen from the sky....
~~ George Cooper (1840–1927), "October's Party," c.1887

Autumn burned brightly, a running flame through the mountains, a torch flung to the trees.
~~ Faith Baldwin, American Family

It is a delightful pastime to sit in the pleasant sunshine of autumn, and gazing from this little spot of free earth over such a landscape, let the imagination luxuriate amid the thrilling associations of the scene!
~~ H.T. Tuckerman, "San Marino"

'Tis Autumn! and the short'ning day,
The chilly evening's sober gray,
And winds that hoarser blow;
The fading foliage of the trees,
Which rustles sere in every breeze,
The approach of Winter show.
~~ Bernard Barton, "Stanzas on the Approach of Winter" 1822

Of all the seasons, autumn offers the most to man and requires the least of him.
~~Hal Borland

Just after the death of the flowers,
And before they are buried in snow,
There comes a festival season,
When nature is all aglow—
Aglow with a mystical spendour
That rivals the brightness of spring,
Aglow with a beauty more tender
Than aught which fair summer could bring....
~~Emeline B. Smith, "Indian Summer"

I walked alone in the depths of Autumn woods;
The ruthless winds had left the maple bare;
The fern was withered, and the sweetbrier's breath
No longer gave its fragrance to the air.
~~Albert Laighton (1829–1887), "In the Woods," c.1859

For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together. For nature, it is a time of sowing, of scattering abroad.
~Edwin Way Teale, Autumn Across America

If you're wondering where the lovely animated gifs came from, I found them on a Russian website at And before you ask -- no, I can't read Russian, but since the website provides the code to copy and paste in to your blog, or on Facebook, I'm assuming it's okay to share them, with the appropriate link!!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

After the Storm

As most people are aware, Texas got a lot of wind and rain last weekend, courtesy of Hurricane Patricia.

The predictions were pretty grim, and we were expecting the worst, but luckily, the storm downgraded and we didn't get hit as badly as we feared.  We didn't get flooded (although some roads were closed) and we didn't lose power.
Still, that didn't stop folks having a little fun on the internet at our expense!  (I can't talk, I shared this one myself on Facebook :-)

So after the storm, I took a stroll round the garden to see how everything had fared and was happy to see that other than some drooping Milkweed stalks, everything was fine.

I also got a pleasant surprise when I saw that the rainfall had encouraged my Angel Trumpet (Brugmansia) to bloom.

It has been in a container in that same spot for at least three years and this is the first time it has bloomed for me.

There was also speculation on the internet about how Hurricane Patricia would adversely affect the Monarch migration as they would be passing directly through the area.

Well it seems that our local Monarchs found somewhere safe to hunker down during the storm and have been seen the past couple of days, fueling up on the Vitex and laying eggs on the Milkweed before they head south.

I also read an interesting article on, Hurricane Patricia: How Monarch butterflies faced down the storm and it seems that butterflies flying through Arizona, in the direct line of the storm were pretty darned smart.

"But those butterflies shifted their flight east, away from the hurricane’s track, according to the Mexican national agency tasked with tracking them.

The butterflies “changed their route from west to east and have taken refuge in the ravines” of the country’s eastern mountain range, the Sierra Madre Oriental, the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) reported."

Isn't nature wonderful?

I've linked this post to Today's Flowers, hosted by Denise at An English Girl Rambles.

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

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Another Winged Beauty

I was sitting on the patio in the shade, browsing through the Native American Seed catalog, trying to decide what I want to plant next year, when a flutter of color caught my eye.

I looked up to see this lovely Giant Swallowtail,  Papilio cresphontes, enjoying the Profusion zinnia.  

 I have to tell you, whatever I decide to add next year, I'll be sure to include this zinnia! It shrugs off our heat and humidity and the bees, butterflies and even the hummingbirds love it.

And once it goes to seed, I suspect that the sparrows and other birds will enjoy pecking at the seed heads.

This beauty floated around for several minutes, allowing me to go indoors and get the camera to take these shots, and even take a short video.

Now *this*, is why I garden :-)

I'm linking this post to Camera Critters, do take a peek and visit some of the other Camera Critters participants this week.

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

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Bring on the Butterflies and Planning for Next Year

 Ahhh, my favorite time of year.  I know I say that a lot, but it's true!  We get a little respite from the blistering heat of summer and it seems like the garden sighs with relief too.

Much of the zinnia that self-seeded throughout the islands beds is on its way out now, but this patch is still vibrant, and getting lots of attention from butterflies and bees.  I've been busy collecting seeds for next year :-)

It took me a while to get this photo of a gulf fritillary nectaring on the zinnia.  He seemed to be overwhelmed by choice and kept flitting from bloom to bloom before I could focus on him.  Finally he settled down and I was able to get some good shots.

This is the first Buckeye I have seen this year, so I was pleased to be able to watch him for a while and get some photos.  I don't know if it's just my imagination, but it seems like we've had more of them, and earlier in the year in previous years.

I had planted native milkweed roots earlier in the year and some of them came up quite quickly.  But for some reason, they didn't thrive.  Not sure if it was because of too much competition from the zinnias, not enough water, too much water, or what, but only one of them made it, and I wouldn't exactly say that one is thriving.  Luckily, we still have lots of tropical milkweed, as this Monarch butterfly discovered.

Sorry about the bad quality of this photo of what I think is a Pipevine Swallowtail, but the photo was taken through the blinds and a rather grubby bedroom window, zoomed in across the garden to the Vitex tree. This is the first of these I have seen this year.

I haven't seen a hummingbird here at the house since last weekend, but was thrilled to be able to capture this photo of a female ruby-throat at Kleb Woods before they all head south.   

I suppose it won't be too much longer before I will be cleaning up in the garden, pulling out the spent plants and prepping the beds for next year.

I've looked back on the successes (and failures) from this year and am making plans for next year.

Our garden always seems to be dominated by orange, red and yellow, so I definitely want to add some more variety next year - more whites, blues, purples and pinks to offset all the orange.

I made a start the other week by ordering some seeds from Park -- Achillea Summer Berries, Cleome Queen (mix) and Agastache. And just this morning I spent a pleasant hour browsing through the Native American Seed catalog and trying to narrow down my list!

What plans do you have for your garden next year?

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

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Hummingbird of a Different Color?

Is it just me, or does this hummingbird look different?

I suppose it could be a trick of the light -- this was taken in the late afternoon and the sun was starting to go down.  You can click on the photo to see a larger version.

We usually get Ruby-throated hummingbirds, although apparently this area also gets Rufous hummingbirds.  I had never seen one before, but could it be a Rufous?

Below is one of our more traditional visitors.  Our sprawling Turk's Cap plant has been a bit hit with them this year.

Not wonderful photos, but taken from the patio, about 30 feet away, so about the best I can expect, I suppose. 

In addition to watching the hummingbirds, I've been casting a critical eye around my garden, looking back in my Garden Journal and taking stock of what has worked, what hasn't, and making plans for next year.  I will share that in my next blog post.

I'm sharing today's post with Camera Critters. Please stop by and see what other critter photos bloggers are sharing.

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

Monday, September 7, 2015

Happy Labor Day!

 I hope you have enjoyed your Labor Day weekend.

I'm keeping this post short and sweet today, as I overdid it a bit, moving desks and shelving units around in my office/studio.  I just thought I would share this photo I took of a Gulf Fritillary earlier in the week.

I'll try and get back to my regular blogging schedule next week, and I'll show you how my office/studio turned out :-)

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