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Friday, December 30, 2016

New Year's Monarch!

I've been keeping a close eye on our house guests since my last post. I had to make several trips round the garden to clip more milkweed for the hungry caterpillars.  And in the process I inadvertently brought a few more indoors along with the milkweed!

I ended up with a total of 13.

Thankfully they all pupated without any problems and I no longer had to scour the garden for greenery for they.

Yesterday I noticed one of them was turning color and by the time I took this photo last night, another one was starting to turn color as well.

Over the course of the morning I went into the bathroom to check on them several times, but of course I missed the actual moment of eclosing!

When I went in there just now, this beautiful Monarch was hanging from its empty chrysalis, drying out its wings.

I'll be cutting up some fruit, such as grapes and melon, and putting it on a saucer to feed the butterfly until it's ready to be released.  I learned that little trick from a wonderful Facebook group I found -- Monarch and Milkweed Network, Houston, Texas area.

So -- one down, 12 more to go!  Happy New Year!!!

Update:  A couple of hours after I published this blog, the second butterfly emerged.  Here he/she is still unfolding their wings!

Update 2: We have one boy and one girl so far.  Here they are having just been introduced to some nice juicy cantaloupe.  I hope they like it!

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

On the First Day of Winter -- We Have Monarch Caterpillars!!

Recently we had a cold front come through our little corner of Texas. Check out that thermometer reading on our patio!

We had a couple very cold days and freezing nights that had me going round the garden rescuing Monarch caterpillars and snipping milkweed for them to graze on in my Big Cube mesh cage which I have set up in one of our bathrooms.  

(Don't worry, this bathroom also has a walk in shower and we have another bathroom also, so we *have* been able to bathe ourselves!!)

Today though, the skies were clear and a peek at the outdoor thermometer told me it was much milder so I took a stroll around the garden and what did I find?  Yup - more caterpillars!!

I was amazed that they had made it through the freeze but they seemed okay and were chomping away.  I decided to let Mother Nature take care of these as I already have a total of 12 caterpillars/chrysalides indoors to keep an eye on and not much milkweed left.

While I was strolling round the garden enjoying the warm sun, I saw a Monarch butterfly float through, but didn't get a photo.  I did, however, get a photo of this little bee, enjoying the Salvia Evolution (or perhaps it's the Pineapple Sage, I got those two mixed up when I planted them all together)

Can you see him, right in the middle of the photo?  (Click on the pic to see the larger version)

Two or three days ago, I would have believed you if you told me it was the first day of winter, but today, the actual Winter Solstice and official First Day of Winter?  No -- feels like a lovely spring day!!  Only in Texas!!

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to do some weeding....

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

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Garden in Winter

Well here we are in the middle of December, just a couple of weeks away from Christmas, and there are still flowers blooming in the garden!

I had been lamenting with my dad on the phone that the garden was past it's best and was looking ratty.  But when I went out and had a look around, I was surprised to see how much was actually blooming.

While the drifts of orange Profusion zinnia that once filled most of the island beds are now dead and brown, there are still a surprising number of flowers in evidence.

The Salvia Evolution that I started from seed in the spring was a real winner this year, and is still going.  Interestingly, I planted red and white, but only the red came up. The  pink and white Vinca is still with us too, while the Cosmos and Cleome have long gone to seed.

This dense patch is a favorite hangout of the local sparrows, who hide in there for hours, scratching around for seeds.  And, of course, the hummingbirds enjoyed the tubular red flowers.

Another bird favorite is the purple Fountain Grass.  In spring many of the plumes showed evidence that they were providing nice cozy nest linings, and the birds seem to like poking around in it for bugs as well.

The other island bed got overrun with Bermuda grass this year, as it seems to every year. With the two major surgeries I had this year, along with instructions not to do any bending, I wasn't able to keep up with it.  Even though it's overrun with grass, there are still some flowers hanging on, such as the pink Vinca and yellow Lantana in the photo above.

I've also still got quite a lot of milkweed, which is good because one of our neighbors put out a call in our neighborhood Facebook group last week that she needed some milkweed to feed the Monarch larvae that her grandsons had in their terrarium.  I was able to take her some cuttings (and while I was snipping, I found a couple of caterpillars that I brought in and set up in my Big Cube cage as we were expecting a freeze.  As you can see, some of the milkweed is even still blooming and, a bonus at this time of year, it's not covered in aphids!

We've had some strange weather recently.  We've had at least one frost where I thought I might have lost some plants, but surprisingly, they survived.  We also had a couple of nights with temps below freezing, but no frost.  The plants made it through that too.

That *may* have been our winter for the year, yesterday the temperature with back in the 70's!

And finally, the Bottlebrush bush is looking quite festive with it's bright red "brushes".  These seem to be a favorite of bees.  I wouldn't have expected that but, back in the summer, it was always covered in happy bees.  The Savannah holly is looking festive too, with its bright green leaves and red berries.  There was enough that I was able to take some trimmings to add to our Christmas decorations on the mantelpiece.

I've got one final surgery scheduled for tomorrow.  Luckily this is a minor procedure to insert a coil into the last aneurysm.  I'll be in hospital overnight and then back home for a few days' rest.

In case I don't get around to blogging again before Christmas, let me take this opportunity to wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and the best of the Holiday Season.

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

Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Perfect Day in Fall

It seems that fall may have finally arrived in my little corner of the world.  The skies are clear and the temperatures dropped into the 50's overnight!  Right now it's a very pleasant 75 degrees with low humidity.  I probably should be doing more actual work out there than I am -- all I've done is a bit of weeding to get rid of the ever encroaching nutsedge and bermuda grass in the island beds.

But I'm also taking the opportunity to sit on the patio and read and enjoy the sights of the garden without sweating. It's all the same stuff I've shown you before - zinnia and cosmos, salvia and cleome.  But now we have lots of winged visitors too (in addition to my own contributions in the form of newly hatched Monarchs)
I've had wonderful success with this Big Cube cage I got this year.  In addition to the 9 Monarchs I was able to hatch in August, we ended up with another 15 chrysalides in the cage and 6 have hatched in the past two days!

This is one of the newly hatched Monarchs, enjoying some nectar before getting ready for the migration. Also in the photo is another visitor - a Gulf Fritillary.  We have five or six of them hanging around at the moment.

Below is a short video of the same scene :-)

Below is another visitor we see at this time of year - a buckeye.  Those markings really do look like eyes, don't they? This one seems a little ragged, but he's not letting it slow him down :-)

And finally here's another video I took showing some of the Gulf Fritillaries enjoying the zinnia.

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm going in for surgery on Tuesday October 11th. It's rather major surgery, so I probably won't be posting in my blog for a while. I'm so glad I got to see some of the butterflies hatch before I went in, and my husband promises he will keep an eye on the other chrysalides and release them once they have hatched.

I'll see you on the other side!

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

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The End of Summer and Even More Monarchs

Ooops - it's been a month since my last post! There really hasn't been a lot going on to share with you.  The Profusion Zinnias, which overflowed the island beds all summer are starting to go to seed and look a bit ragged, but the Gulf Fritillaries and other butterflies are still enjoying them.

Ditto the Cleome.  I collected lots of seeds from each of them, so I'll have plenty to share next spring :-)

The Salvia splendens took up the western half of the island bed and is still going strong.That's the first time I've had much success with salvia.  This variety has small red flowers that I have seen the occasional hummingbird taking a sip at.  I've never had luck with the blue/purple varieties though.

The Cosmos, which was just feathery foliage all summer is suddenly a mass of pink flowers.  I must never have paid attention to when it bloomed before.  I thought it was a summer bloomer, but it's here now and looks lovely.

But the most exciting thing going on in the garden at the moment is the number of Monarch caterpillars and chrysalides I have in the Big Cube  cage I purchased back at the beginning of the summer.

I've got a total of 16 in the cage - more than I had back in August! They have been eating me out of house and home but luckily I have some healthy stands of milkweed in the garden that I can take cuttings from.  I just have to make sure there aren't any cats already there when selecting cuttings!

I'm going to be going in to hospital for surgery on October 11th, so I hope I shall see some of them eclose before I go in.  Then my husband is going to take over the Monarch husbandry after that.

At least they should all have pupated by then, so he won't have to pick milkweed for them.  He'll just have to check daily for new butterflies and release them from the cage when they are ready.

I'm linking my post up with Camera Critters. Please take a few minutes to visit and see what other critters stories and photos people are sharing.
Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Hummingbird Preview at Kleb Woods

We experienced some brutally hot weather at the beginning of August, which of course is no surprise in Texas. However low pressure and rain showers made the latter half of the month quite pleasant, by comparison. The temperatures dropped from around the 100's (we had five days of 100+ temps) to the low- to mid-90's.

So Eric and I decided to douse ourselves with bug spray and head out to Kleb Woods Nature Reserve.

They will be having a Hummingbird Festival on September 10th, but we knew there would probably be plenty of hummers at their feeders already.

We weren't disappointed :-)  The Nature Center has a nice big shady wrap-around porch and feeders are hanging under the eaves about 10 feet apart, more or less at eye level for viewers on the porch.

It's very pleasant to sit or stand in the shade while the hummers zip around between the feeders and among the bushes in the garden.

As always, you can click on the images to see a larger view.   Given the diminutive stature of these little gems, that's probably the best way to see them :-)

I lost count of the total, but there were perhaps 10 or more. Most were Ruby-Throats, which is what we see in our back yard habitat.

We spent a very pleasant half-hour watching them cavorting about and at times there were three or four on a feeder. (We never get that at home, there's always that one who thinks the whole yard is his and sees off all the rest).

As we watched them, I suddenly realized that they weren't ALL Ruby-throats.  I kept seeing flashes of russet as one particularly aggressive little hummer dive-bombed his more sedate companions.  I should qualify that by saying I meant more sedate by comparison.  You couldn't really call any hummingbird *sedate*.

I tried and tried to get a photo of this little whirling dervish, hoping he would settle on a feeder.  But he was more interested in making sure the others kept their distance than actually taking a sip of nectar himself.

This was the best I could do. It's a Rufous hummingbird - the first I have ever seen. You can see his victim in the top right hand corner of this shot, LOL.

Finally, here's a short clip of video that I took -- only about a minute's worth.

We're certainly going to try and make it to the Hummingbird Festival as they are a lot of fun and very informative.

If you are in the area from 9 am to 3 pm, on Saturday September 10th, do try to stop by.  Here's a flyer with more information.

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

Monday, August 22, 2016

More Monarch Success

It's been an exciting weekend, and the new week has started with a bang too! Not only because we have more thunder outside today, but because those three chrysalides I mentioned in my last post all hatched overnight!

That's a total of 8 so far -- and I just noticed two more caterpillars getting ready to pupate!

It looks like we have one male and two females this time.

I "encouraged" them out of the cage on my hand so I could close it up and they all hung out for a spell, drying off their wings, while I went indoors for some coffee.

When I went out later two had already flown out to the garden and only one was left on the outside of the cage.

One neat thing about Monarchs at this stage -- you can get a lot closer to them than you can when they are in the wild.  They are still docile and slow moving. I was even able to let the last one crawl on my hand :-)

She was quite happy to sit there for a minute or two before taking off and heading into the garden for some nectar.

As today is the first day back to school for the children in our area, and since we don't have kids, these photos of butterflies heading off in to the wild blue yonder will have to suffice!!!

I'm linking this post up with Camera Critters today.  If you have a few minutes, visit some of the other blogs participating for some great critter photos.

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

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Monarch Butterfly Birthday

In my last post I told you about my Monarch nursery I have going on the back patio.

Well, the last two days have been most exciting!  I went out to check on the cage yesterday morning and what should I see?

TWO of the chrysalides had marched (eclosed) overnight!

I was thrilled to see they were both healthy-looking females.  There were no signs of OE (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha) infection, such as malformed wings, that I have seen in the past.

I opened the flap and, with a little help from me and a ride on my hand for one of them, they exited the cage and rested on the mesh for a while before heading off to the zinnia and milkweed in the island bed.

From what I saw yesterday, there were four more chrysalides and one more caterpillar on the milkweed.    At that time, it didn't appear that any of the chrysalides had turned color, but when I went out to look this morning, a beautiful male had hatched.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of him.  It was so humid this morning my camera lens kept steaming up!

I've been absolutely thrilled with this experience, and we still have three more to go (plus the caterpillar).

I'm going to keep searching the milkweed in the island bed for signs of eggs or caterpillars that can be moved to the cage.

But first, once these have all hatched I need to clean out the cage -- who knew caterpillars could POO so much?!
              Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Monarch Nursery

I know it's been a long time since I posted anything, but this time I do actually have an excuse! At the middle of July I went in to St. Luke's Hospital in the Texas Medical Center to have a pituitary tumor removed.  Then I spent a week in the hospital (even spent my 60th birthday in hospital, can you believe!!!) and since then have been recovering at home.

I literally spent three weeks in bed but have started to get up and about recently.  I was getting headaches at first but they seem to have resolved now, thank goodness! I'm just asking it easy and not overdoing things.

So while I was in hospital, the garden was more or less left to its own resources.  The weeds, of course, grew rampant.  The milkweed got covered in aphids and other crud.

During my recovery I've been spending time sitting out on the patio and one day I saw this young lady busy at work, laying eggs on the cruddy milkweed.

Then, it happened that an ad popped up on Facebook, for the Monarch Butterfly Kit to raise Monarchs. So I went ahead and ordered it.

I think they are really designed so you can raise Monarch indoors, but we don't really have anywhere that the cats wouldn't get to it, so I opted to put mine in the back corner of the patio.

I put a couple of bricks on the bottom, to stop it getting blown around by the wind. Then I went around collecting some milkweed cuttings that had caterpillars on, and placing them in the little picks filled with water to keep them fresh-(ish). I also took some other cuttings and cleaned them up, hosed off the aphids etc., and put them in there as well.

Within a day, one of the caterpillars had already departed it's milkweed and was climbing to the top of the cage! Then I saw two more heading that way as well!

This morning I was thrilled to see three chrysalises (chrysalides)!!

Today I plan to see if I can purchase some fresh milkweed from one of our local stores, Plants for All Seasons or The Arbor Gate, if they have any.  That way I can rescue some other caterpillars, and even some eggs, from the ratty milkweed in the island beds.

Wish me luck!

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

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Garden in June

 In an attempt to keep my promise to blog more often than once a month, here's my second post for June!! 

Back in the 80's, I used to love making macrame plant hangers. A few years ago, I made some for our patio when we first moved in, but I have hunted high and low and been unable to find them, so I made a few more. Happily I discovered Hobby Lobby have a decent selection of cords, metal rings and beads!

We have three Crepe Myrtles in the garden, but this is the best of them.  Last year a hummingbird could be seen daily perched in the branches, keeping an eye on the feeders.

I know I planted several of this Liatris, but this is the only one that came up (or possibly the others got "weeded" before I realized what they were. It's surrounded by Salvia Greggi and Pineapple Sage.

Here's the Turk's Cap I showed in my last post, happily settling in to its new home. I noticed some volunteer Turk's Cap seedlings under the Southern Wax Myrtle that will need to come out.

Another plant that I think suffered from my early spring "weeding" was Zinnia.  Last year the flower beds were overrun with zinnia, but my vigorous hoeing this spring meant that I ended up having to buy more!

Some of the daylilies are still hanging on and shrugging off the heat now summer is here.

Lots of little joys in this island bed this year.  First, the Hamelia Patens that I thought had died actually came back and is flowering.  Plus the Cosmos and Cleome that I started from seed are doing well (no photos).  Finally, the native milkweed I planted earlier in the year are coming along nicely.  No blooms yet, and they are still small, but I hope the Monarch butterflies will be able to enjoy them for a long time to come.

Here's a long shot of the island bed -- earlier in the week I planted some Dallas Red and Pot of Gold Lantana across the front side.  They will spread and fill in the bare patches as summer draws on and the butterflies will love them in July and August.

I'm so happy I managed to bring the Rose of Sharon (via cuttings) from my previous house.  I just love it's happy blooms, and the bees and hummingbirds love it too :-)

 This next photo is rather deceptive.  Unfortunately our Sam Houston peach tree just isn't living up to its name.  First of all, the tree never properly rooted -- if it weren't for be staked up, it would fall over.  All it's roots are in the top couple of inches and none have ventured down far enough to anchor it.  Too much clay down there I guess, even though we dug a pretty big hole when we planted it.

While this looks like a nice big healthy juicy peach, it's rather small and there's a bruise/hole on the other side.  Update:  I decided to go and check on it today and there was another one near it that wasn't too beaten up so I picked it and ate it.  It was the most delicious peach I have ever eaten!  Sweet, juicy, warm from the sun.  We have to try and save this tree!

That's it for today's post - I hope my dad enjoys it after his comment on my last post!

Today I'm linking up with  the following memes:

Friday Flower Photos hosted by Nick V.
Flower Friday hosted by Aquariann
Today's Flowers hosted by Denise at An English Girl Rambles

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

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Turk's Cap Gets a New Home

Oops - here I am posting once a month again! I really do need to step it up a bit!

Last Friday I decided to see if I could do some rearranging that I had been wanting to do for quite some time.   My Turk's Cap , Malvaviscus drummondii , was in a container underneath the wax myrtle and had managed to root itself through the drainage holes.  The pot was leaning and the Turk's Cap really needed to be relocated.

As it happens, I have a small raised bed right next to it with only the native honeysuckle and a recently planted mandevilla, which hadn't had a chance to get going yet.  

So the first thing to do was to snip through the Turk's Cap's roots and detach it from it's current located (ever hoping that it doesn't mind the disruption)

As you can see, it's a pretty decent sized plant.  It was definitely time to move on from it's little container.

The next task was to dig a hole for it in the raised bed.  This proved more difficult that I expected.

On a hot and humid day I was trying to dig through a mass of roots which almost proved too much for me.  I ended up getting in there with snippers and cutting roots to enable me to dig a hole big enough for planting.

The roots appeared to be coming from all directions, so I think there was a combination of honeysuckle, Wax Myrtle and even Turk's Cap roots in there.

Anyway, after several breaks of sitting in the shade of the pine tree, and drinking at least a gallon of ice tea, I finally got the Turk's Cap replanted.

I'm really happy with how it fills the raised bed, and it hides the bare lower stems of the native honeysuckle (as well as the "volunteer" millet that the birds planted behind the trellis).

To learn more about Turk's Cap, visit:

The Mandevilla got a new home too.  I planted it in the container that the Turk's Cap came out of (after it was well cleaned, of course) and set it by the trellis on the western fence.

To learn more about Mandeville, visit:

Finally, to let me know she approved of my rearranging the garden, this little hummingbird stopped by.  (she was actually browsing the native honeysuckle while I was taking a break in the shade, but I didn't get a picture until later, when she visited one of the feeders.

I think my gardening for the rest of the summer will be confined to gently pulling weeds, in the early mornings or in the evenings.

No more digging in the heat of the day for me!

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