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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Up the Monarch Nursery Trail

In my last post (a month ago!!!) I predicted I'd be seeing more Monarch butterflies, along with caterpillars and chrysalides, as we progressed in to August.  Well I'm happy to report that my predictions were correct.

During the week I clipped some leaves that had eggs on and brought them inside. (If you click on the images, you can see a larger version to see the eggs)  This method was suggested by members of a Facebook group, but I found that the leaves shriveled very quickly and went crisp before the eggs had hatched.

Once the eggs were hatched I added fresh leaves each day, but it's a lot of work keeping the container clean and I was terrified I was going to throw out a hatchling with the frass (caterpillar poop) and crispy leaves. In addition, the tiny hatchlings seem bound and determined to escape.  They were all over the place!

Now those caterpillars have grown a bit, I have transferred them to milkweed clippings in water picks, like the ones in the photo below. I think this is my preferred method.  If I can find stems with eggs and small caterpillars on them, I can cut out the first step above.

Giving them fresh milkweed is just a case of taking new cuttings and placing them in picks right next to the ones already there.  The caterpillars move over to the fresh leaves pretty quickly and then I can just remove the old ones.

The photo above was taken through the back door, with a bird screen on it, so it's not a great shot.  But do you see anything strange about this photo?

See that little flash of orange in the center of the photo?

There it is again - top left.  A Queen butterfly!  She was flitting around the milkweed as I was collecting clippings and when I went in to get my camera to try and get a photo of her, I couldn't believe when she started laying eggs on the stems I had left on the table!

See her little gift in the middle of the leaf?  

If you look at the enlarged version of this pic, you can see there's a tiny caterpillar on here too.  Not sure if it's a Monarch or a Queen.

So here I go on the Monarch Nursery trail again.

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

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Butterflies and Bees

One of my favorite pastimes is watching the bees and butterflies enjoying the bounty of our island beds.  This year seems to be shaping up to be a good year for them.

This lovely pink flower is much beloved by the pollinators of all types that visit our garden.  But I have no idea what it is!! 

In fact, at it's base, I have a sign which states "I don't remember planting this"!  The very fact that it has taken hold and is thriving so well leads me to believe that it is, in fact, a weed.

If anyone knows what it is, I would really appreciate if you could let me know in the comments.   here's another photo, showing the forming seed heads.

The bumblebees also love the Salvia Greggi., there are usually at least five of them bumbling from bloom to bloom at any given time.  They make me smile.

Another visitor this week has been this Black Swallowtail on the Dallas Red Lantana (at least I think think it's a Black Swallowtail).  I haven't had much luck getting a good photo of it's wings to ID it with.  I tried again earlier today with no luck at all!

I have better luck taking photos of Gulf Fritillaries.  They seem to like landing on blooms to eat, rather than fluttering around like the Swallowtails do.  Makes the photos much easier.  Here's one on the Violet Queen zinnia. 

Here's another one enjoying the Profusion zinnia.  You can also see the sign I mentioned earlier in the post.

I'm also seeing Monarch butterflies in the garden. This looks like a female, so it's not one of the ones I released a couple of days ago from my Monarch Nursery, which were both male.  

Speaking of the Monarch Nursery, I still have 4 chrysalides in the enclosure in the bathroom.  Here's a photo of some of the caterpillars before they changed.

And here's one who has left the milkweed and climbed to the top of the enclosure to make his chrysalis.  

I'll probably get a lot more caterpillars and chrysalides later in the year, as the Monarchs prepare for their migration.  Last year I had a total of 30.  I'll see if I can match that this year :-)  Wish me luck!

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

Thursday, July 6, 2017

It's a Boy!

When I got home from work this evening, I went to check on my caterpillars, (now all chrysalides) and was thrilled by orange flapping in the corner of the mesh enclosure.

The first Monarch butterfly had hatched and was eager to be released!!

I carefully wrapped my hands around it and carried it outside to the patio, with my husband opening doors along the way.

Once on the patio I opened my hands ago let it go.  The butterfly sat there for a moment, opening its wings slowly to show me that it was a beautiful boy, and then he flew up, up, up and away. Gone without a second glance!

I do wish I had got a photo of him sitting in my hand, but he didn't hang around long enough!

I've got five more chrysalides in the enclosure, so perhaps I'll have better luck getting a photo of one of them in my hand.

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

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy 4th of July!!

As a departure from my usual garden blogging, today I'm celebrating the Independence of my adopted country, the United States, with these images and quotes.  I hope you enjoy them.  Wishing you all a safe and happy Fourth of July.

Where liberty dwells, there is my country ~~ Benjamin Franklin

America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination ~~ Harry S. Truman

With freedom comes responsibility. ~~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Freedom is never granted. It is earned by each generation. ~~ Hillary Clinton

Images from Pixabay/Pinterest.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Pretty in Pink

The the past few years it has seemed like the flowers in the garden have been predominantly orange, with some complementary purple thrown in.

This year, the theme is pink, pink and more pink.

For some reason known only to the flowers themselves, it was only the pink blooms from last year that self-seeded.

This pink Cosmos is at least four foot tall and it's really put on a nice show.  The only problem has been that it's in front of the shorter Salvia Greggi and Pineapple Sage and blocking them  (and any hummingbirds that may be enjoying from view!

These pink Cleomes are about 4 feet tall as well.  They are more or less past their best now (this photo was taken a week or so ago).  I'm collecting seeds so I can start some seedlings and put them where I want them next year.  

I think this giant Violet Queen zinnia is more of a fuchsia pink than violet, but I love it anyway.  I had thrown several seeds directly into the island bed, but this was the only one that came up.  I've got more seeds, but probably too late to try and get them started now.  My bad.

In other news, I had been lamenting the total lack of Monarch butterflies in the garden so far this year, but in the past week or so there has been at least one female, laying eggs and enjoying some nectar.

I've only found two first instar caterpillars so far (click on the photo below to see the larger version and you may see one), but I'm sure there are more eggs around, ready to hatch.

I've set up the mesh  cage on the patio again and have ordered some more water picks to help me keep my milkweed clippings fresh.  I'm ready for the Monarch Nursery to get underway!

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

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Fruits of Our Labors

I have to admit, I don't eat as many vegetables as I should. I used to be one of those "ewww, it's green, I don't like it" people.  There are many vegetables I just don't care for, so our vegetable garden is small and simple.  We've had disappointments in the past, but we still keep trying.

This year I would say the results are mixed.  The green bean I selected very quickly grew up the bean tower and started flowering, but that was as far as we got.  Not a single bean and now it's looking heat-stressed already and summer hasn't really got going yet.  

Perhaps I selected the wrong variety - the one I chose was "Tenderstar" a runner type, which reminded me of the runner beans we used to have in England. Perhaps that variety doesn't do well in our climate.  Next year, I'll get them started earlier, and maybe plant a couple of different varieties.

We are, however, having better success with the Roma tomato I selected.  It's doing very nicely and we've harvested several delicious fruits already.

I had thought that the Sir Crunch-a-Lot cucumber was a flop.  It had lots of flowers but we didn't see any fruit forming for ages.  

Then earlier in the week, I noticed two huge cucumbers hanging from the frame.  Yay!  Success!

So this afternoon I went out in the rain and picked a cucumber and some tomatoes... 

... and sliced and diced them and tossed them with a light balsamic vinaigrette to go with our dinner tonight.

Can't wait to taste it :-)

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

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Weekend in the Garden

For the past few years, the island beds have been filled with bright orange "Profusion" zinnias.  The bees and butterflies loved them and they had self-seeded in years past to the point of overflowing. I was rather surprised this year when I realized that although the cosmos and cleome had self seeded, the zinnias had not.

While I love the cleome and cosmos, I wanted some more nectar sources for butterflies. I've seen very few butterflies so far this year and worried that the reason might be the lack of their favorite flowers. Or perhaps not, but I decided that planting some zinnias to add diversity to the island beds couldn't hurt.

So on Saturday I headed out to my favorite garden center, Plants for All Seasons, and checked out their selection.  I came home with a flat of yellow, orange and cherry red Profusion zinnias, along with three Torinias and six Ageratum Blue Mist. It was blisteringly hot by the time I got home, so I set the plants on the patio in the shade and retreated indoors for the rest of the afternoon.

I got up early on Sunday to do the planting.  It was overcast and threatening to rain, which kept the temperature down a degree or two, but the humidity was at 90+ percent.  Sweat was rolling off me, but it felt good to have my hands in the dirt, pulling out the bermuda and nutsedge that is ever present in the beds, and planting the new additions.

My back was feeling much better since my fall on the tile floor a couple of weeks ago.  The gentle bending exercise seemed to do me good.  I tried not to over do things and paced myself - weeding or planting for 10 minutes or so and then sitting on the patio with a tall glass of ice tea to recuperate, and then back out to weed some more, or plant something else.

Last night we had an impressive Texas thunder storm and amazing light show, with approximately an inch and a half of rain. I hope the new plants show their appreciation by spreading and blooming profusely!

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

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Late May Daylilies

I had all sorts of plans to do some work in the garden this weekend, but unfortunately, my back is still complaining loudly after I slipped and fell on the tile floor a week ago.  So my weekend o' weeding turned more in to a weekend of wishing.  Wishing that I could get out there and pull weeds and wishing that I could plant some more zinnias as very few of them reseeded themselves this year.

I did get out with my camera and take some photos of the nameless daylilies that are blooming now.

I've got a couple of this lovely deep red one with yellow throats.

This little yellow one I'm pretty sure is a Stella d'Oro - it's quite small compared to the others, only about 8 inches tall and hasn't spread as as wide as the others (which need digging up and dividing)

This lovely peach colored one is the biggest, having a spread of about three feet.  It badly needs to be divided if I can ever get up the energy to do that much digging!

Here's another deep red one with a yellow throat, but the petals are a different shape to the one above, so it's not the same variety.

At one time, long ago, I had the names noted down as to what was growing where, but unfortunately over the years, that information has gone missing.  So these will always be nameless for me.

I still like them, whether or not they have a name :-)

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

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Nothing Lasts Forever

When we first moved into this house, in the summer of 2008, one of the things that attracted us to it, in addition to the small forest of trees surrounding the lot (now sadly gone) was the lush hedgerow all along the road that runs behind our back wall.

Myriad birds make their home in the hedgerow - sparrows, chickadees, red cardinals, blue jays and more. And because I knew it wouldn't last forever, that was a big incentive for me to try and create a wildlife habitat garden.

It hasn't been easy.  Underground utilities meant I couldn't create as wide a border as I wanted to.  Plus, there were so many roots from the (now dead and gone) pine trees, that it was virtually impossible to plant anything in certain areas.

But I did what I could and although there are some gaps (see below) that will probably always seem like eyesores to me, our back border, along with the hedgerow behind the wall created a nice back drop for the island beds and lawn.

The hedgerow features in just about every photo I have of the garden.

It's been a backdrop for the many photos I take of the birds who come for the birdseed buffet I put out on the wall (most of whom only have to fly across the road to feast).

So when this sign appeared in the gateway to the field, I felt heartsick.  I knew the time was coming when I would lose my beloved hedgerow and probably most of the beautiful birds who live in it.

The sign first showed up about three years ago and since then there have been all sorts of rumors about what was going in there.

Until recently, it was going to be a community of acreage homesites, but just recently, the developer applied for, and got permission to change the zoning to allow him to build some 200+ homes on much smaller "low maintenance" lots.

Several people from our neighborhood went along to the planning meeting and voiced concerns about additional traffic etc. but it seemed the City Council had already made up their minds.

I'm sure no one else really cares about the hedgerow and its inhabitants, but I just feel desperately sad at the thought of losing them.

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

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - Easter Edition

I hope everyone is enjoying this lovely Easter weekend.  It also happens to be the 15th of the month, so I'm linking my post up with Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

I'm enjoying a long weekend, so I've been spending quite a bit of time puttering around in the garden. And of course I had the camera with me.

I think this first photo is my favorite.  It includes the Cleome that re-seeded in the island bed, along with the pineapple sage and I think some Salvia Greggi is visible in this one too.  I also see a Cosmos in there.  If you look closely, you can also see some garden porn -- a pair of love bugs, ubiquitous at this time of year, managed to photo bomb the photo.  Can you see them? (Click to see a larger version)

The penstemons have settled in very well. I'd like to get some more colors of this - perhaps a white, if it comes in white, to round out my collection.

OK - I have two mysteries in this photo.  First, I always seem to have a hard time identifying butterflies.  I'd appreciate it anyone could let me know which this is.

Also, I'm not sure if the plant he's visiting is Salvia sylvestris May Night, or if it's Angelonia. 

I know I had several purple Angelonias growing last year, as a complement to all the orange Profusion Zinnias I had everywhere.  But I did also plant some May Night Salvia for the same reason, but it didn't do very well (I actually planted it first, but ended up supplementing with the Angelonias as the May Knight didn't do well).  However, this lovely plant came up  in two places this spring and I'm really not sure which it is.  

That's it for my Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post.  Now I'm off to see what's growing in other people's gardens.  You can visit them too, by clicking on the link.

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

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Spring is Springing

I do love the sound of birds singing out in the garden. One bird that has a particularly loud and beautiful song, especially for a bird of its size, is the Carolina Wren.

I woke up to hear the beautiful notes of his song and as I looked out the window I saw him approach the patio with a mouth full of nesting materials.  I later managed to catch this photo of him in the pine tree (and check out that pollen!!)

I was getting excited because it appeared that a pair of wrens were going to nest on the patio, this time in  decorative watering can, next to an assortment of bird houses on a bakers rack in the corner.

Unfortunately, last weekend, I thought I'd offer them some more nesting material by hanging a suet feeder filled with horse hair on the rack and as I did so, I accidentally bumped the rack and a bird flew out of the watering can.  To my knowledge they never returned :-(

I took a peek today after ensuring it wasn't occupied.  There's a perfectly complete nest in there.  All it needs is a bird family.

I do know though, that the male wren will build a selection of nests and then the female will choose which one to lay her eggs in.  I guess when I bumped the shelf she decided to pick a nest in a less trafficked spot.

Oh well, maybe next year....

I've been reading good news about the Monarch butterflies leaving their wintering grounds in Mexico and heading north so I wanted to be prepared for them.

A lot of our milkweed was damaged in the winter freezes and some of it never returned, so I got proactive and headed to Plants for all Seasons, where they had just received a shipment in.

I'm also going to get some more which will be kept in containers to go in the new Monarch nursery I just purchased.  The new on is taller than the one I had last year (which I will use also).  The taller height will allow me to keep container plants in it, instead of having to snip cuttings every day and keep them in water picks, transferring the caterpillars to the fresh cuttings as necessary.

When we first moved in here I planted a Vitex tree and since then we haven't really touched it.  It was a total mess with lots of suckers and criss-crossing branches.  Today we had our arborist out to take care of it.  He did a good job and carted off all the trimmings.  However the tree was such a mess, I still think it needs tidying up some more. (No pics today)

While he was here, he also gave one of the Live Oak trees in the front yard a much needed trim. Now my husband Eric doesn't have to do the limbo every time he wants to mow the grass underneath it.

The cosmos I planted last year has reseeded prolifically and is putting on a beautiful display.

We had been wondering what to do with the peach tree.  It had never really put its roots down into the soil and we could move it back and forth quite easily.  It suffered from the freezes over the winter too and when my husband asked the arborist about it, he literally lifted it out of the ground with no resistance at all.  Question answered!

I seized the opportunity, since there was room in the island bed now, to relocate the Angel Trumpets, that was in a half barrel and was getting root bound.  It too had frozen back in the winter, but I was happy to see some new growth, so I'm hopefully it will do well where the peach tree failed.

Around the corner in the veggie garden, the runner type beans I put in beneath a new bean tower have all sprouted (well a couple didn't but most did)  I'm looking forward to seeing these grow up the bean tower, which reaches above my head.

Also in the veggie garden, the "Sir Crunch-a-lot" cucumbers have sprouted.  I hope these do well this year, we've had mixed luck with cucumbers in the past including one year when we had precisely zero -- all the flowers dropped off.  I'll let these establish a little and then probably thin them out

It was so lovely being able to work in the garden when I got home from work today. First of all, the weather was perfect, something we don't often get here, and second - now I'm working locally I no longer have the grueling two-hour commute I used to have.

Life is good!

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