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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Retro Sunday on the Patio

Back in the seventies, when I was still living in England, I really got into Macramé.  (You say it MAC-ruh-MAY, I say it Mc-RAH-me)  I made plant hangers, hanging tables, owls, wall hangings, tote bags and even a head board for the bed.

My parents loved them too and many years ago I made them some hangers for their garden room.  Just last week I went back to England for a short visit with my parents and I took some new hangers I had made for them as the old ones had deteriorated overtime.

So this weekend, as it was lovely weather and I was pottering in the garden, I decided it was time to resurrect the plant hangers I made a couple of years ago.

I love the way they look against the brick columns on our patio.  I do have to remember to take them down if it gets very windy though, as the plants can get damaged by crashing against the wall.

I got the plants in Lowe's -- the type of hanging basket that has plastic hangers and hooks attached.  I just snipped off the plastic hangers and put them in the macramé hangers.

There's another hanger to put up, but no basket to put in it yet.  Can't decide what I want :-)

Since we had cleared out and mulched the island beds, they are looking a lot better than they were, as I showed you in my last post.  But they don't have a lot of color yet.  So yesterday I bought a flat of Profusion Zinnias in apricot and yellow to add some splashes of color.  I also got some Dallas Red Lantana as I saw some photos of our garden 5 years ago where the back border was a mass of red blooms and it was lovely.

The mystery plant that appeared in the island bed and it was suggested that it might be a Pineapple Sage, hasn't bloomed at all.  It quickly grew to three feet tall and was thick and bushy, but then the leaves started yellowing and dying off from the bottom of the plant up.  I'm thinking about cutting it down.

However, there's another volunteer Pineapple Sage on the back side of the same bed, and that one is blooming.  I saw a flash of green on this yesterday, but wasn't quick enough to grab the camera and get a photo of the visiting hummingbird.

Time to get the feeders out!

I have a couple more ideas for blog posts, inspired by my trip to England to visit my parents which I will share with you soon.

Until then, have a great Sunday!

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

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Spring Day in the Garden

It's days like this that make me thankful that I live in Texas. While many areas are getting heavy rain/sleet/snowfall, we are experiencing the most glorious spring day.  The temperatures are a little chilly (for here, at least) but the sun is shining and I was compelled to head out into the garden and snap some photos.

In the side garden we have beans coming up and getting ready to start climbing the tower.  In the corners of the bed I planted Fennel, for any swallowtail butterflies that might want to lay eggs :-)

The cucumber and tomato plants are coming along nicely too, while the garlic chives, that have been in that spot for years, are definitely outgrowing their boundary.

I love the view looking across the back of the garden from east to west. I sort of wish this was the view we got from the house/patio, but perhaps it's just the fact that I don't see it on a daily basis that makes it special.

Here's a view from the front of the island beds.

In the back border, under the Southern Wax Myrtle, the white veined pipevine, is growing nicely and I hope ready to host some Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars this year. 

That's all from me today -- I'm getting ready to fly to London this evening to visit my parents for a week.  I hope you all have a good week.

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

Thursday, March 29, 2018

If You Plant It, They Will Come....

In my last blog post, I mentioned that I had been doing some planting in the garden. When I got home from work today, I took a stroll around the garden so see how things were doing and if anything sustained any damage from the strong storms we had yesterday and last night.

Luckily, there was no damage.  Also, I was thrilled to note that there were several bees enjoying the perennial Salvia.  It didn't take them long to find it :-)

I thought I'd share some photos that I took - they make me so happy :-)

As always, if you click on any of the photos, it will enlarge and you will be able to see the bees more clearly.

Did you know that June 18-24, 2018 has been designated National Pollinator Week? Several states have also proclaimed a State Pollinator Week (Texas hasn't -- yet).

The Pollinator Partnership website has information about pollination for farmers and gardeners, as well as fun stuff - how to build a bee condo, how kids can help pollinators and more.

There's also information about how to contact your governor to ask them to proclaim a State Pollinator Week, including contact information for the various state governors' offices and a sample letter or phone script to get you started.

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

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Spring Garden 2018

Wow!  It's been six months since I posted on this blog!  The garden has languished in neglect for much of the past couple of years.  If you've read my blog before you will know I had several surgeries in 2016, that resulted in me being out of action all that summer, and the weeds and Bermuda grass taking over the island beds.  Not pretty, is it?

Achillea, which has naturalized under the Vitex tree, is now invading the island bed,
 along with Bermuda grass

I started out last year with good intentions of getting it under control and having a glorious garden, but you know what they say about the best laid plans....

I won't bore you with all the details but suffice to say that the weeds won the battle again last year.

So I'm trying again this year!

Eric has been helping by pulling out some of the Bermuda, and in recent weeks he's also been buying mulch and dumping it copiously on the island beds.

I had been getting depressed recently because the weather would be lovely all week while I was at work, but lousy weather on the weekend meant I still couldn't get out and do anything.

But finally, the weather was pleasant this weekend and I ran to the garden center and picked up some perennial salvia.  I've planted this before, but not had luck with it, so I'm hoping it does better this time and is actually perennial.

The yellow flowers are Euryops pectinatus -- Shrub Daisy which is said to do well in this area and is drought tolerant.  Just a little dead heading should keep it blooming all summer.  I love yellow and purple together :-)

In the back border, under the Vitex, Homestead Verbena (more purple) and Achillea are naturalizing beautifully.  As feathery and delicate as the Achillea is, the snow and ice we had this winter didn't faze it.  However, I don't want it taking over the island bed, as it is trying to do (see first picture), so I'm digging/pulling it out as I can.

It's a bit late, but I'm also starting some Profusion zinnia seedlings in seed starter mix on the patio.  I had originally planned to scatter the seeds and let the grow where they landed, but since we're mulching the island beds as part of our battle against weeds and bermuda, I had to come up with a Plan B.

Another plant that came through the winter unscathed to bloom again is the Dianthus.  I have several and they are all doing nicely.  Now see that green plant in the foreground of the photo?  I don't know what that is.

It's growing where I had Cosmos last year, and there are some small cosmos seedlings around it.  So I know it's not Cosmos, but I can't think what it could be.  The very fact that it is so lush and green makes me suspect it's a weed that will need to be dug out.  But if anyone can help me ID it I would appreciate it.  A closer photo, with my hand for size comparison, is below.

Name That Plant

One of my favorite flowers from when I was younger is the Fuchsia.  My dad always has luscious hanging baskets with them in the summer in England.  I was thrilled when I saw they had them in Walmart, of all places, so I grabbed one to hang on the patio.

I know it will only last through the spring, and won't be able to handle our summer, but I'm going to enjoy it while I can.

The blooms always remind me of dancing ballerinas.

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

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The October Garden and Monarch Foster Success

I'm afraid I haven't blogged in a while.  The garden just looked too sad throughout the dog days of August, especially after Hurricane Harvey blew through.  The island beds and the back border were taken over by Bermuda grass and other weeds that I just couldn't keep up with.

That's not to say that the weeds are now under control - they aren't, by any means.  But it always seems that the garden gets its second wind in October.

The Lantana, which seemed to languish all summer, is blooming profusely again.  I have several, in containers as well as in the island beds.  Lantana is always a favorite with the butterflies, which makes it a favorite of mine too!

I have three Rose of Sharon bushes, all sprouted from cuttings I brought over from my last house 9 years ago.  The one below, which gets afternoon shade from the fence on the west side of our property, seems to do best.  The one on the other side of the garden, which struggles with full sun all day, as well as turf grass all round, is barely hanging on.  I may transplant it somewhere else this fall.

Last year, this Pink Muhly grass was little more than a big ant hill.  I have at least, managed to banish the ants, if not the Bermuda grass that seems to invade everywhere.  I was so happy I happened to look out in to the garden at just the right time to see the plumes turn vibrant pink in the morning sun.

 If you recall earlier this year, I raised and released some Monarch butterflies. I had hoped to raise a lot more but things didn't go as planned and I only released a few more and had a few sad losses which almost made me give up.  Then one of my friends told me she was going out of town and asked if I would mind keeping an eye on the chrysalides she had been raising, and releasing the butterflies when they were ready.

Would I ever!!

So Barbara brought over two hampers with a total of about 60 chrysalides and since then I have released six or more of them each day!

Luckily the hampers are easy to carry out and set on the patio table, and then I just let each on crawl on my fingers and make a note of whether it's male or female, before letting it fly off into the garden.  I'm at 51 and counting as of today!

I'll finish my post with a volunteer that showed up in the garden.  It's in more or less the same place that the wild bergamot grew and bloomed earlier this year.

I did a bit of sleuthing and have identified it as Mikania scandens, also known as Climbing Hempweed, Climbing Hempvine and Climbing Boneset.

It's very definitely a weed, having taken over a corner of the island bed and twined itself around the wind chimes.

I would have yanked it out of the ground at first sight except that the blooms reminded me of clover blooms.  Knowing how much honey bees enjoy clover, I wondered if this attract them as well, so I let it grow and bloom.

Sure enough - on close examination today I found several bees enjoying the flowers, like the one in the photo above.  So I guess it can stay for a while :-)

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

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.