Monday, April 16, 2007

Of Wrens and Butterfly Plants

They're moving in! The Carolina Wrens have decided that the birdhouse in my back garden is worthy of consideration. You can see one of them sticking its head out the entrance below. They were stuffing grass, twigs and anything else that wasn't nailed down into the house today. I'm so pleased!

Meanwhile, I've been busy planting the front bed with hummingbird and butterfly plants. This weekend we planted more red columbine (Aquilegia canadense), winecup (Callirhoe involucrata), red bee balm (Monarda didyma) and bat face plant (cuphea). I need to move some of the previous owner's plants out of the 'triangular' bed -- in the foreground below -- but the new red yucca and variegated lantana seem to look okay, even in the jumble. I still have my eye on an orchid tree for this front garden, but cannot bring myself to cut down the crepe myrtle yet.

I'm excited about planting the columbine since it's always been one of my favorite flowers.

The neighborhood is starting to pop with color. I saw this red rose draping down over the fence next to the sidewalk and had to take the photo.

Speaking of color: On our way to The Oasis last weekend we discovered the largest bank of bluebonnets we've seen so far. It's on Oasis Bluff Drive, West of 620 if any of you want to take a look. It really is a dazzling spectacle. Wish my photos did it justice.

Of course I had to stop and take the ubiquitous photos of my kid sitting in the middle of the bluebonnets. We used a 'sitting spot' that someone else had already made. While we were shooting photos other cars stopped. One couple even took photos of their reluctant Chihuahua in the midst of the blooms. I wish I had gotten a photo of that.

I saw this white wildflower along the drive as well. It looks a bit like either a Woolly Daisy or Blackfoot Daisy, but I'm not sure.

On Saturday we decided to visit The Natural Gardener Nursery again. Of course, we had to visit the animals first. My cats would love this screened-in cat porch.

Then we had some fun in their Butterfly Garden.

Their poppies looked fantastic!

I'm going to have to put some poppies in my garden now.

This almost looked like a variegated violet. The black caterpillars loved it.

And below is another lovely mystery plant that was not marked.

We noticed a white stone with a hole in the center hanging from a string in a tree. I'm guessing it's to scare away birds. Any other ideas?

After buying some new plants and picking up another free booklet -- this time the NWF's "Gardener's Guide to Global Warming" -- we took the hint from the donkeys that our time there was at an end.


Anonymous said...

That's a lovely bluebonnet field. Natural Gardener's mystery plant is Gulf Coast penstemon, and the white wildflower looks like blackfoot daisy.

Congrats on the new wren neighbors. They're delightful and active little birds to have around.

Susan said...

Dawn —

Your plantings are looking good. I'm betting you attract a lot of hummingbirds and butterflies with those selections.

I think I can help you with a couple of plant identifications. The white daisy-like flower is almost certainly blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) which does grow wild around here and which is also commonly sold in nurseries. It's a plant that I, for whatever reason, have never had much luck with in my garden. It lives for a while but never thrives.

The pinkish, purplish flowered plant is Gulf Coast penstemon (Penstemon tenius), aka Brazos penstemon. I know Pam at Digging has had pictures of it from her garden and there is a picture of mine on my Bloom Day post. It does quite well in my garden, seeding out in places that get part sun and have fairly rich soil. It kind of disappears in the heat of summer but reliably returns each spring.

Dawn said...


Thanks to you and Susan for the info on the plants. I imagined you ladies would know the names.

The wrens are still busy today. The man at Wild Birds Unlimited told me that it will take only 12 days for the wren eggs to hatch and another 12 for the babies to leave the nest. That sounded very fast indeed.


Thanks to you too for the plant names. Apparently there area a lot more wildflowers here than in Central Florida. Thank goodness for Lady Bird Johnson. :-)

I wonder if something like the Gulf Coast penstemon would work in my back yard under my familyroom windows. They would face west and get full-sun to partial shade depending on time of day.

I'm already getting a lot of hummingbird action here. I put up a second feeder today and they started drinking from it before I walked 3 feet away. I've seen two different kinds of hummers at my feeders so far. Wish I had more time to sit and watch them. I'm tempted to set up a cam someday just to see who visits the feeders.

Thanks Again!

Susan said...

Dawn —

I'm thinking the GC penstemon would be better someplace where it doesn't get late afternoon sun. In my yard it can take some sun but seems to thrive on something more like morning sun/afternoon shade. And it doesn't bloom for too long, maybe 3 or 4 weeks in April/May. And it's not that attractive the rest of the year (not horrible but it doesn't add a lot). I think there are a lot more choices for a afternoon sun kind of situation.

Annie in Austin said...

I'm glad you got ID's from Pam & Susan. The daisy looked like Blackfoot to me, but they've never lasted long for me at either house.
We were hoping for wrens again, Dawn, but I don't see action yet. The last time we had a nest the birds were totally nonchalant about my husband being next to them, and even let me take a photo.


Dawn said...

Hi Ladies!

Sorry it's taken me so long to respond. My computer had a nervous breakdown last night. Whew!


Thanks for the info about GC penstemon. Sounds like it might perform better on the east side of the house surrounded by annuals so it can hide after the blooms fade.


I hope your wrens come back and raise chicks in your birdhouse. They have such a lovely song. And, as you say, they seem fearless.

See you all on Sunday!


Annie in Austin said...

Just a thought, Dawn. Maybe that stone on a rope is a weather rock... a kind of garden joke?
"if the rock's wet it's rainin' and if it's blowin' it's windy"


Dawn said...

Hi Annie!

How clever you are! You could definitely be right about the weather rock. I'll try to remember to ask someone who works there next time we visit.

BTW, it was such a joy to meet you and the other Austin Garden Bloggers last weekend. What lovely gardens you all have! Once my house guests have gone I look forward to catching up on everyone's post-meeting blogs.


Wangmo said...


I stumbled on your blog while I was looking to see if Gulf Coast Penstemon was reliably hardy here in Round Rock. It is. I have it coming up everywhere and last fall I took in the seeds, started them in the greenhouse this past winter and now I have three flats of plants I want to plant in the ground. As soon as they get a little bigger I will. They look beautiful planted in with the Lyre Leaf Sage. I see you have the native Aristolochia, but I forget the name of it. I mostly have native plants.

I bought an orchid tree at Barton Springs Nursery on Bee Caves Rd. in a gallon container. It's a tiny little thing, but I love it.

I also bought some bog sage which does spread, but isn't hard to manage. It has the most true blue flower I've seen other than the Heavenly Blue morning glory.

I have wrens making a nest in the greenhouse. This year I decided to try that tomato tree and they decided to take up in that thing. Sadly I removed that nest because I did't want to harm the babies when I watered the plant.

Oh, one last thing, buy yourself a window hanger for your hummingbirds and put it outside on a kitchen window, or on the window you see the most often. My feeder is virtually always full of trilling hummers and I can get a few feet away to watch them.


Karyl said...

You have me so curious about the stone in the tree. I'll be on a mission to figure it out. I'm not sure it is a weather rock but may be!