Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Crazy Birthday & End of School Week

It's been a busy week with two birthdays at our house and school coming to an end. A dear friend was kind enough to send this pretty bromeliad arrangement to me for my birthday last week.

Last week I visited a friend's garden. She is concerned that her zinnias are dying. As you can see, they look pretty bad...

I examined the undersides of the leaves carefully, but could not catch anything in the act of munching on her flowers. I did notice some white spots on the surface of the leaves. I wonder if the zinnias have more than one enemy in this case. If any of you have an idea what she can do, please let me know and I'll pass along your words of wisdom.

I continue to be tempted by shade plants lately. This Ligularia was definitely calling to me on my return visit to the nursery.

I wish I had more time to blog this week. Once school is out I hope to be back in the cyber swing of things.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

I received some extra special Mother's Day gifts today. Not the least of which was a SpongeBob Squarepants Mother's Day card from my son along with some fun movies.

My garden even bestowed some special surprises by giving me my very first water lily bloom in my new container garden.

I'm very glad now that I bought this variegated waterlily, Texas Dawn at Hill Country Water Gardens.

There was some butterfly activity as a Gulf or Mexican Fritillary laid her eggs on my newly blooming passion flower.

And to top it off I found a lucky ladybug, coccinellidae, looking for aphids.

I spent Mother's Day weekend visiting some of my favorite haunts and exploring new places as well.

Our first stop was The Shady Grove for a relaxing lunch under the pecan trees. The topiary bear -- complete with sunglasses -- always makes me smile...

...as does the "Hippy Trailer" where you can rest while waiting for your table. This is Austin fun at its best.

After lunch we drove up Bee Caves until we saw a garden store we hadn't been to before. It's called Breed and Co. That urn looks familiar.

There was so much to see. Of course, I couldn't leave without buying 3 lipstick salvia first.

I wanted to drop by Barton Springs Nursery ever since reading about it in Pam from Digging's blog. It really is a great place. I enjoyed the water plants.

And my son preferred the aviary with parakeets, baby ducks and chicks.

We both liked the fountain!

I had my eye on this Rocket Ligularia, but wasn't sure where I'd put it yet. I have a feeling I'll be back.

At the end of the day we decided to drop by Amy's Ice Cream at the Arboretum. The ice cream is terrific as is the park next door.

My son likes to follow the stream all the way down the hill.

I followed him with my camera firmly in hand.

I knew where I'd find him!

These Arboretum Cows were carved from marble by Harold Clayton. The little grove holds five 'boulderous' bovines which my son loves to climb on.

And that's no bull.

Happy Mother's Day to all those who nurture and love.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

A Fledgling Gardener's View

Look who sat on my solar fountain. A fledgling cardinal hopped and half-flew around my back garden for quite a while yesterday. I was afraid I'd scare her if I opened the door, so this is a through-a-glass-darkly sort of shot.

She stood on the fountain for almost 5 minutes, drank some water and even tried to peck at the metal dragonfly (photo below) before she flew into the nearby oak tree.

One way I learn what will grow here is by observing what my neighbors' have planted. Some beautiful blooms can be seen in their yards this week. This larkspur (Consolida ambigua), looks particularly colorful.

Even the wildscapes along my morning walk are lovely. I don't imagine anyone besides Mother Nature planned this grouping of cactus, stone and wildflowers, but it's pleasing to me.

As is this yellow stand of wildflowers (Thelesperma filifolium?).

I still do not know the names of all the plants in my garden. Below is another mystery plant left by the previous owner that I cannot seem to locate in my garden books. I may take a blossom to the nursery to see if they can give me a clue. Edit: Thanks to Susan, Robin and Annie for letting me know this is a Husker's Red penstemon digitalis. You ladies are a national treasure!

When I visit the nurseries here I'm invariably introduced to plants I've never seen before. But imagine my surprise on my last visit to The Natural Gardener Nursery when I saw these Dandelions for sale. If only I'd known there was a market for Dandelions in Austin, I could have made a fortune from the bushels I dug out of my lawn this spring.

Like the fledgling cardinal I'm not always certain of my 'way around the garden. I'm thankful for the Austin Garden Bloggers and local nursery staff who teach me which plants work in Austin and which do not. Thanks!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Butterflies, Hummers and Baskets

First of all, a big congratulations to Pam at Digging for her excellent article in the Austin American-Statesman. You're a talented writer and gardener, Pam. Thanks for letting everyone know about the Austin Garden Bloggers. It was a privilege to meet all of you. I'm honored I was included, despite my newby status.

The plants in my garden continue to grow. The front porch basket of petunias and vinca minor is finally starting to fill out.

My next project will be to make this bare front porch more inviting. I'm considering a rail basket and a planter topped with a trellis to add some color and structure to the porch.

Last week I laid a set of 4 stepping tiles under my back garden faucet. There's not much in that shady, damp space besides mud and tiny weeds at this point, but the tiles at least keep my toes clean.

I'd love to plant some moss around the tiles if I thought it would live. I saw some for sale at a nursery, so might just try a little as an experiment. If it doesn't work out, I may plant ajuga there instead.

Re-evaluation seems to be my gardening M.O. lately. For example, I was going to replace the crepe myrtle (lagerstroemia) in my front garden with a native Texas orchid tree. But this week I noticed dozens of butterflies on the crepe myrtle blossoms. I still want the orchid tree, but the crepe myrtle has won a reprieve.

Here you can see a Red Admiral sharing a blossom with a honey bee.

They don't keep their wings open for long. So this was a lucky shot.

I love watching the Banded Hairstreaks (Satyrium calanus) flutter about.

This little fellow seemed to stare at the camera defiantly as if to say, "What are you lookin' at?"

When the Banded Hairstreak lands he moves the false 'antenna' on the back of his wings with his legs. This fools an attacking bird into pecking his tail instead of his head so the butterfly is more likely to escape.

My hummingbird feeder was such a high traffic area with so many hummer 'wars' I decided to buy a second feeder. The Black-Chinned Hummingbird male cannot guard both feeders as well, so more hummers are able to drink in peace. Though peace is a relative term when it comes to hummingbirds. They seem to love bickering and chasing each other. Here's the Black-Chinned Hummer drinking sugar water at his favorite feeder.

Below you can see him coming in for a landing.

Made it!

I've noticed the hummingbirds seem attracted to the solar fountain when it's running. I keep trying to take a photo of them buzzing the spray, but they are so fast the shot has eluded me thus far.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

A Visit to Umlauf Sculpture Garden

Part of the fun of having out-of-town guests is introducing them to my new discoveries here in Austin. Last week I took my visiting parents to several of my favorite haunts including the Umlauf Sculpture Garden.

The Gardens combine the best of both worlds; art and beautiful landscaping. They even have some bronze plants like this lily.

The colors of this yellow columbine, (Ranunculaceae Aquilegia hinckleyana) popped under the shade of the tall oaks.

Some of the sculptures touched my heart, such as Mother and Child in bronze; 1972.

As you can see, much of the landscape is greenscape with few flowers. I found it a little like listening to instrumental music without the lyrics. The greens are soothing and frame the sculptures well.

And when the flowers finally make an appearance they are appreciated that much more. I think this might be a red osier dogwood, (cornus sericea).

My favorite sculpture was a bronze called Ballerina I.

As beautiful as the sculptures are I must admit the water gardens, plants and animals were what I kept finding myself drawn to. The manmade stream and ponds are especially peaceful.

If you have a chance, please visit Umlauf Sculpture Garden. It's a treat for your senses.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Happy May Day!

April was wonderful here in Austin. I especially enjoyed the special treat of meeting the other Austin Garden Bloggers on the 22nd. What a lovely group of ladies! Thanks to all of you for inviting me to view your beautiful gardens. It was so inspiring to see what the garden possibilities are in this area.

During my parent's visit last week we dropped by Lady Bird Johnson's Wildflower Center.

The Texas stonecrop (Lenophyllum texanum) and Candelilla (Euphorbia antisyphilitica) looked aesthetically pleasing in this self-contained alcove near the entrance.

I was happy to see the wisteria was still blooming in the arbor.

I saw several flowers there that I'd like to include in my garden. I especially like this Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana):

This pink flower looked a bit like a phlox to me, but I couldn't find the label for it. Luckily Pam from Digging was kind enough to let me know that this is in fact the native annual Drummond phlox. Thanks once again, Pam!

The prickly pear was just starting to bloom. The bees were so cute burrowing themselves amongst the fluffy stamens in their search for nectar.

Of course the wildflowers were in good form,

...as were the turtles in the ponds.

The Center's beautiful water gardens tempt me to dig a pond of my own.

Though I'd need a pickaxe to dig through the solid limestone under the thin soil of my garden.

Speaking of water; my most recent garden purchase is a floating solar fountain for my container water garden. My son is intrigued with the way it sprays while the sun is shining and turns off abruptly when a cloud or shadow passes overhead.

The fountain's green color may be a bit too bright for the muted yellow of the container. I considered moving it to the bird bath in my front garden, but the fish seem so happy with the water's movement I think I'll leave it there for now and hope the water plants soften the appearance as time goes by.