Friday, July 27, 2007

Another Walk with the Wildflowers

We took our visiting relatives to see the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center last weekend. It was not my first visit, nor will it be my last now that I have a membership. At the Wildflower Center visitors can see first-hand how Lady Bird Johnson spent her life working to "protect and preserve North America's native plants and natural landscapes". This interactive map of the grounds shows there is a lot to see at the Center.

When we first arrived we noticed the butterflies were drawn to drifts of purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).

The horsetails (Equisteum hyemale) below are lush and abundant in the Wetland Pond.

The red-eared sliders seemed unconcerned with the algae that covered their shells and the tiny fish that found it so tasty.

The central irrigation rooftop system that collects rainwater off the Center's buildings has been very busy during our exceptionally rainy summer this year. Dry-loving plants top the 5,000 gallon capacity Tower Cistern where visitors can enjoy a breathtaking view.

A Coral Honeysuckle greeted us as we walked down the outer staircase of the Tower Cistern.

This stone wall gives old world ambiance to the Member's Garden.

My son was intrigued by the fossilized ammonite in the Homeowner's Inspiration Garden.

A handsome bench invites the wanderer to cross this field of rock rose (pavonia lasiopetala) for a rest in the sun.

I was particularly taken with this woolly ironweed, (Vernonia lindheimeri).

We were lucky to visit on a sunny day. The bumble bees and butterflies were happily sampling these tall sunflowers.

This little fellow was getting a sip of water from the paving stones.

I prefered the pool in the Court Yard which looks tempting enough to dive into.

The Halberdleaf hibiscus or rose mallow (Hibiscus laevis) was blooming happily next to the courtyard pool. We were told by a docent that the flowers look lovely floating on the surface of the water as well.

After a pleasant stroll through the grounds we ended our stay at the Wildflower Center Store where I bought a copy of "Hummingbirds of Texas", by Clifford E. Shackelford, Madge M. Lindsay and C. Mark Klym.

The book is full of colorful photographs and helpful information about making a hummingbird garden in your backyard. I highly recommend it as well as a visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

"My heart found its home long ago in the beauty, mystery, order and disorder of the flowering earth." Lady Bird Johnson

Monday, July 23, 2007

Revisiting A Favorite Haunt

We have seen several fledgling birds in our garden in the past few weeks. I was surprised by this fearless young Carolina Wren as he investigated my plant shelf just outside my backdoor. With the help of his doting mother he seemed to give my fertilizer container and gardening clogs the Better Wren and Garden Seal of Approval.

We had the pleasure of a visit from family last week. It was fun to show them around some of the beautiful places we've discovered in the last year here in Austin. One of the first places we took them to was the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum where I found some plants I hadn't seen on our last visit.

The red of the Turk's Cap (drummondii) popped under the shade of the tall live oaks. I've read that this is an excellent plant to attract hummingbirds, so it's on my list to add to my garden.

There were numerous butterflies on what looked like Texas Wisteria, also called Wisteria frutescens (W. macrostachya).

There were dozens of Silver-spotted Skippers (Epargyreus clarus) flitting from flower to flower like ballerinas across a stage.

Charles Umlauf's sculptures are beautiful, especially when surrounded by all the lush plant-life of the garden. This reclining lady is call the Poetess and is one of my favorites.

And this meditation area in front of the panel Come Unto Me brings to mind a peaceful, ancient monastery. It's no wonder the full-sized original stands just over the entrance to a real church in San Antonio.

I was drawn to the wildlife and plants as always. This Neon Skimmer was flying loops around the pond. No doubt he has plenty of mosquitoes to eat with all the rain we've had here in Austin.

There were several turtles in the pond as well. This Red-Eared Slider, (Trachemys scripta elegans) took a moment to bask in the sunlight that peeked through the trees.

We even watched a fat Cottonmouth Water Moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorous). We watched him slide between the rocks into the water. I was happy to give him a wide berth since Cottonmouths are poisonous.

After a nice tour we walked past the manmade waterfall...

...and said "Goodbye" to the Umlauf Sculpture Garden once again.

In days to come I'll share the other lovely places we included while giving our guests the Austin Grand Tour.


"All great art ... creates in the beholder not self-satisfaction but wonder and awe. Its great liberation is to lift us out of ourselves." ~Dorothy Thompson

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The big and small of it...

You may be familiar with the Dr. Seuss story, "Horton Hears a Who!" I couldn't help thinking of the story -- and the little pink flower Horton holds -- when I saw this legume in an Austin parking lot.

The flower was intriguing to me as it looked almost like fiber-optics, even up close. I am guessing it is some sort of tiny mimosa. If any of you know the name please let me know.

Austin has so much beautiful flora; from the tiny to the huge. I found these gorgeous live oaks only a few yards from the pink flowers. They are more than just trees to me; more like gigantic living sculptures.

Some relatives are coming down to visit this week. I hope to show them even more Texas Hill Country this year. There is so much to see here.

Back at my house the Sugar Squirrel continues to drink from my hummingbird feeders each day. It's amazing how long she can hang there.

It must be exhausting work, because she turns into a complete slacker after her drinks...

Hope you're all having as much summer rest and relaxation as my little friend.

"The miracles of nature do not seem miracles because they are so common. If no one had ever seen a flower, even a dandelion would be the most startling event in the world." ~ author unknown

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Lady Bird Johnson Remembered

Copyright © 2007-2009. Suburban Wildlife Garden. All Rights Reserved.

I was so sorry to hear that former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson passed away this week. She really was a remarkable lady who did so much for environmental conservation and the beautification of our countryside.

Photo from University of Texas, Austin.

In 1982 Mrs. Johnson and actress Helen Hayes founded the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The center is not only lovely, but an excellent research institution that advocates the use of native plants and the protection of rare plant species. You can learn more about Lady Bird Johnson's Wildflower Center by watching this YouTube video.

Through her efforts, Lady Bird Johnson helped to promote the planting of vast areas of Texas roadways and fields with beautiful native wildflowers.

In 1989 I had the good fortune to attend a luncheon in which Lady Bird Johnson was the guest of honor. She was so inspirational I wanted to run out and plant wildflowers that very afternoon. She graciously gave each of us there an autographed copy of Texas Wildflowers, which I've cherished to this day.

Here is a beautiful quote by Lady Bird Johnson that describes her commitment to her work:

“Some may wonder why I chose wildflowers when there are hunger and unemployment and the big bomb in the world. Well, I, for one, think we will survive, and I hope that along the way we can keep alive our experience with the flowering earth. For the bounty of nature is also one of the deep needs of man.”

Rest in peace, Dear Lady.

Copyright © 2007-2009. Suburban Wildlife Garden. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

7 Random Things...

Copyright © 2007-2009. Suburban Wildlife Garden. All Rights Reserved.

This entry is a little different than usual. I had the privilege of being tagged for a meme by Ann/Ziggywigs at Life in the Highlands. Thanks Ann! The request is that I list '7 Random things about me'. At first I thought this would be easy. I'd just let people know things like how I collect Portuguese cerĂ¢mica, like this pitcher in my kitchen in the photo below.

But making this list turned out to be a bit more difficult than I imagined. It was hard for me to know how much to really share about myself on a public forum like this. Anyway, I gave it my best shot. So without further ado, here are 7 Random Things about Me, followed by the seven people I'm tagging as well...

* I spent my childhood on an 800 acre farm in the Ozark Mountains until my father died unexpectedly when I was 10. We moved to Independence Missouri shortly thereafter.

* When I was 15 I had spinal surgery and spent my first year of high school in a large body cast. This was fortuitous, as I learned to detect fair-weather-friends; a gift which I still use today.

* I wanted to major in Horticulture in college, but was talked out of it by a rather sexist adviser in my freshman year at MU. I ended up getting my degrees in Child Development and Developmental Child Psych instead, doing some of my field-training with autistic children. My training turned out to be helpful in the long run when I discovered, years later, that my son was in the autistic spectrum.

* I love to travel and learn about people in other countries. So far I've visited the Bahamas, England, France, Japan, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland. Unfortunately I had a very bad flight in 2002, but hope to conquer my flying phobia so I can travel again someday.

* I'm a shameless information junky. I love reading and have tons of books, but instead of letting the piles grow too high I started selling them online via Now I buy and sell books as a semi-lucrative hobby.

* As a young person I tended to be gullible. After being burnt a few times, I now examine extraordinary claims with a heavy dose of skepticism. Some of my favorite sites are Quackwatch, and The Skeptic's Dictionary.
*I love Pre-Raphaelite and Renaissance art as well as the Arts & Crafts Movement. Some of my heroes are William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and Sandro Botticelli. In keeping with my more idealistic/romantic side, some of my favorite writers are Alfred Tennyson, Henry David Thoreau and Jane Austin.

I'm tagging the following 7 Garden Bloggers. Hopefully none of you have been tagged for this particular meme yet.

Andrea from Andrea's Garden Blog

Annie from The Transplantable Rose

Julie from The Human Flower Project

MSS from Zanthan Gardens

Pam from Digging

Sanni from Villin pihan tarinoita

As stated by Ann, here are the rules for newcomers to this meme:
Each player starts with 7 random facts/habits about themselves. People who are tagged need to then report this on their own blog with their 7 random facts as well as these rules. They then need to tag 7 others and list their names on their blog. They are also asked to leave a comment for each of the tagged, letting them know they have been tagged and to read the blog.

If anyone else decides to make a list of 7 Random Things, please let me know. I'd love to read about each one of you.

In other news, I have a squirrel who's decided she is a hummingbird. She's drinking sugar water everyday from my hummingbird feeder. Forgive the quality of the photo, but I haven't found a way to sneak up on her from outside, so must be content for now with a photo through my window.

I smile every time I see her do this. Hope she gives you a little chuckle, too.

BTW, I hope to visit the APS Pond Tour 2007 on July 14th & 15th. It sounds like a great tour. If I attend I'll take lots of photos and share them here.

"Nature often holds up a mirror so we can see more clearly the ongoing processes of growth, renewal, and transformation in our lives." ~Mary Ann Brussat

Copyright © 2007-2009. Suburban Wildlife Garden. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

High Fliers in the Garden

It's a very wet season here in Central Texas, but that has not slowed down some of the more frequent fliers in my garden.

My newest visitor is a bright red dragonfly called Neon Skimmer (Libellula croceipennis).

He's beautiful and eats so many pests, I hope to see some dragonfly nymphs in my container water garden soon.

I have two hummingbird feeders in my back garden. They are very popular with several different species of hummingbird. Below you can see a pair of male and female Black-chinned Hummingbirds sharing the same feeder.

The murkiness of the sugar water let's me know it's time for a fresh batch. It's an easy recipe of four parts water to one part sugar.

Once the male flew away, the little female finally found some peace to drink.

She took her time to drink her fill...

Then she buzzed past my camera.

The butterflies are enjoying both nectar and larval plants. This Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) spent at least an hour checking out my Milkweed and Pentas lanceolata.

"But these are flowers that fly and all but sing:
And now from having ridden out desire
They lie closed over in the wind and cling
Where wheels have freshly sliced the April mire."

~Robert Frost, "Blue-Butterfly Day"