April 9, 2012

Predator

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Saturday afternoon, I opened the back door and saw this immature Copper's hawk eating its lunch in our tree.

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I couldn't make out what the hawk was eating. I hope it was a mouse or lizard and not a songbird.  I dreamed it ate a titmouse, but thank goodness, that was just a dream. There wasn't any evidence that the hawk caught its prey in our yard. Instead, I think it was attracted by the sparseness of our dying tree – the perfect place to alight for a meal.

(As an aside, our tree has been dying since before we moved in. It has been a long goodbye. Yet with all of the fascinating birds that have used this tree precisely because of its declining health, – woodpeckers, great horned owls and now the hawk – it's been a asset, even in its waning state.)

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When the hawk saw me looking at it, it hoped to a higher branch but stayed in the tree and watched me for a while.

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I was interested to see that while the hawk and I looked at each other, three starling sat in the same tree about 12 feet above the hawk. Ballsy if you ask me!

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Even more courageous was the blue jay who broke the silence of the other birds and screamed at the hawk to move on its way. I was surprised the hawk responded. All hail the hero blue jay.

January 31, 2012

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee
In November and again on Monday, we noticed a new bird in our yard, the spotted towhee. According to the bird book, the spotted towhee is a winter resident with a black head and back, white wing markings, rust or rufous colored sides and a red eye.

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It was sound, not sight, that first clued us in to this visitor. My husband had the windows open, and he heard continuous rustling in the mulch. It wasn't the gentle examining that a wrens and cardinals do, but powerful and purposeful rummaging, like a chicken scratching for bugs.

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Towhees like to hunt in shrubby undergrowth. Our growing xylosma hedge seems to fit that description, and we've enhanced the habitat by filling the beds with shredded sycamore leaves from a neighbor's tree.

Speaking of birds, if you live in South or Central Texas, I have a recommendation for you. Check out this birding blog that my friend Sam recently launched. Whenever I am stumped by a bird ID question, Sam has the answer. (He identified this generic looking warble for me last year.) He also tips me off to when seasonal are birds have made their appearance. I'm always impressed by his adventures and bird knowledge.

December 13, 2011

Why hello there!

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Why hello there wren! So glad you stopped by.

November 29, 2011

Fall 2011 Tour : Backyard

Two nights ago, San Antonio had its first freeze of the season - 31°F. All of my plants escaped unscathed, but I know it's only a matter of time before Jack Frost catches them so I wanted to take a minute to document my backyard in its fall glory.

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The peak of the season was mid-October, and the profusion of flowers has lessened, but still, looking at these pictures, I'm very pleased with how the scene has developed over the past three years.

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I have two water features in the backyard, and both were out of commission until about a month ago.

This bird bath's pump burned out when we were out of town for the weekend in the spring. Tip: Do not depend on your house sitter to fill your bird bath. Lucky me, I found new pump in an opened package on the clearance rack at Lowe's. Score! Now the bird bath is running again. (I always check the clearance rack, or as I call it, the Rack of Death.)

Fountain
This fountain cracked when I left water in the basin last winter. I was so mad at myself for being careless with my gift, and I was bummed that after exhaustive Internet research and a call to a local water feature store, I could not turn up any recommendations for fixing it. That is until I called a kooky handyman show on a lesser-known radio station.

When I told the host my dilemma and how I wanted to at least try something before I turned my fountain into a planter, he didn't hesitate with his answer. "You need Through the Roof!" So that's what we drove to his store and bought the same day. I painted the entire fountain, inside and out and let it dry. VoilĂ ! So far, so good.

This spring, when the nurseries are stocked again, I'd like to plant some coral bells or holly ferns to hide the brick risers. Have you had any experience with either plant in South or Central Texas? Any recommendations?

No Man's Land
Back to the tour. Around the corner from the lawnette is No Man's Land. I've tried to spruce up this utilitarian space with a trumpet vine on the fence, firespike in the pocket and a second confederate jasmine.

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A huge pot of the jasmine was on clearance at H-E-B for only $10 in early October. The vine was healthy and I know it normally sells for about $24 so I snagged it. I am training it to grow around the window. Won't it be great to open the window and smell jasmine in the spring!

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Now, a U turn back toward the lawn.

Arbor
A shot of Travis' veggie gardens filled leafy green sprouts (and my wildflowers mixed in). The arbor. And the patio.

Right bend
And finally, if you stand at this juncture...

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... you can see both the veggie beds and the path to the front yard.

I love long shots of landscapes especially when you can compare them to previous seasons and previous years and see the changes. Cheers!

November 16, 2011

Foliage Follow Up : November 2011

I had the perfect combination of foliage, light and free time today to take a few pictures for the monthly Foliage Follow Up hosted at Digging.

Fig
The temperatures have dipped close to freezing a few times and the fig leaves have responded. Soon, the leaves will fall off (or they'll look so ratty that I remove them), but for now, I'm enjoying the stained glass effect.

Coral Honeysuckle
Overall, the leaves on the coral honeysuckle have started to turn yellow and dry out as the plant prepares for semi-dormancy. But on the vine I transplanted in this summer, new leaves are forming. I suppose the plant is taking advantage of the moderate temperatures and the opportunity to produce and store some food for next spring.

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Have I mentioned how much I love the purple hyacinth vine? Only twice in the last two posts! Here's another reason I love it.

Foxtail Fern
I used my gift certificate to Sunshine Landscape and Garden Center - thank you! - (more on my visit there later) to buy several new shade plants including this foxtail fern. It's only been in the ground for about two weeks and it's already put out a few new fronds.

Swiss Chard
In the veggie garden, Travis is growing Swiss chard - Bright Lights. Looks great and tastes good too. I've been using it like a salad green.

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Here are two more new additions from Sunshine - Peter Pan agapanthus and fatsia or japanese aralia.

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I planted the fatsia behind my black and blue salvia. When I was in Florida last month, I saw similar grouping using black and blue salvia and philodendron. The large leafed plant provide a nice canvas to show off the black and blue flowers. I'll keep you posted on how this combination looks this spring.

Inland Sea Oats
This weekend, I moved my four inland sea oat plants to the backyard. I heard on a garden show that they are perfect plants for the sun/shade transition point under a tree. Mine had been located near the trunk of a live oak and had been declining over the last few years. After hearing the radio show recommendation, I decided they were getting too much shade and relocated them to a part sun spot near the backyard arbor. We shall see how they fair.

Varigated Lily Flax
Flax Lily flower
My favorite purchase from my trip to Sunshine is this variegated flax lily. I divided the large plant I bought in two and put one part on each side of my water fountain (pictures to come). They brighten up the shady space so well, and as a bonus today, I noticed these tiny flowers on the plant for the first time. Lovely.

November 15, 2011

GBBD: November 2011

Thanksgiving is next week! Wow, where has the time gone? It's already time for the November Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Here's a look at what's flowering in my yard.

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Shrimp plants
The shrimp plants are putting on the best show I've seen in the last three years. There are five plants in this shot, three that I planted a few years ago and two that I added this spring.

Turk's Cap
The turk's cap are finishing their summer bloom season, but there are still a healthy number of blooms on the plants.

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This morning we were blessed with a rain shower that delivered .8". The droplets weighed down this Archduke Charles rose bloom.

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The black and blue salvia did not weather the hot summer well, and as a result, it's fall display has been disappointing but it did offer a few new blooms.

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My camera skills do not do justice to the cat mint blooms. In this picture, they look like they are on the decline, but actually, in person, the blooms look very fresh and soothing, at least my cat Gideon thinks so.

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In August, I added blackfoot daisy (top) and narrow leaf zinnia to the garden. August was probably the worst month on the calendar to plant, but I had a coupon that had to be used at that time. The plants survived two torturous months and they are thriving.

Aster
The fall asters hit their peak last month, and within the last few days, they've decline rapidly. This is all that's left of their purple mass.

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Salvia greggi is another noted fall bloomer. It's peak was also a few weeks ago, but the blooms persist.

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The esperenza - a summer time staple - is still delivering huge clusters of yellow bells, but it won't be too long before the entire plant freezes to the ground.

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I love this purple hyacinth vine. The seed pods are fascinating too. This was the first time I've ever planted it and I think I'll have to make it a tradition.

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Firespike
Finally, a first ever bloom for my yard: firespike. These plants were pass alongs from MomMom in Houston. I'm very excited to see the flower spike develop. If you're reading this MomMom, thanks!

For more November blooms, head to May Dreams Garden.

October 31, 2011

Purple Hyacinth Bean

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I've been burning midnight oil lately to try to keep up with my commitments. Thankfully, midnight and moonlight combined with unusual plant forms produces some enchanting images like these of the purple hyacinth vine.