Sunday, June 28, 2009

Welcome to the world

This morning, I finally was able to photograph a Gulf fritillary,
not long after it emerged from its chrysalis.
(We have so many caterpillars that there's hardly
any leaves left on our two passionflower vines.)

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Aristolochia erecta

You'll never believe this story! This morning, I was researching pipevine species because I was curious to know which one we planted in the Meadow. I wrote my post and published it, then took off with my son, Patrick, to Wimberley. There we climbed Old Baldy and visited with my aunt and uncle, Saza and Dudley Dobie Jr. I'd hoped to take their granddaughter (my little cousin), Drew Dobie, down to the Blanco River for a few minutes, but she giggled and declined (she's five). So Patrick and I ventured down to the bank and looked around. The river, thanks to our drought, is dreadfully low.

As we were climbing back up the grassy slope to their house, a strange-looking plant caught my eye. "Wow, look at this!" I exclaimed to Patrick. "Go get Uncle Dud! He's got to see this!"

Like me, my uncle was surprised and amazed to see such an usual specimen.

"I think it's a pipevine species," I said. "I saw some similar ones when I was researching pipevines this morning."

Just as soon as I could get to my computer, I downloaded my pictures and compared them to online photos. Looks to me like a swanflower (Aristolochia erecta), which also happens to be another host plant for pipevine swallowtails!

If you visit the Vascular Plant Image Library and look up Aristolochiaceae (Birthwort family), you can find some more images of Aristolochia erecta.

Now is that a coincidence or what? Two pipevine species in one day!

On the job

On my way back from photographing the pipevine, I noticed a crab spider poised on the coneflower. As you can tell, she was ready to grab anything that happened by...

Wonder who got eaten for breakfast?

Pipevine exotics

(I think the species is right)

Last month, an excursion to John Dromgoole's Natural Gardener nursery in Austin also netted three pipevines, which we planted under the live oaks in the Meadow. While at the nursery, we saw LOTS of fat pipevine swallowtail caterpillars chomping pipepines, planted in a butterfly demonstration garden.

"I want some of those!" I exclaimed, referring to the vines and the caterpillars.

More than a month later, the pipevines are flourishing. The neighborhood deer haven't touched them, either.

No pipevine butterflies as yet, but last night, I noticed the vines are blooming! Cool! The blooms hide under the leaves.....

Bromeliad bloom continued

Yesterday I noticed that the pink bromeliad bloom added some extra purple touched. Beautiful!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Beauty amid the heat

In case you haven't heard, we're going through a terrible, terrible heat wave and drought here in Central Texas. Temperatures swell to 100 or more by mid afternoon. It's heartbreaking to see the plants and animals suffer. In the past few days, I've begun to add MORE mulch in our gardens. Like I told James, that's about the only way we can help the plants survive this summer. I expect we'll have watering restrictions soon, too.

In the meantime, nature endures. Like it's always done and always will. How, I don't know. The mockingbirds and cardinals sing every morning. The bats flit over in the evening. The white-tailed deer sneak into our yard at night and empty the bird baths.

And the Gulf fritillary butterflies continue to lay their eggs.

This morning, I stood for several long moments outside and watched three beautiful fritillaries flutter about our two passionflower vines. At least, what's left of them! I counted at least five caterpillars of various sizes, munching away on the leaves. This year, we've spotted chrysalises, which we didn't see last summer. So far, we haven't caught a butterfly emerging, though.

Like those Gulf fritillaries, I know I need to live in the moment and not worry about tomorrow. God's in control. God will provide. God will restore the rains in His time.

But when, God? When?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Not your usual gardening post....

This one's about my cup of latte...

Last month, I bought a frother and have been enjoying homemade lattes. This morning, I did my usual and then dumped in some cinnamon. Then I did a doubletake.... "JAMES! I want to show you something!" I hollered. "Look!"

He peered inside my coffee mug. "Wow," he said, thoroughly amazed. "That's got to be your dad, telling you to have a good day."

Then he went for his camera.

As I drank my latte, the smiley face just got more smiley.

James caught me peering in the mug....

Think I could sell this on eBay?

Have a happy day, y'all!!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bromeliad bloom

The bromeliad's blooming! Its common name is urn plant. As a wedding gift three years ago, our neighbor, Jeri Bowles, gave us a pair of bromeliads in a pot. Alas, one went to heaven last winter. The other one's still surviving. What's more, it put on a beautiful pink bloom within the past week. My photography doesn't do it justice. But I tried!

Buds AND blooms!

I haven't posted in a while. For one thing, we took a road trip to Davis Mountains State Park last week andhad some fun. We hiked, saw the Marfa lights, went to a star party at the McDonald's Observatory, and toured the old Fort Davis. James took 830 photos. I christened him "Man of a Thousand Pictures" (I thought he was gonna make it!). Numerous photos captured me, bending over, examining the native flora. I recognized some species, most I didn't.

In the meantime, today James noticed that our Brazilian rock rose (Pavonia braziliensis) is blooming! If you recall, I posted June 4 ("Buds but no blooms") about how the plant was putting on bunches of buds but nothing was blooming. Now we know this to be true: this species can self-fertilize within permanently closed flowers, a process called cleistogamy.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Blooms, wild and otherwise

Texas thistle
Cirsium texanum

Most folks, including my dear mother, curse Texas thistle and consider it an extreme weed. Last week, this one bloomed in our back yard. I think they're really lovely, despite the prickles.

Coreopsis lanceolata

We planted improved varieties of coreopsis (two plants), and one finally bloomed this week. Pretty!

Echinacea purpurea

And my poor coneflower finally managed to bloom. The neighborhood deer have been nibbling on it. This morning, I think they found my yellow squash, darn it. And with no rains in sight, we've decided no more new additions this season. It may be tough keeping what we have alive this summer.

Hope not!

New additions

So we got the teenaged daughter graduated from high school a week ago. Then we did the 10 p.m. to 2 am. shift at the subsequent Project Graduation party. Everything went great, and Lindsey looked beautiful.

Three days later, she moved out. I know that's the normal course of life...children must fledge. But it came earlier than we expected and if we'd had our druthers, we wouldn't have chosen the route she took. But that's not our choice.

On the rebound, we visited my mother in Boerne last Monday. After a late lunch, she gave us directions to Hill Country African Violets and Nursery, where we picked up a few new additions...

Salvia greggi 'Salmon'

Mexican mint marigold DIED
Tagetes lucida

Salvia farinacea

Life goes on. Plants die. New ones get established. That's the normal way of things, too.

God bless you, Lindsey. We love you.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

When a bee goes on vacation...

This afternoon, I had my camera looped around my neck since I'd just photographed the two new additions to our Wildscape. So I mozied over to check out a cactus bloom I'd spotted in our little cacti garden. So pretty! Bright yellow. Naturally, I peered down into the flower. Zowie–a bee, hidden way down deep in the flower. But then it saw me! Out it buzzed. Seconds later, it returned and went back to work. Uh...or should I say relaxing....

I watched it dive back into the flower, which was brimming with pollen. The bee just seemed to fall into the filaments can I describe it?.....bask. Like someone might do in a hot tub with a glass of champagne or with a good book in a chair by a pool. I had to chuckle as I snapped away with my camera.

Now and then, I'd accidently startle the bee, and it'd buzz off. All I had to do was wait a few seconds, and back it'd come. That's the thing–it wasn't gone long enough to carry the pollen off. That bee was HAVING A GOOD TIME!

A couple of times, I watched it "lap" the filaments with its tongue. Talk about content and happy!

When I told James about the bee, he walked over to the cactus and watched it for a few minutes.

Yeah, busy as a bee, they say when someone's been at work too hard. But even bees need a vacation!!

Two new additions

Eupatorium wrightii

Butterfly vine
Mascagnia macroptera

Buds but no blooms

In the last few weeks, James and I have been perplexed to see our Brazilian rock rose (Pavonia braziliensis) put on SCADS of buds, but nary a one has bloomed. We planted it last August, and it flowered quite a bit before winter. It kept most of its leaves, too. Then this spring, it put on all these buds...

So this morning, I Googled around a bit and found a little bit of interesting information. According to Valerie at Garden Bits, "In the early part of the summer, the plants have huge numbers of buds, but they just contain seeds and do not bloom. This is called cleistogamy and I would assume the advantage is to make plenty of seeds with the least amount of energy. It's as if the plant is practicing making seeds before it gets down the superfluous activity of blooming."

I looked up "cleistogamy" in my Widget dictionary. It means "self-fertilization that occurs within a permanently closed flower."

I also found an OLD book online, A Textbook of Botany for Colleges and Universities (1911) that discusses cleistogamy on page 864. Otherwise, I didn't find any other references to confirm Valerie's observations and thoughts on cleistogamy specifically related to Brazilian rock roses. However, if ours blooms this summer, then THAT will certainly confirm it for me!

Has anyone ever heard of "cleistogamy"? New one on me!