Friday, December 31, 2010

Uh oh

So I'm in the middle of reading a great book, Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife With Native Plants by Douglas Tallamy. When all of a sudden, I come across a discussion on butterfly bush (Buddleja species) and these plants are NOT native to North America!


Bad me! When I started this blog in May 2008, I chose a photo I'd taken of butterfly bush bloom in our Wildscape. Not good at all!! Especially when I'm promoting the use of native plants in home landscapes.

Right away, I set the book down, headed straight to my desk and replaced the photo! Hence, the crab spider you see now, perched on a coneflower.

Just so you know, I also started toying around with new blog templates. I confess–change can be hard sometimes (especially at my age), but I did it....Look, A NEW LOOK FOR THE NEW YEAR!

Hope you like it!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

When to prune what

Spring's around the corner, and our Wildscape will soon need pruning. But which plant when? Many gardeners say that plants should be pruned in late winter or early spring. That's because pruning any earlier stimulates new growth that could be harmed by hard freezes.

On the "Central Texas Gardener Blog," producer Linda Lehmusvirta offered tips last January. Check out her advice here. She recommends pruning flame acanthus, firebush and other woodies down to stubs in January. And extension agent Daphne Richards on "Central Texas Gardener" last February talked about when and what to prune in Central Texas landscapes. According to Richards, the best time to prune shrubs, roses, fruit trees and ornamental grasses is in the late winter. She cautions, though, not to prune fruit trees too late or you'll prune off flowering and fruiting buds. As for root hardy shrubs, like lantanas, she says, "When you see new growth come up from the ground, prune off everything above ground."

Integrity Tree Service in Phoenix, Arizona, links to comprehensive pruning list entitled "Salvaging Sheared Plants."

As I research and learn more, I'll add to this list. Feel free to send me your suggestions/advice, too.

American beautyberry Prune to 12 inches high or all the way to the ground
(Species only flowers and bears fruit on new growth)

Blue mistflower I cut down the dead growth (very tedious) and leave it on the ground

Copper canyon daisy Cut to the ground

Esperanza Cut to the ground

sage Shear outer edges, cut out woody stems above new growth

Cut to the ground when you see new growth
Mexican bush sage Cut to the ground

Salvias Cut back, remove dead wood

'Indigo Spires' Cut to the ground

Wedelia (zexmenia) Cut to the ground (light summer pruning promotes more flowering)

Roses  Prune branches 12-18" high, remove dead wood, leave three to eight canes, cut above leaf bud that faces outward. Check out pruning tips by the Weekend Gardener.

Mexican oregano

Shrimp plant 

UPDATE SATURDAY FEBRUARY 5, 2011–Horticulturalist Calvin Finch wrote about pruning in today's San Antonio Express-News. Read what he says: "Before you grab the shears, first plan, then prune."

Thoughts of pruning

Bleak. Dreary. Gray. Damp. Winter's tough. Nearly everything in our Wildscape is brown, brittle and dead looking. But yesterday, amazingly, I spotted a medium-sized Gulf fritillary!! Honest! On a small passionflower vine that's still green. Plus, a tattered red admiral visited in the back yard. It rested and sunned on our rock patio. Red admirals LOVE our new patio.

I'm going to do some research and post a "pruning" list. Now and then, people ask when they should prune this or that. Some I know, many I don't. So I'm going to compile a list that I can refer to and you readers as well.

Happy new year, y'all!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gone exploring

We had to get out of the house yesterday afternoon so we headed northwest of town to our land. Of course, during our trekking around, most of the time I had my head down, looking at vegetation while James forged ahead, pulling down dead limbs in our way. Right off the bat, I spotted what I think is yaupon holly (pictured above and below) because there were still leaves on the branches (possumhaw is deciduous). It was a beautiful day to get out and hike....

"Pose in front of that grass, Sheryl!" James instructed. Aw, I don't look so good. But I complied.

Mistletoe, a true parasite.

A rock wall that borders one side of our property.

Even though December does depress me, the grasses really are beautiful this time of year.

Mystery grass (I'll work on an ID).

James spotted a bird nest!

Twistleaf yucca

Two photos (above and below) of a mystery oak (hopefully ID to come)

Another species of yucca

These flowers must have been stunning when they were blooming.
I'm guessing Texas asters, but I could be wrong.

UPDATE March 2, 2011–Now I'm guessing Wright's cudweed (Pseudognaphalium canescens).  I was researching something else and stopped to look at a similar photo (Enchanted Rock: A Natural and Human History).

I noticed this cool doodling on a decaying tree. Beetles of some sort, I bet.

Cochineal on prickly pear. Check out my article, "Bug in Your Punch"
(October 2007, Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine).

An underexposed photo, but it gives a sense of the landscapes on our property...

One view of the hills from our land that James dearly loves....

The End

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Where am I?

Don't worry. I'm fine. Except this time of year–cold temps, blustery wind, brown leaves, no rain–gives me the blues. A lot. I'm already ready for SPRING! Plus, we've heard rumors that Central Texas might be in for another drought. (I pray not!) Also, my macro lens, which I use to shoot images in our Wildscape, is in the shop. The focusing motor started grinding. Not a pretty sound! Hopefully, it'll return before month's end.

About two weeks ago, a warm afternoon did entice us outside. We ate our lunch on the patio, then watered plants. I was amazed to see so much wildlife active. Like a young anole, lurking beneath the still leafy turk's cap. And several spiders, like a chubby jumping spider on the prowl on a limestone rock, and a couple of airborne spiders that landed on ME. Fuzzy, black caterpillars (probably Estigmene acrea) scooted through the grass (I saw some more yesterday). Several ladybugs and an odd-looking bug were crawling on the outside wall of our house.

In hopes yet again of attracting purple martins to our house next spring, I ordered decoys (James' suggestion) from Ebay this week. Sometimes it takes several years to start a new colony.
I won't give up!

Have a blessed Christmas, everyone!

Monday, November 29, 2010

For the birds

Back in the summer, I clipped a "Heloise" column on how to clean a bird bath. Then I promptly forgot about it. The truth is, I stacked more paperwork on top of the clipping, and it got buried. So I was going through my stack just now and found the column.

Here's her advice (July 3, 2010, San Antonio Express-News):

"Add a drop or two of dishwashing liquid and scrub the bath with a stiff brush. Rinse thoroughly. If there is a buildup of algae, add chlorine bleach (in a ratio of 9 parts water to 1 part bleach) to the water and let soak for about 20 minutes. (Any longer will not do any better.) To ensure that no birds drop by for a swim, cover the bath during the bleaching process. After soaking, scrub the bath again with the stiff brush, carefully dump out the water and let the bath air-dry. Then fill with cold, fresh water."

Thanks, Heloise!!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"Walking on the Wild Side"

Hey, an article I wrote for the San Antonio Express-News made yesterday's Houston Chronicle as well. The Hearst Newspapers corporation owns both publications, and they apparently share the same front pages of some sections, like gardening (if that makes any sense). At any rate, here's the story: "Critter-watching fun begins with providing a good habitat." Enjoy!

UPDATE–I've since received some nice comments on the Chronicle website. Cool!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fungus gnats

I shot this photo Oct. 21 on our copper canyon daisy and posted it on, hoping someone could tell me about the spit-looking liquid. Turns out I piqued more interest in the insects, which were IDed as dark-winged fungus gnats: "Looks like mainly male sciarids (Diptera: Sciaridae) to me. I have never heard nor read about this behavior. Probably a female got stuck and the males were attracted by her pheromones (but this is pure speculation). Did you collect the 'gnat spittle'?" –Bjoern Rulik

Bad me–I didn't do a good job at following up on his request. Sorry, Bjoern!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

More butterflies...


You'd think it'd be way past butterfly season, but they're still active. Our fragrant mistflower in the back yard is attracting several species, and the copper canyon daisy bush in the front yard is as well.

Pipevine swallowtail

Southern dogface

American lady

What a bug

Spot-sided coreid
Hypselonotus punctiventris
The kind folks at helped me identify this very interesting-looking bug.

Mama's gone....

Yesterday, I noticed that the mama argiope on the front porch is gone. Yes, her egg sac is fine. Then this afternoon, I looked down and found her remains on the cement.....only legs. She likely died of old age and then something ate her body. That's nature.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Late monarch

I'm late in posting this photo. I actually spotted three monarchs come through Monday late afternoon and visit our fragrant mistflower. Man, THEY'RE the late ones!

Friday, November 12, 2010

A mother's love

Look how much even spider mothers love their children. I went to check on my argiope mother and discovered she'd moved her egg sac into the corner. As you can see, she's guarding it. And she will until she dies, probably within a few weeks. After she's gone, then I'll take over and watch over her unborn spiderlings. They won't hatch until sometime next spring.

Isn't she beautiful? Isn't a mother love beautiful?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Butterflies on the mistflower

Late this afternoon, I went outside to soak up some sunshine. While I relaxed on our bench, I watched the butterflies flit around the fragrant mistflower. Surely, I thought to myself, these must be the last of this year's butterflies, mostly skippers (I think). I got up and scrunched down beside the flowers for a closer look. So pretty! Camera time! I spotted some bees, too....

Fiery skipper
(Hylephila phyleus)

Clouded skipper
Lerema accius

I'm guessing a Mexican cactus fly (Copestylum mexicanum)...
UPDATE: On, a reply to my ID inquiry: "You've nailed it. And it's a girl."
Ron Hemberger

A rare queen (they're mostly gone now)

A frisky red admiral (my favorite butterfly)

And a lone bee!

She's gonna be a mama!

If you read my post Spider versus mantis (Oct. 10, 2010), then you'll recall our large argiope (Argiope aurantia) that had been living over a garage door. After a close encounter with a hungry praying mantis, the spider relocated to our front porch, where she's been living ever since. Smart move because we turn on the porch light every night. VoilĂ –plenty of flying insects to eat!

Lately, I've been keeping an eye on her, and awhile ago, I noticed she wasn't on her web. Oh, no! Had she left or died? I stuck my head out the front door. Yay! An egg sac! Looked like maybe she had just laid it. Now that she's done her job, she may die or hang on a few more weeks. I shall miss her but how wonderful to know that we'll have argiope children next spring! It's been a long time since we've had an Argiope aurantia egg sac at the Pink House.