Thursday, April 28, 2016

We're on Central Texas Gardener!

It's official! Our segment on Central Texas Gardener is on the air! Online, check out our segment, "Blanco Native Plant Garden and Pocket Prairie." We're so honored to be featured! 

Here's a YouTube link to the same segment: "Blanco native plant garden and pocket meadow: Sheryl Smith-Rodgers and James Hearn."

As a side note, they filmed our gardens in late June after our horrendous Memorial Day Weekend 2015 floods. That very day, Linda Lehmusvirta, Central Texas Gardener producer, and her crew came to our home, we had heavy rains and even a tornado warning. Which is why we had to come inside for our sit-down interview.

Plant marker refurb project

As you can see, my plant tags are wearing out and not looking so good. In preparation for our anniversary celebration/garden tours Saturday, I'm refurbishing as many as I can. Last week, Diane, a Master Gardener from Horseshoe Bay, told I needed to get a "P-Touch" so I could label my markers.

A WHAT? I had no clue what she was talking about.

Then I got online and found some on good ol' Amazon. Sheryl ordered a P-Touch PT-D400, and she's been a labeling fool ever since. (Thanks, Diane!) Don't they look nice? Oh, yes, it's a bit of work. I round up yucky ones in our garden, take them apart and clean them up. (I use an old toothbrush to brush off debris and reform their shapes.) Then I type out labels and apply them right on the old tag. We'll see how long the tags last out in the weather. But I love how I can reuse zinc markers that I was no longer able to write on. Yee haw!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Plant signs & an anniversary celebration!

Next week is our 10th anniversary! On May 2, 2006, James and I married in our back yard with Rev. Wally Hiller as our officiating minister. Mr. Hiller, as I always called him, left for heaven in January 2015, but I KNOW he'll be with us to celebrate. God willing (referring to the chances of rain), James and I are going to host an anniversary celebration and garden tour this Saturday, April 30, from 1 to 4 p.m. 

As part of  our efforts to educate, I've made plant markers (from a recycled campaign sign and skewer sticks) that I'm going to primarily set out along the Ninth Street easement on our Meadow. (The QR codes on the tags link to plant species accounts on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website.) We have some really cool native plants that grow there, and I'm hoping to tell people in a positive way that I'd rather they not park there. We'll have plenty of other places to put cars. 

Please drop by and sign our guest book! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A spongy mystery

James took these photos for me several days ago. He spotted these spongy things attached to the stems of a Russian sage in the front yard.  I have no clue what they are, but I think they showed up after some heavy rains we had a couple of weeks ago. New to me! I can't remember ever seeing something like this in our gardens. I'm checking around, trying to figure out what they are but no luck yet. Mushrooms? Fungus? Help?

UPDATE APRIL 27, 2016–Carroll, a friend on Facebook, suggested that this might be a slime mold. I think she's right. I found a blog post about dog vomit slime molds, taxonomically called Fuligo septica. Our slime mold, if that's was this was, sure picked an odd place to happen.

Spittlebugs, spittlebugs

Have you been seeing a lot of this "spit" stuff in your gardens this spring? We sure have! More than usual, we think. So I hauled out the camera and took a stroll around our Wildscape to shoot some photos. I found spittle on salvias, coneflowers, mealy sage, you name it.

I even found a mound of spit on the underside of a red galeana sage. I picked up a small stick and poked around in it. Out came a small green critter. It moved so fast that I couldn't get any good shot. I almost trashed the image below, but I kept it when I saw that it shows from whence the spittle comes from: "The 'spittle' is derived from a fluid voided from the anus and from a mucilaginous substance excreted by epidermal glands." [Bugguide]

These are spittlebugs nymphs! I'm not for certain, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say they could be meadow spittlebugs (Philaenus spumarius) because they have black antennae. 

I found this interesting video on the "Meadow Spittlebug" by Rod Innes. In the meantime, are spittlebugs harmful to our plants? I'm not worried. We'd have to have MASSES of them, I think, before our gardens would be decimated. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Wings Over the Hllls Nature Festival

This weekend is the annual Wings Over the Hills Nature Festival in Fredericksburg. Instead of spiders, this year I'll be speaking about Texas Wildscapes and turning our yard into a wildlife habitat. My slot is 9 a.m. Friday (c'mon by, you early-bird risers!). Hope to see you there.  

Friday, April 22, 2016

More on Malta

Yesterday, we spent the evening after supper pulling pulling pulling Malta star-thistle in our neighborhood. In hopes of inspiring others to monitor their own land, I made a post on Facebook, which basically said: "We'd like you all in Blanco to recognize this invasive along your own streets and properties so you, too, can pull it and keep it OUT of Blanco. It's like that awful bastard cabbage that's taking over the Hill Country, only not showy AT ALL. It has small bristly yellow flowers that you can hardly see, and it blends in well with its surroundings. For one and half hours worth of work, we got a lot yanked out. Now we've just got to go back and bag up the evil thistles." 

I had some nice comments back, and I'm going to do at least one home visit to check for Malta star-thistle.

In the meantime, here's a good source: "Field Guide for Managing Malta Starthistle in the Southwest."   

I also asked Ricky Linex, a wildlife biologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Weatherford, about controlling large investations of this invasive species. Here's what he emailed back: 

"We are at the very end of the practical time frame for spraying this year. It should be done during late winter when the rosettes are first noticed. I’d be concerned if you sprayed now and had wildflowers the chemical would kill them as well. But in areas where the thistle dominates spraying wouldn’t hurt many other plants.  What can be done now is hand treatment or mowing and bagging. This is like many weed problems, they don’t become a real concern to many until it is too late to easily control them by chemicals."

Personally, I don't like or use chemicals. But then, we're not coping with a huge infestation like some people are.

There's a second pile of star-thistle way back behind James.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Class visit

The 2016 class of associates with the Highland Lakes Master Gardeners came by this afternoon to visit our Wildscape. James got a few photos. We always enjoying hosting new trainees with Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists!

Good by, James!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Blue curls and more

A week or so ago, I was SO thrilled to discover blue curls (Phacelia congesta) growing in our gardens! Our friends, Charlotte and Linda, actually pointed them out to me. I'd noticed some "new" plants popping up near our wild indigo blue, and I decided I'd let them be until they bloomed. Well, Charlotte and Linda nailed them! I was so happy! A few years ago, Linda gave me blue curl seeds, and I must have dropped some out there where these are growing. Anyway, now they'll reseed themselves. Awesome!
Our white butterfly gaura is BEAUTIFUL and shrubby BIG!  
 Jerusalem sage (non-native)