Monday, August 1, 2016

Local Fauna

These beautiful pinto's live on a ranch that backs up to one of the roads in our subdivision.
Pinto is a generic term referring to any breed of horse that has a white coat splashed with patches of a different color.  Whatever their breed, these pinto's are certainly friendly, curious neighbors.  They trotted right up to the fence when we got off our bikes, and did't mind being petted! 


For a while I painted quite a few equestrian scenes - I wish I had met these willing models then.


There are other animal neighbors nobody tries to pet.  
This black longhorn is handsome, but that curving rack of horns can only mean 'stay away'!


Out on the lake, we sometimes pass cattle cooling off in the water.
Scenes like this really make our dog's day - Kye stands in the prow, fascinated by the sight and scent.


In our garden, we have smaller creatures - like this box turtle who got caught in our squirrel trap one afternoon.  We opened the hatch, and he lumbered quietly away. 
I saw him later sleeping under this holly.


Our little trap did catch two squirrels who had gnawed their way into our attic.
They were resettled in a distant wood.

But our most exciting catch was this big armadillo!
We are not sure how he overcame the electric armadillo fence, but somehow he got into the front yard and dug quite a deep hole, before blundering into this unbaited trap.
He has since been relocated to a distant field.


They are such strange looking creatures. When the trap opened, he actually leapt in the air!

The butterflies, of course, are much prettier to watch, and not destructive.



They have been feasting on the lantana flowers (a perennial in the verbena family).


We've seen Giant Swallowtails, Western Swallowtails, Monarchs, Orange Sulphers, and Gulf Fritially butterflies.


The days are steamy and hot, and the lake water is very warm, but we feel cooler just looking at it.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Crepe Myrtles Have Their Day

Just when the scorching temperatures of July have bleached the color from the roses, and the garden is starting to look a bit stressed, the crepe myrtles burst into bloom.


We've planted a number of different types.  
The Black Diamond variety, with their purplish leaves, have a very upright, vertical form.


And the blooms are almost day-glow red!


The white type planted in front of our house, have a different shape: their limbs reach out sideways in long wands, and dangle heavy clusters of white blooms at the tips.


The smaller crepe myrtle beneath the white one is a shrub type.  


From a distance, it could be mistaken for a lilac bush.


We planted another if this type in the back yard to screen the cover to the gas tank.


For years I disliked crepe myrtles because I had seen so many terrible pruning jobs!
There are still landscapers out there who hack the trees back to ugly stubs every fall.  


Here is an example of 'topping', also called 'crepe murder'.

Who wants a tree that is grotesque half the year?
If the goal is flowers at eye level - plant a smaller variety, or choose a different type of plant.


This photo was taken at the Nasher Sculpture Garden in early spring.
Their crepe myrtles are tall and elegant - pruned so beautifully, that the trees are lovely additions to the garden year round.


Once I discovered that crepe myrtles did not have to be attacked like kudzu, I became a fan!
I love the variety of colors.


I love their peeling bark and smooth trunks.
And it's a garden boon that they come in so many different sizes and shapes.



Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Spring Starts in February

It's still mid-February, but the plants think it's time for spring here in north Texas.

The early iris are in bloom.

The camellias have been flowering for several weeks.

The fat saucer magnolia buds are starting to open. 

The evergreen euphorbia has burst into bloom and is sprouting new stems.

The chartreuse flowers are quite eye-catching!

I pruned the roses by a third and they are starting to put out leaves as well as flowers.

The profusion of berries on the Burford hollies are as pretty as any flower buds.

I have a swath of about a dozen Guara plants
(Perestroika atriplicifolia), sometimes called Pink Wand Flower, that looked like a tangled thicket of sage brush. 

 Cutting back the long stems revealed the fresh new growth emerging underneath.

The salvia plants and the mums were ready for the same trimming.

Removing all the fungus poxed old leaves on the hellebore brought dozens of flower buds into view. 

This leather-leaf mahonia has been struggling along for two years, but it found the energy to flower.
For a hot, usually dry area, we attract a lot of fungal diseases!

Along the side yard fence, where we are trying to naturalize a dry, weedy area into a woods (large dose of imagination required), we decided to start 'nesting' our trees. These short twig fences are holding shredded leaves in place in an effort to give the young trees some extra help competing for moisture.

It's raining now, just what it's supposed to do in the spring!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Gardening Books Galore!

I'm not a very good librarian. My garden books tend to wander around from room to room and then fail to return to their shelf of origin. So I didn't realize how many garden books I really had until I gathered them all together for a good sorting!

After I took this picture, I found  a few more...not including my Master Gardeners Textbook.

But out of all these titles, I only found one I was ready to take to the used book store - the same place I found all these treasures in the first place.

I do love garden books. And different books fill different needs.

Some are for reference: trees, wildflowers, roses, herbs, pests, diseases, garden history.
Some are for ideas: garden design, color combinations, garden crafts, plant selection.
Some are for inspiration, for the chance to visually walk through beautiful gardens on just the right day, at the perfect hour.

After the book shelves were freshly dusted and orderly, I chose two books to keep me company by the fire.
Every page (each full color and beautifully photographed) of 'Town Gardens' by Caroline Boisset and Frances Lincoln (1989) is delightful. I don't have a city garden, but this book is a rich source of ideas for people who like the idea of garden rooms, or are interested in creating intimate spaces in a larger yard. I see something new every time I open its pages.

'Secret Gardens of Santa Fe' (1997) by Sidney LeBlanc and Charles Mann is a mini escape to New Mexico. This book illustrates why that state is called the land of enchantment! Page after colorful page of private gardens, steeped in the history of this unique city.

When its cold and windy winter outside, there's nothing like a garden book for company. 

In spite of the crisp weather, some things are blooming. 
The prostrate rosemary bushes are covered in tiny blue flowers.

The cilantro is in full flower.

'Pioneer Twirl' is leafless, but flowering.
I love this color and can't help but notice how it echos the winter sunsets on Lake Richland Chambers!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Garden House

January is a prime month for cleaning out and reorganizing. 
First, it's cold and rainy outside.
And there's something about packing up all that holiday stuff, and seeing the house fresh and uncluttered again, that encourages me to take on other tidying projects. 
(Plus I had just finished reading Marie Kondo's book 'The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up'!)

The garden house was an obvious target.
Various tools and materials had migrated between the two rooms of the garden house and the garage to the point where it seemed we spent as much time looking for stuff as getting things done.

We decided to shift all the garden stuff to the smaller front room and use the large back room as a workshop. Now the garage is just for the car (and during the winter the boat).

Just like the garage, the walls of the garden house are galvanized metal sheets instead of the usual drywall. It's great - bright, reflective, sturdy and we never have to paint it.

The aluminum shutters visible on the back wall can be opened to allow ventilation to flow from the workshop room behind which is lined with roll-out windows.

My husband attached a wooden board along the walls. The ripple in the metal siding allows space for an assortment of movable hooks. 

Permanent supports hold up awkward items like rakes and shovels.
We used to store these in a rolling cart, but it was always difficult to find what I wanted and pull it out. Now I can easily see everything!




I feel so organized all of a sudden!

Outside, I still haven't decided what to do about the latest round of wave damage.
Once again all the stones and logs where rolled up and over and six feet beyond where they were put.
Hmmm...bigger rocks?

An amazing number of plants are still in bloom, although we have had several small freezes.
The lantana, verbena, cilantro and roses are still hanging on as the camellias start to bud.

I'm not gardening, but I am spending time with all the beautiful bulb and flower catalogs!