Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Monarchs on the Mistflower

For all three:
Camera: Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi
Exposure: 1/160,  1/320, 1/400
Aperture Value: 7.40 EV (f/13)
ISO Speed: 1600
Flash: No
Metering Mode: Pattern
Exposure Program: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 168 mm, 300 mm, 149 mm
Post Processing: GIMP - levels, +3-10 Saturation, +0-5 Contrast, add border

Saturday, May 26, 2012


The shadows on my wall in the morning

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ghost Pepper, Round 2

This year, we had such a mild winter, that my ghost pepper plant pulled through and is now flowering and setting fruit.  Oddly, though, I forgot that it was the ghost pepper that made it - I thought it was my Red Demon Thai Pepper plant that had made it.  So I was disappointed for a second or two... until I realized that the ghost pepper is like 5 times hotter.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bad Photography

After reading the Not-So-Angry Red Head's blog entry a while back about bad photography, I decided I'd do one as well.  I mean, it's always good to show the screw ups as it makes us all better...and more human.  So here are some photos I took around the yard for bloom day/folliage follow up in which I thought, whilst taking the photos, that they would look awesome.

Fennel flowers.  What is the point of this photo?  Why is it out of focus? Plus, the utility box in the background is obnoxious.  (as I said, I need to do something about that...)

Agave Lopantha - the focus point is off, the white splotches are distracting, the framing of the photo is too closed in.

The only remaining bluebonnet in my yard.  Too bad it's fuzzy as all get out (and this is after the camera said it was in focus, which means it could be motion blur as opposed to completely out of focus...still.  Disappointing.)

What the hell?  How could I have gotten the focus on the wrong thing?  I was aiming for the monarda to be in focus with the guara out of focus...yep, totally effed that one up.

Just because early morning light is good for photographs doesn't mean that it's good for ALL photographs - the shadows are distracting and the tree trunk is blown out.  boo. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

LZM Studio Plant Artwork

As I'm sure most of you have seen on The Facebook, I've been pimping my friend Laurie's art studio tour that is occurring during the WEST art tour.  The art tour runs Sunday the 20th 11am to 6pm.  Laurie's studio is at Woodrow and North Loop (look for the 128a and 128b signs on the house).

Below are some of the photos I took whilst at the studio today.

Mulberry art by one of Laurie's students

Wide angle of art by Laurie's students.  Laurie teaches students from age 5 to 78.

Austin Urban Sketchers work.  The black and white drawings are all from their trip to the Wildflower Center. The two in the foreground in color are from Mayfield Park.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Front Yard Update May 2012 - Purple and White

The poppies are done, but the Horsemint and Guara have taken off.  The tall purple flowers in the back are the Peter's Purple monarda that just about everyone is talking about. (see here, here, here and here, and I'm sure there are many other local garden bloggers talking about it, and I just haven't been paying attention)

For a comparison of what the yard looked like last month, see here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hell Strip - the big one

As I stated a few days ago (in the Dahlberg Daisy post), here are some updated photos of the main portion of the hell strip.

Hymenoxys "Nana" and Prairie Verbena

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Foliage Follow Up May 2012

"What is going on, is it the end of the world?" you may ask, "a Foliage Follow Up post?!"  Yes, I know, it's amazing isn't it?  Actually doing a bloom day post and a foliage follow up post.

"Pam's Pink" Turk's Cap, Artemisia, and Rock Rose by my front door in the dappled sun.
Please visit Pam's blog, Digging, for more Foliage Follow Up posts.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bloom Day May 2012

"What's this?" you say, "A bloom day post?!"  Why yes, yes it is.  Though, admittedly, the pictures were taken prior to actual bloom day, BUT they are still blooming, and that's the important part, right?  (note:  Please visit May Dreams Garden for more bloom day posts)

Peter's Purple Monarda - for a good zoomed in photo, please visit Suzie's blog at VivaVerde.  Daphne Richards gave me this plant to try in my yard.  I split it into a few plants and have one here in the front bed (which is very prolific) and one in the back yard bed which is not.  I also have one in the rain garden area but that one I put in the ground a few months ago so it's not prolific either.  Expect to see a Very Monarda post soon.

Standing Cypress...even though this one is following mostly along the ground...whatever.  It's the first one I've ever had (yay!)

White guara with Horsemint.  The purple balls in the upper left are the Monarda blooms.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dahlberg Daisy

Another one of my favorite plants is the Dahlberg Daisy.  Of course, I only have this growing season to base that assessment on - I got it a few months ago from Jenny at RockRose.  I specifically got it because I was looking for plants to put in my hell strip after I went and turned it into a rock garden area.  So far the plant has been blooming pretty much non-stop with minimal water (I water the hell strip plants about once every two weeks if we haven't had rain in that time - I'm trying to get all the plants established and then I figure I'll water very rarely after the first year).

I love the yellow of the daisies, and also how delicate and tiny they are.

The north hell strip - I originally thought these plants got more shade than the south hell strip, but I think it actually gets more since our trees in the yard have matured.  And of course, since the plants are all still tiny, this area does not photograph well.  Don't worry, I plan to bring you photos soon of the main part of the hell strip which also looks barren until you look closer.  From top to bottom: Coreopsis, Feather Grass, Creeping Thyme, Arizona Blanket Flower, Desert Marigold (it has since died), Dahlberg Daisy, Prairie Fleabane.  

Friday, May 11, 2012

The end of the Fall Garden

I realized I haven't been taking photos of the fall garden.  Mostly because it's garlic and onions, and how exciting is it to see a bunch of pictures of garlic and onions.

Anyhow, at this point, I've pulled out most of the onions and the parsley (the stuff that grows wild in my yard) has gotten so big it's top heavy.
From left to right:  Dill (which I purchase for the butterflies), onions, garlic, garlic chives, lone onion.  The marigolds reseeded themselves from last year, unfortunately, most of them seeded in the grass area and have subsequently been mowed over.

From left-ish to right-ish:  Fennel (which heretofore has always been purchased for the caterpillars; henceforth, it will always be purchased for the caterpillars), parsley, garlic, lemon balm.  Also, I need to figure out what our easements look like for that electrical box and try to figure out a way to hide it from view...maybe a trellis with evergreen vine...or succulent cinder-block wall.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Building a Grow Box

A few weeks ago I went to the East Austin Garden Faire, and one of the booths was about building Grow Boxes for gardening instead of your standard garden.  In college, I had a commercial grow box (the EarthBox - Retails for $42.95 -shipping included- -does not include soil or fertilizer - and is 2.5' x 1' x 1' [which holds 2 cf of growing media 8" deep and approximately 3 gallons of water]).  I grew broccoli in it.  Lots and lots of broccoli.

This year, because of the 2011 drought, I opted not to do a spring garden.  Which then put me in a quandary when I picked up a free tomato plant at the faire.

Unknown variety of tomato plant from East Austin Garden Faire
Thus I decided I needed a grow box.  Good thing they nice people at the grow box booth had given me a set of directions on how to make my own.

Materials Needed for the Grow Box:
  • 30 or so gallon plastic storage container (e.g. Rubbermaid or Sterilite)
  • Sturdy "water reservoir" supports (i.e. high quality gallon sized plastic pots or 4" PVC cut into 6" long pieces)
  • 2' of 1.5-2" PVC pipe (this is your watering pipe)
  • length of wire to provide lateral support to your grow box (I used electric dog fence wire)
  • Duct Tape
  • Garden Soil and Compost (about 2-3 cubic yards total)
  • A good general granulated fertilizer (NOT the type that you dissolve in water)

Materials needed to Make the Grow Box:
  • Something to cut plastic (such as a box cutter or a cutter saw)
  • An electric drill fitted with 1/4" drill bit
  • Hand saw (depending on if you need to cut PVC pipes)
  • Pliers (for twisting wire)
Cost:  $22.70 (in order to compare apples to apples, this cost does not include soil or fertilizer)

Step 1:  Set out your materials, thusly:

Step 2:  Situate the gallon plant containers and/or 6" PVC with the 2' PVC roughly in the middle of one of the sides as such:
Notice that 2 of the containers in the corners are open end up. This is because you need a way for soil to wick water from the water reservoir.  Technically I guess all of the containers could face up, but only the 2 opposite corners are going to do the wicking.
Step 3:  Cut out the center part of the lid.  I used a box cutter (relatively easy - but you do have to make 3 slices in order to cut all the way through the lid), but you could use a power saw of some type.

Step 4:  Cut out the corners and a circular hole for the watering pipe.

Step 5:  Drill some drainage holes in the lid (using the 1/4" drill bit), and duct tape the lid (which is now the floor) in place.  The duct tape is to prevent soil from falling into the water reservoir.  At this point, just use enough to hold the piece in place.

Step 6:  Drill some 1/4" holes in the watering pipe.  I also cut it at an angle but you don't need to do this (the husband insisted that this project required the use of the destructo-saw aka reciprocating saw)

Step 7:  If a little duct tape is good, then a bunch of duct tape is even better.
Make sure to put the snapping part of the lid on the container in order to make sure that your watering tube is situated correctly before you go duct taping it at the wrong angle.

Step 8:  Drill a few holes (4) in the long side with matching holes on the opposite side - you will be threading the wire through these holes for lateral support of the box.  Drill a few holes (3) just below the flooring - this is how the water drains out and is really what makes this fool-proof.  Only drill the 3 holes on one side, and preferably it should be on whichever side you'll be looking at while you fill the thing with water.
The 4 wire support holes are lighter in color and are above the dark line (which is the floor), the 3 drain holes are darker in color and are below the dark line.
Step 9:  Thread the wire through to provide lateral support.  We also threaded it around the water pipe for added support.  Make sure to twist the ends and tuck them away so you won't be stabbing yourself while filling the box with soil.

Step 10:  Fill the corners of the box (the wicking pots) with soil.  Tamp down the soil.  Add more soil and some compost until about half full.  Lightly tamp down and moisten the soil (you don't need it sopping, just somewhat wet to get things to settle).  Continue filling with more soil and compost.  Tamp down lightly and moisten again. (no more pictures because my hands were dirty)

Step 11:  Make a furrow in the center of your soil box - it really depends on how you plan to plant your transplants.  The furrow is where your fertilizer will go so you don't want to have a plant smack dab in the middle of it.  Pour some fertilizer in the furrow - probably between 1-2 cups - in a strip approximately 3" wide.  Cover with soil.

Step 12:  Use a trash bag to create an anti-evaporation cover (this is why seeds don't work well in the grow boxes).  Basically all you have to do is lay the trash bag over your soil and snap what's left of the lid onto the base.

Step 13:  Cut holes in the trash bag where you want to plant your transplants.  Plant.  Voila!  The grow box is complete. 

Continued Care:  Now all you need to do is water the plants via the watering pipe until water runs out of the 3 drain holes.  It takes a while for it to fill up the first time - the water reservoir, after all, does hold about 8 gallons of water.  Frequency of watering will depend on how much water your plants use - young tomato plants use less water than mature plants; when it's hot, plants will use more water than when it's cool...and God bless us if it's hot and windy.  Basically, you'll have to still check to make sure there's water in the reservoir, but you may be able to go up to a week or so without needing to add any water to your grow box system.

Long Term Care:  If I remember correctly from the EarthBox system, you should refresh the fertilizer every year, and the soil may need to be switched out every 5 years or so...of course, by that point in time you'll probably need to re-duct tape everything anyhow.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


I don't know how I managed to get this picture - it's rare for me to want to go out and try to get pictures of the pollinators for any period of time, and I didn't take many photos of the bee on Zexmenia.  But that's not what this post is about.  This post is about how much I love zexmenia.

Zexmenia (Wedelia texana) is a Texas native (also called Texas creeping oxeye) that requires little water to survive though it can handle both dry and wet conditions (this is good considering how 'feast or famine' we are with water in these parts), but does need well draining soil.  It requires full sun to partial shade though it can get leggy in the shade (as it does with excess water as well).  The plant can get rather large - it acts like a shrub - but it does benefit from being cut back every once in a while.  In addition to attracting bees and butterflies, it is the larval host for the Bordered Patch butterfly.  And most importantly, I think this color of orange/yellow is going to look smashing with the magenta/red of the Dr. Huey rose....Just as soon as I remove all the dead Asiatic Jasmine, and purchase enough plants, I'm going to have a whole mess of these.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Passionvine

Camera: Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi
Exposure: 1/125
Aperture Value: 7.40 EV (f/13)
ISO Speed: 1600
Flash: No
Metering Mode: Pattern
Exposure Program: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 60.00 mm
Post Processing: GIMP - levels, +10 Saturation, +10 Contrast, crop