Wednesday, February 27, 2013

American Goldfinch

Haven't seen as many of these guys around as I did last year.  I'm not really sure if it's because I haven't been paying attention or if it's because I have a crapload of white wing doves or if the starlings and sparrows are just bullying them out of the way.  Heck, it could even just be that it was warm enough that they're not hanging around in my part of town.  I'm just amazed that I managed to get this good of a photo of the bird in the tree.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Mockingbird: Older and Wiser

I think I have one resident mockingbird with a few that are around the area.  The bird books I have make no mention of the bird visiting feeders, but I guess it shouldn't surprise me since they're foragers who eat berries and what have you.  Of course, the only feeder this one visits is the suet.  But he sure does like the water dish in the back yard...  Maybe it's the same one that I got a picture of during the summer.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Garden Design Implementation: Phases 7 and 8 of eleventy-billion

Phase 7:  I don't know if it was the impending dinner party, the brush pick up, or the fact that he squashed my dreams of a cinder block wall, but while I was at Pam's Lawn Gone talk at the Natural Gardener, the husband set up my secondary rain barrel.  This rain barrel has been sitting in the yard not set up and not collecting water since my friends gave it to me when they moved in April.  As you can see, he used the cinder blocks as a stand since more head equals better draining of water from the barrel.


Phase 8:  The planting of the grasses.  My original Plan called for two Big Muhly grasses, and when the husband nixed the cinder block wall, I added a third.  Since I decided that wouldn't give enough screening, I decided to add three Gulf Coast Muhlies to the mix as well.  Of course I don't think this will be tall enough to totally shield the utility box, but it's a start.  Of course you can't see green on green grasses, so I'll help you out - the yellow flags are the grasses and the one lone orange flag in the back is a coral honeysuckle vine.  The flags, naturally, are meant to keep the husband from accidentally mowing over them.  I purchased one of the big muhly grasses back during the fall Wildflower Center sale, I got one from my coworker, and I purchased the third at Barton Springs Nursery the day of the talk (yes, I totally visited two of our awesome locally owned nurseries on Saturday).  I got the two gulf muhlies at the Natural Gardener. The coral honeysuckle also came from BSN.  Not shown:  The Augusta Duelberg sage and 2 Ruby Crystals  grasses I also got at BSN.

All that's left on this side of the yard is to plant the Hamelia Patens aka Firebush next to the rain barrel (I use the scientific name because the plant is sometimes called hummingbird bush, but there are a bunch of other plants also called hummingbird bush).  I may also replant more petunia as my current plan calls for having it moved all to this side of the yard (but I may wait until the fall to move the rest).

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


There are so many of these guys I can't keep track of them...of course there is one big, ole fat one that I call "Bubba."  Of course, this is not to be confused with what we call our cat, "Bubby."

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Book Review: Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart

Another book my sister got for me for Christmas was Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart.

I had never read an Amy Stewart book before, so I'm not sure if the layout is the same - she has 2-4 page synopses of each type of plant outlining why the plant is bad and what it does.  Having these short chapters makes for easy refreshers later.  For example, one of my coworkers mentioned a beverage that his brother brought back for him from the Netherlands; the beverage included some buffalo grass in the bottle.  I remembered that this book had something about a Polish drink that included buffalo grass so I found that particular entry, flagged it, and let my coworker read it.

On the plus side, the 'chapters' are extremely short, so for those that can't read much, should find this book no problem to read in snippets.  It's also a good book to have on hand if you have any plants that are listed - at least you'll know wha tot look for if someone eats the plant.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Bush Germander

Ummm...I think Spring has done gone sprung.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Zilker Botanical Garden

So on the 9th I went to the Master Gardener presentation on taking care of roses.  I went because I have what I believe to be a Dr. Huey rose in the front yard that we don't really take care of, other than to cut back a little bit each year.  Some years the plant blooms prolifically, and some years it doesn't.  It only really seems to bloom once per year though, and it's super airy because the Dr. Huey is a climbing rose.  Now I'm debating on digging it up and planting a bush rose in its place instead.  ANYHOO, that's not what this post is supposed to be about - this was supposed to be about the fact that after the seminar, I walked around Zilker (in the rain, mind you) to get some photos for you, dear readers.  So without further ado...

Agave teeth silhouette on center stalk.

Flowering Quince.  I may need to find a place for this plant because of it's crazy bright and I love the crepe-y-ness of of the flowers.

Japanese garden bridge.  As I was taking photos I relized that I was mostly taking photos with a man-made aspect in every one...which made me really want to add more focal points to my yard...of course I'd need to plant plants first...

Blooming Rose...Old Blush if I remember correctly.

New plantings by the trail

St. Francis of Assisi statue.  I would hazard a guess that St. Francis is the 3rd most famous Catholic saint (preceded by Mary and Joseph).  Surprisingly, St. Francis is not the patron saint of gardeners - that saint would most likely be St. Phocas - patron saint of ornamental and flower gardens. (side note:  I wonder if his name is pronounced like "Focus").  St. Francis is the patron saint of animals (and animal rescue societies) as well as ecology.  However, the newly cannonized St. Kateri Tekakwitha is also a patron saint of the environment and ecology (and seeing as how we're all into plants that do well locally, seems to me like we should also choose the saint that is at least from the North American continent for that aspect).

Whale Tongue Agave

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Garden Design Implementation: Phases 3 - 6 of Eleventy - Billion

NOTE:  I call it "Eleventy - Billion" because it makes Roberta happy.  She's not a numbers person, so I'm not sure how she's so sure that such a made up number is, in fact, accurate.

Welcome back to my backyard - where I have a plan, but the husband decides the plan is lacking.

In case you don't follow me on the facebooks, a few weekends ago I went out and purchased 6 cinder blocks.  I figured 6 was a good number to start with.  You'll remember that my plans called for a cinder block succulent wall.  My husband, however, did not remember this little detail.  My husband does not like cinder block walls (even after I showed him Pam's pictures of her wall).  He also does not like galvanized steel stock tank planters/ponds.  I have since decided that he is a weirdo.  This also means that I have to change my plans for what to do in my little rock patio area (not to mention figure out what type of planters to get for my herb garden thing I want to do). Also, this leaves a hole in my plans of what to do about screening the utility box.  He's all for building something out of wood, which I'd rather not I may end up just planting some tall grasses, throw in a bottle tree, and call it good. (watch, he probably doesn't like bottle trees either [edited: He does not like bottle trees...found that out this afternoon.  Lesson: I like modern, he likes manor style classic - so be glad I have any plants.])

Anyhow, back to the story at hand - I came traipsing home with 6 cinder blocks, 4 of which I immediately lined up in the rough location of said wall.  The husband was not amused.  In the end, I used 2 cinder blocks to create a step down from the deck; the other 4 are in their original location, but are now covered with pruned tree limbs so we can't see them.  And if my husband can't see something, it doesn't exist.  The problem with the step I made is that it's still a bit of a big step to get from the deck to the step and vice versa, so I may have to put two of the remaining cinder blocks on their ends to make a two-step system.  The other two will be used to elevate one of our rain barrels. (Again, my plan was to raise both of the rain barrels, but that, apparently, is too much work and so we will only raise one of them.  Maybe.  I think the husband is talking himself out of it because it requires cutting a down-spout and breaking rivets or some such)
It ain't pretty, but it's functional.  And for now, that's all I need.

Phase 4 was planting Dianella along the side of the deck - if the plants don't make it (due to lack of water or otherwise), I'll just have to find different plants to plant.
A zoomed out photo

Close(r) up of the dianella plants at the deck.

Phase 5 was moving all of the Mexican Petunia from the shady side of the yard to the more sunny side of the yard.  That went well.  I haven't moved two clumps yet (the ones by the humming bird feeder), mostly because I couldn't remember off the top of my head if they were supposed to move or not.  Hopefully the Petunia will like the northeast corner of the yard better than they like the south fence line. I think they should, overall, get more sunlight there, which will make them happier.
A bad picture of the transplanted petunia - you can't see anything.  That's why it's bad.  I guess if you get your magnifying glass, you can make out a few sticks sticking out of the ground, those would be the transplanted petunia.

Phase 6 was installing a 'step' to help climb the little hill thingy we have going on in our yard.  Of course ,this 'hill' was recommended to be removed by the garden bloggers at the Go-Go 2 Julys ago, but, as Bob says, 'anyone can have a normal looking tree' and I like having the grade change, so I'm going to try to keep it.  I was trying to figure out how this whole "add a step" thing was going to work out because I figured any time I tried to dig into the dirt, it would erode away with rainstorms.  And it may very well do that, but I figured since I had the red stepping stones from Phase 1, I might as well use them.  So instead of 1 step, I now have 3 and a half.  I say half because I only really need 3, but I didn't know what else to do with the 4th step, so it's kinda just laying in the dirt above the steps completing the little stair case.
Steps.  The plan is to plant a crapload of castiron plant along the fence.  Maybe I out to plant something with some height...I do have a Carolina Buckthorn tree that I have to find a place for...

You know what's gotten bad?  The laying in bed at night contemplating what to do.  Even though I have a plan, the husband has already up and changed one aspect of it, and so I've been contemplating what to do that will work for everyone (including the electric and cable workers that will need to get back to the box with some regularity).  Also, the area where I was going to put the little stock pond.  I think I've decided to switch it to a bird bath, but I'm not sure on if I want to keep the whole "flagstone patio" type look.  because that will still be a ton of rock in the back yard...maybe if I switch up the color it wouldn't be as noticeable...or maybe it'd be MORE noticeable.  I think having a dark loose rock (like pea gravel or river rock size) patio would look great with some cement squares laid out to walk on.  I'm pretty sure this goes under 'modern' and therefore the husband will nix it, but he'd be fine with the flagstone style set up.  Normally, I'd just do something and be like "don't worry about it, it'll be fine!"  The problem is that if my husband doesn't like it, I would never hear the end of it and every project I do after that will be a constant question of "Yeah, but remember how that patio turned out?  hideous."  It would be like my own personal "hideous bed." 

Book Review: The $64 Tomato

I've had this book in my "to read" list for quite some time and my sister bought if for me as a Christmas gift this year (probably because she, like my mom, is tired of seeing the same things on my Christmas List year after year).

The book was pretty much what I expected it to be - a story of a man and how gardening both made him sane and crazy (helps him de-stress, but he's also out at the college collecting apple tree pollen so he can pollinate some early blooming apple trees).  Because that's what gardening's all about, right?  I don't think I found it quite as funny as some of the "I almost went crazy" books I've read in the past (for the record, I absolutely loved "Enslaved by Ducks").  But I did enjoy the book.  I finished it about a month ago or so and I already know that I will end up re-reading it again which says something about a book - if I want to read it again, it was a good book.  Yes, yes, I'm one of those weirdos that re-reads books over and over and over if I like them.  Drives my husband nuts.  I'm not sure why, though, you'd figure that since he doesn't like spending money, he'd love that I re-read the same books over and over.

If you want to read this book, be forewarned that it is written by a man who lives in the Northeast so it isn't necessarily going to be prescient to those of us who live in Texas - growing tomatoes in the middle of summer?  having 3 uninterrupted months to plan what you want to put in the garden? That's just crazy talk.  I did also take issue with how he calculated the cost of his Brandywine tomatoes at the end of the book - I have no issue with amortizing the cost of start up throughout all the years (in fact you should take that into account), but I do take issue with assuming that all of his other crops for the year would only be worth what he would pay at the farm stand instead of splitting the overrun over all of the crops - it's the difference between saying "I spent $100 dollars on ten of the things" vs. "I spent $50 on nine of the things and $50 on this one thing."  He also doesn't count his time spent in the garden in the cost - of course, I'm not sure that I would either because I like to garden and I do it because I like it, not because I'm getting crops from it.

So, would I recommend the book?  Yes and no.  If you don't do veggie gardening, you probably won't care for it; but if you do do veggie gardens, you may appreciate it.

Monday, February 4, 2013

I Swears it!

I swear I haven't forgotten about all of my faithful readers (all 2 of you!).  I've just been really busy - with the nice weather, everything has been leafing out and so I spent all of the weekend cleaning up yard detritus and pruning and planting.  And turning the compost bucket.  That...was really bad.  The problem with compost is that if you don't turn it, it goes from an aerobic system (read: doesn't smell bad) to an anaerobic system (read:  smells like poo when air is introduced).  And so now the back yard quite literally smells like shit.  And I'm going to have to go out there again tomorrow night and turn it some more...all to get it back to an aerobic system.

Not only did I get every plant pruned, I also managed to check off more of my backyard projects - moving plants and building some stairs...I really need to remember to take photos...