Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas - Wildflower Center Luminations

For one weekend in December, the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center does their annual Luminations display.  This year is was over the 13th/14th.  Pam at Digging also attended (albeit earlier in the evening than I did).

This year, the Family Garden was included in the celebration.  It was also the first time that I had been there since the Family garden opened and I'm a little disappointed we didn't get to see it during the day. 

Totally unfocused picture of the Arizona cypress trees in the Children's garden

Chicken wire balls with battery powered lights

The husband even pointed out how weird it is that we usually only go to the Wildflower Center for their annual "walk around in the dark when you can't see the gardens" event.  Next year I suppose we should try to go when they first open (6pm) instead of waiting until 8pm like we usually do (the event goes until 9pm). 

We usually go up to the top of the rain collection tower and take some photos at the end of the night.  This year, sadly, it was closed so I had to content myself by taking artsy photos of the railing going up the tower.

And of course, you always have to take a close up photo of the luminarias

The Center has children's crafts in their big exhibition hall

And there's always music, kettlecorn, and hot chocolate in the main square

Within the last couple of years, they've switched from using strings of lights wrapped around their giant oak at the entrance to using "Fairy Lights" from a projection system, which is honestly even more impressive (though the photo doesn't do it justice).

The Luminations display usually happens about 2 weekends before Christmas, and the fee to get in is 2 cans of food to be donated to the Capital Area Food Bank per person.  The crafts are free, but there's usually a charge for any of the food items.  And while all of these photos were taken with my cell phone, I highly recommend taking your regular digital camera, if you have one.

Previous posts on the Luminations Displays:  2012.   2008

Thursday, December 18, 2014

December Wide Angles

As per usual - I took the photos, I just didn't post them in a timely manner.  Thanks to Heather at Xericstyle for hosting the monthly wide-angle post.

The front yard:
Featuring all the leaves.  And Princess, the neighbor's cat.

The Hell Strip:

The Rose Bed:

Closer view of the front:

Seriously - this area needs help.  It gets too much shade for the sun-loving plants (artemisia, pale pavonia, and butterfly iris)
Around the side:

Panoramic from the edge of the deck:

From essentially the back door:

From the other side of the deck:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Farewell, Queens

The queen butterflies finally emerged on November 25, and I released them the next day - a male and a female.  These are the last of my foster caterpillars for the year.
Female Queen Butterfly

Male Queen Butterfly.  You can tell the difference because the male has the scent spot (i.e. white spot) on his hind wing.

The butterflies sunned themselves for a few hours before taking off.

As I headed back inside, I checked the milkweed plant.

Uh oh...looks like we have a few more left for the season.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Hello, Friend.

A Praying Mantis Study:

You know, I don't know if that was a shell or if there was a butterfly to emerge from that chrysalis (it's gulf fritillary, by the way).

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


So, I figured out the name of the rose that I got from my friend, Andrea.  You may remember me posting some photos of two that I cut off the plant a month or so ago.  Here is another photo of one of the blooms -

Like I said earlier, I found the tag, but I didn't remember the name at the time - I finally went back out and decided I should just take a picture of the tag -

Double Delight (Andeli) is a bicolor hybrid tea rose which is great as a cut rose due to their size and scent.  According to Wikipedia (but I don't see it mentioned on any of the rosearian pages), the red coloring becomes more pronounced in the sun, with those flowers in green houses being almost white.  Which, if that's true, then that explains why the ones I had as cut flowers in the house had more ivory when compared to the ones that are on the plant.  Double Delight was hybridized by Swim in 1977 and the parent plants are Granada and Garden Party.

I really need to find a better place for these roses since they're currently in half-filled large flower pots - but I'm not sure if it's better to have them out in the rose bed (probably the best place for them) or if I should put them on the south side of the house (which would then mean that I need to create a NEW garden bed for them).

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cold Front

Cold Front!  BRRRRRRR!

I spent yesterday afternoon getting the plants ready for the impending cold weather.  This front is bringing about 3 days of below 50F temps and two nights of mid to low 30s.  Since I just started harvesting tomatoes from my plants (and they have a bunch of tomatoes on them), I decided to do something I've never done in the past - I decided to actually TRY to save the plants.  I usually will put some bed sheets over the plants when it gets cold, but that's about as far as I go.  This time I actually went to the store and bought some Chistmas lights (I never thought I'd be so happy to have Christmas displays up the day after Halloween) and two extension cords.  Then I came home and tried to wrap the tomato plants in the leaves.  I first wrapped the lights on the cages, then threw the sheet overtop and immediately was like "oh, that's a fire hazard."  On the growbox tomatoes I managed to get the lights away from the sheet with the help of a bunch of clothes pins, but it was not working with the garden tomato.  Then I wrapped the plant itself, which totally bound it all up, and then I had the brilliant idea of wrapping the lights around a T-post, staking it in the ground next to the tomato plant (inside the cage) and then covering the whole thing with a sheet.  Total time to wrap the growbox tomatoes: 1 hour 15 minutes.  Total time to wrap the garden tomatoes (when I actually went with the T-post idea): 13 minutes.


After wrapping

Growbox all lit up

Garden Toms all lit up

After getting the tomatoes ready for the weather (and harvesting the basil and eggplants), I decided to do some research for a shelving unit that I could keep my cacti and succulents on when I pull them all inside.  After some research, I narrowed it down to a 30x24x14 3-shelf industrial thing from Lowe's (which would be very good for starting seedlings), the Hyllis (55x24x11) shelf from IKEA, and the Mulig (35x23x13 OR 64x23x13) shelf, also from IKEA. The Hyllis was the cheapest, the Lowe's would be the best for seed starting (but would obviously be covered in plants at the time when I needed to start seedlings), and the Mulig matches our kitchen the best (but was the most expensive).  In the end, I opted to get the Hyllis because I figure I can put it to use elsewhere during the summer season, and at $15, it wouldn't break the budget if I only used it for one year before getting rid of it.

All filled up with plants...most of which probably can be outside.
And of course, the tropicals are too large to fit on the shelf, but needed to be brought in - this year, I've decided they should just stay inside the entire winter (I've always drug them in and out).  So they're all set up in the extra room.
Plumeria, unscented Plumeria and Ginger.

Sadly, the tropicals will be spending the winter in the extra bedroom, which also happens to be "the kitten room" and I probably shouldn't have kittens locked in a room with plants that they can chew on, so that means I can't have foster kittens until next spring...which I'm sad about, but I think the resident cat and the husband are actually very happy about.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Armistice Day

Loving my Country Girl mums I got from Ally at Garden Ally.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Fall Tomatoes

The Fall Tomato season is upon us.

Chico III

I mentioned previously that I took a few cuttings of the Blueberries tomato plant  - I ended up with 3 (which makes it sound like I tried to start more than 3 - I didn't, I only ever had 3, so rooting hormone for the win, YAY!), I gave 2 of the rooted cuttings to coworkers who were so in love with the copious amounts of tomatoes I brought in from the plant that they begged me to do cuttings (they're actually the main reason why I decided to get the rooting hormone) (the coworkers, not the tomatoes).

I pulled out the original Blueberries tomato plant because is was leggy as all get out and planted the Blueberries cutting in its place.  I severely cut back the Purple Cherokee, I removed the Dwarf Arctic Rose (since it died), and trimmed back the Chico III and Japanese Black Trifele.  I did all this in late August, I think (I'll confirm with my garden journal).

The Purple Cherokee ended up with a huge ol' Tomato Horn Worm on it, and it plant looked so devastated that I figured it wasn't worth keeping, so I ended up removing it in late September or so.  The other plants were doing fine and started flowering.  And then they started fruiting.  I've noticed some tomatoes disappearing from the Blueberries and the Japanese Black Trifele (the low-hanging fruit if you will).  I think the Timmies are taking them (aka opossums).  The blueberries tomatoes I don't care so much about because there are a bunch of them and they're nowhere close to ripe - but I do care a little that they've made off with the 2 almost ripe Japanese black trifele tomatoes.  Oh well, c'est la vie...and I can always hope that the Timmies are eating the cockroaches which live in the Asiatic jasmine.

[aside: I call all opossums "Timmy."  I don't remember why I started doing that, but I think it had to do with the momma opossum that used to live in the yard, and after she disappeared, one of her babies stayed around so I started calling it Timmy.  And then I just started referring to all the other opossums as Timmy as well.  It's kinda like every black and white springer spaniel dog is a Zip-dog, or every black and white long-haired tuxedo cat is Figa-cat.  In any case, I've noticed a few different opossums around and my cat gets along with them so I'm claiming she's started a band called Ivy and the Timmies.]

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Moar 'Pillars!

So, last we left off, we had a few goobered chrysalises, a fritillary chrysalis that wouldn't stick, a new housing container to try and a few black swallowtail caterpillars.

First the updates:
There was one goobered chrysalis actually looked like it might turn out okay so I left it be.  It eventually turned black like it was going to emerge, but it never did.  I even left it out in the sun on the weekend hoping that would help.

Then there was the fritillary chrysalis that I had to tie to a twig.  It did eventually hatch, but one of the forewings was goobered:

For comparison, it should have looked like this:

The little bugger couldn't fly, but since it could eat perfectly fine, I took him outside and put him on some flowers so he could live out the rest of his little life.

Then there were the black swallowtail caterpillars.  The lighter of the two (i.e. the one that looked more like a regular black swallowtail caterpillar) ended up dying - it just stopped eating and then turned to mush.  The darker one, however, remained fine.

A few days after I took the above picture, I put him in a yogurt cup house with a few skewers in it (for him to have something to attach to).  A day or so after being moved, he formed a chrysalis.  He's now ensconced in the laundry basket home waiting to hatch.
Black Swallowtail chrysalis from the side.
Black Swallowtail chrysalis from the front.

And finally, the update on the new housing container - I was going to let the monarch hatch in the yogurt cup, but because I was going to be gone for the whole day, I opted to take the lid off and leave the chrysalis outside to hatch.  I just used two clothespins to pin the lid (with chrysalis) to a tomato cage.  It must have worked because when I came home, the chyrsalis was empty.

And now for the NEW stuffs!

One of the days when I was outside collecting milkweed leaves for the monarch caterpillars, I saw a bunch of Queen butterflies flitting about and figured that meant that I'd end up with queen caterpillars on the milkweed.  Sure enough, about 10 minutes later, there was a queen working the milkweed plants, so I took some of the leaves with eggs off and brought them inside to hatch and raise.

Queen caterpillars are also yellow, black, and white but the pattern is a little different; but the most easily seen thing that lets you know you have queens instead of monarchs is the 3 sets of antenna-looking things instead of only 2.  This picture is probably of the 4th instar (the antenna things don't really form until the 3rd instar...but of course, some of that is they're tiny little buggers until about the 3rd instar - seriously - the first instar was about a millimeter long), and I've since moved them into the now empty yogurt containers for chrysalis formation.

I swear I'm almost done with the caterpillar updates - I'll probably stop after these guys hatch.  Maybe.  No promises.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

November Wide Angles

Welcome to another (only slightly) late round of wide angles.  Thanks to Heather at Xericstyle for getting us to take photos.

The front:


The hell strip:

The Rose Bed:
This is going to have a bunch of stuff cleared out in the near future.  And maybe two other rose bushes added (they're in pots right now from my friend, Andrea, but they are in mostly shade so they don't like it.

The front walk:

Around the side:

The panorama from the end of the walkway - now featuring Shawn who was doing brush clean up:

Panorama from the back door:

Panorama from the other end of the walkway:

The view of the garden/grass corner:

And finally, the backyard World Photo can be found here.