i’ve been a bad garden blogger

if it weren’t for my insistent friend ms. slotharium, i’d probably never get this post up. i know, i’ve been a really bad garden blogger lately, but i just haven’t been able to spend  (i.e. distract myself) for a minute longer at the computer as this is the time of year to be outside in texas! surely you understand, so i won’t waste anymore time giving excuses. besides, it’s the bloom day before the garden bloggers meetup in asheville, so i really need to post something or else the powers that be might not let me participate.

here’s the prettiest blooming thing in the garden, bespeckled with the day’s constant drizzle. it sure makes me smile.

Hemerocallis ‘Big Smile’ (daylily)

no time to post photos of each individual blooming plant right now, so here’s the larger view what the front yarden is looking like. a little wild, yes, but over the past couple of months it’s been host to dozens of metamorphosing butterflies, color shifting anoles and even a few molting snakes seeking refuge.

driveway garden view

garden view to left of driveway

right side garden view

view from the top of the driveway

moving along towards the back yarden, here’s a little project mr. grwhryrpltd put together to support our enthusiastic grapevine.

new grape trellis over the garden gate. concrete footers and enlarging the gravel threshold are all that’s left to do (until i overhaul the gate itself ).

one bountiful cluster of Vitis labrusca ‘Black Spanish’ (grape). this is its first year of fruit production.

speaking of bounty, we’ve been harvesting plums the past few mornings from the front garden. they’re so tasty. i’m going to attempt to make plum jam this evening.

Prunus ‘Methley’ (plum)

beautiful and delicious!

oh right… we were heading to the back garden. here’s what it looks like with somewhat frequent rains (every 10 days or so).

a chair full of drying coriander, now probably lost to the rains it just sat through. oh well, i bet cilantro will be growing here come fall.

a nice place to sit with a glass of wine in the evening, particularly when the cushions are dry

while the vegetables haven’t been too productive this spring, the “native” sunflowers sure have shot up like a rocket. they’re everywhere, but i don’t mind too much. it gives the neighbors something to look at over the garden fence.

i’ve limbed up the sunflower’s leaves as they grow to support the tomatoes, tomatillos and peppers growing underneath them. the upper leaves should provide a bit of shade to get the veg through the heat of the day as well. the patch of sunflowers in front of the raised bed was a little experiment to see how big they’d get under competition from bermuda and st. augustine grass. they doubled in height after the last rain.

did i mention we’ve been visited by critters lately? here’s a few of the highlights.

a handsome anole on Pennisetum ‘Princess Caroline’ and Fig

a non-venomous yellow bellied racer or yellow bellied water snake (i think? snake id is not my forte), unfortunately found dead in the garden. i buried him/her and s/he’s now growing a hearty patch of zinnias.

scare ya? ha! only a gardener would pull a (confirmed dead) snake out of sedges to see just how long it was – 10 wine bottle width’s worth. i wonder how many more might be sneaking around.

now, onto the critters for more gentle souls…

Danaus plexippus (monarch) caterpillars denuded this Asclepias (butterfly weed). it’s since recovered and ready for the next batch of larvae.

a freshly spun monarch chrysalis. you can still distinguish the caterpillar stripes on it.

another monarch chrysalis. safely located under the fence stringer for protection from weather, with lots of room for wing development available underneath.

a monarch chrysalis ready to break open…

she’s free!

even the kitties got to see the butterflies hatching. creaker johnny max (our +1 kitty) didn’t even bat a paw.

first year we’ve had Polygonia interrogationis (Question Mark) butterflies. guess it takes having a few Buddleia (butterfly bush) on hand, but somehow i don’t think these shrubs will survive the texas summer heat.

the Buddleia also attracted these Junonia coepia (common buckeye) butterflies. they may be “common,” but i find them stunning.

on the domestic critter front, the kitties have been, well, kitties. i’ve been playing nurse to puma for the past several weeks as she got into an altercation requiring surgery. while healing from that (with plastic cone collar on, of course) she went downhill fast due to another mysterious reason (stroke? aneurysm? tumor?), to the point we thought we were going to lose her. it’s a looong story, but she’s doing fine now and we’re so glad she’s still with us! dude and max did their best to avoid her, lest they catch what she had.

ms. pretty paws (puma) and mr. fence jumper (dude)

how’s that for an update? i could go on, but i’ve got some things to tend to before taking off for asheville. looking forward to catching up with the garden blogging community while there; and for those of you not going, oh how i wish you were! i probably won’t blog from there, but check out my twitter/instagram feed for pictorial updates enroute.

ttfn.

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return

harvest

the monarchs have returned, bringing slow fluttering movement to the fall garden. it’s a joy to see several of them breakfasting in the morning, just as the sun warms plant nectar to what i imagine is near ambrosia, and again in the evening, when soft light filters through their fiery wings. i’ve taken the monarch’s migration through our area as a welcome sign of autumn, and delight in the visual harvest they offer for all to see.

heading down to houston for the quilt festival. see you on the return.

unfurling

i’m actually early for this month’s bloom day, hosted, as always, by carol at may dreams gardens.  i have a beautiful bloom to share with you…  i missed it the last time they opened in our garden here, but i was fortunate to spot one unfurling today:

jaded chrysalis

another jaded chrysalis, this time above our front door

emergence

emergence

a hard landing

a hard landing (the chrysalis above is from the spring monarch hatching)

asclepia's rest

Asclepia's rest

i’m not so sure this was the best day for the monarch to come out of hiding.  the clouds and intermittent rain prevented the monarch’s wings from absorbing the heat of the sun’s rays.  i thought i’d be helpful and bring some open milkweed flowers for it to rest on (Asclepia is a primary food source for monarchs), but its proboscis seemed to be sensing the shape of things rather than searching for nectar.   when another major storm front moved through, i gently coaxed the butterfly from the concrete and onto the branch of a potted plant (Eupatorium) i have yet to put in the ground.  i hope the leafy porch shelter is amenable.  as of writing this post, the monarch is still there.  i was able to capture a few videos of the unfurling, but i’ll wait a while longer before posting them; hopefully she’ll fully bloom by then.

happy bloom day.

if you blink…

i must’ve blinked because i missed it… twice!

well hello there...

well hello there...

a while back i bought an Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed) that came with a few of its own Danaus plexippus (monarch) caterpillars.  the guy who sold it to me was kind enough to throw them in for free.  while i contemplated where to plant it (yes, these decisions can sometimes take several days) one of the caterpillars decided to build its pupa (or chrysalis) on one of the Asclepias’ leaves:

plant jewelry

plant jewelry - see the gold flecks and the wings inside?

not wanting to disturb this stage of metamorphosis, i decided to forgo planting and instead heeled it into an empty space in the garden to help maintain the moisture level in the container.  everyday i’d go check on her (yes, you can tell from a mark on the pupa if it’s a boy or girl butterfly) to see if there was any visible wing development.  then i had to take a field trip to san antonio, and when i came back she was gone, just a shell of the pupa remained.  happy trails to mexico, miss butterfly.

after that bittersweet discovery, i planted the Asclepias.  a few days later i noticed four more big BIG monarch caterpillars munching on the now aphid-covered leaves.  yippee, more chances to observe metamorphosis…

a monarch caterpillar on its food of choice, Asclepias tuberosa

a monarch caterpillar on its food of choice, Asclepias tuberosa

but after several days, i didn’t see a sign of them anywhere…  did a bird eat them?  no, supposedly birds don’t find them palatable.  it wasn’t until we were working on turf elimination round one that we noticed a caterpillar in an upside down question mark hanging from a column on the front porch:

the caterpillar selects a site to pupate

the caterpillar selects a site to pupate

not an hour later when we came back from lunch, it had turned itself into a  jade-colored beauty.  amazing…

the butterfly-to-be hangs from its cremaster and spun silk

the butterfly-to-be hangs from its cremaster and spun silk

and then i noticed another, under the sill of the front door:

Danus plexippus_0171

an interesting choice of hibernating ground

that was a week or so ago.  when i went out to water some plants this morning and checked on them i gasped, as this was all i saw of them:

chrysalis remains

pupa remains

scale relationship

scale relationship

i missed them!  oh, happy trails to you too… i hope you come back and visit.  next time we’ll have even more Asclepias for you to munch on.

for more info on these lovely creatures, check out monarch watch.