Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Keeping with our original shoestring budgetary practices, I bought a few four inch pots to supplement the planting beds out front, but I also put out wildflower seed and welcomed passalong plants to help fill in the wide open spaces that used to be nothing more than an expanse of boring lawn and ground covers.
desert ruellia (a woodier less invasive cousin that appeals to local pollinators and so might be an advantage over the native in this case.) and two small salvia leucantha, (another near neighbor that is a well adapted non-native and benefits local pollinators). By next fall, these new additions should be providing a significant color boost and provide further diversity here.
Here's a closer look showing off that second tier of plantings with a little more specificity. Waves of rosemary hold a steep slope in place, so that behind them a variety of native plantings can flourish even though the layer of soil here is very thin.
Peeking behind the second tier, down what used to be a well trodden deer path. Working from the far side we've been putting in plants as barriers to through traffic. So far, so good. We are about three quarters of the way finished.
That is that for September here at austin agrodolce. Short and sweet. We are thoroughly enjoying Autumn here in Central Texas, and wherever you are? We hope your Fall is filled with promise.
Sunday, September 28, 2014
When I spotted the tiny scrub snail on this pot I couldn't help imagining it had scootched all the way up the side to see what that white mulch was, scattered all around the tasty succulent. Then when it got close enough to see the piles of empty shells, it had the snail equivalent of an "oh Sh*t!" moment and fled the other direction.
Friday, September 26, 2014
Coming into the game a blank slate, as I began to try gardening here I had a very steep learning curve. Figuring out what might work versus what was out of the question required a methodical approach. I used nothing of the sort, wandering through each nursery and big box store willy-nilly, drawn to whatever looked best that day. I read every identification and "requirements" tag and once purchased, completely ignored most of them.
If something was pretty I got one. Sometimes more than one. I bought a lot of plants that died. A whole lot. Was it any wonder I needed to forget? Time passed and I grew more philosophical about my losses. A few plant names I'd somehow always known and eventually I learned a few more. It got to the point where I could remember what to call Verbena without having to scrape too hard.
roughleaf dogwoods out back were persistently referred to for years as "you know, those bushes out back that aren't altheas".
Texas persimmon. I never noticed any flowers on this little tree (Next year! Next year I'll pay attention!) but the fruit are hard to ignore.
Monday, September 22, 2014
|Ball moss against the morning sky|
Sunday, September 21, 2014
When they wrote that they'd "forgotten" I believed they meant temporarily. As in "oh, that's right! I planted those and then forgot about them" which is not to say they really forgot, forgot, they just weren't thinking about the Lycoris radiata they'd planted because they can take up to two years to bloom after planting, and they don't always bloom every year. One site I consulted playfully hinted aliens from another planet controlled their bloom cycles just to torment earthbound gardeners.
I looked at their photos of Lycoris in bloom in their posts and remembered I'd seen bulbs for sale when I made my last major nursery buyout. I think I commented on both sites about how I wished I had picked some up. Shortly after that my daughter pointed out more bulbs for sale at the big box hardware store where I (almost) always resist buying plants because who knows where they came from? I agreed they were striking as we passed them by.
I had "passed-that-plant-up-regret". Big time.
Then as I went out to pick up Saturday's mail, you'll probably guess what I spotted out in a front bed close to our mailbox. Yup. Lycoris radiata. I planted them and then forgot about them. And I do mean FORGOT. ALL ABOUT THEM. As in completely, totally, if you'd insisted to me I'd already planted some, I'd call you a liar to your face. (not really, I wasn't raised that way)
I can only hope Bambi took a bite or two and didn't like them enough to eat any more. Ever. I hustled to get a couple of shots of the rest of the blooms just in case. Now I'm trying to decide whether to leave them where they are or to try and move them inside the fence after their blooms fade*. (*But before I forget. Again.)
Friday, September 19, 2014
Sort of like right now with this blog post. It consists of a series of before and after shots of beds here indicating the editing, both adding and subtracting, that I've been doing the past few weeks. After my efforts the focus of what I've got growing in these beds now has shifted to more accurately reflect one of the more objective goals of gardening:supporting wildlife with native plants.
This may not enter new territory or be particularly entertaining for some and that's fine. I need to have these images on this site in a post because awareness aside, I view things differently once they are on my computer screen. It is an entirely arbitrary distinction how I see them when they are similarly screen bound as raw photos in a digital library, but in my mind the distinction and the difference exists. So let's get looking, shall we?
There were two beds I focused on as I applied the first of several changes. The bigger bed, which I'll call the Big Bed, and the bed that is a bit shaped like a boat that I'll call the Ship Bed. From both I removed large clumps of non-natives, many of which became passalong plants and a few of which were transplanted to areas out front.
This was the Previous State of Being in the Big Bed. This is where most of our edible plants live. I'd already transplanted out Jewels of Opar and most of the garlic chives.
As a parting gesture I buried some nasturtium seed for our winter salads. Hey, people need to eat, too. If some of everything planted and scattered here comes up? This bed will be a pretty lively and delicious space.
On to the Ship Bed. This shot was taken before removing most of the non-natives. Honestly I look at this and think it looks pretty good as is. So why would I want to move around healthy plants doing well and looking good right where they are?
native rain lily, I put in pink and yellow rain lilies, some ox-blood lilies, (I'm OK with a few non-native plants) and scattered seed for native wildflowers here as well.
Flame Acanthus I transplanted here from the front where it was courting death after suffering from an excess of shade and deer attack. I put in another H. Duelberg salvia with its blue blossoms to echo the bed across the walk, and to complement the acanthus' orange display. Both acanthus and salvia once fully grown, will provide additional shading for various rain lilies, which like some sun cover during the Spring and Summer months. I'm excited to see how these plants will all fill in and flower as their season to shine approaches. In the meantime, I'm very happy with this early display as a promise of beauty to come.
|Pink Rain Lily, probably Habranthus robustus|
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
I gathered up and tossed at least half a dozen snails in specificity, rudely interrupting the morning meet up at the coneflower bar. Including one especially cheeky snail who apparently thought it could get away with nibbling on that nursery trip's impulse buy, a deep pink coneflower. Sorry Mr. Snail, the bar is closed. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.
This morning the ladybug had moved on, so I took my garden paintbrush and carefully brushed as many of the rest of the aphids off into a soap bath as I could reach. The milkweed cafe is temporarily closed, hopefully to reopen under new floral management. With any luck there will be monarchs nectaring at this neighborhood eatery very soon.
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Up to a point, our detractors are correct. Through October, much less September, our weather rarely calls for donning a sweater, unless like me, you're a bit sensitive to the chill provided by air conditioners. And with the possible exception of a couple of the less common trees to our area, there are not a lot of leaves changing colors to signal winter is on the way.
Yet I maintain we do have our own set of color signifiers. They just aren't going to be apparent if you are looking up. In my garden spaces, rather than foliage displays, Fall Color is more about the appearance of certain blossoms that wait until summer's heat has abated. Around here, these flowers are just as reliable a sign of the change in seasons as any flashy, look-my-leaves-are-dying tree.
One sure pop of color hitting its stride right now? Hamelia patens, or Mexican firebush. While this plant is native to Florida, it is a well adapted non-native, designated a Texas Superstar by Texas A&M. Native or not, it does a great job supporting native pollinators and hummingbirds with its tubular blossoms. A bit cold sensitive, mine has reliably come back from the roots after the harshest winter weather. The protracted cold we experienced last year put a bit of a delay on bloom initiation, but there was no stopping this beauty.
Scarlet Sage, or Salvia coccinea. This self-seeder resists deer and tolerates shady hillsides with poor soil, making it ideal for lining the drive up to our house.
Lindheimer's senna on a trip The Hub and I made out to the Lake Buchanan area years ago. It was an El Niño winter, and the senna bushes were blooming away in January. I loved their leaves as much as their blooms, and was determined to introduce some into our spaces.
Speaking of easily propagated, no fall color lineup would be complete without making mention of Fall Obedient Plant, Physostegia virginiana.
Each year I cheerfully take the plants that have strayed past the bed border and transplant them into some new corner that could use a little pop of purple in September. As it turns out, there are lots of those corners here and so far, the obedient plants have adapted to everything but the hottest driest spaces.
To continue our parade of Fall Color in Texas, I'd like to salute a small native tree, the Texas kidneywood (Eysenhardtia texana). It might not sport brightly colored leaves, but its white bloom spires are every bit as welcome.
Unless it is purple berries you'd prefer? Then you'll appreciate the closer for my Fall Color roundup, the Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana). The name says it all. See for yourself.
delicious as they look, then it is no wonder the birds and squirrels fight over these. Preferring a bit of shade, these edge habitat understory natives bring their own light to the party.
OK East Coasters. I've had my fun. It is September again and you will have your annual run of glory days to boast of striking fall color. Your reputation is well deserved as far as it goes. But please, don't ever try to convince me we don't have color in Texas in the Fall. It might not be the leaves on our trees capturing the spotlight each autumn, but when it comes to color in the landscape? We've got gracious plenty.
Thursday, September 4, 2014
Finally? As I was drinking that water, take a look at what I spied from my front door:
I'm calling it quits for the day but I still have big plans for three other beds out back. I'd prefer cooler weather for both garden and gardener's sakes, but I don't want to waste time now that August is behind us. Next on the list? Moving variegated liriope sprigs into position to give the edge of a back bed a more finished look. Because, hot or not, I've got work to do!
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Here at austin agrodolce, we don't simply welcome birds, we work hard to lure them in.
|Chief Bird Watchers: Bijou and Sketch|
|Lesser Goldfinch couple|
|Beauty Berry Bush|
|Black chinned hummingbird|
|Ruby throated hummingbird|
|Black crested titmouse|
|Poppa Cardinal - We are pleased to share our gardens with a nesting pair.|
|Carolina House Wren - A mating pair leads us a merry chase each year as we try to prevent them from nest building in a car bumper or empty shoes or the tip bag stored in the garage.|
|Eastern Screech Owl adult|
|Eastern Screech Owl fledgling|
|White tailed Dove|
Spring, Summer, Winter or Fall, birds in the garden here are as constant a presence as the weeds, but they are a lot more welcome and a lot better company. We love them all.