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.
Saturday, December 12, 2015
That said, I did want to share a bit of admittedly belated wildlife love for the month, as well as pointing out an unexpected but welcome pop of seasonal native color.
My wildlife appreciation this month does not consist of photographs of creatures, but rather I'm featuring two trees that draw those creatures in, month in and month out. The first is not a native, but it is most certainly a boon to natives.
The Loquat, or Eriobotrya japonica, is originally native to China where cultivars have been developed for over a thousand years. Varieties were developed for home cultivation featuring flowers that open a few at a time, resulting in prolonged blooming with more gradual fruit development. I don't know what cultivar we have, but it is certainly not that.
Ours goes all out, with no holds barred. Bees visit in numbers great enough that on a quiet day you can hear them buzzing two stories up, in the tree's floriferous canopy. Red Admiral and Question Mark butterflies love these trees. They visit the flowers now and especially enjoy nectaring off the bounty of fallen fruit to come later. Actually, the fruit seems to delight every critter around, feathered, furred or winged. The flowers, though small, give off a lovely scent that reminds me of almonds.
Loquat trees have broad evergreen leaves that provide wonderful shade and protection all year. The various spiders living in the ground covers below these trees must number in the hundreds. There's a little something for everybody, in Loquat Land.
Another tree, a native this time, one that gives as good as it gets? The Cherry Laurel, or Prunus caroliniana. This tree is also evergreen, providing a year round canopy that sports tiny white flowers and then shiny dark fruit that many birds enjoy once dried.
Cherry Laurels are mentioned as being especially beneficial to native bees, and that always makes me happy, too.
Last up? I wanted to point out a bit of native seasonal color that often escapes notice. Oenothera speciosa, or Pink Evening Primrose is a lovely native wildflower that tends to disappear from view with summertime heat.
Given a little encouragement, the primrose stems pop back up after autumn rains and the resulting foliage responds beautifully to chilly nights. Shown above in a planter in mid November, you can see the tips of the Primrose's elongated leaves turning deep red as they get started on this year's comeback trail.
I've rarely seen it used as a container plant, but I find the color it provides definitely warrants its inclusion. I find it especially lovely used in combination with succulents.
I'll admit this photo could be confusing - the flower shown is not the primrose itself in bloom but is rather a dianthus in the same planter responding similarly to the more favorable conditions of December. Evening Primrose won't be flowering until Spring, but those rosy leaves seen behind the Dianthus flower are just as lovely to my eye.
Pink primroses are another native specified as beneficial to native bees, and I'm always relieved and happy to see them coming back into their own once summer's worst is behind us. Red leaves now, pink blossoms later. Win/win.
For other wonderful glimpses into the joys and benefits of wildlife gardening, please visit Tina of My Gardener Says for her monthly Wildlife Wednesday roundups. In the comments section of each post you'll find links to thoughtful and accomplished wildlife gardeners from all around the globe. There's simply no better way to spend time indoors.
Thank you all for visiting and reading. I'd like to extend my heartfelt wishes for a meaningful holiday season, warmly shared with family and friends. Happy December - may your days be merry and bright!
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
And at no time is that more apparent in Texas than in October. One day will be hot and dry, the next day cool and cloudy, periods of drought are often followed by torrential rains and all within the span of one brief month.
Thought of as the beginning of a "second Spring" in gardening circles, October is a turning point, a pivot between endless heat and the cooling to come. October provides easier growing conditions and last minute growth spurts along with pleasant working conditions for gardening chores. For wildlife, October is a time to eat, to reproduce, a time to migrate, or just to hunker down.
The visitors here in the hills just west and south of Austin last month were mostly of the winged variety, though a few walked in. Daily in October, unless it is pouring rain, wrens fuss-fuss-fuss, cardinals tick, jays shriek, and mockingbirds guard "their" berry sources. Everything seems to enjoy the final loosing of Summertime's hot dry grasp.
Berry eating locals were well represented by Northern Mockingbirds. Here one is shown making an afternoon feast off of Rivina humilis, or Pidgeonberry plant.
Other winged creatures were appreciated as they flittered, fluttered and fed. A rare sight here, this black and yellow lichen moth (Lycomorpha pholus), was nectaring on mint. And yes, black and yellow does seem to be a misnomer, but in the face of such an attractive creature, why waste time quibbling?
More common visitors appeared to keep us company while outdoor October chores were tackled. Skipper butterflies were most numerous, as has become usual for our spaces. In October we saw (and as with all Skipper identifications - these are only best guesses!) various Duskywing Skippers...
Gangly and apparently caught between coloration decisions, this Walking Stick (Phasmatodea) displayed the typical head bobbing designed to help it visually scan its surroundings for threats or snacks.
The most fascinating saga for October had to be the appearance of two Manduca Sexta or tobacco hornworm caterpillars, feeding on a large Datura plant right off the front porch.
That said, it was hard to imagine they could consume such a toxic plant without experiencing any of the hallucinogenic effects. Especially this one that took on the task of chowing down on a seed pod.
I'll take those reports on good faith. Any caterpillar able to consume two long branches' worth of Datura leaves and the occasional seedpod is best left to conduct its own business undisturbed.
Our use of native plants in combination with attempts to avoid chemicals and allow a natural balance between predators and prey to evolve here have rewarded us with both an ever increasing variety and number of wild visitors to enjoy. They are all quite pleasant company to keep as we work to ready the garden for whatever-comes-next. We garden for them, they work in the garden with us, it is all pretty much sweetness and light in this most pleasant of times.
Thanks as always to Tina of My Gardener Says for hosting the Wildlife Wednesday meme each month. Do take time to check out her always informative and entertaining chronicle of gardening with natives. While there, be sure to link to your own Wildlife Wednesday post in the comments section of her November Wildlife Wednesday offering to share with wildlife lovers world wide. We'll all be glad you did!
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Maybe I only imagine the wild populations or numbers of visitors increase in response, but definitely we are outdoors more, enjoying what is often the nicest weather of the year. Perhaps all the wild visitors for this ninth month on our calendar are reporting back in to their own, "the people are often spotted exiting their hive". While advising each other to watch for "clear signs of agitation", "these people are harmless if not threatened".
Our cats are certainly paying attention. They enjoy observing their favorite and near constant companions from behind closed or screened windows and doors. Carolina wrens begin these shared sessions by fuss-fuss-fussing at the cats, breaking off eventually to hunt. They spend several minutes searching for bugs, spiders, and bits of web, looking intently into every nook and cranny all around our back deck.
|Fiery Skipper on H. Duelberg salvia|
|Fiery Skipper on mint|
|Gray Hairstreak on mint|
|Southern Skipperling on mint|
|Southern Skipperling on Mistflower|
|Southern Skipperling on Mistflower|
You've been warned.
|Xylocopa tabaniformis, tabaniformis-ing.|
and a not so common sight in my gardens previously, the Xylocopa micans carpenter bee. These guys are so heavy they usually bend whatever flower spike they are visiting waaaaay over. I was able to get this photo because I have this H. Duelberg salvia growing up through a tomato cage.
|Carpenter bee, specifically Xylocopa micans.|
Syrphid flies look like bees and serve much the same purpose as bees, so I wonder why it is we don't know more about them or admire them more widely? They need a better publicist.
This similarly fashionably coordinated fellow has two names, both of them longer than he is. This is a yellow margined flower bup, or Acmaeodera flavomarginata (part of a family of wood boring beetles).
This Scolia dubia, also called a blue-winged wasp, dropped in on the Kidneywood tree while it was in full bloom. I was delighted to read they predate June Bug and Japanese beetle grubs.
One of the weirdest visitors to our spaces in September was this Walking Stick, type unknown.
And of course there is always drama lurking in the wings. I was snapping shots of a hoverfly demonstrating why it deserves the name, wondering if it was eying the aphids as deterrent, potential competition or perhaps even as a potential meal.
Maybe the aphids and the hoverfly were deep in conversation? The hoverfly circled and stopped, circled and stopped. When I happened to glance further down the stem I noticed another set of what seemed to be hungry eyes.
Happy Fall to those of us who are currently enjoying a return to cooler times, and Happy Wildlife to all, no matter your weather or season.
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Thanks as always to the inspirational Tina of My Gardener Says, creator of the Wildlife Wednesday meme and native plant/wildlife guru to us all. Be sure to visit her post for this month and visit the comments section to find links to wildlife reports from around the globe.