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.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Gardening (and loss)

Recent hail storms in the Central Texas area reminded everybody in no uncertain terms how humans make plans while the weather always manages to have the last word.

The destruction in our neighborhood was significantly less severe than in areas just a couple of miles away.  Arbitrary, insensate, the storm shuffled and hurled walls of ice, accompanied by flattening winds.  The track of the storm displayed no care for garden, or gardener.
In combination with this date's many celebrations of Earth Day, it all got me to thinking about gardening.  More specifically about how, hard as a gardener might work to get a garden "just so", as with any living thing, change is the only constant.
Black chin or rufous?  Impossible to tell in this photo but appearing the morning after the hail storm, and first of the season.
Whatever corner of the outdoor world we frequent, it is filled with little creatures working through life cycles that can seem accelerated to human sensibilities.  The gardener, out and about, working in and enjoying spaces in wildlife's company, cannot help but be aware of their arrivals, and occasionally even of their passing.
Blanket flower/Gaillardia pulchella
Plants go in and out of favor.  Last year's weed becomes this year's coveted native ground cover.  Horseherb, long considered a bane to St. Augustine lawns, is now just as often welcomed as a low growing xeric alternative to grassy monocultures.
Horseherb/Calyptocarpus vialis
Other native plants are sought out and valued not only for their toughness and willingness to spread.  Blooms that attract butterflies are valued for the enjoyment they bring in combination.  Flower spiders, though uninvited, are equally pleased with the arrangement.
Crab spider/Thomisidae captures a Juniper Hairstreak/Callophyrys gryneus, aka dinner.
Unless of course, said native also delivers everybody's least favorite irritant (urushoil).  Poison ivy is native across the lower 48 states and as far as I can tell, universally reviled.  Despite all that it has berries birds love and also attracts butterflies.  As wonderful as I ordinarily find those two qualities to be, I yet spent hours yesterday in amateur hazmat gear, carefully removing every sprig I could find.
Poison ivy/Toxicodendron radicans
As a gardener, my plans and practices offer the pretext of control.  I determine what is pet and what is pest.
No-spot ladybug, Cycloneda munda on Pink Evening Primrose, Oenothera speciosa
I move about consciously dealing out death to targeted lives.  On this individual scale my actions could read every bit as arbitrary and insensate as the violent weather fronts that damage one garden, while leaving another garden unscathed.
Striped Rabdotus snail/Raddotus alternatus
Lessons learned or ignored, beauty is yet a constant companion.  Generations of a native flower discovered and then taken from a graveyard now bring joy to countless other spaces dedicated to growth and life.
Henry Duelberg salvia/Salvia farinacea
Color and form are there to be appreciated at every scale.
Black-and-yellow Lichen Moth/Lycomorpha pholus on Lance-leafed Coreopsis/Coreopsis lanceolata
We human beings want what we want.  Carelessly I can accept desired results as my just reward while experiencing undesired results as an personal affront.
Clasping coneflower/Dracopis amplexicaulis
All along, while we alternately chafe and cheer, natural systems patiently play out their schemes, both long and short.  Things live, things die, things change.
Winecup/Callirhoe involucrata
The earth, carrying its life forms as both blessing and burden, moves mysteriously in and out of our conscious consideration.
We plan, we plant, we celebrate successes and mourn losses.  We fret and we frolic, right up to the moment when we ourselves leave this life for whatever comes next.

I find it all a little overwhelming.  When I think about it at all.


Tina said...

Beautiful post and a timely one. Gardeners, perhaps because we're more connected with the insensitivities of weather events and the results thereof, tend to roll with changes better than the average Jane and Joe. My garden also was dinged a bit, though nothing substantial in comparison to others' losses.

I do attempts some perspective in all this business of life and loss: when Austin received its dose of hail, something like 900(?) people died while pursuing better lives and primarily, because of greed and callous disregard. So, it's all about experience and view.

Your photos are magnificent--the spider and the hairstreak(?) and the primrose--wow!

crybrug said...

What a nice Earth day post.

Your photos are just lovely. Thank you for sharing

TexasDeb said...

Tina: Thanks - getting those photos is its own reward for me. I so enjoy being out with the camera - it is no wonder so many garden chores go untended to for longer than they should.

And I agree. It is a shame when a garden is damaged, but not a tragedy, as some would hold out. Your point about lives lost is well made. Perspective, indeed.

TexasDeb said...

Crybrug: Welcome and thanks for not only dropping in but commenting. It is always gratifying to hear when a post or photos are appreciated. I hope you'll find reasons to visit here again!

Kris Peterson said...

Chaos reigns in nature but humans can't help but try to establish order, if only temporarily. Sometimes, it's hard to know which interventions help and which, in the larger scheme, may have unintended consequences. Watching nature to see what supports our ecosystem (as well as what damages it) and emulating the supportive activities is the best way to minimize harm.

Happy Earth Day, Deb!

TexasDeb said...

Kris: Wise words offered. I am often guilty of leaping before looking, doing something because! I want to! rather than doing a little research first. The consequences can be a stern teacher.

Some days I think that is the very best I can do as a gardener for wildlife - minimize the harm.

Happy Earth Day right back to you!

jabee said...

Lovely post, thank you.

Michael - Plano Prairie Garden said...

Glad you escaped without much damage. I just saw Jenny's (rockrose) last post. What a mess. Fortunately, plants almost always recover.

TexasDeb said...

Jabee: Thank you. I always appreciate it when readers stop to comment.

TexasDeb said...

Michael: Thank you - we were relieved not to get as much hail as others but the winds have flattened all the leggy flowers (which this season, meant most of them!) so things look like some giant something took a long nap in all the beds. That's just aesthetics though, the plants don't seem to mind growing in a semi-reclining posture and the bugs don't either!

I hope the storms rumbling through your area recently didn't cause you trouble? Springtime in Texas!

Anonymous said...

Your thoughts and essay are really deep, so this is a re-read for me. Really, we have little control, when looking at a severe storm. Until I learned more about your area and visited it, I assumed it had severe storms often like the great plains to your north...my first introduction to that was moving to Denver when I was 13...golfball and larger hail, tornado sirens, etc!

Yet life goes on, even if tattered.

I found this huge, long report on some storms for a week-long period there...that's crazy...a week! -

TexasDeb said...

DC/dhb: Control. It is all about control and the loss of control, isn't it?! We get significant hail events here about once per decade, just far enough apart to relax and get complacent in between each time.

That report is impressive indeed. Almost as impressive as the sound that hail made on our metal roof!

Pam/Digging said...

That IS a bit of an overwhelming thought, but comforting too in a way. I always enjoy your contemplations, Deb, and your lovely photos too.

TexasDeb said...

Pam: Well, thank you! The design here is not well thought out, there are always areas that not only need work, but often a complete overhaul. That said, we are getting to each area in turn, and taking what we're learning to consistently improve our efforts. In the meantime, there's still a lot to enjoy and inspire. I'm glad you dropped by!

Debra said...

Beautifully said and illustrated. Happy Earth Day. Hakim Bey is pretty radical but I love how he once said that weather is evidence that the universe is alive.

TexasDeb said...

Debra: That is a wonderful quote! Some days though it feels like the universe is alive and holding a grudge... : ) 91 degrees already today. Yeeikes.

chloris said...

Such a lovely post and beautiful pictures.
I just read your comment on Kris' s Hoya post and I am still chuckling.

TexasDeb said...

Chloris: Welcome, and thank you! Hopefully Kris is/was not offended. It struck me that mentioning what the sap of a plant tastes like is such an adorable garden nerd thing to do. I couldn't resist poking a little fun.

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

Deb I am behind and just reading this fabulous Earth Day post....my garden is solace for me even with the deaths there sometimes....it seems a perfect metaphor for life...thanks for this post!

TexasDeb said...

Donna: That's a beauty of the interweb, yes? There is not really a "behind". Posts will sit and wait for you to be ready, which I appreciate more and more in this "that was so 15 minutes ago!" world. I am pleased you found something to resonate with here and as always, thank you not only for reading but also for commenting.