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

December Wrap Up

I've been neglectful of this space.  Who cares why, and I'm certainly not here to promise it will never happen again.  (I'm pretty sure this post will be standing here, lonely, for weeks yet to come.)

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!


Tina said...

It's good to have you back in the blogosphere--I've missed your quirky take on...everything and your lovely prose.

Profiling plants--which wildlife rely on--is a great way to celebrate wildlife in the garden, as well as to educate others about what works and attracts.

I have fond childhood memories of slurping Loquats and I know they're a big fav of birds and squirrels, as well. And the Cherry Laurel, which I think is an underutilized plant here in Austin, is an excellent small tree/large shrub choice for anyone looking for a great native plant. A neighbor once had one planted adjacent to my property. I remember the bees and butterflies working those early spring blooms and the birds noshing on the fruits. Plus, the Cherry Laurel is a really pretty plant.

Thank you for the primrose you gifted me last...winter? Fall? I don't remember, but it bloomed in the spring and is back again. As "weedy" as these wonderful natives can be for some, I've never had much luck with them. So I'm thrilled that one of your *special* primroses (aka, TexasDeb's Mondo Primrose) has returned for a second season. Woot! Great idea about using it as a container plant. On my way to the back garden to check out possible transplantation sites!! Thanks for joining in for Dec WW!

Anonymous said...

May your days be Merry and Bright too Deb. I love this post and agree with Tina. I hope your blue skies carry on through the holidays.

TexasDeb said...

Tina: You are always so kind. I like that - it sets a good example. Putting Primrose as companion plants in a container works pretty well. If they are given just a little support during the driest spells, Primrose will develop a robust root system and come back reliably with two seasons worth of great color year after year. I've read finch love the seeds and you definitely have regular visits from finches. They'll enjoy them too. (And now for some reason I'm hearing the Hokey Pokey chorus..."and that's what it's all about!").

TexasDeb said...

GJules: Thank you. Writing this post was like pulling teeth - no idea why. It'll pass - always does. When I look at blogrolls on other people's sidebars and see blog after blog with posts dated from years and months long gone by I think that blogger block is a thing after all. There are so many wonderful distractions this time of year so I'll claim that and stick to it. Happy Holidays!

Kris Peterson said...

I've struggled to find time to post lately too. Linking to established memes has helped keep me overcome my own blocks as they narrow my focus (although that can start to feel like a rut too). Your plant reviews are wonderful. The loquat is lovely and would have made a good replacement for my Agonis - if it wouldn't have eventually put my troublesome neighbor into another apoplectic fit. I enjoy the pink evening primrose in spring too and hope that mine return next year - I've yet to see any sign of them this fall.

Pam/Digging said...

Sometimes I struggle to write a post too. Blogger's blog can strike at any time, but yes, if you keep trying it does pass. I'm glad you're still here, Deb, but don't sweat taking a break when you need it. It's healthy to have multiple interests.

Rock rose said...

Sometimes we just get too busy at this time of year especially when we have those mild days that keep us working outside. Plants which draw wildlife into the garden are so important be it for cover or food or just a place to nest. We have a mockingbird who spends the winter in the large Lady Banks rose. Regular as clockwork one leaves the bush early in the morning and around the lunch hour. As we sit outside eating our lunch he flies out and right past us through the gap in the wall. He's done a lot of planting in my garden I can tell you. I have no room for a loquat but I know the birds love the fruits and people too. You made me do a second look with the photo of evening primrose. We have had pink and yellow ones bloom this December. The latest ever. Have a wonderful Holiday Season.

TexasDeb said...

KrisP: You made me smile when you said you'd struggled to post. From the outside looking in, you are not only the busiest actively working in your garden beds this December, but you are also the one with the most regularly expected - and delivered - meme posts. I can't imagine when you find time for anything else though I'm absolutely sure you do. Your neighbor would hate the loquat with a passion - it could be quite a view blocker which we actually used to our advantage. Loquats do drop a lot of mess but maybe with that sort of bounty the raccoons would take the easy route and dig less? Probably not.

I've learned to spot the primrose leaves when they start reappearing after autumn rains. The plants can develop deep root systems so even if the leaves/stems aren't visually appreciable they are often simply waiting for more favorable circumstances. My money is on yours reappearing eventually - certainly in time to enjoy blooms!

Happiest holidays! Looking forward to spending some good quiet holiday AM time reading your posts yet to come!

TexasDeb said...

Pam: Your struggles must be occurring duck style (calm water visible above, feet paddling furiously below). You seem to have a firm grip on how to present new content on a regular basis. And all while preparing for hosting a garden tour earlier this year not to mention birthing a new book. Whatever we'd call this enterprise, you are setting a brisk pace and helping define what "mastery" looks like.

But you are correct of course - there's more to this life than gardens or blogs either one, and rotating attention as needed is all part of the program. I was fretting mostly because several bloggers I enjoy are either on break or at least blogging more intermittently and then I fell off the wagon right when I might have been expected to redouble my own efforts. I have met the enemy and she is me.

So happy our area got much needed rain and that the temperatures are cooling again. Have a lovely holiday season!

TexasDeb said...

RR/Jenny: What a lovely prospect. Lunch with the resident mockingbirds...

! agree - the mockingbirds in our area are great unsung yet prolific gardeners.

Wow - primrose in bloom in December!?! Now I'm going to go take a second look... My yellow primrose bloomed in November but I hadn't noticed much action lately. It has not yet been in place an entire year (I got mine after seeing yours!) and I'm hoping it is taking time during the cooler/wetter days to get deep roots established before the arrival of The Heatening. However if it decided to bloom again now as well I'd be tickled pink. Or, yellow...

I hope you and your family all have a lovely holiday season. If you are traveling do so safely, and we'll all keep our hopes alive for a lovely winter without too much freezing weather but with plenty of gentle rains to help ease the way for spring flowers. Now that, that would be a great gift to all us critters who like it outside!

Debra said...

I hope you aren't feeling badly for not posting. Quality beats quantity. Your blog is always worth looking at and reading. If you've slowed down and got busy wioth other thigns that just means your imagination is filling up.

There are primrose flowers in the field near my house right now -- blooming not at all with spring abundance but they are present. Sprinkling primrose seeds into the garden was one of hte best decisions I ever made I think. They didn't seem to do much the first year but over time they have gotten thicker and prettier. I wish I had room for a loquat. I admire the ones I see growing in the neighborhood very much.

TexasDeb said...

Debra: I am running with the image you gave me - that my imagination is filling up. I like that idea very much.

Primroses get a bad rap for moving around where they aren't planned for or wanted. I take their toughness and persistence as license to pull them out and transplant them somewhat carelessly. But then I've loved them since I was a child. As a little girl I used to wonder at the fuss people made over those blue flowers when these much prettier pink ones were around to admire.

As to loquats, I am a huge fan except for those weeks when the fruit is rotted away and the seeds are germinating at a 97 percent success rate. Getting those seedlings out in a timely fashion is a challenge every year, one I dread. That said, all the rest of the time that same loquat is one of my favorite trees. Great shade and cover all summer long, flowers in winter and fruit in early spring. Win/win/argggh/win.

Kathleen Scott said...

What a lovely post! I have Escarpment black cherry, native to the Edwards Plateau, hope it provides the same.

Another late-season bloomer for bees is pineapple sage.

Kathleen Scott said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
TexasDeb said...

Kat: Somehow your comment came in two times - I took one down to avoid confusion. Technology! SO great right up until it begins to all go south.... So thank you....(thank you..). : )

My tropical sages are in varying stages of blooming or coming back after a round of blooming. I often cut them back to the ground several times in an attempt to promote bushier forms and if I'm not careful with my timing I can really get in the way of their late season banquets but you're right - they provide a great contribution to pollinators until the first hard freeze.

Happy Holidays to your and yours!

Diana Studer said...

Loquat are familiar to me, but they have gone on our invasive aliens list.
I used to enjoy the fruit.

TexasDeb said...

Diana: Welcome! I'm not surprised about the invasive designation. If loquats were more common here they might receive the same as they re-seed very easily via dropped fruit under the tree itself and by squirrels everywhere else. We try to clear out under the trees to prevent that and pull seedlings as we see them. Our soil here is not deep so they are relatively easy to get out.

The fruit is tasty, isn't it! Too bad about the large seeds - if the ratio were better these would be sold in every food market I bet.