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!