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.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Much has been given

Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us; and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips and shows itself in deeds.
~ Theodore Roosevelt

I'm grateful for a lot today. The readers and writers here online (I sometimes think of all of us as "friends-in-our-heads") are certainly part of that.  You  enrich my experience as well as increase my sense of community, all while teaching me many lessons. Some of them are even about gardening.

Wherever you are today, I hope your celebration (or even your choice not to celebrate) is everything you wish it to be.  May your dressing be savory, your pies sweet, and your company heartwarming.   Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Support Wildflowers (on Cars!) (for Free!)

It's true.  For just a few days longer you can support wildflowers and the LBJ Wildflower center, through the Texas DMV!
While you may read the statement above and conclude that I am crazy (I probably am, but not for this!) bear with me.  What I'm proposing is so easy it won't require you to even leave your chair.

Between now and Friday, November 21st, you can visit the State of Texas DMV site and register your preferences for a batch of newly proposed specialty license plates.  One of those plates, the first specialty plate offered up for public approval in this particular group, features wildflowers.

If approved, a portion of the fee for the plate ($22 out of the total $30) will be distributed to the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center to  "increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants, and landscapes in Texas".

You don't have to buy the license plate, you don't even have to register any information to vote your preferences. You simply visit the page, scroll down to the choices section, select the "I like it" button for the wildflower plate and submit your vote here at this site.  Boom.  Done.

How easy was that!  Now go have yourself another cup of coffee or tea and put your feet up for a while.  Then get out there and cover those plants you forgot about last night before tonight's hard freeze hits.

What?  You didn't forget to cover any of your tender plants last night?  Well, we sure enough did.  All that misty wet yesterday lulled us into a false sense that the lows were going to be plant friendly overnight.  And as the mercury is hovering at thirty degrees here currently, I'd say we were sorely mistaken.  I'm not sure how many hours below freezing the plants have already endured, the resulting browning to come will let us know how wrongfooted we've gotten.  And it isn't even Thanksgiving!

The "forgetting to cover" mishap occurs for us every year at some point in the season, just not usually so early on.  We consider it a bit of Darwinian overlay, a long range natural approval (or rejection) process around the plant choices we've made for these spaces.
Just another wonderful feature of wildflowers...they seem to take our winterly swings between above and below freezing temps in stride.  Here's one last peek at some blooms from last year, coming after an especially cold winter, just to remind you how forgiving native plants can be.  
Pretty, yeah?  I think so too.  Now get yourself over to the Texas DMV before the end of the day Friday, and vote for wildflowers.  On cars! For free!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It was as if they were watching...

I recently took down a temporary barrier I'd placed a year or so ago to protect a sumac tree I transplanted into the ground after it became root bound in its pot.
Why the barrier?  I took the sumac from the enclosed back yard and planted it in a spot in the beds out front, where it would get good sunlight but was vulnerable to browsing deer.
I considered leaving the barrier up for another year until the sumac got a little taller.  We were all tired of looking at it though, so I took it down.  I'd rather not even try to have a sumac there if it means our view must include that green plastic barrier.

I'm optimistic the tree is well established enough, a year later, to withstand the inevitable ruminant pruning.  Because most of the time, deer don't kill my plants outright.  They simply eat most of what they've targeted, leaving a remnant to grow seconds.

As captured here.
This afternoon as I went out to get the mail, Bambi was just finishing up and moving on.  Or at least he moved on once I showed up and loudly "suggested" he do so.  What's left of the small sumac is just visible in front of the opuntia and agave in the top left corner of the image.

From fence removal to deer pruning, it took less than seven days.

This little tree has been a tough customer so far.  It will either bounce back, regrow branches and get taller in self defense, or I'll have to try something slightly less deer-licious in that spot.  Talk about a rough micro-climate!


Saturday, November 8, 2014

What's in a name?

During recent rains I was stopped dead in my tracks when I spotted this guy who seemed to simply appear on one of our back windows one morning.
I didn't know what this was, but it was clear it was not to be messed with.  The spiny protuberances had me standing on the other side of a window with my fingers curled into a fist, protectively.  Whatever the opposite of cuddly is? That is this guy.
I called for backup.  At first glance The Hub immediately reacted "asp!".  It turns out each of us had our own separate unpleasant childhood experiences with asp caterpillars growing up in Texas.

As we stood with coffee cups and shared horror stories, exaggerating the pain and suffering inflicted upon the innocent child-versions of ourselves by our initial contact with asp caterpillars, we acknowledged that 1) we were both unusually brave and fine young people, and 2) this spiny window walker was a relative perhaps, but no asp.  Asps are hairy and this guy is spiny.  Very very spiny.

I was having a terrible time trying to get a reasonable image as the reflectivity of the window coatings played games with the auto-focus on my camera. Knowing I could not leave such a stingy thing crawling on the house so close to a doorway anyway, I carefully transferred the slug from window to trowel, and carried it out into better light.

I took a few more shots and, uttering a few words of farewell, gently heaved this guy over the fence to a spot where there is no regular human or even much animal traffic.  A spot where both slug and other neighborhood travelers may stay safely separate one from the other.
Quarantine established, identification quest initiated.

It didn't take long to discover that our intimidating visitor is a Spiny Oak Slug. More scientifically, a slug caterpillar of the Limacodidae family, genus Euclea.  
According to no less stellar a source than BugGuide, there is little to no information on how to further distinguish larvae of Euclea between E. delphinii and E. nanina. Their ranges overlap and larvae vary widely.  That's all right. Spiny Oak Slug will do just fine.

Sometimes, a common name tells you most of what you really need to know.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Bee-ing There

I can watch bees work flowers for a long time.  A VERY long time.  I'm not sure if that is a tendency towards close observation on my part, or perhaps merely a reflection of my ability to zone out when I choose to?  

Am I communing with nature when I watch the bees?  Am I respecting their industry and their inter-relationships with the seasons and native plants?  Am I joyful to see that some of them remain healthy, a productive part of the pollination process?

Or am I zoning out and simply "being" in the sun and breezes?  Am I watching the bees because in my non-thinking state, their activity keeps catching my otherwise unoccupied eye?  Am I watching them because they are there and they are moving?  Would any other visual activity capture what little of my attention is in play?

I believe the answer to all of the above is "yes!".  A final question that qualifies the ones just posed: Does it matter?  

Answer: Certainly not to the bees!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wildlife Wednesday November 2014

I was walking back from the mailbox with both hands full when I spotted something that looked like a green sash hanging from the belt of St. Francis.  I took the mail inside, picked up my camera, and went back for a closer look. This is what we had going on.
An anole, soaking up radiant late afternoon sun against the mass of St. Francis' robes.  Warmth from above and below.  Mmmm.  Toasty.
November brings reminders that actual Winter, in whatever form it will assume here this year, is well on the way.  Plants and animals are moving a little  more slowly and many are facing weeks of dormancy.  
Gather ye sunbeams whilst ye may, little green guy.  This year's party is nearly over. 

This is my November contribution to Wildlife Wednesday.  A once-every-month opportunity on the first Wednesday, to celebrate and appreciate the creatures that populate our outdoor spaces.  My ongoing appreciation to Tina at My Gardener Says for creating and hosting.  

Want to join the fun?  It's easy-peasy. Simply post about your wildlife (it can be informational or entertaining or both!), then place a link to your post in a comment on Tina's blog post for the meme for that month and that's all it takes.  Happy November to all - hoping yours will be "wild" in the best possible way.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Blame that sky

It was another morning sky playing around with colors like this that had me upstairs on the balcony for starters.

"While I am up here", I thought, "I might as well take some wide shots.  Just in case." "For the meme!".

So I did.  Then I went out front and took more wide shots there. Like so.
These wide views don't allow much appreciation of new plants recently placed (due to scale) but next year! Next year I'll be happy to point out new blooms in the mix.
 Just to be evenhanded.
Last winter's freeze damage has been erased for the most part.  When it gets a little further into the season I'll feel free to take out a few of what were potentially "replacement" agaves.  That should create more interesting negative spaces in these curbside beds.
Not much new going on anywhere at the moment.  Fall's major blooms are behind us now.  The flurry of transplanting and seeding that characterized September and early October has been replaced by the institution of support services in the form of hand watering and weeding as needed.  Speaking of weeding....

One of the results of editing wide shots was a renewed resolve on my part to get out and weed more.  I have no excuse not to at the moment.  The path and bed weeds are all taking full advantage of my laziness.  Raking those pecan leaves off the front curb and putting them in the compost would be doubly beneficial.

Yup. As October closes out and plants begin to go dormant, these wide shots remind me it is time to do a little less appreciating and a little more maintenance.
The bed to the left of the "bench triangle" is filling in very nicely with new plantings and self seeded wildflowers.  Basil and jalapeno are nearly over, and my attention will turn to the bed on the right hand side where oregano and purpleheart plant masses will be reduced.
Looking at the shot to follow, my attention was drawn to a pretty bold takeover maneuver being attempted by the bristly mallow on the day lily.  "What day lily?" you'd be excused for asking. It is there, over to the right of the miniature rose, completely surrounded by mallow.
Problem solved.  Temporarily at least.  I'm monitoring how assertive the mallow continues to be when it gets colder. Wait, monitoring sounds like lab coats and clipboards.  I'm just keeping an eye on things, trimming runners and pulling out seedlings as needed.  Mallow seedlings come out easily so I'm feeling brave.

While I'm temporarily using a narrowed frame, let's hear it for passalong plants, and natives to boot.  Tina of My Gardener Says is the source for these welcomed natives.  (Thank you, Tina!) Hopefully as time goes by, I'll have my own extras to share.   Out front? Yarrow!

In this instance passalong plants are acting as a "favorites" cognate.  As in, "my favorite kind of beer is cold and free, not necessarily in that order".  Out back? Salvia lyrata sorry, Heartleaf Skullcap!

Now that can read "my favorite kind of plants are passalongs and natives, not necessarily in that order".

Shared plants are part of the repertoire in nearly every bed.  Pavonia! More skullcap!  Maybe a goldeneye?!
We'll see how much sun this spot gets as the oaks continue to grow overhead.  It looked to be a great dappled light spot this year, but these plants were just put into play and next year?  Remains to be seen.  That's part of what keeps gardening from getting boring, yes?
I have passalongs from family, friends, even local interest sites.  I look at those plants and am appreciative for all of it, for all of them.  But I digress.

Here we go, back to the wideness for one last shot.  Bidding a fond farewell to The Hub's Plethora of Potted Plumeria.
They are last legging it, nearly done for the season, and before too long will be taken out of their pots to overwinter.  But not as long as they still sport even one flower.  The Hub won't consider touching them until then.  Plumeria consider it time to go dormant when nighttime temperatures begin to fall into the 50's.  The predicted low last night? 42.

And there you have it.  This post, digression and all, is my end of October - beginning of November contribution to Heather at Xericstyle's monthly wide shot meme.  Hope you'll join in and share your very own wide views of the places you care for.