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.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Name that Butterfly!

I had every good intention this month to participate in the Butterfly Bucket List hosted by Anna at The Transmutational Garden.  The meme, just a few months old, happens every 4th Sunday and was begun by Anna as an attempt to identify every butterfly and moth as they visit her garden spaces.

I'd been caught up in a similar endeavor on my own for over a year now, but after spending what eventually amounts to days of my life staring and scrolling through images of butterflies that look "sort of" like the one I'm trying to identify, I'd given up searching out all the names in frustration. Don't even get me started on moths or native bees or grasshoppers (or syrphid flies, or...).  I eventually decided to try and enjoy whatever shows up, identify the easy ones and allow myself to bail if a few quick search attempts didn't yield a likely suspect.

It seems as though the point of Anna's meme is to increase and disperse good information about winged visitors to our spaces.  My series of very likely MIS-identified photos to follow could actually do the opposite, increasing confusion.  And who needs more of that?  So, I hesitated.  And here it is, Monday, already.  What to do?

Well, I came to play and play I shall.  Late, insecure in the identifications, and without a shred of additional light to shed on habits or host plants. I am only going to tag one of these photos because, as already mentioned, I am reluctant to add fuel to anybody's misidentification fires.

To follow are the photos and potentially the names of several of the adorable visitors that have been dashing around the garden beds here, regardless of heat or lack of moisture.
Clouded Skipper (?) on Prairie Verbena
Fiery Skipper(?) on Verbena
Horace's Duskywing (?) on Coneflower
A different angle - Horace's Duskywing (?) on Coneflower
Queen Butterfly on Mistflower (Yippee!!!)
Sachem Skipper (?) on Coneflower
Another view, Sachem(?) Skipper

Sorry guys, I'm not even going to guess.  Something-or-other Skipper on H. Duelberg Salvia
So there you have it, a reasonable representation of the butterflies voted Most Likely to be Mistaken.  Regardless, I enjoyed watching them and trying to get capture a shot, and I hope you'll forgive the lack of information provided along with the images.

Perhaps you know what that last little cutie is called?  Or you've seen one or several of the skippers shown and can clarify as to their ID?  Please feel free to correct or speculate with your own identification attempts in the comments section.  The bar is absolutely flat on the ground already, so jump right over and let's name these butterflies!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Widely regarded

It has been months since I posted any wide shots.  I have my reasons.  The unusually generous amounts of spring rains led everything to first bolt an extra foot in height and then fall over. (Are you quite as tired of hearing about "all the rain" yet as you were previously tired of hearing about the lack of it?).
It was all very pretty while it was upright, and for the most part everything continued to be functional while it was flopped over.  Pollinators still had access to blossoms, seed was set.  It all worked for the plants, it just didn't look like much.

Paths here, the ones that are chronically in need of weeding, became entirely overrun.  The To-Prune list was short enough - it read "frickin' everything". Only so many hours in the day, only so many mosquito bites I'll host at a time. But I'm at a happy place for the moment and things are back to what passes for normal.  Caution to the winds...let's take a look at some of what's going on out back.

These wide shots never proffer the depth a first hand view provides, but I enjoy seeing other folk's gardens taken more as on the whole, so here goes with a few of the bigger picture(s).  I'll list most of the plants but not by scientific names.  I'm not trying to catalog, just give the general idea.  If you see something you wonder about, please ask.

This first shot is when I'd gotten about seventy-five percent of the clean up completed. I thought I could stomach posting at that point but once I got a good look I balked.  The path running behind the beds was still the seven inch tall equivalent of a rain forest in some spots.
The darkened soil in the front center bed, to the left of the bottle tree and basil in the planter, is a space where there are passalong purple coneflower plants newly placed in a semi-circle around some H. Duelberg salvia and a couple of re-emerged tropical milkweed plants.  To the left of that bench, under the bottle brush tree, are now two mist-flower plants, one white (a passalong) and a second mist flower, a blue, from the sale table at my favorite nursery.  Oregano runs rampant to the far right with parsley and Mexican tarragon on the left.  The black planter behind the bench is filled with thyme.

The paths are nearly all cleared in this shot.  Several planters have been relocated and a few have been elevated to give them more visual impact.  The additional height also holds them up above the constant ground-cover warfare I inevitably encourage.

This strawberry pot has been moved and is taking a shot at becoming a succulent garden.  It's still an investment waiting to pay off, it will take weeks for the succulents to fill out (fill in?) their spaces. I'm hoping this will prove a hospitable warm weather home for the planter and I appreciate that it provides some needed balance for the Blue Guy.  During winter months the planter will be moved to the greenhouse.
That blue Buddha sits atop the broken ceramic post from a bird bath.  The blue post found a second life providing a pedestal so Buddha can ride implacably above the four-o-clocks, columbine, Aztec grass, and whatever else is hiding in there under the Althea tree.

Moving left, behind the bird feeder bed that corner now features cannas, tropical salvia, horse herb, dayflower and an elevated terra cotta planter filled with what I believe to be the dwarf form of sansevieria trifasciata.  There's a flailing grocery store miniature rose in there as well, given one last shot at recovery.
Under the bird feeder, a second strawberry pot, this one in its second year, sits between a potted Makrut lime on the left and some chives on the right.  They help disguise the white base of the pole, a baffle to keep squirrels off.  

What's hard to appreciate at this distance is the goldeneye growing up to the right of the volunteer Meyer lemon tree mid-bed, and the row of blanketflower, now gone to seed on the far right.  There's also purple prairie verbena, wood sorrel, daisies, wire grass, tropical salvia, tradescantia pallida, various rain lilies, coneflowers, a day lily, some heart leaf skullcap and a large rosemary planted in this bed. Once I get every plant established in every bed, hopefully a large (beautiful) pattern will emerge.

This gives you a slightly better glimpse.  That is the bottom half of the bird feeder bed (top left) and the entirety of the bottle tree bed (bottom right).
You can imagine how the cone flowers are going to shine around the blue salvia.  I also have a producing jalapeƱo plant, mint, garlic chives and basil growing in this area.  Maybe I don't point it out often, but these beds are all for kitchen use as well as wildlife.  There are struggling blackfoot daisy plants, a crag lily, parsley and recently transplanted skullcap (scutellaria suffrutescens) all working things out while the liriope holds court in the corner. Once everything takes it will be splendid, I think.

This is it, an amateur's ongoing attempt to replace lawn with garden beds, captured for the moment, warts and all.
The Death Star is back, the rains have retreated, and there is no longer any play given towards the needs of transplants or new starts.   The active work of installing a better planted mixture of native plants and culinary herbs stops until cooler weather returns.  I hope you've enjoyed taking a look at the layout here.   I certainly look forward to featuring closer shots of these areas as the plantings (and my plans) progress.  Happy summer ya'll!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Belated yet heartfelt

We ended up spending more time at the airport than planned, and had unexpected family visiting, so this post did not appear yesterday as I'd originally hoped.

Nonetheless, I am appreciative of those of you who drop in, regulars or not, and wanted to extend this, a wish from austinagrodolce to all of you, for a meaningful holiday weekend.

Whatever this holiday has come to mean to and for you, I do hope you were able to take good advantage of an extra day away from paid work, perhaps time to get outside and enjoy the days of summer.

Because it is July, and July waits for no-one to break out The Summer.

Happy red,


and blue!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A little wet means a lot of wild in Texas

Welcome to Wildlife Wednesday for July, 2015.  I am finding I have less and less to say about our garden beds and the lives that are led there.  Recently it has occurred to me the best I can do for our tiny patch of the world is to slowly repopulate the spaces with native plants and other well adapted visitors that feed the usual suspects, and then let Mother Nature have her head.  She always knows just what to do.
If you see a black swallowtail doing this...
Pretty soon you'll see these, eventually followed by...
One of these, newly emerged and drying out its wings.
This flower spider didn't bother the other big players.  This palpita moth was never in jeopardy.
Not sure what fuzzy wuzzy is destined to become.  As long as he/she knows, it'll be fine.
Handsome is as handsome does...  I'm currently in determined "no look-up" mode, only wanting to enjoy what I'm seeing without researching any further.
Tarantula Hawks apparently always run.  It was hard to get a photo even though this guy is two inches long.
Katydid nymphs are wonderfully spotted and dotted.
Fat and in no particular hurry. 
Not the reason I put the first tomato cage out but the reason I put out two more...
Blanketflower seed head post finch feasting.
Steel Blue Cricket Hunter Wasp.  Good hunting to you sir!

Little brown skipper.  I love how serious this one appears.  
Thanks to blogger Debra at "Under the Pecan Leaves, I know this is a Male "Widow" Skimmer (blue body).
I think this is a blue dasher.  (not gonna look it up, NOT gonna look it up...)

Bitty baby black swallowtail cat on parsley.  No kitchen duty for this plant!
This ditch daylily is a magnet for native bees.  They dive right in.
Henry Duelberg gets regular visits from his many admirers.
Blue damselfly supervising.
I am deeply grateful for the chances I get to share our garden spaces with all sorts of wildlife.  Today I suppose that includes you! Though I occasionally chafe at all the nibbled leaves left behind, it is a small price to pay for the best of company.

I find the less I pretend at control, the more I enjoy my time out of doors.  Part of how that plays out is I now resist the impulse to do research associated with every image I capture with my camera.  For whatever reason, allowing myself to "not know" is helping me remember who these spaces are designed to serve.

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Thanks as always to Tina at "My Gardener Says" for hosting Wildlife Wednesday. Check out the comments section of her post for July to find links to amazing gardeners showcasing their wild visitors from all around.  Maybe you'll consider adding in your own wildlife experiences for the month.  Once you go "Wild" you'll never want to go back. Happy July everyone!