Monday, July 28, 2014

Raptor Risks Raiding Ranch

Actually it was more of a brief visit to our Fawnview Ranch but the alliteration is not quite as nice.  

This afternoon an adult female Northern Harrier dropped in to sit at the edge of our fish pond, 15 feet from our large backyard windows.  

She eyed the pond (perhaps the fish ?) for several minutes before I went outside to shoo her off as the fish “feared for their lives.”  

Upon some reflection:  I wished I had used my regular camera instead of the cell phone, I wished I had taken a little video of her with it, and finally I thought it was likely she was just preparing to drink as I don’t think these birds go after small goldfish.  They hunt on the wing.. some birds but mostly small animals. 

Even with the “shoo away” she just flew a few yards to the top of our swing arbor and sat there looking at me with obvious disdain.   She did not seem to bother the adolescent cardinals on the feeder nearby, nor was she interested in them.  After another 5 minutes she flew away without accomplishing whatever she had intended.

In our blog post of Feb 7, 2014 we had a visit from a Cooper’s Hawk.  The Northern Harrier is noticeably larger with a different face. You can see that post by clicking HERE

Monday, July 21, 2014

"Cleome" A New-To-Us Plant

Our dear gardening friend, Mamie, shared her Cleome plants with us this spring. Thank you Miss Mamie. This was a new experience for this gardener and the results are pictured here.    Pronunciation is: klēˈōmē

Cleome, or spider flower, is an annual known for its exceedingly long seedpods. They develop below the flowers as blooms progresses upward on the stalk to give the plants a spidery look, as do the projecting stamens of the flowers.

Cleome is a showy annual that is fragrant, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. Before sowing cleome seeds in the spring, they need to go through "stratification."  In horticulture, stratification is the process of pre-treating seeds to simulate natural winter conditions that a seed must endure before germination. Many seed species undergo an embryonic dormancy phase, and generally will not sprout until this dormancy is broken. 
You can save seeds for new plants or for friends. Begin watching your blooming cleomes during the summer when seed pods begin to develop. The slim, bright green, elongated pods are about 2 inches in length and resemble a cat's whiskers. They'll turn a light tan color and feel dry to the touch when the seeds are mature enough to harvest.

Choose a warm, sunny day with no rain in the forecast. The pods should be picked when the weather is dry to reduce the chances of mildew forming on the seeds because of moisture collected from the air. Pluck a sample pod and roll it between your fingers. If mature, it will release hundreds of tiny black seeds into your hand.

Pick a few mature pods and take them indoors. Hold one over a bowl and roll it between your fingers to release the seeds into the bowl. Dump the seeds into a clean glass jar. Cap it tightly. Label it with the seed variety and the date. Store the cleome seeds in the refrigerator until you're ready to plant next year or share with others.

Latin Name:  A member of the Capparaceae family, genus Cleome
Common Names:  Spider Flower, Rocky Mountain Beeplant, Stinking Clover
Zone: All growing zones; perennial in zones 10 and 11
Size: 3 to 6 feet tall
Exposure: Cleome flowers grow best in full sun, as shady conditions can make them grow so tall as to topple over.
Latin Name:  A member of the Capparaceae family, genus Cleome
Common Names:  Spider Flower, Rocky Mountain Beeplant, Stinking Clover
Zone:  All growing zones; perennial in zones 10 and 11
Size:  3 to 6 feet tall
Exposure:  Cleome flowers grow best in full sun, as shady conditions can make them grow so tall as to topple over.

Bloom Period:  Mid to late June, depending on the climate

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Garden Phlox

Yes... it has been quite awhile since our last post.  It has been a busy early summer.

John Fanick Perennial.. or... Garden Phlox

Phlox paniculata "John Fanick" is a Texas Superstar.  

It is named after an outstanding San Antonio nurseryman and true gentleman. It is a hardy perennial with showy clusters of light pink blossoms with darker pink throats. Growth habit is compact, on a stiff 3 foot stem with dark green foliage.  It tolerates heat, drought and powdery mildew.  

The Phlox pictured here have been in bloom for well over a month in our yard. It is fragrant and a great plant for butterflies.

Additional details may be found by CLICKING HERE

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Some Spring blooms

White Coneflower  self seeds each year

Busy Bee now that the Obedient Plant is blooming.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Beauty, Flags, and Functionality

Now I Think This Hibiscus From Our Garden Is Beautiful 

And I Think These Flags Are As Well

Today is the Saturday before Memorial Day and the Cypress  Creek Band has just put out the flags for the weekend.  You, too, can participate in this important fund raising program by clicking HERE to download and print the subscription form. For $36 per school year, you will have a flag placed in front of your home for a few days for each of 6 national holidays, beginning in September. The band members put them out and pick them up.

Now some things are not particularly beautiful but are quite functional for a Norchester gardener.  There is always a problem in having a supply of healthy milkweed plants for the caterpillars toward the end of the season.  By that time they have chewed most plants down to bare stems.  So our Master Gardner is trying this 6x4x4 "screen house" to protect some young plants so that they can fully mature before the little munchers can get to them.  Not beautiful, but functional. 

And keeping things watered over the summer is always a challenge.  Here are three very functional hose end timers that we have settled on as being reliable, easy to set, and a good value overall.  We use them on our dripper systems.  The first two can be set to come on as often as you like and for as long as you choose. They are powered by two AA batteries that will last all season. One of these was also addressed in our blog of Sep 20, 2013

And the last one is spring driven and for setting by hand for a period.

In this case "functional" means reliably performs a needed task.

Available at Lowes and Home Depot.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Restless Natives

It is moving toward summer time in Houston. Not all plants do well in our Houston heat. However, this fine blossom is Winecup. It is also called Purple Poppy Mallow.  It is just one of the four Texas Native Plants for Houston that are featured in the May Horticultural Report for the Norchester Garden Club.

As usual, you may download this report, along with any of the previous ones by clicking on the link located under the "Useful Links We Like" list in the right hand column of this blog site.

Any may be viewed, downloaded, or printed by clicking on the desired topic.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Three Mornings at the Park

The cell phone did well on these three mornings but it would have been nice to have my good camera along.

Matzke Park has a lot to offer.  In addition to the Butterfly Garden it has fine old trees and a great walking trail.  I especially like the trail very early in the morning from about 6:15 AM.  Yes, it is dark.
I try to get out most mornings for 6 laps of brisk walking. (4.2 miles).  

This morning (Apr 17) about 7:00 AM it was getting light and I caught the moon setting over the Cougar Country water tower which the sun was starting to highlight.  You can see this when walking to the west along the north side.

I was a bit late, 7:20 AM this morning. (Apr 18) I saw this as I was driving toward the park.  It was floating very low right over Jones road at about the Met.  By the time I parked and got out.. it had risen again and was to the west of Jones.... Not exactly the Albuquerque Balloon Festival but another gorgeous morning to be outside..

And Easter Morning, April 20, about 6:30 AM... ground fog blanketed the cricket field while the morning sky was a fitting welcome to this special day.