Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Cooper Comes Back

Yes... he is back. Looks to me like the very same bird.   In our Feb 7, 2014 blog post (you can see it HERE) a Cooper's Hawk visited and perched on the same spot while watching the other birds at the feeders scatter to the winds.   He only sat here a couple of minutes this time.  These two pictures are from this afternoon. 

You may also remember that in our July 28, 2014 post HERE we had a visit from a Northern Harrier.
He, however, much prefered the edge of our fish pond for a perch. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Preparing for Cold Weather

It is January 1st and we are not likely done with cold weather for this season.  As a result, a Norchester Garden Club Special report on Frost and Freezes has been prepared by the Horticulture Chairperson.  This document outlines the difference between Frost and Freeze and the options for preparing your plants to survive our changing Texas winters.

Included in the document are links to other Texas A&M resources including how to build a "cold frame" temporary greenhouse

Potted plants are the easiest to protect. Just by moving them into a corner under a protective overhang will help a lot. Incandescent lights (not LED) add needed heat when the plant is covered with a frost cloth. 

You may view, print or download the report by 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Kinglet Return Visits

Why do we "mature" folks like birds?  Who knows? This fascinating little bird was discussed in the previous post. He is always by himself so has little else to do it seems.  He first showed up on Dec 21 and has returned several times each day since. This is Dec 31.  Today I had my zoom lens on so the pictures through the window are much better.

He is small. For comparison, the red and white portion of the bulbs on the "tree" are one and one eighth inches in length.  

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Season Visitor

This post is somewhat of a repeat of one we placed on our family blog http://5cbs.blogspot.com/  a few days ago.  Yet, we are aware there are a number of bird watchers among the readers of this garden blog so thought it might be nice to post a version here as well.

As some of you know, our back yard is a favorite feature of our home. We spend most of our sitting time in the family room which overlooks it through the three 6x8 foot windows.  

It is in these chairs where we browse our computer and tablets, read our Kindles, papers and books, and watch the ever-changing wildlife shows in the bushes and trees. 

We have a funny little iron and vine "tree" which has some lights on it that sits just outside between the windows and the pool.   

Each of the last 3 days this little guy has come to visit.  He is a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet and is the only one we have ever seen.  http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ruby-crowned_Kinglet/id

The red crown appears to change in size as he chooses to display it. He doesn't sit still for more than a second and hops all around but seems attracted by the tree. He also sits briefly and looks into the window at us.  He didn't even fly away when I stepped outside to take a picture with my cell phone. The others are taken through the window. 

 He pays no attention to the two main bird feeders and the other visitors there; just our little weird tree. Maybe it's the red lights.   

Always something going on in the back yard.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Treats & Wishes

The gardens are taking a well deserved rest and so our thoughts turn to other things for awhile.  Like Christmas memories from long ago.  We remember making peanut brittle and divinity with our mothers as kids in Nebraska.  It always involved candy thermometers, raw peanuts, and long careful stirring at the stove.

But time moves on and so does technology.

Here is a surprising recipe we found a while ago that we really like.  No thermometers, no special peanuts, and no stovetop stirring.  Very good. Very Quick. Very Easy.  It is as good as we remember from the 50's.   Give it a try and treat your inner child. Or share some with good friends.

      Merry Christmas from our Master Gardner and Helper #1

         If you wish to print it out here is the link to the PDF file

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tropical Hibiscus

In the September 22nd post on this blog we featured a number of "Hardy Hibiscus". You may check that out by checking the archives on the right hand side of this blog.  

Here is a picture taken yesterday of our Master Gardener holding two blooms from her tropical hibiscus "Jaz."  This plant was recently moved into the greenhouse and should continue providing such blooms for some time.

Other interesting tropicals, but not ours.

This site has a great deal of useful information but the comments about identifying hardy vs. tropical may not be too helpful. http://www.trop-hibiscus.com/gindr.html  

Garden centers tend to group all hibiscus together. You can tell if yours is probably a tropical if it has glossy, deep green leaves rather than the dull, medium green, heart shaped leaves of the hardy variety.  However, there are several hundred varieties of hibiscus and they are easily crossed with one another. To further muddy the issue, the "Rose of Sharon" varieties tend to be hardy, but can have the double flowers, colors and deep green leaves of the tropicals. 

A 7 minute YouTube video of how to prune a tropical hibiscus.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Productive Backyard Tree

 This is the Meyer Lemon tree in our back yard.  I didn't get a picture of it before our Master Gardner aggressively pruned it a couple of days ago, but it is about 6 feet tall as shown here. This year it had a very heavy crop of beautiful fruit

These are ripening in an upstairs room after we picked them on Nov. 14.

And here are some of them on Nov. 22 when we decided to try our hand at some Meyer Lemon Marmalade.   

Lemons, water, and sugar.. that's it.

The fruit tree is often grown in China in pots as an ornamental.  It became popular in the US in the '90's when Martha Stewart and some famous chefs began to feature the fruit in their recipes

It is thought to have originated as a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange and was brought to the US in the early 1900's.   
It set up very nicely, and as to taste... well.. we will be making another batch.  Not amazing, but enjoyable to us at least. 

The Recipe we used is HERE on our Dropbox