Friday, August 22, 2014

Go "Parking"

We all enjoy our Matzke Park and its playground, Butterfly Garden, and walking trails.  Some even enjoy the weekend cricket games, I would imagine.  But Harris County Pct. #4 has a wonderful park system with many other options.  Today we explored one of the newest, Dennis Johnston Park in the NW part of town. Dennis, of course, is the Pct #4 Park Director who has been so helpful with the Matzke Butterfly Garden project as well as the other improvements there.  This park was named in his honor.

 It used to be a Girl Scout camp, but the county has transformed it into a real garden spot, particularly suited for events and meetings.  The "cabins" are used for Pct #4 county offices.  It has a nice pond for fishing, a developing butterfly garden and trails as part of the Spring Creek Greenway system.

You can CLICK HERE  for a map of its location as well as other useful information.    Take the time to explore some of the many "green space options" we have available to us within a reasonable drive.

I took these pictures just this morning.

This Is the "Grand Lodge"

The New Butterfly Garden

Not Real Large, but Perhaps the Fish Are

A Large Pavilion 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Spiders and Queens

We have a new set of blooms in the backyard of the Fawnview Ranch. The white spider lily plants have decided to show themselves.  Spider lily is the common name for a number of different plant species within the family Amaryllidaceae which belong to the genera Lycros;  a genus of about 20 species of flowering plants formerly treated in the family Liliaceaepider lily.

Perhaps the summer's most magical bulb, spider lily pops up, seemingly overnight, with its colorful flowers sitting tall upon a single stem.  The exotic look of the long petals and stamens accounts for the common name.  It also bears the monikers hurricane lily (because of its bloom season) and naked ladies (the flowers appear without leaves).  

With trumpet shaped blooms that resemble an amaryllis, spider lily forms a brilliant border in partially shaded places.

Light:  Part Sun, Sun   Type:  Bulb   Height: 6 inches to 3 feet
Width:  Up to 1 foot   Color:  Blue, Orange, Pink, Red, White
Foliage Color:   Chartreuse/Gold   Season:  Fall Bloom or Summer Bloom
Added Benefits:   Attracts Birds, Cut Flowers

By clicking HERE you can take a look at some of the other colors

It is useful to deadhead the plants.  In other words, remove dead blooms as they begin to fade to prevent the plant from seeding.   Seeding requires significant energy, and deadheading allows the plant to rest and flower more than once.

Also.. dig out and divide mature bulbs as soon as the lily's leaves begin to yellow.  After 4 or 5 years, crowding and sinking can hinder flowering in these plants.  Replant the bulb necks slightly above the soil surface.


This is not a picture of Monarch butterflies.

Queens on Purple Mistflower

Nor is this of a Monarch caterpillar. 

Queen caterpillar with three filaments
To assure yourself this is correct... check one of our favorites other blogs by clicking HERE

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.