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  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.

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.  

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 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Kroger Signup Reminder

In case you haven't done it... this is a reminder to link your Kroger Rewards card to ABCS.  This must be done each year.  Both Kroger and Randalls provide very modest funds to ABCS each year related to the purchases made by customers who have linked their rewards cards to our ABCS organization.  All of these funds are used for Matzke Park.

Signing up with Kroger also gives you weekly emails with Kroger Special coupons, etc.  On this site you can designate ABCS as your Community Rewards organization.

Randalls (Safeway, Tom Thumb)  ABCS is still registered with their Good Neighbor program and it is only a one time signup for you at a store.  It automatically renews each year.  Just provide their customer service desk with this number:  1969   This is the Randalls number for our organization.   

Kroger's program is similar but you must "re-link" your card each year starting in August and you must have registered for a Kroger online account. To register our charity with Kroger:

1.  Click HERE which is
2.  Sign in if you already have an on-line account.. and click on Community Rewards to provide our number 82607.  

If needed, click on Create an Account.  This will also sign you up for online coupons, etc. I believe. You will need to provide your card number.. if you don’t have it call Kroger at:  1-866-221-4141.

3.  Once your Account is established sign in and click on Community Rewards to provide the ABCS charity number for Kroger which is:  82607

Friday, October 17, 2014

Still With Us

Our good friends, the Monarch Caterpillars have seemed rather scarce this year.  However, yesterday on the self-seeded swamp milkweed by our back door we found these two as well as a number of others. They are healthy looking and very active.

And for a shift to a another type of interesting fauna, these two guys strolled by our RV campsite one early morning last week.  I scrambled to get the camera but they seemed to be in no hurry.  

They are Egyptian Geese. A member of the duck, goose, and swan family Anatidae.  They are native to Africa south of the Sahara and the Nile Valley.  They were considered sacred by the ancient Egyptians and appeared in much of their artwork. These are feral in the Kerrville TX area.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Late September Surprise

This fine specimen appeared along our back fence a few days ago.. a bit later than suggested in the description just below.   A very interesting flower.. no foliage at all.  Just stem and blossom.

Surprise Lily of the South blooms in fall     

After a long hot summer in the deep South, the earth comes alive with color from these sleeping bulbs. The Red Spider Lily  Lycoris Radiata is a perennial bulb that blooms in late August or September. A single stem emerges out of the ground unexpectedly and within days reaches a foot tall. The bloom opens a spidery look with long filaments that leave the center of the bloom, dip a little, and come up again with distinctive anthers and surrounded by modified petals.

 And here she is "up close"

And here is a "clump"....but they are not ours.

Our Gardenia jasminoides .. continues to do her thing as summer starts to cool a bit.

We continue to be thankful for flowers, and gardens, and Master Gardners.

And if you would like to see the latest (in fact all) of the Norchester Garden Club Horticulture Reports, you will find the links HERE  Give it a minute to download and click on the one of your choice.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Blooming Hibiscus

Our Master Gardner has become quite interested in hibiscus and we have several varieties in the back yard of “Fawnview Ranch.”  They are beautiful and enhance the other plantings; giving the yard a tropical look.  

Ruffled Satin, Rose of Sharon has large, ruffled pink  
flowers that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. It is one of the Proven Winner plants selected by horticulturists to give a lot of color without a lot of work. Adaptable to most well-drained soils, it may be trimmed in late winter or early spring and likes a controlled release fertilizer in the spring. 

Sugar Tip, Rose of Sharon is the only variegated Rose of Sharon that blooms.  The soft pink flower reminds one of a peony bloom. They show up in late summer but you have the crisp variegated foliage all summer long. Like other varieties it is deer resistant and attracts both humming birds and butterflies. Prune in fall/winter and avoid very wet or dry soil.

Hibiscus Rosa-sinensis or Chinese hibiscus is the one I am holding here.  This one happens to have double flowers that range from orange, red orange or red on the same bush. It is a large shrub that can get up to 15 ft. tall in frost free climates. It usually grows as a bush with many stems.  Flowers are up to 6 in. in diameter and most are flared with a bell shape. It likes full sun or partial shade with a fairly moist soil.

 According to one article I found, Chinese Hibiscus has: expectorant, antipyretic, antimicrobial, hypoglycemic, astringent, anti-inflammatory, emollient, laxative, refrigerant, emmenagogue, and aphrodisiac properties.   Hard to believe…. but who can doubt “the internet.”   It also has a flavonoid known as cyaniding, which has antioxidant as well as anti-inflammatory qualities. 

This single red blooming hibiscus is a tropical hibiscus that was purchased from Joshua's Nursery during the Garden Club field trip last spring. It is covered with blooms and the hummingbirds love it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tony Avent Presents

 Tony Avent, owner of Juniper Level Botanic Garden and Plants Delights Nursery presented a wonderful presentation at the Mercer Botanical Garden's 40th Anniversary  Distinguished Lecture Series 'Exceptional Natives' (many of them found in Texas).  

If you were not there, you missed an EXCEPTIONAL presentation.  Tony has  a collection of 22,000 plants.  You can request a catalog at 

You can also like him on facebook and see many photo's of some of his current blooming plants. 

Plant Delights Nursery is a family-owned nursery since 1988 which offers unique, rare, well-grown, and properly-named perennials to passionate gardeners around the world.

Here is a native found in Bastrop -   Baptisia leucophaea     'Butterball'.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Firebush (Humming Bird Plant)

(scientific name: Hamelia patens)

This plant is featured in the Sept. Norchester Garden Club Horticulture report that our Master Gardner publishes each month except June, July, and August.   

These reports may be found at
THIS LINK  which displays all the past reports as well. Just choose the month you want to view, print or download, click on its blue underlined link and it will open the PDF file.   

You may also get to this same list of all reports by clicking on the first option under "Useful Links We Like" on the right hand side of this blog.

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