Friday, December 4, 2015

Holiday Project for the Kids

Do you have some grandkids visiting for the holidays or would like to do something to enhance those boring vacant looking corners of you yard? Well here is an interesting simple project with results even the neighbors might enjoy.
Let there be seedballs

CLICK HERE  to find out what these are and what you can do with them.   Thanks to our friends at Texas Butterfly Ranch.

Ok, it might not look like this, but we do live in Houston.

Image result for wildflowers image

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Cold Celebration

It is getting colder.. a bit earlier then might be expected.  Also, time to think about celebrating Christmas with some bright color.  The Norchester Garden club   Horticulture report has been published and it is on a Christmas favorite.. the poinsettia.
You may read, print, or download it at this link just by clicking:

And.. here is a link to the report on Christmas Cactus from December 2013..

And, since you may have forgotten, in January of this year the publication was a "Frost Special".. 

Various methods of protecting your plants were described along with other information that may be a good reminder.

We use frost cloth of different types, and in some cases small Christmas lights provide just enough additional warmth.  You will find this report by clicking:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Support for Garden Fundraisers

The Board Members of the Norchester Garden Club met today and in additional to their normal business, took time out to assemble a basket of butterfly items for a fundraiser of the Houston Federation of Garden Clubs.

And speaking of fundraisers, the Norchester Garden Club's annual "Rummage Sale" is a main source of their income.  The ladies put a lot of time and effort gathering, pricing, and selling these various treasures.  You might choose to stop by the Norchester Activity Center on this Friday or Saturday and see what surprises it has to offer. They have everything from toys to clothing. And you will certainly find plenty of "stocking stuffers." 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Reward Update

In the Aug 4, 2015 post on this blog I provided information on how families can help support the Matzke Park Butterfly Garden by linking their Kroger Reward Card to ABCS, the charity that supports Matzke Park.  ABCS has been providing support to the garden for years, but the number of families has dwindled from dozens, to just 3 as of the end of the first quarter.  

I am aware that a few more have signed up in the past few months so things should be getting better. Kroger paid on a yearly basis a few years ago and the 2011 check was for $164.39, so the effort to sign up is quite worthwhile.  ABCS has always put these funds into the Butterfly Garden.

Kroger now pays out on a quarterly basis.  The last check from Kroger which was then donated to the Butterfly Garden was for $26.77 which included the first two quarters, as they only issue a check for more than $25.00   This was then given to the Norchester Garden Club Treasurer for use by the Butterfly Garden.  
I understand that in recent conversations there was a request to post the sign-up info again.  Here it is.

Link your Kroger Plus Card ABCS to support the Matzke Park Butterfly Garden. Purchases you make at Kroger (not the gas) increase what Kroger donates to a charity if a Kroger card is linked to it and used at check-out.  This does not impact accumulating your fuel points.   

If you currently have an on-line account with Kroger (for their coupons and specials) visit   to link your card.   The Butterfly Garden's number is 82607  and is listed under Association for Better Community Schools (ABCS). All Kroger Reward proceeds are sent to the Norchester Garden Club and designated for Garden maintenance and improvement.

If you do not have an on-line account, click on SIGN UP TODAY in the ‘New Customer?’ box. You will need to provide the number on your card.  If you use your phone number (instead of your card) at the register call 800-576-4377 and select option 4 to get your Plus Card number.

If you do not have a Kroger plus Card, they are available at the customer service desk at any Kroger. If you have problems signing in or creating an account please call Online Account Customer Service: 1-866-221-4141

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Pruning Time

Mea Culpa...   Yes it is my fault.. I have been neglecting the blog of late.  But the ladies of the Norchester Garden Club have continued to improve the look and health of the Matzke Park Butterfly Garden with their thinning and pruning.  The Horticulture Chairperson has published the October report which is on pruning.  It offers some guidance on getting your yard plants ready for their winter rest. 

And.. the report leads off with information on "Oe." This is a protozoan parasite that plays heck with Monarch butterflies and infests some types of butterfly weed.  Oe, otherwise known as Ophryocystis elektroscirrha ,  is present in the Norchester area.

You may read, save, or download the October horticulture report.  Just click HERE for the report on dropbox. Close or ignore any messages for login, signup, etc.. nothing is required except patience for the PDF file to load. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Garden Helpers

The Norchester Garden Club ladies have been hard at work in the Butterfly Garden on several work days in the past few weeks.  With our rains, the garden quickly can become somewhat overgrown and weeds are a constant challenge

Thinning helps the looks as well as the health of the plants.

 We pile 'em up.. the Park guys haul'em off.

 For a task like this it is always nice to have some help.  Do you recognize these helpers ?

The September Horticulture Report has now been published, and these tools as well as others are featured.  You can view, print, or download the two page report by clicking HERE  It connects to a PDF file in DropBox.  Ignore any message to join, sign in, or to create an account.  None of that is required. Just give it a bit of time to download.  

Also.. under the "Useful Links We Like" section on the right side of this blog you can find the menu for past monthly reports.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

You May Be Shocked

You may be shocked to learn how many families had their Kroger Plus card linked to support the Butterfly Garden. I know I was shocked... the total number of families linked during this past year was 3.   Yes... THREE families, and ours was one of the THREE.  

In years past, money from the Kroger Program has provided, tools, plants, trees, and soil conditioner at various times.  This year the amount made was not enough to even have Kroger send a check.  Despite strong support in the 2007-2011 time frame, support now has been essentially NIL. 

It costs nothing to sign up and it does not detract from your Kroger Fuel Points.... but you do need to "RE-LINK" your card each year by going on-line.  It was this change that seemed to kill the important source of income for the garden.

And this is the month Butterfly Garden supporters can start RE-LINKING their Kroger Plus Card for the 2015/2016  program to continue supporting the garden. Just visit Kroger's secure website to link your Kroger plus Card.
   The Butterfly Garden's number is 82607  and is under Association for Better Community Schools

I If you have problems signing in or creating an account please call Online Account Customer Service: 1-866-221-4141

When you shop at Kroger using your Kroger Plus Card, you will be accumulating rewards toward the 2015-2016 program. Purchases will not count until you register online, once each year in August..

All supporters must have a registered Kroger Plus card account online to be able to link their card to the garden, whose number is 82607.   Do you use your phone number at the register? Call 800-576-4377 and select option 4 to get your Plus Card number. • If you do not have a Kroger plus Card, they are available at the customer service desk at any Kroger. 

Register online at If you are a new online customer, click on SIGN UP TODAY in the ‘New Customer?’ box to register. To sign up you will need to enter your zip code, click on favorite store, enter your email address, create a password, and agree to the terms and conditions. Once you are done entering your information you will get a message asking you to check your e-mail inbox and click on the link within the body of the e-mail that was sent. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Join the Parade

Our subdivision of Norchester will have its traditional July 4th parade of kids, walkers, decorated bicycles, floats, and misc. other interesting people and vehicles. 

Beginning at 10:00 AM, it starts at the north end of the subdivision at Laneview and Balcrest and proceeds south down Balcrest to the Norchester activity center on Jones Rd.

Come and join the parade or be an enthusiastic bystander.  
The Norchester Garden Club will have a float featuring one of its projects, the Matzke Park Butterfly Garden. The garden is in full bloom and great shape so plan on a visit after the parade and take some pictures with the kiddos at the activity center or the garden.  

Monday, June 15, 2015

National Pollinator Week

If you like plants... here is an interesting link to information on National "Pollinator Week" which is June 15-21.

Bee on sunflower

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Tree Damage

As many of you know..  Association for Better Community Schools (ABCS) and Norchester Garden Club have provided many of the new trees for the park as well as creating and maintaining the garden. The last group of 7 trees donated by ABCS cost $1400.00 and the park staff have done a great job of planting and caring for them.  There is, however, a problem with one or more of the "Fitness Trainers" who exercise with their customers in the park in recent days. These pictures were taken the morning of May 28, 2015.
This fine young tree is in a prominent location by the monument.  It looks fine from this direction.    But closer inspection shows the very severe damage to the bark on the other side. 

The damage is caused by these fitness groups placing exercise bands around the base of the tree, which they then stretch and "saw" back and forth as part of an exercise routine.   The trainer has been told to stop this practice by the park staff.

A related problem is the use of the park benches (donated at $1000 each) for stepping up and down on, etc.  The composition slats in the benches do break. 

If you see such practices... please: 

1.. Say something to the individuals involved.. ask them to stop. You can also tell them that exercise equipment/stations are on order for this park so that such folks will have a proper place and means for their workouts.

2..  If you feel uncomfortable confronting such behavior, please inform park staff immediately as they are usually present. 

3..   If park staff are absent or not readily available, please call the Pct #4 constable number 281-376-3472 and request an officer stop by.  The park is part of their area of responsibility.

Little can be done for such damage, and with half the circumference of the trunk being damaged.. it is somewhat unlikely that this tree will survive. The best that can be done is to clean up the damaged area and let it try to heal by itself.  It is not recommended that a sealant of any kind be placed on such a wound. 

Here is a link to what A&M has to say.. HERE

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Monarch Butterfly Look-Alikes

Four Fast Facts about Monarch Butterflies
  1. Monarchs know the right direction to migrate even though they have never made the journey before. They have a sun compass, with receptors in their antennae—and use an internal magnetic compass on overcast days.
  2. Milkweed is the one and only host plant for monarch caterpillars.
  3. Monarch populations have dropped 90 percent in the past 20 years due to massive habitat destruction and pesticides.
  4. The grassland prairies that run through the middle of our country provide one of the most crucial monarch habitat corridors in the world.

Learn how to tell monarchs apart from viceroy and queen butterflies.
An orange, black and white butterfly alights on a milkweed blooming in your garden. But is it a monarch butterfly? Or is it a viceroy or queen butterfly? Do you know how to tell the difference?
Don’t be fooled! Learn how to distinguish monarchs from their look-alikes by taking our Monarch ID Quiz by   Clicking Here

Monday, May 4, 2015

Flag Time Once Again

Norchester looks particularly nice on these "flag days" the band provides.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

More About Milkweed

We have featured milkweed and Monarchs a number of times on this blog... Here we go once again.

We came upon two articles from the National Wildlife Federation and Monarch Watch on our friends and their favorite plant.. milkweed, that are worth a review.  Both are several pages with lots of pictures and other links so I have downloaded them as pdf files which you can also review and download as you choose.  Both are links to our DropBox so just click on them, and be patient while they load on your screen. You don't need to have DropBox or sign in for anything.
 The first one describes twelve native varieties of butterfly weed for monarchs. Each has a picture and some background information.  That link is HERE

The second article
has some additional information along with links to other resources on the butterflies and their plants.  It may be found

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

New Trees for Matzke Park

The Association for Better Community Schools (ABCS) is proud to announce the donation of $1400 to Pct #4 for the purchase of 7 trees for Matzke Park.  The trees at the park have been aging and due to drought in the past few years, many have died off. So in October 2014 ABCS offered the donation to Harris County for some replacements. They have finally arrived and hopefully will be in place within a few more days.  There are seven.  Two are Burr Oak and five are Cedar Elm

One is not looking too well right now, but with luck will recover and be fine

In 2006 ABCS, a 501(c)3 non-profit volunteer group, partnered with Precinct 4 to preserve the 20 acres of land now known as Matzke Park at Jones and Grant. ABCS, through its cooperation with Be An Angel foundation, is also responsible for the special needs playground.  ABCS, and several of its generous donors have also been a major funding source for the Matzke Butterfly Garden and its amenities.

The Randalls and Krogers Neighbor Programs are one source that help to provide ABCS with funds to replace trees, plants, upgrades and continued support of Matzke Park.  Your signing up for these programs and shopping at either Randalls or Krogers help ABCS to collect these needed funds.  ABCS board members, past and present are Tracy Toma, Susan Greenway, Martin Heemer, Joan Fitzgerald, Margaret Buchanan, Kathy Reagle and Carol Bennett.  If you have questions, suggestions, or requests for the park please email us at 

Here is how you can support the park.

         Kroger   Link your Kroger Rewards card to ABCS.  This must now be done each year. The program year starts in August.   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 and Butterfly Garden improvements.

Sadly the number of families who have remained linked to Kroger has trickled down to Only Four.  Yes, only four Kroger cards remain linked to ABCS-Matzke Park.  In past years, this program has provided as much as $150 every quarter. This past year the amount is much less than $20.  Not even enough for them to send a check each quarter.  All of this money goes to the park and/or Butterfly Garden. So if you enjoy the park and the garden.. please sign up now, and then again in August when the renewal for the year begins again.

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.   

Signing up with Kroger also gives you weekly emails with Kroger Special coupons, etc.  And you don’t loose any fuel points.  Sign up is now through computer or smart phone and much easier than in the past few years.
However, you must have registered for a Kroger online account with your computer or the smart phone app, and then "re-link" your card each year starting in August.
To register with Kroger:

1.  Click HERE which is

2.  Sign in if you already have an on-line account.. If needed, click on Create an Account.  This short process will also sign you up for online coupons. You will need to provide your Kroger Plus card number (printed on the card) or call Kroger at:  1-866-221-4141.

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

You can also register with Kroger by downloading the Kroger app for your smart phone.  Download it, select Register and enter your information including your card number and the Community Rewards number 82607 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Our Latest Visitor

Not much doing for flowers and gardens at the Matzke Park these days.  But on my 7:15 AM morning walk around the path this morning... this guy was perched on the fence on the north side where it goes along Grant Rd.  He seemed "frozen" and oblivious to anyone passing by and he was still there in the same position when I left about 8:30 AM. 

And when we drove by about 10:30 AM.. HE WAS STILL THERE and hadn't moved.

I have seen this animal before at the park.  One time "playing dead" right next to the path.  Again, he/she was there the whole time I was walking.  You can see what that looks like HERE if you click on the link and scroll down a bit.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Amazing Flowers

We have had a surprising number of below freezing nights in the past several weeks.   Last night was another... with a low in our back yard of 31.1 degrees.   These two Hibiscus were picked this afternoon.  And their siblings, still on the plants, look just as fine.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Moving Outdoors

Hopefully our last freeze of the season is behind us.  
The cuttings and seedlings in the greenhouse are doing well and some will be shared at the next Norchester Garden Club meeting. The rest will soon be moved outdoors.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   And this new raised bed should hold a couple of tomato plants very nicely. Is it only in this county where one has to BUY DIRT at the store ?

While the poppy plot continues to thicken.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Signs of Spring

Feb 1 and it is 72 degrees outside. Of course we could get another freeze but let's hope not.  

Things are starting to brighten out there.

Here is the bed of our poppies that have come up from a few handfuls of seeds, gathered last summer. There are a few other wildflowers mixed in with the small white blossoms that are showing already.
What goes around, comes around. This is what this bed looked like in on the 10th of March last year

And for those that are more delicate, one can always start from seed indoors.

Here is a link to the latest Norchester Garden Club Horticulture Report which offers some tips on starting from seed.   CLICK HERE  Just give it a bit of time to load. 

Past Horticulture Reports are available as well .. see   "Useful Links We Like" in the column to the right of this garden blog.

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