Sunday, November 21, 2010

Year of The Caterpillar

This has certainly been the year of the caterpillar. I had more this year than any year I can remember. It certainly makes me wonder what causes over abundances of certain critters in certain years. While some years we have so many frogs of different varieties in the ponds that the evenings are deafening, this year we hardly had any. I must say I would rather have noisy evenings than caterpillars though. While they may turn into beautiful butterflies and moths, they can sure do some damage to the garden.

Tomatoes in the garden? Yep, you'll have these.

I don't know if there are little bitty Horn Worm Caterpillars or not but I had a bunch of tiny ones as well.
I much prefer the woolly ones as they are just more fun to play with.
They were on the Tall Rosen Weed.

They ate the Cleome.
They were on the Granite Gaura.

They even ate a lot of the Blue Bonnets. I didn't think anything would eat a Blue Bonnet.
Around the Welding shop was a type of horn worm that I haven't seen before. They were all similar but different as well.

And then there is the woolly bears. I think every one has these. But all summer long? I'm still seeing these around the garden and we've already had several light frosts.

My friend, Tom Nash, had caterpillars around his house by the thousands and they were not like any that I had. They were only feeding on one type of weed in his yard and really didn't bother any thing.

While most of the caterpillar species we have seen were in major abundance we only spotted one of each of these two varieties. This one looks like a south Austin artist painted it.

This one was on a lily pad in one of the ponds. And yes, it was eating it. The brilliant chartreuse color was absolutely stunning.

The side view revealed other colors I couldn't see from above. This was truly a stunning example of natures art work.

While they can be a pain in the butt to deal with sometimes, they are still a beautiful part of nature even before the beauty they eventually become.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Porter Weed

Last year, Pam, that has the blog Digginghttp://http//, let every one in the bloggersphere know about a great plant she had that was a real winner in our Texas heat. It bloomed all summer, looking great right up until frost. It was Seniorita Ma....., wait a minute, I'm not going to tell you. You need to look it up on her blog. If you haven't seen her blog , you need to. It's a dandy. Any how, this year I found one I would like to pass along.

In the spring I went to a Master Gardeners plant sale on the court house square in Georgetown, Texas. I was perusing the plants, picking out several, when a lady handed me another. With the selection I had picked out, she thought I would really like it and it was the only one they had there. You just know I bought it, even though I had never heard of it. I always buy plants when something special like this happens. It was very nice of her and she didn't lie either.

It's name is Porter Weed. I immediately looked it up on line and found it comes in red, blue, coral and pink. Mine was the red, thank goodness. I love red in the garden, and yes I have plenty, and no, I don't have enough. I didn't know any better at the time but the blue is native to the east coast and can be considered to be invasive. It's not a big showy bloomer but has a lot of long, very slender bloom stems that twist and curve for an interesting look. The info on line said it was a long lived perennial. Judging from the pictures on line, I think it should be much bushier than mine but I think the heat from our early summer might have kept it from that as the heat hit about the time I planted it. It did bloom all summer and didn't wilt from the heat even once, and this summer was another doozie.

Is Porter Weed for you? I'll let you decide after looking at the pictures.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Where Did The Frog Go?

It was right here a minute ago. Where did it go? Darnit, that was my favorite frog.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Oxblood Mystery

The Oxblood Lilies that I grow have been in my family longer than I have. Oxbloods are the perfect pass-a-long and have been passed to every family member that is interested in plants. They have looked the same as long as my memory goes back. Red. Always red. Oxblood Lilies are red. Every one knows that.

I was walking to my back shop one morning and noticed a new crop of Oxbloods had popped up after the big rain. Nothing unusual in that. However I was shocked to see that some of them were pink. Not light red but pink, even light pink. I was wondering if it was because of all the rain, [that would be 14.7" of it] and it just washed all the color out as the plant took in too much water.

You can see some coming up in this picture that are almost white.
If any one has any ideas why then I would like to know. Has any one seen this before? Also does any one think they will come up this way next year? Is this natural hybridization?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


In the last 24 hours, here at Draco, we have had 14.7 inches of rain fall. It actually fell in about 18 hours as it has not been raining for a few hours now. I thought I had better walk around the gardens and check out the damage if any. I didn't expect much but better check any way.

It was obvious the 4 O'clocks in the front yard/new bed, didn't fare so well. They had been beat down badly but their neighbors, the big Petunias, looked perky. Lyn and I had decided to take out the yard and make a big flower bed in the hottest part of the summer so I decided to put something in that I knew would fill in quickly. They didn't disappoint but they sure look bad right now.

I walked around the house, noting all the places I would have to move gravel around in the pathways to cover the ground up. Bonnie was leading the way as she always does. She thinks I am incapable of going anywhere on my own. Good dog, Bonnie. You might note that she is looking back to see what is taking me so long. I'm coming, I'm coming!

Looking down the pond, every thing looks OK. In the back ground I can see the dead leaves on the roses by the fence. This rain has saved them.

The front ponds and the plants around them look good. I was worried about the shrimp plants getting crushed by the heavy rain fall as they are so thick leafed, but they look great.

Coming to the Red Bud that I grew from seed, I can see that the big perrenials that grow along the fence for a visual boundary are not too bad. The Skeleton Leaf Daisy and the Snow Cloud Artemisia are laying over a little but the big native Lantana and the two different Flame Acanthus are just fine. I really need to cut that one limb on the Red Bud so people don't have to duck to get by it, but I ain't gonna. Have I mentioned how much of a wuss I am about pruning?

Taking a left I looked back up the big pond and things appeared OK. I looked down and noticed only a sprig of Silver Ponyfoot left out of the mass that had been there. This is where the pond over flows and I never thought about the shallow rooted Ponyfoot getting washed away. The Chile Pequin Peppers were fine and the Duelbergs, Henry and Anna, were good. Looking at the pond again I could see that the water was up to the big stone slab bridge that crosses in the middle of the pond.
Got to stop and ogle the beauty Berries. They just look so good right now.

I come upon the raised beds and notice the Cosmos has been pushed down by the rain. Even though I know you shouldn't, I plant my sweet peppers in this same bed every year. It's shallow dirt in this bed and the peppers are really the only thing that does well in it. I mean, except for the Cosmos. It comes up in this bed every year and in the walk ways as well. It is some kind of strange Cosmos that I originally got the seed for from some old lady I met in a nursery. It gets over five foot tall in a good year and doesn't bloom until the last of September or in early October. It really puts out the seed too.
Things in the back seemed fine.
The two little ponds under the gutter spouts were OK. A couple of the little gold fish did wash out but Lyn was able to scoop them up and get them back in .
Another new bed that we have been working on lost some dirt from all the water running across it. The Potato Vine looks good. It has certainly faired better than the the two chartruese green ones that a rabbit ate. The Hoja Santa and the Mountain Sage look quite perky, better than they have all summer.

The pear tree lost some fruit but there is still plenty left. It's almost pear eating time.
The Ocatillo only had about five leaves on it a few days ago. Now look at it. I've had this little guy for about five years now and it has hardly grown an inch and has never bloomed but I like it any way. You can bet those rain water tanks in the back ground are full, 24,000 gallons worth.

Going back around the raised beds I notice the Indian Mallow is squashed pretty badly. I don't think it is too bad though. It will come..............what is that? Right there, across the walk from the Powis Castle. What is that shiny thing? Oh no, it can't be. It is, it is, it's Ol' Charley, my catfish. He must have washed out of the pond during the night and lay there until he died.
I put him in the big pond when he was only four inches long. I wanted him to eat the baby gold fish so we wouldn't have to give them away every year. He did too but he has been getting lazy this last year and we have a lot to give away again. He would eat out of my hand, he really liked me and Lyn. He was more affectionate than a cat. I really liked that catfish and it was almost time to eat him, dammit. I guess the rain did strike us a severe blow. Say good bye to Charley, Lyn. He was a really good catfish and I just know he would have been excellent dipped in a mustard sauce and rolled in corn meal.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Evening Walk

I put in a long, hard day today. I was putting the finishing touches on a horse barn I'm building for a customer. I got home right at supper time and ate, but I knew I needed to keep going for a while. I just can't stop that suddenly after a long day in this heat. I need to taper off to a stop.

I decided to take a walk. I am so lucky in that respect. The Corp of Engineers property around North Fork Lake is right behind my house. It's only a couple hundred yards to the water, and that water is the absolute upper end of the lake when it is at normal pool level, so you have standing water and a river running into it. It's really beautiful and I'm lucky enough to have it so close by when I need to go walk about. Of course I took a camera.

Before I even got out of the gardens I spotted a Coral Snake by the raised veggie beds. I got a quick picture before he got into the Powis Castle. It was a pretty big one as well.
After going through the back walk through gate, I turned onto the trail. As I walked by my neighbors place I noticed his calves playing king of the mountain on a mound of dirt. They do this a lot.

Leaving the calves to the watchful eyes of Ol' 272, I stayed on the trail I had built nearly fifteen years ago when we first bought this place. I was lucky to find an old road bed going down the hill into the river bottom. I cleared it out, with Lyn's help of course. It is like a tunnel in the cedars, openings on both ends and not much of a way out through the middle. In cooler seasons I would be on my mountain bike instead of walking. I noticed the big Summer Grape vine at the top had already lost most of it's leaves in this oppressive drought we are in. The leaves just don't have that crisp, bright color of fall leaves.

Even as thick as the brush is along the tunnel trail there is still some nice scenes, thanks to the fading evening light.

Before dropping down into the shadows of the tunnel I noticed a little life and death in nature taking place. A big ladder spider had caught itself a big buffalo grasshopper and had it trussed up neat as a pin. Just about every one I know calls these banana spiders. I always think of the Alien movies when I see this as I know the grasshopper is still alive, biding it's time until eaten.

After exiting the evening darkness of the tunnel I noticed the wild plums were having a fairly good year even with it being dry. They do have the advantage of growing in the riparian zone and in central Texas that is a big advantage. The moisture in the soil here is enough to grow a completely different assortment of plants that won't grow above it.

They look tasty don't they? You don't want to eat them though. They are a solid ten on the pucker factor scale. One bite and your lips are further back than your tonsils. Leaves a chalky taste in your mouth as well. Oh yeah, you know I've tried them before.

The Saw Leaf Daisy's were just about to have their big show. A few were already blooming but there were thousands that were almost ready. I almost never miss the big show, it's rather spectacular.

With these daisies the petals don't fold out but grow after the flower is formed. I much prefer the looks of the blooms when the petals are almost non existent.

I can't imagine why they are called Saw Leaf Daisies.
I finally waded through the thickets of Saw Leafed Daisies and got to the road. I wanted to check on the lake level and river flow while I was down here. Just before getting into sight of the water I came upon one of the most vividly colored of the flowers we have around here. I did not alter the color of this picture at all. The colors look almost fake but they are not. It is Eryngo, prickly looking but only for people with secretarial hands. Those colors are almost electric looking.
One look down river and I knew it was bad. With the last of the demon sun's rays on the cliffs, the view was beautiful but there just isn't the water there should be. I looked around and was pleasantly surprised to not see any trash. Some times it is so depressing to see what we humans can do to something this beautiful.

I looked up river and it showed the same lack of water that should be there. Man we need some rain.
I headed back to the house. As I exited the cedars, the view of our place looked pretty good. The nice neat row of cisterns, the fruit trees, the flower beds and the log house that we built with our own hands. I liked the neatness of it but it didn't look terribly out of place with the natural world we had tried so hard to keep close.

Here at the start of the trail is where we had buried two of our dogs and I'm sure where we will bury the ones we have now. I like it that they are here by the trail they so liked to traverse.

As I started forward I noticed a cloud of reddish dust start up at one of my boots. It was the pollen of a star fungus. Every one called them devil's snuff boxes when I was a kid. They have a thick, tough outer shell that protects the pollen until the time is right. It splits into pie slices and peels back to reveal a softer membrane that has the pollen inside of it. Some of these are very poisonous if you inhale much of the pollen. In the olden days they would say you were dealt the Devils Hand if you were poisoned with it. I think it takes a long and painful time to die.

You can see the pollen dust here. Looks just like Garrett snuff to me.

I got back to the house to find out that our old dog, Pepper, had up chucked 15 peach pits and some blood. Looks like a trip to the vet tomorrow. Oh well, it was still a good walk.