Monday, February 22, 2016

Butterfly Tree

Danaus plexippus Tree
Live! Monarch (Danaus plexippus) chrysalises adorn this beautiful mantel piece.

Butterfly and Pumpkin
My children helped me feed these caterpillars in plastic jars and then transfer the chrysalises to the tree once they had dried and hardened a bit.

Danaus plexippus
How can an insect produce metallic touches like gold and silver?  Organic jewels designed to be admired.

Monarchs and Pumpkins
Many butterfly chrysalises shed their camouflage and become translucent hours before they eclose (emerge from their chrysalis) like these Monarchs pictured above.

pending eclosure
Unfortunately many Chrysalises not chosen for the indoor Butterfly Tree that were left in the wilds of the front flower bed did not survive to adulthood.  I saw them devoured or at least tasted by lizards, spiders, birds, squirrels, wasps, and other unseen villains, who knew that these supposedly distasteful butterflies had so many enemies.

ready to eclose

Danaus plexippus recently eclosed.


Garden for Butterflies
Here is the butterfly garden in front of our house that may have attracted the abundance of butterflies this year.  I have not seen so many Monarch visitors since this fall season several years ago.

Halloween Colors on Monarchs
Already sporting festive Halloween coloring.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Colorado Bend State Park

Colorado Bend State Park
Colorado Bend State Park
Echinocereus coccineus (Scarlet hedgehog cactus) growing not in the ground but rather on the top of a rock that has collected leaf litter from Ashe juniper trees in the area.

Horse Crippler Cactus
Echinocactus texensis (Horse Crippler Cactus)

Prairie celestials
Nemastylis geminiflora (Prairie celestials)

Horse Crippler Cactus

Nine-banded Armadillo
Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)

Blue curls flower
Since this Phacelia congesta (Blue curls flower) likes cactus type soils I think it would make a good cactus garden companion plant.  When it loses its graceful beauty post flowering it can be pulled up leaving at least one plant to produce the next years seeds that will grow during the winter and be ready to flower again in the spring.

Lace hedgehog cactus
Echinocereus reichenbachii (Lace hedgehog cactus).

Colorado Bend State Park
Gorman Falls - Quite impressive for the middle of Texas! given a little rain.

Monday, February 8, 2016

First Cactus Garden - Horseshoe Bay, Texas

Container Garden
Upon my return from visiting the Huntington Gardens in California I created this small cactus garden for my Mom in Horseshoe Bay in Central Texas.

Notocactus leninghausii
You will see that in this first attempt I paid little attention to what might or might not be cold hardy long term.  Surprisingly many of the more tender plants survived and bloomed for several years before finally succumbing to temperatures in the  mid teens.  The Thelocactus setispinus (middle left) and Notocactus leninghausii (top left) would be the long term survivors.
Cold Hardy Container garden
An advantage to a small garden like this is that it can easily be covered with a blanket should subfreezing temperatures occur.  However, this protection is much less effective when temperatures stay below freezing for more than about eight hours at a time.

Nipple Cactus
I rescued this little beauty from a new housing development close to my house.  It had already been unearthed and run over by a bull dozer clearing lots.  I was able to clean it up and pot it and the following spring it rewarded my efforts with a beautiful bloom and lots of little "pups" around the base.
Texas Nipple Cactus
This is a Pineapple Cactus (Coryphantha sulcata).

False Copperhead snake
What I thought originally might be a Copperhead snake turns out to be the more kid friendly and beneficial Texas Rat Snake.  I am happy for him to eat is many rats as he likes, unfortunately they also eat baby birds and bird eggs as I will show in a later post.
Lesser Gold Finch
Living Bird Seed!!! - This Ice Plant (Delosperma cooperi) turned out to be a favorite food of all sorts of finches (Lesser and American Gold Finches as well as Purple Finches and possibly House Finches) visiting our back yard, how they learned to eat it I have no idea being that it is non native and if they would even visit it had it been growing sprawled across the ground rather than suspended in a hanging basket.  Maybe there are other native succulent plants that finches consume in this way?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Balboa Park, San Diego, CA

San Diego
We were told by native Californians that this was a terrible time of year to visit San Diego because of the "June Gloom".  A time of the year when skies can be overcast and temperatures are cooler.  Coming from Austin where it was 107 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade, the idea that it might not be as sunny and hot as some people where looking forward to did not bother me one bit.  The above "gloomy" picture was taken at an "awful" 71 degrees.

Balboa Park
Jacaranda mimosifolia is the purple tree you see all over San Diego this time of year (June).

Balboa Park
The Jacaranda (Purple) and the Bougainvillea (Pink) seen here in the Spanish Village (within Balboa park) are both supposedly hardy to about 19 degrees Fahrenheit.  The Bougainvillea often comes back from the roots at even colder temperatures.  Maybe with global warming we'll start seeing these in Austin! 

Balboa Park
"LOOK OUT!"  There is a green monster behind you!  I can testify I have been grabbed by a few of these in the past.  Interesting how the trunk of the cactus just looks like a normal tree (after about 80 years).

Balboa Park
Ferocactus pilosus aka Ferocactus stainesii at my feet and aloe (ferox?) behind as to the others I have lost track of the names but I like the candelabra shape.

Balboa Park
Crassula coccinea 'campfire' hardy to about 20 degrees Fahrenheit.  I may end up trying this in my garden just too much color to ignore when it may survive with a timely placed blanket a few days a year.

Many of the aloes were blooming along with Dyckias (right) and Agaves (center).