The Natural Garden Coach

Thursday, December 31, 2009

McKinney Falls State Park and Happy New Year!



This past weekend after a trip to see family in Houston, we drove to Austin for another quick trip to see friends. The weather was typical Austin winter weather - glorious sun and a nip in the air. Our friend Marcia is a volunteer trail guide at McKinney Falls State Park so we decided to take advantage of her knowledge for a little hike.



The park is on the southeast side of Austin and has some natural limestone rock formations that have sheltered people for 8000 years. The photo above and below reminds me of my Native Plants class that I took at UT in the mid-70's. We went to this park before it was open to the public then and it was the first time I saw a plant, a variety of maidenhair fern (Adiantum sp.), growing in the wild when I had only previously seen it in a pot. This is growing right on/in the limestone ledge.





The photo above is of the base of a giant old Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum), said to be 500 years old. Marcia said the Parks personnel ended up watering it by hand this summer because of the drought. They didn't want the old beauty to die.



In our walk we came across the ubiquitous Juniperus asheii, otherwise known as the bearer of the dreaded "cedar fever". That orangey stuff on the branches is the pollen and it causes many people to suffer cold, allergy, and flu-like systems for as long as the pollen is around (many weeks!).



One of my favorite plants, Prickly Pear cactus (some kind of Opuntia).



At last we came to the Lower Falls. Marcia said this summer it was barely a trickle. Good to see some water back again.



The falls are fed by Onion Creek, a creek that meanders through much of south Travis County (and I think north Hays County).



Because of the creek's proximity to a major urban area and thus urban runoff, the creek has its issues with algae growth, which you can see hanging on to the limestone caves under water. Still, it's a little jewel of a park and well worth seeking out for a nice hike, especially with friends or family.

I hope everyone has perfect weather, a perfect garden, good and healthy friends and family, and a great 2010!

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2009. Please contact me for permission to copy, etc.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Foliage Follow-Up to Bloom Day



Pam at Digging has a new meme going that celebrates foliage and other non-blooming natural things around the yard, the day after Carol's Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. While photographing my yard for blooms (my Bloom Day post is here), I had great fun in photographing the many interesting textures and colors in the garden. I think this might be the last hurrah for my 'Bloodgood' Japanese Maple above, but a nice hurrah it is.



I wish I had thought to put something at the base of this pine tree so you could tell how massive it is. When I hug this tree (yes, I do that occasionally), I can't get my arms all the way around. I wish I knew the variety of pine it is (might be Short Leaf pine since it has very short needles).



This time of year is when the ‘Silver Shower’, Ophiopogon jaburan, a type of mondo grass, starts putting on new growth. Seems a strange time for it but that's what it does. I have several of these in mostly shade.



The foxtail ferns (Asparagus meyeri I think) are in large pots nestled against the house. I'm too scared to leave them out exposed where I normally have them most of the year. I probably don't have to worry though. They're very hardy.



The texture on my ‘Felt Plant’, Kalanchoe beharensis, is like velvet. Although this photo is towards the top of the plant, the older leaves show more bumps on their undersides.



I like the way my red oak is still determined to hang on to some of its chlorophyll.



Moving to a more ancient form of vascular plant, we have Horsetail Rush, Equisetum hyemale. (It's ancient because it reproduces by spores, not seeds.) This is in a pot in my little water fountain. So far I haven't had to protect it from freezing yet.



I really don't mean for this to be a botany lesson but now I seem to have moved to non-vascular plants like this moss (the black stuff is mold, green stuff is moss). This appears during the rainier seasons on our chimney.



And now I've moved to lichens, which according to Wikipedia is "a symbiotic association of a fungus (the mycobiont) with a photosynthetic partner (the photobiont or phycobiont), usually either a green alga (commonly Trebouxia) or cyanobacterium (commonly Nostoc)". Plus a little moss thrown in on the rock for good measure.



More lichens and rock. The only native rock around here is something called "iron ore", so these rocks come from Arkansas. Makes me feel a bit guilty that they're not native but iron ore is usually small, rusty, and hard to work with.



I guess I'll end my impromptu romp through the plant kingdom with a fungus, some type of big mushroom.

Be sure to check out the links to other Foliage Follow-up posts at Pam's (and my Bloom Day post if you haven't seen it yet)!

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2009. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, Dec 2009



Even though we had a couple of hard freezes last week (very early in the season for us!), I was surprised by the number of blooms left while I made the garden rounds yesterday. There's not many but there are a few. Above is one of the last blooms on my Patrick's Abutilon. Having never had an abutilon before I don't know if it's normal for them to mostly bloom in the fall, but that's what this one did. Can anyone verify that for me? Next year I plan to prune it back quite a bit, hoping it'll stay a good short size while still blooming as prolifically as it did this fall.



Here's a surprise bloom - a lone Ox-eye Daisy ((Leucanthenum vulgare). Must have liked the fall rains.



Marie Pavie rose is doing it's usual winter thing, blooming yet covered with blackspot.



This is one of the long awaited blooms of Viburnum mistflower (Eupatorium viburnoides), also called Joe Pye Shrub. It's very subtle and not as pink as I had hoped it would be, but I kind of like that subtleness. I think this will be a nice bush in a very short time.



Another surprise for me is the trailing Lanai Bright Pink verbena. It just keeps on blooming. It was to be a match for the Homestead Pink verbena in the other box but that has since died.



The creeping rosemary is blooming now and will most likely continue to bloom throughout the winter. Too bad there aren't any bees around now to enjoy it. What you can't see in this photo is the mold problem it developed this fall when we got so much rain. At least I think that's what it was. Some of the branches towards the middle of the plant turned black. I may still rip this out but the blooms have given it a reprieve.



A few posts ago I talked about this dianthus, Dianthus barbatus interspecific Amazon Neon, a great butterfly attractant. Most of them have finished blooming now but the big box store got a few more of these in. Again, I just had to rescue it since it was extremely pot bound and drowning from too much watering! I kept it in my storeroom for a couple of weeks until the harsh weather passed. It's now happy outside in the ground. I wish you could really see how neon this is.

For more Bloom Day posts from around the world see Carol's May Dreams Gardens. And stay tuned for a post here (found here) tomorrow as I join Pam at Digging in posting for Foliage Follow-up.

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2009. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Birds are Back and so is the Work



For the last few weeks the birds had deserted our backyard feeders. I'd see a few sapsuckers and woodpeckers flying here and there but our feeders were being completely ignored. We were starting to worry that something was wrong with the feeders so my husband cleaned them up real good, we replaced the seed block and added some suet, and replaced the sunflower seed. Still nothing. Then we had the first of two hard freezes. Just before the first freeze hit (when we were awaiting the two or three snowflakes that fell!), the cardinals came back, possibly hoping to stock up just in case. And the very next day all the birds returned.



I hope you can see the big old sunflower seed in this little chickadee's beak. Interestingly, I was mentioning my worries about the birds to some friends at a party and they were experiencing the exact same phenomenon. The theory is that there was an abundance of berries and seed in the wild this fall. Well, I'm still glad to see them back.

As I was snapping photos I was thrilled to see a White-breasted Nuthatch start snatching some seeds.



I don't often see them at the feeders. I guess I was at the right place at the right time. As I turned away from the feeders I surveyed the freeze damage and all the upcoming cleanup work to come.



The basil plants and all the salvias are now history for this year. Although the temperature was in the 40's, the birdbath still had some lingering ice.



And unfortunately the poblano pepper plant had just made a dozen baby peppers. So much for the vegetables of summer!