Six on Saturday 2019-04-06: Before the Rain

The few drops I felt this morning make me happy. I’m don’t want to deal with an irrigation system and even manage to have trouble with hoses, so my usual garden watering routine is lugging water back and forth between the faucet and plants. Last weekend it poured… in a different city where I was traveling. But after many dry weeks, it looks like North Austin is finally about to get a drenching. No lugging for me next week? 🙂

Without further ado, here’s six things in my garden this week.

Caterpillar

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Black Swallowtail instar eating fennel

There’s definitely more insect life around, from ants to ladybugs to butterflies. I’m happy to see that of the many butterflies who have flitted around lately, at least one was pleased enough with my garden to want its kids to grow up here. I do have a ton of fennel and, after seeing this, regret pulling up some of it earlier because there was just too much.

Flowers Out Front

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Wildflowers and herbs

I do most of my gardening in the backyard, but this little bed is out front. I love how it’s finally filled up with the white salvia, lavender, oregano, bluebonnets, and pink evening primroses. I can only make out the young Texas Mountain Laurels in there because I know where they are, but they’re growing and one day they’ll be the dominant feature in this bed.

Olive Blooms

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Blooms on the Arbequina Olive tree

Although January may not have been the best time to plant out this young Arbequina Olive tree, it survived the late frost and has put up with me not watering it quite enough. (It should be drought tolerant when more mature, which is why I chose it for an inconvenient location.) It’s apparently also content enough to flower already. This will probably look really awesome someday when it’s a large mature tree.

Cardoon

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Large Cardoon leaves growing ever larger

This plant must have doubled in size during the past month. I hope it blocks out some weeds!

Mystery Plant

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I don’t know what this is.

It hasn’t bloomed in the past three years. Should I dig it up to take a look? Remove the grass from around it and mulch so it can have some personal space? The only thing I’ve done with it is accidentally mow it over a few times, but I’m curious.

Snake

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Smooth earth (?) snake slithering in the mulch

The first time I saw one of these little snakes in the yard, it was already in two pieces from digging a hole for a new tree. Now that they know how inattentive I can be, they stay out of my way most of the time. However, today I was able to spot one in the mulch next to my Al-Sirin-Nar pomegrantate. If this is an earth snake as it appears to be, it eats earthworms, insects, and snails. Maybe it was out today because there are an excessive number of snails about this morning enjoying the wet mulch and leaves. Go snake, get ’em!

Six on Saturday 2019-03-30: Random Six

Yes, I know this is Sunday, but I took the pictures on Friday, so I’ll consider the average of the two make this a valid Six on Saturday post. It’s been a great week, watching from day-to-day as there is more shade in the world. By the time I get home from work and am available to tend to the garden a bit, while the daily temp is sometimes still at its peak, about half of my backyard is shaded. It is so luxurious. No pics of the trees today, though, and I didn’t stop to take pictures of all the roadwide wildflowers on my weekend trip down to south Texas. Here’s my six….

Blackberries

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After the white petals are gone, the sepals still add a touch of class and stariness for a while. This flower looks like it may give way to a delicious blackberry in a while.

Bluebonnets

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In each of the three autumns that I’ve lived in this house, I’ve tried scattering seed in multiple areas of the yard with hopes that they’d grow into beautiful bluebonnet plants. As a native Texan, I’m quite attached to our state flower. But I may have to try something else this fall. The only reason I have a single bluebonnet plant in my front yard is that I bought one from the nursery last September.

Borage

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I enjoyed a couple of the fuzzy cucumber-flavored leaves earlier on, but looks like something else has gotten to it lately. My hope is that this year the borage will self-sow prolifically as I’ve heard other people complain but which has never been my experience.

Currant

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I wasn’t expecting the Crandall Currant bush to flower within a month of getting it into the ground, but I won’t complain. Others have mentioned that this is also called a clove currant because of its scent. Although this one is small, I rubbed a few flowers with my fingers, and sure enough, a scrumptious clove-y aroma.

Nasturtium

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The last time I tried to grow nasturtiums was an utter failure, so I’m delighted by how healthy these are so far. Since it’s been so dry, I’ve been watering them a couple of times per week. It’s only worth it if I’m able to harvest a few soon for munching on, and if they produce at least as much seed as I’ve planted.

Poison Ivy (?)

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I was weeding mindlessly anything that was green and unexpected in my pear tree bed. My breath escaped me for a moment when I suddenly realized that my hand was heading for a patch with “leaves of three, let it be”. It doesn’t look like the standard pics of poison ivy, but I’ve seen a lot of poison ivy that was just going through a weird growth phase or something and have stuck with the “leaves of three” rule unless otherwise identified. However, looking at this picture now and the slight assymmetry of the leaves, I think it really may be may be something else. And I’m wondering, did I end up pulling it up / chopping the top after all? I’ll have to wait until daylight to find out….

Tree of the Month: Texas Mountain Laurel

The bloom season for Texas Mountain Laurels here in central Texas is starting to wrap up already, but they’ve had a good run this year. Just look at this beauty, taken near the start of the bloom period in mid-February. This is near the max height for Texas Mountain Laurels, so they’re a good fit in many places.

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My favorite things about the Texas Mountain Laurel (TML) is that it’s an evergreen tree, is nitrogen-fixing so needs no fertilizer, and just generally does really well in this area with minimal care.

Other folks are more inclined to prefer the purple blooms or the strange sweet aroma that emanates from them. (It’s likened to purple koolaid.) That’s definitely what the bees have been into, as it’s usually easy to spot a few buzzing around the trees.

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This may not be the best shot, so bonus points if you can spot the bee

Either way, if you’re in the area it’s easy to grow from seed. Once the seedpods mature in the summer, grab a few and crack them open. The barely-mature seedpods are easiest to open, and the really old ones may be as well. A nutcracker can definitely help, though.

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Since they have a thick coat, it helps to give them a little nick with some nail clippers or other sharp object if you want to ensure they sprout quickly. Be careful not to cut past the surface, or you could damage the baby plant inside. In that case, grab another seed. Other online sources state that this type of scarification isn’t needed if you use the barely-mature seeds that are pinkish instead of deep red like this one, but when I remembered to grab some last year they were already quite mature.

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I’ve always soaked the seeds overnight to help with quick sprouting. One thing I don’t do anymore is to pot them up inside. It’s just a hassle that isn’t at all necessary. Sure, it was nice the first time or two for watching how new leaves unfolded and seeing just how long the taproot grows. (If you do start it indoors, make sure it’s transplanted out quickly because that taproot does need to grow.)

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Instead, just stick them in the ground wherever you want. TML isn’t too picky and some are growing happily where I’ve planted them in compacted unamended clay soil or super-limestone-filled places. I recommend starting three or four in any location in case they don’t all make it. I’ve lost a few for whatever reason but still have plenty. Once they get larger, I’ll even likely have to kill off a few myself. It shouldn’t be hard to keep up with because TML is a fairly slow grower.

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This is my eldest plant, started a little over two years ago. No, it’s not quite a “tree” yet. At the start of the month it measured a whopping 18 inches (46 cm), and that’s including some of the new growth that has burst forth this spring.

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Some day this young tree will grow to add more interest to my front lawn and attract pollinators. And in the meantime I don’t have to water it (well, I might if we’re in a deep drought) or feed it. I don’t need to pamper it in any way. I just have to be patient and it will grow.

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So if you live in this area, grab a few seeds from a TML in your neighborhood, stick them in the ground, and sit back. It’s completely free, and someday you too will be rewarded with a beautiful little evergreen tree.