A garden is the best alternative therapy.

Posts tagged ‘lantana’

The Butterfly Garden and The Reason for My Missing Butterflies

The perennials in the garden have rebounded wonderfully.  The abundant sunshine and warm weather has been good to them, although the lack of rain necessitates a frequent watering with the garden hose.  We are thankful, however, for the recent rain.  It wasn’t nearly enough, but it did manage to saturate the first couple inches of soil.  I know the plants appreciate the rain water more than the city water, so I won’t complain.  Can I ask for more, though?

The perennial hibiscus is really bushing out and I suspect that, some time in May, it will begin flowering.  This variety has fluorescent fuschia blooms, which will bring additional color to the side of the house and is sure to captivate the attention of beneficial insects.  This is between our deep red-colored knockout rose bush, which is starting another wave of blooms, and the herb garden.

perennial hibiscus

The fall aster looks as if it is going to grace us with a pre-fall show this spring.  It is growing some flower buds as we speak, which will add a nice lavender splash between the orange and yellow lantana blooms.  It will continue to grow throughout the summer and put on its big finale in the fall.  It promises to be a good show.

fall aster preparing to bloom ... in spring!

In this photo, fennel flanks three dill plants at the very left side of the bed against the fence.  Surprisingly, the black swallowtails have been quiet the last few weeks after an early start of laying eggs and hatching baby caterpillars.  I don’t currently have a single egg or caterpillar on the hosts plants.  I’m hoping the rain will bring them back.  I mean, I have a total of twelve host plants for them!  Ding-ding goes the dinner bell!!

The three mounds of leaves on the right are black-eyed susans, which still have a little time before they’re in bloom.  At the back of the bed are my thyme plants that are finishing up their blooming stage.  I’ll shear them back when they’re done and encourage them to send up some new growth.

Texas lantana blooms

As a last minute decision, I sowed more Russian Mammoth sunflower seeds (I had four growing last year).  I had twelve come up, but some little creature ate two of them completely to the soil.  I still have nine going strong and another struggling a bit.   The six plants in the foreground below were planted at the same time as the others, but are already much larger than the other four.

Russian Mammoth sunflowers

The sedum wilts slightly in the heat of the day and rebounds by morning.  It seems to catch a lot of falling moisture as seen by these big balls of water.  I think I may need to shade them a little better.  They’re in the same bed as the Turk’s Cap, which enjoys partial shade.  The corner WAS in the shade when I planted them last fall, but the neighbors severely pruned the Texas Lilac tree that used to shade them.

water droplets on sedum leaves

Turk's Cap budding

It’s a challenge to photograph the honeybees on the gauras.   They move quickly from flower to flower, and the entire flower stalk sways so easily in the breeze.  These two photos came out fairly sharp, however.

Indigo Spires salvia barely lets on that it died back to the ground over winter.  These foot-long spires of flowers are everywhere and more are on their way.  In the second photo, the white Autumn Sage can be seen in the background, as well as the yellow blooms of Zexmenia.

The scissor-tailed flycatcher is Oklahoma’s state bird, but still calls the neighbor’s Mulberry tree its home.   Also known as the Texas Bird of Paradise, it is common in our area.   It is a beautiful bird, but I suspect it is the reason why I haven’t seen many butterflies and why the black swallowtail caterpillars disappeared.    It eats berries, grasshoppers, crickets, butterflies, moths and caterpillars.  I sure hope it got the squash borer bug, too.  Here it sits in the top of another neighbor’s tree at sunset.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher ... and butterfly eater!

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Additional Signs of Spring

I continue to be amazed by how much change just a week or two can bring in the springtime.   The plants that went dormant for the winter are bursting with brand new growth, while the evergreen plants are growing fuller and lusher.  It makes me wish that spring would last all year, especially considering how Central Texas heats up so quickly and moves from a short spring to a long, prolonged, dry and oppressing summer.  We’ve already had a couple of ninety degree days and are forecast to reach that high again in just a few days.  Oh, how I wish it would rain instead!  We still have received no significant rain since last September.  I sure hope the rain comes soon and sticks around for a week or two …

The salvia greggii (autumn sage) is blooming again, and – this year – is putting on a better show.  I planted these two bushes last April, so they didn’t really get going until early summer.  They are two to three times as large this season.   The Indigo Spires salvia plants are really bushing up and out, but still have not sent up any flower stalks.  I truly cannot wait for these plants to start blooming – they add a lot to that side of the bed.

salvia greggii

Indigo Spires salvia

salvia greggii

The Copper Canyon Daisies have really grown a lot the past two weeks.  If you remember, my post on 3/19 showed just a few sprouts of green shooting up from their bases.  Now they’re compact little bushes.   I expect them to reach three feet wide this year, but they’re going to be a little cramped between the salvia greggii and rosemary hedge.   They really were beautiful during their bloom period last fall.

Copper Canyon Daisies

I let the lavender get a little too leggy this season, but it still flowered.  Once it is done blooming, I will prune it back quite a bit and hopefully it will do alright.  I’ve had the bush now for a few years, so it may be time soon to make cuttings or buy another plant altogether.   I still have dried lavender from last spring.  In fact, just this past weekend, I put a handful in a pot on the stove and let it simmer half of the day.  The house smelled wonderful!

Spanish lavender

The Whirling Butterfly gauras have started blooming and won’t stop until the first frost.   They require very little care.  I give them some compost tea a couple of times a year and prune back spent racemes, but that’s it.  They are each at least three feet in diameter and now about a foot, maybe a foot and a half tall.  These plants send up a multitude of flowering branches up to four feet tall that are covered in white blooms.   The two plants together should be six feet wide by four foot tall this season.

Whirling Butterfly Gaura

Gaura bushes

The rose bush is four times larger than it was when I transplanted it last spring.  I gave it a bit of bone meal a couple of weeks ago and it is covered with thirty to forty blooms right now.  It really is a knock-out.

Double Knock-Out Rose

double the pleasure - more roses in bloom

The flare hibiscus has tripled its new growth in the past two weeks.  It will reach about four feet tall and three feet wide and eventually will be covered in large  fuschia-colored blooms.  I can hardly wait … hibiscus always brings a beautiful, tropical feel to the garden.

Perennial Hibiscus - Flare variety (blooms fuschia)

You’ve already seen the amaryllis blooms in my previous post.  You can’t see it from this photo, but another bloom has opened on the opposite side of this flower and two more will be open soon between them.  It is a gorgeous flower.

Amaryllis

The Mother-of-Thyme simply did not do well for me in between the flagstones.  A few of them appeared to have died, so I dug them up and transplanted alyssum in its place and also sowed more seeds to fill in the gaps.  I do have a couple of yellow thyme that came back and are filling in quite nicely again, however.

Sweet alyssum between pavers - yellow thyme in background

The truly wild flowers I have in the yard are limited to false garlic and primrose.  I don’t mind the primrose too much, but could do without the false garlic.

primrose growing wild along the fence line

primrose flower

Along the fence where the wildflower bed was, I have several flowering plants going strong.  The red verbena is just spectacular – literally covered all over with scarlet flowers.  The euryops seem to struggle a bit when the temperatures reach above 85, and I’m hoping this won’t be a continued issue once they are well-established (I transplanted them just a few weeks ago).  I come home in the evening and their foliage is wilted and unhappy, but by morning they look fine again.  I hope they last the summer as I really enjoy their bright, yellow profusion of blooms.   I lost a fern leaf lavender plant, but have a replacement getting acclimated.  I’ll transplant it this weekend.  I think I watered it too much.  Too much love, I guess. 🙂

Euryops flowers

Verbena in scarlet - love this plant

Fern Leaf lavender established after transplant

Here’s a look at a couple of the beds.  You can see that there is quite a bit of new growth already, but it’s still pretty bare looking.  There is room for about seven or eight milkweed plants.  I have twenty cuttings scheduled to arrive before the weekend, so those spaces will soon be filled up.

Corner of the yard - looks pretty bare as of yet

The purple prairie verbena just wasn’t going to come back, so I pulled it out.  I wasn’t able to locate additional plants in the few nurseries I tried, so I went with something different.  The homestead purple verbena is a lower profile, creeping variety.   It still blooms like crazy from late spring through fall like the purple prairie, but it should be hardy in our area.  I think it will look quite nice under and around the orange, yellow and red blooms of the milkweed as well the black-eyed susans.  It has a reputation for being a “rampant” fast-growing plant, so I hope it will fill in quickly over the spring and into the summer.

Homestead purple verbena - replaced the purple prairie verbena

Can anyone identify this plant?  I can’t remember anymore what it is, but it’s got cute little buttons of lavender flowers on it.  The foliage is having a hard time because the pill bugs are constantly eating it (prompting me to use Jenny’s – of Rock Rose Garden – solution: empty grapefruit peels turned upside down as “traps”).  Works quite well because I always have a ton of pillbugs under them, but the foliage eating continues…

I forget what this is, but the pillbugs have had a time with the leaves

The black-eyed susans are coming back strong, too.  They form a triangle in this spot of the garden.  I think they’ll be double the size this year and fill in the space nicely.  You can also see the fall aster, which continues to spread out.  It is at least four or five times the size that it was when I transplanted it last spring.

a triangle of Black-Eyed Susans

Fall aster continues to spread

The lantana is rebounding – the first plant has covered it’s woody base with new stems that already reach eight or nine inches.  I even see the beginnings of flower clusters.  The second plant is almost to the point where the other one was three weeks ago and will soon look just like this one.

Texas Lantana, plant one

Lantana, plant two, starting to come back

Turk’s cap is in the corner of the yard.  It was mostly shaded due to an over hanging Texas Lilac tree in the neighbor’s yard.  They cut their tree back a lot this spring, however, leaving the corner only slightly shaded.  I hope the Turk’s cap does well despite the additional sun exposure.   It has about six times as many leaves as it did just three weeks ago.  Also in this small bed (where the mint used to be) are two Autumn Joy sedums.

Turk's Cap

No matter how much rosemary I use for cooking (which is quite a bit!), the Tuscan Blue rosemary continues to bush out considerably.  It can get to six feet tall, but I won’t let it.  I’ll be more aggressive about pruning it this year.

Tuscan Blue rosemary

Here’s a shot of the creeping lantana.  Last year it created a ground cover that was four foot in diameter, spilling over the rock borders and into the yard and onto the path.  I had to cut it back a few times, but it is an exceptionally fast grower that blooms to frost.   I loved it so much that I bought two more for the bed along the fence line.  The butterflies love it, too!

Trailing Lantana

I keep forgetting to take pictures of the zexmenia, which is between the red and the white autumn sage bushes.  It is already twice as large as it was this time last year.  I think it may be okay in this spot for this year, but next spring I will have to transplant it.  It just won’t be able to compete with the salvias any longer.

Last, but certainly not least, is a pic of the Four-Nerve daisies.   It, too, is several times larger than last spring and continues to send up more and more and MORE flowers too beautiful not to include in this post!

Four-Nerve daisies

 

Ain’t Seen Enough Butterfly Pics Yet?

Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly

The garden plants have been quite thirsty the past couple of weeks, requiring me to water them frequently and deeply.  The raised beds drain very well, almost too well, allowing the soil to dry out quickly.   Even the native beds, which are stocked with mostly drought tolerant plants have appreciated the extra soaking with temperatures finally reaching the hundred degree mark for the first time this summer.  Thankfully, the really hot weather held out until the last month of summer when those cooler days of fall are almost in sight again.   I am very excited to see how the garden will look as we move into fall.  The copper canyon daisies and fall aster have been sitting dormant while the rest of the plants are busy flowering away.  Most should continue flowering through the fall, and I expect a better show than this spring now that they have had time to grow deep roots and grow a lot larger.

Laying eggs on fennel flower

Nectaring on Prairie Moss Verbena

Of course, I can’t be in the garden any length of time before I’m distracted by a butterfly that has floated in to say hello.  I continue to see a lot of black swallowtails, pearl crescent, bordered patch, yellow sulphur, and fritillaries.   After working for awhile, I stepped inside to get a glass of water and returned to the back door to see the largest tiger swallowtail I have ever seen flitting about the verbena.  It was seriously as big as my hand, but as soon as I snuck outside with my camera, she was off on the breeze … the one that got away!

Oh, but she was beautiful!

Not wanting to disappoint, the gulf fritillaries spent quite a bit of time in the garden, chasing one another around.   An eastern black swallowtail stopped for most of the day to lay eggs on the fennel.  She was pretty small and I didn’t see her deposit any eggs, but she was really trying!  She’d wear herself out and then just hang there trying to regain composure, then she’d flit around and go back to laying.  Sometimes she would stop for a brief drink on the verbena or lantana.  I enjoyed her company most of the day, while the gulf fritillaries played over and through the fence.

Gulf Fritillary on spearmint flower

Gulf Fritillary on trailing lantana

Gulf Fritillary

What a beautiful pattern on the underside of her wings

Taking flight

Later in the afternoon, I had a visit from a variegated fritillary.  She finally came to rest in the shade of spearmint stems under a Texas Lilac tree, allowing me to capture a few shots.

Variegated Fritillary on spearmint stem

Variegated Fritillary

Variegated Fritilarry nectaring on Prairie Moss Verbena

Garden addition: Cuphea and Lantana

I was at Home Depot today picking up some lumber for the additional garden beds, and I stopped to smell the flowers.  Even inside of the covered area of the garden section, I found several honeybees buzzing in and around a group of flowers on display.  I thought – excellent, this is what I need to draw more beneficial insects to the garden area.  I looked several over and chose a large Cuphea shrub and two smaller Lantana plants.

cuphea hyssopifolia, Mexican Heather

cuphea hyssopifolia, false heather

IMG_5705

This shrub variety of Cuphea is native to Mexico, so I’m sure that it will do well here in the Texas climate.

yellow Lantana

yellow Lantana

IMG_5707

The Lantana were root bound, so I replanted them both in a large pot.  For now, I have placed both plants along the East side of the house because it is protected from the late afternoon sun.  When the weather gets cooler, I’ll move them out by the squashes and cukes to increase the likelihood of them being pollinated by bees, butterfly and possibly hummingbird – the later of which really loves the Cuphea.  We already have seen hummingbird feeding on the Hibiscus nectar, so I’m sure this will be an appreciated addition to their diet.

Today, I drew up the plans for the additional beds, which will contain three types of lettuce, two types of carrots, spinach and broccoli.  As I have it figured out, I have about three feet to grow lettuce, two feet for carrots, and two feet for spinach.  I’ll build another three foot by three foot bed for the broccoli.

sketch of garden plan

sketch of garden plan

I should be able to get at least sixteen lettuce plants in their section, which I will sow successively rather than all at one time.  I should also be able to plant sixty plus carrots, nine broccoli and twenty plus spinach.

lettuce seeds

spinach carrot seeds

It doesn’t look like I’m going to get to building the beds today like I had hoped.  I have all the materials I need and the dirt and seeds, so I guess it can wait.  I can work on them throughout the week.  In the meantime, I have already started some lettuce seeds (nine of each variety above).  I’m going to let them grow 4-6 weeks before I put them out in the beds.  At that time, I’ll also sow the carrots and spinach.