A garden is the best alternative therapy.

Posts tagged ‘round rock’

The Only Color I See Outside Is In My Own Backyard.

The butterfly garden is doing well, with my help.  I water it a couple of times a week and that seems to help the plants keep flowering.  The rudbeckia have been covered with blooms for the past couple of months now, while the homestead verbena continues to really branch out into a nice ground cover.  The lantana is fine with the heat and is a big attraction to butterflies.  On the left below, the Spanish lavender is getting ready for a second show of blooms this year.

While the milkweed I planted almost all died, spontaneous plants from last year’s seeds have popped up everywhere around the yard.   They, too, have attracted quite a few Queen butterflies and fritillaries.  Below is the stone path with pillars of milkweed growing between as well as sweet alyssum, which, to my surprise, continues to live and flower despite the heat.  I planted them in March, I believe, and I expect them to last through to the frost.

The chives are putting on quite a show of flowers and a buffet for the honeybees, wasps and gray hairstreaks.

I keep the feathered guests happy with daily offerings of seed and fresh water.  The finches and cardinals really love coming by, as well as doves and blackbirds.  And the anoles have their run of the place since the birds are well fed.  They, too, love the sun.

I have started the fall garden in hopes that the weather doesn’t kill off everything.  I have several tomato and pepper plants, as well as a couple rows of bush beans sowed.  I’ll be starting the carrots, spinach and broccoli in the coming month and then lettuce for the winter garden.  I can’t wait for cooler weather…

Basil Loves Texas Heat

It’s true, basil thrives in hot, dry conditions that make other plants – even heat- and drought-resistant plants wilt.

It’s going to be 109 degrees tomorrow – what I think is our 70th day above 100 degrees and a new all-time record.  The grass looks like hay.  The spring veggie garden is long-perished.   The bare bones of milkweed plants stand in clumps along the fence.  Huge black cracks are forming in the ground, with small sections giving way to darkness below.   It is a terrible sight out there.

cracks in the ground...

Yet the two basil plants I have are loving life. As you can see, they’re bushy and full of aromatic, delectable basil leaves.  There’s enough for us to use fresh throughout the season without worrying about hurting the plants.  In fact, the more we use, the more it grows.  I continue to pick the top leaves off of the plants.  By doing so, I keep the plant from flowering and going to seed.  This ensures that the plant will continue to focus energy on producing more leaves and keeps the oils in the leaves at a higher concentration.  I water this box every few days and the marjoram really prefers the shade offered by the basil bushes.

It’s a boy!

This beautiful baby boy was born Sunday morning.  After many months of anticipation, I was able to hold him in my arms.  In fact, right after the midwife delivered him, she handed him directly to me.  What a special moment, and what a miracle birth is!  My wife is the strongest person I know, giving birth completely naturally without the use of pain medication or epidural.   You all will be seeing many more photos of this little guy, but here are a few to introduce you.

Meet Obrey Joseph (pronounced o-BRAY):

Building a Retreat Web

At just a few millimeters wide, this little striped jumping spider (Salticidae) would have been missed except he was busy scurrying back and forth constructing his retreat web on the very top of the sunflower plant just as the morning rays poked through the leaves of a nearby tree.   It was incredibly difficult getting a picture of him because the wind was blowing so hard and would take him back and forth out of the frame of my camera.  I literally had to wait, holding my breath for a lull between wind gusts so I could snap a shot.   At one point, a carpenter ant that was at least twice its size meandered onto the leaf with the spider’s retreat web.  The spider jumped out so quickly I thought it might be gone for good, but it had tethered itself to the leaf and was resting on the underside.  When the ant left, it scurried back onto the leaf and started checking out its construction.  With a bit of rearranging, it settled down into its newly created funnel.  You really have to look at these full-size to see them (click on the photos).


Feathered Friends

I spotted a small mockingbird and a male cardinal in the garden today.  The cardinal was rooting around in the lantana, dill and parsley.  Was he hunting my caterpillars?  The small mockingbird watched me carefully for some time before flying off to another nearby fence to holler for mom and dad.

A Good Buzz

Continuing the “Thinking Small” theme this week, here are a few shots taken yesterday evening and this morning in the garden.  Although it may be a little boring for my readers seeing the same thing over and over, I really can’t get enough of taking bee photos.  I keep up my attempts at the closest/sharpest photo I can get.  This is a real challenge.  As windy as it has been lately, and as quickly as the bees move from flower to flower, I really have to be patient and seek out the best shot.  Because it’s so windy, using a tripod is absolutely useless.  I have to take all of these hand-held.   Another challenge is the depth of field when working with subjects this small.  Any slight movement throws the bee out of focus – or partially out of focus.

the bee's tongue is sticking out

Thinking Small

If I spend any amount of time in the garden, I soon discover some sort of creeping, crawling creature.  Since I was a little boy, I’ve been fascinated with bugs and insects.  I would often turn over the large, landscaping rocks in my mother’s flower beds to discovery what lurked underneath.  When my brother and I would trek through the woods, I spent a good amount of time looking for new bugs, turning over limbs and even breaking apart rotting logs to find them.  Most of these bugs aren’t harmful to my garden plants at all, but serve a purpose in the complex web of life.  Take the green stink bug, for example.

(click photos to view larger images)

This little nymph was discovered hanging onto the Whirling Butterfly gaura.  It wasn’t causing any damage, seemingly content just to “hang out”.  I picked it up and handled it for some time, and luckily it didn’t spray me with its characteristically bad-smelling chemical.  Perhaps it hasn’t matured enough yet.  At this size, I’m sure this bug provides a good snack for the green anoles or perhaps a member of the spider family.

Lurking nearby, I found this little striped wolf spider.  This species can grow quite large and love to terrorize my wife and daughter by their mere presence.  Whenever they show up in unexpected places, they are met by a scream and usually an, “Oh my God!  JOE!”  That’s code for, “There’s a large, ugly bug that you need to get rid of!”  Most of the time, I enter the room to find a small, frightened little spider, which I quickly scoop up in my hands and transfer outside.  Although wolf spiders are known to bite humans, I’ve never had one that I’ve handled do so.  I’m always careful to hold them loosely, though.

Spiders are fascinating!  We used to have a good number of garden spiders when I was growing up.  I would literally spend an afternoon hunting grasshoppers, crickets and moths to throw into their large webs.  I loved to watch this particular spider move with lightning speed to the struggling insect and begin wrapping it in a thick strand of silk that streamed from the spider’s abdomen.  The insect would struggle for awhile, but once it was completely wrapped, the spider would move in for its paralyzing bite, then all movement would stop.  I think the spider appreciated my help, but it made no qualms about telling me when I got too close.  It would run to the center of the web and begin bouncing the entire web back and forth violently to warn me to stay away!

The wolf spider is much different from the garden spider, however.  Instead of weaving a web, it hunts its prey freely.  This particular spider was found in the foliage of some flowers, no doubt waiting for an insect to come and dine on nectar – quite possibly its last meal.  I’ve seen wolf spiders dragging their meals with them as they go, a difficult task when the prey is equal to or larger in size than the spider itself.

Because spiders prey upon a variety of insect pests, I consider them beneficial insects in my garden AND my home.  I’ll have to add this one to my Beneficial Insect Files.