Sunday, October 10, 2021

My new water garden

 My mom and I always connected through gardening.  

Even in her foggiest hours, she could remember the names of plants and the calls of birds.  

She always wanted me to put in a water garden, but the 2 feet of limestone and months of drought always daunted me. 

Finally last year, the boys and I started digging. Unfortunately, she passed before she could see the finished product, but every morning I sit and enjoy the pond and think of her.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

American Beautyberry Nature Journal

When the berries on this gorgeous plant start to darken, you know summer's intense heat only has a bit more time to go!

This is one of the most draught tolerant, no hassle plants I own.  After a long number of incredibly hot days with no water, it will start to wilt, but give it some water and it pops right back up again!

I learned today that its leaves contain three chemicals (callicarpenal, intermedeol and spathulenol) which repel mosquitos (link).  Crush the leaves up, and place them around you to naturally be mosquito free.  

Historically, people used to crush up the leaves and put them under the harness of horses. Root tea was used for dysentery and stomach aches.  The root and berries were used for colic and as a treatment for a wide variety of common ailments. 

Deer are apparently very fond of the berries, and I know that chickens are as well. 

These beauty berries all died back during the 5 day freeze this winter, but have come back as strong and lush as previously!

Monday, August 23, 2021

Sow what you want to reap - Garden tip for life

When I go on my morning run and smile at those I pass, I receive half a dozen smiles and waves in return.  When I hand out extra plants to friends and co-workers, suddenly people are finding extras in their garden to give as well.  

And when I have been wronged and treat that person with forgiveness and kindness, not only do I immediately feel better, but when I myself am in the wrong, I am more likely to be treated the same.  One thing I have found to be overwhelmingly true in life is: you reap what you sow.

If you want a field of bluebonnets, you gotta first throw down some seeds.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Fall Veggies

 Planted 6 tomato plants and 2 Jalapeno plants.  A little late to be planting them, but I thought I'd give it a try.

Also planted Edmonson Cucumber seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange  along the fence and Cucumis sativus Homemade pickles from Botanical Interests.

Edmonson:  70 days.  1913 Kansas heirloom.  4" whitish green fruits with butterly flavor and crisp texture.  Vigorous vines.  Has good resistance to disease, insects and drought.  best for pickles and used for slicing too.

Homemade pickles:  55 days. Arguably the best cucumber available for pickles.  Solid crisp interior is perfect for 1 1/2" - 6" pickles. Resitant to anthracnose, angular leaf spot, downy mildew, and powdery mildew.  

Happy First Day of August

The flowers and plants are really loving the extra rain we have gotten this summer.  But even in the hottest, driest of days, this solar garden I planted two years ago still shines!

Filled with my toughest heat-loving plants, I just really love how it turned a dry brown patch of dirt into this gorgeous collection of colors.  It is certainly the highlight of my August yard.  And the Obedient plant, which has never flourished anywhere else, is gorgeous in this bed!!  I love the interplay of purple, red and yellow!

I bought the large pot last year (maybe two years ago?) and have not know what to put in it.  This year, I decided to fill it with Silver pony foot.  And I love the way it cascades over the sides, looking almost like water.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Queen Butterfly

I have read in many, many articles that Gregg's Mistflower is a magnet for butterflies.  But honestly, in the two or three years I have grown them, I just haven't seen the attraction.  Every once and a while, a few small moths collect on the plants, but nothing like the collection of butterflies and bees that swarm to other plants in bloom in the yard.

Today, however, I am a believer.  There was a Queen Butterfly that kept coming back to sip the nectar from this purple plant.

Queen butterflies look very similar to Monarch butterflies, and they even lay their eggs on milkweed as well.  But the white dots on the open wings are a give away that this beauty, while still regal, is a Queen and not a monarch :)

Gregg's Mistflower, a drought resistant Texas native, has a symbolic (Kyle says it is actually mutualistic) relationship with the Queen Butterfly.  The butterfly pollinates the Mistflower.  But also the Mistflower imparts a natural compound (intermedine) that is then broken down by the male Queen butterfly into a female-attracting pheromone.  Then, the male passes the compound to the female when mating, which makes her eggs poisonous to predators.  

How cool is that? (Plus, seriously, who can resist a polka-dot butterfly???) Source

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Sunflower - Nature Journal

One more benefit of having feeders to attract birds to the back yard - unexpected sunflowers popping up around the yard!  And while the squirrels stole most of the the flowers as soon as they bloomed, this one seems to have made it! So today,  I decided to get up close and personal with these favorite flowers of mine!

As I pulled out my loupe, I noticed that each of the small flowers inside of the main flower made a star!  And each had small fuzzy stems coming out of each one.  Having seen sunflower seeds harvested from a sunflower, I knew each of these small stars would form an individual seed.  But how?  I wondered.

What I learned

In learning about how sunflowers reproduce, I actually learned three words I had not previously known:  inflorescence, protandrous and homagany.

* Each sunflower head has between 1,000 and 2,000 tiny little flowers, called disc florets joined together at the base. These are surrounded by the bright yellow petals called ray florets. Ray florets are good for nothing other than attracting the attention of pollinators (and making passerbys like me smile!). The petals will fall off as the seeds mature.  Inflorescence is the term for a flower within a flower.

* I have read two different positions on how the disc florets begin flowering.  One said they start from the outer rim to the inner circle.  Another says it starts at one side of the head and open in rows about 4 rows at a time.  Looking at the photo at the top of this post, I'd say the former is correct, and they open radially.. at least this sunflower did :)

* I did find a website  that says the disc florets open early in the morning, releasing anthers to form a tube; later in the same day pollen and the flower’s stigma extend, while the tube itself retreats. To my eye, there was no difference in the length of the corolla between the evening and the morning, but in these side by side photos, you can clearly see the anthers are extended much further in the earlier picture, and the corolla has extended to enclose the anthers in the second photo.

* Pollination occurs in this way (found on this website).  The sunflowers male portions , the anther and stigma, mature before the female parts.  When male parts mature before female, it is called protandrous.  Inside each disc floret are the typical stigma, style, anthem and ovary.  Typical pollination occurs when an insect crawls from one disc floret to another, carrying the pollen with it.

It generally takes 30 days from when the last flower is

pollinated for the plant to mature (which I am guessing is when the seeds are done?)

* I have read a few sites that say that sunflowers can be pollinated via homogamy.  This is when the stigma curl down and pollinate the anthers.  

* And finally, sunflower heads do not turn to face the sun, but instead face east.  Their head is too heavy and their stem to thick.  So that awesome Helen Keller quote "Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It's what sunflowers do."  Nice sentiment, but not factually based :)

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