Friday, November 18, 2011

More to Enjoy

Thanks again to Guy Huddleston for sharing these beautiful shots of butterflies and moths taken in his South Brownsville, Texas butterfly garden. 

Pixie Butterfly taken in South Brownsville,
Cameron County, Texas, November 13, 2011
Laviana Skipper, Heliopetes lavianus, taken November 13, 2011.

I've forgotten the name of what I
call the art deco moth taken November 13, 2011? Will have to add later.

Guava Skipper on a Pato de Chivo, or Bauhinia mexicana,
The Mexican Orchid Tree taken September 30, 2011.

Hummingbird Moth taken September 30, 2011.

Hummingbird Moth on Sweet Almond Verbena
taken September 30, 2011.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Butterfly Sightings - South Brownsville, Texas

Check out these butterfly shots courtesy of Guy Huddleston - captured in his southern Brownsville Butterfly Garden. Guy said his blue mist flowers are now in bloom.

Monarch on Butterfly Weed (milkweed) above.
Below Peacock Butterfly on Butterfly Weed.

Giant Swallowtail butterfly nectaring
on Butterfly and Porter Weed.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Gardening for the Butterflies

Butterfly Attracting
Herbs - Hosts and Larval
  • Nectar Plants provide nectar for the butterfly to live on.
  • Larval plants provide food for the caterpillar stage of the butterfly.
  • You need both types in a butterfly garden. The larval plants are for the butterfly to lay its eggs on. The butterfly eggs will turn into a caterpillar, than form a chrysalis which will then transform into a beautiful butterfly! And the cycle continues.  
Butterfly Garden
• Basil (nectar)
• Chives (nectar)
• Dill (larval)
• Fennel (larval)
• Lavender (nectar)
• Mexican Mint Marigold (nectar)
• Mints (nectar)
• Oregano (nectar)
• Parsley (larval)
• Pineapple Sage (nectar)
• Rosemary (nectar)
• Thyme (larval)
• Tiny Tim (nectar)

Umbelliferous herbs provide nectar and act as larval host plants. Herbs in general are excellent nectar sources for butterflies.

Larval Plants (butterfly species noted):
  • Achillea millefolium (yarrow). Painted Lady
  • Anethum graveolens (dill). Black Swallowtail; Anise Swallowtail
  • Foeniculum vulgare (fennel). Black Swallowtail; Anise Swallowtail
  • Levisticum officinale (lovage). Black Swallowtail; Anise Swallowtail
  • Mentha spp. (mint). White Peacock, Painted Lady
  • Petroselinum crispum (parsley). Black Swallowtail; Anise Swallowtail
  • Salvia spp. (sage). Gray Hairstreak; Painted Lady; West Coast Lady
  • Tanacetum vulgare (tansy). Painted Lady
  • Viola odorata (sweet violet). Fritillaries
Nectar Plants:
  • Achillea millefolium (yarrow) 
  • Allium schoenoprasum (chives)
  • Chamaemelum nobile (chamomile)
  • Coriandrum sativum (cilantro)
  • Lavandula spp. (lavender)
  • Mentha pulegium (English pennyroyal)
  • Mentha spp. (mint)
  • Nepeta spp. (catmint)
  • Ocimum basilicum (basil)
  • Origanum laevigatum (oregano)
  • Origanum majorana (marjoram)
  • Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary)
  • Salvia spp. (sage)
  • Thymus spp. (thyme)

Caterpillar Hunting in the Morning

I bought some basil plants from you about a month ago. One is looking great. The other one has been attacked by some pest that is eating the leaves. Any recommendations for how to treat it? Organic or non-toxic treatments are preferred, if possible.

It sounds like you probably have a caterpillar eating on your plant. Are you seeing any black droppings on it? Best thing to do is to check it first thing - very early in the morning - that's when you usually can find the caterpillars eating on the plants. Pick it/them off and put it/them somewhere else away from plants you don't want them eating.

They can eat alot (and fast) as the more they eat, the bigger they get and than they eat even more. You want to find them before they eat up the whole plant. They are usually the same color as the plant. If you check around any droppings you see on the plant, you will usually find the caterpillar on the underside of the leaves above it. And where there is one, there is usually more.

If different symptoms, let me know.

I am going caterpillar hunting in the morning.

Look what I found.

This is the Doxiehumilis Caterpillar-
confuscus - a rare sighting of
 this caterpillar found at the Buda, Texas
Weenie Dog Races this past April.
You may encounter one at Halloween
too but I doubt you would normally
find one in your garden. If you do have
the priviledge of finding one - be
sure and give them a big hug and
a good home. These are the good kind.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mind Boggling Garden

Hubby came through again for my birthday (Oct. 18) with a great suprise. This year we got a newly planted backyard to go with our fence and raised garden bed he installed last year!  One of my presents came with a birthday card that read, sit in the shade, watch the grass grow, and bogle your mind? Thence a mind boggling garden no less.

Before sod - dirt yard with mulched pathway.

After sod - test run by Daisy.

Daisy - "Hmmmm... Now where did I hide my tennis ball?"

Herbieeeee - But maybe I don't want to come in yet.

The pooches are loving it as they can run faster, than a speeding bullet, leap higher than ever before, (and believe you me if you have ever seen a doxie leap, you know they can soar) with the added toehole (do dogs have toes?)
Before the only yard they got to visit this nice was at my folks but now they have their own to enjoy. They are venturing to rest under the shade tree and several other choice areas they've found with the new addition.

View from the butterfly garden.

Now we have grass, zillions of blades of the same green plant. I have to admit, it's a welcome addition for play and frolicking. hmm ... haven't done much frolicking in quite some time, now that I think of it. Daisy and Herbie could teach me a thing or two about frolicking.

Just got finished enjoying lunch outdoors in the newly planted green space with the surrounding edible landscape. Garden bed planting phases continue.

Tomato, bell pepper and eggplants
are taking off since planting
several weeks ago.

Sunday I planted assorted lettuces throughout
the backyard raised beds. Fresh salad greens!

Zucchini "Gold Rush" - already harvesting
some along with fresh cucumbers.
RinTin, Tin and Rusty stand guard over
the Diva cucumber plants.

Romanesco plants added last week.

To be continued - broccoli garden photos and more.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fall Gardening in South Texas

Fall is one of THE best seasons to plant your garden in South Texas. The cooler weather allows plants to develop a good root system and become established before spring and the stress of summer heat sets in. Plus I myself and Daisy and Herbie are alot more friskier out in the garden at this time of year.

For anyone who has tried to grow cilantro and had trouble - Fall is the best time to plant cilantro. You'll get alot more harvests out of it in the fall than in the summertime. It won't bolt and go to seed so quickly like it does in the summertime due to the extreme heat.

Plant now in order to reap the rewards and tastes.
Harvest from some of last fall's garden planting.
I always say, "Gardening is like fishing, you do it whenever you have the chance." I've been in and out away from home these last couple of weeks. Every time I've come home I've been met with another suprise garden area, my husband has planted.

As I child I was a picky eater. I liked corn on the cob and mashed
or baked potatoes but little else in the way of vegetables.
It wasn't until I got married and had my first garden
that I fell in love with fresh vegetables.

Lettuce grows in the fall and packs so much flavor.
We now have several types of zuccini squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, sweet pepper, broccoli, cauliflower, okra, and green beans planted. Everything is growing like gangbusters. Basil, lavender, chives, sage, thyme, rosemary, anise hyssop, lemon balm and other fragrant and culinary herbs add to the edible landscape.

We not only have an edible landscape for us. I love the new blooming butterfly hummingbird garden beds. Some beds got spruced up and replanted while others, having been neglected, are now a bright blooming area - makes me smile getting out of my car to see the newly planted bed up front and to walk through the back yard and discover what my husband has planted today.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cwaizy Wabbit Jumps the Fence

After a hectic week - I came home and found lots of fresh veggies planted in different garden areas, thanks to my sweet hubby. It's a fun adventure every time I go out to find what's gone in today.

Newly planted tomato, eggplant, and
peppers among existing basils - this is
only one side of this raised bed garden.
New tomato, eggplant and peppers have been added to our super duper raised bed garden. Another garden area is full of zucchini plants and yet another area has cucumber plants - I'm amazed at how quickly everything grows once it's in the ground. We'll have our beans, broccoli, cauliflower and romanesquo plants ready for garden planting this week.

Butterfly Garden

Well the Cwaizy Wabbit has jumped the fence. The plants always look greener on the other side so our cross-eyed wabbitt has found a new place to watch over.

The Cwaizy Wabbit (CW) moved to the newly planted and mulched
hummer/butterfly garden. Can you see CW under a bush?
Porterweed, lantana, blue mist flower,
Mexican honeysuckle, Pato de Chivo and more butterfly
hummingbird attracting plants are here. I'm still discovering
something new every time I go out to check it.

Hummer taking a break amongst Red Porterweed shrubs.

Due to some family emergencies, the hummingbird feeder didn't get refilled this week. The hummingbirds are still helping themselves to the porterweed blooms and other flowering shrubs though and seem quite content.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Location, Location, Location

You may have heard the most important thing in selectimg
a place for your business is Location, Location, Location.

The lavender and garlic chives thrive - a great example of
raised bed planting success - both Daisy and Herbie agree.

 Drainage, Drainage, Drainage
Well I learned quickly from Madalene Hill and Gwen Barclay
that the most important thing n selecting a place for your garden
is "Drainage, Drainage, Drainage."
Good Drainage is even more important than the
dirt herbs grow in as herbs don't have to have rich soil to grow and thrive.
A cat's eye view of the Mary's Garden at Round Top Texas, Festival Hill.

I remember Michael Bettler pointing out a picture of his and
Lucia's garden in author's Madelene and Gwen's Southern Herb Growing
book saying it was actually an example of how NOT to garden since he
had since learned the value of raised bed
gardening. I don't have a copy of that picture to
post but found quite a few different examples of some
other raised bed gardens. 

Concrete block surround raised beds planted in assorted pepper plants.
The blocks are high enough and wide enough to also double as a
seating areas at the Fort Worth botanical gardens

We have a lot of clay in our soils so that when it rains (not so much lately)
it doesn't always drain well, stressing plant roots depriving them
of oxygen. Raised bed gardening helps prevent that.

Raised garden bed with drip irrigation ready to be planted for an EarthKind Rose
trial at the Confederate Airforce Museum (CAF) in Ector Midland Counties.
Examples of raised garden beds that take advantage
of vertical gardening and support.

Planted raised bed garden at the Master Gardener
CAF Gardens adjacent to garden bed above.

My husband built this wooden box frame filled with
soil to include a fence panel trellis and two end posts for our
malaar spinach - a hot weather spinach that loves to climb. This
is actually a raised bed within a larger raised bed. Fairly simple to make,
at least for me since my husband made it.

I love this example. Always creative in utilizing what nature provides,
Marylyn Ponder includes wooden branches  on top of existing soil with
more soil and compost on top to add drainage to her salad vegetable garden.

Raised beds made in preparation for butterfly
hummingbird plants at Sabal Palms Sanctuary.
Wooden posts garden beds with drip irrigation,
ready for planting vegetables at the Cameron
County Master Gardener Arboretum in San Benito, TX.

You may not want to get too ambitious when you first begin -
Don't make it hard on yourself.
Gardening and being outdoors is
all about having fun.
Twelve Oaks B&B, Bulverde, TX mounded raised beds planted in
their front landscape with rosemary and lavender.
Start small and you can add. The soil in our first year raised
bed garden was pretty tough but now after several years of adding to it
and tilling it each year, it's really gotten so much easier to work.
This didn't happen overnight. It just gets better and better.

Community Garden example at the San Antonio Botanical Garden.
Two proud young gardeners show off their veggies harvest.
I liked this bed as it is very easy to reach from either side of the raised bed
and also includes drip irrigation.
Horticulturist and Gestalt Gardener, Felder Rushing proves that anyone
can garden anywhere, any time and any place. Check out his truck garden bed.
Remember to have fun! Anyone can garden, anywhere, anytime
any place. Good Gardening!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

There's Always Room for Basil

It's a pond, it's a chair. It's another great place for basil.
This unique Basil Chair Planter quacks me up!
I like it.

Basil is never boring.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Welcome Friends

A garden is a welcome, all in itself - inviting, intriguing and interesting. Please come visit, stay a while - enjoy outdoor hugs, skip, jump, hide and seek, laze around, throw your arms up in the air, can you dig it? What can you discover, see, hear, feel, smell, taste, wonder? I wonder, wonder, wonder....

Welcome to my gardens.

Nothing beats a warm welcome like
BIENVENIDOS with a basket of HOT Chili Peppers - so says Dilly our cat!

A gardening welcome in Seattle.

Herbal Welcome in Round Top Texas Festival Hill's Herbal Forum.

Welcome entry steps in Rockport Master Gardener gardens.

Welcome to my backyard gardens.

Welcome to beautiful Historic Brownsville, Texas!
Thank you. You're welcome!
Comments 1 - via Email
from long-time friend and gardener extraordinaire:
These signs are the visual entrance to a multi-sensory journey into the garden...

#1) Gertrude JEKYLL (English garden writer) - "The main purpose of a garden is to give its owner the best and highest kind of earthly pleasure."

#2) Jim HOLLOMAN (American garden writer) - "People often turn to gardening to re-create a bit of paradise within an imperfect world."

These are two things I try to keep in mind when I am watering and weeding. ~Michael Bettler.

Thank you Michael
P.S. to Michael - I'm working to find out why the blog's comment section isn't working and try to make it easier to comment - Debbie

Friday, September 2, 2011


It's that time of year again - time to plant tomato plants - for family and my featherless friends. I am all for feeding the birds, only NOT my nice red ripe tomatoes!
Patio tomato plants - ready to go in pots or the garden.
I resorted to bird netting with my last tomato crop. I did learn picking tomatoes when they're pink rather than waiting till they were red helped save many from what I call "THE BIRDS" (from Alfred Hitchcock's famous movie) well, it's not that scary, I'll admit - more frustrating.

Are birds color blind? Well I'm no scientist but apparently they can see red as in tomato red, at least I think they are going by their sight when they fly in to peck the ripe tomatoes the minute before you go out to harvest.

Aluminum pie plates scare birds away for a short time.
Before you know it, they'll be admiring their reflection.
I had a couple caged tomato plants that had a tendency to grow their tomatoes in the inner part of the plant with green foliage covering the outside. This is ideal as the birds didn't seem to get to these when they were covered up by their leaves but went to the easier picking tomatoes.


Planning Ahead
Vegetable Specialist Dr. Sam Cotner listed a couple of interesting tips to prevent birds pecking your tomatoes in "The Vegetable Book" you might want to try this year for an early Christmas present of red ripe tomatoes.

1)  Fruit Stockings - Cut panty hose in 15-20 inch lengths, tye off one end, slip them over a cluster of tomatoes and twist tye the other end. When ripe, just untye the closed end and take out your tomatoes. The panythose will stretch as the fruit does. The trick is doing this WAY before the tomatoes start turning red or it will be too late.

He didn't say but I expect it's best not to use sheer pantyhose but some opaque or solid color that would camouflage the red color.

2)  Christmas in the Fall - If you don't have any nice red Christmas tree ball ornaments - you can probably find some in the stores - after all it's almost Labor Day (he-he). Seven to 10 days before tomatoes start developing any color, hang some bright red Christmas tree ball ornamens in your tomatoe plants. The birds will get frustrated trying to peck these and give up so that when your tomatoes do turn red, the birds will remember the red balls didn't taste good.

Hmmm, my only concern on this one is if we have any visiting migrating birds coming through unexpectantly which brings us to the third tip.

3)  Think Pink - Dr. Cotner suggests picking your tomatoes when they are pink instead of when they are fully red. He explained that a tomato picked at this stage and ripened at room temperature will have the same taste and flavor as one ripened on the vine.

Well I'll agree it will have a lot better taste than the ones left red on the vine that "The Birds" might have got to first. This is one tip I did learn on my own.

Well worth it!
We had lots of good fresh home grown tomatoes though, even though we shared some with "The Birds" and I plan on having more again this year. Have to plan ahead but it's well worth the results.

Got a handy tip you want to share? Please let me know your experience.