Friday, June 30, 2006


It’s mosquito time again. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but it seems like every year there are more of those nasty little insects buzzing around my yard. I don’t think they have a single redeeming quality. One website pointed out that they’re a source of food for some animals, but I’m pretty sure that frogs and birds would be just as happy munching on something else. Apparently, I’m not the only one with bugs on the brain-
Digging mentions them this morning, as well. I wonder if our lack of a real winter this year has anything to do with the overabundance of blood-suckers?

I’d really like to avoid spraying my back yard with poison, for the sake of my dogs, myself, my husband, and our local water supply. So, I’ve been poking around on the internet for natural ways to eradicate the little bastards.

I’ve noticed Purple Martin houses going up all over town. Word is, these birds can eat something like 2,000 mosquitoes a day and are a great way to control the pests naturally. I took a peek at the local company that’s putting up all of these gourd-type houses: For the low, low, price of $695, you too can host several purple martin families in your backyard. Now, if it works, I’d say it’s worth it. (Of course, you can find cheaper, less esthetically pleasing bird houses online.) However, I soon came across the Purple Martin organization’s website. Here’s what they have to say about the little birds and mosquito control:

“Martins, like all swallows, are aerial insectivores. They eat only flying insects, which they catch in flight. Their diet is diverse, including dragonflies, damselflies, flies, midges, mayflies, stinkbugs, leafhoppers, Japanese beetles, June bugs, butterflies, moths, grasshoppers, cicadas, bees, wasps, flying ants, and ballooning spiders. Martins are not, however, prodigious consumers of mosquitoes as is so often claimed by companies that manufacture martin housing. An intensive 7-year diet study conducted at PMCA headquarters in Edinboro, PA, failed to find a single mosquito among the 500 diet samples collected from parent martins bringing beakfuls of insects to their young. The samples were collected from martins during all hours of the day, all season long, and in numerous habitats, including mosquito-infested ones. Purple Martins and freshwater mosquitoes rarely ever cross paths. Martins are daytime feeders, and feed high in the sky; mosquitoes, on the other hand, stay low in damp places during daylight hours, or only come out at night.”

Now, aren’t you glad I pointed that out? So, on with our search…

According to several sources on the internet (which I’m too lazy to link you to; you know how to use Google if you want to read for yourself), natural predators of mosquitoes include some lizards, dragonflies, damselflies, bats, and some birds (though I’m not sure which ones). Standing water should be dumped at least weekly to prevent larvae from maturing. Fish (including goldfish, koi, and guppies) keep larvae out of ornamental ponds.
Another breeding ground that I haven’t even thought of…
suspects that mosquitoes could be breeding in her rain gutters.

One more thing… mosquitoes are more attracted to dark clothing.

Hope all of this helps those of you that are dealing with stupid freakin’ bugs right now. I’m going to do a little more research on bat houses… If anyone has experience with those, tell me about it. In the meantime, you might want to buy some shares in the company that makes OFF!, since they’ll be making a considerable chunk of dough off of me this year.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Just a few weeks ago, all of the leaves on our Ginko tree had died and fallen off. I guess all of the rain we got last week (along with a little supplemental watering on my part) revived it. I noticed this evening that it's beginning to leaf out again. That's quite a relief, since I just love this tree.

Still going...

I know you're not supposed to keep planting during the summer... but I haven't been able to stop myself. It's like an addiction. Here are my latest purchases from Shoal Creek nursery (who are currently having a 30% off sale):

Red Cascade, a cute little red rose that has been described as both a "weeping minature" and a climber. It replaces pink and white azeleas that only survived a couple of months, despite our best efforts.

Gomphrena, or "Strawberry Fields." Some people call them "Bachelor's Buttons," but I've been told that's incorrect. I really like these guys and will probably plant more of them next year.

"Climbing Don Juan" replaces another rose that got sick on me. My husband picked it out. It's rare that he and I agree on roses, but we're both happy with this one.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Damn this humidity!

I thought I was going to accomplish a lot today. The dogs woke me up around 7, and I figured, "Hey, I can get a lot done if I actually start working now." Then I went outside. It was HOT. At 7AM. And steamy. Gross. So, I went back in and got back in bed. So much for today.

On a more inspirational note, here's a picture of the meadow outside of the Salt Lick in Driftwood. We went there yesterday because my brother-in-law (who refers to himself as the "Sexy Beast," in case you wanted to know) turned 18. Watch out, ladies... Anyhow, who'd have thought Zinnias and Gladiolus could be so impressive?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


My job as an administrative assistant at a lobbying office keeps me busy for approximately four months every other year (during Texas legislative sessions). During the off-season (as I like to call it) I answer the phone, make copies, run a few errands, and try to keep my boss organized. So, I’ve got about an hour’s worth of work to do every day. Definitely putting my degree to good use. Point is, I have a lot of “down time.” I visit a lot of blogs, shop online, play with the scanner, and do a lot of planning. And lately, I’ve been planning my garden for spring and fall. I’ve made quite a bit of work for myself in my mind… but it’s going to look fabulous.

For starters, I’m going to re-shape my front full-sun flower bed. It just doesn’t look right- you’d have to see it in person to get it. I’m digging up bulbs this year, which I didn’t do last year. When I re-plant everything during the winter, I’m using bulb baskets. I’d never even heard of bulb baskets the first time I laid out a spring garden… but I think they’ll make things easier in the long run. Also, I’m going to group my plants more. I didn’t do that before. Everything’s just kind of scattered.

I’m buying more white plants from now on. Most of our plants are red, yellow, or orange-flowering. I’ll throw some blue in there, too, even though the husband doesn’t like it.No more Home Depot roses for me. They suck. All of my antique roses are doing well, and all of my home improvement warehouse modern roses are dying. Yesterday I pulled up the last of my grafted roses. I’m going to put them somewhere I don’t see them, and if they live, they live.

I’m getting more succulents. Not sure where I’ll plant them yet, but I can make room. I need a palm or cycad somewhere… probably in a container.

Begonias- Lots of begonias. The “cane” or “angel-wing” type, camellia-type, and the kind you put in hanging baskets. Begonias are second only to roses as my biggest obsession right now.

I really need more foliage in the garden. I’ve got to figure out a way to work herbs in around the flowers, and I’m starting to study up on grasses.

I’ve been thinking about lining the sidewalk with plant borders. I just have to kill the lawn first.

Amaryllis and lilies. I need them. Lots of them. I know the lilies will be a challenge, but so is marriage.

More old-fashioned plants: Foxglove, hollyhocks, and things that need staking. Oh, and Paper Whites. And, if the husband ever finishes up the pond he’s been promising, I’ll get a Swamp Rose, some Louisiana iris, and Elephant Ears.

My garden is going to be fabulous. Absolutely fabulous.

Below, a snapshot of part of the flowerbed in early Spring 2006. Sparaxis and Freesia came back up without being refrigerated. The Alyssum did well, but should've been planted at the front of the border.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


We had lunch at my in-laws' house on Saturday. I snapped a few pictures of their plants:

This is an angel-wing begonia. The leaves are copper or green with white spots. The hot pink flowers with bright yellow stamens nod in bunches. This is one of the most amazing plants I've seen. Frank, my father-in-law, has it growing in a greenhouse. They cut it down yearly, but it grows back several feet (six or more) yearly. Martha, my husband's mother, raised it from a cutting that Frank's mom gave her years ago. They gave me one early this spring, but it was crushed in a hailstorm. It kills me that I could've had one of these. I'm trying again next year.

One of Frank's orchids. He's amazing with these things. We can kill an orchid, then give it to Frank, and he brings it back to life. I really need a greenhouse. A greenhouse with a misting system. I'll add that to the list.

A white althea. I've been thinking about getting one of these for a while. I'd also like one (or more) of the double-flowered versions. They're very easy to grow around here, and they're one of the only things that bloom during the heat of the summer.

Pictured below are some more begonias in a planter. I never realized how much I like begonias!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

It finally decided to rain.

The Rose of Sharon (which was there when we bought the house) after a morning storm.

Bougainvillea in gold-orange and salmon. They're in urns on the front patio. We were told that newer colors, like these, are harder to keep alive. They also require more water and feeding that traditional hot pink bougainvillea.

Dwarf pomegranate.

Butterfly flower, I believe. I just planted it midweek. The leaves start to droop if I go even a day without watering it. It's already beginning to anoy me. Pretty, though.

Friday morning we got a really short burst of rain, followed by storms Saturday and Sunday mornings. I'm not sure how much rain I got at my house- I haven't bought a rain gage since my dog at the one we had. The plants seem happy.


Yes, we've been warned about bamboo. "It's invasive." "It's like a weed." "You won't be able to control it." To be honest, we really don't care.

Our house backs up to a highway. That highway has a railroad running between the North and South-bound lanes. There is a wooden fence, but you can see it's falling apart. (We'll replace that eventually.) So, we needed something that would grow fast and create a bit of a soundbreak... and we couldn't think of anything better than bamboo.

At least we've got the good stuff... one varigated form, black bamboo (pictured) and a couple of clumps of the giant bamboo. The goal is to have it fill in along the back fence and create a little bamboo forest back there. We're also stuck with a triange-shaped easement between part of our back yard and the city's fence. We've put the bamboo back there in hopes that it will fill in and make the easement less of an eyesore.

The husband LOVES bamboo. He's looking forward to the sound of the wind rustling through the leaves. Sure beats the cars and trains.

Happy Cacti

New growth on the pencil cactus.

The desert rose has been blooming for a couple of weeks now and still has buds that have yet to open. This plant almost died over the winter because I kept it inside. I re-potted it this spring and placed it in full sun, and it's doing well now.

The cacti I put into a planter last week are already starting to thrive. One is blooming; the other is producing what looks like fruit.

Monday, June 12, 2006

End of Spring

The Zinnia and Cosmos I planted last year have re-seeded in my front flower garden.

The caladium in the front part-shade bed aren't doing as well as I'd like, but are still pretty from a distance.

My husband absolutely HAD to have a big-toothed maple, but we couldn't find any in town. So, he drove all the way to Medina to buy one this spring. It's doing well right now.


Our tomato plants have finally taken off, and our blackberries (in containers) are putting out a few berries.

Cactus Bowl

My husband loves ball cactus. I put this little planter together over the weekend. We bought the cacti quite some time ago, and they had been sitting in their little plastic nursery pots. I think I've almost killed one by overwatering it. Oops. I placed my little portable cactus garden away from all of the potted plants I water daily, so I don't drown it.

New fence

The first section of our privacy fence is almost finished. The very top, which will be some type of lattice, will go up in the next couple of weeks. We also need to order a latch. Only the front-facing part will have the "fancy" wood (tigerwood, angelheart, and something else I don't know the name of). Our friend, Vic Farnsworth, built the gate, which is gorgeous in person. He also made us a potting bench, which might end up in some of my pictures eventually.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Canna in the heat

Several Cannas have opened up over the last few days. These are the ones we planted this spring. One of my aunts gave me more on Easter. Those are doing well, but not blooming yet. Also thriving right now: Bat-faced cuphea, caladium, daylilies, cosmos, honeysuckle, Crape Myrtle, and Zinnia. The red Cala lily I planted this spring has healthy foliage, so I have high hopes for its survival. Mrs. Dudley Cross has bright red new growth... Maybe she'll finally bloom for me.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

New Daylily

My new Daylily, which appears pale yellow in this picture, is actually a bright, sunny yellow. It's very nice, but I thought I was buying an apricot-colored flower. Oops.

Lime blossoms in June?

Our lime tree, which is growing in a whiskey barrel on the back patio, has started to flower again. I don't think it's normal, since it bloomed earlier in the spring and already has limes growing.

I wish this picture was better, but my real camera is still on the fritz.


The Crepescule, planted this year, seems to be putting forth a nice effort to bloom. The flowers only last a day in the heat, though, before they wilt and turn brown. The high today is 100.

Monday, June 05, 2006


We planted this native hibiscus in summer of 2005. It died back over the winter, but has returned in full force. It has already produced several blooms in the last week or so. Unfortunately, they only last a day. We had a second hibiscus near this one, but it died after our last hail storm. I guess it couldn't handle the battering after just coming out of dormancy.


About a month ago, I was certain that my roses were pretty much done blooming for the summer. I was pleasantly suprised when, about a week ago, they started blooming again! The blooms usually wilt and turn brown after a day or so, but hey, it's something! The Crepescule in the back yard went crazy, and the Saffrona and Playboy also pushed out a couple of flowers. Our "cheap" roses (the grafted plants we bought at either Wal-Mart or Home Depot) produced a few flowers, as well. Mrs. Dudley Cross has yet to produce any flowers, but I planted her pretty late in the season. At least her foliage seems healthy.

I planted some new stuff this weekend... even though it's a little late. I planted a new daylily plant, a few daylily bulbs (or whatever you call them), a Mexican Bird of Paradise, a cheap orange-and-red stripey miniature rose, and some more cosmos seeds. I dotted in some marigolds around my tomato and pepper plants... That's good for their roots, isn't it? I read somewhere that marigolds prevent root-rot nematodes.

My cannas are starting to bloom, and so are my native hibiscus. I'll get pictures up as soon as I can, but my computer has been giving me trouble. It won't open up my photo software. (We're regulars at the computer repair place.) I guess I'll have to email pics we've taken with our phones and post them from my work computer.

In the meantime, I'm posting a picture of my first daylily. I love it so much, I've decided to get more next year. It was taken with my phone, so the quality isn't great.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

About our work in progress...

Ah... the first post. Well, at the moment, I'm trying to figure out how to make everything work. Oh, but wait, you want to know about the garden. It's a work in progress. Our neighborhood is in central Austin: North of Downtown, South of the Arboretum, and as close to Mopac as you can get without standing on the tracks. One of my friends decribed the houses in the neighborhood as being "atomic age." I think that's a polite term for "Fifties tract homes." I believe our soil is considered clay, but I'm not certain.

My husband and I are both guilty of planting things we've been told won't grow here. The plant death toll continues to grow, but that's not stopping us. We're also adept at killing things that are supposed to be foolproof. We have, however, had some pleasant suprises. The cherry trees and forsythia saplings that we got from the Abor Day Foundation are getting strong now that they've been in the ground for two years. A few of the tulips that I planted early in the winter of 2004 came up (without being dug up and refrigerated) in spring 2006. We've murdered a weeping willow, a corkscrew willow, a saucer magnolia, a bald cypress,and a japanese maple. I've figured out that I'm entirely too lazy to water container plants every day.

The plants I've found that are easiest (for me) to grow are: bearded iris, daylilies, caladium, some roses, cannas, and cosmos. I'm eager to try a few new things (like sages), but the average temperature is so high I've determimed that the planting season is pretty much over. June through mid September is less about growing new things, and more about keeping the ones you have alive.