Feeling Spring

This spring of constant garden clean-up and daily prioritizing of critical garden tasks has proved almost overwhelming these past two months. Typically, my busiest time in the garden is winter into early spring, but with the devastating mid-February ice and snow storm, assessing damage and preparing for the onslaught of our long growing season has been non-stop. Impatient spring growth and nature’s penchant for always moving forward has compounded the immediacy of completing various spring tasks. Add to the process of pruning and removing masses of once-verdant growth, I’ve experienced a lower back injury back in January–not serious, but chronic–which has slowed me down. (I am currently in physical therapy and doing quite well Yay for physical therapists!) Bee Daddy has graciously served undergardener, and I must admit, I’ve enjoyed being in a supervisory position. Bossing is boss! That said, while I hate what the storm did to our beloved Central Texas plants, I love the process that occurs after a deep freeze: the revelation of problem areas that might otherwise be ignored and the re-evaluation that follows of where and what plants or garden accessories might be better suited for different areas in the post-freeze paradigm.

I like this shot, as it’s how I felt for the last couple of months.

Spiderworts seed into pathways (and everywhere else) and I usually avoid them while I stroll and toil, but sometimes, my foot steps and stems break. What to do? Turns out, the broken stems they fit nicely in a bubbling bird bath, blooms still available for pollinators. So while I never contributed any blooms-in-the-birdbath photos for the fun garden meme In a vase on Monday, I was able to allow the broken flowers to achieve their pollinator potential. Lesson learned: from broken plants come renewal of life, and flexibility is a must.

Yesterday I attempted a photo of a nectar-stealing Horsefly-like carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis, but with no success. He became annoyed with me and buzzed away. The luscious belled blooms of the Hill Country penstemon, Penstemon triflorus, stand tall and await another to benefit from its pollen or nectar. The penstemon’s sunny garden companions are the daisy-like Zexmenia, Wedelia acapulcensis var. hispida and seed pods of European red poppies.

Spring is in full swing as my Goldenball leadtree, Leucaena retusa, attests. It’s quite chilly this morning, so no bees were attending theses fuzzy globes, but I suspect that will change as the day warms.

The freeze damage to my trees is obvious, even on the “evergreen” Mountain Laurel. I’ve never seen Mountain Laurels succumb to freezing temperatures, but the week-long freeze, and temperatures down to single digits was more than enough to challenge the little trees.

Do you see the squirrel in the tree, enjoying his breakfast?

Though it was challenged, this tree, and my other Mountain laurel, are leafing out with new growth!

In my garden, trees have shown the most damage from February’s snowpocalypse. The Red oaks are leafing out, albeit slowly and weirdly, and the non-native Arizona ash are even pokier in their spring growth. I’ve probably lost an old Retama tree, Parkinsonia aculeata. I’m sad about that, but it was 20-plus years old and generally happier in warmer regions south of here. As well, two potted American agave plants, way too big to bring into the house during the freeze, were reduced to frozen mush, and one of my four Lemon rose mallows, Hibiscus calyphyllus–neither the oldest nor the youngest–has yet to emerge from the soil. Other than those casualties, everything else I grow is returning with vim and vigor. I’m especially pleased that the Mexican honeysuckle, Justicia spicigera, and Mexican orchid tree, Bauhinia mexicana, are returning from the Earth. It will be a while before flowers appear on those plants, but they will appear!

Spring has been a mixed bag: our Langstroth hive (Woody) entered spring busting at its seems and full of honey, but we lost the other hive (Scar), who froze to death in the storm. An Eastern screech owl couple settled in our garden and nested in our box. I checked on Mama daily through our owl camera, finally observing 4 eggs when she moved off of the eggs to stretch. Dad was always nearby, brining snacks to her in the early evening, poor little rats hanging from the sharp owl talons. One morning in March, the camera revealed no Mama owl or eggs. I ran outside and found bits of eggshell, one of which was broken in half with some blood. We suspect a raccoon raided the nest box the night before. The owls are still around and I’ve even observed them mating, but I doubt they’ll choose our box again this year.

Pruning is done (well, mostly), transplanting of seedlings (there are scads this spring!) is ongoing, and mulching for summer’s heat is commencing (my ‘core’ and Bee Daddy are fully engaged).

Garden stories are ongoing and never ending. Check out Anna’s Wednesday Vignette for some garden goodness.

30 thoughts on “Feeling Spring

  1. Glad to read your damage was minimal, Tina. It seems the way Nature redirects us in what is best for us to grow. Because of these occasional extreme storms, I don’t try to push my hardiness zones beyond the average… too heartbreaking to lose a plant one has coddled for years.

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  2. I am doing the exact same thing. I also found that tons of seeds sprouted and I’m running out of room to transplant them. One good thing about the freeze is that I could really get a good look at my nearly empty beds and was able to pull and rearrange some of my plants. Not only are the plants coming back, so are the weeds.

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  3. Nice to see your garden is recovering Tina.
    Can I ask a question? As you know I bought a couple of Blue Mist-flowers. I kept them indoors ’till the snow cleared and planted them a few weeks ago in a sunny spot. There doesn’t appear to be any growth just a few reddish shoots an inch long, is this normal? It’s not be very warm here this spring but they are sheltered and I have kept them watered as we have had little rain. Are these plants usually slow to get going or am I looking at a failure?
    Cheers B.

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    • Thanks, Brian! Haha–you’re not a failure, at least not yet. 🙂 It’ll take a while for these guys to get going and I do think that sometimes their stems have a reddish tinge. Keep them moist, not soaked, and give them time. Remember that these are native here in Texas, but also in further points north in the US, so they’re used to colder climates. Good luck and keep me posted–I’m curious how they’ll do for you in the UK. Here’s the link from the Wildflower Center, just as a reminder of how they grow: https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=coco13

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      • Thanks Tina. I’ve read contrasting reports on how much water they need so I erred on the side of caution and done as you said, moist. Just waiting for something green to appear from them!

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  4. Yay for Worf and physical therapists! I find it difficult to supervise others in the garden unless the person is really experienced. Otherwise there is a lot of “that plant – no the other one – no, not that one!” This happens when my son tries to help. Fortunately we do have a friend who knows her stuff who comes by to work a whole day every month or so. Luckily for me she does not have a garden of her own.

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    • I know exactly what you mean. That’s one reason I’ve never hired anyone to help–I just can’t find someone who I would trust in the garden. Steven won’t weed for me because I keep some things, not others. I can tell the difference, why can’t he?? 🙂

      Steven found the Worf pic–I couldn’t resist. Yes, PT’s are gods and goddesses!

      I don’t think I’ve received any posts through my email, just the WP reader. I’ve been lazy about commenting on posts recently, but I still read.

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    • Thanks, Beth. Years of lifting inappropriately, it takes its toll; getting better though. I’m thrilled that the laurels are returning–beautiful spring green foliage!

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  5. So sorry about your back and losing your poor tree. It’s such a shame… I had several things split because of the ice, but they are relatively young, so they might somehow grow to conceal the fact that I basically had to top them. They look kind of wonky.
    I feel for the poor owls, losing their eggs to a nighttime marauder.

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    • I’m sad about that tree. I need to get someone out here to take it down, but it’s got to be someone comfortable with honeybees in the garden. 🙂

      I was heartbroken about the owls. I’m still seeing and hearing them, but I don’t know if they’ll try the family thing again this year. I doubt they’d choose our nest box, though. 😦

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  6. I’m sorry about your owls, and the hive. There are complaints about bad backs and knees floating around down here, too. There’s been a lot of work, from the trimming and cutting to the digging and planting; it does beat going to the gym.

    Our palms finally are beginning to put out new growth. Not all survived, but I’d say ninety per cent of those I’ve seen did. I found a mountain laurel outside Gonzales leafing out, but the huisache won’t bloom this year. You’re lucky to have the Goldenball leadtree to take up the slack.

    It’s been interesting to see so many plants in larger colonies: taller, and apparently healthier than in past years — like the Texas dandelion and white prickly poppy. The Southern Magnolias started blooming two or three days ago; more than a few pollinators are going to be happy about that!

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    • Thanks, Linda. I’m still seeing at least one of the owls; last night at dusk he/she popped down to one of my bird baths for his/her first sip of the evening. I’m glad they’re still around. We also hived a new “package” of honeybees-Bo-peep–is her name, to go along with Woody. (Are you familiar with Pixar’s Toy Story movies??) And physical therapists are the best!

      Interesting about your palms, but I’m not surprised. I just read something about 90% of our palms are dead. The city is beginning removal of dead trees in right-of-way areas. I’m still watching mine; I think the oaks will make it, not so sure about the Arizona ash tree in my front. A nice squirrel planted an acorn (probably from one of my oaks) and I now have a very small, lovely Red oak in the front. I’ll never see it to maturity, but it’ll be the replacement for the ash. I won’t make any decisions until next winter, but I’m already envisioning a new, full sun front garden.

      Like you, I’m seeing things that certainly benefitted from the freeze, or snow, or something. It’s amazing how well many plants are faring after this past winter.

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  7. So good to see your garden slowly recovering after all that snow earlier in the year. Love the pic of the cheeky squirrel! I got excited when reading about your owls nesting, but was saddened to read it wasn’t to be. I hope they can find a safe place to raise their family. Enjoy your gardening! 🙂

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    • I love how Australians are so charmed by squirrels; it reminds me that I must remember how darling they really are, even if they can be little monsters! Like you, I also hope the owls will try the family thing again, they just won’t do it in our nest box this year.

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  8. Tina is very sorry about your back injury and that it is chronic, although it improves with physical therapy. I hope you don’t have a lot of pain. Spiders are lovely and they look divine in the bird bath: I love them. Good thing you have Bee Daddy as the gardener and you as the boss! to do all the grueling pruning work after the February snow and ice storm. Pruning has allowed you to see a new perspective on the garden and its plants: maybe you change your place. What a magnificent group of flowers: Hill Country penstemon, Zexmenia and European red poppy seed pods, I love them. The flowers of the Goldenball leader tree are adorable because of their shape, texture, and color – I love them. It is wonderful that your Mountain Laurels are sprouting again and the squirrel is taking advantage of having his breakfast: I love it. Sorry you lost Scar and the tree. I am very sorry for the pair of screeching owls that after nesting in your nest box and laying eggs, the eggs have been eaten by some animal. Hopefully they will nest again. You have finally finished pruning, congratulations! Wonderful to have so many seedlings, I love it. The photo of Worf and what he says I love. Tina better off your back. Take good care of both of you. Hugs. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita.

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    • Thank you, Margarita–I’m doing very well and am glad I am getting good therapy. I’m also very pleased with how the garden is doing and how lush things are after the hard freeze. You take good care of yourself and your mother!!

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