About Tina

I’ve gardened in Austin, Texas (zone 8b) since 1985. I garden with low maintenance, native and well-adapted non-native plants to conserve water and reduce workload. I also choose plants which attract wildlife to my gardens. I’ve completed the Travis County Master Gardener and Grow Green program (through the city of Austin). I’ve volunteered for a number of public and private gardens, as well as consulted and designed for private individuals. Formerly, I managed Shay’s Green Garden at Zilker Botanical Gardens and Howson Library Garden for the City of Austin. My garden is a certified Monarch Waystation and a Wildlife Habitat.I blog about my garden adventures at: https://mygardenersays.com/ I love blooming things and the critters they attract. Tina Huckabee

Not Only Butterflies

Along with other contemporary perils, a remarkable habitat in South Texas is threatened by the irrational and incorrect belief that America is being invaded.  It’s not only that a uniquely diverse environment will be demolished, but that ecotourism, which is a huge economic driver of this region, will be seriously impacted.  The National Butterfly Center, as well as Native American gravesites, a historic church, the La Lomita Chapel, and a state park are in the direct pathway of the proposed–and funded–border wall along the Rio Grand River between the United States and Mexico. Sure, cute ‘lil butterflies and birds will lose their habitat and die, and yeah, the endangered Ocelot and Jaguarundi will have difficulty finding their former water source and die, but also private property will be seized and land benefitting many will be fragmented and obliterated for the foreseeable future.

Check out this sweet video of  a Rio Grande River tour with an accompanying explanation of this beautiful and rare area:

Our section of heaven on the banks of the Rio Grande River is on the line, threatened by the Border Wall. This once thriving, recreational area has become the center of a battle for a fully militarized zone between Texas and Mexico.  Please enjoy this tranquil and beautiful sunset cruise, as filmed just downriver from the National Butterfly Center, from aboard Captain Johnny’s Riverside Dreamer in Mission, Texas.

To join us in fighting the border wall, which will place the region’s only source of fresh water behind 30 feet of concrete and steel, please go to our GoFundMe page where you can make a donation to our cause. Here is the link: https://www.gofundme.com/protect-the-national-butterfly-cen…

Help us preserve the Lower Rio Grande Wildlife Conservation Corridor and the incredibly rich biodiversity of threatened plants and animals that live here!

Did you know nearly 150 species of North American butterflies can be seen only in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) of Texas, or by traveling to Mexico?In fact, more than 300 species of butterflies may be found in the LRGV, and more than 200 species have been seen at the National Butterfly Center, including a number of rarities and U.S. Records! Incredibly, almost 40% of the 700+ butterflies that can be found in the United States can be seen in this three-county area at the southernmost tip of Texas, where the subtropical climate makes it possible to enjoy the outdoors year ’round.

Even if you choose not to donate to the GoFundMe campaign, click and read, as it explains well the travesty of this border wall nonsense.  If nothing else, the list of federal laws being waived for this horror is illuminating– and horrifying.

For more information about how the wall will affect the the environment, the residents, and the immigrants, please read these articles from San Antonio Express-News and The Guardian.

Yearning for Blue

Austin enjoys a sunny disposition, gloriously supplemented by blue-filled skies.  Spring sparkles with new green, stunning colors, and a crystalline overhead.   Summer shines, luscious foliage providing relief from the toasty Texas sun, while puffs of white float lazily across azure heavens.  Autumn–when it arrives–is subdued compared to its Northern brethren.  It unfolds in weeks of muted rusts, golds, reds, and browns, all in contrast to the hopeful sapphire above.  But reality bites and Austin, from time to time, must endure some rain and gloom.  Truthfully, I’m usually grateful for that change.  Rain is a good thing, though sometimes we have too much.  For now, it’s cloudy and dreary, and yesterday, heavy, steady rain fell.

Our weather is in an autumn-to-winter pattern and I’m missing my blue skies.

The rain has ended for now, flood warnings have all expired, but leaden skies dominate–as is appropriate this time of year.  I crave light during the dark, and recall a recent day infused with sunshine, where garden critters echoed the blue Texas sky.

This cheery Blue JayCyanocitta cristata, bathed with abandon.

The ‘Blue’ and ‘Cyan‘ parts of his name are descriptive of his good looks.  The joy he exhibits while bathing always brings a smile to this fan of the feathered.

That same bright afternoon, a Familiar BluetEnallagma civile,  posed on foliage which hadn’t turned.

It flitted here and there, wings shimmering, blue body glistening.

I feel better now and I’ll stop my whining about the rain and gloom.  When it’s dry, I’ll rake the soggy leaves which trees have relinquished, and await the return of the promised blue sky.

Serendipity: Wildlife Wednesday, December 2018

One day last week, having just arrived home and in the kitchen fetching a glass of water, the flutter of dove wings outside a nearby large window alerted me to the possible presence of a hawk in the back garden.  As I approached the window, a wet dove (probably from the nearby birdbath) was driven into the window in a panic. It fell, and tottered on the ground.  Its pursuer (a gorgeous Cooper’s Hawk) landed on top of the dove, mantled over the wet feathered victim, and took flight with the hapless prey (soon to be a meal) firmly clasped in its talons.  This drama took seconds to unfold.

Nature is predictable:  it employs the unfolding of flowers when expected, foliage relinquishing color on cue, and predator and prey relationships–bound in their eternal tension–playing out regularly.  Nature provides wonder at every step and turn, and gardens–nature’s intimate representatives–obliges with daily (and nightly) vignettes.

I pity the poor dove, but Cooper’s Hawks must eat and in urban landscapes, White- winged doves are plentiful, and some are destined to become food.  I have no photos of this dove hunt, but did spy a similar scenario while observing a pollination palooza on my White mistflower, Ageratina havanensis.  As I watched and photographed a variety of bees, butterflies, and flies, I saw a type of assassin bug, Zelus luridus, atop a leaf, clutching a native Ceratina bee.

After a few seconds of my hovering over the insect and its prey, the assassin was nervous at my presence (maybe I wanted in on the bee-for-dinner action?) and scuttled under the same leaf for cover.  I followed,

…and snapped a couple of shots (the best I could manage) and then left the predator in peace to partake of its meal.

After all, I prefer mac-n-cheese.

I lament that the wee bee is no longer alive to do its bee-thing, but so it goes in nature:  everything must eat and many will be eaten.  Nature is real and often harsh and not all stories told have happy endings for every character. That said, when I observe a garden visitor going about its business, I’m reminded of the remarkable events, positive or negative for those concerned, occurring under my nose or outside my window.

This Lyside SulphurKricogonia lyside, pollinated near the ground, below my direct line of vision one sparkly afternoon.

Camouflaged by color and quiet, this common butterfly only caught my attention with slight movement as it work about its floral dinner table.  Often more yellow and regularly in rapid flight, this one was gentle in motion as it nectared on the Prairie goldeneye bloom.

For anyone paying attention, the observation of pollinators on flowers, or birds in trees and shrubs, or reptiles, amphibians, and mammals on the ground, life and death is business as usual. Nature’s complexity, with multitudes of species performing in biological choreograph, is the heartbeat and blood flow of a garden.  Any notion that a pleasant surprise is a rare thing in a garden is absurd.  From a bird of prey hunting, to the nearly invisible nectaring of a well-concealed butterfly, the ordinary functioning of garden, and, in the bigger picture, of the natural world, is revealed, and remarkable.

Gardeners and those who observe wildlife, enjoy a vital role in promoting and protecting biodiversity.  Our love of the outdoors, coupled with the drive to create and cultivate, imparts a unique perspective on the importance of a healthy environment and connection with our fellow Earth critters.

Fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus) nectaring on White mistflower.

Do you want a a garden that is alive and exciting?  Make a resolution to utilize native plants in your garden:  native plants are beautiful and tough, and you will see wildlife rebound and flourish in your midst.  You will be thrilled by many serendipitous encounters: all breathtaking, all humbling, and all life-affirming.

So ends Wildlife Wednesdays for 2018.   Please leave a link to your Wildlife Wednesday post when you comment here.  Happy wildlife gardening!