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

A Surprise Basket

I like early mornings.  I need the time to myself, to wake up, to think about the day ahead, to breathe the outdoors. The light is soft and even in the warm, humid Texas summer, the morning walk through the garden is calming, refreshing.  I love the sunrise, the sparkle of light through the trees, casting shadows, then not, across the garden.  I replenish the bird feeders and baths and notice the changes in the garden.  I feed the fish in the pond.  This morning ritual doesn’t take much time and is a good way to face each day.

While my eyes are bleary, at least until the caffeine kicks in with its magic, I’m often surprised, and usually pleased, by the bits of news the garden has for me.  Recently, I was in my front garden and was flabbergasted when I spied a bit of pink underneath a Mexican Orchid tree, whose flowers are decidedly white.

What ho, you frilly, pinky thing!  The anemone-like flower was low to the ground, highlighted by the rising sun to its east.  Its plant companions, a Purple Heart,  Tradescantia pallida and a low branch from the Mexican Orchid tree,  Bauhinia mexicana, are there, always, but made room for this new resident.  It reached out, made sure I noticed–an American Basket flowerCentaurea americana

Some time ago, my blogging buddy, Shoreacres of the beautiful Lagniappe and the thoroughly charming, The Task at Hand, mailed some basket flower seeds to me, which I happily spread out in autumn of 2018–and then, completely forgot about.  I never assume the seeds would germinate (because seeds will, or won’t, and I go with the flow) and particularly not in this shadier, rather than sunnier, spot.  I’d spread the seeds in the same garden, but primarily in the part of the garden where the west sun bakes, figuring that the sun-loving annual would be content to grow there.  I recall having extra seeds and tossing out those extras in this area;  here we are, nearly two years later, a single American Basket flower in bloom.

I’m tickled pink.

Thistle-like in structure, its filaments are soft, not prickly.  American Basket flowers are native to Texas and a number of other states, typically growing in prairie-type settings.  I checked that day and for the next few days, for interested pollinators.  I never saw any, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t visit, only that I didn’t see. Basket flowers attract butterflies and native bees and I hope that some found this specimen, though it was so low to the ground.  I would love for some pollination to have happened, so that I enjoy another surprise again next summer.

I’ll have to wait and that’s okay.  The basket flower find reinforces the commitment to my early morning strolls and especially, to the connections that gardeners and plant lovers share.   

With grateful appreciation for the many knowledgeable garden/nature bloggers who share their seeds (thanks, Linda!), tell stories, and express their love of the natural world.  Today, I’m linking with Anna and her lovely Flutter and Hum and Wednesday Vignette. 

Opening Up

I’ve grown an unknown crinum lily for many years.  It’s a passalong from my parents’ garden and I’m certain that it was my mom who bought or was gifted this lovely thing, as flowers were the key driver to her gardening passion.  Dad liked his veggies, green shrubs, and fruit trees, but Mom was all about the blooms.

For a long time after I planted it, the crinum didn’t bloom.  Of course, I was disappointed; similar to my mom, blooms are boss in my gardening heart.  But I like the foliage and have contented myself with appreciation of its beauty.  The glossy, arching, bright green foliage emerges in spring from large bulbs and by late spring, and through the remainder of the growing season, are lush and graceful focal points in the garden. 

In the last few years, the crinums’ years-long sulk over growing in a new home has ended and it has relented its stubborn non-bloom policy, adding some spring-pink to my hot July garden.  The bloom stalks appear, seemingly overnight and I never notice the soon-to-be blooms until shortly before they open up.

The buds tease, at first pointing deep pink toward the summer sky, eventually weighing heavily enough to gently bend their stems in a bow.  The petal tips purse for a kiss, the flowers take time to reveal themselves in full.  But within a day or so, the bell-shaped beauties unlock, curl outward, and soft pink opens itself to the world.

While not a strong attractor of pollinators, I’ve seen a few carpenter bees nose around the inner workings of the flowers; I don’t know if their interest was rewarded with any treats of pollen or nectar.   I typically like my plants to feed something, to serve a purpose more than beauty.  But if the crinums’ role are limited to being pretty faces in the garden, with no real offering of sustenance, I’m fine with that. 

I’m rewarded in early-to-mid summer with these charming flowers and for most of the year with the foliage of this tough and attractive plant.

Thanks Mom and Dad–for your flowers and your love.

It Brings Joy: Wildlife Wednesday, July 2020

It’s the first of the month, my chosen time to celebrate wildlife and I almost missed the date.  The garden and greater outdoors remain a balm for me, a place to feel calm and to escape the world’s problems.   My own life has been a bit rocky and definitely busy these past weeks.  The Hub had surgery–something we knew was necessary.  There have been some set backs, but we’re feeling positive that he’s on a road to recovery. Thankfully, he was able to get in, get it done, and get home in between the initial onslaught of the Covid-19 craziness and the Covid-19 tsunami that is now engulfing Texas.  Crap leadership, or really no leadership, at both the national and state levels have rendered this land crippled in ways that I can hardly comprehend.

Not to go all-in on a geek-out, but there’s a conversation in The Lord of the Rings where Frodo and Gandalf are discussing their particular situation in Middle Earth and I’m feeling some camaraderie with their sentiments: 

 

Frodo:I wish the ring had never come to me, I wish none of this had happened. Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times but that is not for them to decide, All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

 

Frodo might have had orcs, trolls and an evil eye to overcome, but we have our own bad actors and evil-doers who are in great need of vanquishing.  It’s time to decide what we’ll do with our time and situation, and so, like many before us, it’s shoulders’ squared and forward march into a better world.  We’ll add some masks to that and a change of leadership to something resembling competence, and maybe we’ll get through this crisis.

For the time being, I’ll share this bit of wildlife joy from a recent early morning stroll in my garden.  This female/juvenile male Black-chinned Hummingbird, Archilochus alexandri, enjoyed breakfast at a Red yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora, as I watched nearby.

I didn’t even see the winged wonder at first, but it wasn’t particularly shy, spending several minutes at the flowers, just feet away from me.

I see hummingbirds almost daily in my garden and they always bring great joy to me as they go about their lives.

Go out in the garden–it’ll make you feel better.  Happy wildlife gardening–stay safe and be well!