My little female cat, Astrud, stays mostly indoors.  However, she enjoys brief early morning tours of the garden and relishes her garden nightcaps after sundown.  I oblige her, especially with the evening forays, as the birds are done for the day, nestled in the trees and safe from cat eyes, teeth, and claws.  Astrud hasn’t exhibited much interest in nocturnal critters.  She watches the various moths and June bugs, wielding an occasional, lazy swat, but rarely acts upon any instinct to kill and eat.  As for the toads, she looks at them from a respectful distance and with slight disgust;  she has no interest in tangling with their warty hives.  However, Astrud has, once or twice, dismembered and partly devoured geckos.  I grieve at that bit of predator business, because I’m fond of geckos and like to see them whole and not scattered in bits and pieces.  But this time of year, there is little in the way of prey that she wants to dismantle.  She spends her evenings sprawled on the driveway, adjacent to the front garden, acting as guard cat, until she’s called in for the night. 

Recently, well before her time to come in for the night, I was surprised to hear her collar bell jingle near the back door.  I flipped on the patio light and saw what Astrud was interested in and jingling about.

It was a gaggle of reptiles!  Or maybe it would be called an assemblage of reptiles? Or troupe of reptiles?  I’m not really sure, especially since only one of the reptiles is actually a reptile.   A baby Texas Rat Snake, Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri, had joined in a reptilian huddle on the back patio.  Its cohorts were inanimate reptiles, both made of metal and which once belonged to my late father-in-law:  one represents a turtle and the second, Texas Horned Lizard.

Not too many weeks before this, I’d seen an adult Texas Rat Snake at my pond, which you can read about here.  Is this little one an offspring of that big adult?  Are there more of these slithery beauties around?  No doubt there are more, though not necessarily in my garden; like all critters, rats move where the food sources are plentiful.  Rat snakes have plenty to eat around here:  insects of all sorts, birds (especially baby birds), rodents of all sizes, and anything else smaller than themselves.  It is odd for me to see two rat snakes within a few weeks of one another, but it’s been a banner year for reptiles in my garden.

I think the baby Rat Snake was annoyed and not with its companions or Astrud, but with the clumsy, noisy (and nosy) humans.  We took photos from different angles and strategized about how to encourage the snake to vacate the patio and enter the garden.  After some deliberation and a squeal by yours truly (I was going to pick up the snake, but didn’t…), The Hub and I herded slinky to the garden, where it was, I’m sure, glad to be rid of us.

I don’t know if the snake has returned to visit its kin, but I’m certain it’s still around and that we’ll cross paths again, perhaps when it’s grown a bit.

The turtle and the horned lizard remain at their posts:  protectors of the patio, keepers of the container plants. 


Blues In The Garden

I love blue. Blue flowers, especially.

Blue–Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata),

Blue–Majestic Sage (Salvia guaranitica),

and Blue–Heartleaf Skullcap (Scutelleria ovata sp.bracteata).

In truth, most of what I consider “blue” in my gardens has a tinge of lavender or purple,  like this Heartleaf Skullcap,

which is currently at its peak of  loveliness in gardens all around Austin.

It’s difficult to capture the beauty of this plant with my little point ‘n shoot camera because of the subtlety of the blue/lilac bloom paired with the grey/green foliage.

I especially love it with my bright blue, well-used (by the birds, not me!)  bird bath.

Or combined with the cultivar Mealy Blue Sage and small, light blue bird bath situated on a bed of City of Austin recycled glass.

The  Henry Duelberg Sage is a great blue-blooming perennial for Central Texas.  This particular plant is the most purple of the Henrys in my garden,

but, it’s still mostly blue to my eyes.

I’ve noticed that the blues that I grow in my gardens are blue in real-time, but often show purple in photographs.  Conversely, the native bog plant, Pickerel Weed (Pontederia cordata), is blue to me in this photo,

but in real life, I see it as purple.

I favor blue accents in my  garden art as well.  I usually refer to accent  items as my garden ‘do-dads’.  I’m easy to buy gifts for because it’s fun to have funky or silly or interesting do-dads in the garden.  Do-dads–like my groovy gazing ball,

or my blue glazed pots for plants,

flanked by pots in the other colors I gravitate toward. I augment the blues in the garden with do-dads in these other colors.

But I tend to prefer garden accent pieces in hues of blues.  I chose tile and glass pieces  primarily in blues for the mosaic stepping stone under the archway,

although I could use a few more blue bottles on the bottle tree.

My tree tipped over during a heavy wind a few weeks ago and  two of the four blue bottles that were on the tree smashed–I’m still finding shards of blue glass in that bed.  Sigh.  I’ll have to buy more of this high sugar/caffeine soda for the bottle tree.  I’ll let The Boy drink those, though.

Oops.  Well, this isn’t in the garden and my favorite thing here isn’t the blue wall, either.  He’s studying hard for the SAT.  (More like hardly studying….)

Oh, and not to forget, my wonderful new, blue Sky Chairs.

My old ones finally ripped through ‘n through, requiring replacement.  I loooove these soporific chairs.  Many a snoozy (usually) weekend afternoon/evening I’ve spent lolling about in one or the other of these chairs–listening to the waterfall of the pond, watching birds/owls/bees/butterflies  and enjoying the fruits (or veggies) of my gardening labors.

What colors do you love in your gardens?