Golden Glory

As its blooming season winds down, I’d like to give a blogging shout-out to a stunning native wildflower, Viguiera dentataalso known as Sunflower Goldeneye, Plateau Goldeneye, Toothleaf Goldeneye, and because I like to keep things simple, my personal favorite common name for this plant: Goldeneye.

A most photogenic flower,

…the Goldeneye brightens the late summer and fall garden with masses of sunshine-cheery, little ray flowers adored by pollinators and gardeners alike.

Growing as tall as  5-6 feet, this is a hardy native of Central Texas, but also grows westward to Arizona and southward into Mexico and Central America.   A favorite landscape and wildlife perennial of mine,

…Goldeneye should have a place in all Central Texas gardens. I grew my plants from a few seeds, which have in turn reseeded.

I don’t mind.  I let them pop up, filling in spots where other things might not grow.  I transplant individuals where I want something that is low-to-no-maintenance and that will bloom beautifully, seed out, and provide food and cover for wildlife.  And if I don’t like where one plants itself (has that actually happened?), I can always pop it out and pass it along to another gardener.

The sprinkling of yellow flowers in late summer, followed by the blast of that same yellow in October, adds some fun and  whimsy to the garden.  And you want some fun and whimsy, don’t you??

There is nothing like the joy of yellow sunflowers in the garden and this one is a real winner.

Goldeneye pair nicely with all other flowers, too.

Not only do bees, honey and native,  like Goldeneye,

…but it’s a major source of seeds, winter food, and nesting material for the ever-darling Lesser Goldfinches.


I’m always thrilled with the first buds appear in late summer.

Conversely, I’m sorry as the flowers conclude their flower

..and go to seed.

But of course, birds show up for the seeds and that means more Goldeneye are spread to far-flung places, or maybe just the neighbor’s house, plus I can look forward to more Goldeneye.

A certain amount of tolerance for rangy plant behavior is a requirement with this lovely wildflower because it does grow large and is top-heavy with bunches of blooms. But considering the garden show and the value to native wildlife, a too floppy plant  is certainly something that I can live with.

I plan a more comprehensive A Seasonal Look on Goldeneye in the not-too-distant future, but for now, enjoy!

I’m joining with Gail at clay and limestone who promotes natives and wildflowers for the home garden through her Wildflower Wednesday gardening meme. Thanks to Gail for hosting and teaching others about the importance and beauty of wildflowers.

For my American readers, I wish a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday–full of love, family, and friends–and of course, pie.

Wildlife Wednesday, February 2015

Let me tell you ’bout the birds and bees and the flowers and the trees….

That’ll be in your head all day. You’re welcome.

This past month, it’s really all about the birds in the gardens.    I’ve seen the occasional bee–honey–my little gals.  There are no native bees around, as they’re all hibernating, but I’ve set out logs of fallen tree limbs, some rotten, some not-so-much, so that they have plenty of choices for nesting next season. Also, there have been a few fast flying little moths and butterflies, though too fast for me to catch by camera.

And always there are squirrels.

But the birds take center stage for this February Wildlife Wednesday.  I’ve fed them. I’ve not fed them. They’re around.

The first order of business though is to correct an identification from last month’s Wildlife Wednesday. Toward the end of that post, I identified a favorite bird of mine as a Tufted TitmouseBaeolophus bicolor, which is incorrect.  This adorable songbird (there’s probably more than one of the species) who visited in December and January and stops by still, …is instead, a Black-crested Titmouse, Baeolophus atricristatus.  It’s a mistake that I made because that assumption thing.  Again.  The ranges of the two species overlap, so here in Central Texas, it’s possible to have both, though during the winter, the Tufted is apparently rare.  I’m fairly sure I’ve seen the Tufted in my gardens, though the titmouse(s) visiting this winter are definitely Black-crested.  Additionally, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology suggests that the Black-crested was considered a subspecies of the Tufted.  They are similar in appearance and habit, though different birds physically.  The Black-crested, …is light grey between its black crest and its beak.  The crest is the defining physical characteristic between the two species:  on the Black-crested, the crest is very dark; on the Tufted, the crest is roughly the same color as the other grey coloring on the bird, but there is a dark spot between the beak and crest.

I made the mistake because I assumed my visitor was a Tufted, without verifying that it was.  And it wasn’t.  I hope I’ve learned my lesson: always verify.  Ahem.

One weekend morning, as I opened the blind of one of my bedroom windows, I saw something big fly by the back garden and land on a utility pole behind my property.  This beautiful Cooper’s HawkAccipiter cooperii, was that winged thing in the sky. He made appearances all over the neighborhood in those couple of weeks, mid-to-late January:  a neighbor photographed him in her back garden and I’d also spotted him in yet another neighbor’s front garden sitting in a large Live Oak tree, upsetting the Blue Jays.  I haven’t seen him since, but I’ll bet he’s around.

A small band of the charming Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria, made a return visit to my gardens to finish off the remaining Goldeneye seeds.

I was happy to have them back.  Their chirping is melodic and their sunny, though sometimes hard to see, plumage, is colorful in the winter garden. I like the white underwing bands of this fluttering male as he takes lunch with his partner.

The Cedar Waxwings, Bombycilla cedrorum, are beginning to make their presence known, casing the neighborhood and checking out all the available berries which they will, no doubt, gobble up all in one afternoon.

This group was at the tip-top of my back neighbor’s tree last week, sitting, grooming, generally looking gorgeous.  I love the black bands across their eyes and the yellow tips of their tails and those perfectly accented brilliant red markings, placed just so, along the wings. Cedar Waxwings are beautiful birds.

These photos are better than I thought they would be. Cedar Waxwings are the flightiest birds–one slight movement, and they’re off.  I was attempting to get the photos in a hurry (and I don’t do things very competently when I’m in a hurry, especially early in the morning before the caffeine has kicked in) because I know that those birds don’t hang around. I expect to see them again, though.  The Possumhaw HollyIlex decidua, is ripe for the onslaught of berry-seeking birds.

For part of January, I was in Eugene, Oregon, visiting my son who attends school at the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!). On several occasions, I walked some of the pathways of the partially restored Delta Ponds, which is now a city park.  The area was originally a river floodplain along the Willamette River, with accompanying channels and tributaries and was an important and rich wildlife habitat and flyway for migrating birds.  Once settlers commandeered the land for farming and then for urban growth and later, the building of I 105, the original environment was essentially destroyed.

Between 2004 and 2012, a restoration project was undertaken to reconnect the Willamette River and the Delta Ponds, to provide a habitat sanctuary for native species such as beaver, juvenile Chinook salmon, western pond turtle, river otter, and many migratory birds. This area, through natural management practices, has become a beautiful and educational addition to the park system in Eugene for walkers, bikers, and wildlife watchers.   I’m sure there are probably better times of the year to visit, but I saw plenty on my walks:

Great EgretArdea alba,

…and a female  American RobinTurdus migratorius, who posed very graciously for me.

Great Blue HeronArdea herodias, sunning himself, …and another who looks perturbed, but I was at a distance, so I think he was annoyed by something else.

IMGP5085.newI hope I didn’t bother him.

On other pathways in wooded areas of Eugene, this Hairy WoodpeckerPicoides villosus, pecked and flitted and was difficult to photograph.

Similarly, this Black-capped ChickadeePoecile atricapillus, was also hard to see through the brush along the same path.

In the area known as the Valley River Center, I witnessed this Canada Goose,  Branta canadensis, along with many others of his kind, strutting jauntily, grass in bill, as if he hadn’t a care in the

Back at Delta Ponds, there were also Mallard Ducks,  Anas platyrhynchos.         .

IMGP5073.newI guess the obvious thing to say here is:  Go Ducks!!

My garden enjoyed wild visitors this past month and I’m sure yours did too. Please join in posting about the wildlife in your gardens for February Wildlife Wednesday. Share the rare or mundane, funny or fascinating, beneficial or harmful critters you encounter. When you comment on my post, please remember to leave a link to your Wildlife Wednesday post so we can enjoy a variety of garden wildlife observations.

Good wildlife gardening!


Cedar Sage Sensation

Normally, I wouldn’t give Cedar Sage, Salvia roemeriana, much thought this time of year. A lovely perennial which reaches the zenith of its beauty during spring blooming time, the nice little winter rosettes,

…are fine-n-dandy, but not enough to ‘wow’ about now.   But it’s Wildflower Wednesday (thanks to Gail at clay and limestone for hosting) and I’m going to gloat a bit because one of my Cedar Sage plants is in flower-power mode!

Mmmm. Gorgeous, brilliant red, tubular blooms!!  Such eye candy in a dappled shade garden!  Even more so as there’s almost nothing else abloom at the moment. Normal flowering for this small, Texas native, pollinator-friendly perennial is spring to early summer, roughly April to June. The literature suggests that it blooms on and off throughout summer, though mine never blooms past June. That it’s blossoming in late January is odd–it hasn’t happened in my garden ever before.  In the public gardens where I formerly worked, I once saw a Cedar Sage with flowers in October and I was surprised and pleased at that out-of-season gift.

I’m not complaining about this January wonder–it was a lovely sight last week to see the flowers dancing above the winter rosette, during a rainy few

But it’s during late spring that this perennial acting-as-a-ground cover really dazzles.

The scarlet blooms brighten the landscape and provide for a variety of pollinators.  I’ve never seen a hummingbird nectaring at the blooms, though Cedar Sage is considered a hummingbird plant.  As a member of the salvia species, you can bet it’s deer resistant and it’s a water-wise choice for the shade to dappled-shade garden.

After its typical flowering in spring, the seed heads remain attractive through most of the summer. I don’t prune  the stalks back until late summer, or even into autumn–just because I  let them seed out and I enjoy the spidery reach of the tawny stalks from the green basal leaves.

Clearly, I didn’t prune this plant back at all.

The Cedar Sage is so-called because it evolved to grow under the shade of Ashe JuniperJuniperus ashei–commonly called “mountain cedar,” “cedar,” or “damn cedar” (by those highly allergic to its pollen).    The foliage of the Ashe Juniper is fine, thus allowing the Cedar Sage seedlings to germinate easily.  According the the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center plant data base information, Cedar Sage have trouble germinating under the canopy of large-leafed deciduous trees, owing to the fallen leaves blocking the seeds from soil (and light too, I suppose), thus preventing germination. That hasn’t proven true in my garden though.   The plant blooming now is under a non-native Arizona Ash tree, Fraxinus velutina, and the group in my back garden reside under a native Shumard Oak tree, Quercus shumardii.     Of course, I do rake up fallen leaves, but my gardens are well-mulched, so I imagine that I don’t get as many seedlings in the garden proper as I would if I didn’t mulch.  In fact, many of my Cedar Sage seedlings appear in adjacent pathways.  Regardless, there are always a few seedlings each winter from the previous  year’s crop of flowers and resulting seeds, and I transplant them to spread their crimson glory.

Cedar Sage is native to a large, but specific area of Texas–from Central to West Texas, in the Edwards Plateau ecoregion; their native range extends southward into northern Mexico.

If you live elsewhere, Cedar Sage might be available as a tender perennial or annual.  If you’re in Central to South Texas, it’s a must-have shade plant.

Thanks again to clay and limestone for promoting the beauty and practicality of native plants–click on over and check wildflower plants showcased this January, 2015.