Hot. Pink.

Central Texas bounced through spring, skipping over late May and June, and landed, smack dab, in July.  Or so it seems when venturing outdoors.  It’s hot here, hotter than it should be in late spring, and hotter than this perspiring gardener prefers.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the heat–in July, August, and I’ll even tolerate it for some of September.  But as the temps creep ever closer, day-by-day, toward 100F / 38C (in the forecast for the next few days), this toasty trend heralds the coming of the The Long Hot of summer here in Austin.

The heat is a little early for my taste, but as the saying goes:  Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.

These Rock rosePavonia lasiopetala, are also hot, hot, hot, but in the pink sort of way.   I’m certainly not complaining about them.

The sunflowers nod their approval of Rock rose.

Most of my Rock rose began blooming toward the end of April and are still pinking-up the garden.  I’ll prune them in the next few weeks as they bloom best on new wood.  They’ll continue to flower in our hot weather and with minimal water, but the flowers will close in mid-afternoon to conserve moisture.

We all hunker down in the heat.

Rock rose mix nicely with other early summer bloomers, like Big red sage, Salvia penstemonoides, and YarrowAchillea millefolium.

I transplanted the Big red sage in the fall from my increasingly shady back garden. They’re much happier here.  The Yarrow is also blooming better now that the front garden receives more sun.

 

This little guy looks like he’s waiting for me to leave, so that he can enjoy his breakfast of petals or leaves.

Look closely at the pollen grains on his legs.

I prefer seeing this little gal.

Slurp, slurp with her little bee proboscis.

 

Summer has arrived: time to don hats, slather sunscreen, gulp water, enjoy (or tolerate) the heat,

…and value the flowers of summer.

 

Curls-n-Caterpillars

I love my curls.

Tiny blue flowers open from the curl.

I also love my caterpillars.

Blue curls, or Caterpillars,  Phacelia congesta, are charming spring garden additions here in Texas and neighbors, Oklahoma and New Mexico.   Native to this region, Blue curls are wildflowers worth having.  A low-growing, deer resistant herb, this springtime bloomer has performed as an annual in my garden.   The ‘curls’ part of the name is because as the diminutive flowers develop and open, they unfurl from a coiled position.  As well, the row of unopened buds evoke the curled position of caterpillars, thus the second of the common names.

Blue curl “caterpillars” flank the open flowers.

I prefer blue curls, but both names are descriptive; it’s an aptly named plant!

I’ve experienced problems with germination–sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t–but on the handful of occasions when the plant successfully seeds out and blossoms to blooming, Blue curls haven’t disappointed. Two years ago during the latter part of winter, I noticed a “weed” growing in a pot in the back garden.

I don’t yank until I’m sure an unknown is an unwanted, so I watched.  During the time that I watched and waited, a friend extolled the virtues of the Blue curls she grows in her garden, kindly offering to me some of her seedlings.  An enthusiastic “yes” was my answer to her offer, and what she gave me was exactly the thing that was growing in the pot.

Blue curls, all around!

I planted the two gifted curls near the bird or wind planted volunteer, and the three individual plants thrived and bloomed in spring.

Caterpillar stage.

Blooming stage!

Such darling flowers: unusual construction (“Compound Cyme” according the the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center), and truly gorgeous in color and form.

I adore blue flowers.  I can only imagine what Blue curls look like, en masse, in a Texas Hill Country field.  For several years, during April and May, I’ve enjoyed viewing a small cluster of these blue beauties growing alongside a bike path that I regularly ride.  City mowers and street construction hasn’t yet destroyed the wildflowers along that particular street.

I also like the foliage of this wildflower;  I’m a sucker for deeply lobed, bright green leaves.

Pre-blossom foliage. The leaves look like those of a tomato plant.

The leaves become a bit tatty toward the end of their days.

Post-blossom foliage.

Two years ago, I dutifully allowed the plants to seed out, then sprinkled the seeds and chaff in various parts of my garden.  The next winter and spring, no Blue Curl seedlings appeared in my garden. Drat–no gorgeous Blue curl wave.  Nada, zilch, nothin’.

I whined to my friend, who graciously supplied me with more seeds. I spread some (not all) of  the seeds out last autumn, and voila!, this spring a grand total of four plants germinated.  One disappeared–subjected, no doubt, to someone’s late night munchies; another, I stepped on and crushed–yes, sometimes I am that careless.  But two survived; I transplanted both to better spots, and they grew to blooming beauty!  Unfortunately, the peak of flowering occurred during the first half of May when I was traveling, though I did get some enjoyment from these pretties as the first dainty blues opened shortly before I left.

In my absence, the pollinators spent a few weeks sipping from Blue curl goodness.  A good pollinator plant, I’ve observed tiny native bees feeding, though the literature suggests that Blue curls attract butterflies, too.

My two Blue curl individuals are now wrapping up their life activities and I will leave them to their own seed dispersal.

I have seeds from my friend and plan to add more to the garden next autumn for spring 2019. I’d love to have a greater number of these sweet little spring wildflowers as they are care-free once germinated, (unless stepped on–ahem), and they fit in a variety of light situations, though probably not deep shade.

But the Blue curls will do whatever they choose to do–and I’ll enjoy what they’re willing to give the garden, and the gardener.

This photo is one of my blog banner photos.

A Mother’s Day: Wildlife Wednesday, May

As May opens, late spring wildlife breeding season is in fuzzy, feathery baby-oriented swing.  Welcome to Wildlife Wednesday and with a few shots, I’m celebrating mommies, daddies, and babies!

Athena and her two, bobble-headed babies.

Weeks ago, on a chilly, blustery day, I visited the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center where photos of flowers proved nearly impossible because of the whoosh of winds.  However, the resident Great Horned owl, named Athena and her 2018 offspring, rested quietly in their nesting spot above the entry to the courtyard, providing a good show for  admiring wildlife fans.

Oh, mommy, you’re so nice and warm!

I gaggled and goggled at the beauties, but Athena was unimpressed with me and probably, a bit tired.  All the humans were agog at the owls; it’s not often that we are privileged to see such birds up-close.

I looked for Athena’s mate, who was probably perched in a nearby tree, but didn’t see him.  Those who visit the center near to closing time have witnessed him bringing Athena and the babies a snack.  Good daddy!

The babies are expected to fledge any day now–if they haven’t already.

Sleepy mama!

For the first time in nearly a decade, no Eastern Screech-OwlMegascops asio, set up a nursery in my garden.  I’ve missed hosting an owl family: mommy and daddy working together, raising fluffy chicks to fledge, and then observing the family for another couple of months as the parents feed–and teach hunting skills–to their raptor offspring.

I only heard and saw one owl, who trilled sadly for a mate, with no return calls from another.  He or she rested for one day in our nest box, but apparently never found his or her true love.  Several neighbors in my part of the neighborhood used rat bate during the spring and winter and I suspect that the poisons killed some of our neighborhood adult Screech owls; currently, there isn’t an adult population in our neighborhood.

Please don’t use poisons–of any sort.  The collateral damage to other creatures exists and has devastating consequences throughout the food-chain.  It’s never only the critters targeted who die.  Leave unwanted and unwelcome rodents to the raptors and  rat snakes–that’s their role in the ecosystem and they fulfill that role admirably–if we let them.

Wishing Athena and critters everywhere success and safety in raising their families.  Diversity is the key to a healthy environment and we’ll all pay a steep price if that diversity continues to decline.

Kudos to mommies and daddies who love and protect their babies!

What wildlife happenings did you share in or observe this past month?  Please post about your wild happenings and leave a link when you comment here–and happy wildlife gardening!