The Spring Garden

Despite late freezes, drought, and earlier-than-normal warm temperatures, it’s been a lovely, affirming spring in my garden. Plants are growing, leafing out, and blooming in their typical order and roughly on their same schedule. Some, like the multitudes of Tradescantia, Spiderwort, were so eager for spring to happen that they’re over-performing. Of course that has nothing to do with the fact that I routinely fail to control them by weeding during fall and winter. Ahem.

My Spiderwort are pass-alongs varieties and they’ve mix-n-matched for years, so I don’t have a definitive species. Because of their height, I suspect T. gigantea, but regardless of species, the flowers are stunning in shades of purples with a few pinky hues. Some are pure lavender, with rounded petals,

…and some are deeper lavender with or triangulated petals

Certain individuals bloom in shades trending pink. These below sport ruffly petals.

No matter their color or form, Spiderworts are favorites of the honeybees. Flowering early and for most of the spring season, bees are keeping busy with the nectar sipping and the pollen collecting.

The first yellow in my garden is typically Golden Groundsel, Packera obovata. The little group I have brightens a shady spot.

The groundsel echos the Adirondack chairs: cheery blooms, comfortable chairs.

Last year’s deep, destructive freeze ended 2021 hopes for the luscious clusters of blooms from Mountain Laurel, Sophora secundiflora. This year, both of my Mountain Laurels flowered beautifully, if too briefly. These blooms are known for their grape juice fragrance. Weirdly, I can’t detect their very sweet fragrance unless my nose is right up in the flowers or at night, with whiffs of the grape scent on the wind.

The irises I grow, all pass-along plants, have bloomed prolifically this spring, more so than in many years.

I think every single bulb, even those that I separated and replanted in the fall, have pushed up stalks and adorned those stalks with flowers. The irises are still going strong and are now joined by European poppies. Tall, leafy American Basket flower stalks await their turn to shine in the sun, while a couple of Martha Gonzalez rose bushes add pops of rich red and burgundy-tinged foliage.

Spiderworts, irises, and poppies are all plants-gone-wild this spring, but the heat and drought have sadly rendered the columbines less floriferous. As well, given my now full-sun front garden, columbines won’t grow there–they fry in Texas sun.

This one, as well as a couple of others, still have a place in the back garden. I plan to add more in the shadier areas because I can’t resist these graceful additions to the garden.

Hill Country Penstemon, Penstemon triflorus, are in top form this year. Hummingbird moths and Horsefly-like carpenter bees are regular visitors.

I wonder if pollinators have a hard time deciding? Hmmm. Penstemons or Spiderworts? What am I in the mood for??

Of course, it’s not only gorgeous bloom time, but foliage presents a worthy rival in beauty and form during verdant spring. This silvery-green Mexican Feathergrass, Nassella tenuissima, waves, adding movement and action in the garden. In the past, I’ve witnessed migrating Painted Buntings nibbling at the tiny seeds that feathergrass produces. I wonder if those colorful birds will find this patch as they move through my garden this spring?

The drought continues and summer will be a bear, but I’m grateful for the gentle artistry and renewal of life that is spring.

What’s in your spring garden this year? I hope it’s colorful and ever-changing and provides a respite from the world’s troubles.

Happy spring gardening!

Wannabee

Last week a cold front barreled into Austin, dropping temperatures 56 degrees, from 88F to 32F within a 24 hour span. As the wind picked up in late afternoon and I was covering a few of my container plants, I ambled to our lone beehive, Bo-Peep, noticing that the ladies were heading inside, having finished foraging on that warm day, soon to be cold night. I don’t know if they knew that it would be freezing for the next few days, but it would make some sense that they were snuggling in for the duration of the chill.

On the entry board of the hive, this stunning moth was also ambling about; the bees ignored the moth, the moth ignored the bees.

I’ve seen this species of moth before, mostly in flight, but it was always too quick for me to identify. A Grapevine Epimenis, Psychomorpha epimenis, this moth species uses grape plants as its host plant, meaning that it lays eggs on the plants, the larvae eat the plant as they mature to adulthood. In one local source that I found, the author mentions that the adults typically fly in February, laying their eggs on the still dormant vine. My Mustang Grape vine, Vitis mustangensis, has grown along a trellis for a number of years and is courtesy of a passing bird, raccoon–or something. I’ve never noticed caterpillars on the vine, but will keep a keen eye out for them in the next couple of months.

This moth sports red spots on its wings, indicating that it’s a male; females’ spots are orange. I was able to catch a glimpse of the underside of the wing, too. I like the mottled grey/black pattern, black dots on charcoal grey background. What a handsome fella!

During my winter pruning frenzy, I recently pulled some of the grape vine, which I’m now regretting. Though there’s still plenty of vine left and probably eggs on the vine, I wish I’d been aware that the vine is a host plant. Next year, I’ll leave the vine alone until later in spring, giving the larvae time to hatch, eat, grow, and become lovely little moths to grace my garden.

As it became colder, I wondered if the moth found refuge inside the hive, or if the bees would have tolerated a cold weather interloper. Maybe they became sisters and brother during inclement weather. Or did the moth fly off, finding warmth and protection under leaf or branch elsewhere in the garden?

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  , The Washington Post another from The Washington Post, penned by the videographer of the above video and an employee of The National Butterfly Center, and The Guardian.