One of Three

I wear a mask when I’m out and about, but in my mask, I’m not nearly as cute as this little masked miscreant.   The only non-blurry photo I’ve managed, even with numerous sightings of one-to-three juvenile raccoons, happened as one of the critters bumble off from a drop-in at the pond for some tadpole sushi.   As it scuttled from the garden, the young raccoon stopped briefly beside the mosaic dog that marks my beloved Asher’s grave, turned around and posed for the shot.  I don’t think the raccoon is glaring at me, but I’m sure it was annoyed at my interruption of its bog meal.

I’ve dubbed the three siblings Larry, Moe, and Curly.  The first few sightings were only of Larry and Moe, but on one occasion, Curly showed up too.  A trio!  This is about the  time of year for Mama Raccoon to boot the juveniles out of her care as it’s likely she has a new crew to care for.   Raccoons are prolific in their baby-making.

Raccoons, especially the babies and juveniles, are darling;  the adorable face, rakish mask, stripey tail, and their irrepressible curiosity all conspire to produce the inevitable human response: awe, it’s so cute!!  But it’s best to remember that while raccoons have a place in the environment, they are wild animals, they can carry disease, and they can be destructive.  A few years ago a funny foursome of juveniles took up residence under our solar panels.  We’d been traveling for a few weeks and I’m confident that the quiet of the house and garden encouraged their squatting on the roof and under the panels. When we returned, we spied their charming antics, chuckled, then set up a rooftop radio to encourage them to move along–which they all did within a couple of days. 

A few weeks later, Central Texas endured heavy rainfall and flooding when about 14 inches of rain fell in a few hours–the 2013 Halloween Flood.  The next day I noticed some water damage on the ceiling and along a wall in the dining room.  While snuggled under the solar panels, those rascally raccoons had eaten through the shingles to the wood decking–though not beyond. As the heavy rain fell, some of the rain leaked through the roof and into the house. I’m betting they were aiming to set up camp in the attic; thank goodness they didn’t get that far.   Fortunately, the damage wasn’t bad, but repair was required and it wasn’t cheap!  

I’ve had a chat with Moe, Larry, and Curly, suggesting that they spread out far and wide, encouraging them to visit a variety of new and interesting places.  I reiterated that they’re welcome to raid the compost pile (after dark, please!) and to check out the bog for tadpoles, but they are to steer clear of the roof. 

Seriously, keep your fuzzy butts off of my roof!

I haven’t seen any of the three for a few days. Maybe my lecture worked?

Linking with Anna’s Flutter and Hum and Wednesday Vignette.  Pop over for garden stories, which may, or may not, include raccoons. 

 

July Blooms

It’s hot.  Really hot.  It’s the kind of hot where all you want to do is pull up a hammock and nap in the shade, not unlike this Horsefly-like Carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis.  I observed this sleepy-head as I worked in the garden, pruning a bit of spring’s overgrowth.  The bee chose a pretty-in-pink spot for its rest, curled up in the pinky petal of an open Rock Rose, Pavonia lasiopetala, bloom.   

I stopped by from time-to-time, taking a break from my hot work to check on the bee’s movement and there wasn’t any.  Who can blame the bee for wanting a snooze in the heat?  Here in Austin, zone 8b, record breaking heat–108°F on Monday–has rendered everyone somnambulant.  Well, it is July in Texas and even the bees need their afternoon siestas.  The flowers are still going strong, even if the rest of us need our rest.

 

This bee, another Horsefly-like carpenter bee, is as busy as can bee, working the heat-loving blooms of the Henry Duelberg sage, Salvia farinacia ‘Henry Duelberg’.  Bee and blooms are a productive pair.

As August approaches, I’ll prune the ‘Henry Duelberg’ salvia to the ground and let it rest.  When the early autumn rains arrive (fingers-crossed!) and the days shorten, the ‘Duelberg’ salvia will bloom up again, providing for pollinators throughout the fall months.

Grey Hairstreaks, Strymon melinus, enjoy nectar from many different blooms, but as with lots of other pollinators, the Purple ConeflowerEchinacea purpurea, is a fan favorite.  The little charmer crawled around the center of the flower, taking in what it needs, while adding beauty to the garden.

As summer drags on (and on…), the coneflowers will fade and seed out, assuring plenty more new coneflowers and blooms for next season.   Pollinators rub their wings together in satisfaction–and cheer!

 

A majestic Giant Swallowtail, Papilio cresphontes, regularly visits the stunning, intricate blooms on my Mexican Orchid treeBauhina mexicana.   The ice-white flowers appear on and off throughout the growing season, to the delight of the big pollinators and the tiny ones too.  Snowy blooms cover the small tree, visually cooling, if not in reality.  I look forward to temperatures following in suit–in October.

 

Nothing says SUMMER like sunflowers.  

Always cheery and comfy in the hottest of hot weather, these bright blooms are the perfect summer flower: easy to grow for the gardener with plenty to offer for wildlife.  Pollinators love the nectar and birds enjoy the eventual seeds.  It’s a wildlife garden win.

This Southern Carpenter bee, Xylocopa micans, nectar steals from my magenta gorgeous Big Red sage, Salvia penstemonoides.  It’s fascinating to watch the shiny, brilliant black bee buzz from bloom to bloom, searching each for the sweet stuff. The bee dips its proboscis in some blooms, remains for a time–sipping.  Other red receptacles are checked, then ignored, having already donated their goods to some passing pollinator.  

Originally, this stand of four individual plants grew in my back garden, but as that area has become increasingly shady, I transplanted the sage to the front garden, where it thrives, enjoying blasting west sun.  It’s a tough, Texas plant and a beautiful addition to my garden.  

Celebrating mid-summer blooms, I’m linking with May Dreams Garden’s Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day and also with Flutter and Hum and Wednesday Vignette because blooms are the protagonists of garden stories.  Check out both lovely blogs for blooming stories.   

 

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.