That Branch

Sometimes I look at that dead branch and wonder why I haven’t pruned it back to the  major limb that’s actually alive.  The branch belongs to a Red Tip Photinia which I planted decades ago when I was a newby gardener and knew next-to-nothing about gardening in Central Texas.  It sits near a back corner of my house and I’ve kept it because it provides evergreen coverage for the many birds who visit: those who’re migrating through and the neighborhood birds who’re making the rounds to feed, drink, and rest.  That’s why I keep the Photinia, but why the dead branch?

This is why.

Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)

The branch is perfectly suited for a quick dash to or from the feeder: feeding birds snatching a snack, then retreat to the large shrub to nosh.  Sometimes the birds prefer the foliaged parts, sometimes, they’re content to perch in the open.

What I’ve learned in the decades since I plopped the Photinia into the ground is that the perfectly coiffed “yard” is not an inviting home or welcoming place for birds, bees, butterflies and other critters.  My goals in gardening have changed from those early days and I prefer plants, or plant parts, that are useful for those critters who live among us critters.

The branch will eventually break, either from a heavy wind or rain, or just because–but I won’t bring it down.  I’ll leave it for the birds until events require them to find another place to park.  

I’m happy to link today with Anna at her lovely Flutter and Hum and Wednesday Vignette; pop on over to enjoy garden stories. 

Drummond’s a Cure for the Dog Days

During these August days, these hot days, these dog days of summer, I relish the relative cool of my garden.  Here in Texas, morning is best–quiet, fresh, uncooked. It’s been hot, more hot than what once passed for August hot.  Fortunately, my garden remains green and lush, with sprinklings of color–some warm, some cool–all welcome.

Drummond’s Ruellia, Ruellia drummondiana, is a star in the garden, especially at this time of year.

This native summer blooming wildflower which came from seeds collected some years ago, were let loose to live: they germinated and have produced many generations.  They’re happy wherever they set root, or wherever I transplant the emergent seedlings. Drummond’s bloom sporadically in late spring and early summer, but ramp up in July, reaching the zenith of their beauty just as our “real” heat kicks in and kicks ass.  Well, kicks my ass, anyhow.  The Drummond’s Ruellia?  They’re just fine and dandy: no wilting, no complaining.  The hotter it is, the better they bloom.

Visited by several kinds of native bees, honeybees, and some small skippers, the ruellias are hosts for pollination parties.  This ruellia is also the host plant for the Common buckeye, Junonia coenia, though that butterfly isn’t particularly common in my garden.  I grab my camera when I see one.

The plant produces flowers in pretty purple, each individual flute opening for just one day.  At the end of the bloom life, tissue-paper petals form, preparing for seeds and new blooms.

Drummond’s Ruellia is a great shade/part-shade plant and perfect for my shady place.  

Linking today with Anna at her lovely Flutter and Hum and Wednesday Vignette; pop on over to enjoy other garden stories. 

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.