26 November 2015

Thanksgiving Tree

Who needs a Christmas tree when you can have a Thanksgiving tree? 

I'm so thrilled to welcome a new chinquapin oak to our back garden, which replaces the xylosma that I removed a few weeks ago. The oak is perfect, and I can't wait for it to grow larger and provide us with shade from the hot summer sun.

Oaks are some of our most important trees for wildlife. They are hosts for tons of species of bugs, which means they are great sources of food for birds. The acorns are important for a lot of species too, such as blue jays. Even early settlers and Native Americans ground the acorns into flour. 

Great trees.

An added bonus is that this tree already looks like it belongs here in our deep black clay, near our creek that's in the Colorado River watershed. The xylosma never did. Something about it just seemed out of place, even though it was a nice specimen of a tree. The chinquapin looks at home. 

I'm thankful for this tree. Yes indeedy.

15 November 2015

Getting Rid of an Unwanted Guest

Years ago, I planted a small Asian xylosma tree that I purchased on a whim from the Natural Gardener (they have since removed them from their stock). At once, I felt some trepidation about planting it, but desire won over. As the years have gone by, the xylosma has grown into a lovely evergreen multitrunked tree that anchors the patio garden.

But still, I've often wondered if it was the correct thing to plant, and pondered as much here on this blog.

When I bought the tree, I was under the impression that it was "sterile." I should've done more research. I recently discovered that it is not, in fact, sterile. These berries... 

Turn into new little xylosma trees...

I knew it was germinating from seed, because from seed it reverts back to having thorns (see above). A deep search on the Google-bot led me to even find xylosma listed as an invasive on the Bayou Preservation Association site.  

Though the bees like the little flowers and the birds clearly like the little berries, I decided that it was time to remove it. I do not was to be ground zero for another non-native invasive species creeping across our vulnerable landscapes. They are in enough trouble, thank you very much. 

Here's my process from this weekend:

Ack! My garden is as nekkid as a jay bird.

Ultimately, it was very hard to cut down a tree that had grown for so long and was looking so developed, but I'm really happy to replace it. I've decided to go with a large native shade tree, a chinquapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii), purchased from Ted's Trees down the road.

It will eventually be much nicer because it will shade the house from the late (very hot) western sun in the summer. It's also deciduous, so we'll get some much needed light in the winter. The acorns will be great for wildlife, and the leaves will, too. Oaks are one of the nation's most important trees - host to hundreds of different insects that are in turn important food for birds.

I can't wait for the oak to be delivered in a couple of weeks! And then will begin the process of exploring what that patio garden should be.

25 April 2015

Our Yard Became a Jungle

Somehow, when we turned our backs, the garden became a jungle. Homogeneity this is not. I'm afraid that nature is in charge now, and we can merely assist.

14 December 2014

Garden from Above

It's this time of year that I end up on the roof cleaning gutters or hanging Christmas lights. I can't resist snapping some photos of the garden from up there, which provides such an interesting "plan view" of the space.

Bodi relaxes by the Ocular. A "plan view" of the front garden with yuccas, sedges, loquats and yaupons in view.

The garden has moved fully into its tan and green winter phase. I love the bright yellow color of this young Mexican buckeye, planted from seed a few years ago.

Sedges, pale-leaf yucca, Mexican buckeye and Lacey oak dominate this space.

In planning a garden, it's great to think first about what things will look like in the winter. We often think of blooms and summertime, but taking time to consider how plants will look in winter can go a long way to providing the essential structure of a landscape. What will stay green? What will have vertical form? What stem shapes will be around in the winter to provide geometry and form to your space? 

A grid of Carex retroflexis var. texensis creates anchors the back bed.

28 September 2014

Horseshoe Dillo

Pretty psyched to have this original from Bob at Draco, a 'dillo custom welded from horseshoes. He will enjoy hanging in the garden with several of our other steel critters. 

21 September 2014

Wasps and Rakes

I'm really glad that I found these before they found me.

Do you see them? Look close...

Gardening often has it's surprises, and wasps are one of the more common. Many folks are apt to pull out the bug spray and destroy the nests, but I encourage everyone to think twice.

Social wasps, like these Polistes paper wasps nesting in my American beautyberry, are important parts of the garden ecosystem. They are excellent predators, and particularly like feeding caterpillars and spiders to their developing young. They are also pollinators, and you can often find them rooting around inside flowers for pollen and nectar.

Of course, wasps can build nests in dangerous places and those need to be dealt with from time to time. I try to keep an eye out for the queens when they start  building their initial "seed" nests in the spring. Before the nest gets large and any of the workers grow, they are pretty vulnerable, and the queens aren't very aggressive either (generally). You can basically just sweep the nest away without harming her (or while she's out foraging), and she'll find another spot.

Just beware the hidden nests hanging under a leaf or on a branch in your garden!

Wasps are beautiful, complex creatures.

All this came about while we were cleaning things up a bit in the garden prepping for Fall. Weeding after these rains is super easy and good to take advantage of. It's a great time to pull all the little weeds (mostly straggler daisy on our property) growing in the pea gravel.