Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Structure of Clematis

Clematis is a stunner when its blooming. The attractive star shaped leaves really make a statement in the garden. And it comes in various colors with and without stripes. It's blossoms also stand up better against the strong West Texas winds than my roses which often end up covering the ground in shades of pink and white.
Once the flowers are gone round seed heads form and they, in themselves, are worth checking out. The ball-like seed heads are architecturally attractive to view and exist throughout most of the summer.
I'd grow clematis simply for the seed heads. The plants never seem to grow much taller nor bigger year after year and I suppose that's because of the semi-arid landscape here.Still, they're worth having in the garden.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A Dilly of a Plant

Do you have dill in your garden? I hope so. It's such a great plant. Architecturally it form attractive yellowish-green seed heads that are sort of umbrella shaped. It has a nice scent when brushed up against or when one runs their hands over the plant. It adds height to the garden and has a light, feathery stalk and leaves. There are tall varieties and dwarf varieties to fit any garden size.And if you like salmon (which I don't) you can use it kitchen in various recipes and salads. The number one reason I grow dill, however, is for it beneficial aspects with garden bugs.

Caterpillars and lady bug larvae love it! They use the plant for a food source and for laying their eggs. Since they prefer it to other plants in my garden sacrificing the dill saves other plants in the garden I much prefer in a more pristine state.

 The bugs get a healthy plant to complete their life cycle and I get butterflies and lady bugs throughout the summer. Bonus, the dill reseeds itself each year. It's not invasive at all. If it reseeds in the grass you can just run the mower over it. Double bonus, if I'm careful and quick about it I can gently stroke a caterpillar's head.

As someone who's terrified of bugs that's pretty bold for me. If you aren't going dill in your garden you should consider it. Its an organic way to help your garden stay in balance, remain healthy and who doesn't want butterflies flitting around among your flowers?
Got to pet this handsome fellow's head a few times. He doesn't particularly care for it, rearing his head back to glare up at me indignantly. Well, I guess he's staring. Can't really make out any eyes on his head with all the stripes and dots. Pretty sure there's a pair of eyes hidden in there somewhere.

 The caterpillar is pretty obvious but can you spot the lady bug in the photo above?

It was impossible to get a sharp photo of the lady bug larvae with my phone camera but you can kind of make out their dark shapes. The larvae are rather ugly and creepy looking. The first time I saw them was in my old rental home. The first spring there I discovered swarms of them in the side garden, freaked out not knowing what they were and killed them all with insecticide. I felt awful later when I realized what I'd done. I make a point of protecting the larvae now. I know folks who have to buy lady bug beetles but I get free ones each year thanks to providing a space for them in my garden with the right combination of plants.

[Correction:  There were a few lady bug larvae on the dill but the ones pictured here developed into caterpillars instead. Couldn't get a decent shot of the lady bug ones.]

Those black specks are more lady bug larvae eating their way to maturity.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

June Begins With Abundance

Summer suddenly arrived on June 1st. The temperatures are rising, the rain chances are low to non-existent, and the mosquitoes are huge. Seriously, the mosquitoes are swarming everywhere. I tried deadheading plants last evening and had to give up due to all the bugs. The ever present wind has helped a bit in keeping the blood suckers at bay but not by much. Hopefully the city will FINALLY start spraying now that the rain has abated. Meanwhile, the strolling garden is going gangbusters with color and flowers.
The roses, larkspur, nepeta, dayliles and coreopsis, salvias, and scabiosa plants are blooming their little hearts out. The fertilizer I put out at the beginning of May coupled with more than 9 inches of above average rain made the plants the healthiest and fulliest in years.
The catnip is running rampant throughout the garden. I'm partly to blame since I've been transplanting it. Yes, I know it's a type of mint and mint can be a menace when planted in the ground due to its spreading tendancies. However, I never expected it to keep spreading and reseeding the way it has. I've transplanted some of it to give away to friends with felines of their own. Penny the Pill, my chubby ginger and white cat, barely gives it a sniff, and my elderly part Siamese part Tabby cat Symon likes it but can't consume that much. Getting old sucks, my furry little friend. He doesn't even get silly and cross eyed much anymore either.
 A windy view through one of the rose arbors. Annoyingly, the late snow storm and freeze in early March killed off any chances of apples, pears and plums on my young fruit trees. The peach tree, pictured in the upper right of this photo, does have several furry little football-shaped peaches still growing. I might be able to taste a rip one this year assuming we don't get anymore nasty wind storms before then.
The larkspur is gorgeous and rampant and at this very moment I'm sure its plotting reseeding everyone ridiculous spot it can think of. Good thing its so easy to pull out from the ground when not wanted.
The lilies are back! I haven't seen these beauties in a few years due to the drought. I lost the 5 foot deep maroon Asiatics I'd transplanted from my last home and it appears over half of the 50 or so bulbs I've planted over the years are gone too. But some of the remaining stalks are looking healthy and small little buds are popping up now so I have more of these lovelies to look forward to this summer.
The abundant rain has also revived this one Climbing America rosebush. Its been so scraggly looking for the past two years, unlike the pair planted behind it. The three bushes form a triangle arbor space under which I have a chair I like to relax in in the early morning before the yard gets too hot. You can clearly see the new growth compared to the thin growth above. I highly recommend this climbing rose. It's strong canes can withstand the whipping winds of West Texas, its leaves are a deep glossy green, and the lovely pink blossoms have such a lovely strong scent. I have a fourth one planted on the other side of the yard next to one of the arbors.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Drought's Over

May was a wild and wet month. Unusual amounts of rain and its persistence throughout the month made this May the second wettest in Lubbock history. Many other parts of Texas and Oklahoma saw unusually heavy rainfall as well. Most of Texas is no longer classified as being under drought conditions anymore, which is a blessing after four long, very dry years.We had bouts of flooding throughout the month but the city's drainage system did its job in diverting the overflow into our playa lake system. As someone who loves rain this month has been the best one in a very long time. The local cotton farmers aren't happy with their fields being so damp but if the fields can dry out before the June 5th deadline for planting all this rain might be a major windfall for them this season.
Here some photos taken in early May of my backyard garden shortly before an evening storm rolled in and lit up the sky with lightning and thunder.
The photos are a little blurry, unfortunately, but with wind being a constant in West Texas it is hard to find a non-windy day to take photos. The grass hasn't yet greened up and filled it. That's certainly not the case by the end of the month.
 Incidentally, these images were taken close to 9 pm and the sky was so amazingly light for such a late hour.
Here's hoping we continue to get some rainfall in June too. I only had to run the sprinkler system once in May. How awesome is that!


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