April 27, 2011

Squirrels a Bother? Get a Snake

I heard a thud in the front yard as I checked new transplants in the Upper Garden, as if a dead limb had hit the ground. When I went to check, Buffy was barking at something. I called her to the house when I saw a snake's head rise from a pile of something greyish.

If you can't make head or tail of this, it is a White Oak Rat Snake Elaphe obsoleta spiloides wrapped around the body of a squirrel. Squirrel's tail and hind feet are at left. Neither head is visible as Snake is trying to swallow Squirrel. Squirrel is very still and green bottle flies are already here.
I suspect Snake lay in wait along an oak limb above, blending in well. He struck Mr. Squirrel as he came in reach. The thud was them hitting the ground where Snake's plan was to finish off his meal.

Disturbed, Snake hissed his displeasure at me. You can tell he is not a rattlesnake because there is no pit between his beady little eyes, besides the different markings that distinguish a Rat Snake.

Satisfied that I'm coming no closer, he gave a little smile with his forked tongue still out.

Then he returned to his meal.

I left him alone to swallow Squirrel, intending to go back and get pictures of Mr. Snake (Miss Snake?) when he was all lumpy and full. When I went back he was gone and there was no sign of the Squirrel.

Two snakes in two days! Yesterday's snake was a Corn Snake. Fortunately both are of the Elaphe family and welcome in the garden to take care of rodents and such.

 I'm careful where I put my hands and feet. While not poisonous, rat snakes will bite and the bite can get infected or we can react to the venom they use to kill their prey the way one is allergic to bee stings.

April 26, 2011

Great Leaping Lizards! A Snake tried to take over Buffy's bed.

Buffy has a habit of grabbing the lightweight fluffy blanket that is meant for her winter bed and running like the wind with it. Maybe she think's she's Wonder Woman or somebody. She left it in the front yard in the entrance to the Upper Garden. As I was coming back from watering, I almost stepped on a Corn snake (Elaphe guttata) that was draped over Buffy's blankie.

Unfortunately I didn't get a pic; by the time I got back with a camera, he had disappeared into the wilderness under the pecan tree that I blogged about needing to cut back. It was a beautiful snake, all red with little squares. When I googled just to make sure of my ID I read they were the ideal PET snake. I will just keep dog and cat pets, thanks. He's welcome to all the rats and mice and voles he can find. Even some of those slimy lizards that grow around here.

Today I startled a blue lizard and it LEAPED into the boxwoods so fast I hardly got a look at it. Little Orphan Annie used the expression 'Leaping Lizards' but I'd never seen one actually leap, they usually slither.

With an eye out for reptiles, I moved my Halcyon hostas today and carefully mulched them with leaf mould.

Today's snake looked kind of like this rat snake, except it was red. I think corn snakes and rat snakes are related. This tree with a hollow has hosted several kinds of reptiles.

April 24, 2011

First Daylily might be Stella

I know better than to buy daylilies in a bag. It's how I met Sammy but it doesn't always turn out so auspiciously. These were supposed to be 'Little Women' -- a pink. Pink daylilies are apt to be somewhat melon colored but this one is definitely not pink. It bloomed for a long time last year so I suspect it is Stella or one of her offspring, maybe an unknown seedling but a prolific bloomer nonetheless. I moved the three clumps to the front bed where yellow fits in well.

We've been in a dry spell and I put off watering as long as possible. So long in fact that I almost lost some of the chartreuse alternanthera. So dry that pink poppy pods are already opening up. I cut some into a pink bowl so I could remember what they were. Now I need a red bowl and an orange bowl for later poppy pods and an orange bag for collecting California poppy pods.

The variegated Hydrangeas I transplanted will appreciate the rain shower (0.1 inch) we got. They were in a dry place under a live oak and never reached the size they should. Two are now beside the ornamental pomegranates. Halcyon hostas that match the gray-green variegation are yet to move. There is leaf mold to scoop up and then the mower can make a curving sweep under the live oak where Virginia creeper threatens to take over as evidenced in the pic below.

Hydrangea Mariesii Variegata pic from a previous year.
I grew these from cuttings, starting with 6 pieces that Miss Billie broke off  saying, "Here, stick these in the ground, they'll root. I killed 3 when I moved them after they rooted. When I moved two this week I took cuttings again.

I looked through Ruggiero's book Annuals with Style last night and Iversen's tropical plants book The Exotic Garden for new plantings with old favorites like alyssum and petunias.

April 23, 2011

Purple Easter Eggs Were Always my Favorite

There are no children here to dye eggs and I didn't bother to get out ancient Easter pretties like tin eggs that hold a treasure, paper mache' eggs, the bunny that Grandmama made for Glenn at ceramics class . I did think about the big White Leghorn eggs we used to dye. My favorites were the rich purple eggs.

The front garden is full of purples: Spiderwort, Salvia leucantha and Larkspur.
Notice the Spiderwort clump on the right-of-way that He-who-mows carefully left.
Spiderwort is a thug and will soon be cut to the ground in this bed.
The clumps I leave will regrow and rebloom.

A closer view of Mexican Bush Sage and Larkspur.

Yesterday I moved two Mariesii Variegata Hydrangeas to a better location. I cut and potted up cuttings to root where there were long bare limbs. Left behind are Halcyon hostas to be moved.
In a frenzy of planting, I am planting out purple Datura seedlings. Four tiny Pride of Barbados seedlings have emerged along with new growth on the two existing P of B shrubs. I may pot up the seedlings until they are a little bigger and stronger so the pets don't step on them. He-Who-Mows cut the Fiesta Bed into workable sections where the grass got ahead of me.
There are more Daturas, three I'll plant out late this evening in the front and
several small seedlings that need bumping up into bigger pots.

White roses are blooming. We had New Dawn at home when I was a child. White Dawn has the same sweet fragrance but not the pink blush.

White Dawn. I like roses with that glossy dark green foliage.

One more purple. Several Persian Shield plants have returned.
This one is in the companyh of  Salvia leucantha and a Gerbera.

When I finish planting Datura seedlings that will look like this come July,
I may go find the box of Easter treasures after all.

He-Who-Mows is cutting and moving limbs on the big pecan tree that fell. I keep an ear out so I can go out to watch with phone in hand just in case while he saws. Scary. 

April 22, 2011

A Growed-Up Mess

"A growed-up mess" was my mother's term when plants got out of hand.  My overgrown azalea bed is worse than out of hand. Three springs ago I had pneumonia and skipped a year cutting out various vines. The past two springs were full of good intentions until the weather got unbearably hot. 

An ancient rambling rose scrambles through other vegetation seeking light.

Among the unwanted vegetation is trumpet creeper, smilax vine, euonymous which has gone from shrub to vine, cherry laurel seedlings, and a privet bush I thought I had killed. The other day a blooming sprout peeked out. There is a nice boxwood under there somewhere.

A few late blooms linger on spiraea which competes with cherry laurel seedlings and smilax vines.

Seven sisters rose. Much thorny canes, short bloom.
An old-time sentimental thing. I didn't plant it.

When I pass by with pruners in hand, I give a few things a swipe or two. It will be a big project to get to the bottom and allow the desirables to grow while keeping the thugs at bay.

April 20, 2011

Tribute to Cassandra Danz: Magenta Season Kicks off in Spiraea

Mrs. Greenthumbs, the late Cassandra Danz, had much to say about magenta in the garden. I try, but not very hard, to keep magenta out of the front garden's oranges, yellows and purples. The Upper Garden is devoted to it. 

Late spring magentas following the azalea and loropetalum show are kicked off by Spiraea bumalda.  The two dogwood seedlings I planted on each side of the entrance to the Oval Lawn have finally grown up tall enough to be noticed above the spiraea, with contrasting foliage. Learn more about Spiraea bumalda here.

Featured on this side of the Oval Lawn are magenta Pentas, Rose de Rescht and echinacea.

Soon to bloom on the left side are echinacea, purple (magenta) daylilies, rose campion and lilies.

Speaking of lilies, Mrs. Danz had an hilarious essay on growing lilies and the amount of compost she devoted to them. I'm looking forward to seeing whether adding compost and wood ashes encouraged mine.

April 19, 2011

Vespertine Flowers: Datura and Nicotiana

If you plant a Moonlight Garden there are likely Vespertine flowers contained in it, flowers that open after dusk to attract insects that pollinate. Later in my garden there will be Purple Datura and Pink Brugmansia; Devil's Trumpets and Angel's Trumpets depending on the direction of the trumpet.

Here we are acknowledging opening of the first flower of white Datura Innoxia, sometimes called by the common name of Jimson weed. When I was looking online at Daturas, it was interesting to read of the various claims of Datura as medicinally helpful. The end of the glowing report ended thus:
"Apart from the medicinal values of Datura plant there are various side effects as well like there always remains a chance of poisoning which can occur." All parts of Datura are poisonous.


Smaller trumpets also opening at night are those of Nicotiana alata. The white are luminous at night. I like the purple, even when the trumpets are closed.

Nicotiana alata

Other vespertines in my garden are Epiphyllum and Brugmansia. Both are a ways from bloom. Night blooming cereus, Epi blossoms usually start in June. Last year the Brug bloomed in the fall. I took cuttings in case the original plant that Janie sent me did not return. It has new growth. All the cuttings took. We should have brugmansia heaven with all those Angel Trumpets.

April 16, 2011

Runners-Up in the Bloom Day Contest

It's hard to leave off some of April's Blooms when writing a post for Bloom Day. So many pretties, so little time for readers to go down the entire list before rushing on to the next glorious photos on another blog. I tried to show some of the more uncommon plants in my garden on the fifteenth while passing over some beauties. "I'll give you a whole post of your own later," I promised some while reminding the roses that they get shown off all the time.

One of two kinds of Larkspur, show with a poppy.
This one is more double, blossoms reminiscent of delphinium.

Single Larkspur with little bunny heads in the blossom if you look carefully.
TAMU calls this one Consolida ambigua 'Bunny Bloom'

Laura Bush Petunias and Sedum acre

Pentas cuttings are just getting started.
A few of last year's have new growth.

Verbena on a Stick and the first Corn Poppy.

Gerbera. Note the hole in the leaf; hail did that.
Poppies failed to make the cut because most of the petals have fallen,
leaving lots of decorative seed pods.

Sweet William seedling.

First blossom on White Dawn rose climbing on a rough cedar post.

My Original Bloom Day post is here: Sparkleberry and White Shrimp .

April 14, 2011

If Birds Designed Landscapes

 As I looked at this bed under an oak with azaleas and hydrangeas at the perimeter I suddenly looked beyond the bird plantings that I need to remove and saw a bird's landscape. Planted with dropped seeds it insures a future source of food from seeds and drupes.

If birds designed landscapes they would use mostly native plants as excellent food sources.

Strawberry groundcover -- non-native but delicious.

Blackberry shrubs for tasty desserts and a Virginia creeper groundcover.

Bird-planted tree, Vaccinium arboreum in bloom.

The oaks and pecans behind were squirrel-planted more than 30 years ago.

April 11, 2011

Popular Poppies

California Poppies are blooming in my garden as if they did not know this is a hot and humid climate. So far only one has flopped, a victim of last week's high winds.

Papaver somniferium has commenced bloom. We're waiting for Corn Poppies which show promise. There are no Iceland Poppies this year, an oversight that I will correct this fall by scattering many seeds. If I have Iceland Poppies, I can almost pacify my desire for tulips.

These two pics show the progression of a bed. Daffodil foliage is maturing, lantana foliage is emerging, Purple Heart has sprouted. I set out tiny chartreuse alternanthera cuttings.
Daylilies will bloom next month. Black eyed Susans have planted themselves about.

Farther down the row spiderwort makes a big show as it threatens the entire bed.
Larkspur is ready to bloom. Wind broke the first blossom.
Duranta has resprouted. Crepe myrtle has foliage and will bloom in summer. 

Poppies last for only a couple of days when the weather is warm.
The silk-like petals shed leaving attractive pods.

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