Saturday, May 30, 2009

Wildflowers!

I must admit, I'm quite fond of my wildflower patch.
wildflowers9341

Over the past 3 years, I've planted three packets of wildflower seed mix in this bare, 3-foot-by-8-foot patch of thin clay soil over caliche, between the lime trees and the herb garden. The method's always the same:
1. Plant in the fall, roughly defined as the period between September and January, give or take a month.
2. Unceremoniously scatter seed onto unamended soil. If a rake's handy, rake the soil once before planting and once after; if not, don't bother.
3. Rarely water.
4. Never fertilize.
5. Never mow over the patch.

The first year (2007), we had evening primroses, Farewell-to-Spring (Clarkia amoena), forget-me-nots, and prairie verbena, all dolled up in pink and blue nursery colors.
2007wildflowers
I think, maybe, we might have had one blanket flower and one bluebonnet that year.

I've hardly any photographs of the wildflower bed from last spring, 2008; the zinnias and Bright Lights cosmos stole the limelight last year. I remember lots of primroses in the spring followed by a good deal of tickweed and gaillardia in the summer.
2008primroses1694

This year, 2009, is the first time lemon beebalm (lemon mint, horsemint) has made an appearance.
beebalm9533

Although tickweed and verbena have popped up along the outskirts, 2009 is The Year of the Blanket Flower.
indianblanket9531

The bed looks completely different than it did two years ago; now it's mostly oranges, yellows and reds with a bit of purple. Alas, no primroses or baby blue eyes this year.

Last fall, I tossed in an expired package of Love-In-A-Mist, just to see what would happen. I got a couple of blooms - more than I would have had I tossed the package in the trash.
8184
Every year, the native wildflower patch gets a little bigger, as wildflower patches do. One day, the wildflowers on the south will meet up with the zinnias and cosmos on the north and swallow the hot tub gazebo whole!

Toward that end :), I want to overseed this fall with more primroses and something new - what should it be?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

These are a few of my favorite weeds...

Jack mowed the lawn today, for the first time this year.
Here's some of what he mowed down.

Dayflower or widow's tears.
widowstears

False strawberry.
falsestrawberry

Texas bindweed.
9055Texas Bindweed

Blue-eyed grass, horseherb and oxalis.
blue-eyed grass

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Caterpillars

Little orange caterpillars with black tufts are attempting to decimate my passiflora vine.
caterpillars9712

They're everywhere, chewing big ragged holes in the leaves.
caterpillars9706

Passiflora is a host plant for butterflies. This vine is heavily shaded by my neighbor's forest of 'trash trees' - mostly hackberry trees, planted along the fence line by birds - and has never received enough sun to bloom. I did a little research, and found out that this caterpillar -
caterpillar9704

- turns into this butterfly.
gulffritillary

In fact, I saw several gulf fritillaries flitting dizzily around the yard this weekend, in the frenzied, herky-jerky manner of a newly hatched butterfly trying to figure it all out.

This fall, I should move the vine to a sunnier location, to give it a better chance of surviving.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

seeing red



I'm experimenting with the Flickr slideshows. Let me know how you like them (or don't like them). To see a full page view, click on the little box with the arrows at the bottom right-hand corner of the player. To see descriptions, click on "Show Info" at the top right-hand corner of the full page view.

got flagstone?

I still have 1/2 to 2/3 ton of 'native patio' flagstone sitting in the driveway. It's been there nearly a month now. I've been thinking about selling it on Craigslist, but I have yet to list it. In my experience, two things are certain when listing items on Craigslist:
1. There will be multiple responses to the listing, one of which will end in a successful transition;
2. At least two-thirds of the responses will be from complete and utter nut jobs who won't return messages, want to come by at odd hours and never show, may or may not have cash payment, call or email multiple times with questions about even the simplest item, insist on trying to dicker down a bargain-basement price, etc. all which will make you think twice about Craiglist the next time you need to get rid of something.

I mean, do I really want to deal with that on a Memorial Day weekend? Not really.

So I still have the flagstone. If you live in Austin and need less than a ton of flagstone, shoot me a message and make me an offer. Factoring in sales tax + delivery fees, I paid $160 a ton for it, but I am a 'very motivated seller' who'd much rather deal with a groovy Austin garden blogger than yer typical Craigslister.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What I would have posted on May 15...

...if I hadn't been in the midst of a work-related three-day conference. These pictures were all taken on May 15 in the early evening during a quick 30 minute trip home.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

First firefly sighting

I saw a firefly tonight -- first sighting of the year -- proof positive that summer is nigh!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Silly me, I forgot to post...

...my favorite picture from the flagstone path project! At the hottest point of the afternoon, when all either one of us wanted to do was STOP AND BE DONE ALREADY, this little fellow came by to see what we were up to, before getting distracted by the buds on the butterfly weed plant.
8898
He was a fast one, but I managed to get one blurry shot. Somehow, his brief visit gave me the strength to keep on working.

Shovel-Ready Project: Laying a Flagstone Path

Last weekend, Jack and I began the task of laying a flagstone path through the new garden in the front yard, buoyed by articles such as this Sunset.com article, which proclaimed, "Even for a novice do-it-yourselfer, installing a mortarless flagstone path is a practically foolproof project."

Plus, Roger Cook made it look so easy on the This Old House video...

This is how it looked before we got started. We’d already marked the edges of the path with stones. The grass and oxalis was already starting to make its way back in to the area we'd cleared.
8585

We ordered two tons of native patio flagstone from Whittlesey Landscape on Thursday, which they delivered on Saturday.
8835

I got started by digging a trench along the edges of the path, using a sidewalk scraper.
8587

The next step was to dig out the path to a depth of 3 to 4 inches. Some of it we did with a shovel, but we needed a tiller for the bulk of it, to get through the tree roots and remaining grass.
8860

Jack, wrestling the tiller he borrowed from a friend. Look at those calf muscles!
8884

Even with the tiller, it was difficult digging through the Blackland Prairie clay.
8877

Eventually, we gave up on the digging, even though the depth wasn’t even, and raked it smooth. We decided we'd use thinner flagstones in the shallow parts and thicker flagstones in the deeper sections.
8849

Professionals would have laid the path before putting in plants. D’oh. I took the edging stones and put them around my little twigs to protect them from our feet and the tiller.
8836

We started with a small section near the front door. Sand went in first (roughly an inch deep), followed by flagstones.
8901

A mixture of dirt and sand went on top of the freshly-laid flagstones.
8903

We smoothed the dirt with the flat end of a rigid garden rake.
8938

Then we swept the dirt off the top of the stones. Here’s the path, half swept off.
8942

Another angle:
8946
We stopped here, exhausted, sweaty, dirty, stinky and so, so sore.

Jack finished up on Monday afternoon by fully sweeping off the path and replacing the edging stones. What a nice surprise to see when I arrived home from work!
8958

For the next couple of weeks, we’ll be laying down more dirt, watering it in, letting it dry and sweeping it off. There are a few stones that are too low that need to be raised up a bit with more sand, and there are a couple of stones that are too high that need to be reset, but at least the truly back-breaking part is done. We both like the look of groundcover growing between the stones, so once the dirt settles, we may try growing some mazus reptans or creeping thyme to accompany the wild oxalis and horseherb that will surely crop up.