Congratulations to our winner!

I hope I haven’t been keeping people in too much suspense — I couldn’t get my post out until this evening. But drumroll please… Charlotte P., you are the winner of a $50 gift certificate to Hill Country Water Gardens! I’ll be e-mailing you to let you know the specifics and will also let Hill Country Water Gardens know you are coming. You’ll need to show your I.D. in order to receive your prize. Congratulations, Charlotte!


Thank you to everyone who participated in our giveaway for Support Your Independent Nursery Month. It was such fun! FYI, the winner was chosen via the random number generator at — how easy it made everything!

Don’t eat these.

Don’t eat these. They are not chocolate. They also are not dung beetle balls. Nor are they any other sort of food or poop. Well, actually, that’s not entirely true. They contain compost, so I guess they contain manure. And technically the organic matter of the compost is food for little microscopic organisms. But I digress — what they really are are seed balls. Little round balls of life… and other stuff.


I joined other volunteers on Saturday to make seed ball kits for the fire-stricken Bastrop area. While fire is part of nature’s processes, these seeds are meant to restore plants native to the Bastrop area and help accelerate the healing of the ecosystems out there. They contain a special blend of seeds appropriate for the Bastrop area, and these seeds are rolled into little balls of red art clay mixed with sifted compost. The kits will be delivered to schools, where students will make the seed balls, learn about native plants, and be environmental stewards  all at the same time, and then the completed balls will be dried, packaged, and delivered to the Bastrop area. Thanks to Healing Hands, Healing Lands for organizing all of this.

This weekend I also volunteered at the Austin Green City Festival. It was held at City Hall, and the busy crowds were made more numerous by Occupy Austin marchers all around the perimeter. It was quite the proactive day, I must say. The Green City Festival offered much information about composting, gardening for birds (that was us), Central Texas wildlife, watersheds and aquifers, recycling, being green, bicycle commuting, green building, pollution, nifty paint re-blends available for free, clean air, and so much more. Tree Folks gave away free tree saplings. Others gave away reusable grocery and produce bags, and more. What fun.


This giant bottle-cap sculture threatened to head toward to the top of nearby skyscrapers. It didn’t quite make it. But it tried.


A trailer covered in ash trays gave people a chance to leave positive messages about the importance of clean air and to encourage smokers to quit the habit. My son and I left messages, too. The one shown above wasn’t ours, but I liked it because it was smiling back at me.


One booth combined trash plus fashion to make Trashion. This dress of cables was my favorite.

I even managed to get a few more plants in the ground this weekend. I also got a few out — ones that didn’t survive the drought. In this case, I didn’t mind so much. It finally gave me the incentive to make some minor but well-needed changes to the first garden bed we installed in the front yard.

Oh, by the way, time is running out to enter the giveaway contest for Hill Country Water Gardens and other local nurseries! October 26 at 11:59pm! Don’t forget to enter!

Austin Nurseries Giveaway: Hill Country Water Gardens

hcwgc.jpgThe extended drought really has created terrible hardships for our local nurseries, so all during October, designated Support Your Independent Nursery Month, several Austin garden bloggers have been highlighting their favorite nurseries each Wednesday to encourage people to get out there and give our local gems a little garden-shopping-kind-of-love. I can tell you that my garden and ponds would not even exist were it not for the wonderful plants, landscape materials, tips, and encouragement I’ve gotten from many of Austin’s finest nurseries. This is such a great time to get back in the garden, too — fall planting is the best for so many plants and delicious veggies. Whether you’re looking for new perennials or trees, pottery, holiday gifts, garden tools, or other items —  this is a great time to get them!

Here’s the extra exciting part: To tie in to Support Your Independent Nursery Month, eight Austin bloggers are offering great prizes to participating local nurseries. If you visit all eight blogs, you maximize your chances to win!

hcwga.jpgI’m quite pleased to be able to host a giveaway for a $50 gift certificate for Hill Country Water Gardens, one of my personal shopping spots. I visit HCWG for all my pond needs, and somehow I always manage to bring home plants or beautiful garden items with me, too. The many ponds, waterfalls, fountains, and streams found all over the 5-acre grounds are incredibly inspiring.

Hill Country Water Gardens is located at 1407 N. Bell Ave (old 183/Research Blvd.) in Cedar Park, just north of Hwy. 1431. The staff are friendly, knowledgeable, and quite happy to help you with pond information, aquatic plants, fish, and more. Furthermore, if you want a pond but just aren’t a do-it-yourselfer, they’ve got a professional installation team that will build your pond for you, or help you maintain it, as the case may be.

I also highly recommend the free how-to demonstrations HCWG staff regularly give to show homeowners how to install ponds and waterfalls, disappearing fountains, and disappearing streams. Great info and a perfect time to get all your questions answered about that new aquatic feature you’ve been wanting to build.

But Hill Country Water Gardens isn’t just about ponds — they have a great selection of native and adapted plants, and they have some of the most beautiful and unique pottery and garden art I’ve seen. And now you’ve got a chance to go there with a $50 gift certificate!

If you’d like a chance to win this fantastic prize, here’s what you should know:

  1. You must leave a comment on this post to enter. If you have trouble with the reCAPTCHA, tell it to give you another set of letters to enter, or simply try again. Thanks!
  2. Each participating blog will hold its own random drawing, so leave a comment on each blog to enter all the giveaways.
  3. Only one comment per person per giveaway.
  4. Participating bloggers and their families are ineligible to win.
  5. Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on 10/26.
  6. Winners will be announced on each blog on 10/27.
  7. Winners must go to the nursery with a photo ID and pick up their prize in person within two weeks of winning. Prizes will not be mailed.

Be sure to visit the other Austin bloggers for a chance to win a gift certificate to other fantastic nurseries!

Thanks to all the participating bloggers and nurseries (and to Pam and BSN’s Bernadine for planning all this) — what fun this is! Good luck, everyone!

Moving In, Moving Out

First of all, cheers and congratulations to Austin’s newest Habitat Steward Volunteers — the 2011 training just finished up last week! Second, everyone please be sure to go out and support your favorite local nurseries this month as an extra helpful boost for them this October. Oh and one more thing — next week is Texas Native Plant Week. You know what I’ll be doing, starting with the plant sale at the Wildflower Center this weekend. I should probably let my family know that, uh, instead of Family Game Night we’ll likely be having Family Gardening Weekend.

Thank goodness fall has arrived, and with it we’re seeing butterflies and caterpillars again. I’ll let you in on a little secret — if you watch Central Texas Gardener this week, you might just learn about some of my personal favorites.

twotaileda10-11-11.jpgI was thrilled last week to finally get to release three Two-tailed Swallowtails from the Caterpillar Hotel. The caterpillars formed their chrysalises last spring and then underwent diapause, or a period of dormancy, over the summer. Finally, when the weather cooled a bit, the beautiful butterflies emerged.

Here’s a picture of one of the caterpillars last May — it was munching on Wafer Ash, which is also the host plant for the Giant Swallowtail butterfly.


But wait — who’s munching from behind this next leaf?

monarchcata10-11-11.jpgMonarchs are here! I’ve been busily keeping several caterpillars of all sizes feasting upon milkweed, safely housed inside the Caterpillar Hotel (also known as a large mesh laundry basket).


We have 2 chrysalises newly formed today, and I expect three more will be there tomorrow — the caterpillars have already selected their metamorphosis locations.


Next up is another sweet creature on milkweed, a ladybug nymph.


It’s a fierce predator of those naughty aphids you can see farther back on the plant, and as an adult ladybug, it will still feast away on the aphid pests. Whenever I see an adult or nymph ladybug, I leave aphids on the plant for it to eat.

I’m trying to ID this next bug — if anyone knows it, please help me out.


I’ve got three of them patrolling the top of my Caterpillar Hotel, trying to find a way in. They look like some sort of weevil. Could they want the milkweed? I don’t know of weevils that eat caterpillars, but I only saw them on the mesh tent where the caterpillars are, not on the rest of the milkweed out in the garden. There’s nothing else inside the mesh that could possibly interest them. Hmmmm…


Most of the hummingbirds have moved on, but I saw one out there yesterday.


At our peak about 3 weeks ago, we had 15 hummingbirds visiting flowers and feeders all at the same time — I’m only just now able to show some of the pictures.

hummersb09-18-11.jpgThe feeder below was the favorite of most of the birds. At one point we counted 7 sharing the feeder at the same time, but first they had to calm their territorial instincts.



Of course, the other feeders got plenty of visitors, too.


I do miss all the hummingbirds, but they’ll be back. For those birds still trying to make their way south, the flowers and feeders are still here for them (in fact I always keep at least one feeder up all winter just in case there’s a hummer that didn’t find its way south before the cold gets here).

The brief bit of rain last week has done the garden good. What a pleasure it is to be back outside again!

Support Your Local Nursery: Barton Springs Nursery

I always believe in supporting local businesses, but with the ongoing drought, our local nurseries are getting hit particularly hard right now. Pam Penick at Digging had a great idea to encourage us all to get out there and visit our favorite nurseries, declaring October to be “Support Your Local Nursery” month. This week’s focus for Austin is Barton Springs Nursery in southwest Austin — how could I resist a chance to spread the word about one of my favorite places to surround myself in green?


bsnl10-05-11.jpgOn Jenny Peterson’s post, she gave a top 10 list of why she loves Barton Springs Nursery — dang, now I can’t do that! But I do have to agree with everything in her list. From the great staff to the huge plant selection, this nursery is tops! Case in point, when I walked in today, a staff person remembered me from the week before, when I was on the look out for caterpillars on native host plants to show on Central Texas Gardener (yes, yes, I know, most people go to a nursery for “normal” plants, but I was particularly looking for ones getting munched on to show off my little wildlife buddies — alas, Barton Springs Nursery had not a caterpillar to offer me, but plants they had aplenty!). But all the staff have always been friendly and helpful to me — and believe me, I come in with weird questions all the time.

Native plants. They got’ em.


Shade, xeric, sun plants, trees, grasses. They got’em.

bsnf10-05-11.jpgbsnj10-05-11.jpgMy favorite thing to do is wander all the different areas at the nursery — although to warn you, it can be a little too inspiring — I always come home with more plants than I intended. Always. They have the coolest carts, all individually named (“A La Carte” comes to mind) — rather than move the carts around, however, most people declare a cart theirs by putting a plant on it, then they leave the cart in place and periodically bring other plants back to “home base.”

 One of the things that I love most about Barton Springs Nursery is that they have these:

bsnh10-05-11.jpg–several greenhouses on the premises. This allows them to grow many of their plants themselves, from seed and/or cuttings. It also means that they regularly have a vast selection of plants available in a variety of sizes, from 4″ on up.

bsne10-05-11.jpgI always have to stop and talk in Parakeetese to the several birds BSN has in an outdoor aviary. Today the little birds didn’t stop to listen to me the way they usually do, however — they weren’t a big fan of my camera. So I snapped a picture (this little bird’s name is Sprite) and quickly moved on, but I hope they’ll have a good conversation with me next time I’m there just-a-shoppin’.


Whether you are looking for perennials, shrubs, vines, grasses, shade plants, sun plants, trees, pottery — oh gosh, anything — go see what Barton Springs Nursery has to offer. And if you live somewhere other than Austin, I’m sure your local nursery will appreciate a visit! Be sure to pick up a native caterpillar host plant while you are there!  🙂