Recently in native TX plants Category

lindheimermm04-04-12.jpg In April I had the pleasure of speaking to the Comal Master Gardeners 2012 trainees about wildlife gardening, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to include a visit to the Lindheimer Home and gardens in New Braunfels. Ferdinand Lindheimer, an extraordinary naturalist and the first permanent-resident botanist of Texas, is particularly notable in part for his vast contributions in the collecting and categorizing of thousands of Texas native plants but also for his unique role in other aspects of Texas history. In fact, his skilled passion for Texas flora earned Lindheimer an honorary title, the "Father of Texas Botany."

lindheimergg04-04-12.jpg In preparation for writing this article, I drove downtown to the Austin History Center, which includes in its collection of archived books and documents one copy of the translated letters of Lindheimer to renowned botanist George Engelmann, enclosed in the book A Life Among the Texas Flora, by Minetta Altgelt Goyne (note: this is book is still in print and available for purchase). My goal was not to read the entire book that day but merely to get a feel for the passion behind Lindheimer's plant collecting, as well as to take a closer look at his personal and family history.


lindheimers04-04-12.jpgFerdinand Jacob Lindheimer was born on May 21, 1802 (some sources say 1801), in Frankfurt, Germany. Immigrating to the United States in 1834 during a time of political unrest in Germany, Lindheimer traveled first to Illinois and then to Mexico by way of New Orleans. For a short while, he worked on a couple of plantations in Mexico, collecting plants and insects in his spare time. Upon hearing about the Texas Revolution, however, he returned north to enlist in the army, missing the Battle of San Jacinto by a day. After completing his time in the army, Lindheimer farmed for a short while in the Houston area, all the while studying Texas plants and insects.



Silk Tassel, named after Lindheimer (Garrya ovata ssp. Lindheimeri), growing wild


Beginning in 1839, Lindheimer spent some time with George Engelmann, botanist at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, and Harvard botanist Asa Gray, eventually working out an arrangement to collect and send thousands of Texas floral specimens for categorization. This arrangement would last about nine years. Along with the specimens, Lindheimer wrote long detailed letters to Englemann, and much can be learned about Lindheimer, life and culture in the early settlement of Texas, and Texas' valuable ecology and geography just by reading the translated letters.

lindheimeraa04-04-12.jpgThrough Lindheimer's letters, we learn of his fondness for sweet native grapes and how pecans and persimmons were regular food sources. We learn of different wildlife he encountered, his attention to physical fitness and health, his understanding of local Native American tribes, and just how many species of cacti and yucca there really are in Texas. Often Lindheimer gave detailed accounts of the trials of travel or difficult bouts with illness, and finances were always a necessary topic to discuss with Engelmann, who paid Lindheimer for his plant collections. But sometimes, Lindheimer would add in the most interesting of comments, such as, "Dr. Koester's medical treatments here are mostly unfortunate, often ghastly. Do let me know [through your contacts in] Frankfurt whether he is competent at all to practice even as a last resort." [p. 117]


Texas Star (Lindheimera texana), growing wild


Sometimes Lindheimer's descriptions of the Texas landscape were so poetic that I longed to have been a witness to the Texas that once was. In reference to the area that would become New Braunfels, Lindheimer wrote: "It is sufficient that we are at least here, where the streams flow crystal clear over the rocky beds. The fluid element gleams emerald green, and in its greater depths the fish rush back and forth visibly. Powerful springs cascade down from the rocky hills. They are probably subterranean brooks that have gathered in the caves of the limestone boulders and suddenly come to the surface. Forest, grazing land, and land for cultivated fields of the best quality are available. But what does that matter to me? Palmate yuccas, cactus, and mimosas and the fragrance and blossoms of them all, that's for me. Here I have seen for the first time the total splendor of the prairies. Flower upon flower, richer than the richest Persian carpet....[p.112] If you are interested in Texas' natural and cultural history, Goyne's A Life Among the Texas Flora: Ferdinand Lindheimer's Letters to George Engelmann is an excellent source of enlightenment.



When Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels purchased Texas land for a German colony in 1844, Lindheimer served as a guide for the immigrants. He was deeded land in the new German settlement of New Braunfels and built his home on land overlooking the blue Comal River, and from there he continued his plant collecting, got married, and began his family. It is estimated that during his entire lifetime, Lindheimer collected between 80,000 and 100,000 specimens, many of which were discoveries of new species or sub-species.


santantaRW04-04-12.jpgLindheimer was known for his mild voice but strong opinions. He was an active supporter of freedom and justice. As a botanist, he was respected by many Native Americans, and in fact the fierce Kiowa chief Santanta was a regular visitor to Lindheimer's home. (Note: On the wall in the front room of Lindheimer's home one can see the painting above of Chief Santana by Ralph Wall; it was added to the home in 1980.)


lindheimeree04-04-12.jpgFor 20 years, Lindheimer served as the first editor of the Neu-Braunfelser Zeitung, a bilingual German-English newspaper that lasted more than a century. He published the newspaper from his house and included his own sometimes controversial writings. He was involved in local education and served as the county's first Justice of the Peace. After his retirement, Lindheimer returned to his passion for Texas plants, until his death on December 2, 1879.


lindheimerq04-04-12.jpgToday the Lindheimer Home is under the care of the New Braunfels Conservation Society. It has been restored to look much as it did during Lindheimer's lifetime.  John Turner, who gave us a tour of the Lindheimer home, was greatly involved in the restoration, which was completed in 1995.


lindheimerkk04-04-12.jpgStucco covers three sides of the main building, with the remaining surface exposing the fachwerk, or half-timbering, technique employed by German settlers, with rocks or brick filling space between the timbers.

lindheimerl04-04-12.jpgThe house has a second-story loft, as well as a cellar, and a second building sits where the former outhouse had been.

lindheimerc04-04-12.jpgInside, one sees much of the original furniture used by Lindheimer and his family.

lindheimeref04-04-12.jpgOriginal newspapers and plant specimens, as well as photographs and other items, are out on display. The image above is Lindheimer's granddaughter Sida and her husband.

lindheimeroo04-04-12.jpglindheimerh04-04-12.jpgThe Comal Master Gardeners do an exquisite job of maintaining pristine colorful gardens around the quaint Lindheimer house. The gardens are a combination of assorted Texas natives, popular favorites, and a selection of plants specifically named after Lindheimer.

lindheimervinea04-04-12.jpgLindheimer Morning Glory (Ipomoea lindheimeri)

The most notable perhaps was the dainty but beautiful Lindheimer's Morning Glory, freshly blooming just in time for my visit.

lindheimerp04-04-12.jpgThe Master Gardeners visiting with us said they hope to continue increasing the Lindheimer plants, especially those well suited for a garden (for not all of the Lindheimer plants would qualify as being ideal choices). After reading Lindheimer's letters that accompanied his plant specimen shipments to Engelmann, I'd like to also suggest continuing to add native plant species that Lindheimer particularly loved collecting from the Texas wild - what fun it would be to research those! For it cannot be questioned that Lindheimer's true passion was Texas flora, not just collecting it but experiencing adventure along the way. But the Lindheimer garden is truly charming, and I commend the Master Gardeners for their dedication to creating such a lovely setting that is both an array of color and a tribute to Lindheimer. It is a garden that is a pleasure to stroll through. In fact, I was so delighted with the Lindheimer Morning Glory that I made sure to purchase one for my own garden at the Wildflower Center plant sale soon thereafter.

lindheimeri04-04-12.jpgToday, many plant species (and one snake) bear the name Lindheimer in their scientific name. Depending on the source, there are at least 30 such species and possibly more than 40, but with taxonomic changes happening all the time, there is no way for me to confirm an accurate number. But after touring the Lindheimer Home and gardens and knowing that I intended to write this article, I decided to increase my personal collection of plants named for Lindheimer, and so far I am up to at least 7 (there might be others on the property):


·         Silk Tassel (Garrya ovata ssp. lindheimeri)

·         Lindheimer's Senna (Senna lindheimeriana)

·         Big Muhly (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri)

·         Lindheimer's Morning Glory (Ipomoea lindheimeri)

·         Lindheimer's Beebalm (Monarda lindheimeri)

·         Texas Star (Lindheimera texana)

·         Devil's Shoestring (Nolina lindheimeriana)


I'm technically not counting Evergreen Sumac (Rhus virens Lindheimer ex Gray), but some people do -- in any case, I have it. With luck, someday I'll be growing again White Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri), which succumbed to drought, and perhaps I'll be able to add Balsam Gourd (Ibervillea lindheimeri), Woolly Ironweed (Vernonia lindheimeri), and others to the list.


lindheimerr04-04-12.jpgThank you to John Turner of the New Braunfels Conservation Society and to the Comal Master Gardeners for sharing a moment in time with Lindheimer with me. The friendliness of my tour guides, my love of Texas botany, and my being a former resident of New Braunfels made my visit just like coming home. Plus I had a great time speaking to the 2012 Master Gardener class. On the way home, I viewed wildflowers in the Texas Hill Country. What a great day!


Note: If you are wanting to visit the Lindheimer Home, you'll need to contact New Braunfels Conservation Society in advance to arrange a tour. In fact, I hear that the entire NBCS Conservation Plaza is a must-see, and it is a must-see I must see on my next visit!

A Rainbow of Texas Wildflowers



Over the past three weeks, I've been lucky enough to head out to the Hill Country a few times to see the beautiful Texas wildflowers blanketing fields and roadside edges in color this spring. They have been a most welcome sight, as last year the drought meant there were almost no springtime wildflowers at all. Thank goodness for the little bit of rain we've had.

Take a walk on the wild(flower) side with me...

wildflowers03-29-12.jpgwildflowersn03-29-12.jpg Indian Paintbrush

bfdaisya03-29-12.jpg Blackfoot Daisy

wildflowersb03-29-12.jpg wildflowersg03-29-12.jpg Firewheel, or Indian Blanket

wildflowersf03-29-12.jpg wildflowersh03-29-12.jpgPrairie Fleabane

wildflowerse03-29-12.jpg Texas Bluebonnets, our official state flower, with Prickly Pear, our official state plant

wildflowersi03-29-12.jpg Mexican Hat

wildflowersj03-29-12.jpg bfdaisyb03-29-12.jpg bfdaisyc03-29-12.jpg wildflowersk03-29-12.jpg Missouri Evening-Primrose

wildflowersl03-29-12.jpg Prairie Verbena and Coreopsis

wildflowersc03-29-12.jpgwildflowersm03-29-12.jpg damianitab04-06-12.jpg damianita04-06-12.jpg Damianita

bfdaisyd03-29-12.jpg wildflowersq03-29-12.jpgwildflowerso03-29-12.jpg


 Texas is beautiful all around, but never more so than in the spring!


End note: Our state is having a terrible time with an invasive plant called Bastard Cabbage, or common giant mustard (Rapistrum rugosum). I had to drive quite a distance to find pristine pockets of wildflowers in the Hill Country, for vast areas have become covered with this awful plant, which originated in the Mediterranean and thrives in the same places and soil our wildflowers do. But then it takes over with its long tap roots, large size, and prolific seeds. I opted not to show a picture of the Bastard Cabbage (my son calls it "Bad Word" cabbage) so as not to taint my post with its presence. I'm mentioning it only because I worry about the trouble our wildflowers are having!

Cheers for Floral Pom-poms


goldenball04-16-12.jpgIt's that time of year again when pom-pom blooms abound, and I can't help but want to do a cheer.

goldenballb04-16-12.jpgSwaying gently in the breeze, the Goldenball Leadtree (Leucaena retusa) towers above my spineless Opuntia as a tall yet airy backdrop. Bright yellow pom-poms stand out against the evergreen foliage, an eye-catching combination. But perhaps most enticing of all, the Goldenball Leadtree's fragrant nectar beckons bumblebees and butterflies to partake in its sweetness, and I can't help but take a long whiff of the delightful aroma myself.

fragrantmimosa04-02-12.jpgFragrant Mimosa (Mimosa borealis) is a vision of delicate pink fluff.

fragrantmimosab04-02-12.jpgThe soft pink puffballs are a contrast to the sneaky thorns up and down the branches.

fragrantmimosac04-16-12.jpgI'm slightly behind in showing the photos of the Fragrant Mimosa in bloom -- this week, it has already erupted in seedpods. Take a closer look above -- even the seedpods have prickles. This makes both seed collecting and seed cleaning an adventure everytime.

huisacheb04-14-12.jpgLikewise, Huisache (Acacia farnesiana) beckons one over with its fragrant orange-gold blossoms, but watch out for its wicked thorns.

huisachec04-14-12.jpgAll over town, Huisache trees have been sharing their golden colors and intoxicating scent. It was tempting to bring one of these home from the Wildflower Center's plant sale this past weekend, but I resisted, as I suspect my backyard is not an appropriate setting.

All are native Texas plants. The first two are in my garden, and the Huisache I admired at the Wildflower Center.

huisache04-14-12.jpg2-4-6-8, Pom-Poms I appreciate!

Stop the Presses


The boys and I just returned from a truly fun-filled wildlife-a-plenty trip to Florida, and you'd think I'd jump right in and start showing you photos. But no -- first I have to show off some of the gorgeous blooms that welcomed us home. But no again, because oh my gosh I found something cool in the backyard while wandering around looking at blossoms. This creature of such colossal awesomeness must be given absolute priority in wildlife garden blogging. And here it is.


Yes, I can already hear your response. Something, I'm sure, along the lines of "What the blazes is THAT?" And perhaps there's a part of you also saying, "Geez, Meredith is so very weird." But,my friends, I must introduce you to this amazing creature -- it is known as a trashline orbweaver spider. Can you find the spider?

Take another look:


Lo and behold, a spider I only learned about just last Saturday is right here in our backyard!

A trashline orbweaver spider has a very unique way of camouflaging itself. It creates a line of insect remains and other debris stuck together with silk. Then it sits right in the center and blends in, making it hard for birds to notice it and also staying well hidden from unsuspecting but potentially tasty insect passersby.

It was incredibly windy outside, so it was near impossible to get a sharp image of a bobbing spider on a bobbing spider web, but here's a zoom-in on the spider.


After such a treasure of a find, does it really matter that my Crossvines are producing the most spectacular display of color ever?

crossvine03-19-12.jpg They are climbing up and over the shade sails, as they please.

whitehoneysuckle03-19-12.jpgDoes it really matter that the Texas native White Honeysuckle shrub, Lonicera albiflora, is covered in divinely fragrant blossoms?

coralhoneysuckle03-19-12.jpgOr that its cousin, the native Coral Honeysuckle, is perhaps at last displaying its full glory, climbing thickly to the top of the fence with its intense red blooms ever so vibrant against the dense green foliage?

frmimosa03-19-12.jpgWould one notice the pink and puffy blossoms of the Fragrant Mimosa?

And look at this:

pomegranatebud03-19-12.jpgA single Pomegranate bud waiting to open. Let's hope that more buds will emerge very soon, else I won't have much hope of Pomegranates this fall.

bfdaisies03-19-12.jpgWhat about the Blackfoot Daisies, twice as big as when I planted them before our trip?

Yes, of course -- they all matter!

buckmothcat03-19-12.jpgEven this Buckmoth caterpillar, which thankfully I didn't step on with my bare foot (I can still remember the painful sting from the caterpillar that found my foot last year), is a welcome sight in my yard. Though the caterpillar might be a stinging kind, it (or its flying adult form) is a potential food source for birds or bats or owls. Therefore, it matters, too!

Driving Home with a Giant Silk Moth


This weekend's habitat event was helping install wildlife-friendly native plants to create a beginning wildlife garden at the Austin Groups for the Elderly building, known locally as the AGE building. This non-profit organization "empowers caregivers, the elderly and their families through education, advocacy, resources and support" and is a daytime care and resource facility for older members of our community.

AGEhabitatf03-04-12.jpg Habitat volunteers from the City of Austin, Travis Audubon, and NWF, along with friends and family and AGE staff, got right to work. The first task was scraping out clover and grass from the future beds.

AGEhabitatd03-04-12.jpg Next, volunteers watered the soil a bit, then placed a carefully arranged layer of cardboard, which also was made wet.


AGEhabitate03-04-12.jpg On top of that, we layered soil where necessary, and topped it all with single-shred mulch, kept thin under the trees. This method of lawn reduction is effective and remarkably simple.


The final step was adding plants, including Mexican Buckeye, Shrubby Boneset, Texas Mulberry, Evergreen Sumac, Turk's Cap, Crossvine, and others. The plants were small, but small is all it takes!

AGEhabitat03-04-12.jpgThe garden is a favorite sitting area for many AGE members, and the new habitat will attract many butterflies and birds for visitors' viewing pleasure. The building also houses our Travis Audubon office -- so we're extra glad to have a new habitat right outside!

polyphemusaa03-04-12.jpgAs we were getting ready to leave, my husband called me over to see a creature hanging upside-down from the car of a volunteer. It turned out to be a gorgeous Lepidopteran.

The volunteer was quite concerned, and to be honest, from a distance it really did look like a bat was hanging from his window. But I rushed right over to rescue it, and it proved to be a stunning, yet frail, Polyphemus moth. Those bushy antennae you see are an indication that this moth also happened to be male.


There are a number of threats to this beautiful species, but at least they have a variety of host plants, as well as those spectacular and "scary" eye spots, to give them a better chance at making it. The tiny little upper spots on the forewings are actually transparent. We checked.

polyphemusc03-04-12.jpgPolyphemus moths have an average wing span of about 6 inches. As adults, they also have reduced mouth parts, meaning that they can't eat, so they have one job to focus on: reproduction. The feathery antennae of the males are used to detect the scent of unmated females. Whether the antennae also make the male moths look sexy to females, I cannot attest. But for this female, I think they look pretty cool. Not getting to eat means something else -- the moths have a short lifespan of less than a week.

As it had trouble flying, It seemed to me that this little (big) moth was on its last wing, so to speak, so I gently kept it protected and decided to bring it home with us. As it turns out, the moth wasn't as frail as we thought.

polyphemusd03-04-12.jpgPerhaps because it was darker in the car, the moth came to life once we got moving on the road. By the time we were on the highway, it was fluttering all about, making for quite an interesting drive home. At one point, the Polyphemus moth decorated my husband as a bowtie.

For its own safety, we didn't want to release the moth until we actually arrived home to our wooded habitat, but in the meantime, it kept us busy in the car, as we had to make sure it stayed safe there, too.

polyphemusb03-04-12.jpgFor quite a bit of the drive, the moth seemed particularly fond of my husband (who was under strict orders not to react to the tickling sensation, nor to panic and cause a wreck). My husband replied, "Finally, there's an animal who's not afraid of me!" How my husband manages to seem fearsome in our happy zoo is beyond me, but our skittish cat Cricket in particular still gives him the wary eye. Not many men can boast that they've had a Polyphemus moth rest on their Adam's Apple, but my husband can. Let me just add that driving in a car with a fluttering giant silk moth is perhaps a "Don't Try This at Home in Your Car" scenario.

polyphemuse03-04-12.jpgUpon our return home, I carefully gathered up the Polyphemus moth, bid it a fond farewell and good luck, and opened my hands to the sky. The moth flew up to the ash tree above, where it rested for much of the afternoon. What an adventure we all had!

A Great Start to Spring


Win one for the environment. Last night (technically 2am this morning), Austin City Council voted unanimously to ban single-use shopping bags at grocery stores. Bring your reusable bags when you come visit our fantastic city! The ban officially takes effect in March 2013. Austin is currently the largest city in Texas to ban single-use bags -- way to go, Austin!

robins03-02-12.jpgEven though it's not technically spring yet, it has felt like it almost all winter. These warmer temperatures have been rather confusing to wildlife, plants, and gardeners. But spring is definitely arriving now. This past week, a flock of some 50 American Robins landed all across our property. They were too spread out to get a big group picture, but I did manage to catch a trio in the front.

eworm03-02-12.jpgPerhaps they were early birds looking for worms -- it was in fact an early morning when we saw them, and we do in fact have a lot of earthworms. Who knows?

mtnlaurela03-02-12.jpgBut perhaps the most noticeable spring sign in Austin is the mass blooming of our native Texas Mountain Laurels (Sophora secundiflora) all across the city. I've never seen so many blooming at once. They line and adorn highways, city properties, neighborhood entrances, gardens, parks, parking lots -- they are simply everywhere.

mtnlaurelc03-02-12.jpgTexas Mountain Laurels are one of our early bloomers, and as such pollinators adore them. They are incredibly fragrant. A brief whiff of a single bloom can smell like Grape Koolaid to some, but in mass they are almost sickeningly sweet, like grape-flavored medicine. This is why you'll find two opposing reactions by people -- some people love the scent, while others are actually nauseated by it. Most fascinating! I personally like it, but I tend to be that way about any unique characteristic of a plant. Remember, I like thorns, too (but of course, the Mountain Laurel doesn't have any -- instead, it sports poisonous seeds and nauseatingly sweet fragrance -- awesome!).

mtnlaureld03-02-12.jpg The Mountain Laurel above was still freshly wet from a recent rain when I snapped the shot at Austin Nature & Science Center.

mtnlaurele03-02-12.jpgEven my little 3-foot tall Mountain Laurel joined in the purple celebration -- it has 3 blooms!


mtnlaurelb03-02-12.jpgWhile I was out there admiring our happy little bloomer, I noticed this black-and-white Lepidopteran. I didn't have time to ID it, however, but I'm hoping to have a chance, you know, some day. It's a Mournful Thyris, Pseudothyris sepulchralis. I am in great debt to Alan of It's Not Work, It's Gardening! for IDing this little moth for me! FYI, caterpillar host plants for the Mournful Thyris include Clematis and grapes. Apparently good resting spots for the adult moth include Texas Mountain Laurel.

Gosh, spring is a busy time of year. Have a happy purple day!

Squirrels Bearing Gifts


The saga of the pine cones continues. A few days ago, my last peanut-butter pine cone was nabbed by naughty squirrels, forcing me to resort to other means to put out high-protein winter bird treats. Then last night, a guerrilla squirrel left a package at our gate. The paper bag bore a note.

squirrel note 12-20-11.jpg

What tasty treats were hidden inside the bag? Why, Bur Oak acorns! Hurray!

buroakacornsb12-20-11.jpgIf you aren't familiar with Bur Oaks, I have to tell you they are one of my favorite tree species. They are gorgeous and oh so majestic, wth big lobed leaves that put other oak leaves to shame. They can get to be more than 100 feet tall AND wide. I've dreamed of having one. Of course, if I'm growing one from a baby seed, I can't imagine it getting to its full size in my lifetime, but at least I know that it will be well on its way -- assuming I can get one or more of these to germinate, that is! A new experience awaits me, and I love that.

acorncomparison12-20-11.jpgJust to give you a size comparison on the acorns, I went scrounging in the backyard to find one of our "puny" live oak acorns (it was tough -- the squirrels have pretty much devoured the acorn masses from last year). The Bur Oak is like the Hagrid of all acorns.

As pleasantly surprised as I am to learn that squirrels can write, I am rather suspicious of their motives. Let's see... squirrels nest in Bur Oaks. Squirrels eat Bur Oak acorns. Hmmm. Yep, somehow me thinks the squirrels have a secret motive. It's like when I make yummy cookies with nuts and coconut in them knowing full well that many people don't like nuts and coconut -- this means that there are more cookies for those of us that do! Even so...


Dear Squirrels,

If you promise not to dig up and eat these Bur Oak acorns, I promise to plant them. Maybe one day we will all have new trees to enjoy!

Hugs, Meredith

P.S. This does not mean it's okay for you to steal any more peanut-butter pine cones. You are fat enough as it is.


To the wonderful drive-by Santa, I want to thank you properly for the acorns, but I've spoken to a couple of folks recently about Bur Oaks and I want to make sure I thank the correct person. Confess, confess! In the meantime, thank you SO MUCH for the acorns and the fun surprise! -- Meredith

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."

bsng10-05-11.jpg bsni10-05-11.jpg  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!  :)

And Suddenly I Want More Standing Cypress


Yesterday morning I joined a group of fellow Native Plant Society members to tour another member's wildlife garden. Jackie has lived at her house since 1997, gardening from the start to make her yard a nature's delight for humans and wildlife alike.

GSjda06-11-11.jpgGoodbye Arizona Ash and a Chinese exotic tree, the name of which escapes me. Goodbye excessive lawn. Hello native plants. Hello blooms, birds, butterflies, and bees.

GSjdo06-11-11.jpg The sideyard grass path lead us to quite a surprise -- a backyard rich in color, variety, and wildlife visitors. Pipevine swallowtails were constantly fluttering around, hummingbirds obsessed over the Standing Cypress blooms, and native bees ignored all the human visitors and went about gathering pollen like nobody's bzzzzzness.


To achieve such a gathering of wildlife, Jackie plants native plants that serve as host plants for caterpillars and nectar-, pollen-, and seed-providing plants for other animals.


Of course, she also makes sure to include the very necessary habitat element of water. The above birdbath provides a drip to create water movement that birds appreciate.

GSjdn06-11-11.jpgBut just beyond, Jackie also makes use of a simpler system, a jug of water with a pinhole at the bottom, allowing a very slow drip to add movement to the birdbath water below.

An avid birder, Jackie not only provides native plants that birds enjoy, but she also supplements with multiple birdfeeders strung along long cables.

GSjdd06-11-11.jpgJackie commented that others might find the string of birdfeeders odd, but I found it quite clever. During our visit, it was clear that the birds utilized the line as a perch as much as they used the feeders themselves. Jackie hung the feeder line in such a way that sunflower seeds would fall onto the path rather than into her garden, so that she could easily control any seedlings that might crop up, so to speak.


The diversity of natives is the key to a successful wildlife garden. Jackie doesn't aim for perfect patches of neatly-arranged plant species, but lets the plants gather in natural masses in the dense cover-providing style that is found in nature and that native animals prefer. This controlled but somewhat untamed appearance is sometimes a look that other gardeners have firm opinions about, but the success of such of garden in attracting wildlife speaks for itself.


Jackie's garden exhibits a little of all lighting types -- sun, shade, and in between -- so she's able to increase the native plant and subsequent wildlife diversity just by knowing the habits of the plants she selected. Though I didn't get images of the more wooded areas in the back of the yard, the combination of trees and understory provided a peaceful habitat for those creatures more content in the shade.

GSjdi06-11-11.jpgI was jealous of all the Purple Coneflowers -- clearly I need to increase the quantity in my own garden by a lot. But I went truly gaga for the Standing Cypress. Rather than being kept together in a single mass, these tall, Dr. Seuss plants were scattered among the rest of the garden.

beeonstcypress06-11-11.jpgFrankly, I loved the effect, and visiting hummingbirds and bees said the same thing. Two-dimensional images just can't do it justice.

Back in the side yard, Jackie's Trumpet Vine (also called Trumpet Creeper) was covered in seedpods, blooms, and nectar-loving ants.

GSjde06-11-11.jpg GSjdh06-11-11.jpgThough Jackie's Trumpet Vine appeared quite under her control, this aggressive spreader can sometimes become a gardener's nightmare (it's called a creeper for a reason), but its plentiful nectar makes it a wildlife favorite.  Ants come with the package -- I found it fascinating how they laid claim to the entire vine.

Across the path from the Trumpet Vine was a Devil's Shoestring in bloom.


GSjdg06-11-11.jpgI fell in love with the creamy blooms. Why don't I have this in my garden yet?

While Jackie has greatly reduced her lawn size, she does maintain some grass for pathway purposes. In the wildlife garden, however, she uses cedar mulch. The colorful garden, alive with happy creatures, certainly was a treat. Jackie, thank you for letting us visit.

After the garden tour, Nolan and I joined others for a walk through Brodie Wild, a habitat restoration and water quality protection project in South Austin, and then it was off to the Pond Tour. At this point, my ailing camera took a turn for the worst. We'll see if I get to post photos or not.

New Garden Bed Does Well Despite Drought


The drought is hitting Texas hard -- fires in West Texas, shriveled-up lakes, suffering wildlife, and many a plant succumbing to the lack of water. But my drought-hardy natives are doing relatively fine, all things considered. The garden has toughened up for the hot summer -- it has had to, because I'm just not a person to water much. Sure, the plants would look more lush if we had rain, but lush doesn't matter in a drought. Surviving does.



The butterflies have been relatively few this year so far, thanks to the drought, but the bees have been plentiful. We've seen more native bees than ever, and even our bee boxes are getting used -- yippee. In particular, the wood ones in the shade are popular. The bamboo box is in the sun and to my knowledge has not been visited by any creature, bee or otherwise.

pondbermf06-09-11.jpgWe've been adding plants around the raised hot-tub pond, bringing the dirt up in a sort of berm. I know it doesn't look like much at the moment, but it will transform over time. As the plants grow, the pond will have a backdrop of taller evergreens, and the berm itself will be covered in wildlife-friendly plants of all shapes, colors, and sizes. The leaves you see are used as mulch -- they are doing an excellent job of keeping any weeds under control and keeping the soil moist, and they are freeeeeeeee.

pondberme06-09-11.jpgTo build the berm, we used the dirt that had been dug out to form our still fantastic sun garden pathway. Amazingly, we still have at least half of the dirt left even after creating the berm -- this will become additional contour somewhere else in the yard, most likely. Actually, I should back up in this story -- first we dug out ugly Bermuda grass from around the pond, covered the area with cardboard and newspaper, and THEN built the berm. We also mixed in some well-needed compost.


Leftover flagstone from the patio project became a pathway across the berm.


Leftover flagstone was also used to create steps to the built-in pond bench. I plan to refine the steps, but they're a start. You can see that we don't water grass. Bit by bit the Bermuda grass is dying out, and the Buffalo Grass is naturally taking over, particularly in the back half of the yard. This patch is still mostly Bermuda, though -- die, die, die.

<Momentary pause as I observe all the mockingbirds visiting the birdbath in the front. Usually I see all the other songbirds visiting but not mockingbirds. Today they seem to be staking claim, those naughty birds. I wonder if the backyard birdbaths are dry. Or perhaps (and more likely) the shaded birdbath has cooler water. Hmmmm, I'll revisit the water source locations, I guess.>

I've been transplanting plants to the berm from around the garden, and amazingly they've done well despite the transplant (organic seaweed during planting helps). The Texas Lantana is happier than ever before, not doing well in its first location near the pond pre-berm. We've got Lindheimer's Senna, Mealy Blue Sage, Gregg's MIstflower, Chocolate Daisy, Blackfoot Daisy, Milkweed, Missouri Primrose, Basket Grass, Engelmann's Crag Lily, Flame Acanthus, Rock Rose, the world's tiniest Evergreen Sumac, and non-native Almond Verbena and Dutchman's Pipevine, with lots more to come once fall rolls around.


pondbermd06-09-11.jpgAbove is a young Soapbush, Guaiacum angustifolium. It was a treasured find at the last fall Wildflower Center sale, but I didn't get it in the ground right away and I'd almost given it up for dead by the time we made it to spring. However, just look at it now. It seems quite happy in the berm. Someday it will have the most adorable purple flowers.

The wildlife moved in immediately -- always a sign that we are doing something right. The sparrows flew in to see what seeds they could find in the freshly placed soil. Doves walked up the berm, and then they walked down the berm, almost like ducklings in a row. Skippers and hairstreaks and swallowtails and bees arrived to visit new blooms.The dogs love it, too. They've got a new obstacle to run laps around, and they're actually using the flagstone path to cross the berm... most of the time.

miningbee06-09-11.jpgAnd look, a little mining bee began to work on a nest in a patch of bare earth.

The drought is terrible, but there is hope for the garden. Given that the birdbaths and ponds have constant avian traffic, I know the drought is really rough on the wildlife right now. We even had a doe visit the front yard birdbath for the first time yesterday -- I've never seen one venture this close to the house before, so she must have been really desperate.

deer06-08-11.jpgYou can see her ribs, poor little skinny thing. I don't mind the deer, but I make sure to not directly feed them (I plant unpalatable plants in the front). Without natural predators, there also isn't a natural balance to the ecosystem as would be found in the wild -- no population check. But that doesn't mean my heart doesn't go out to them during times like these. She can drink water from the birdbath if she likes.

I do have to post a picture of my friend and neighbor Jan's screech owl babies. I imagine they've fledged by now, but as soon as I heard about them, I zipped down for a picture. A-dor-a-ble!

screechowlbabiesc06-01-11.jpg That makes two successful nests in the neighborhood this year! My husband made the boxes for Jan and for our own backyard owls following the Audubon building plans. We'll tweak the design a little next time for easier access for cleaning, but otherwise, they are obviously good nest box designs.

I leave you with a parting image of a House Finch watching a sunflower seed fall.

housefinch06-11.jpgOh, well, little finch, rest assured it won't go to waste. There will be plenty of birds happy to collect it from below.

Meredith O'Reilly happily
gardens for wildlife in
Austin, TX. She enjoys
educating people of all ages
about native flora, fauna,
and healthy environments.

Nature Blog Network


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