Recently in pond, hot-tub Category

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.

Frogzilla Lurks


Any insects visiting our pond for a drink better best beware -- if they choose their landing spot poorly, they'll probably become lunch. Our pond, lovely though it is, is home to several amphibious lurkers, and these frogs are quite patient as they wait for their next meal.

bullfroga05-17-11.jpgFrogzilla is our largest bullfrog, and she's clever, oh so clever. She decided that rather than attempt to catch insects by floating in the pond with the other frogs, she'd instead lay claim to the waterfall.


I wouldn't mind this so much, except suddenly our songbirds are at risk for being on the menu. The waterfall is a favorite drinking and bathing spot for our birds.


Depending on where she chooses to rest, she is well camouflaged. Sometimes I don't notice her myself, unless I venture too close and she suddenly jumps into the pond.

bullfrogc05-17-11.jpgWhen she's back in the hot-tub pond, she takes advantage of special observation spots.



Frogzilla might be a little scary in the aquatic world, but you can tell she's been a favorite photographic subject of mine. Do you see the leopard frog with her in the photo above?


I'm so glad I'm not bite-sized.


Wildlife Spotted... and Spotted Wildlife


Say what?!!

screech05-11.jpgThat owl up there is driving us crazy, though I'm sure it would say the same about us. All day long it sticks its head out of the nesting-box hole and does NOTHING. Nothing except occasionally stick its head out farther to see what we're up to in the yard (which usually is us sticking our heads around trees to see what the owl is doing). Just go ahead and show us some baby owlets or bring in a rat or make an eerie screech owl noise or something, would you? We're so happy our screech owl is here, but it's just weird that it hangs out of the hole all day long.

GSfrog05-02-11.jpgThat being said, I have a feeling I've been unnecessarily blaming our frogs for causing the odd shortage of our once-abundant toads. Most likely I should be blaming the screech owl. After all, we've apparently set up a rather nice buffet table for the owl, which watches over the pond from its vantage point up in the nesting box. The male toads come out at night, innocently croaking loudly to attract a potential mate, and it's just possible that their call instead acts like a beacon to bring the silent predator from above right to them.

Check out who this green frog is watching -- someone better be careful!

Of course, it's entirely possible the pond frogs really are to blame -- they are certainly not above cannibalizing (toads are actually frogs, you know, and frogs will eat frogs). It appears we have created the ultimate frog haven in our hot-tub pond. The frogs spread themselves out across the water (so as to not get too close to their hungry neighbor, I assume), and then they wait for whatever moving morsel dares to venture close. I'm still trying to determine the species we have -- at the very least, we have both American Bullfrogs and Southern Leopard frogs, but the markings are odd on a couple of them.

And they are all getting big. The largest bullfrog is getting downright scary (cue "Jaws" music).


bullfrogb05-02-11.jpg bullfrogc05-02-11.jpg bullfrogd05-02-11.jpgI still have to get in the pond to get acorns and such out of it -- my spring cleaning is way overdue -- don't I look forward to it with Gigantic Freaka-Frogazoid there joining me! I'm just kidding -- I love frogs.

checkeredgarter04-30-11.jpgOf course, also on the toad hunt might be this Checkered Garter Snake -- it has a perfect waiting spot among the pond rocks. Our garden habitat is an ecosystem at work, that's for sure. All the same, I suggest all toads immediately head to our front-yard pond. It's smaller, but a little toad-safer for the time being. 

Here's one toad we found alive and well -- hop and hide, little one! Hop and hide!



Nearby, a cardinal flew in for a seed and a close-up. Blue Jays splash in the birdbaths, hummingbirds dance in sync together, doves play follow-the-leader... and still our screech owl sits in its nesting-box hole.

All around town, the wildlife and native plants are doing their best to handle drought conditions. Check out this beauty seen at McKinney Roughs -- it's a Great Purple Hairstreak.

greatpurple05-02-11.jpgDon't see any purple on it? That's because there isn't any. By the way, this little beauty's host plant is Mistletoe -- consider it a plus side to the parasitic plant.

This next image is of a beautiful little Southern Emerald Moth -- however, its wings were up instead of laying flat, and it didn't seem able to fly, poor thing. This is the second time I've seen this moth in the same condition at the same locale, Hornsby Bend.

southernemerald04-30-11.jpg southernemeraldb04-30-11.jpgThe Retamas (also called Jerusalem Thorn) lining the ponds at Hornsby Bend are in full bloom right now. These airy-yet-thorny native Texas plants tend to spread when they get plenty of water, but the bees and birds sure love them. It's understandable. Beautiful yellow blooms and thorns for protection -- sounds great to me.

retama04-30-11.jpgBees, generally speaking, do love the color yellow. Bees visiting Prickly Pear blossoms go a little crazy with it -- they act almost drunk.

pricklypear04-23-11.jpg pricklypearb04-23-11.jpgBut the winner of the bee-attracting flowers right now is the blooming century plant down at Natural Gardener.

centurya04-30-11.jpgI think several hives of honeybees came to visit.


Too bad I couldn't climb up there to get a closer look. To put the height in perspective, take a look at this:


Time to get back out in the garden while the temperatures are still pleasant with our temporary cold front -- hopefully more wildlife will join me!

The New Pond... and Still Low-Cost


Last summer, we decided to create a very inexpensive disappearing fountain for our entryway, using as many free or salvaged materials as we could. We loved the result at the time, and it cost us a total of about $40. Here's that fountain that WAS:



While the fountain gave us much enjoyment for awhile, the inexpensive pump gave us some frustration. Sometimes the hose came off. Sometimes a cat or other animal would bump the rocks or hose tip, and water would drain out. Sometimes the pump would just plain stop. Everytime this happened, we had to dismantle the fountain, move the grill, get the pump going again, add more water, and rebuild the stone mountain. The little rocks were a pain to have to move and remove, too. I couldn't buy any plants to surround the fountain, because we kept having to work with it. To top it all off, the plants that were already there all died in last winter's hard freezes. And finally, I'd had enough. A change was in order.

We already had the basic set-up (see the link above), so I figured why not turn it into a pond instead? This way, if the pump had any more problems, access would be simple and direct. Plus, we could easily check on the level of the water, and we could support more wildlife, be it toads, dragonflies, or fish. The movement of the water would keep out the mosquitoes. And so that's what we did.

We (and by we, I mostly mean my wonderful son) dug the hole a little deeper and slid the tub back down into it. Then we lined the tub and the hole with a leftover piece of rubber liner from our backyard pond, and collected some flagstone we'd gotten off Craigslist. The little $21 pump (130gph) we'd previously used officially died in this process, so we upgraded to a $36 pump (300gph) instead. We arranged the flagstone around the pond to hold the liner in place, as well as hide it, and then we added a few extra stones to create a simple waterfall. The rocks we had used for the previous fountain became part of the waterfall. 

epondc08-05-10.jpg epondd08-05-10.jpgImmediately we were thrilled. This was definitely the way to go. The trickling sound of water as you walk toward our front door sets the soul at ease right away. And the flagstone complements the house nicely and ties in to the new porch we've been working on it (you can catch a glimpse of it in one of the photos below -- it's been one of our "secret" projects. Not so secret now! And also not officially done, but very soon.)

I brought some plants from the backyard pond, and finally bought new plants to complete the whole bed. We mixed in some compost to the soil before adding in the plants and then used vitamin-rich liquid seaweed to reduce their stress from being planted in July. Since it's not a full sun area, they should be fine, despite the 100+ weather we're having.


The plants I selected to surround the pond are mostly non-native. It is a tough bill to fill, that area. Mostly indirect light, with some patches of direct sun during the day -- and I wanted small to medium evergreens, for the most part. Nothing could get too wide or too tall. That's a tough list of requirements for native varieties.

epondi08-05-10.jpg So I chose instead a Sky Pencil holly for the tallest and smallest section of the bed. It will reach about 8-10 feet tall one day but stay within 3 feet in width. Its dark green foliage is a pleasure to see, complementing the entire entryway (which has 3 beds total). Next to it is a bicolor iris. I understand that I'll have to divide this plant periodically, but I placed it near the sidewalk for easy access. As it gets big, it will look really nice next to the waterfall.

eponde08-05-10.jpg On the other side, I kept the plants smaller, because opposite them in the entryway is a very tall Yew.

  epondh08-05-10.jpg A compact Dwarf Yaupon is surrounded by Asparagus Fern.

  epondg08-05-10.jpg Behind them, Hameln Dwarf Fountain Grass is a nice accent, its soft plumes swaying slightly in the breeze. I hope it can handle the indirect light -- it would probably prefer a little more direct sun than it is going to get. This plant isn't evergreen, of course, but it should stay pretty nice most of the year and with luck will come back each spring.

eponda08-05-10.jpgAnd in the pond itself, I brought Horsetail Reed from the backyard pond and an umbrella plant that needed some TLC. I also added a bit of submerged Hornwort from the backyard pond for oxygenation. We will probably add a goldfish or some other fish in a few days, so it will appreciate the grass to hide in.

epondf08-05-10.jpgRight away we had our first wildlife visitors. Amazing what the sound of water can do. A mud dauber immediately collected little mud bits from the wet soil from the new plants. And a new butterfly appeared, choosing to collect minerals from the wet flagstone, rather than from the damp soil nearby. It's a Tawny Emperor.

tawnyemp08-05-10.jpgWith its wings folded upright, it was almost completely camouflaged. But its beautiful tan and brown colors show through when it opens its wings.

tawnyempb08-05-10.jpgTotal costs for the pond itself (I'm not including the previous pump or the new plants, just the cost of creating this one.):

Tub $11 (from original fountain)

Pump (300gph) $36

Rocks -- free

Liner -- scrap piece -- free

TOTAL  $47  

Easy, easy, easy.

The best part of the whole pond experience? Looking out the window throughout the day and seeing a pretty scene. Keeps a big smile on our faces, and it spreads the peace inside, too.   :)

Dragonfly Stalker


Like a spy did I creep and stealth, and I finally (Finally!) captured close-up shots of a dragonfly in my garden. Let's just say it's been a rather frustrating frustration of mine that the little boogers would never sit still long enough for me to get a decent photo.

But today I summoned all my powers of camouflage (well, I did have on a green shirt), resurrected my seldom-used skills of painstakingly slow movements, instantaneously froze into a well-blended-in statue when I felt big little dragonfly eyes studying me, and -- snap! -- took a picture. Repeat. Repeatedly. 

roseateskimmera05-28-10.jpgI'm quite confident that this dragonfly is a Roseate Skimmer. Eventually the pretty skimmer got used to my weird stalking behavior and let me get fairly close. If it got worried, it darted away for about a second and landed back again. One of the cool things about getting to take lots of photos of this guy was getting to watch how it tilts its head as it's looking around.


roseateskimmerc05-28-10.jpgI find it interesting that the damselflies linger around the pond far more than the dragonflies do. The dragonflies like to perch on branches, rocks, broken sticks, and the top of the cattle panel I use to keep the dogs off some seedlings. I don't ever see them just resting around the pond.


roseateskimmerb05-28-10.jpgThe damselflies, on the other hand, find the pond their favorite resting spot, be it on lily pads, Horsetail, or the surrounding limestone. Here's where my confidence in IDing the little but mighty predators goes to nill, other than to call them damselflies because their wings align with their body at rest.

damselfly05-28-10.jpgIs it a Bluet? A Dancer? I found many blue and black striped damselflies species photos, but I couldn't narrow down the exact one to match mine.

damselflyb05-28-10.jpg damselflyc05-28-10.jpgWell, I'll go out on a limb and declare this last one a Desert Firetail. And by little, I mean tiny. About an inch long. Despite its bright red coloring, it is hard to spot. My camera did not want to focus on it. It loved resting on the Horsetail in particular.


So there you have it. I get to officially check "get a photo of a dragonfly (and damselfly)" off my list. I feel so accomplished.

By the way, I've added a few resources to my sidebar that I sometimes use for IDing or learning about wildlife species I encounter. In this case, I used OdontataCentral. It doesn't mean that IDing is ever easy, mind you!

Above, Below, and Around the Hot Tub Pond


After doing a spring cleaning of the hot tub pond in April, I'm happy to report that plants and fish have recovered from winter well, and the pond life is thriving. I earlier had removed the overwhelming Dwarf Papyrus (when it eventually grew to cover the pond like a giant dome, I decided it had to go) and this spring added in some native plants that work so much better with their limestone pond setting.


ponda05-26-10.jpgThis includes Horsetail Reed, Cardinal Flower, Common Rush, two native water lilies, and this Lizard's Tail, which is rapidly becoming a favorite of mine.


Of course, I still have Pickerel Weed and the almost native Texas Star Hibiscus, and a few non-natives. This little bud...


will become a beautiful Perry's Baby Red bloom.


The Pink Sparkle is also blooming, but I missed the window on a good picture, so I'll save it for another day. And the native lilies are about to bloom for the first time -- I can't wait!

Other non-native plant species include a small Taro, the submerged Hornwort, and probably still some submerged Anacharis -- these submerged plants are extremely beneficial in oxygenating the water for da fishies and in using up excess nutrients in the pond that might otherwise encourage more yucky hair algae. In the falls, the Lemon Bacopa is finally having a chance to shine, having been overrun last fall by the Ruby Red Runner (appropriate name that). The Runner is trying to make a comeback. I'm sure it will succeed.


The pond has become a haven for a variety of wildlife. We added a few more goldfish in, trying to get an actual "gold" goldfish and some fun ones with black spots, but it turns out they are harder to see in the depths of the water. So we most often still see the orange ones, and they are getting big! Total count back up to about 10.


I'm just glad goldfish are cute and friendly, and nothing like this prehistoric-looking gar skeleton we saw at Lake Sommerville last weekend. Did you know gar can get 5-feet long?

gar05-26-10.jpgSomething has been munching a bit on some of my lily pads, and caterpillar poop all over them helped me know what to look for. It's this armyworm caterpillar, so I'm back to another caterpillar dilemma. I know armyworms are considered crop pests, but it sure is taking a risk by eating leaves in my pond. So far I'm letting nature take its course, as I have to imagine that there are far better plants the moth should lay its eggs on. If this caterpillar makes it to adulthood, it probably earned it.


These little spiders are appearing all over the yard, but above the pond is a favorite spot. It seems a great place to build a web, but it comes with great risk, too. One of these days, I'll find out what these spiders are called. (EDIT: It's a long-jawed orb weaver -- thanks, Joy!)

ponde05-26-10.jpg   The recent nightly toad calls must have successful, because we've got lots of tadpoles again.

pondg05-26-10.jpg   And how in the world did this water strider get here?

pondj05-26-10.jpgWe're far enough away from any other source of water that I can only imagine some eggs came with my native water plant purchases back at the Wildflower Center sale.

And of course we are seeing more damselflies and dragonflies than ever. Welcome, little mosquito-eating predators!


Nearby, I've made the dog pond a little more pondlike. Thanks to a hole in our old pool, we now have a green one (and recycled the old one), and a few plants and rocks and a small pump leaves it dog-friendly, more attractive, and mosquito-free. The water is dark from gravel and soil from an overturned plant a few days ago, and when I have a chance I'll clean it up a bit. It wasn't really the dogs' fault, but mine.


And around the pond, I've some small trees, shrubs, and a few perennials. Bit by bit, filling it in. This Sangria variety of Yellow Bells adds some orange to the traditional yellow.

pondi05-26-10.jpg             And the fragrance of the Almond Verbena is welcoming to the senses.

almond05-26-10.jpg We still have our disappearing fountain, and a new bamboo fountain, surrounded by native Wood Ferns, is a pleasant sound near our driveway. Anything to mask the sound of the highway cars nearby.


I'll be adding in a plant or two to hide the pump tube and cord, and I might consider a fish as well, though it won't be as protected in the winter as the fish in our deeper pond.

I'll be updating the Pond Project page shortly. (EDIT: Done!)

Return of the Swamp Thing


A spontaneous pond cleaning turned me once again into the Creature from the Black Lagoon, or barring that, at least the Swamp Thing. Six hours spent mostly in a pond cleaning out winter sludge and muck, with the remaining time spent repotting water plants, turns one into a rather disgusting and smelly abomination. And no, once again, I did not take a picture.

It was time for a spring cleaning of the pond, that's for sure, but what really prompted it today was yesterday's trip to the Wildflower Center Plant Sale. I didn't quite get there at my normal early time, so I now know what it's like to be at the back of the line (note that everyone is admiring the bluebonnets off to the side of the path).


Not only that, but I had to park way off in a neighborhood close to the highway, so it was quite a trek with my little wagon. But this line is nothing compared to the one at check-out. I've never seen it go to the back of the sale area before (comparable to a full block or two distance), and the wait was so long -- I think for some it took close to an hour just to check out!

But I enjoyed myself, and I did get to visit with a couple of fellow Austin garden bloggers and other friends. I controlled myself and only took a wagonful home, and this time it included some pond plants -- hence my venture into sludge and slime! Had it not been dark by the time I got everything done, I might have taken a picture after all... but only of the pond, not of the Creature.

Happily six of our nine goldfish made it through the winter. I'll find out in the morning whether I managed to kill any of them with my massive pond cleaning.

And now it's time to go enjoy a margarita and help my back recover from my day in the swamp...

Icy Falls


Bundled up in parkas, hats, and gloves to drive my son to his basketball game, we noticed how few cars were on the road despite the gorgeous sunny day. I guess most people decided to huddle under heavy blankets and sleep in, given that last night our area broke record lows, hitting the teens and single digits in many areas. It's cold! I love it, even if my plants don't. The cold didn't stop the kids from impressing us with their basketball skills, either. Watching them run back and forth warmed the rest of us up!

icypondc01-09-10.jpgIt's been a relatively dry cold front, but doggy water bowls, birdbaths, and ponds still show us the effects of the temperature drop. I thought our pond would be fine, given that it has a substantial waterfall, but I was surprised to find fat icicles hanging like stalactites under the falls.

icypondb01-09-10.jpgOn the side of the pond where the lilies hang out in better temperatures, a thin icy cover delighted the kids, who poked at an edge to crack it and discovered their fingers didn't care for the freezing water. And in the remaining bits of Ruby Red Runner, full frozen water drops glittered like diamonds in the sun.  

 icypond01-09-10.jpgI hope in the deep areas of the pond, we still have 9 little goldfish awaiting warmer times.

Reflections on the First Year


Has it really only been a year? So much progress has been made in our first year of gardening that it's hard to believe it happened in a mere 365-ish days. Hey, I only about destroyed my back and my husband had to have knee surgery, but what does that matter when our yard is such a pleasant place to be now? (Ok, my husband just pointed out that we can't really blame gardening for our failing bodies, but it sounded good.)

What started it all? The felling of one very dead hackberry that was dangerously leaning over our house.

reflections2009x.jpgWhen that tree fell, I had no idea that I was about to embark on a gardening endeavour of massive proportions. But I looked around my yard and hated what I saw. It was time, after 13 years of doing nothing, to do something. Even if I had no clue whatsoever about what to do. 

But apparently I figured a few things out. The rest will come when I figure those out.

Here are a few tidbits of how our outdoor world has changed. Now be warned, the overgrown state has to do with all the rain we've finally been getting -- I haven't been able to clean anything up. At least things look more green...

The backyard, before and after:


reflections2009zh.jpg The pond, before and after:

reflections2009zc.jpgreflections2009zg.jpg The back porch, before and after:

reflections2009f.jpg reflections2009zl.jpg The front garden bed, before and after:

reflections2009v.jpg reflections2009zza.jpgThere's a lot more to our yard than what you see here, and I invite you to see more. We have a long way to go, but it's fun to take a look at how far we've come. You can also hear more about the story that got us on our gardening journey.

This Garden Rocks


This garden rocks! Why? Because it has rocks. We love rocks here at Great Stems. They add character, they add unity, they can be used as benches or stepping stones, they edge garden beds, they prevent erosion, they support plants or other objects that need it, they fill up gaps in the plant areas, they make water features look natural, they provide shelter for little creatures, and they are just plain cool. 

Take this fossil, for instance.


Or this giant quartz rock, of which we found two or three on the property. I guess it's quartz -- I'm not really up on my geology. I love the way it looks surrounded by pigeonberry.


A few days ago, I removed the massive dwarf papyrus from the pond, partially for aesthetic reasons and partially because it was working on creating several new root systems. But removing it also lets me show off what is perhaps my favorite rock on the whole property. It is this rock that earned our pond the name "Gator Pond."

gatorrock10-05-09.jpggatorpond10-05-09.jpgThe rocks forming the back wall of the waterfall actually look like the back of an alligator -- I forgot to get an angled shot to show you that a little better, but I'll do that another time. Now I just need to figure out where to put my dwarf papyrus.

Removing the dwarf papyrus also let us see our fish better -- they love to frolic under the waterfall. The waves don't make it easy to take a picture of the fish, however.


And of course, we love all the rocks forming our raised pond's exterior and falls.

Sand is basically pulverized rock, and here is a big pile of it. It might look like a sandbox, but it's the sand that was under our shed before we moved it on Saturday. The kids and the dogs have been playing in it. We'll be using this sand elsewhere in the garden.

sand10-05-09.jpgAnd the dogs seem fine with the change in location of the shed. They chase one another around, past, and behind this shed. We moved the shed to make room for our next three raised veggie beds.

shed10-05-09.jpgHere are some temporary stepping stones marking the path to the bench on the raised pond. At some point this will be a real path, probably made of decomposed granite.


We use some rocks to line paths and to edge garden beds. We also use them around the base of the little backyard trees in a lame attempt to keep the dogs from charging across and breaking the trees. It works as long as they don't get crazily energized in their playing. Here's a firebush and aloe in one garden bed. Ignore the weeds. I do.

  firebushbed10-05-09.jpg And here's our newest addition, another find off of Craigslist (which is where we got the rocks for the pond). I stuck my foot in for a size comparison because this is one big rock, but I think it just managed instead to make my foot look big. I look forward to choosing plants to go around it.


And of course, our latest rock creation. Looks different without water flowing, doesn't it?

  fountain10-05-09.jpgNotice the water is turned off now. Well, it's even worse than that. We had to dismantle it to figure out why the pump started screeching yesterday. Turns out the water was gone from the basin, and we checked it for leaks, but there were none. We thought that maybe an animal drank some of the water from the top and shifted the rocks covering the tube, causing the water to splash or spray out of the basin. Or maybe a visitor moved the rocks. Or maybe yesterday's downpour shifted something. In any case, now we're worried the pump might be damaged. Only ran one day, bringing our $40 fountain to about $60 if we have to replace it. So when we rebuild it tomorrow, we're going to have to be really careful that the tube cannot shift. I'm crossing my fingers that the pump is ok.

But what's odd is that next to the fountain is a little plant stub, the remains of my pineapple sage, as if it was chewed off. Do deer eat pineapple sage? Is it possible they licked at the running water and shifted a rock? And would they come that close to my front door, especially if there's so much water available around the neighborhood right now? It could have been broken by a human, but I couldn't find the rest of the plant, if so. A mystery!

sagenub10-05-09.jpgSo I still love my rock fountain, but I will love it more when we rig it so the tube is super secure. And I might need to place a sign that says, "Deer and humans, please don't touch! Our neighborhood deer can read, I'm sure. Or perhaps eat the sign, at least. And I'm by gosh getting another pineapple sage. 

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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