Sunday, February 22, 2009

Grow Green Festival

Sunday was the Grow Green Festival at Zilker Botanical Gardens and we introduced the new guide for Austin with some 45 additions including roses, succulents, agave's and palms. We had a nice turn out and the day was just beautiful! Here are a few shots of the Green Garden, which is the one I tend and is maintained not by Zilker but by the Watershed Department of Austin. It's a demonstration garden, featuring native and adaptive plants that have low water requirements.
The quiet spot...when I take a break from working, I sit here and meditate and wait for a hummingbird or butterfly or anole or something else just as magical to visit.
The intensity of this flower is unbelievable! One day I'd love to have a simple sage garden...because there is nothing simple about it, I have over 15 varieties at home.

This is the wildlife habitat that is maintained primarily by Wildlife Stewards...the pond needs some work but the critters don't seem to mind.

Just one of the beds...the first one I worked on a few years ago now when I was a volunteer.

This is a row of Rock Rose in front of Muhly Grass, I love the contrast in texture and can't wait for the roses to bloom!
Last year we removed Iron Plant from around St. Francis because we'd lost a tree due to the hail storm so he is now in full sun. Behind him are Wine and Cheese Irises...still waiting for blooms.

The February star, Flowering Quince...destined to please on Valentines Day every year!

The fabulous ever blooming creeping purple Lantana!

How many names can one simple flower have? Bitterweed, Four Nerve Daisy, Hymenoxys...I first bought it at the old TexZen nursery with a tag that read "Desert Flower" maybe that's why they're not around favorite is TDYF, or what gardeners call...flower.that damn yellow flower!
Butterfly Weed!

We have beaucoup Bulbine!

And, due to a super mild winter...the Mexican Honeysuckle made it with no frost damage at all!
Come by the garden sometime and say "Hi." Or better yet, volunteer with us on Thursday's and learn more about Green Gardening, Texas style!
Happy Gardening!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

GBBD February,15th 2009

It's a gorgeous GBBD here in Austin, a balmy 67 right now but the temp is rising. We spent the morning putting Dromgoole's Rose Soil in our new rose beds that we laid out for Valentines Day.
I've got quite a few things blooming, nothing shocking or exciting...some things have bloomed all winter and thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens I'm realizing this for the first time!
Carol dreamed up this log-roll some time ago and garden bloggers from around the globe participate monthly on the 15th. Hop around and see what's blooming in your neck of the woods!

The bees were buzzing on this Upright Rosemary.
Purple Lantana has bloomed all winter...

My first Old Blush bloom of the season!

Unlike the upright, this prostrate Rosemary has bloomed all winter!

Salvia Greggii.

French Lavender, also a winter bloomer.

White Lantana

This Oxalis was blooming yesterday, but looked sleepy this morning.

Fringe flower

Some of my Arugala is sending up flowers, I think they are just so sweet:)

I know this isn't a bloom, but I was so excited to see the buds pop on my new Wonderful Pomegranate among the greens.

This is a houseplant, but I know the northerners count them, so I did:)

Dianthus, for some reason my little camera has a hard time with the bright reds and oranges...they always turn out fuzzy...anyone else have this problem?

Last months Loquat blooms, this months baby fruit:)

Little Kumquat buds

Carolina Jessamine blooming on the arbor, I just love the intensity of these flowers when most of the yard is dry and bare sticks...

Sweet little Four Nerve Daisy...they bloom whenever it rains, or I hit
'em with the hose. That's it for me here in Austin! I'm heading out to A&M for two days of plant talk so I gotta hit the road! Will check in on my favorite bloggers when I get back!
Happy Gardening!

Friday, February 13, 2009

CAMN Bus Trip

This is the fourth entry about the wonderful Capital Area Master Naturalist program that I am working my way through with a class of about 35 other nature enthusiasts. Last Saturday we spent the day with Geologist, humorist and teacher extraordinaire (if I could bottle this guy's enthusiasm I'd become an addict quick) Carter Keairns PHd. The day began at UT, we all parked and piled onto a lovely luxury bus for a trip around our fair city. I thought I was being plagued by allergies at the onset, but quickly realized that sickness was setting in. My memory of the day is slightly fuzzy...there was so much information to take in and a slow rising fever made it seem like a dream. So, thank goodness I had my camera as this will be more of a photo essay than story.

Look familiar? This is the view looking down while hiking up Mt. Bonnell
When I first moved to Austin, I would take every visitor here, and my energetic kiddo's if I needed to run them up and down the mountain to slow the sheer giddiness of little girls.

I hadn't been in about 7 years and was a little in shock by the development and radical wealth. It's amazing that another world lies just east of I35.

I had to put this shot in, just one of Carters expressions that I managed to catch more than any other look! He was so livid and engaging...people were joining our group because he demanded attention...not intentionally of course.

I can't tell you how many different maps of Texas we saw...from every age as far back as the story goes and has been interpreted by geologists. This was the beginning of what made this day seem unreal...Austin the former location of 11-12 ancient volcanoes...I had no idea!

There wasn't a moment of silence, the lecture continued from site to site...

Over Penny Backer Bridge looking south.
We didn't get out of the bus, but pulled up right next to this geological map of the ages...HWY360 cut through a hill...the yellow strip at the bottom, being the oldest layer is the Glen Rose Formation, going up from there is the Bull Creek Member, the Bee Cave Member, Cedar Park Member and on top the Edwards Formation...all representing time passing as the shallow ocean rose and fell.

We had a pit stop at Barton Springs and out came the maps to explain the magic of the Edwards Aquifer...we will be spending more time here on a future visit.
This map was amazing as it showed images from space through the times (computer generated of course) and Carter had outlined Texas in red to help clarify when and how the landmass looked when we (Texas) were underwater. The description made me think that I'd moved here a few million years too late...mmm a shallow clear warm ocean.
Next stop was Travis High School...what? I had no idea that Travis H.S. was on the edge of a preserve. How many times had I driven this road and missed this sign?

The gate was locked. That didn't phase our leader, who strolled up the road, found an exposed area and began the lesson in the street. What looks like dirt behind Carter here is actually chalk with a little settlement on top, so shallow that the kids had carved their names exposing the white lettering. Also embedded were tons, and I mean tons of fossils.

Chalk wall with fossils.
Part of the path looking toward St. Ed's in the distance.

Apparently the Admin. building at St. Ed's sits atop an ancient volcano...snicker, snicker...mumble air-heheheheh.

We finally hit the teachable moment that clearly explained it layers of weathered limestone, indicating time when the clear shallow ocean was home to healthy algae, which remain as the calcium carbonate white layers, spaced between some 5 or 6 clear red volcanic layers! It's all coming alive now!

Just down this slope we looked back to see clearly what the cartoon picture explained.
You have to look carefully, but the red volcanic layer lies about an inch above the boulder at the bottom of the picture...

The next stop was in the middle of an empty field...what's going on here?

Meet Jon Brandt, soil expert with USDA-NRCWS Texas Soil Survey explaining...what is soil? The product of old rocks...naturally...but why such an ugly field? Well, this field is an example of vertisol...the most amazing breathable soil that is rich and self mulching, as it has the ability to expand and shrink slowly turning itself over...a builders nightmare, a gardeners dream. There are 12 types of soil in the world, vertisol comprises only 13 million acres...6 million in Texas...beautiful living soil!

Here's a plug of what this soil looks like deep down, chunky black gumbo...this time of year, just before our lovely rain earlier this week...the cracks in the soil were nearly an inch wide...but the bluebonnets were profuse in spite of the gotta love 'em!
One square meter of soil is the required amount for a thorough sampling. We were looking at a description of what we were standing on. Five factors explain soil, they are:
1. what is there? Parent material
2. living organisims, plants, animals, insects and microbes
3. climate/weather
4. landscape relief, topography
5. time.

Here we split into two groups for our exercise, which I had seen done several times now over the past few years of garden classes...where you take a handful of soil, add a squirt of water and work it into a ball, then you pinch a ribbon between your fingers, seeing how long it can get before it splits off and breaks... it's a pretty accurate account of the soil make-up...
sandy, loam, clay or silt.

Dove scat...why are they all together...probably nesting.
Deer scat, old and new...everywhere! The next class is on scat! Yea!
This is the last image I shot...the most obvious remains of the largest volcano...Pilots Knob. We didn't even get off the bus...this was as close as we could get because it's now privately owned. Apparently, this 79 million year old bump in the ground, give or take a million years on either solid black basalt...just like the ocean floor.
The story of Austin beneith us is amazing. As I'm driving around town I'm drawn to the simple rise and fall of the landscape, and feel blessed to have a yard full of rich black gumbo...a pain in the butt sometimes, but what a marvelous story to tell!
I have to give a shout out to Carter and suggest that anyone living in the San Antonio area check out his class at UTSA, I'm sure it's hard as hell but man, you will learn! He's a master teacher...and not because of his education necessarily...he's that captivating. Way to go CAMN curriculum planners...we gotta keep him, and Jon both!
Happy Gardening!