Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tree Folks Urban Forest Steward Program at Hornsby Bend

Yesterday was the first class in a series of 5 all day Saturday classes of the Tree Folks Urban Forest Steward program.  Below is the list of goals for the class:

 After introductions, which were impressive as most of the students are heavily involved in volunteer efforts in their own neighborhoods as well as several Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists, we met the staff  and had an address from Mr. Keith O'Herrin of the City of Austin, PARD forestry department on the state of the urban forest.    The summary was very interesting and shocking at the same time.  Currently there is the development of an Urban Forest Master Plan in the works and after hearing some of the statistics, it's a darn good thing.

To date, Austin owns about 25% of the public space inside the city limits and a recent survey of trees found that we only have 40% of possible spaces planted, as opposed to say Milwaukee which has 98% of its public available tree space filled.   We need an army of tree stewards to set this straight!

What we can call our tree resources to date is 125,000 street trees...those are the trees between the curb and the sidewalk, 175,000 park trees on 4,000 acres and 15,000 acres of undeveloped parkland.

The thing that caught my ear was his idea that street trees should be thought of as utility.  The money saved from trees is amazing...and the next speaker, Ms. Ana Gonzalez (below) also from the forestry department, went into further depth on that issue as she spoke to us about "The Benefit of Trees."
 We all love shade, especially in July but the Environmental, Social, Psychological and Economic value is enormous.  Ms. Gonzalez was a lively and entertaining presenter.

We next heard from Ms. Denise Delaney on right tree, right place...I think most of us were familiar with that but the graph below I found to be a nice tool for testing soil drainage.
After what looked like a fantastic lunch from Central Market, we heard from Mr. Keith Brown of Austin Tree Experts on the "trees of central Texas."  Again, an engaging presentation from a certified Arborist who has some definite opinions about what to and what NOT to plant...I didn't agree with everything he had to say...but mainly because I'm a fan of fruit trees, as he is not.
April Rose, Executive Director of Tree Folks brought in several samples of trees to help the class begin learning about tree identification through keying out the various kinds of leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds and nuts.
The facility at Hornsby Bend is lovely and comfortable and the day was respectfully divided up with lots of opportunity to meet new people (my favorite part) and gather information!
After looking at the various leaf types and patterns, we had a worksheet to fill out while we investigated the trees outside.(there was a drawing second favorite part!)
April Rose, Executive Director of Tree Folks, Austin, Texas
When we could take the heat no more...we went inside to debrief and had a short quiz!  Today on my morning walk, I used the trees along the arroyo as a refresher in keying them out and I wanted to see if the top 5 trees in town were the most abundant here in Crestview...and sure enough...that's what I found!
Live oak, Crapemyrtle, Hackberry, Pecan and Cedar Elm...only not so much of the last one.

It was a fabulous day and I got to spend it with several folks I already knew from various other organizations and from one of my favorite neighbors and friends, Emily Wilson, the Vice President of our neighborhood association.  I think I'm going to try and get Ms. Rose to speak at CAMN!  We all live in this beautiful city, and we all need to consider planting a few trees.  Last year Tree Folks planted 13,000 trees with a staff of 4 and 3,000 volunteers.  They have a variety of programs that you can apply for to get trees for your neighborhood and the application process is easy!  I was able to get 17 trees for my street a few years ago and it's really helped cool the street and allowed neighbors to work together and get to know one another in a responsible, caring way.  

The program that I am most interested in presently is The Urban Orchard Project, which is on hold until 2013, but these are available now:
City Shade
Neighbor Woods
Sapling Days
and a variety of educational classes!  Read about them here at

You can also become a member and donate $ to trees if time is short!

There are 4 more classes to the series and I can't wait for the next one!  Thanks for joining me here and...

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Oh, What the Rain Brings!

I've been sick about losing my American Elm and a big part of that was thinking that  my tiny pet's St. Augustine, would die because it's a shade grass.  Well, since the tree's been gone the other trees have stretched up and the past week of rain has left my lawn looking like a shag carpet from the 70's!  You can't even see the rock edging!  
 What is quite disturbing is this bird bath.  Before the rain it had a bunch of gunk on the I'm worrying about the quality of the rain.  What on earth could scrub a concrete fixture clean...other than say...acid?  I'm not sure what to make of this.
 On the other hand, the plants seem to be thriving...this is my second flush of chili petin!
 And...I've never seen blooms on the asparagus fern before!
 And, it's grown right out of the top of the chiminea planter!
They say we got between 5-8 inches last week over several days...which was just so amazingly lovely and cool.  All of the plants in the garden said ahhhhh.  Today, I had to get out there and cover the greens garden back up...2 days without rain and full sun...everything was wilty.

Once again I missed the Garden Blogger's Bloom Day so I'll just put the list here...this is what's blooming right now in my yarden:

prairie verbena
blue mealy sage
purple trailing lantana
eggs n' butter
coral vine
butterfly bush
butterfly weed
red yucca
Patrick's abutilon
ice plant
David's cuphea
Autumn sage
Pride of Barbados
Greg's mistflower
shrimp plant
Mexican honeysuckle
asparagus fern
passionflower vine
datura (moonflower)
Turk's cap
purple cone flower
pigeon berry
silver cassia
quince tree
crape myrtle
orange esperanza
firecracker fern
almond verbena
black and blue sage
chili petin

Post rain tally 39... a lot of this stuff wouldn't usually be blooming now.  The rain has been a blessing!

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Life in my Garden

My yard is a Certified Wildlife Habitat, like so many Austinites (Austin has more habitats than any other city)...which means that I keep my yard filled with blossoms, year round and I change and re-fill the bird baths, hummingbird feeders and bird feeders regularly...but most importantly in summertime, the baths.  I had the pleasure of attending my first TOWN (Texas Outdoors Women Network) meeting last week and got to hear Val Bagh of the Butterfly Forum speak..and if you have one of those nifty Butterflies of Central Texas fold outs, that's hers and the talk was fantastic!
 Newly invigorated by a seemingly manageable amount of information, I headed out to my host plants to check out the scene.  Above is the Gulf Fritillary on one of my many passionflower plants going into it's customary 'J' formation, and swelling before it becomes a chrysalis.   My Wordless Wednesday photo today is the chrysalis in it's latter stage...I kept my eye on it for 2 days, but missed the exit.
 In case you've not seen the beautiful Passionflower vine, here is it's wild and beautiful blossom!

Below is a long line of images of one of two mating dances I witnessed this week.  I sat for nearly 5 minutes to capture the dance, but when I turned on the flash...not sure if any of my images were taking, I scared the male away...I have no idea how long it would have continued.

 She was very slowly opening and closing her wings, while he was just going crazy with up and down motions...being very careful of the yucca.

 Close call!

 I love the image below because it's as if he's just beating his wings, while remaining composed.

He left soon hereafter.
 This pair I caught the next day, but I didn't have my camera at first.  By the time I came out, they were finished...I guess, or sick of me they split.

 All the drama beneath the pomegranate the West Greens Garden.
 And in the front yard, while I was busting up the cement-hard mulch and trying to revive my peppers...which after 2 days of not watering decided to lay down...I was able to resuscitate all but one tomatillo.  I heard the familiar trill of Woody Woodpecker and looked up into my dieing Sycamore where I've had baby ladder-back woodpeckers for the past several years.  The first thing I noticed was mama Dove in a new nest.
 Quiet and calm as usual.

 But when I looked to the right on the nearest branch I saw 2 little guys chasing and pecking around the trunk.
 They soon disappeared into the bottom of the two holes and mama swooped down from the neighboring Elm.

 Here you can see just how close the birds are.
I've been told by 2 different arborists that this tree needs to go.  The branch with the woodpeckers is dead with a long silver stripe up the back of that branch on the other side, extending down through the main trunk. It's going to be a very sad day when it has to come down...I wish it weren't so close to the house.
 In the past I've had bluejays...4 years in a row, until last year a mama mockingbird took 2 days to take that nest apart and build a new one just one rose over.  She didn't return this year.  We also have a Carolina Wren's nest in another rose arbor in the back, but it's so deep in, and every time I go out to grab a shot, she takes off.  It's too high for me to reach and I don't want to stick my arm through the rose, anyway.

I'm currently reading a fabulous book called Illumination in the Flatlands, by John Hutto and it's about imprinting on a group of wild turkeys!  I miss my chickens but am enjoying all the beautiful life in the garden in the wee cool hours of the morning!  What's in your garden?

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

News From Hades, TX...

Greg grows the spice...well, he orders the onions and plants the pepper starts, then I do the rest...but once they're on the counter, he usually does the cooking.  I'm more one for eating raw.  One guess as to what he's making for dinner?
 That's right...Texas Chili, all from the garden...and some prime organic beef as well!
 I was looking for something to share for Wordless Wednesday when I discovered these Siamese twins.
 Yesterday was the hottest day on record for Austin in the month of June, 108...this is what it looks like this morning.
And this is a little Russian cup my sister-in-law sent me, it was an elephant but when the Elm dropped a branch, it lost it's it's become a butterfly feeder.  Please don't forget our pollinators and animal friends in this horrid weather...refill your bird baths daily!
Tonight's speaker at CAMN is Michael Warriner and he has this to say about the talk: “Despite their critical roles in agriculture and natural ecosystems, bumblebees have gone relatively unstudied in Texas.  The last published review of species in the state was in 1912, 100 years ago.  There is a real need to evaluate the status of these insects in our state to assess how their populations are faring and if conservation actions are needed.”

CAMN meetings are open to the public and begin at 7pm at the Nature and Science Center at Zilker Park.

Happy Gardening!

Friday, June 22, 2012

This Week at CG

This is the Texas eyed click beetle, or Alaus lusciosus, in my front yard on Thursday.  I've seen them before but decided to look him up to learn a little bit about him and why I don't always see these in the yard. Notice where he is?  Well, they are normally found in hardwood forests and this guy was right under where I had moved an Ash stump.  
 They're harmless, and hardly eat much once they're above ground but the eye spots can be spooky!  This guy ranges from Texas to Florida and northward all the way into Canada.  They have a special movement where they arch their backs and spring or snap out...which helps them to right themselves if found on their backs.  The eye spots are just that...their real eyes are small and up front...apparently the big eyes helps thwart attacks from birds and other prey because it startles them and they usually move on.
 Soon after snapping that shot I had a few friends over for a little breakfast nip...Bloody Mary's or what I call a salad with a kick!  My friend Meredith had never had one, and I was determined that she should...though she did warn me that she wasn't a tomato fan.  My thought is that if you add at least 4-5 veggies, you justify that wee shot (or two) of vodka...big whoop!
 I always start with red onion (from the garden) and smash it up below the ice to spice up the juice...I prefer Zing Zang or Opal Divines...but the IGA was out, so V-8 had to do.  The photo above show the veggies, minus the peppercini which I forgot!
 So, we had carrot, celery, onion, olives, a sprig of cilantro, horseradish, tumeric, ground black pepper, lime, Worchestire Sauce a shot of potato vodka (I'm avoiding wheat or I'd have had one of our famous Texas Vodkas) tomato juice...stir!  Yum, a great way to start an otherwise boring day, though I don't really think anyone can be bored if they just open their eyes.
 We've been walking outside in the evenings around 8 to watch the purple martins dive, swoop and swirl!
(Photos by loving spouse)
 A few years back, I talked the groundsman at the church, who is a retired carpenter, into building a Martin house and it's been 3 years now...and they hang out nightly!  The church people are clueless, as the show isn't during operational hours!
 Join us some night !  We'll be in our jammies, cocktail in hand enjoying the neighbors and the view!

 While checking on the basil status, I just had to grab a shot of the ruellia I thought I'd removed when I changed the shape of the's just so hard to get rid of...anybody want some?  It's the pink variety.
 Above, is a Carolina Wren's nest that I found this week while watering my Cecille Bruenner rose, below: Machlaw eggplant...the first one!
 ...and the second round of Lebanese eggplant, these were delicious on the grill!
 The "not so often seen" in the garden cat...Persephone Sage, my daughter Autumn's old girl, and the mother of my beloved garden cat, Bob.  She's a yodeler, an indoor sleeper who gets a bath regularly...and loves it.
 This is the place I dumped out the 'rest' of the package of basil seeds this spring!
 Here's the harvest and the first round of pesto making today.
I don't put pine-nuts in my pesto because it's not good for my I've read, so I add organic walnuts instead and have come to prefer the bitter edge.  Anyway, I'd include a recipe...but I don't really's a consistency thing and I think everyone does it their own way...anyway I have it, I love it!

 My sweet kitchen help, Autumn, home from college.  She made a peach cobbler last week that was divine!
 We only got 51/2 jars, which is pretty tiny...but I hope we'll have a few more harvests before it gets cold.
And here was lunch today with tomatoes from the garden!  What's going on in your garden?  I hope lots of yummy food and spices!  

Happy Gardening!