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May 21, 2022. The battle of St Augustine and Bermuda
In our neighborhood, the HOA decides a lot of things for us. One of those things is the type of grass in our front yard: it must be Bermuda. While I have my quibbles with Bermudagrass (it is one of the worst weeds of my garden borders, for one), I have accepted this edict as established law, and at least appreciate its low water requirements. As it turns out, the HOA does not regulate the grass in the back yard (as long as it doesn't grow taller than our fences, I guess), and my one-time neighbor decided St. Augustine would be good to establish in some areas of his plot. A few years have passed, new neighbors moved in, and St. Augustine has steadily extended its reach. It tries to invade my backyard from under the fence, but perennial borders line the fence the whole way, so it's not too difficult to spot and remove the coarse St. Augustine runners. But the front yard is a different story: St. Augustine has crept underneath the neighbor's fence and pretty much taken over the lawn in that area – and nothing separated his front lawn from mine, so I found myself waging a losing battle against marauding runners; I know it would be only a matter of time before the HOA would insist on a complete resodding of the front lawn if it goes to mostly St.Augustine. This spring it was clear I needed to take decisive action, so I installed a line of bricks separating our lawns. St. Augustine, as far as I can tell, spreads only by stout above-ground stolons, which eventually burrow into the soil and sprout roots along their length. So I did not need a root barrier – just a way of spotting the runners before they have time to get too cozy with my lawn. After laying the bricks, I spent hours manually removing all of the St. Augustine that had already established (see photo at top right to appreciate to what extent the coarser grass was winning the battle), accumulating quite a pile of stoloniferous debris. I expect to spend more time clearing up the bits I missed through the rest of this year. In the aftermath, the contrast between the lawns is stark. The left side with St. Augustine looks lush and deep green, while the right side, where Bermuda had been under attack for some time and the invader removal process destroyed much of what was left, is frankly a mess. But I hope for a revival in the next few months, and will maintain vigilance from here on out, using my concrete fortifications as line that shall not be crossed.
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Reminds me of an Escher drawing of ants marching in different directions
May 11, 2022. A procession of buglings
As temperatures are getting steamy once again, I was taking a break from actual gardening and roaming around with my camera, when I spotted a bunch of katydid nymphs on a columbine plant. Then, when I hunched down to take their picture, I noticed another interesting procession of insects on a single stem of the same columbine. They were too small to make out what they were, but I snapped a few quick photos before returning to the katydids. When I looked at the results later, I was amazed to see that I had captured a pretty nice picture of early-stage bug nymphs (identity unknown), who appear to be marching back and forth across another set of structures (eggs? scale insects?). When I returned later, I could no longer find the insects or that stem, but I'm glad I got their mugshots.
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April 17, 2022. The eternal chase
In the earlier days of my gardening hobby, most gift-giving occasions brought new pieces of garden art to be displayed around the burgeoning borders. Only a few of them made the trip from Pennsylvania to Houston (the smaller pieces tend to have a limited life span in the garden anyway), and since then there have been a few new items added – most notably, a bicycle spinner and a big green man – but the pace has definitely slowed down. So it was time for something new, and the spirit of vacation (a spring-break trip Amy and I made to Fredericksburg) was just the incentive to come back with something new for the garden. We found this balancing act at Wildseed Farm (where alas, the wildflowers were not yet in bloom at the time) and decided it struck the right balance between whimsy and substance (in size, anyway) – so it now lives in our garden. We might consider it a monument to our aging cat Bear, who calls the back yard his home, and despite his various ailments can be spry when the mood strikes – like last week, when he brought us a dead rat, no doubt captured near our compost pile where the pickings are good for rat families. We hope that in the metal version, the feline never catches the rodent.
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Do you like my party hat?
April 16, 2022. You too can wear an anole hat
Our most common resident reptiles, the Carolina anoles, are once again out in full force. They bring a smile to my face whenever I see them in the garden – sometimes scurrying, but usually just lazing about, often in unexpected places. So it was this morning: I was sitting at the breakfast table, glancing outside, when I spotted something sprouting from the head of the metal crane that keeps watch over our pond. Venturing outside to explore, I soon found out it was a boy anole, puffing his throat periodically. A little while later, another one was using a garden ornament's head as a perch: this one had selected my rotund frog as a place to sun itself. Welcome, little lizards!
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the banquet hall is running low on food
April 10, 2022. Too many monarch babies
Oh my! It seems that this tropical milkweed, which was just starting its growth spurt as warm weather arrived, couldn't outrun the onslaught of monarch younglings. Their mama may have been over-eager in her desire to quickly find homes for her offspring, but I fear for their survival – there isn't much left to eat!

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Yucca cernua preparing for a flower show
April 09, 2022. Changing of the yucca guard
It's fun to observe and learn the habits and cycles of perennial plants – while many of them reliably bloom every year once they reach their second year (or even in their first year), others follow more particular patterns. I was reminded of this by our nodding Texas soapwort plants this year. Four years ago, I started some of these yuccas from seed, and by the next spring, I had four year-old plants to place in the garden. I put two of them in our original Houston rock garden, and two in a border at the base of a Texas persimmon. The ones in the rock garden grew faster, but both sets proved strong and hardy, growing well beyond the space I envisioned for them (but that's typical for me). Last year, one of the rock garden set bloomed for the first time, treating us to a nice display of its nodding white flowers. So I figured we'd see the whole lot of them burst into flower this year, but no such luck: this time, one of the set by the persimmon decided to send up a flower stalk (it has a way to go before actually blooming), while the others seem content to sit out the year. So now I'm tempted to number my plants, and see how they sequence their flower shows. Is it the one that was happiest the previous year that decides to bloom? Or do they follow a predictable pattern of blooming once every two or three years? Check back here in years to come – I plan to document it for myself, and for you!

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It lives!
April 03, 2022. Buying a stick
Apologies for the long hiatus – for a while, there wasn't much new to write about, and for the past few weeks, I've been busy keeping up with the springtime acceleration in the garden. I could spend a full week hacking away at the rampant weeds and still not be done! But I've made some progress, and also decided to try selling a few plants again. Not one big plant sale, as I did in Pennsylvania, but a few plants here and there on "open afternoons" on the weekends. I haven't established a reputation or a clientele yet, so it's been slow-going, but we'll see. I do enjoy potting up plants to share with fellow gardeners, and hope that most of them will make their way into suitable homes in the next few weeks. Amid all that activity, Amy and I did find some time one Saturday to go to a local nursery that prides itself on carrying native plants. One of the things we were looking for was a redbud, preferably the Texas subspecies, to replace one of the citrus trees that had died behind our pond in last year's freeze. Alongside several regular redbuds, we found one spindly texensis representative, with two of last year's leaves still attached. By the time we had hauled it to the checkout counter, those leaves had fallen off, leaving us with a pencil-thin stick supposedly worth fifty dollars. Well, we took the plunge, and watched anxiously for signs of life in the following weeks. And sure enough, in recent days, promising buds started to develop, which soon produced shiny delicate new leaves. We hope our tree will be happy in its new home and grow quickly: we're looking forward to the flower show!
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Last modified: May 21, 2022
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