Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What’s in Bloom – Early May 2015

The late winter and early spring bulbs have bloomed and their foliage is busy storing energy from the sun for next year's bloom. They have been followed by an array of bulbs, perennials, annuals and flowering shrubs. The flowers shown in this collage are the ones having the biggest impact currently in my garden. Clockwise from the upper left corner: 1) "Apple Blossom" amaryllis, 2) yellow columbine, 3) Texas bluebonnets, 4) winecup, 5) autumn sage, 6) white Indian hawthorn and weigela shrubs with a weigela flower cluster inset, 7) dianthus and 8) vinicolor Louisiana iris.

(Click to enlarge the images.)

Amazingly my Apple Blossom amaryllis has decided to become a perennial for me in my zone 8 garden. I expect this in zone 9 but continue to be pleasantly surprised at the return and increase in size of this tender bulb. The long spurs on my yellow columbine are eye catching. This is a great shade and drought tolerant plant. The red eyes on the bluebonnets pictured here mean they have already been pollinated. These plants come back from seed from the original plants that came from a piece of property I used to own. This winecup is a low growing and very floriferous variety and is also very drought tolerant. Autumn sage puts out a big flush of flowers mid to late spring and again in the fall. It will also bloom sporadically during the summer. This is an excellent drought tolerant shrub. Indian hawthorn (I also have a pink variety that is blooming well.) and weigela are also good choices for spring flowering shrubs. My dianthus think they are evergreen perennials that need to bloom on and off much of the year. I don't plan to dissuade them. This lovely purple iris came from a friend's garden. It has grown extra tall with our wetter than normal spring.

While I do tuck in some annuals here and there because they often have longer bloom times than perennials, I really like having rotating color spots throughout the garden by planting native and adapted perennials with different blooming periods. I hope this collage provides some ideas and inspiration for your garden.

Update: I was out this morning and realized I totally forgot to include a couple of native TX wildflowers that I have in my gardens, spiderwort and prairie phlox. Native spiderwort expresses itself in a variety of colors including hot pink, sky blue, purple and many variations on the blue/purple continuum. Both plants are very drought tolerant.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day 2015

I stumbled across a great Pinterest board a few days ago with plenty of ideas and events geared towards celebrating Earth Day brought to you by Keep Texas Beautiful. You don't have to live in the Lone Star State to find a pin there with something you can do for Earth Day, as not all of them are TX specific. At least one of the pins includes a reminder about using reusable grocery bags. Everyone should try this suggestion out.

I have gathered a small collection of reusable shopping bags. I like the insulated bags from Central Market and Target for frozen or cold foods. Also in the first photo are two clever bags that I received in a conference goodie bag. (one expanded, one stuffed) They have a pocket inside each bag that you stuff them into when not in use for compact storage and they have a small carabiner for ease of carry. The second photo includes a bag I got on a trip last summer and one that was a surprise holiday gift from Etsy last year.

I must admit I'm not the best at always using them because I don't tend to remember my bags until I am at the grocery store and the bags are still safely stored at home. However, I have gotten better at making sure I have at least a couple in my car after finding myself in Austin, needing to grocery shop, after they instituted their plastic bag ban. Luckily my purchases stacked fairly well and I made it to my car without dropping anything. Several Texas cities have followed Austin's lead and passed ordinances banning one time use plastic bags, so putting a couple of reusable shopping bags in your car just in case you find yourself in the same situation I was in would be prudent and good for the environment to boot.

Please check out the Keep Texas Beautiful board to see what you can do to celebrate Earth Day and do your part to protect Mother Earth. All of the things we do, big or small, do matter.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Earth Mother Gifts

Mother's Day is less than a month away. If you will be buying something and having it shipped, I strongly suggest that you order it at least a week before you need it to arrive. USPS has been rather slow since the first of the year and destinations that previously would receive their items by first class mail in 2-3 days have been taking a week on average. (USPS is closing and consolidating sort centers and has created a real slow down in mail service. Even priority mail has been slowed down from its norm. Enough of my rant, you have been warned, whether you are purchasing from me or somewhere else.)

If you would describe you mom as an earth mother, then she is likely to appreciate a gift of jewelry made with gemstones born of the earth. One such gemstone is quartz. When you think of quartz, the first thing that pops into mind is probably a clear crystal point. That is a very popular form, however there are other gemstones that would have also been clear quartz (SiO2) if not for mineral impurities and inclusions.

I have several earring and necklace options available that are made with several gemstones in the quartz family. You can see jewelry in the image below that, as I am writing this, is available and ready to ship. I have many other quartz components available for custom creations too. Gemstones seen in the photo that might not come to mind right away when processing the word quartz are amethyst, citrine, tourmalinated quartz and rose quartz. Some of these creations are currently listed in my EDCCollective Etsy shop. If you are interested in any that are not currently listed or in a custom order, please contact me about availability.

(Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Thanks for the Treasuries - March 2015

Seven Etsy shop owners and one Etsy team let me know they had featured one or more of my items in treasuries during March. Fourteen March Etsy treasuries, that treasury makers let me know about, included one of my creations and four treasuries featured one item from each of my shops. You can see a collage below of my items from EDCCollective and EclecticSkeptic that were featured during March. Some of them were featured in more than one treasury. (Click on the collage to see a larger view.)

I really appreciate being featured by the treasury makers. To thank them, I have listed below a link to the Etsy sellers that let me know they had featured one or more of my items, as well as an item from their shop that I like. You will also see information about the TexasFriendsTeam that also featured items of mine.

Enjoy window shopping and please click on the links of anything that catches your eye.

If you have a wine connoisseur who happens to appreciate hand made items look no further than this shop's wonderful creations.

This shop features delightful nature themed jewelry and paperweights.

This farm store stocks predominantly vintage and horseshoe home decor.

This shop owner turns graphics into button dangle earrings, hair clips, keychains and more.

This shop owner loves using old, weathered items to make new, wonderful art.

Find stuffed friends that are sweet & huggable as well as home decor mosaics.

Browse this shop to find vintage toys, collectibles, games and more.

Past, present and future Texans are welcome and encouraged to join this team. The only real rules of the group are to promote friendly, The TX Way, and be respectful to all who participate.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Bluebirds, a Success Story

An iconic, mostly North American migratory songbird, the Eastern Bluebird could currently be considered a conservation success story. I have written a few posts about the damage that invasive species and habitat destruction have on native species. Bluebird populations suffered terribly from both of these until a widespread grassroots conservation effort took hold and helped turn the tide.

Bluebirds suffered declines from the introduction and adaptation to North America of introduced European Starlings and House Sparrows. Both invasive species out competed passive bluebirds for nesting sites. Bluebirds relied on natural cavities or ones made by woodpeckers, etc. Destruction of potential nesting cavities by removing snags and replacing wooden fence posts with metal ones were two major examples of habitat destruction contributing to their decline. There can be a natural ebb in bluebird populations due to extremely cold winters, such as occurred in the south in the early and late 50's and late 70's. When bluebird populations were already greatly decreased due to invasives, habitat destruction and the widespread use of pesticides such as DDT, the survival of the species was in more peril due to natural fluctuations.

Luckily the public took notice of the precipitous decline of this pretty and melodious bird and has participated in programs aimed at helping overcome the loss of natural cavity nesting sites. The bluebird will accept artificial nesting cavities in the form of bird houses. Proper construction of the opening to the bird house can even prevent starlings from being able to hijack the nest. Check in your area for a local bluebird society that can help give you tips on bluebird birdhouse construction or check out the North American Bluebird Society webpage. One tip for putting up bluebird houses is that bluebirds are territorial and need a certain amount of space per nest. It is best to keep bluebird houses a minimum of 300 feet apart to allow enough territory for each family.

While I was growing up in the east during the 1960's and 70's small increases in bluebird populations began to be observed due to the establishment of bluebird trails and other nest box initiatives. Because I was aware of the plight of the bluebird, I was very excited when I saw my first one in the wild in North Texas almost two decades ago. I would continue to see a bluebird occasionally in a local park and then several years ago I started seeing them around my yard and pasture. One year I even got to see some newly fledged babies fly to a statue next to my pond. By the time I got my camera, two of the three had already flown off.

Every individual can make a difference in the conservation of our native flora and fauna. Through the efforts of many individuals, bluebird populations are growing again. Since European Starlings and House Sparrows are not likely to ever all be sent back across the pond, continued support by individuals is likely to be necessary for the continued success of bluebirds.

(The first image in this post is available as a matted 5x7 print. Please contact me for details if you are interested in purchasing one.)