Is it possible to be grateful for kudzu? I believe it is, even though I won’t permit it to smother my trees and shrubs. The vine in this photo isn’t actually kudzu, but it is kudzu-like in its tenacity; I periodically have to yank it off my shrubs so they can breathe. (I wanted to have a rhyming title today, and “Et tu, ivy?” didn’t fit the bill.) What I like about this vine is that it can be used as natural twine; having pulled it off the shrubs, I strip it of leaves and wind it around various plants that need to be staked or trellised, like my sunflowers and tomatoes. I’m also grateful for the bloom next to the vine, which is (I think) a dayflower.
I find I’m particularly fond of native bees, although I despair of ever learning to identify them. I surfed around and found Join the Conversation about Native Bees, which may contain the answer. Maybe this one is an anthrophora centriformis? What I do know is that I love this bee’s pollen baskets, which are so full they look like woolly leg warmers!
And I’m thrilled with this sunflower, which was liberated last week during the Wild Sunflower Caper. I removed it from a construction site, where it was slated to be bulldozed for the building of yet another strip shopping center. I transplanted it into the fifth row of my wildflower garden; and not only has this plant survived, it is already thriving. Wild sunflowers are tough!
Today has been a tougher day to be grateful, as my allergies are tearing me up. But the garden still has gifts to offer, starting with a white crab spider. (I assume that’s what it is. Remember, I’m an amateur.) The spider is sitting on an okra leaf; and although I certainly felt grateful to have the opportunity to take this picture, the spider was looking none too pleased, threatening me with two sets of front legs. So I moved on, not wanting to cause this arachnid undue distress.
To my delight, I discovered that my Armenian cucumbers finally have some female blossoms! I’ve been waiting at least three weeks, with the plants covered in blooms but stubbornly producing only males. At long last! I may get to find out what an Armenian cucumber tastes like after all.
And the last item on our gratitude list today is a Texas Yellow Star. This plant has been blooming prolifically in the wildflower garden for a month; my gratitude comes from finally being able to identify it. It’s nice to be able to get a sense of accomplishment from such small things.
Today, this butterfly is our gratitude winner! It even managed to strike a pose on a bluebonnet, with a morning glory in the background. Awesome. And I’m amazed that I still have a small sprinkling of bluebonnets in the wildflower garden, even though it is the end of June.
Apparently, today is insect gratitude day, as a bee obligingly held still long enough for me to get a shot of it posing on a Flying Saucer morning glory. I do not know the species of my winged visitors, so I will surf for info and get back to you. (Update: looks like the butterfly is a Checkered White, Pontia protodice. But don’t quote me on that. I am no lepidopterist.)
And I’m grateful for the Flying Saucers, too; the blooms vary in color from almost white with pale blue streaks to royal blue with a few white streaks. I found this one blooming next to a stalk of horsemint.
Coming in the next few days: documentation of this wonderful, minimally-invasive way to start gardening with whatever ground you have, and to improve the soil in the process.
I got the idea by reading Jack Guidry’s article on No-Till Peas. I’ve modified his method a little bit due to having a rather small yard, as well as being far too detail-oriented for my own good. The above photo is from my first front-yard garden, planted in 2013.
People who live in places like Seattle will now be rolling their eyes and saying, “Um, so?” But people who live in Texas and the Southwest will understand my excitement. Based on official totals at DFW airport, we’re more than 10 inches behind on our annual rainfall so far this year. I am therefore acting like a kid at Christmas, and of course I have pictures of my gifts to show off!
The marigold is a gift plant from one of the many packets of free seed I received from a friend last winter. The morning glory is a Star of Yelta; I originally planted this variety from seed in 2007 and I’ve had morning glories volunteering every year since then. I am particularly fond of volunteers.
Here’s another Star of Yelta, sporting its dewy raindrops. This one volunteered in a random flower pot.
And below are some black-eyed susans and four o’clocks planted in 2008 or thereabouts, in one of the backyard beds. Wearing their sheen of moisture, they’ve never looked happier.
And now for the bonus shot, an African Daisy that’s blooming in one of the “domestic” flower beds and hanging on to its raindrops as long as possible. I’m updating this post several hours after I started, and it looks like we’ve had almost an inch of rain. I absolutely must purchase a rain gauge…
Every morning, I grab my camera and go take pictures of the garden’s latest surprises. It’s like finding Easter eggs! The garden has several for us today–a purple petunia, a Mexican sunflower, a Dwarf Incredible sunflower, and the Mystery Flower. I’ll be researching the last one and posting about it later when the mystery has been solved.
Although the plant is only two and a half feet tall, Dwarf Incredible sunflower blooms are full size. This one is the first bloomer on the front row of the wildflower area, and I noticed it is being visited by a lot of bees. The local pollinators think the front yard is a pretty good restaurant.
This is the Mystery Flower! To the left is a marigold that hasn’t started blooming yet. (After Googling for images, looks like this is a Pink Catchfly. I scattered one pack of these seeds in with the wildflower seeds early this spring.)
…And this is the Mexican Sunflower. The plant is four feet tall.
My front yard is the only area of my property that has southern exposure, and thus the only place I can plant most wildflowers and vegetables. I overcame my fear of the neighbors–(Would they think I was nuts?) and of various Dallas/Fort Worth authorities–(Would I be violating landscaping ordinances?) and set to work. So far, the city, my neighbors, and my garden are coexisting in harmony.
The majority of my plants came up from seed given to me free, gratis, and for nothing. I provide the labor, and my husband mows the perimeter. This garden has helped me regain my sanity, which had vaporized after a number of years in corporate America. I’m actually feeling human again–much more connected to myself, to other people, and to life in general. I am grateful for my flowers and food and want to share the bounty with the online gardening community, which has given me a lot of good ideas about how to get things to grow.