Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Orchids for Valentine's Day!

It's Valentine's Day and the perfect time to visit E. D. Huntington Orchids + Tropicals.  Last fall my neighborhood garden club took a tour of this local orchid grower and retail shop.  Owner Liz O'Toole started collecting orchids when she lived in Santa Barbara, California and eventually brought her passion back home to San Antonio.

We were quickly taken by bright colors and interesting structures of a variety of orchids.

I didn't try to document the names, just enjoy.

I had fun exploring orchids not in bloom.

Aisles of hanging orchids with so many structured forms.

Official greeter Andy Warhol the rescue dog enjoying the attention.

Other tropicals like a giant Huernia were on display.


Liz O'Toole, the owner (front and center), sharing her tips for growing orchids and tropicals.

Orchid arrangements in a variety of containers ready for customers to take away.

Iron Cross Begonia looking impressive

Banana-shaped stems called pseudobulbs are used in propagation.

Staghorn Fern fans were in love with this unusual pleated fern which a friend dropped off as a small seedling for Liz to keep.

Another of the impressive Staghorn Ferns on display.

Nicely planted screens on the outside of the greenhouse.

Liz started out as a customer and eventually purchased the business about six years ago.

Open daily from noon-6 p.m. and well worth stopping by if you are in the area just north of the San Antonio airport.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Wildlife Wednesday: February 2018

It's the first Wednesday of February and that means Wildlife Wednesday hosted by Tina at "My Gardener Says....".  It's still cold down here in South Texas on most days so wildlife sightings are not as easy. But I did observe a few interesting things this month.

One bright spot in winter are the Cardinals which visit our feeder almost daily.  The best squirrel-proof feeder we've found is this small basket suspended on flexible electrical cable.  The original top degraded in the sun and we replaced it with a plastic bowl from the thrift store.  The feeder is too slippery for squirrels and also keeps out larger birds like Pigeons and Jays.

They often appear in pairs taking turns at the feeder and are quite thoughtful of each other.

Speaking of squirrels.  What we have here is a stand off....

...with the cat.  She arrived as a feral cat and has tamed down quite well though she is still an outdoor cat.  We have also made sure she cannot reach the feeder so it all works.

We have both foxes and coyotes in the neighborhood.  Last month I showed you a coyote walking through the yard in daylight.  Below is a fox on the deck.  She's not happy there's no food in the cat bowl and leaves a mark in disgust.  I originally labeled this as a coyote but Anna pointed out it is a fox.  They are similar but the fox is smaller with shorter snout and more fur.

We now place a gate across the steps to help keep coyotes away from the house.

The deer herd has migrated back to our end of the creek and we should be seeing new fawns soon.  Not much to eat with such dry plants out there.  They don't eat the prickly ash juniper which is the only green in the background.  While several of our neighbors feed the deer, we have chosen not to with the exception of water in the heat of summer.

She's still not happy about being fenced out of the garden.

Check out the comments section at "My Gardener Says..." for more blogger backyard wildlife.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Wildlife Wednesday: January 2018

It's the first Wednesday of 2018 and that means Wildlife Wednesday hosted by Tina at "My Gardener Says....".  It's also been really, really cold down here in South Texas for the last week or so.  Not as cold as some places we've lived, but we chose not to retire to Boston for good reason.  With busy December behind us, I did get some cool wildlife photos.

American Robins joined us for Christmas week this year.  Tell a child the Robin's scientific name is Turdus migratorious and they just might find bird watching more fun.  My kind of fun fact is their eggs are the same color as a Tiffany box.

True to the "migratorious" designation, Robins are only temporary spring and fall visitors so we don't get to see their nests or eggs.

Round orange bellies and active, assertive personalities make them fun to watch while they're here. 

Coyotes have been increasing in numbers around our neighborhood which is a serious cause for concern since they have been taking pets and deer.  We've heard the pack at night loudly tearing into their latest catch.  While the local deer herd could use a little thinning it's a very unpleasant sound.  I was quite surprised to look out from the kitchen around 5pm last night and spot a coyote wandering across the yard in daylight and sub-freezing weather.

He must have been looking for water but it was all frozen.  Neal went out and made some noise which is the best response according to the city website.  Make them feel unwelcome.  Okay, that's pretty much the case since I really don't want to look up from weeding some day and find one of these canines walking around like he owns the place.

Despite all appearances, we don't live in the country.  There's a 9-story hotel looming over the back yard and 70-foot high flyovers of a major freeway interchange are just a few blocks away.

We're warming up fast and should be back in the 70s by Sunday.  That's a good 50 degrees warmer than yesterday!

Check out the comments section at "My Gardener Says..." for more backyard wildlife.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Texmas!

I like to change my Christmas decorations up a bit each year.  This year it's the Red, White, and Blue theme which made its first appearance in 2001 shortly after the 9/11 attacks in New York.

For 2017 I decided to honor my home state of Texas.  The last few months have been tough ones with Hurricane Harvey flooding my childhood neighborhood in Houston and seeing devastation along the Texas coast. 

A wreath inspired by Pinterest sets the stage.

Tree lights are arranged to reflect the Texas flag complete with a star.

Outside we also have blazing stars....

....and patriotic "candy cane" trees.

I love the way the porch is so welcoming.   Trees flanking the walk are tomato cages wrapped with green garlands.

Lights from inside reflect through the glass.

No Saguaros in Texas but chili lights over barbed wire works with the theme.

A deer skull with red eyes for the mantel this year.  Light strings caught in antlers is something we see from time to time.

Bucks have been seen walking around wearing dangling lights until the antlers drop in spring.

Wire stars, chili lights and shed antlers fill out the scene.

The red "blob" is a lighted chili ristra.

A little Christmas bokeh.

Wishing you the warmth of a Texas Christmas wherever you are!

"There may not be snow in San Antonio, but it's a Texas Christmas to me" (George Strait)

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Maples, bitter oranges and other thoughts on Fall turning to Winter

While most places waved goodbye long ago to autumn's turning leaves and fading blooms, South Texas (despite one freak snowstorm) enjoyed our usual long, warm fall season.  The temperatures have been in the mid-70s the past few days so I've been out walking. 

One of my favorite neighborhood sights during fall is this maple tree which bursts into bright yellow-orange for a few days each fall.  It's probably a Shantung Maple from China because the leaves look smaller than our native Big Tooth Maple.

While the Red Oak next door gets good color it's the evergreen tree just in front that is quickly becoming a favorite.

Our neighbor brought seeds for this sour orange tree from his native Honduras.  The trees are descendants of Seville oranges brought to the New World in the 17th Century by Spanish explorers.

Sevilles are not pretty grocery store oranges and their bitter juice is astringent on the tongue.  High pectin content makes them excellent for marmalade which I had fun making last year.

This year I used them in Mojo, a citrus marinade, for grilled chicken and also made a delicious Sour Orange Pie.  Most "Sour Orange" recipes include various methods to approximate the taste of hard-to-find Seville oranges so I am very appreciative that I have been invited to take as many sour oranges as I can use.

Sticking with the citrus theme we have a bumper crop of Mexican Limes which are the same as Key Limes.   It usually takes about 20 of these tiny fruits to make a Key Lime pie but so worth it since lime juice doesn't get any fresher than straight off the tree.

Meyer Lemons are ripening just in time for Lemon Cheescake.  So nice to have fresh lemon and limes at hand.

We finally produced a Pomegranate with seeds worth eating!

There are five fruiting Pomegranate trees in the garden which look great but rarely produce good seeds before rotting or splitting.

In more news, the front landscape survived last week's snow with very little damage.  Not a bit of tip burn on the Cycad.

Golden Barrels are fine, just a little wet.

Seedheads on grasses are heavy with all the rain we've had this past week.

Fortunately most of my dry-loving plants like this Yucca gloriosa 'Variegata' are planted in fast-draining gravel.

One more warm day and then we'll have a cold front.

It's raining again this morning.  No snow predicted for Christmas.