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Garden Journal

Eastern Screech Owl
Approx 1998 - Jan 4th 2010.

This is where I enter notes on whats going on in the garden throughout the year. I talk about general maintainance of the garden, such as pruning and planting that I'm doing, as well as some of the wildlife attracted to it as each month goes by.
Hope you enjoy it!


I heard a bird sing In the dark of December
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.

'We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.

- Oliver Herford, I Heard a Bird Sing

16th - Yesterday was such a warm day with temps in the 70's yet now the highs are only in the 50's with a crispness to the air. Birds are flocking the feeders with plenty of Junco's, wrens and yellow-rumped warblers. Doves are huddled together in different areas, making use of the sun.


I am rich today with autumn's gold,
All that my covetous hands can hold;
Frost-painted leaves and goldenrod,
A goldfinch on a milkweed pod,
Huge golden pumpkins in the field
With heaps of corn from a bounteous yield,
Golden apples heavy on the trees
Rivaling those of Hesperides,
Golden rays of balmy sunshine spread
Over all like butter on warm bread;
And the harvest moon will this night unfold
The streams running full of molten gold.
Oh, who could find a dearth of bliss
With autumn glory such as this!
- Gladys Harp

1st - Amazing the difference a day makes to the weather! Much cooler today. Yesterday was mid 80's and today a high just in the 70's, but fitting for the first day of November.
Green Anoles are perching on south facing leaves of assorted plants to warm up in the little sun we had today and the Eastern Fence lizards are finding any available dark, sunny rock to call their own! I can't blame them.... I like a hot rock myself sometimes!
Chrysanthemum's are in full bloom right now for some nice Fall color, as is my Yarrow, Salvias, Lantana's, Ruellia and Mexican bush sages, which are covered in honey bees. A new Salvia I had planted in the Spring I noticed finally had flowers on it this morning! Its a very tall salvia, about 5 feet with sprays of yellow blooms at its tips.
Lots of House Finches are flying around and I had a Lincoln's sparrow scratching underneath the feeders this morning. Also, because it's been so mild out I've been leaving my doors open and have been paid a visit a few times this week by two Carolina Wrens, flying into the living room, perching on the tables and flying out the other end! They're so nosy!


"There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on,
and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October."

- Nathaniel Hawthorne

27th - A couple of Coopers hawks have been hanging around the neighbourhood, sitting on telephone poles or hiding in nearby trees. They've also been frequently calling to each other.
Woke up to the sound of geese honking overhead this morning. Whistling ducks also continue to call and fly over on occasion. They will normally spend the winter in the area and can be heard well before they're seen!
Our Red Oak is just beginning to change color, with hints of golden brown on its south facing side. It will end up a very deep, wine-red color before turning a dull brown.
20th - Still in need of rain. Everywhere is so dry and temperatures continue to remain above average for this time of year. Acorns from our front Red Oak tree are covering the ground again this year. Last year was a "masting" year for Oaks with thousands of acorns covering the tree. This year I thought it would produce just a small crop, but again has a large one, maybe not quite as big as last year however. Squirrels are busy picking up as many as they can, burying them throughout the garden.
One of our local screech owls is presently sitting in the hole in the oak behind us during the afternoon sun. November is normally the month when her mate will use our nest box as a roost. Nothing has moved in yet that i've seen but I will continue to keep an eye on it and must watch for any owls leaving the box at dusk.
1st - What a beautiful day to start off this month! The sky couldn't be any bluer, the air warm but with a hint of crispness reminding us that Fall is not far off! The plants right now are at their peak. Roses are blooming once more due to slightly cooler temperatures and the rain from a few weeks ago. My fig tree has shot up another foot or so in the past month and is again putting out baby figs! My pomegranate tree has several huge red balls weighing down the branches and hummer plants are in full flower, inviting the winged jewels to visit them!


By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summerís best of weather
And autumnís best of cheer.

- Helen Hunt Jackson, September, 1830-1885

25th - Racoons!!! The last time I had them (that i'm aware of) was about 10 years ago when they ploughed through my pond, ripping out plants and ate all my fish! Tonight I heard lots of screaming type noises coming from the feeder area. At first I thought the shadowy shapes were a couple of possums, till they turned and I saw their tails! Two giant Racoons were chasing each other through the trees! Well, It will be interesting to see if they return or are just "passing through". I'm thinking about covering my pond up with netting early, just in case!
15th - Temperatures have dropped into the 80's now giving us a much needed break. This should give the garden a boost and birds and animals seem to be more active once again.
11th - Very heavy rain and storms came down today, giving us 81/2 inches!! Too much at once, but its been so dry we desperately needed it. Any more would have caused us serious problems with the beds and garden as a whole. The ground being so dry it was able to soak up a considerable amount like a sponge.
1st - Finally, the first day of a cooler season... temperatures should become more comfortable! Its trying to rain a little today but we could really do with a lot of it.
Hummingbirds are busy at the flowers and feeders, guarding their favorite spots from each other! There are so many flowers out for them this month. Their favorites still are the turkscap and flame acanthus, but also the Althea's, milkweeds, lantana and Ruella.
Not seen the little bunny for a week or so but i'm sure he's still around, hiding in the bushes out front. There is so much cover for him/her here.


"In August, the large masses of berries, which, when in flower, had attracted many wild bees,
gradually assumed their bright velvety crimson hue, and by their weight again bent down
and broke their tender limbs."
- Henry David Thoreau

6th Constant high temperatures of 103-105 are hard on the garden but it is handling it well! Birds are frequenting the little mister/dripper which is turned on for a couple of hours each day. It doesn't take them long to realize its on and fly in for a shower in the mist or a bath in the saucer below which catches the drips! Other wildlife seen in the garden this week include squirells, an Eastern Cotton tail rabbit, a Possum, plenty of Green Anoles and Eastern Fence lizards, and lots of gulf fritillary butterfly's which are hatching from the passion-vines throughout the garden.


What has happened to summer,
That's what I want to know.
Is she on a vacation -
Who knows where did she go?
Tell, what was she wearing;
A zephyr breeze and rosebud
Or grass and wild berry?
Could she be honeymooning
With spring or early fall
Or has she gone so far away
She'll not return at all?

- Dorothy Ardelle Merriam, One July Summer

13th - The rain we had a few weeks ago is now making a lot of the plants grow well and has given them the boost they needed. Verbena Bonariensis is blooming well, with its tall, lavender flowers on top of the slender, but strong stems. Butterflies, especially the hairstreaks, seem very attracted to it! Another month and the monarchs will be making their way south, stopping to feed on the verbena and other perennials in flower. Spinx Moths have also been quite common over the past month and come out late afternoon/ evenings to feed on the tiny flowers of the lantanas as well as the "Black and Blue Salvias" which they seem to love!
Heard the screech owl singing last night.
1st - Mostly cloudy today, no rain, but very humid. Some purple martins still around with one nest left to fledge.
Bought a new "Bird of Paradise tree", which was on sale for $2!! Couldn't resist! They do well here, vey drought tolerant and such pretty flowers on approximately 6 foot trees.


"In June, as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day.
No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them."

- Aldo Leopold

28th - Rain!! Desperately needed rain! Very heavy at times, strong winds and thunder. Luckily the ground was so dry it soaked it all up without flooding. This will greatly improve all the plants in the garden!
17th - First Purple Martin fledged today.
8th - The pomegranate tree is LOADED with pom's this year! It started out with beautiful orange-red flowers all over it and now each one is turning into pomegranates. Its going to be the largest crop we've had. It amazes me how something so heavy doesn't fall off, especially when we have strong winds! But they stay very secure.
My little fig tree is also putting out some fruit this year. This is only its third summer since I planted it. I planted it in the fall of '08 and it had some small figs on it but they didn't do much. The summer of '09 it grew about a foot but had no fruit. This year it has fruit! Its grown a little taller also.
The rest of my veggies however didn't do so well. This was a terrible year here for white fly and they have infested my beans to the point of no return and I had to dig them up. I did get one or two meals out of the beans before I pulled them. My tomatoes have been infected also, so I removed many of the damaged leaves and used an organic spray on the healthy leaves remaining. The have developed tomatoes however which seem OK. The tomato plants which came up all over my garden this year I thought were my heirloom "Green Zebra's" but they don't seem to be. Instead I have lots of little plum shaped tomato plants! Not even sure which kind. Obviously an heirloom I planted last year which I may have tossed a few damaged tomatoes into my bin. They seem to be the healthiest ones out there right now!
On a final note - It seems a bull frog has found my pond! I've been hearing him for a few weeks now, just occasionally. :-)
3rd - Some much needed rain fell last night, accompanied by thunder. This morning everything is fresh and cool and the plants are thankful!
The purple martins are busy feeding their young now, just one nest has eggs yet to hatch. I've only had 5 pair this year as compared to the 9 I had last year, but all seem content.
Plants in the garden, especially around the pool area, where we had our tree removed, are growing well and thickening up. I will miss the extreme "lushness" that the old "Shady" bed used to have, but now I am able to have plants that take full sun and which will grow in time. They include a Desert Willow "Burgandy" which replaces the old, huge live oak tree, a banana palm, a windmill palm, lantanas, Mexican bush sage, Mexican Petunias, Black and Blue Salvias and knockout roses.


If it's drama that you sigh for,
plant a garden and you'll get it
You will know the thrill of battle
fighting foes that will beset it
If you long for entertainment and
for pageantry most glowing,
Plant a garden and this summer spend
your time with green things growing.

- Edward A. Guest, Plant a Garden

24th - Picked lots of beans for dinner last night, the first of my bush been crop. This year I grew Yellow pencil pod, purple, and dragon's tongue varieties. Again, as with many of my plants this year several of them got a bad dose of aphids so I used an organic spray to help control them, which contains seaweed extracts. The beans themselves however seemed fine!
Summer is here it seems, with temps up in the 90's. Things are drying out so fast and it seems that the rainfall we've been getting just doesn't seem to be soaking the soil before it dries off again.
My cactus have been blooming for the past few weeks and for the first time so has my purple prickly pear! Pretty creamy yellow flowers with scarlet red insides! Large flowers too. My new roses I planted this year are doing very well and now seem to have their roots in and are growing quickly. They include "Peace" "Queen Elisabeth" "New dawn" "Graham Thomas" and several knockout roses.
15th - My Spring / Green onions have now been eaten! They came out so well and were delicious! I used a few organic ones I had bought at the store at the end of last year and by January had not used them and they had begun to sprout. So, I planted them in January and by mid April they were certainly ready to pick, with each onion growing 5-6 seperate spring onions! Must plant more next year.
The Rainbow chard did well but along with many other plants in the same area, were prone to white fly and aphids. I picked as many of the leaves as possible before I ended up pulling out the plant.
The Peaches remain on the tree and only 3 have fallen so far. Its looking very healthy with a big crop of peaches growing more every day.
Purple Martins pairs in the house have now laid several eggs with more to come. I don't think this year will be as good as last year, I only seem to have 5 pair, but I've not seen ONE Sub Adult yet this year? ! Last years young nesting for the first time this year would have bought my numbers up, but i've not seen any. This is very strange.
1st An overcast day starts off this month but the roses in bloom in the garden right now more than compensate! They are beautiful! I also have lots of blooms on my water iris in the pond and toads are active with their calls at night.
Everything is in full swing now and growing well. My peach tree has plenty of young peaches on it already and hopfully they won't be knocked off by severe storms as they have in the past. Also, my heirloom tomatos are doing well as are the dwarf beans, zuccini and green onions, which have almost been eaten!


"April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.
- William Shakespeare.

29th - My Purple martins are now bringing in nest material to the house and should soon be laying eggs. I've still not seen an SY at the house this year but there is still time.
12th - finished planting some tomatoes and beans in my new bed around the side of our house. Also finished re doing a front bed with new roses and a stepping stone path through it. This bed is so much nicer now than before and looks great at this time of year when the purple magnolia (little Jane) is in bloom. Also the Lady Bank's climbing rose is in FULL bloom! It can't hold another little yellow rose blossom on it! Azaleas also are now at their peak... everything is so pretty at this time of year!
1st - A mild, sunny but windy day starts off the month. High around 81 today.


Today is the day when bold kites fly,
When cumulus clouds roar across the sky.
When robins return, when children cheer,
When light rain beckons spring to appear.

Today is the day when daffodils bloom,
Which children pick to fill the room,
Today is the day when grasses green,
When leaves burst forth for spring to be seen.

- Robert McCracken, Spring

31st - Today was a beautiful sunny day with a high of 85! I planted several varieties of beans including heirloom Yellow Pencil Pod, Kentucky Wonder pole, Blue Lake bush beans, Dragon tongue bush beans and Royal Burgandy bush. beans. I love the bush beans as they take up such little space yet are so productive! I still have a few tomato plants to put in yet but planted a couple the other day as well as some hot peppers and green zuccini.
20th - We've had beautiful, warm weather in the 70's for the past week, enabling me to get all of my garden clean up done, as well as re-landscaping some beds, moving plants to better locations and planting some new roses and other perenials. However, this morning we wake up to a cold front hitting our area, bringing the temperatures down into the low 30's!!! Any potted, tropical plants I had set out had to be brought inside again. Thankfully i'd not planted any annuals yet, only because I know how we always seem to get a late freeze just when you think we won't! Lots of rain last night came at a good time however and watered in all my new roses and perenial transplants.
The purple martins have increased in numbers to about 8 now, yet there are still more to come. All my entrances to the house and gourds are 100% "Excluder" entrances this year which they seem very comfortable with now.
One thing we're hopeing to attract this year is bats! Last year we built a bat box and put it up on our chimney, but it was a little too late to attract them last year. This year however we are eagerly hoping they will find the box!
13th - This past week I've been busy outside in the garden doing my yearly clean up. I'm later than usual this year by almost a month, but the weather has been so much colder than normal and i've also been traveling so only got around to it this week. However, most of it is now done and now the best part of re-locating some plants and planting new ones can begin. As we had our live oak tree taken down last month it has opened up a bed to full sun. We're planning on putting a much smaller tree in its place, another desert willow, as they're so pretty and the hummingbirds love the flowers. Lots of other plants will be planted around it including hardy/antique roses, salvias and other colorful, flowering shrubs. I moved many of the shade perenials such as Turks Caps and Ferns to new shady locations.
11th - More Purple Martins are now here. The male that showed up yesterday has been busy singing and showing off the house to the new comers!
10th - My first Purple Martin has returned! ASY Male.
8th - After a week of nice weather in the 60's its amazing how many spring plants came to life and are now blooming; daffodils, hyacyinths, camelias, roses putting out new shoots, onions planted in Jan for Spring or Green onions are filling out, all the pansy plants I planed in the Fall are now really flowering well! Today some much needed rain will help.


"Away in a meadow all covered with snow
The little old groundhog looks for his shadow
The clouds in the sky determine our fate
If winter will leave us all early or late."

- Don Halley.

25th - I pulled down my martin house today just to check everything was still OK after the winter. I've not seen any martins in our area just yet but it shouldn't be long now. Until they arrive I won't open any doors.
Several hundred robins have been decending on our garden with the past cold temps, stripping the last of the red berries from Yaupons and getting bugs out of the ground. Also at the feeders are a few goldfinch, house finch, junco, cardinal, downy woodpecker, blue jay, mockingbird, yellow-rumped warblers, orange-crowned warblers, chickadees and carolina wrens. A screech owl continues to call at dawn.
23rd - We've had such cold weather I've really not been outside for the past 2-3 weeks! Half way through the month came tons of snow for our area, approximately 12". This amount has not been seen in North Texas for 30 years!
Although not much could be done outside I did manage to move several shrubs and we also had our one large tree removed that was by our pool. This now lets so much more light in and we don't have the problem with the leaves and acorns! However, the amount of snow we did have produced a lot of damage with the local trees who's branches were torn off with the weight, a weight they are not used to. So lots of cleanup in the garden this month and until the weather warms up i'll be staying inside!
2nd - Well, looks like Phil saw his shadow today so more Winter to come.... I'm so ready for some warmer weather! It is such a tease to see new shoots and bulbs emerging from the ground, only to have snaps of very cold temps force you to stay indoors!
Last week we ended up having one of our huge live oak trees removed. It was the one by our pool and although a lovely shade tree, was just too messy and large for that area. However, we shall be planting a new one in its place that is smaller, not so much maintainance, and which gives dappled shade in the afternoon to bring some relief to the pool area. I'm possibly thinking of another desert willow like we have in the front. It does have lots of flowers and its leaves can fall but it will be no where near the problems caused by the leaves and acorns of the oak tree and won't grow near as large. It provides plenty of nectar to hummingbirds and is a very pretty tree. So that is a possibility.

Happy New Year!

January is the quietest month in the garden.... But just because it looks
quiet doesn't mean that nothing is happening. The soil, open to the sky,
absorbs the pure rainfall while microorganisms convert tilled-under
fodder into usable nutrients for the next crop of plants. The feasting
earthworms tunnel along, aerating the soil and preparing it to
welcome the seeds and bare roots to come.

- Rosalie Muller Wright, Editor of Sunset Magazine, 1/99

9th - Last night the temperature dropped to 11ļF, the coldest in 14 years! No snow or ice, everywhere is dry and the sun is out. Its as crisp and clear out there as you could get and the air smells so fresh! I'm hoping my palms will pull through this extreme cold spell ok. Any other plant out there should be able to tolerate these temps as most are hardy or native to TX.
Birds are flocking to the extra food I've put out for them, Jays, cardinals, downy woodpecker, white-throated sparrows, mourning and white-winged doves, juncos, Carolina wrens and chickadees.
4th - It is a very sad day for me today - our owl, which we've had here for about 12 years, has died. I found him in our garden this morning :-( He is in the photo above and would use our nest box from November through March, sitting in the entry hole in the afternoon sun. His mate would nest in the hole in the large Oak tree behind us and we have had their young in garden while they were learning to fly. "Rusty", would sit on the chair on our deck many nights and I could just walk out there and he would often just remain still and look at me. He was so tame and trusting. We will miss him so much.
1st - 2010 is here! What a beautiful, clear and sunny morning we have to start off the year. We had a frost last night and everything was white when I woke up, but has now thawed out. The sun feels warm.
Pansy's are doing well and even my roses are hanging onto any buds they have, even with all the freezing temps we've had. Northern Cardinal was the first bird of the year that I heard this morning!

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