Friday, May 30, 2014

A slithery visitor

We were surprised to find a juvenile Texas rat snake back near the compost pile. We've only ever seen an extremely large adult example of this snake, and only once. They appear when the rats are plentiful, as they must be, in the wake of all the demolition and remodeling everywhere nearby. Ponder Lee, a neighborhood cat, has brought no slain rats to the yard, though. We continue to enjoy lettuce (now quite mature), grape and cherry tomatoes, and yellow wax beans. In addition to the plentiful Grandpa Ott morning glories, we have seen a beautiful giant blue-and-white striated one, a giant cream bloom with blue spokes, and two dainty old-fashioned smaller flowers with purple partial spokes. There are now five colors of nasturtiums. New shoots are appearing at the base of about half of the pride of Barbados. Four o'clocks are coming on strong. We are seeing the first Turk's cap and agastache flowers. Despite all the rain, we've not yet seen any rain lilies. Some of the sweet peas are going to seed. Our wild sunflowers so far are short and very doubled. Fortunately, more neighbors are allowing theirs to rain, so we enjoy very tall ones from the kitchen window. There are tassels on all the cornstalks, but no cornsilk is visible yet.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Keeping up with the spring arrivals

Bulb foliage has died back enough and grass has grown enough that the trusty non-power mower came into use this morning for the first time this year. Only leaves of the Dutch iris have not yet turned brown. A good-sized opossum was seen yesterday morning next door. Our newest arrivals in the flower world are nasturtiums (orange), cultivated rudbeckia, two colors of four o'clock, both yellow and orange Bright Lights cosmos, fennel flowers, and the first lantana flowers. One loquat fruit, not very large, but the first of the season, was discovered on the ground. We continue to harvest yellow wax beans, serrano chiles, and grape tomatoes grown in pots. It is quite a surprise that there are still cyclamen and clematis flowers. The transoms are not yet open for the summer season.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

In the pleasure grounds

Spring progresses. The pecan flowers have all dropped; there wasn't much sassafras scent this year. A great resurgence of Erlicheer brought the last narcissi. Only two of our Saint Joseph's lilies bloomed, but the ones across the street were spectacular. Among the poppies, we've seen showy Hungarian bread poppies, Shirley poppies, Iceland poppies, corn poppies, and true red old-fashioned poppies, although none in great profusion. The Hungarian poppies have been six feet tall, and some of the shorter, shinier types have appeared in picotee forms. All poppies are pollenated in a day, by honeybees or any of the various bumblebees. There are more coreopsis flowers and on more plants than there've ever been; not a one has been picked. Two stalks of delphinium are in bloom, on very stunted plants. Bachelor buttons are nearly done blooming. They have appeared in at least six different colors. We have counted over a dozen varieties of sweet peas. They're now past their peak and beginning to go to seed, but still scent their surroundings and look beautiful up close and from a distance. Pansies and violas are faithfully dead-headed, but they're becoming leggy and won't be with us much longer. Surprisingly, there are still cyclamen and clematis flowers. Some Pride of Barbados is returning from he roots; all lantanas and Turk's caps are springing anew. Giant swallowtail larvae are fattening on the fennel; gulf fritillary larvae are fattening on passion vine. The first hollyhock flowers have appeared on short stalks; they are a very deep, almost coral, rose. A ten-foot sunflower stalk is producing medium-sized golden flowers with dark centers in all the axillary parts of the plant, as well as atop it. As the leaves of daffodils, narcissi, and irises turn brown and loosen their attachment, they go to the compost pile. Some milkweed is volunteering, but not enough. Large toads are to be seen, and anoles and tree lizards share the premises in apparently equal numbers so far. Nasturtiums and hyacinth beans begin to twine, as do morning glories and moonflowers. We have been dining on the last of the English peas, lettuce, yellow crookneck summer squash, grape and cherry tomatoes, and extremely tasty yellow wax beans, all but the peas grown in containers. Serrano chiles are beginning to form. Such grass as there is has revived from dormancy. The last three days have brought delightful rain and a respite of coolness, for which we are very thankful.