photo: armadillo
2006-03-27. Armadillo grubbing in the early morning hours in my garden. Sadly I couldn’t get close enough for a clear shot without scaring it.

March 27th, 2006
Urban Nature

What do the following things have in common?
1. Famous venue for redneck rock (progressive country) music.
2. Texas state mammal (small).
3. Free bus system in downtown Austin.
4. Mascot for the Statesman Capitol 10,000.

Salvia farinacea Indigo Spires
Salvia farinacea ‘Indigo Spires’

March 17th, 2006
Salvia farinacea ‘Indigo Spires’

The last nine months or so, I’ve neglected the garden. Some plants, like the roses and irises, really show it. Other really tough plants have surprised and encouraged me. This spring I’ve been very thankful for Acanthus mollis. Auralea japonica, Rhaphiolepis indica, Tacoma stans, and Salvia farinacea. Without them, I’d have no garden at all this year.

Yesterday I noticed a the first flower of the season on Salvia farinacea ‘Indigo Spires’. Thanks to the water that sprays over the fence when my neighbors water their lawn, my salvias have formed nice mounds of green this spring. I decided I should finally cut off the long arching stems from last year. I should have cut them way back last fall.

One advantage of my lazy housekeeping is that salvias self-layer and root wherever the joints touch soil. In my garden, plants die every year and new ones replace them. I let them grow where they’re happiest and they’ve arranged themselves around the cedar elm in the back of the stump garden. I do absolutely nothing for these plants except mulch them with leaves in the fall and prune them back once a year.

Salvia farinacea Indigo Spires

Gardeners in Austin are typically crazy for salvias. They come in many varieties, sizes, and colors. In addition to being heat-loving, salvias have the reputation of being deer-resistant. (I can’t say since there are no deer downtown). One drawback I’ve heard, however, is that some salvias dislike Austin’s alkaline soil. I haven’t noticed that problem either in my garden or around town. I’ve tried a couple of other salvias, but Salvia farinacea has proven the most carefree in my central Texas garden. One plant, eleven years. That’s got to be a record in my garden. Only the plumbago, which I bought and planted on the same day, has done as well.

By the way, I’ve had a hard time trying to peg down exactly what type of salvia I’m growing. When I bought my one plant in 1995, I wrote down Salvia farinacea ‘Indigo Spires’. Apparently the salvias cross-pollinate easily and some sites list ‘Indigo Spires’ as a hybrid, not a cultivar. As for common names, I’ve found both mealy cup sage and mealy blue sage and even plain mealy sage.
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photo: Monarch butterfly
Monarch butterfly on Meyer lemon tree.

March 16th, 2006
Monarch Butterfly

Ever since Sunday (3/12), half a dozen monarch butterflies have been hanging out in my yard. They like the Texas mountain laurel and Meyer lemon best. It was exciting to look out my kitchen window while washing dishes and see two or three of them flitting around the lemon tree. I don’t have Valerie’s patience or skill for insect photography and am not pleased with any of my shots. Unlike flowers, butterflies don’t hold still for the camera.

Monarch butterflies migrate through Austin in the fall on their way to their winter homes in Mexico. Several of my neighbors in north Austin see them regularly each fall, but I rarely do. Does the migrating horde avoid downtown? or is it just me?

Unfortunately I don’t have any milkweed planted.