Garden Notes

My yearly summary of butterfly and moth observations in 2022, including suggestions on best viewing periods. More suggestions on plants for your butterfly garden and stunning new research on the origins of butterflies through the ages.

Over two dozen different species of butterflies visited my little city butterfly garden in 2021. I profile them with little vignettes in order of appearance from May through October. Also included are some of the best butterfly plants to use in making a butterfly garden of your own.

The daffodil is the world’s most popular spring flower, according to the National Gardening Association. Daffodils will come back spring after spring with the least of care. But more than that, daffodils herald the end of a long cold, dark, winter, it’s bright yellow beaming through the leaves like the sun. It is overcast today with a chill, stiff wind, and I can attest there is nothing like a daffodil in bloom to lift one’s spirit. A vase of daffodils that includes six to ten of different daffodil cultivars is the most marvelous vase of flowers one can grow in early springtime! Large and small-cupped, jonquils, doubles and split coronas in differing color patterns pair well together.

With over 30,000 registered cultivars, how can anyone hope to make sense of the daffodil world? Organization progressed right along with development of the many cultivars, dividing them into 13 divisions and creating a shorthand code that enables breeders and daffodil enthusiasts worldwide to easily communicate. For a cursory look at the governing bodies, learn how you can be "in the know."

There is a daffodil that will grow in nearly every area of the continental United States, so diverse and variable are they. Even with our erratic spring weather, the Texas Panhandle gardeners can grow a diverse range of these hardy spring perennials. With just a few basic tips, gardeners can increase the beauty and success of a daffodil spring!

After two months of winter, on a gray day in the bleakest month of all, I suddenly lose hope that the garden will revive. I know it sounds silly, and that thought only lasts for a moment. My rational side reminds the emotional that our Earth’s journey will be like every other year. Day length will increase and temperatures will gradually warm until roots in the soil are stirred into action and green growth is seen everywhere.
Join me on the journey through the life of the garden -- crocus to chrysanthemum -- and all the wonders in-between.

Over the years I've unintentionally made a butterfly garden with many late summer to fall blooming plants. And in the process, happily experienced the many joys of stepping out the front door to a landscape of "floating flowers." I've listed over two dozen local butterflies I've been able to identify and the plants that attract them. Even planting a few butterfly nectar plants will attract these colorful insects to your garden.

A Visit to the Garden Designed by the Owner of Windswept Prairie Plant Truck highlights elements of successful design.

It was with great delight and excitement I first noticed what appeared to be the first tip of the stem. Having watched agave blooms on a weekly basis at our botanic garden, I was elated to be able to watch it hourly, if I choose, but certainly, daily. I took photos of this marvelous plant nearly every day for the first 6 weeks, then several times a week until the it finished blooming. Each morning, I made sure to check its progress. Afterwards, I photographed it less frequently until the end, but watched it daily. From stem to first emergence to the end of flowering was a period of 10 weeks. Here’s a brief viewers guide to our New Mexican Agave's bloom cycle.

Over the past two decades, Amarillo’s weather has changed noticeably. I thought the weather in 2018 to be particularly hot, but not quite as severe as the terrible years of 2011 and 2012. I didn’t enjoy the heat of these summers. Three really hot, dry, miserable summers within a decade. Will this be our future? Should I consider moving to a milder, wetter climate? How hot will it get in Amarillo, as global warming continues to warm? This article seeks to answer Amarillo’s degree of change.

Longwood Gardens includes over 1075 acres of gardens, paths through forests, woodlands and meadow, around lakes and grand plazas, fountains and a through a series of glass houses that make up the four and a half acre conservatory complex. Longwood Gardens is composed of 27 separate outdoor garden areas, 20 gardens inside the conservatory complex and four designated fountain gardens. Longwood can boast more fountains than at any other place in America. It’s specialties are many, the most evident being the fountains, elegant European flair, the extensive conservatory complex, dramatic and varied horticultural displays in an environment that feels comfortably democratic in tone through the five Longwood Gardens seasons.

The Texas Panhandle is known for its rapidly changing weather, where temperatures race up and down a thermometer on a somewhat regular basis. Now, global warming is bringing the additional challenge of not only changing weather, but a changing climate. Hail and long-term drought damage plants. Sudden and fierce rainstorms pound weakened plants whose root systems fail to hold the soil in place. Additionally, a warming planet doesn’t preclude early devastating autumnal freezes. Yes, we in the Texas Panhandle have struggled with these conditions in the past. They are not going away, and most likely will get worse. Gardening is not for the faint of heart. Learn how to adapt and mitigate the gardening challenges climate change presents.

After one has been gardening for a few years, or perhaps, a number of years, green becomes beautiful. Green becomes beautiful at the moment when in thinking about a plant, the leaves become the main draw instead of some expectation of flowers. I briefly explore the world of leaves and the various foliage colors that give gardens clues to their use in the landscape.

Inspiring the Texas Panhandle to Go Native for over 20 years, this November 4th, Neal Hinders, gardening hero, was awarded the Lynn R. Lowrey Memorial Award by the Native Plant Society of Texas in Huntsville, Texas at their annual symposium. Neal Hinder is in many ways like Lynn R. Lowrey himself, for whom this award was established. Hinders' nursery is Canyon's Edge Plants and is located just off the square in Canyon, Texas at 1401 5th Avenue.

In my garden, the summer flower show begins during the dog days of summer, in mid-July, continuing through the month of September. Now, at the moment the searing and oppressive heat of summer seems endless, I take relief knowing my garden is about to explode into a riot of mid-summer color. Together, non-natives and this selection of plants native to the Americas finishes off the flower season on a high level. . It doesn’t seem to matter if the summer is dry, or we are favored by summer rains, I’ve found these plants dependable no matter the weather.

Xeriscape gardens sparkle with color when planted with America's star wildflower, the Penstemon. This genus of flowers native exclusively to the North America continent, from Anchorage to Guatemala, includes species suitable to any garden condition. But chiefly, with the majority of penstemons native to Western United States, it's most suitable to dry gardening. Penstemon is one genus that sings “right plant, right location” louder than most.

In celebration of National Wildflower Week, May 1-7, 2017, I'm featuring seven wildflowers whose native range is west of the Mississippi that make splendid garden-worthy plants. Discover these plants and add a little bit of the wild to your garden.

Annual plants comprise some of the jewels of the garden, used to add sparkle and interest when and where needed throughout the landscape and in containers. Annual plantings need not only be a garnish to the garden. Selecting plants used for seasonal plantings that remain attractive to both gardener and beneficial insects is becoming more and more popular today with the loss of native habitat and widespread use of pollen-less hybrid annuals. Consider the benefit of pollinator friendly annuals that contribute to a landscape more in harmony with nature.

The Tucson Botanic Gardens, known to the locals as a “tranquil oasis in the heart of Tucson”, tells the story of the people and place, while developing awareness and appreciation of their native surroundings. With a vision of creating an oasis, and a mission promoting, demonstrating and educating responsible use of regionally appropriate plants,Tucson Botanical Gardens strives to become America's best small public garden.

In the Southwest, nearly nothing will make as dramatic a statement as one of the large mature agaves. Their imposing thick succulent leaves stare you down and dare one to come look closer. Virtually untapped as a means of winter green and winter interest, our native evergreen (or ever-blue, ever-gray) succulents can easily be incorporated into native, low water-use, Western cottage and rock garden designs and styles.

Yuccas, the under used and under appreciated genus of plants. Yuccas make terrific multi-purpose evergreen plants for the home landscape of the Texas High Plains with many species integrating well into many areas of the home landscape. The arborescent, or tree-like yuccas, are natural architectural focal points. And many of both cold hardy and non-hardy yuccas make great container specimens, when properly protected in the winter months inside.

According to the just released global pollinator assessment, 16% of vertebrate pollinators (increasing to 30% for island species) and more than 40% of invertebrate pollinating species are threatened locally, across the globe. Home gardeners can most positively and directly affect the problem of pollinator shortages through a different gardening paradigm than is currently being practiced in home landscapes. Read about our main pollinators and how to install a pollinator-friendly garden.

A visit to the desert can help one understand and appreciate the great diversity and versatility of plants, matching their requirements for growth to their environment. Join me on my day trip of eleven of the plant alliances within Joshua Tree National Park.

This summer I visited a familiar garden I watched grow and change over my adult life. Like my brother-in-law, Gene Dees, who creates and tends it, the garden has grown and matured over the decades. This year I realized a new appreciation for his decades of imagination, creativity and skill. What was once a typical northern garden, Gene's landscape has been transformed into an eclectic garden of depth and whimsy with the power to draw one in and sustain one's curiosity and interest.

Quietly nestled among the narrow, winding streets of East Alameda and Canyon Road not far from the Santa Fe River, a four acre garden displays some of the best features drawn from English and xeriscape garden styles. This is the garden of Elspeth Bobbs. Set among adobe buildings, her English Garden beautifully marries British gardening tradition with xeriscape principles in Santa Fe, New Mexico.