January 20, 2011

Spring ?

As temperatures dipped into the 40's this afternoon and a cold front promised another hard freeze in Austin tonight, nature is saying "Spring" rather than winter in parts of my garden. These daffodils were poking there heads through the ground and others nearby were 12 inches tall, looking like they are about to burst into bloom. The tall ones broke ground mid- December, believe it or not.

September 5, 2010

Is It Fall Yet?

After a little rain and some (slightly) cooler temperatures, I forayed out into the garden this morning to see what was still holding on after our hottest ever August.
In this picture, you will notice the Lindheimer senna looking prety perky with its sunny yellow flowers and velvetty soft grey- green leaves. What a winner- it takes the heat and the dry without losing a leaf. Five years ago one of these seedlings piggy- backed into my garden in the pot of a Barbados Cherry I bought at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I didn"t know what it was but I gave it a shot and it shot up and bloomed it's heart out for a few weeks beginning in September. It produces lots of long seed pods that will provide you with plants for years to come. I love the leaves on this plant and look forward to the splash of color it brings in the fall when lots of plants are pretty done in.

May 28, 2010

Tired of the Same Old Same Old Picnic Dessert?

Here's a little something you can throw together for the Memorial Day Cook- out that will really take their breath away. This is a recipe my mother made for us when we were kids.  I hadn't had it in like a  million years but
I had an emotional need for a big pink cake recently. So I dug out the recipe and gave it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised that my adult and slightly jaded palate still thought it was yummy. I used frozen strawberries since I was trying to clean out the freezer but if you have good local strawberries already, they would be great. Just `chop'em  up fine before adding. If you make cupcakes, feel free to stick little paper flags in them for the holiday festivities, then salute yourself for creating such a fine feast for the eyes and the palate.
Big Pink Strawberry Cake
1 White Cake Mix ( I used Duncan Hines)
1(3 oz.)pkg. strawberry jello
1 T. flour
4 tsp. sugar
3/4 c. vegetable oil
4 eggs
1/2 c. water
5 oz. frozen strawberries, thawed and drained( save the juice)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour 3- 8" cake pans.
Combine cake mix, jello, flour and sugar in a bowl and mix well. Add the oil.
Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after easch addition. Add the stawberries and water and mix well again.
Divide between the pans. If you have a scale, weigh the batter so that the layers will bake evenly.
Bake for 25- 30 minutes until layers pull slighlty from edge and it passes the toothpick test.
Cool in pan for 10 minutes and then de- pan and cool on a rack.

Flown the Coop

I found the chysalis open and empty yesterday aftenoon when I went to check on it.
And this black swallowtail was flitting about enjoying all the tall verbenas in bloom. I don't think it would be too far- fetched to say that this beauty is the Cinderella that emerged from that cocoon.

May 20, 2010


Wow! How cool is this. No, this is not some trendy new kind of sugar snap pea. This is the final stage of the black swallowtail's metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly. As they grow and mature as caterpillars they shed their skins. What you see covering it is the skin from that final molting. Note the fine silk thread sewn into the stem attaching the chrysalis to its changing room, so to speak.
Though I have had many butterfly cats before in the garden, I've never seen this stage before. It appears that this caterpillar moved along the frond of the fennel until it was able to cross onto the rose bush.
Two days before I took this picture, I had found him on the rose stem in a "C"- shape, totally still, stiff and frozen. The next day when I went to check, I found it enshrouded in this skin. It apparently takes 10- 14 days inside this cocoon for the transformation to butterfly to complete.
I'll keep you posted on the birth of the butterfly. I hope I catch it.

The caterpillar stage takes several days. They molt 4 times prior to the chrysalis stage and start out looking like very tiny bugs with lots of legs. This is a late stage caterpillar munching the heck out of my bronze fennel.

May 4, 2010

An Admiral Visits

A host (swarm, flock, passle?) of Red Admiral butterflies visited the garden yesterday and posed prettily for their close- ups. They were very tame. In fact, one landed right on the front of my T- shirt as if to check me out.

I may be watching too much "Project Runway" for my first thought when I saw the mottled coloring on the underside of their wings was what an inspiration it would be for a fabulous dress design or fabric pattern. "Designers, get out your butterfly charts! One hour to sketch your butterfly inspired creations."
Here is a link to identify your inspiring garden visitors. http://www.naba.org/chapters/nabambc/construct-species-page.asp?sp=Vanessa-atalanta

April 29, 2010

The Real Green Goddess

With temps now in the 80's nearly every day, the parsley was gasping it's dying breaths so I pulled it all out to make room for some warm weather herbs. But what to do with  all that green stuff? Here's the recipe for the green goddess dressing I'm making tonight. And don't smirk. This has a natural pale green coloring and a fresh, fresh, fresh spring- like flavor that's not at all like the neon - colored stuff that comes in a plastic bottle from the grocery store.
Green Goddess Dressing or Dip
DO NOT wuss- out on the anchovy paste. I'm serious. I promise it will not taste "fishy" and it does push the flavor over the top.

2 c. mayonaisse( I like Spectrum Canola)
1 c. sour cream
1 c. roughly chopped parsley leaves
1 c. sliced green onions
1/4 c. cider vinegar
1/4 c. lemon juice
2  T. anchovy paste
S & P to taste

Put mayo, parsley, scallions, vinegar and LJ in blender or food processor and whiz until the herbs are pulverized and color is a pretty pale green. It will take a minute ot two. Pour into a bowl and whisk in sour cream.  Serve as is for dipping. Add 2 T. water for a pourable consistancy for salad dressing.
Serve over iceburg wedges w/ crumbled bacon and hard- boiled eggs. Also good with fish. Yum.