An Old Friend


It has been hard to find something to post on my blog as my plants are just beginning to come back after being frozen for the second year in a row.

This week I had my first turtle visit for this year.

I thought it was a new turtle I have never seen before, but when I enlarged the photos, the turtle was my old friend “Turtle with a Hole in its Shell”.

It is good to know my old turtle friend is doing fine and still hanging out here.

Searching for Flowers

It was a hard winter here on the Gulf Coast and one bad freeze froze most of my plants to the roots. A few are starting to come back and I set out to search the garden beds for some blooms. The Cramoisi Superieur lost all of its leaves but made a big comeback with all new leaves and a few red roses.

The Japanese Jack-in-the-Pulpit shot up with vigor, many more stems, and has already made some of its green flowers.

The purple and white Oxalis Triangularis is in full flower and so are the invasive pink ones.

I have seen photos of snowdrops from bloggers up north and my Texas-sized snowflakes are now blooming clumps.

Because the weather has been so crazy and not long after the freeze, temperatures reached the 70s and 80s, the azaleas bloomed nearly a month early.

I love this little Snow Poppy or Eomecon Chionantha. While trying to find its proper name, I saw it listed as a weed. It is doing really well and reproducing. They all die back in the summer.

I have a couple of potted plants in bloom. The Kalanchoe was a gift from my kids many years ago. I stick any broken stems back into the pot and it doesn’t take long for them to root.

The Billbergia nutans have such unusual colors. It is from South America and blooms in the winter here.

I don’t have the usual amount of flowers, but I’m seeing many plants finally starting to grow with this recent heat wave.


This is mighty fine gumbo, but what I’m talking about is dirt.

The good old Texas dirt in my area is called gumbo, which is mainly made up of clay. While I was thinking about making this post I was unlucky enough to have a water line break but lucky enough to have some big strong men dig up the yard which gave me a chance to get a good photo of our gumbo dirt. I could easily form a ball out of that pile of gumbo. There is no fine soil to slip through my fingers.

In elementary school, my kids learned that clay came from the ground, so we dug some up and the kids made pottery which has been in the garage for 20 years.

The clay in the gumbo holds water and is sticky when wet. That is a plus until it drys out and gets hard. I had a happy accident and found that some plants that thrive in the native soil. When I moved to my current property, I brought many plants and had to find a temporary place for them while my landscaping was being installed. There was a clearing in the back corner of the woods where I planted all my gingers with the intent to move them later. As it turned out they were perfectly happy there thriving and reproducing for twenty-plus years.

The rest of my plants live in raised beds filled with garden soil.

To end with a funny story, I once put my husband in charge of planting a new rose bush. He is not a gardener and I’m not sure why I did that. He carefully read the planting instructions, which said to dig a hole bigger than the pot and fill it with water for a perc test. Needless to say, he constructed a well that took days to drain as the clay retained all the water. No more perc tests for this garden.


Gardening has been so depressing as all my plants were frozen this winter and I have just been cutting them back one bed at a time. So this week I thought I would show my houseplants that live on the back porch most of the year. When I vacation the plants are moved into the woods and are watered by the sprinklers. In the winter the most tender ones stay in the garage. Some of these plants have been with me for 30 to 50 years. One or two have traveled across the country at least twice and even got an airplane ride

Gardening Happenings

I love to pick up interesting bits of nature that I find around the yard and arrange them on my porch table. There are stones, pinecones, Rosy Wolf shells, and two large acorns I found in the woods that are now just caps.

Apparently, someone else was checking out my little display and decided to EAT IT leaving the caps behind. I know it was you, squirrel.

A flock of American goldfinches arrived rather late in the season, it may have been the cold that brought them here. Even from across the yard, they were very skittish and that’s the best photo I could get with the long lens.

The goldfinches stayed around for a few days, so I broke down and bought a bag of the very expensive niger seed which is like candy for these birds.

I was able to get a good close-up from my kitchen window of this hungry birdie. It was eating so fast that its beak had seed stuck on it.

The day after I put the costly seed out, the goldfinches promptly left. Now I have an entire bag of seed. They probably will not return until next year and the goldfinches will not eat the old seed.

After a long week of storms, I found many broken-off tree limbs. This one was driven into the ground, which happens quite often. I’m always thankful I haven’t been impaled by one.

The possum was back out in the middle of the day. Its clean and fluffy fur looked nice enough to pet.

Seeds, Seeds, and More Seeds

I am usually somewhat organized, but for some reason, I can’t get a handle on the seeds I collect from my garden. The seeds are stored in several locations in the garage. I have them on the potting bench that I can’t use for potting anymore.

Seeds are piled on the stand where my plants spend the winter.

More seeds are stashed on a garage shelf.

And the shelf under that one.

Seeds even fill shelves inside my house.

If anyone has a great system, I would love suggestions. So far I haven’t found anything I like. In the past, I used wax sandwich bags, but the glue deteriorated and the seeds fell out. Keep in mind that high humidity makes things mold and rot quickly here. And bugs are everywhere.

Della at the family seed farm around 1915.

My penchant for collecting seeds may be hereditary. The photo above is my grandmother working on her Dad’s seed farm.

Vultures at Work

While on a morning walk, we came across a committee of vultures. They found some roadkill and the group kept getting bigger.

As we passed the committee parted and walked into the grass, but not in a big hurry.

The vultures finally had enough of having their pictures taken and headed onto the neighbor’s roof. Vultures are very numerous here in the winter. I always imagine they spend the time in a big meet and greet for the youngsters to find a mate. It is believed that they mate for life. I think I mentioned in previous posts, the vultures like to hang out around our high school and the trees along the busy road can be full of them. Vultures on the ground are a committee and when they fly, they are a kettle.

Sugar Line

There was a bit of a lineup of insects trying to get some energy on a cold day.

The impatient wasp nipped the ladybug a couple times, but she would not budge.

The line was stalled.

When I checked back later, the ladybug had moved under the white ring and the wasp finally found the way to the sugar.

Someone is Watching Me

I was refilling the birdfeeder when I felt eyes watching me and sure enough, I looked up and saw a possum in the tree over the feeder. Then I noticed some movement on the ground and another possum was scurrying away. Normally, they are not out in the daylight and my family was concerned, but I did some research and found out possums rarely get rabies.

I have also been finding a lot of food wrapper trash in the backyard which is unusual. I can understand trash in the front from garage trucks and litterbugs, but I have a large front yard and a six-foot fence to get over before any street trash can reach the back. I think maybe I have found the culprits. Possums do like to raid trashcans.

One big mystery is do possums like beer? And can they crush a can when they are finished?

Pine Straw

“Pine straw” was one more Texan or Southern term I had never heard before and it is what the people in this area call the long pine needles. Pine straw can be seen in almost every photo on my blog.

In the autumn, after spending two years on the tree, the long pine needles begin to drop covering everything.

East Texas pine plantations can yield 100-150 bales or 2 tons per acre. The lumber is widely used for furniture, pulpwood, plywood, composite boards, posts, poles, pilings, crates, boxes, and pallets.

Pine straw covers my back wooded area.

And covers the front woods. The pine needles fall first and then are covered with leaves which makes a very nice mulch to keep the ground moist and weeds under control.

Loblolly pine trees or Pinus taeda are responsible for the gift of pine straw. The trees are known as yellow pine in the lumber industry and grow 2 feet a year reaching a height of 60 to 90 feet. As they grow the lower branches drop off leaving a tall straight trunk with branches at the top. Loblollies produce many pinecones that squirrels love to eat. The trees also provide branches for squirrel and bird nests. The long horizontal branches make the perfect perch for the neighborhood Bald Eagles.

Needles reach the length of 6 to 9 inches and native people made (and still do) baskets from the needles.

I rake up pine straw from my yard and the neighbor’s yard. On my property, there are about 24 loblollies, twenty-one more grow on the outside of the back fence, and about 5 or so are on the neighbors’ property along the fence line, so lots of needles fall into my yard. Pine straw works really well for mulching around camellias and azaleas that benefit from the acidity of the needles. I get a good workout raking the pine needles, which are so light I can easily carry two bags at a time. Loblolly trees and pine straw have many beneficial uses.