Black Swallowtail Larvae

I'm growing dill this year mainly to use in pickling, so I don't mind so much that the little patch of fragrant herbs are being consumed by these beautiful black swallowtail caterpillars.  At least, I won't mind until I go to make pickles, in which case… bummer.  So many of these little guys are hanging out that I'm thinking another round of seed sowing is in order so they won't run out of food-- I would love to see some black swallowtail chrysalises in the garden!  Now to figure out where that seed packet went...

Ample Moisture

Oklahoma saw a late spring this year, and just in the last couple of weeks have we started receiving some of those "April showers" that supposedly bring on the "May flowers" and henceforth.  I planted my garden weeks ago and have relied on my trusty garden hose to keep it watered, but for several days we saw some continuous rain amounting to a few inches in the end.
I've seen some inky cap mushrooms pop up here and there since my entire garden is covered in a nice thick layer of wood chip mulch, but as the rains kept going they really seemed to find their happy place.  One morning I came outside to witness this - an entire area of the garden covered in these little shrooms.  It's odd how quickly they change.  I took these photos about 30 minutes to an hour after I first spotted them.  Initially, they still looked fresh and the caps were not curling upward yet.  By photo time they had started to deteriorate some and A noticeable change in color was apparent.  I came out an hour later and they had disintegrated into a mere memory.  Had I not seen them earlier I would not have known of their presence, save for a close observation of tiny black fibers across the mulch.
I love the textures in this top photo - this is one of my favorite attributes of fungi: the textures.  So intricate, despite how small they are.
And now it's raining again...

Mystery Plants Galore

A couple of owners back, a Horticulture professor lived in our house.  Fitting, huh?  I'm rather thrilled by it, as we've got quite the assortment of trees that I've always wanted to grow, in addition to many plants that I am not so familiar with.  Now that springtime has arrived, things just keep popping up -- first a chorus of daffodils, and then earlier this week I noticed all of these little yellow flecks from across the yard while I was observing a fruit tree (plum, I think) with bees collecting pollen to their little hearts' delight.  Upon closer inspection, I discovered these beautiful little shrubs - tons of them, all lining our far back fence and smelling sweeter than I ever could have expected.  And I will admit, I had NO idea what they were.
Fortunately, my fellow nature lover Misti, who is far more knowledgeable in non-tree plant species than I am came to the rescue… and identified it as golden currant!  We have currants!  I will admit that while I know what currants are, I don't think I've actually eaten one… but I do intend to try my hand at making some preserves this summer!  I know that mystery plants abound in our half acre yard, but I'm really looking forward to discovering more of them… and adding more unusual varieties as well.
Have any of you grown golden currant before, and do you have any good recipes to use them in?

A Taste of Spring

It looks like I got my wish!  While Saturday dipped into the most miserable of temperatures, Sunday brought us some sunshine and warmth.  It was a pretty good day.  The new yard will be an ongoing improvement project (just like the house), but we picked up some berry bushes to plant in the shade of the huge pecan trees along the halfway fence line and some strawberries for a circular planter on one of the back porches.  I have ideas for other projects out here, though some of them may need to wait until next year.  For now, we need to start thinking about getting a lawn mower (never needed one) and preparing for the arrival of my bees!  I feel this immense weight lifted with the introduction of later daylight hours.  Breathing a sigh of relief...

Beautyberry's Best Season

The shrub was given to me, dug up from a friend's garden that required space for other plants.  The tiny white blooms are pleasant, and the big, bright green leaves are nice, but my favorite part of the year with my American beautyberry is autumn when it boasts these vibrant, purple berries.
I had big plans to dye yarn with them this year, but have found mixed reviews about whether or not the purple pigment from the fruit's outer coating is actually released or if the neutral toned flesh inside dictates the resulting hue.  Fact sheets about Callicarpa indicate that the berries have been used to extract a purple dye for fabric.  I have found little online about actual experiences with using the berries for dye, and one of the accounts I came across indicated that it was a bit of a disappointment.  With that in mind, I've decided to defer to next year.
My beautyberry is one of my favorite plants, and I can't bring myself to strip the branches of their ornamentation - especially when I'm so close to adding it to my own landscape!  Upon moving into the new house, I do plan to propagate some new plants from seed to plant around the yard, so next year I should have enough that I won't miss them.  Do you have any experience with using this species to dye with?

New Growth

One of my favorite parts about gardening is watching the plants day after day as they put on a little new growth or unfurl a new little blossom.  These succulents are really starting to perk up.  I can't wait to see how much they grow over the next few months.

Raising Succulents

 Just look at these beauties!  Succulents are by far some of the most striking plants to grow at home.  When we were in the Pacific Northwest this past summer, I collected multiple little bits of succulents that we found while walking about, to bring home.  It's amazing how easy it is to grow a new succulent plant from just a little piece that fell off of another one.  There are so many varied textures and colors with these little guys - any time I go to a nursery that carries them I have to resist leaving with an armful!  Luckily for me, my friend Jo Anne from the Anthaus studio asked me to be a part of one of their group's new design ventures... so she and I went wild at a local nursery the other day and now I'm excited to be the caretaker for these babies as we develop this new art project.  I'm excited to tell you more about all of this eventually, but for now I've got to be just a little bit cryptic (sorry... but haven't I piqued your interest??)  Check back soon for more...
Anthaus is an artist collective in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma that "was founded to challenge and inspire artists, designers, and craftsmen to work together using their skills on projects with a unified theme."  They say, "we strive to not only create, but create with a sense of purpose.  Our projects involve those with the same values and are passionate to learn."


Greenhouse Blues

I've dreamt for as long as I can remember of constructing my very own greenhouse, curating it with the most intriguing and exotic of plants and, of course, managing to keep them all alive.  That day has yet to come, but every fall when the mornings get a little more crisp and my bare arms tingle in call of a sweater I realize.... pretty soon the jungle on my front porch will have to come indoors.  This is when the longing for a greenhouse stabs me the most, but as a renter I must concede and bring my plants into the living room where they will face such adversaries as low light, dry hot air, my ever improving sense of how much to water an indoor plant, and perhaps the most fierce and fearful.... the cat.
My houseplant skills have gotten much better over the years, and I actually have a pretty great little chorus of plants going in the living room.  The cat seems to be losing interest with age, or maybe its just that as he grows older he becomes less sprightly and more like a cat... lazy and apathetic.  Either way works for me.
This year when the flora was brought inside we added some air plants to the mix, hung across the ridiculous expanse of a doorway that separates (if you would call it that) the living room from the dining room.  I guess poorly laid out floor plans are good for something, after all.  I am excited to share the air plants with you in just a few days time...
As I tend my leafy friends this winter they will serve as a reminder of what we hope to achieve in the coming year, just contributing for my overwhelming need for a garden.  With a garden, even a greenhouse can wait.