Monday, September 28, 2009


I am a HUGE fan of Orchids.  I love the flowers with their exotic shapes and endless colors.  The different species captivate me with their elegance.  I just love them!  Now, I can honestly say I have been blessed with a green thumb, but until I bought this Orchid, I had no luck with keeping them alive, let alone getting them to re-bloom for me.  This Orchid's story goes back to Valentine's Day this year.  I had just started working at Buds, and Sheryl had found an Orchid grower here in Cypress.  I was kinda perplexed that I had never heard of them before, but we set out into the country and sure enough, there was a million dollar, state-of-the-art, climate controlled greenhouse FULL of blooming Orchids.  I thought I'd died and gone to heaven as I walked through the facility to view all the varieties they had for sale.  As I walked down the aisles, my mind was saying, "Don't do it! You kill every Orchid you touch!"  My heart, on the other hand, was in love with the awesome flowers and yearned for me to take one (or two) home.  My heart won the battle as I bought two Orchids from the man.  Before I left, I asked him his secrets to keeping them alive.  He said do not over water them, and feed them regularly.  Okay, easy enough.  I was still skeptical.  I've killed countless Orchids.  I did as he said though, and as you can see above, my Orchid is still alive, AND it even re-bloomed!  Success at last!

Here's a few more secrets I figured out with these two Orchids that I had not done with ones in the past.  First, Orchids naturally grow in crooks of trees in the rain forest.  This means that they do not grow in soil, but moss, tree bark, and other things of the forest that may collect in the crooks.  This bit of knowledge is key to replicate in a home setting.  An Orchid mix can be purchased from Garden centers, but I just used sphagnum moss that I had in my garage from doing floral arrangements.  Either, or both, will work.

The second thing to replicate is the drainage a tree crook provides.  This is essential since Orchids are almost never left in standing water in the wild.  Specialty Orchid pots, like the one below, have holes on the sides and bottom of the pot and can vary from very decorative to very plain. This is an ideal pot to use, but after a strong wind knocked mine down from its perch outside, I switched to a regular clay pot with a big hole in the bottom.  Both have had the same results for me.  Either way, do not leave an Orchid in a saucer full of water as this will cause the roots to rot.  Allow the water to flow completely through the pot while watering.

So, we have our "soil" in our pot.  Now we need an Orchid!  When buying an Orchid, the roots and leaves are the most important thing to look for.  If these two things are healthy, then keeping a bloom on it is much easier.  The roots on Orchids are often growing over and through its pot.  If we go back to our natural climate, this makes since.  The roots in nature would grow through the soil-less media with exposed roots to absorb rain.  The best way to replicate this is to leave any roots that have grown over the top of the pot alone.  Healthy, happy roots lead to healthy, happy leaves.  Orchids should have dark leaves- yellow leaves are a sign of poor nutrition, which leads me to the next tip of Orchid growing.

I figured out, after surveying several people that have had success with their Orchids, what keeps Orchids growing and re-blooming.  Almost everyone said to find a water soluble Orchid food, and feed the plant every time it gets watered with half the strength the fertilizer ratio calls for.  I tried this with an organic house plant fertilizer and have had superior results.  I think any water soluble plant food would work, as long as it is at half strength.  This nutritional program will keep the plant healthy, but will also get the orchid to re-bloom, which has always been my toughest feat with Orchid growing.

So to recap, we have a soil-less media in a clay pot (with or without holes.)  Next we have a healthy Orchid plant with aerial roots and dark leaves that is fed a diluted fertilizer every time it is watered.  Simply place this winning combination in a semi-shady area to replicate the canopy of a tree.  A porch makes the perfect spot for this, or even under a tree that lets dappled light through its canopy.  In the winter, bring the plant inside and place it in a bright window.  To help with humidity, a saucer with rocks and water in the bottom can be placed under the plant.  The rocks will keep the roots out of the water, but allow the water to evaporate and keep the humidity levels up in the A/C of a house.

Follow these steps and I know you'll have a beautiful Orchid.  After killing many myself, I am here to say it's easy if all the conditions are right.  Now if only I could conquer African Violets!  Ahhh, a gardeners work is never done!

This plant made my day!  How bout yours?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sow spring flower seeds now!

April showers bring May flowers, right?  Not exactly!  Most flowers that bloom in the Spring have to start from seed in the Fall.  Most people make the mistake of planting seeds too late and never have any luck with germination because the plant needs a period of cold weather to sprout.  I thought of this blog posting because I picked up a few seed packets from Wildseed Farms.  Most of the seeds require sowing right now so the flowers will bloom in the Spring.  One example of this is the Bluebonnets I picked up.  Bluebonnets germinate in October and November with green leaves that are low growing.  They stay green all winter, and then begin blooming in mid-March through May.  They set seed in May and the plant dies shortly after.

If a gardener wants to sow their own seed, scarifying the seeds will produce better results.  Different seeds produce varying thicknesses of seed coats.  These are for protection of the seed to make it through harsh winters, dry summers, and also to help with timing of germination.  If a plant produces 10 seeds, and all 10 germinate, then poor weather comes along and kills all 10 plants, that plant has ended its life succession. On the other hand, if a plant produces 10 seeds with varying thicknesses of seed coats, some will germinate and some will sit patiently till the seed coat is penetrated with water at a later time.  Thus, the plant has continued its lineage.  This is all fine and dandy in nature, but a homeowner wants all of the seeds they sow to sprout.  So to beat nature at her game, gardeners can scarify the seeds to nick, scratch, or abraise the seed coat and allow germination.

This technique can be different for many seeds.  Some require a good soak in water overnight.  Some larger seeds work with a good scratch from sandpaper, and some need to be kept in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.  Just check the seed packet before throwing them out to sow.  If the seeds have been collected from nature, a Google search will return good results on when and how to scarify the seed coat.  Returning to our Bluebonnet example, and easy and fun way to scarify the seed coat is to take a coke can that has had the top taken off of it and line it with sandpaper.  Then cover the top with a piece of paper, and shake the seeds around in the can for awhile.  This will scratch enough of the seed coat, and is also a fun activity for kids to do.

So, scarified seeds ready, soil preparation is next.  An easy way to plant most wildflower mixes, including Bluebonnets, is to scratch the top of the soil with a rake.  This will make tiny grooves for the seed to make contact with soil.  Once the seeds have been scattered, water will also move towards these grooves, and soon the seed with germinate, take root, and sprout true leaves.  Easy, right?  I think so!

It's all about timing and proper planning.  Think ahead to Spring.  What do you want growing in your garden? What flowers do you really like?  If you think of something that needs the cooler months to produce a flower, start now.  You'll feel really smart in the Spring when your garden in gorgeous!  April showers bring May flowers, but Fall sowing keeps your garden growing!

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wildseed Farms Photos

These are some pics I shot at Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, Texas.  Enjoy!

Butterflies are self propelled flowers.  ~R.H. Heinlein

If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies.  ~Author Unknown

The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the publicity.  ~Attributed to George Carlin

A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books.  ~Walt Whitman

Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly. 
~Richard Buckminster Fuller

Let us dance in the sun, wearing wild flowers in our hair...  ~Susan Polis Shutz

"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower."  ~Hans Christian Anderson

The green grass and the happy skies court the fluttering butterflies.  ~Astrid Alauda

When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other.  ~Chinese Proverb

Just like the butterfly, I too will awaken in my own time.  ~Deborah Chaskin

If you've never been thrilled to the very edges of your soul by a flower in spring bloom, maybe your soul has never been in bloom.  ~Audra Foveo

Wildseed Farms

My Dad and I have been talking for a few months about planting Bluebonnet seeds at our farm.  Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, TX has long been known for their wildflower seeds, and is known for having most varieties of wildflower seeds available here in Texas.  I have wanted to visit this nursery for many years.  I have heard other gardeners come back with stories of their fields of flowers and rave about their gift shop.  So, yesterday my Dad and I took a father-daughter trip to Fredericksburg to buy our Bluebonnet seeds.  I know what you're thinking.  Why drive 4 hours to a nursery for seeds when you can order them online or even mail order them?  1) I've really wanted to visit this place for a really long time and 2) My Dad refuses to order things online so his credit card is always secure.  So, off we went to Fredericksburg in the rain to buy our seeds.

My day started at 5:00 am when I left my house at 5:30 to meet my Dad at our farm.  We left Pattison just after 6:00 and headed on our way.  The rain started just as daylight was breaking and never let up.  Funny how the rain matched my nostalgia for the hill country though.  I have always felt like I was coming home when I visit the hill country.  I have German and Czech roots, so I feel like I'm visiting a piece of my history when I see all the old buildings and architecture built by my ancestors who settled in Texas so long ago.  I've never felt like a tourist there, just a simple feeling like I belong there.  The rivers remind me of lazy summer afternoons floating down the river with my family.  Schlitterbahn is there which has been my family summer vacation destination as long as I can remember.  The rolling rocky hills are so much more interesting than Houston's flat prairie.  I mean don't get me wrong, I love Houston, but the hill country is just a sight to see! The slow pace of life is a nice change from the hustle and bustle of the city.  Even the air seems crisper.  And let's not forget that we get to leave the humidity behind.  Can you tell I am truly in love with that part of Texas?!  I could go on and on!

As we drove through New Braunfels and Gruene, we took the scenic route to come into Fredericksburg.  We arrived into town just at 10:30.  I knew going into the trip that we were visiting Wildseed Farms at the wrong time of year to see their wondrous flower fields, but I have a vivid imagination and really didn't care that the flowers weren't all in bloom.  Most of the fields were fallow, but a few had sunflowers and cosmos still in them.  We went inside and walked through their gift shops for awhile so the rain could slow down.  Finally, I walked around their display beds with my camera under my jacket (yes, it was chilly.)  I'd snap a photo here and a photo there as the drizzle came down.  I found lots of butterflies that were perched under leaves waiting for the rain to stop.  I'll post another blog of the photos after this one is finished.  The rain picked back up and we headed back inside to purchase our seeds.  Here is what I bought:

Castor Bean: I was very excited that I happened to find seeds to a Castor Bean plant here.  I was just about to order some online and have them shipped to my friend Sarah in Colorado so she could send them to me.  For some reason the seeds are illegal to ship to Texas.  I have no idea why.  The plant is not illegal here, so why the seeds?  I have wanted one of these plants for awhile.  The foliage is a beautiful red/purple color and the flowers are a fuzzy red ball.  The plant gets 5-6 ft in one season and then dies back in the winter.  It is a really pretty tropical!

Cypress Vine:  I love, love, love this vine!  The foliage is very airy and is covered in tiny red blooms that the hummingbirds flock to.  This vine is an annual, but reseeds very easily and readily.  Once this plant is in the ground, you will have it for years to come.  The vine can reach 20' in one season, so make sure you give it enough space to grow.  A trellis, arbor or fence is the perfect place for this vine.  I think of my grandmother when I see this vine.  She had it growing in her yard for years.  I was excited to find the pink and white version of this plant in the Valentine blend.

Nasturtiums: These annuals are great for Fall containers.  Simply place the seeds into a hanging basket and let them sprout into beautiful flowers of orange and yellow.  I bought a second packet of burgundy and I am going to mix the two together.  The foliage and flowers are edible on this plant.  The flowers are sweet and the foliage has a peppery flavor to it.  I just like them because of the color they provide!

Morning Glory 'Grandpa Otts':  I bought these seeds because I came across this in the display beds at Wildseed:

Tell me that ain't the most gorgeous thing you've seen in awhile!  I just love it!  I know, I know.  I'm a dork! ;o)  The beautiful purple/blue flowers with a red/purple star in the center covered an arbor there.  I love morning glory vines, which come in a multitude of colors, but this one is just fabulous!  I had to have it!

Seashell Cosmos:  I love regular cosmos for their wildflower look and pretty pastel colors of pinks, purples, and white.  This flower caught my eye though because of the way the petals are positioned.  They look like little shells on the stalk.  I thought I'd give em a try.  Hopefully they are as cute as the picture!

Last but not least I bought my Bluebonnet seeds.  The drought had taken its toll on the seed production this year, so they only had 1/4 lb bags instead of the 1 lb bags I wanted to buy.  I can't wait to spread them out at the farm.

Dad and I went back into town and walked some of the shops in town as the rain kept coming down.  Dad bought a couple of metal signs to hang on our barn.  They had pictures of a Minneapolis-Moline tractor on them, which is the tractor we have from my Grandfather.  It still runs too!  After we walked awhile, we left town for Kerrville, where we ate lunch.  We headed back home after that only to stop and buy some cedar fence posts for Dad in Comfort, TX.  Apparently the cedar up there is better than what we get in Houston (all according to Dad.)

So, seeds, signs, and fence posts in hand, we headed back to Houston in the rain still.  I was already missing the hill country as we left.  I had Dad pull over so I could take a picture of the Liatris in bloom along side the road.  (You know me and purple.)

We made our stop at Buc-cee's and bought beef jerky, then arrived back at the farm around 6:30 pm.  I was exhausted, but I had a really good day.  I can't wait to plant my seeds and watch them bloom!  If you ever get to visit Fredericksburg, stop by Wildseed Farms.  It definitely made my list of favorite nurseries!  I know it will make yours too!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tibouchina 'Princess Flower'

This is one of my favorite shrubs!  Not only is it purple, but it's the Princess Flower! (Sarah means Princess) ;o)  I know, I'm a dork.  Anyhow, this really is a beautiful show stopping shrub.  The semi- evergreen leaves are a light sage green with fuzzy hairs on them which gives them a silvery look.  The flowers are royal purple and bloom Spring through Fall in Houston.  I've read reports of this plant getting 10 ft tall, but I have never seen it past 4 ft tall here.  I think we get too cold in the Winter for it to get much bigger than that.  If we have a really hard winter, this plant may freeze back to the ground and return from the roots in the Spring.  Tibouchina likes average water and will adapt to almost any soil, but prefers a rich sandy loam soil.  Princess flower is native to Brazil, but thrives very well here in our Houston climate.

This plant made my day!  How 'bout yours?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pine Bark Beetles

If you keep your eyes out, you may have noticed lots of Pine trees around town that are brown.  We had a really dry Summer, so one might think they must be thirsty right?  Yes, and no.  More than likely, the pine trees have been hit by Pine Bark Beetles.  An, almost always, instant death for the tree once infested.

Pine Bark Beetles live out most of their life cycle inside the xylum and phloem (pronounced Zy-lum and Flow-um) of Pine trees.  Xylum and Phloem of any plant are the up and down veins that carry nutrients around in a plant.  If some of these "veins" are damaged, a tree could survive, but would be stressed until the bark could cover the damages.  If a tree is girdled or damaged around the entire trunk, the tree can no longer move nutrients and water around and it will soon die.

Pine Bark Beetle adults drill into the sides of trees which leave a sap flow behind called "Pitch Tubes."  Another sign the adults have infested the tree is sawdust will sometimes be collected around the base of the tree.  Once the adults have entered the tree,  they lay eggs that then hatch out and begin eating all the yummy sweet sap inside the tree.  This is a huge problem since the beetles make their way around and up and down the trunk.  They essentially block the flow of xylum and phloem, girdling the tree from the inside out.  Water and nutrients can no longer get from the roots to the needles, thus the tree dies within a week or two.  There is no saving a tree once the leaves turn brown.  Once the larvae in the tree have matured, they bore themselves out of the tree, and fly to another one close by.  The cycle continues.

Pitch tubes left by Pine Bark Beetles

Sawdust at base of tree from Pine Bark Beetles

Bark removed to show the tunnels left inside by the beetles

There are two MUSTS where Pine Bark Beetles are concerned.  First, once a tree turns brown and dies, it must be cut down and hauled away so the adult beetles do not infest other trees on your property or your neighbors property.  Cutting the tree down and not hauling it off is the same as not cutting it down.  The beetles can still leave the tree and move on to another.  The safest thing to do is burn the wood.  Second, spraying the surrounding trees with Permethrin is essential to stop the adult beetles from flying onto neighboring trees and infecting those.  This is really the only preventative method against Pine Bark Beetles.  Again, there is no saving an already dead tree, but there is something to help the living!  (On a side note, I again like to warn people that Permethrin is toxic to cats and fish.  Do not spray around lakes or ponds, and keep all house cats inside until the chemical has fully dried before letting them back outside.)

The beetle infestation can be quite costly if not caught right away.  The pictures from above come from my client who spent $6,000 to have about ten trees removed from her property.  The tree company wanted to also remove another 30-35 more after they finished because they could see that the pitch tubes had started in other trees, but the leaves were still green.  They removed her trees and sprayed her entire five acre property.  We are hoping the 30-35 trees will make it after being sprayed.  It is a sad thing to loose so many trees at once, some of which were over 75-years-old.

This summer was extremely harsh to most plants.  We were very dry and very hot.  Trees then fell susceptible to infestations of bugs and diseases that ordinarily wouldn't have phased them.  It's very hard to deep root water five acres, but homeowners on smaller properties in subdivisions can help trees through stressful times by leaving a soaker hose on during the hard times of drought.  This will help the trees develop deeper root systems where it can find its own water when rain is minimal.  This might not prevent all things from happening, but a healthy plant is much less susceptible than an unhealthy plant. 

So keep your eyes out for dead pine trees on your property and neighbors property.  You might be able to save a tree of your own, or at the very least, inform your neighbor on how devistating the Pine Bark Beetles are if you notice them on their property.   

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pyracantha 'Firethorn'

This shrub is one that often gets overlooked in the landscape until it produces these fall colored berries.  In the Spring, this tiny glossy leafed evergreen shrub produces clusters of tiny white flowers.  These become the berries that start turning yellow, orange and finally, red in the fall through winter.  These berries make great additions to a Thanksgiving floral arrangement centerpiece.  This shrub is very adaptable to almost any condition. Wet, dry, cold or hot, Pyracantha seems to thrive well.  There are several varieties, but most plants can reach 10-12 ft tall and wide.  This plant picks up its nickname 'Firethorn' from the thorns that sit on the underside of the leaves.  This makes for an ideal privacy hedge that will keep animal intruders at bay.  Birds will flock to eat the colorful berries, which is always a nice sight to enjoy.  Evergreen, pretty flowers in the Spring, colorful berries in the Fall, what more could you want out of a shrub?

This plant made my day! How 'bout yours?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Cat Whiskers

This plant has a cute name that matches its flower perfectly.  Cat Whiskers is an herbaceous perennial that can tolerate a full to part sun area in a garden, and also does well with wet feet since it doesn't like to dry out between waterings.    Bees, butterflies, and Hummingbirds will visit this plant regularly for its nectar.  Cat Whiskers will reach 2-3 ft tall and 3-4 ft wide, and blooms from late Summer to late Fall with wispy flowers that come in white, lavender, or blue.  An interesting fact about Cat Whiskers is Java tea is made from this plant, and is said to help with passing kidney stones.  Who knew?

This plant made my day!  How 'bout yours?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Golden Thryallis

Golden Thryallis is a yellow flowering shrub that blooms from early spring to frost.  This evergreen plant is covered in golden yellow and stands out from any other plant in the garden.  The bush can reach 4-5 ft tall, needs full sun, and has average water needs.  A homeowners dream, Thryallis is low maintenance and isn't usually bothered by pests!  This plant is Native to Mexico, but finds a home quite nicely in Texas and landscapes with that "hill country" look.  This is definitely one of my favorites!

This plant made my day! How 'bout yours?

Fall Planting

The Snapdragons are rolling out here at Buds and the mornings are cooler, which means Fall is here.  As a person who made it through the harsh Houston summer, I couldn't be happier to see the season change.  The cooler temps mean gardening will feel less like a chore and more like an enjoyable hobby.  Gardening in the Fall has more benefits than just cooler weather though.  September, October and November are some of the best months to plant perennials, shrubs and trees.  Plants get to spend the cooler months, and all of winter, working on their root system. When Spring comes, you will be rewarded with a healthy flush of green leaves and blossoms.  Your plant will get that head start instead of having to work on a new root system and new leaves and blooms if planted in the Spring.

Another advantage to planting in the Fall is most nurseries are having massive sales to clear their Summer inventory for the Fall.  This is prime time to shop for shrubs, and perennials that maybe had a hard summer in a pot and really just need a good home in the garden to get back on track.  A purchase that normally would have cost you $40 could be cut to $15-20 easily.  At those prices, why wouldn't you want to plant in the Fall instead of the Spring when the prices have skyrocketed?

Maybe your garden is full, or you really just don't enjoy gardening projects.  At the very least, mulch and fertilize your flower beds this Fall.  The mulch is needed to protect the roots from freezing temps in the winter, and also keeps Fall and Winter weeds from taking over the garden.  The fertilizer will give the roots the food they need to make it through the winter and flush out in the Spring.  Your garden will come away looking fresh without a lot of work on your part.

So roll out the pumpkins because Fall is here!  Happy planting while you enjoy this nice weather!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Purple Chinese Hat

This plant caught my eye today with its precious clusters of dainty flowers.  I was in awe of how the flowers remind me slightly of hydrangea with their papery look.  Chinese Hat can reach 4-6 ft tall, does well in a sun to partial shade situation, and has average water needs.  Butterflies and bees are attracted to this plant, which is a plus in any garden.  This plant can also be found in green, yellow, red, and orange, but this is my favorite!  (Surprise, Suprise!)  This plant is frost tender, so protect it during the winter here in Houston.  This is a great specimen plant for a conversation piece in the garden.  Not many people can walk by these cute flowers without stopping for a  look!
This plant made my day!  How 'bout yours?

Leaf Miners

Leaf miners are an interesting pest that feed on the inside juices of plant leaves.  So how does this little grub get inside the leaf?  First, a moth lays eggs on the underside of a leaf surface.  The eggs hatch and bore themselves into the leaf where they they eat the sweet layer in between the top and bottom layers of the leaf.  This results in a squiggly silver trail on the leaf.  

After these grubs have had there fill, they curl the leaf up and pupate.  The moth hatches out and starts the cycle again.  Leaf miners usually do not do enough damage to a plant to kill it, but they do leave the plant in an unsightly mess.  Once damage has been done, the only thing a gardener can do is prune the damaged leaves off and spray with a systemic insecticide.  

This Borer-Miner Killer is Permethrin based.  The chemical should be mixed and sprayed according to the label.  A warning I like to give to homeowners is this chemical is toxic to fish and cats.  Do not spray this near pets or ponds, and give ample time for drying before allowing pets to go back in the area.  This chemical is systemic, which means the plant absorbs the chemical through its roots and leaf surfaces.  This will then kill the leaf miner that is eating a meal on the inside of your plant.  

As always, this advice gets followed up with a good dose of MicroLife fertilizer and Superthrive vitamins/hormones.  Soon enough your plant will be back on track to looking its best!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dutchman's Pipe Vine

This vine has always been in my favorites list.  The flower intrigues me with its "veins" of dark maroon across the 6-7 inches of its face.  Dutchman's Pipe makes a great vine to cover fences, arbors, or walls in a partly sunny area, and can reach 20 ft. in one growing season!  The vines will freeze back in the winter time, but will return in the spring from the roots.  The flower tends to blend in with the foliage from a distance in the landscape, but up close the flower is a show stopper!  Dutchman's Pipe is also a host plant to the Pipevine Swallowtail and Black Swallowtail Butterflies. 
This plant made my day! How 'bout yours?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

American Beauty Berry

Erik and I took the boys Geocaching after church today. (See my previous blog on Geocaching for an explanation of what it is.)  As we hiked through the local parks in Cypress, I came across my plant of the day!  This is American Beauty Berry. Maybe it's because I am extremely partial to purple, but I think this is my favorite Texas native...ever.  Isn't this why I do a plant of the day?  I just have too many favorites!  Seriously though, this plant rocks!  These gorgeous purple berry clusters cover the stems of this plant in late summer through fall.  This deciduous shrub will reach 4-6 ft, and will do well in a woodsy, natural setting if brought into a home landscape.  I would love to enjoy this plant in my own back yard, but my favorite place to enjoy this plant is in nature.  So, as the weather is giving us a break with some cooler weather, go out and hike through your local biking and hiking trails.  I'm sure you will come across this beauty!  Just don't eat the berries.  Most parts of this plant are poisonous if ingested.
This plant made my day!  How 'bout yours?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Blue Pea Vine

This tender annual vine is just breath taking in bloom.  The truly royal blue flowers cover the plant from mid-summer through frost in Houston.  This vine can reach 6-10 ft, and does well on the side of an arbor, or climbing up a birdhouse pole.  This plant has caught my eye all summer, but makes my plant of the day today because I saw it's host butterfly, the Long Tailed Skipper, for the first time in the garden today.  Ahh, flowers make me happy, and butterflies make me smile!  Too bad I didn't have my camera with me!  This wonderful vine will freeze back in the winter, but will return from re-seeding in the spring.  It's a must have!
This plant/butterfly made my day! How 'bout yours?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

88) Search for a Geocache (check!)

On a whim of a "date night," Erik and I decided to search for a geocache that was about a mile from us off of Cypress Creek in Telge Park.  For those who have no clue what the heck a geocache is, let me explain.  Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online.  I found out about this adventure game when I was coming up with my 101 in 1001 goals.  This just sounded like something right up my alley, and it was something we could take the boys to do for free.  Sounded like a win-win to me!

So, after searching, I found a location right around the corner from us!  Who knew such adventure was this close to home!  Erik and I decided to go search for it and see if the terrain was okay to bring the boys back to.  Turns out, it was, and we'll bring them along for the adventure soon.

This experience all started with the coordinates and a deciphered clue from the person who hid the cache.  Erik and I set out with those two things in hand, and off we went through the nice trails in Telge Park along Cypress Creek.  We let the GPS lead the way, and after a little bit of searching in the general area, we found the ammo can filled with "treasure."  This is definitely not a sport to quit your day job over, but it was a neat find to say the least!  We signed the log book inside the container, where so many people had signed before.  We put everything back in the container, and re-hid the box just like we found it.

All in all, I had a really good time!  I mean, really, what else was I doing on a Thursday night?  Why not go treasure hunting?!  We returned home, and I went back to the website to log-in and say we had been there and thank the people who hid the cache.  I can't wait to go to more spots around Cypress, but most of all I can't wait to hide one of my own!

This is the deciphered message from the website along with the coordinates we put in the GPS.  It says, "Walk southeast down the trail 75ft from the creek.  Look for two fallen trees near the cache.  Think pine needles and sticks."

Here's our GPS!

Off we go! (Erik brought his camping gear he takes when he fishes the creek.)

The name of this geocache is "Pleasant Grove Over the Bridge"

Pleasant walking trails.

You know me- can't take me anywhere without me taking pictures of plants!  -Not sure what this is but it was a beautiful vine hanging from the canopy of the trees.

Did a little searching and moving stuff around.

Erik found it!

The log book and pen to sign.

Other items in the cache.

More goodies.

Putting it back under cover. "Think pine needles and sticks!"

Ready for the next person to come along!

Parents reading this, especially ones with boys, do this activity with your kiddos!  I can't wait to take ours along for their first experience!  I had so much fun with this, and I know you will too!
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