Bluebonnets Forever

Each year sometime around January or February, the same question begins to form on every Texan’s lips as sightings of bluebonnet seedlings begin to appear, when will the bluebonnets bloom? Bluebonnets are as free-willed and independent as the people who love them.  Though it’s easy to say that between March and April is when bluebonnets raise their little violet-blue heads to salute the sky above.   Bluebonnets are not only our state flower; they are a symbol of the Texas Sprit.  Leave it to a Texan to write songs about them, Sprinkle bluebonnet seeds along every Texas highway and bluebonnet trail, have festivals that showcase them, designate entire cities to bluebonnets.   Yes there is no doubt that both the Texas bluebonnet and Texans alike to do things in such a rebellious way.

Many gardeners have either mastered the art of growing bluebonnets and others well I’m sure could use a few pointers

Basic Principles for Planting and Growing Bluebonnets

  • Plant in full sun, in soil which drains well and doesn’t stay wet for long periods of time.
  • Barely cover seeds with soil, don’t bury the crown of transplants
  • Water seeds only on the day of planting and transplants only when the top one inch of soil dries
  • No applications of fertilizer are required but are helpful and will cause more abundant bloom
  • The best time to plant seed is in August or when already established bluebonnets go to seed

For those that have had trouble growing bluebonnets are those who simply try too hard by overwatering and not choosing a location that meets then needs of bluebonnets.  Over the years I’ve heard my fair share of interesting bluebonnet facts.  Did you know that there are five different varieties that grow in the state of Texas, they include:

Lupinus texensis – grows in central Texas, has blue flowers with bits of white and occasionally has a tinge of pink, has 5-7 leaflets and grows 20-40cm tall   *only grows in Texas* Is the easiest variety to grow and is the same variety that the state distributes along Texas highways.

Lupinus havardii – aka Big Bend Bluebonnet can reach up to 4ft tall and has approx. 7 leaflets its bluish/purplish in color with a white tip

Lupinus subcarnosus – aka Buffalo clover or the sandyland bluebonnet grows in the sandy, rolling hills of coastal and southern Texas with sheets of royal-blue in the early spring *only grows in Texas*

Lupinus plattensis – is the only perennial species in the state and grows to about two feet tall. It normally blooms in mid to late spring and is also known as the dune bluebonnet, the plains bluebonnet and the Nebraska Lupine

Lupinus concinnus – is an inconspicuous variety of bluebonnet, growing from 2 to 7 inches, with flowers which combine elements of white, rosy purple and lavender. Commonly known as the annual lupine, it is found sparingly in the Trans-Pecos region, blooming in early spring.

Deer resistant plants

Are you tired of deer eating all of your precious plants?
Here’s a list of some deer resistant plants that you can enjoy without any worry: yarrow, chives, butterfly weed, butterfly bush, cornflower, shasta daisy, coreopsis, bleeding heart, purple coneflower, mint, bee balm, oregano, primrose, sage, lamb’s ear, vinca, barberry, English hawthorn, beautybush, snapdragon, foxglove, morning glory, lobelia, four o’ clock, forget me not, sweet basil, geranium, parsley, blue salvia, dusty miller, marigold, and verbena.
They do not care for the aroma of most herbs.

Basic Principles for Attracting Butterflies

Every garden can be so much richer by the butterflies that decorate it. Here are a few basic tips on how to attract butterflies to your garden. Now every gardener can enjoy a glittering array of nature’s jewelry in their own backyard.

Grow Lots of Nectar plants

Black-eyed Susan, Coreopsis, Pentas, Asters, butterfly weed, purple coneflower, butterfly bush and other flowering plants. Butterflies usually chooses the plant that is most abundant, also by planting in clumps more butterflies can feed at the same time. Try to plant plants of different heights to attract smaller species of butterflies that stay lower to the ground.
Black-eyed Susans Monarch butterfly on Pentas flower Mylitta crescent Butter Cone

Grow Caterpillar Food Plants

Fennel, Parsley, Marigolds, Grasses, clover, Asters, Oak, Elm are just some of the food plants. Many Plants that caterpillars eat are wild flowers, weeds, and Grasses. If you want a large population of butterflies provide food for Caterpillars, by planting caterpillar food plants. You will attract egglaying female butterflies to your garden.

Provide Food, Water, And Shelter

Butterflies may also feast on sap from trees as well as rotten or overripe fruit. Also be sure to provide mineral water. You can make your own by adding sand or gravel to water. Stale soda is a nice treat for butterflies as well. Just like anything else, butterflies need shelter. Some may latch themselves onto a structure when the weather is too harsh for them to be out in. If a structure is unavailable, try planting plants with large foliage so that butterflies can attach themselves to the undersides of the leaves. Then they can be protected from rain, cool weather, and strong winds.

Choose a Sunny Location

Since Butterflies are cold-blooded they are limited to what they can do in a day’s time. Butterflies need the sun to keep their bodies warm enough to fly. In order for a butterfly to fly well their body temperature must be approximately 85-100 degrees F. Butterflies will bask in the sun until they are warm enough to fly. However if you provide a sunny location that suits all of their needs, it will benefit both you and the butterflies. By being able to fly longer butterflies have more time to find food, mates, and they can lay eggs. Thus your garden gets pollinated by loads of butterflies.

Attracting Birds

Every gardener dreams of beautiful lush gardens filled with color, life, and the peaceful songs of birds. However, birds have specific requirements that must be met before we can enjoy their benefits. Here are a few things that you can do to make your backyard a home for a wide variety of birds. As a gardener, birds have many benefits, they help us by pollinating plants, dispersing seed, and eating bugs that could be harmful to our plants or garden. Since we benefit from birds it’s especially important to know how to attract them. Birds require only 3 necessities…housing, water and food.

When providing housing for birds it is important to know how high birdhouses should be up off the ground, how far apart birdhouses should be spaced apart, what kinds of nesting materials you should provide, and what kinds of artificial housing birds will actually use.

When creating artificial housing for birds, be sure to place houses at least 5ft. off of the ground, and 200-300ft. apart from each other. Birds will not nest in crowded conditions. The average suburban backyard can only support 1 or 2 bird families. Also, be sure to place birdhouses in partial sun and if your birdhouse is fastened to a pole be sure that it is secure and will not sway in the wind.

When buying a birdhouse, try to buy one made of wood. Birdhouses made of other materials have been known to “cook” young in the heat of summer. Also, make sure that the house has many ventilation holes as well as drainage holes. A perch on a bird house is not necessary. It is actually better to find a house without one. Having a perch makes it easier for predators to attack the nest.

If you don’t wish to provide artificial housing, some birds may seek shelter in your trees or shrubs. Evergreens are best for birds to nest in because they provide shelter all year long. Birds tend to look for a wide variety of materials to build their nests. These include: yarn, twine, feathers, duck or goose down, rabbit or dog fur, horse hair, twigs, and dried grass. When providing yarn and twine make sure that none of the pieces exceed 4″ in length. Never include sewing thread or fishing line in your offerings, birds may get tangled in it.

After each summer when the birds abandon their nest, be sure to remove all nesting materials to encourage birds to use the birdhouse. Birds will not nest where there has already been a nest that’s why it’s especially important to remove all traces of the previous residents and to make sure that you’re attracting the right crowd. Hornets and bees may also try to make their home in birdhouses.

To attract a wide variety of birds try placing feed at a different heights to attract ground-feeding birds as well as other birds. If you decide to use a commercial bird feeder be sure to keep it clean to prevent the seed from molding and from being contaminated by bird droppings. Birds have a very diverse diet. Some like fruit, some like seed, some eat bugs, and some just want sweet nectar from your flowers.

If you decide to buy bird feed try to find some with sunflower seeds or a variety mix to attract Texas’s finest. These include, blue jays, cardinals, mocking birds and the chickadee. Be sure to keep fresh, clean water available for our feathered friends.

If you are trying to attract song birds here are a few plants that will draw in song birds: asters, tickseed, cosmos, millet, echinacea, and zinnias. Song birds will take shelter in cedar trees, viburnum, live oaks, hollies, and pines. When attracting hummingbirds, try planting bright colorful flowers such as: columbines, butterfly bushes, trumpet vines, fuchsias, impatients, bee balm, scented geraniums, penstemons, petunias, phlox, salvias, pineapple sage, firecracker plant, duranta, and the Texas star hibiscus. Birds are such a pleasant addition to any garden.