Pride Of The Garden

I went to the San Marcos Nature Center today. They have several Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) bushes in their garden area and the flowers were incredible.

The San Marcos Nature Center is a neat little place, located at the intersection of Interstate 35 and the San Marcos River. It’s a bit unexpected to find it there, but I like that even in the middle of all the development and traffic, there’s a small refuge for our plants and wildlife. The center has some small animal exhibits in the main building and a wildscape of many plant, mostly native, found in the San Marcos area.

Pride of Barbados is not a native, but I see them frequently, so I decided to learn more about them. The beautiful yellow and orange flowers have long stamens and make a striking combination. They are arranged in a circle around a long slender stem. They attract many butterflies and hummingbirds may like them too. They would look nice in any garden.

Pride of Barbados

Pride of Barbados

The plants are believed to be native to the West Indies and tropical Central America. They do well in our climate. The ones at the Nature Center are well over 10 feet tall, but there are smaller varieties.

It has been selected as a Texas Superstar plant which means it is highly recommended by Texas A&M AgriLife and has been tested for superstar performance in the Texas landscape. It’s a nice choice for your garden.

Pride of Barbados

Pride of Barbados

Here’s a view down the long stem so you can see the circular arrangement.

Pride of Barbados

Pride of Barbados


11th Annual Naturescapes Awards Reception

We held the 11th Annual Naturescapes Awards Reception last night at the San Marcos Activity Center. The reception opened the Exhibition at the Walkers’ Gallery and also gave an opportunity to recognize the award winners.

We had a nice turnout and it was great to meet all the photographers, their families, and supporters. We were treated to snacks, drinks, cake, desserts, and wine and champagne. Music was provided by the ensemble, Wimberley Friends of Music. Many thanks Linda Kelsey-Jones, the Walker’s Gallery Director and exhibition curator, for organizing the reception.

The program was presented by Carol Serur, Carolyn Whiteside, Karen Archer, Carla Ellard and myself. Carol and Carolyn are co-Presidents of the Hill Country Photography Club. Karen is Vice-President of the Hays County Master Naturalists. Carla served as contest juror.

Naturescapes is the only juried exhibition at the Walkers’ Gallery and this year we were pleased to have Carla Ellard as the contest juror. —Carla received her Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Texas-Austin and a Bachelor of Science in Photography at East Texas State University (now A&M-Commerce).

She has been the Curator, Southwestern & Mexican Photography, at the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University since 2013, where she started as Assistant Curator in 2000. She has previously juried other photography shows for the A Smith Gallery, Seguin Art League, and Texas State campus photography club.

She has also participated in the Valley Land Fund photo contest, and appreciates the patience, technique/skill, and serendipity required for producing nature photographs.

The contest received 290 entries from 54 photographers. Carla selected 60 images from 34 photographers. Ten of the photographers in the exhibition are youth. Images from all the eligible counties: Blanco, Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe, Hays, Travis, are in the exhibition.

Here’s the complete list of the Naturescapes 2015 Award Winners.

Awards of Merit

  • Barn & BluebonnetsMary Hulett
  • Cypress on The BlancoJanet Sanders
  • Wading in the RainNancy Naylor
  • Mesquite BeansBridget Decker

Awards of Excellence

The contest has four Awards of Excellence and each wins a $50 prize.

  • Bee on BluebonnetWinifred Simon
  • Feeding Time (Eastern Bluebirds)Carol Serur
  • the spider and the flyBrian Moreland
  • Ladder-backed WoodpeckerTom Hausler

Best Natural Waterscape

The Best Natural Waterscape Award is sponsored by the Hays County Master Naturalists and wins a $75 prize. This Award was presented by Karen Archer.

  • Creek SunsetWinifred Simon

Best Youth

The Best Youth Award is sponsored by the Hill Country Photography Club and wins a $75 prize.

  • Crossing the BlancoEamon Decker

Best in Show

The Best in Show Award is presented to the Exhibition’s top image and wins a $100 prize.

  • Bluebonnet HillsideMichael Penn Smith

Visitor’s Choice

This year we have a Visitor’s Choice Award. Everyone got to vote for their favorite image.

  • LonghornDrew Wilson

Early Summer Spots

Summer officially started two weeks ago but it hasn’t really settled in yet. While the temperatures have been creeping higher, they aren’t unbearable yet. That may foretell for a long, hot August.

We’re still getting more than our usual allotment of rain. May brought an incredible 13.1 inches to my rain gauge. That was too much in too short a time. It lead to the devastating Memorial Day Flood of the Blanco River. For June, I recorded 5.0 inches in our backyard. That’s a nice amount and everything is still green and attractive. Normally, by summer time, the landscape is turning brown.

I drove by a tall, lush vine, with large blue flowers which immediately caught my eye. I passed it, but drove around the block and came back to take pictures. The plant is a Morning Glory (Ipomoea indica). There are many species of morning glory, but I think this one is identified correctly. The vine was over 12 feet tall and completely covered a fence. The blooms are about 5 or 6 inches in diameter.

The plant is not a native, but it does well here. It’s unclear where it originated but it exists in the wild in many tropical regions. I will frequently recommend native plants over non-natives, but this one is very striking, but fairly aggressive. Please be careful if you use it in your landscape. It certainly makes a beautiful addition to the summer scenery.

Morning Glory

Morning Glory

Here’s another shot of a group of back-lit flowers.

Morning Glory

Morning Glory

I drove into the country east of I-35. I’m familiar with these backroads from bike riding, so I wanted to see them again. I’ve seen cotton fields at this location and I assume that’s what this is. The field is cultivated with long rows of uniform plants. In the distant background you can see red/brown fields of sorghum.

The sky was threatening rain. I guess it will be a wet summer.

Cotton Field

Cotton Field

Native Sages And Flames

I heard thunder earlier this afternoon so I grabbed my camera and went to the backyard. We have two Texas Sages (Leucophyllum frutescens) near our gate and I wanted to capture their blooms before the rain started.

Earlier in the day it had been sunny and it wasn’t the best light for outdoor photography, but now the sky was dark and threatening. Perfect for me! I got to photograph two of our backyard’s native plants.

Texas Sage is misnamed however. It is not a true sage and is not a member of the genus Salvia. It is also called cenizo, at least around here, which is Spanish for ashen, and that may refer to its gray-green leaves. That may be better although it’s still not the botanical name. I’m not very good at them, but botanical names are preferred. The common names are not unique and often refer to different plants in different parts.

Texas Sage (I did it again) is definitely a Texas native and it does great in full sun and requires little water. It is a very popular landscape plant because it’s so pretty and so easy to grow. The blooms on these two specimens appeared from one day to the next, so that was an amazing thing to see. Usually, they’ll bloom just before a rainfall, so these may have gotten a bit ahead of themselves.

These are about 5 feet tall, but they grow up to 8 feet. They can be trimmed and maintained as a hedge.

Texas Sage

Texas Sage

Here’s a closeup of the flowers. Many of them are still not opened. They start as tight little balls and then take a trumpet shape.

Texas Sage

Texas Sage

We also have a neat Hummingbird Bush (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii) in one spot of our backyard. It too is a native and grows to about 3 to 5 feet tall. It’s also known as a Flame Acanthus and a Mexican Flame.

Whatever they’re called, hummingbirds just love them. They are also a butterfly favorite and look great in your landscape. You should definitely check them out.

Hummingbird Bush

Hummingbird Bush

The nice thing about using native plants in your landscape is that they do so well with so little work. You don’t need to fight constantly to help a non-native survive and they pose no threat to the other plants. They not only look great but they are beneficial to wildlife.

Onion Creek Hike

I was treated to a hike along a protected area of Onion Creek yesterday. Although the day was overcast and it was raining a bit, it turned out to be a nice hike.

Our Hays County Master Naturalist Chapter sponsored a training session for us at the Onion Creek Water Quality Protection Land. The lecture was on the work which the City of Austin is doing to protect the Barton Springs Segment of the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone. We heard about the land under management, the objective to increase water flow into the recharge zone, and the techniques used to achieve this.

After the talk, we were led on a hike along the Onion Creek riparian area. The creek is flowing very nicely now, but you could see the high-water marks left on the bank’s trees where the recent flooding had left debris.

This view is looking south and upstream from the north bank. The entire length we hiked was quite green, lush, and beautiful. You can see some Turk’s Cap on the right of the photograph.

Onion Creek

Onion Creek

I spotted a thick stand of Buffalo Gourd (Cucurbita foetidissima) and was attracted by the huge, bright yellow, flowers. This flower is about 6 inches across. The leaves are thick and richly-veined.

Buffalo Gourd

Buffalo Gourd

A little further away from the creek bank was a thick live oak woods. The large sweeping branches, some covered with a bright green moss caught my eye.

Mossy Live  Oaks

Mossy Live Oaks