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things I love – friends of the garden

July 11, 2012

I may have mentioned that my favorite landscape professional, Ed Hilla of Native Texas Wildscapes, came out for a little visit last week.  Seems as though we need to take care of a bit of arbor maintenance before starting on anything new.  But that’s ok … first things first.  We want our trees to stay healthy and strong for many years to come.

Anyway, I fret about garden pests (aphids and milkweed bugs) because we don’t use pesticides in the yard, except for localized spot treatments on fire ant nests. When I mentioned my concerns, he seemed pretty nonchalant and described the microcosm of the milkweed plant habitat.  The relationships between plants and insects really opened my eyes.

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I’m so grateful for this new knowledge about beneficial insects and other helpful inhabitants of the garden.  Here’s what I’m talking about:  this little critter (the syrphid fly) is an aphid predator.  These guys hover all around the potted plants and flower beds.

My niece and nephew helped me out with a little zoology lesson on July 4th, identifying this common lizard as a green anole.  I’d been calling it a chameleon my entire life.  Although the anole can change colors, the chameleon is a different lizard entirely.  Green anoles eat all sorts of bugs and they’re definitely a friend of the garden.

Parasitic wasps also prey on garden pests, aphids in particular, elevating them to bff status.  I’d heard of them before but was never able to identify them.  Thankfully we’ve got lots!

Honey bees are my longtime favorite insect and they’re here daily along with their bumble bee cousins.

Shhh…don’t tell Cristybella I included this photo…toads and frogs creep her out.  But they have a place in this habitat🙂

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So next week the wax myrtles are going to get a serious haircut and a big dose of nourishment with a truckload of compost.  We’ll discuss the status of one of the less healthy myrtles and consider replacing it with a cherry laurel.   Finally, we’ll take out a couple of hawthorn shrubs to make way for a the beginning of a small kitchen garden and start planning the next phase — giving structure to the overall landscape.

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Besides the lesson on beneficial insects, the most important thing I learned about garden design was that it has to begin with a backdrop, something to anchor and define the garden site.  My approach to gardening has been to clear away a site and plant flowers.  No backdrop.  Hmmm.  That would explain why my little perennial garden reminds me of the island of misfit toys.

I predict a makeover!

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Thank you for stopping by and reading.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. July 11, 2012 6:13 pm

    Love the lizard!! He looks like he is so full of mischief!!

  2. July 11, 2012 6:47 pm

    I look forward to your updates on different things you’ve seen in the garden. love the way you manage to capture the plant and animal life. Please keep all these changes coming as the year and seasons progress. Thanks for the entertaining reads

  3. July 11, 2012 7:22 pm

    Awwwwwwwww…..look at the lizardy guy! He looks quite content hangin’ around, tending to the garden! (we had anoles for pets for a very long time–I miss those critters!)
    And we’re good with bugs…..seriously so. ‘Cept for that stupid Japanese Beetle that’s consuming whatever it wants. THAT creature needs to go bye-bye. *sigh*

    Soapy water, I know! But they’re gaining on my list of evil bugs…..of which the #1 is the dreaded June bug…. *shudder* ACK!!

    You have nice bugs! Keep those, watch ’em work the garden and enjoy.
    <– will be working on controlling the beetle invasion…darn things…….

    Ohhhhhhh….and I'm sooooooo excited for the make-over!! 🙂
    This'll be FUN!

    • July 12, 2012 8:41 am

      hi Mel. Thank you for dropping in again after my blog break. No reason, just didn’t feel like posting anything🙂 Plus, we went on vacation — no internet or phone or tv for a week. That was different in a really good way. I’ve heard of those japanese beetles but do not know how to identify them. I’ve heard that they are incredibly destructive. We haven’t seen many June bugs this year and I’m not sure why unless the mockingbirds eat them up. A few years ago when there was an abundance, we’d see more toads up on the patio catching them. I have to admit, the older I get, the more I appreciate my 7th grade life science class. take care & sending hugs!!

  4. Stacey permalink
    July 11, 2012 8:25 pm

    This was really great! We forget that these so called “pests” actually do good and they serve an important purpose. We try so hard not to use any pesticides… but those fire ants are killers!! We have to zap those.

    We’re not too far from each other so I was wondering if you have those Mexican or “House” geckos… (well that’s what I call them). They’re sort of white, almost transparent, with little spots and four fingered feet. Do lizards have feet? (or pads?) Oh well.. you know what I mean. I love those!! They’re everywhere and they eat TONS of bugs.

    Great photos!

    • July 12, 2012 8:27 am

      Hi Stacey, oh yes, the pale geckos. I never knew what they were called…they seem to come out at night around here. And yes, I’ve seen them chasing bugs around the outdoor light fixtures. I found an extra large gecko nestled in a woodpile last winter and it totally freaked me out. Weird, because I can tolerate just about anything except cockroaches and big nasty grey aphids. You’re in California? Not sure, but I just got that feeling from your home and beautiful landscape. I’ve heard there are no cockroaches in CA. Ahhh, sounds like paradise. Thank you so much for dropping by and your friendly notes – just makes my day!

      • Stacey permalink
        July 12, 2012 10:46 am

        OH no, I’m sorry… I’m in Beaumont, Texas… just 90 miles from Houston! Aren’t you in Houston or close?
        And don’t get me started on Texas Cockroaches. Those tree kind that fly at you and could care less that I’m screaming at the top of my lungs! EEEEEEE! The geckos love them… so they’re welcome at my house by the hundreds! Ha Ha!

      • July 12, 2012 4:55 pm

        ok, yes we are indeed neighbors! and I’m so with you on the cockroaches. I really have to hold in the screams but i do make awful faces if i happen to see one. they’re gigantic and totally creep me out. ok, just so i get this right…you found that awesome chair by the side of the road in Beaumont. unbelievable.

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