Heads Up!

by Donna Lewis

Last evening, I was outside just looking at the multitude of migrating shippers.

Those are the tiny butterflies that have many species here in Texas.

I heard the sound of something that is familiar from as long as I can remember… Sandhill Cranes!! I looked up and there was a “V” flock of 95 birds going South.

How exciting. If you have ever heard them, you will never forget the sound they make.

It is something that makes your heart warm. I always hope that every year as long as I live I will hear that call.

So, pay attention because there will be more to come.

This is why we are naturalists, to help these birds and all wildlife continue on.

(Photos and video from Sue Ann Kendall, taken in October 2022)

Beautiful Things Still in the Garden

by Donna Lewis

So here we are, summer has gone (except for the warm weather) and fall is trying to make its appearance. After a very dry summer, native plants can still be found in the garden. We do need some rain right now.

I am amazed that there is anything still putting out flowers at all.

The leaves are starting to fall. You will be tempted to rake it all up, so your garden looks neat. Don’t do it! Those leaves and pine needles are the blankets that Mother Nature puts on her children. She is saving plants for next spring and tons of butterfly larvae.

Remember neatness is in the eyes of the beholder.

Here are some things that I took photos of today (10-26-2022) in my garden here in Central Texas.  You might be surprised at what I saw. There were many more, but I was not fast enough to catch them with my camera. I was still very happy that I got to see them.

  • Monarch on Mist Flower
  • Monarch underside view
  • Skipper Butterfly
  • Fiery Skipper Butterfly
  • Queen Butterfly
  • Clouded Skipper Butterfly
  • Common Eastern Bumble Bee
  • Clouded Sulphur Butterfly
  • Gulf Coast Fritillary

So remember next spring when you plant for pollinators, these are the creatures you’re helping.

Remember who you are gardening for.

The Giant Swallowtail Butterfly

by Donna Lewis

Last Saturday, it was hot and windy, so it was hard to get photos of butterflies when the plants were swaying in the breeze.  But I did the best I could. There were several species of butterflies in my garden today:  Gulf Coast Fritillaries, Pipevine Swallowtails, Clouded Sulphurs, and the big Giant Swallowtails.

This is very late in the year for these huge butterflies to be here.  I think the extended hot weather has brought about this event.

Giants are so graceful and beautiful. You can recognize them by the two bands of yellow spots across its open wings, and the small eyes at the bottom of their hind legs. They can be as big as six inches across. They love citrus tree leaves and may defoliate small trees. It will not kill the tree.

They love Rue, Butterfly Bushes, Coneflowers, Sunflowers, and Zinnias. 

Their host plant is the Prickly Ash. They lay their little orange eggs on top of the leaves. As it hatches into a caterpillar, it changes its appearance to look like bird droppings. Who would want to eat that?

The chrysalis stays in place through the winter.

So, if you see something that looks nasty on a leaf, leave it!  It may be a beautiful butterfly next spring.

Remember who you are gardening for.

Summer’s End

by Donna Lewis

I took a walk in the garden and just outside to look at the new emergence that the rain we had a week or so ago had brought.  Many things I thought were dead came back to life, maybe just for a short time, but it shows us nature trying to repair herself.

Toad is happy to have some water.

Fall is here, and things will change as they are supposed to do.

Hawk on the lookout for tasty morsels.

The land will rest for a while.  We will wait for spring again.

As the saying goes…a picture is worth a thousand words.


Hey there, readers. This is Sue Ann. Our frequent blogger, Donna, has been in a lot of pain this summer, and has hurt her back again. Please send all your good thoughts her way, so that she can heal and get back to taking care of the life in her garden.

Donna, we appreciate you so much!

A Non-native Vine Beloved by Bees: Sweet Autumn Clematis

by Donna Lewis

Today it is cloudy and looks like rain. But in the secret garden there is a vine that is beautiful and blooming like crazy. When I get close to it, I can hear and almost feel the honeybees doing their thing on it. It’s a beautiful vine.

I cannot remember how I came to have it, because it is not a Texas native vine.

I try to buy native as much as I can.  I also try to plant things for the pollinators. This plant is common in India and other Asian countries. So, I guess you could call it naturalized because it does great here.

I have seen it in many magazines covering arbors and fences. It is lovely and the tiny white flowers blend well with any other colors. It climbs well.

It blooms at the end of the summer when normally you don’t have much going on. That is refreshing. 

It can get invasive, but the little beginner plants are easily removed.

I have this vine in a half-shaded area. When wet, the birds love to wiggle around in it getting a bath.  The tree frogs also like it because it is moist. The garden’s inhabitants really like it.

As you can see, it really has some good qualities, and it is very pretty.  No thorns. I like that.

You will have to decide for yourself if it’s for you.

As I always say…who are you gardening for?