Berry-eating birds flock to the Wildflower Center


While admiring possumhaw hollies (Ilex decidua) at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center last Friday, I couldn’t help noticing lots of birds doing the same. A solitary cedar waxwing commuted for snacks from a bald cypress, where my son was able to get a few photos of it.


Cedar waxwings are such handsome birds, with their smooth, brown backs and chests, butter-yellow tummies, and robber’s masks.


I’d never noticed the flash of red on their wings.


Here’s where the feast was held.


Possumhaw berries are at peak redness right now, and there are still plenty of them.


Soon the birds will strip them bare, so enjoy them now.


Aside from the cedar waxwing, we saw mockingbirds devouring berries.


And tufted titmice


Like the cedar waxwing, this tufted titmouse darted back and forth between the possumhaw and a sheltering bald cypress.


We even spotted a vole (I think) gathering snacks at ground level.


One more look at the cedar waxwing.

Are you noticing lots of bird activity in your garden too?

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Upcoming Events and News

Join me for my kick-off garden talk for my new book, The Water-Saving Garden, on February 27, at 10 am, at The Natural Gardener nursery in southwest Austin. My talk is called “Hold the Hose! How to Make Your Garden Water Thrifty and Beautiful,” and it’s free to the public. Afterward I’ll have books available for purchase and will be glad to autograph one for you! Dress for the weather, as the talk will be held in the big tent outside.

Look for me on Instagram as pamdigging. See you there!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Bluebonnets already a-blue-m at the Wildflower Center


Well, this is a surprise! Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) ordinarily bloom in April, but a bonny patch was abloom yesterday in the family garden at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.


Don’t go running over for your photo op with the kids. Only about 3 plants are blooming this early. But I hope it’s a preview of a good wildflower season to come.


Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) was in full flower as well — not that unusual for our mild-winter climate. The one in my back garden is blooming too, although not as prolifically.


Mmmm, that sweet scent.


Possumhaw hollies (Ilex decidua) are at their reddest berry-liciousness right now too.


Throughout the gardens, the berries are a-blazing, and the birds are taking notice.


I enjoyed watching cedar waxwings, tufted titmice, mockingbirds, and more feasting on the berries yesterday and will share pictures soon.


I’d been meaning to get down to the Wildflower Center (all the way across town) all day but didn’t arrive until around 4 pm. Happily, the slanting sunlight of late afternoon made for better picture taking. See, Mom, procrastination does pay!


Yuccas and nolina amid limestone boulders — very Austin.


Back in the sunny family garden, big muhly grasses (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri) are looking very fine, with tawny upright seedheads.


The ghostly branches of Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana) seem to shine brightly in late winter, once the semi-evergreen leaves drop.


Texas persimmon and Lindheimer’s muhly, a drought-tolerant, sun-loving combo


The buffalograss (Bouteloua dactyloides) play lawn was getting some use yesterday. Bronze sculptures of native wildlife appear throughout the family garden, making a fun “safari” for children.

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Upcoming Events and News

I’m on Central Texas Gardener on KLRU this Saturday at noon and 4 pm and again on Sunday at 9 am. Consult the schedule below to see if it’s airing in your city, or watch online (my segment starts at the 9-minute mark).

Look for me on Instagram as pamdigging. See you there!

Hold the Hose! Join me for my kick-off garden talk for my new book, The Water-Saving Garden, on February 27, at 10 am, at The Natural Gardener nursery in southwest Austin. My talk is called “Hold the Hose! How to Make Your Garden Water Thrifty and Beautiful,” and it’s free to the public. Afterward I’ll have books available for purchase and will be glad to autograph one for you! Dress for the weather, as the talk will be held in the big tent outside.

Have you watched my zippy new book trailer?

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Decked and swinging at the Wildflower Center


The weather has been so beautiful lately — Austin’s payoff for making it through another summer. Last Sunday, the whole family joined me for an afternoon stroll at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, one of my very favorite places. Right now it’s a mix of fall color and Christmas decorations, one of those quirks of Austin’s cooler season, which compresses fall, winter, and spring between October and April.


The garden is decked out for Luminations this Saturday and Sunday, a holiday tradition I highly recommend. (Here are my pics from last year.) This year the staff has upped their game, with red and green Christmas balls adorning the spiny arms of agaves in the Family Garden.


Arizona cypresses, which last year glowed with simple white lights, this year sport colorful Christmas balls too, for daytime and nighttime enjoyment.


Arizona cypress (Cupressus arizonica) makes a perfect outdoor Christmas tree, complete with fir-like fragrance.


Nearby, a gray-trunked Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana) seems to shelter a handsome buck, one of the many bronze animal sculptures placed throughout the Family Garden.


A spiral wall for kids to play on, tiled with numbers in the Fibonacci sequence, always catches my eye.


The flowers depicted in this section are Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii), one of several plants with spiraling features planted nearby.


Here’s some of that fall color I mentioned: Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) turning orangey red on the aqueduct along the entry walk.


It harmonizes nicely with the warm stone of the pillars.


We walked all the way out along the Texas Arboretum trail, a relatively new section of the gardens. My son goes tree-hugger with a live oak, as David, my husband, looks on.


Daughter was perched in the low branches like a bird. In case you’re wondering, we don’t normally climb trees (or any other plant) at public gardens. But it seems to be encouraged with this particular tree, which at some point fell over while remaining rooted and alive. A well-kept mulched path leads to it and encircles it, inviting you to sit on its horizontal trunk and clamber up.


Nearby, my favorite part of the arboretum is even more tree-interactive. A picturesque glade of mighty live oaks is hung with an assortment of swings: swinging armchairs, swinging benches, board swings, spinning disc swings, and even a few child swings with safety bars.


We tried them all out (except the baby swings), gliding and spinning and pushing for nearly an hour.


It was so much fun!


And even a little zen.


We climbed the big viewing tower before we left, and I stopped to admire this possumhaw (Ilex decidua) in full berry. When the leaves drop it’ll be even more stunning.


Here’s one more picture of the festive agaves to remind you of Luminations this weekend. It’s a fun holiday activity for the whole family. Go early to see the gardens before it gets completely dark, or go later to avoid the kiddie crowd. Either way, it’ll give you a warm glow!

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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