Cooler Temps

Twenty degrees makes a world of difference.  From 95 degrees to 75 degrees recently has perked up everything.  It’s nice to have the weather match the calendar.

Also, we were blessed with six inches of rain.

coolautumn6Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) is a winner.  It was named a Texas Superstar by Texas A & M in 2011.  And that it is.

coolautumn7Pictures of the garden really points out flaws.  In this photo I noticed the Hackberry tree growing in the Salvia Greggi.  I have since cut it down.  Behind the salvia is hardy Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)  and several different rose bushes.

coolautumn8In front is Double Delight rose, then Tropicana rose with tall Knock-Outs in the background.

coolautumn5Purple Aster didn’t perform very well this year because it needs to be divided.  I’ve read that should be done in early spring.

coolautumn3The dead pods on the Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea)  are beginning to bug me.  I was leaving them as food for birds this winter.  But I decided to cut the heads off and leave them in the flowerbed.  Then the stems can be eliminated.  That way the birds can forage on the ground, and the dead plants are not an eyesore.

The Strawberry Gomphera (Gomphrena globosa) bloomed in the spring, hot summer, and now into autumn.  Even though they are small, their bright color gives a great bang for the buck.  They also reseed generously.

coolautumnaMexican Petunias (Ruellia simplex) are still going strong.

coolautumncThey don’t bloom with a great mass, but the delicate tubular flowers on the ends of tall stalks are pretty.

coolautumndCannas have revived with some red flowers.

coolautumneBlue Mist Flower (Conoclinium coelestinum) fuzzy puffs continue to draw butterflies.

coolautumnfA few flowers remain on Pink Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri), but leaves have dropped off.

coolautumnkDuranta (Duranta erecta) is a hot weather plant but has seemed to like the cooler weather.  Love it.

coolautumnmWhat is prettier than these clusters of tiny purple flowers?

Several potted plants still look good:

coolautumnhRussian Sage, Turk’s Cap, and Kolanche in pots provide some color.

coolautumniFinally, the Bougainvilla has a few blooms.  Don’t know what the problem is, but thes are the first flowers this year.  Probably didn’t fertilize it.

coolautumnjAfrican Bulbine’s (Bulbine frutescens ‘Orange’) flowers wave in the wind.  All of these potted plants will have to go into the shed for the winter.

hibiscusHibiscus is looking good.  The wet weather is agreeing with it.

hibiscus1Love the color of the flowers.

hibiscus2This tropical Hibiscus has been in this pot for eight years.  The beautiful flowers make it worth hauling into the shed each winter.

coolautumnoIce Plant will die back during the winter.  I used to always have a start inside, but it has come back from the last two winters, so that doesn’t seem necessary.

ContainerPlants1Purple Oxalis (Oxalis triangularis) or False Shamrock has been in this pot for years.

coolautumn1Last week I was working at the Brady Master Gardener’s Butterfly Garden.  I thought that Monarchs had already passed through this area, but I was obviously wrong.

coolautumn2I love Maxamillan Sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) with lots of flowers on each stalk.  They grow in the bar ditches around here.

The cooler weather is great, but it also means winter will be here soon and flowers will be gone.  But winter is what makes spring so special.

“Holding a grudge is letting someone live rent free in your head.”  unknown

Grey Fox

One evening we had some unexpected visitors in our yard.  A group of grey foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) wandered around for about fifteen minutes.  They were oblivious as I took pictures.  But, of course, I stayed on the porch and close to the door.

They usually hunt alone, so I’m not sure why they were foraging together.  They are monogamous  and the kits stay with them and hunt with them when they’re just three months old.  The family stays together until the pups’ first autumn.  That would make them about six to seven months old when they leave their parents.

None of these looked that young to me.  Maybe they were looking for fruit, which is important in their diet.  Their main diet is small animals like rabbits, mice, gophers, baby jackrabbits, insects and grasshoppers.

The females are only slightly smaller than the males.  You can see the tail has a line of black on the top ending with a black tip at the end.  The tail isn’t really rounded but a triangular shape.

Their fur has several colors with a reddish circle around the neck and red brown on the legs. The gray fox is mainly distinguished from most other canids, like dogs, wolves, and coyotes, by its grizzled upper parts, strong neck and black-tipped tail.

Hunters say that foxes are adept at climbing trees, particularly if the tree is leaning or has low branches. They use this as an escape route when hounds are chasing them.

There are plenty of grassy fields and wooded areas here for their dens.  They can hide in burrows dug in the ground, in rock crevices, under rocks, or in hollow logs.

We don’t consider the foxes to be a problem like the coyotes are.  They don’t attack small live stock like goats and calves.  In fact, foxes are usually very elusive.  We only occasionally see them darting into the woods as we pass by on the roads.

I’m not sure how the fox got its bad reputation as being mean-spirited.  Maybe it all started with Aesop’s fables.  In those, the fox  used lying, trickery, and deception to cheat the other animals and leave them in the lurch.  I guess some animal had to be the bad guy to teach those morals.

“It’s not unprofessional to give free legal advice, but advertising that the first visit will be free is a bit like a fox telling chickens he will not bite them until they cross the threshold of the hen house.”       Warren E. Burger, Chief Justice, US Supreme Court