Blog posts categorized as: Wildlife

Texas Sage Blooms Abound

Aug 2, 2016

When rainfall and humidity show up, so does a bounty of purple. You may have noticed a bevy of Texas sage blooms around town for off and on a few times this summer, in conjunction with some unexpected summer rains.

What makes them bloom?

Texas sage respond to a couple of different signals that tell them it’s time to bloom. High humidity or sudden soil moisture before and after rainfall will push plants to bloom; seemingly overnight. Texas sage plants are sometimes called “barometer bush” due to this effect. The recent unexpected humidity and rainfall we experienced last week was just what your Texas sage plants have been waiting for.

Texas Sage ‘Rio Bravo’ in full bloom.

Texas sage are one of the prettiest and toughest of Texas native shrubs. Plants are mostly evergreen and produce stunning silver foliage that perfectly complements the lavender to purple blooms. There are a number of varieties to choose from, most growing to an average of  5-feet tall and wide. If you need something smaller, keep your eyes peeled for dwarf varieties such as ‘Thunder Cloud’. If you want something a bit more expansive and impressive seek out ‘Rio Bravo’. It grows 5 to 6-feet tall and wide and is a heavy bloomer.

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Texas Sage thrives in full sun and well-drained alkaline soil. They will tolerate a bit of shade, but too much shade will result in leggy plants that don’t bloom heavily. Supplemental water in summer will help plants grow faster and bloom more, but over-watering or poor drainage will kill Texas sage quickly.

Crimes against horticulture

When it comes to certain shrubs, au natural is the way to go. Texas sage is one such shrub. One of the worse horticultural offenses committed here in Dallas is the constant shearing of Texas sage shrubs into what I can only describe are large caterpillars…or balls. WHY? Please don’t.

SO…so wrong. Don’t plant shrubs that are too large for the space and you won’t have to butcher them.

1. Continual shearing of Texas sage will weaken them…and kill them.

2. You lose all the blooms when you shear them (so why plant them in the first place?)

3. They look terrible. Just, terrible.

So pretty please, put the hedge shears away and let these beauties do their thing.

As we head into fall, it’s a great time to start refreshing the landscape and adding new shrubs and trees such as Texas sage.

Prevent Mosquitoes Now!

May 16, 2016

Mosquitoes are a fact of life here in Dallas, but this year it looks like we’re in for a bumper crop. The mild weather and additional rainfall this spring means a healthy crop of Mosquitoes. They are coming out in droves and are going to make it tough for you to enjoy any outdoor time once the rains pass.

While you may feel there is little you can do to stop the mosquito invasion, there are actually some simple treatments you can use to stop mosquitoes in their tracks.  While adult mosquitoes can be sprayed with chemical treatments, or repelled with natural sprays, it can be difficult to successfully control them in this manner. Prevention is always the best medicine.

All it takes is a few handfuls of a natural larvicide to successfully prevent mosquitoes in your landscape.

Bt (Bacillius thuringiensis var. israelensis) also known as Thuricide (liquid form) or Mosquito Bits, is an all natural and amazingly effective preventative treatment for mosquitoes. This naturally occurring bacteria is fatal only to larvae and caterpillars. The species included in this product is particularly effective against Mosquito larvae (and fungus gnats). All you have to do is sprinkle a few handfuls of the bits under your foundation shrubs, any landscape beds with automated irrigation or that you water regularly, drain boxes, low spots in the yard and even gutters.

It’s a good idea to start putting out your Mosquito Bits in April and continue doing so monthly through September.

The Bt attacks the mosquito larvae and kills them before they even have a chance to mature. This bacteria is safe for children, pets, birds and fish. It’s the most non-toxic and most effective treatment for dealing with Mosquitoes.

If you live on a creek, pitch a Mosquito Dunk in it once per month to help control the population. Pass it on to your neighbors and ask they do the same. Do the same for ponds, birdbaths, abandoned pools, or any other standing bodies of water in your neighborhood.

Hopefully, you haven’t been contributing to the moisture problem by running your sprinkler systems when it's already rained...or is currently raining. All it takes is a small puddle of water for new mosquitoes to breed. When soils are already saturated, excess irrigation will only make the problem worse.

Preventing mosquitoes now is the best way to prevent a serious infestation problem this summer.

Get Ready for Hummingbirds in the Garden

Mar 29, 2016

With such a warm winter behind us here in Dallas, we might be seeing hummingbirds in the garden any day now. Do you have the right kinds of plants in your lanscape to attract and feed these the tiny beauties?

Crossvine is typically one of the blooming plants to attract nesting hummingbirds.

The species of hummingbirds that we see here in Dallas, ruby-throated and black-chinned hummingbirds, spend their winters in Mexico and Central America. Hummingbirds typically begin arriving in the Dallas area in late-March; usually just in time to take advantage of blooming plants like crossvine (in full bloom right now) coral honeysuckle and buckeyes. The autumn sage are already blooming, which will definitely capture their attention.

White autumn sage, and salvias of all kinds, attract hummingbirds.

If you want to attract hummingbirds to your garden and you haven’t yet put out feeders, now’s the time. Plants hummingbirds love typically produce tubular flowers that accommodate their long tongues. While hot colored flowers (red, orange, yellow), tend to be preferred, the hummingbirds in my yard are just as happy to feed on white, blue and purple salvias.

In order to see an abundance of hummingbirds in your garden, you need to attract a female to nest in spring. By putting out hummingbird feeders late-March and planting specific spring-blooming plants, you can entice a female to take up residence nearby if other conditions are right. Plants they love in Dallas gardens include esparanza, crossvine, salvia, honeysuckle, columbine and red yucca.

Pollination Powerhouses

Oct 28, 2015

Full article published in October 2015 Produce Grower Magazine.

Whether you’re looking to save on labor, improve pollination rates or shift production to more sustainable practices, nature is here to help. Bumblebees are a powerhouse of pollination and could be just the solution you need to improve production rates on your edible greenhouse crops.

Fruits of your labor

As more produce production moves indoors to be grown hydroponically, the job of pollination becomes much more labor intensive. Once you move fruiting crops into the greenhouse, man must take the place of wind and pollinators to get the job done.

On crops such as tomatoes, growers typically use manual pollination or mechanical vibrating shakers to move the pollen around properly. Tomatoes are normally wind-pollinated outdoors, but the effect is difficult to replicate inside a greenhouse with limited air flow. The shaking has to be performed about every two days when temperatures and humidity are just right. To make things more labor intensive, shaking the whole plant with mechanical stimulation isn’t as effective as shaking or vibrating each truss individually. That takes a lot more time and effort. A truss is a cluster of smaller stems where the flowers and fruit develop.

Rising labor challenges and costs are causing some growers to turn back to nature to lower costs and improve yields.

Read the entire article HERE.

Milkweed Tiger Moth Caterpillars

Aug 13, 2015

Sometimes, when you're plant hunting, you end up finding the coolest critters instead. As I puttered around the Cylburn Arboretum in Baltimore, snapping shots of plants, I was lucky enough to stumble upon some milkweed tiger moth larvae (caterpillars) munch on some Asclepias tuberosa (orange perannial butterfly weed).

Much like monarch butterfly caterpillars, the milkweed tiger moth,Euchaetes egle, harvest cardiac glycosides from milkweeds and retain them as adult moths. These compounds make them toxic to predators. Hence the bright warning colors. But really, I find them adorable! These brightly colored, and cute, caterpillars mature into a somwhat drab brown moth. Ah, youth is grand, no?

Natural Mosquito Prevention INSTEAD of Spraying!

Mar 11, 2013

OK PEOPLE, Dallas is planning to increase it's aerial spraying program this year. I find this not only unwarranted but reprehensible. The chemicals they will yet again be raining down upon us are not necessary...if they'd just focus on prevention. But see this mosquito problem is one that we the people can get control of ourselves, if we just put forth the tiniest effort. All it takes is a few handfuls of a natrial larvicide to do the job. And guess what? Now's the time you need to be planning for prevetion. While we've had a few cold snaps, we've also had a lot of warm days. The Fleas are already hatched out and jumping. Mosquitoes won't be far behind.


Bt (Bacillius thuriengensis var. israelensis) also known as Thuricide (liquid form) or Mosquito Bits, is my not so secret weapon to having no mosquito problems in my yard. This naturally occuring bacteria is fatal only to larvae and caterpillars. The species included in this product is particularly effective against Mosqutio larvae (and fungus gnats). All you have to do is sprinkle a few handfuls of the bits under your foundation shrubs, any landscape beds with automated irrigation or that you water regularly, drain boxes, low spots in the yard and even gutters. I do this about three times per year. Timing depends on the weather. If it's warm early, I'll put out my first application in April, if it's not then early May. Then again in June and July. If you have ponds, birdbaths or live on a creek, purchase the floating dunk form and just pitch one, or a piece of one in the standing water.

The Bt attacks the Mosquito larvae and kills them before they even have a chance to hatch. This bacteria is safe for children, pets, birds and fish. It's the most non-toxic and most effective treatment for dealing with Mosqitoes (Hello, Dallas?)

Quit over-watering your lawns and quit watering them over-night. Highland Park, Preston Hollow and Park are major culprits. I know this, because I've personally inspected many of your irrigation systems...I know how much and how often you're watering. That's why you have so many fungal problems and decline in your St. Augustine and on all those Indian Hawthornes and Azaleas. I'm not saying it's all your fault..but realize many of you have maintenance companies that are setting your irrigation improperly.  If you need help figuring out how much and when to water, please drop me a line! But, I know plenty of you Lakewood and East Dallas Hipster residents that are just as over-generous with your watering. So no one is off the hook here!

If neighbors, or neighborhoods, got together on prevention we could make a huge dent in the city's Mosqiuto population. Make a deal with your neighbors...if you live on a creek, each one of you should get together and buy a 4 or 6 pack of the mosquito dunks. Once per month from April or May - July or August, just pitch one out the back door into the creek. You'll be AMAZED at the results! Do you have a housebound or elderly neighbor? How about buying a pack for them and dropping it off, or better yet, apply the bits or dunks in their yard/creek for them?

See that big jug in the photo?  (from Summit Chemical btw) It will cost you around $12-$13 bucks. Maybe less. Last summer I used about 20%-25% of the container and saw about 3 mosquitoes total on my property. Seriously people, why leave this in the hands of the city when they will only spend way too much of our money on an ineffective and toxic treatment? Spend a few bucks, knock on your neighbor's door, and let's prevent this problem before it even gets started...

Roly Poly Destruction! Or, what’s eating my pansies?

Feb 12, 2013

You might have noticed something munching on your pansies and violas this winter.  Usually, first guess is either rabbits or squirrels. In fact I've been asked a few times lately about how to keep the squirrels from munching on their pansies. might need to take a closer look to discover the real culprit. Yep, could be Roly Polys! Also known as pillbugs.


I've replanted the pansies and violas along my front sidewalk bed twice this winter. I just figured the first round's demise was due to my neglect. Yes, neglect. See, I'm so busy helping all of you guys with your gardens I barely have time to tend my own! Anyhoo, I didn't pay much mind, I just replanted some new ones. About three days later, they were all pretty much toast. Now, I thought to myself "really Leslie, what is your problem.." But a quick close-up inspection confirmed what had been in the back of my mind as a possible issue...pillbugs.

See those little buggers down there munching my pansies away? This is what happens when we have mild moist winters. Two in a row only makes the problem worse. Without sustained cold weather or repeat freezes, critters like these pillbugs will just keep multiplying all winter long. To the point that there isn't enough food out there to sustain their numbers. Normally, pillbugs feed on detritus, or decaying plant matter. But when that food source runs low, they'll move to the green living parts of your plants. Little bastards. Excuse my French.

Looks like I'll be putting down an application of DE (Diatomaceous Earth) around these plants to try and reduce the pillbug population. You could also spray your plants with Spinosad, an organic non-selective insecticide. Just be sure if you use Spinosad, you only spray it at dusk, AFTER the honeybees have gone home for the night.

Big Bend Grasshopper

Oct 8, 2012

Just a quick photo from Big Bend....This gorgeous grasshopper (still need to ID) just happened to jump right into the palm of my hand on a hike. He/she was AS BIG as the palm of my hand.

Grasshopper sm

What a beauty! Now, I realize that these critters are not always welcome in the garden, but you have to appreciated it's style, no? This one will be going in my sketch book...

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