Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

I spend a lot of time looking at aerial photography and maps for work, and I love discovering the signatures of certain features.  It’s like a puzzle.  If you’ve flown in an airplane you’ve played the same game, identifying a river and its tributaries, the strange shapes of airport runways, bales of hay dotting a mowed field.  One day I was fantasizing about vacationing in England, specifically in Oxford thanks to an obsession with Inspector Lewis (I really want to stay on a houseboat in Oxford after watching that show!), and I was looking at the aerial photos of the town.  I saw this.
cripley meadow allotments
You probably already know from the title of this post what it is, but it took me a second.  I went into street view, and puzzled it out. It’s a community garden! Cripley Meadow Allotments, to be specific, and that is the River Thames (it’s called the Isis in Oxford) flowing to the south.  Community gardens must be very, very popular in England because there are 36 community gardens (or allotment sites, as they are known there) in Oxford, which has a population of 150,000.  Austin, with a population around a million, has 29 community gardens.   Here is one in Austin, Sunshine Community Gardens, that I drive by every day. It’s a couple of miles from my house and is really lovely. Sometimes we go for walks there and visit the chickens. There are lots of hidden artistic touches in the plots that are fun to find.
sunshine gardens

I decided to do some other random checks on other cities around the world to see if I could find more community gardens.  I looked in Nantes, France, and almost immediately found the Parc Potager de Fournillère. It looks really beautiful surrounded by the red roofs of the town. 

parc potager Fournillere
Recently I took a BuzzFeed quiz (yeah, I know, important stuff) and it told me I was meant to live in Japan.  I have always been curious about Japan.  I flew there in Google Earth to find their community gardens. I found none. I saw some little farms, but they were clearly not the patchwork quilt of a community garden. I was surprised, and I tried to find information on Japanese community gardens.  It turns out that it laws in Japan protecting farmers had the effect of preventing urbanites from having community gardens. There were also issues with land ownership and the length of leases.  There were attempts to change the laws to allow community gardens in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and it seems they have had success in encouraging community gardens in Japan. Here is the PDF article that I found.  I kept looking and found this one in Yokohama.  It’s tiny, but it looks like it is probably a community garden. It may be just one family’s, though.



Then I happened upon this sprawling complex of baseball fields and what looks very much like the Western community gardens.  It is in the Izumi part of Yokohama. I would love to know more about it. There are some mysteries here. Why are there circular areas without gardens? Are they wetlands? Some kind of sports field? I can’t tell.  It’s perfectly circular, and it has some perfectly circular features within it. It looks like a collage on the landscape.


Izumi mystery circle


Gardening by satellite!  Fun for the modern age.


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The coral bean, Erythrina herbacea, is doing well. I transplanted it from the back yard to the front yard. It is blooming away!


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All grown up!

The [presumed] Euplectrus wasps emerged after just a few days. The pupae weren’t much to see, they were little specks in the dried up husk of the caterpillar. The adults are, well, not exactly majestic, but here they are.  There were 6 or 8 of them.

euplectrus adult
On the plastic film on the mason jar where they matured.

euplectrus finger
On my knuckle.

So they were less than 1/4″ long. Tiny! I let them go so they could continue their lives. The end!

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I was in the yard after work today looking at all the holes in the hackberry leaves. It reminded me of all the caterpillar frass I had seen on a walk this week under a hackberry, and I decided that if there are really that many caterpillars in the tree, I should be able to find one. I pretended to be a warbler and looked along the little twigs. It took a minute, but I found one. I was going to leave it alone (I’m not going that far with the pretending), but I noticed it had a green blob on it. I looked closer, and discovered a cluster of eggs on the caterpillar.


I’ve seen the big hawkmoth caterpillars full of white parasitoid eggs before, but I have never seen these. Any ideas for ID?  It looks like Euplectrus maybe?

Also, I am proud of what a good warbler I am. Look how tiny that caterpillar is!

thumb caterpillar

I have the caterpillar in a jar with some hackberry leaves. I’ll check his progress tomorrow (or, rather, the eggs’ progress. The caterpillar is probably doomed, poor guy).

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Caterpillars everywhere!

The last couple of weeks, there have been caterpillars everywhere– on the road, in the grass, on my mistflowers. I don’t remember this from previous years. Interesting.


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I saw this on Adaptive Reuse and had to repost.

Flippin Retire makes tire planters that are super-cute and modern. I haven’t gotten my hands on one yet, but it looks like they are selling planters at their garage sale tomorrow, and they look really reasonably priced! Click on the News link at the top of their page.

I went to the garage sale and the tire planters are awesome. Lee Anne has them scattered throughout her yard, and they look great. I made it home with a really cute one; I’ll post photos when I have it set up. It’s so great to find these– I’ve always loved tire planters but I’ve never been brave enough to try making one myself. And these are so beautiful. I love the bold graphic designs and colors, they are perfect for Austin gardens.

flippin retire

So colorful!
flippin retire

I love the way they look in the landscape.
flippin retire

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When we got married last year, my aunt wanted to get us a gift and I suggested a birdbath. She lives in NYC and we live here, so that was logistically probably not the best choice. But I took advantage when my parents came to town and they helped me pick something out. I love it!



We might need to elevate it a bit more, but so far the dogs have shown no interest in it.

Remember the mystery plant that I mentioned? Here it is. Please let me know if you can identify it! It has a bulb that is visible, and the flower. The leaves have brown spots. The lady who sold it said it spreads out and she uses it as a groundcover under her trees. Ideas? Mystery solved, thanks to Katina who saw it at Philip’s blog, East Side Patch.  It is African hosta.  Hurray!

mystery plant

mystery plant

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