Sinister flowers…

Oleander

Oleander

You might think that I dislike children from my last bluebonnet post but that is not exactly true. I adore perfectly behaved, clean, silent children… Curiously, most children seem to like me, a former nanny, and recently I told two young unsupervised children not to throw stones in the pond. They looked at me quizzically which made me wonder how often they were disciplined. I suspect that all young animals respect boundaries and instruction.

The exquisite Oleander bush above has amused me for a decade. It grows gloriously right in front of a kindergarten and it is one of the most poisonous sub tropical plants. I often walk past when the children are out playing and I wonder if any of the patient carers have ever been tempted to make some oleander smoothies. You would have thought the landscaper would have planted something different. 🙂

kindergarten

I noticed that my exquisite pineapple guavas flowered this week – aren’t they adorable? I always thought the fruit was ornamental but have now discovered from this wikipedia post that you can flavor vodka with them. Woo hoo! They are not really guavas but a member of the myrtle family.

Pineapple Guava

Pineapple Guava

Finally our glorious hibiscus bushes are in full bloom in the street. In Egypt, vendors would go around the streets selling hibiscus tea which apparently is good for high blood pressure. It looked delicious but where did the water to make the tea come from??? Sinister tea!

Pink Hibiscus

Pink Hibiscus

“Sixteen turtles sitting on a log”

16 turtles

This is my final post from Mercer Arboretum in Houston. They have a beautiful pond, full of turtles and fish, within the grounds. This is the most turtles I have seen sitting on the log in a decade so I guess they had fun making baby turtles? Spring Creek is a short distance away with some alligators. I have often wondered what happens at night and do the alligators wander up for a turtle crunchie (they eat them like Doritos) but I think they have enough food to eat down in the creek.

These are red-eared slider turtles and unbelievably they can live for 50 to 70 years! The females don’t mature until they are 5-7 years old. I had great fun watching a baby with her mama, following her around incessantly. I imagined she was saying, “snack, Momma”, but maybe that’s just normal. They were very cute. Happy Easter

Momma and baby turtle

Magenta and Yellow color palette

yellow and magenta

This is a continuation of my last post about Mercer Arboretum in Houston. Each season they choose a color palette and Spring 2016 is yellow and magenta, as you can see above. It never ceases to amaze me that they can imagine this color combination in so many varieties of plant. Truly a work of art in a garden.

pink magnolia

I was particularly struck by the beauty of this deep pink magnolia blossom. Disappointingly, it didn’t have as strong a scent as the natural cream ones but aesthetically pleasing, nonetheless.

magenta and yellow 2

A beautiful border with shades of yellow, magenta and purple. If you knew the colors in advance you could wear the perfect outfit but perhaps a neutral tone would work best with these vivid colors.

Downtown Houston

midtown water
It can be hard to sell Houston as a tourist destination but it is a great place to live. For any of you who have just stopped on a layover or a brief visit, you may not have seen it’s beauty among the many freeways and suburban sprawl. These photos were taken when we stayed downtown (midtown is really part of downtown) to go my work Christmas party in December – so look at that weather, folks!
sidewalk cafe houston
Many of the restaurants have lovely sidewalk patios which come alive when the downtown workers finish work.
skyscrapers downtown
Although we have large skyscrapers in downtown, it has a very quiet and peaceful feel and unlike other parts of the city has nice sidewalks. The view from the top of some of the buildings is spectacular. You can see for miles around as it is a coastal plain with many attractive bayous that are filled with fish, turtles and alligators.
trees downtown
We even have beautiful trees, everywhere! It is subtropical so they just grow and grow and grow. Come visit some time, the folks are friendly. 🙂

Burning Bush

burning bush

When on our Thanksgiving walk yesterday I spotted this ‘burning bush’. I remember biblical references to it and assumed they were allegorical. I found this Wikipedia reference that was illuminating – get it??? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burning_bush

In real life the bush was within the bullrushes alongside the containment pond but it’s autumnal coloring stood out amongst the pale stalks. I almost expected to find a basket with Moses in it…:)

What struck me most was how amazing nature is. Enjoy this post Thanksgiving photograph.

One sleep to Halloween….

TREE LICE SILK1

This is the Halloween story I promised following the Cougar and the Cherokee blog – https://chattykerry.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/the-cougar-and-the-cherokee/ I had gone into our local hardware store to speak to the master gardener about a strange webbing all over our Live Oak. Both my husband and I thought that it was a very industrious spider but then the web was literally all over an oak tree that is as tall as our house. I was chatting with a friend who queried whether it could be something harmful like a silk worm.

To my astonishment, the master gardener brought up some photos on her computer of the perpetrators and their web – it was bark lice. They are amazing little friends of nature. Live Oaks attract lichen because of their open bark and this can kill the tree. The bark lice eat lichen so they come as a landscaping team – probably speaking Spanish – cover their web all over the tree, eat the lichen, roll the web back into a ball and take it with them to the next tree. Isn’t that fantastic?

Here is a link to more information about them. http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/beneficials/beneficial-41_barklice2_Cerastipscus_sp.htm

I looked very hard for Ernesto, Adelpho or Pedro but I couldn’t see the little stripy critters under the webbing. I hoped it would last until Halloween and I could cover the tree in fake spiders but their job is done and our tiny landscapers have moved onto another tree. Nature is full of joy and mystery.
BARKLICE2

The Cougar and the Cherokee

Once again my funny story comes from a shop – our local hardware store. It is one of these wonderful small stores that has retired tradesman who can tell you exactly what type of screw to use and you can just buy three! This time I was in a panic, because I was not brought up in the subtropics and the ecology is unfamiliar to me. I had a gardening problem which I will share closer to Halloween and it was solved completely by the lovely lady gardener. We started talking and she asked me if my Native genetics were Cherokee? I was perplexed especially since I believe we might have been from family lore. She had noticed my high cheekbones, profile and unusual teeth. My husband’s cousin is a dentist and he was puzzled by why my teeth were not worn down – I still have all the little indentations that children have at the bottom of their teeth. The gardener told me that a dentist had told her that Cherokee teeth, in particular, are very strong and that’s why the enamel doesn’t wear down. Now I was intrigued and asked her if she had white or brown earwax. Some Native Americans and Japanese people have white earwax which is dry and has to be scraped out. I have the white earwax which explains why my UK doctor thought I had eczema in my ears. There is an evolutionary reason for this – something to do with cold, windy plains in Siberia.

She told me that she had been brought up on a farm in North Texas – so we shared North Texas ancestry stories. When she was a child, a Native man dressed in regular clothes walked barefoot to their farm, handed a medicine stick to her and walked away without a word. She felt she had a natural affinity to the land and I have a natural stalking ability (you will want to be friends with both of us when the Zombie Apocalypse happens…) One day, when she was an adult, she was visiting the family farm with her young daughter. The little girl disappeared so the lady and her mother started walking across the Prairie to find her. They were shocked to find the little girl fast asleep with a cougar (mountain lion) sleeping alongside her. Her mother opened her mouth to scream so she quickly put her hand across Grandma’s mouth to stop her making a noise. Grandma then went back to the house to get Grandpa. The lady signaled to her father not to move and very gently went and picked up her still sleeping daughter. As she moved backwards the cougar stood up and stretched its front legs which is a social cat habit (to express friendship) and just walked off.

Before she told me the end of the story, I knew that the cougar was protecting the child from something and indeed it was. The property had a problem with venomous snakes that year and the child had fallen asleep with snakes all around. Mama cougar must have instinctively realized that she had to protect the human cub. It was such a wonderful tale that my eyes filled with tears at how amazing nature is. Today I was meeting friends at the local Starbucks and got chatting to a very pretty lady waiting for our coffees. She admired my skirt which I had ordered online from India. She showed me a photo of her beautiful children who are half Bangladeshi. She then told me that she was half Native American (Cherokee/Choctaw) but she was even fairer than me with translucent white skin and beautiful blue-gray eyes. It is actually quite common to be native around here because the tribes were corralled into Oklahoma so local European settlers intermarried. I bet you are wondering why I am called Chatty Kerry, eh? Life is so much more fun when you talk to people.