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Old 06-20-2010, 10:32 AM   #21
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Wow, will that be beautiful. Olives and ebony, I would love to see that. I've worked with ebony and look at it on my guitar almost daily, but I had to look up what the tree itself looks like - very dramatic. I think you are going to be very pleased with your outcome, congrats!!!
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Old 06-20-2010, 10:38 AM   #22
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Audrey, this looks like so much fun, and what a great garden to come home to!
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Old 06-20-2010, 10:43 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by IndependentlyPoor View Post
All I can say is WOW. You gotta promise to post more pictures as your garden matures.

Off topic, but I was wondering....

You guys have traveled all over the U.S. and decided to settle in south Texas. Despite being a native Texan, I know almost nothing about this area. Could you share with us the factors that contributed to your decision?
  • #1 reason - Winter Climate. Very nice winter climate in spite of occasionally windy days.
  • #2 reason - Wildlife Mecca. The wildlife, birds and butterflies here are incredible, and both are great over the winter as well. Nature enthusiasts and photographers flock here from all over the world.
The Rio Grande Valley is very unique from the rest of Texas. It's isolated from the rest of the state by a wide corridor of open brush country which is barely populated, and really has closer ties to Mexico. The population is 85-90% hispanic and always has been since the area was settled way before the Mexican-American(1846-1848) war changed the TX state boundary from the Nueces River (Corpus Christi) to the Rio Bravo. I guess the local landowners were able to keep their property in spite of the boundary change. It helps to speak Spanish around here.

We kept returning here every November for butterflies, never wanting to leave (but family Xmas visits required travel), and usually returned again in March for birds. The only reason we stayed away in Jan & Feb is because all the RV parks are full of winter Texans. You have to have reservations with a 3 month commitment at least a year in advance and we just don't work that way.

We expect to still travel half of the year - during the summer when it is so hot here. Winter travel in an RV is pretty restricted - best to stay south of I-10. We realized that if we did get a place, it would have to be a winter place since we consider that "off season" for travel.

Essentially - they just started building these RV friendly houses right in our favorite winter location within walking and cycling distances to some of our favorite wildlife places. And the opportunity to have our own butterfly/bird garden was pretty irresistible.

So you can see these were very personal choices that dovetailed perfectly with our lifestyle and interests.

Here is the thread where I announced our new lifestyle change A Whole New Chapter in Audrey's Great RV Adventure

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Old 06-20-2010, 11:00 AM   #24
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Wow, will that be beautiful. Olives and ebony, I would love to see that. I've worked with ebony and look at it on my guitar almost daily, but I had to look up what the tree itself looks like - very dramatic. I think you are going to be very pleased with your outcome, congrats!!!
The Texas Ebony is not related to true Ebony which is an African tree with black wood. It was just named that because it has dark wood also. Here are some pen blanks made from Texas Ebony:



I don't think the Texas Wild Olives are anything like the Mediterranean olives either. They just have a similar looking fruit that no one really uses, but wildlife like to eat.

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Old 06-20-2010, 11:06 AM   #25
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Someone's been watching too much HGTV...
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Old 06-20-2010, 11:09 AM   #26
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Everything sounds so lovely. A court yard - I really like that idea. Private but open. I hope you continue to post pictures - especially a year or two from now after your plants are established. I really enjoy watching the birds and butterflies. Oh, the pictures that you will be able to take in your own backyard!
Yep! I tease my husband that I did all this for him so he better be thanking me every day! He's the big time butterfly photographer. I tell him all the research and design was his 55th birthday present. Of course, I'll be enjoying it too.

I will definitely be posting photos! 'cause it's only going to get better!

We went by this morning to check on a couple of things, and there are already butterflies hanging out on the mulch and a hummingbird came by and took good look at us and perched on one of the bare olive trees.

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Old 06-20-2010, 11:14 AM   #27
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Lovely pond in your back yard and neat plants around it. I think you posted a pic of it and snow a while back?

Audrey
Thank you and yes...right now I'd give anything for a cool breeze...
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Old 06-20-2010, 11:19 AM   #28
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Audrey, what a beautiful and thoughtful design! Thanks very much for sharing. My father teaches a bit of design (he's a hort professor) and your work is very professional. Nice healthy looking trees, too. Great work! Will be so gratifying to see them grow.

We planted a number of trees before we started building our house and I have so enjoyed seeing them grow in the interim. Happens so fast!

And as we tend to only know plants in our own region, I loved seeing and learning more about your choices.
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Old 06-20-2010, 11:24 AM   #29
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Remember this show on HGTV?

The Designers Landscape with Gary Alan

I built a house back in the late 90's and did all the landscaping myself, other than laying the sod. Looked pretty good too, much like old Gary's landscape designs. A lot of work, but happy with the result.
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Old 06-20-2010, 11:54 AM   #30
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Audrey, what a beautiful and thoughtful design! Thanks very much for sharing. My father teaches a bit of design (he's a hort professor) and your work is very professional. Nice healthy looking trees, too. Great work! Will be so gratifying to see them grow.

We planted a number of trees before we started building our house and I have so enjoyed seeing them grow in the interim. Happens so fast!

And as we tend to only know plants in our own region, I loved seeing and learning more about your choices.
Thanks! I've learned most of it from osmosis, studying the various gardens around here. We also helped put in a butterfly garden in a state park about 70 miles west of here.

The design is perhaps a little formal (not appearing like a wildscape and some of the plants in rows), but that mimics the landscape style that is typical of this development. Plus I had to make sure that my DH photographer could easily access most of the flowering plants.

My main goal was to have a wide, gradually ascending multi-level view of plants from the back patio, with grass serving as a break between beds, and the blooming olive trees appearing to "float" above the forward flower beds. Something like that anyway.

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Old 06-20-2010, 11:57 AM   #31
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Someone's been watching too much HGTV...
Believe it or not, I have never watched that channel!

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Old 06-20-2010, 12:53 PM   #32
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Believe it or not, I have never watched that channel!

Audrey
You obviously don't need to. Congratulations on a great job.

Your posts are always interesting! Thank you.
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Old 06-20-2010, 02:32 PM   #33
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Believe it or not, I have never watched that channel!

Audrey
I watch because of Candice Olsen and Amy Matthews my interest in home repairs and renovation...

Plus, what else am I going to watch? Dancing With The Stars? Survivor?

Meh...

Of course, I watched This Old House and New Yankee Workshop for years on PBS, before all the cable channels came along.
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Old 06-20-2010, 03:50 PM   #34
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I will follow your future posts as your garden progresses.

No entomologist here, I will admit to being taken aback when hearing of someone growing plants for caterpillars. The only ones I have encountered are horned worms and grape leaf skeletonizers. How can one grow enough plants to satisfy these voracious pests? And what kind of butterflies emerge from these?

Anyway, one cannot have butterflies without caterpillars, but I thought people just entrust nature to take care of the latter.
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Old 06-20-2010, 03:59 PM   #35
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Audrey, thank you for sharing. It is quite evident that your home and garden are a thoughtful labor of love. And that whatever you do, you do to the best of your ability...learning everything there is to know about a project. I can relate on some levels as I, too, love coming home. I spend a lot of time at home and it adds a lot to my serenity to have things a certain way. It has also been educational for me to learn about the Rio Grande Valley of TX. Absolutely stunning.
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Old 06-20-2010, 04:00 PM   #36
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...(snip)...
We went by this morning to check on a couple of things, and there are already butterflies hanging out on the mulch and a hummingbird came by and took good look at us and perched on one of the bare olive trees.
...
Those butterflies and hummingbirds are the real owners. We're just the hired help .

I liked the look of that photo you took of the Huisache tree. I don't recall seeing them around here in Northern Calif. Audrey, will you be doing all of your own gardening or do you have a gardener? Just curious. I do all my own stuff one hole at a time. Never have done so much at once like you've done, but then we've never moved into a totally new house.
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Old 06-20-2010, 04:35 PM   #37
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I will follow your future posts as your garden progresses.

No entomologist here, I will admit to being taken aback when hearing of someone growing plants for caterpillars. The only ones I have encountered are horned worms and grape leaf skeletonizers. How can one grow enough plants to satisfy these voracious pests? And what kind of butterflies emerge from these?

Anyway, one cannot have butterflies without caterpillars, but I thought people just entrust nature to take care of the latter.
Well your horned worm critter probably turns into a sphinx moth - a large moth that comes out at dusk and acts like a hummingbird. And it looks like your grape leaf skeletonizer is also a moth.

Yep - it may seem bizarre, but many of the plants here do just fine even when they have butterfly eggs and caterpillars. We don't usually get heavy infestations that destroy a plant.

And butterfly gardening that includes having plants for the butterflies to use to lay eggs is pretty popular around here. Guess it's just a way of giving back to all those butterflies who come by to visit and let you take their pictures. It's pretty interesting to see the eggs being laid and watch the caterpillars develop. One of our naturalist acquaintances has made a serious study of it and I love their web site. Life Cycle Studies of Lower Rio Grande Valley Butterfllies

I guess it just comes down to - by creating a habitat that attracts a bunch of butterflies, besides having a bunch to look at all the time, you also increase the chances of having a more rare one show up to visit now and then. And we really enjoy watching the entire show.

And a lot of the native habitat in The Valley has been destroyed for farming. There are quite a few land restoration projects going on to try to return some habitat, but every back yard helps too.

Audrey
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Old 06-20-2010, 04:52 PM   #38
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Those butterflies and hummingbirds are the real owners. We're just the hired help .

I liked the look of that photo you took of the Huisache tree. I don't recall seeing them around here in Northern Calif. Audrey, will you be doing all of your own gardening or do you have a gardener? Just curious. I do all my own stuff one hole at a time. Never have done so much at once like you've done, but then we've never moved into a totally new house.
Here is the USDA link to the plant range PLANTS Profile for Acacia farnesiana (sweet acacia) | USDA PLANTS. It looks like within CA it is found only in San Diego County.

A gardener - yes! The development has a landscape crew that plants and maintains all the RV sites, homes and common areas. They are the ones who put the landscaping in. I was just the "composer". This resource is a go-no-go issue for us as even though we really enjoy gardens, we are no longer interested in doing the actual yard work, plus we need to be able to be gone months at a time.

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Old 06-20-2010, 07:17 PM   #39
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What a lot of work you have been doing ! I can't wait to see pictures of it all in bloom .
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Grass is going in tody
Old 06-23-2010, 07:35 AM   #40
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Grass is going in tody

Grass sod is supposed to be delivered today.

To prep the yard for grass, they spread compost over the yard, rake it in, and then run a soaker hose system every 18" or so. This is the only place I have ever seen that waters grass from underneath. Given the semi-arid environment and the # days of sunshine a year, this is just such a brilliant approach (well, if you insist on a grass lawn, that is).





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