Even in south TX, the winter garden is going to look different than the summer version. Most of our plants have gone dormant, or need to be cut back, though a few – copper canyon daisy, a few mums, a dianthus or two – are still blooming. We’ve had a few hard freezes in January, which is becoming more of a norm than it used to be. (We used to get maybe a single hard freeze per season in my part of the world.) Those freezes are certainly affecting the garden, and honestly, Jason and I are just letting the plants do their own thing for the most part. If they die, they die. We’ll plant new stuff. We cover what we can for hard freezes – especially the succulent garden – and we brought the hibiscus** inside. Otherwise, we’re letting the garden decide. We want a garden that can sustain itself, with native plants that save water and propagate themselves.
As our yard is still in early, baby stages, it looks pretty ugly at the moment. Without a lot of blooms, it doesn’t attract the variety of butterflies that it did over the summer and early fall (though we still get quite a number crowding around the occasional dandelion that pops up!). However, I’ve found that we get quite a number of winter visitors.
The cardinals are here year-round, but they seem to enjoy the winter months even more. Our neighbors have a cute bird-feeder that attracts them, as well as mourning doves and black-crested titmice. The cardinals also spent a lot of time on the back fence, and in the trees right behind our house, where they seem to fight for resources with a flock of bluejays that come back every December for a few months. And with the squirrels, of course. We have one particular squirrel that seems to reign over our area. I’ve seen him/her 1) on the bird-feeder stealing food, 2) dropping acorn shells all over our deck, 3) scavenging from the pumpkins we put out in the yard, 4) stealing nectarines from our tree, and 5) happily chomping down on some kind of bun or bagel (s)he stole.
Then there are the birds that hang out in the yard itself. The cardinals and titmice come down from time to time, but mostly we get a bunch of Carolina wren. The cats LOVE to stare at these little guys hopping around – especially as the birdies enjoy the area right outside my bedroom window, so they’re CLOSE – and ekekekekekek at them. They’re less of a winter fixture and more of a year-round part of the garden. Still fun to watch them, though.
A year ago, there were only two cardinals, two blue jays, no titmice that I saw, and the normal wrens. Plus, there were three doves up in a big tree behind the house. I don’t know how much of it is natural change, and how much is garden improvements, but we have a ton more birds of all those kinds now, including over a dozen doves that perch up on the big tree! And since there aren’t usually butterflies to photograph these days – also only a few flowers – it’s been fun to try to capture good photos of the birds. They tend to stay further from the house, though, so it’s tough. But in this post are a good sampling of photos I’ve gotten this January! ( –> This is a good example of how our garden is currently wintering, with some growth still toward the bottom, and some random blooms that will likely die off soon.)
**The hibiscus. Sigh. We originally got this tree because we wanted it for inside and it wasn’t poisonous for cats. Then we had to keep it outside for a time until we could get the inside setup ready. By that time, we had kittens, and they kept trying to pee in the dirt. So we left it outside, and then it got very cold. Hibiscus trees are tropical. They like sun and warmth and water. So after a few freezes with the tree covered, and it was still getting shriveled, we brought it inside. The kittens keep digging in the dirt, even though we keep a towel over that part. It keeps trying to grow new leaves, and then the kittens bite those leaves off and eat them…sigh. We don’t know if this thing is going to live. In March, it’ll likely go back outside for nine months of warmth, if it lives until then!