By Kim Charles

I also have learned that some plants just want to be left alone....as in plant them, water in, then walk away. The Wall flowers thrived on my neglect as did the Brazos Penstemons. The Iris were rescued from an abandoned farm house near here just before the bulldozer did its thing. It's an heirloom purple flag; a legacy from a gardener a very long time ago. It had lived and multiplied for decades there on its own. (If'n it ain't broke; don't fix it.)

Living out in the sticks and next to a National Forest, we had all sorts of wildlife visit our gardens. And, not all sported two legs in camo-orange!!! ;-)

Back with Part 2 of Jesse Rhode's post featuring many of the creatures that inhabit his beautiful landscape in Oklahoma.

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I was warned that Gooseneck Loosestrife could prove invasive if it really liked it's microclimate. It turns out it was only semi-aggressive in our dry-ish location, and easily controlled. But talk about a Butterfly Magnet!!! This is my favourite butterfly, the Zebra Swallowtail. (altho Diana's come in a close second!) If'n you North American gardeners haven't seen this one amongst your offerings, it's probably because you don't have the host plant nearby. This specie only eats Paw Paw trees in their caterpillar stage.

We had several species of bumble bees every summer. I don't know the different names, but the variety was evident. I found out that bumble bees are declining in numbers and varieties at an alarming rate, just as the domesticated honey bees are also declining. I was proud that our flowers drew in and nurtured so many in a small effort to combat the mortality rates. This particular bee is enjoying an heirloom rose: Veilchenblau Climbing Rose  (Rosa x 'Veilchenblau').

 

I was delighted to find that our Native tree frogs LOVED our Bromeliads as much as their tropical cousins. Some of these frogs stayed with their plants for years becoming almost pets!
These guys are the Grey Tree Frog and show the different colours they can exhibit. (I seem to remember their last name is 'versicolor.') Their mobile homes are Neoregelia x 'Tiger' and Neoregelia cruenta, respectively.

 

Like many of you, we don't let visitors leave hungry...wouldn't be polite. Our feeders are always popular buffets and forever need topping off. For some reason, this Japanese Black Pine proved a most popular waiting place for the winged ones. Cardinals, Chickadee-dee-dees, Goldfinches, and many others including the Blue Groesbeak and Painted Bunting pictured above kept us entertained for years. Oh, the reddish leaved tree in the background is another redbud variety; C. canadensis 'Forest Pansy,' one of a couple in the garden.

 

We had a couple of road runners which stayed around the place for years, but they were very camera shy. I believe they appreciated the buffet our extra watering attracted.


We also had wilde turkey herds visit our tomatoe rows during the hotter months, but as we had such a bounty we didn't mind their help in harvesting; red-tailed hawks were a regular sighting as were bald eagles during the winters. I've read several comments on this posting of other folks having problems with rabbits and deer. Here, we had maybe a couple of rabbits, but they stayed on the outer fringes of the gardens content to munch on the clovers we planted for our bees. Deer were around, but not in the numbers found in other parts of our country....thank goodness...and very shy. With over a million acres of National Forest to roam, they stayed mostly in the wilder woods. Coyote packs migrated from the higher ridges in the warm months to run through our shrinking lawn in the winter. Bear, cougars, and bobcats were rare, but occasionally spotted, but they weren't really garden pests! Armadillos, however.....sorry, no decent pix as they're nocturnal for the most part....loved to dig for morsels in our softer garden soils, frustrating our careful geometries.

Tarantulas are common here, but they're pretty calm varmints. They appreciated my rockwork and used the dry stacked stones for shelter. This one crawled out after I removed a too-healthy stand of weeds from the base of this stone. With these giants, we didn't start nothin' so there wasn't sumpin' to be dealt with. Mutual respect is a beautiful thing!
I know some folks keep these as pets.... ok......I reckon...but NOT this folk!!

And, I was down on my knees a couple of summers ago, barefooted as usual and in shorts, yanking out a patch of wilde and tall Perilla weed when I came upon this fella:

 

For any who don't know, this is a North American Copperhead. I am so grateful that it was also calm-ish. Me, on the other hand, did NOT know this olde body could move that-a-way nor that quickly!
This is one of North America's hot snakes; "venomous" in plain English. I was very fortunate that their first defense is to freeze and try to blend with their camouflage so as not to be noticed.
My hand was well within the strike zone when I yanked that bunch of stems and leaves back to expose this surprise. Talk about focusing one's attention!
I caught it's picture before it moved off back to wilder parts and then restarted my heart. I never saw it again after that, but I learned the hard way that rule which most country boys and girls know: Watch where you put your hands and feet. I have also become much more adamant and even religious about keeping weeds at bay!!

As I said, this is a tale of two gardens with two distinct personalities. Life moves on and sometimes we have to move on, as well. A couple of years ago, we had to leave our mountain cabin in pursuit of greener pastures, quite literally and figuratively. Our new garden...oh, and it came with a house...! was to be within 3 hours travel time from the cabin so we could take it all with us. Not being spring chickens anymore, we had no desire to start from scratch.....again.

So, things eventually fell into place and we began packing....and digging..........

 

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