Zilker Neighborhood Gardens

Commentary by a National Wildlife Steward who helps Zilker neighbors establish native plant gardens

Fall Native Plant Sale at Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center – this weekend

Choose from nearly 300 species of hardy Texas native plants that thrive in our Central Texas climate, provide habitat for wildlife and can help make your garden look like Texas.


Friday, October 10, 1 p.m. – 7 p.m.

11:30 a.m.: Presentation by renowned Texas architect Ted Flato about his book “Lake-Flato Houses: Embracing the Landscape.” A signing will follow in the store until 2:00 p.m. Reserve your copy in advance by calling 512.232.0130.

11 a.m. – 3 p.m.: Travis County Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions.

Become a member today to take advantage of the Members-Only Sale!


Saturday, October 11, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

All Day: Make Ecopots in the Courtyard.

11 a.m. – Noon: Drought-tolerant plants garden tour with Jackie O’Keefe, NPSOT.

11 a.m. – 1 p.m.: Book signing for “On the Road with Texas Highways” with J. Griffis Smith.

Noon: Presentation by James Truchard, author of “Memories from a Hill Country Garden.” Signing follows until 2 p.m.

Noon – 4 p.m.: Texas Yaupon Tea sampling in the store with Maridel Martinez.

1 – 2 p.m.: Hill Country Ecology garden tour with the center’s Michelle Bertelsen.

2 – 3 p.m.: Deer-resistant plants garden tour with Patricia McGee, Capital Area Master Naturalists.

Sunday, October 12, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

All Day: Make Ecopots in the Courtyard.

11 a.m. – Noon: Hill Country Ecology garden tour with Michelle Bertelsen.

Noon – 4 p.m.: Yaupon tea sampling with Maridel Martinez.

1 – 2 p.m.: Drought-tolerant plants garden tour with Jackie O’Keefe, NPSOT.

1 – 3 p.m.: Learn about seedballs from David Werth and Jolyn Piercy.

1 – 4 p.m.: Thomas Koschmieder in the store signs his “Common Tree & Shrub Leaves of Central Texas” guide.


The Fall Garden in Texas

There’s been a lot of action in my garden lately. I’ve seen hummingbirds visiting the firebush. A squirrel(s) has been eating the flowers of my tall rosinweed, must the dismay of my dog! The birds have been bathing in the bath (and drinking). I caught a squirrel there the other evening, too, getting a quick drink. The bees and bumblebees are hard at work dawn through dusk. They seem to love my native poinsettia (despite it not seeming to have flowers), the salvia, the globe mallow, and others. Butterflies have also been flitting around. I caught a few of a Gray Hairstreak in the pictures below.

Lest you think the fall garden is moving towards “winter” and the plants dying back. Yes that will happen some. But the wildflowers have already started to grow. See a picture of a bluebonnet below. These wildflowers will start to grown now, but barely make it a few inches above the ground. They will spend the winter growing DOWN into the soil, their roots going quite deep. Then in the spring, they’ll start growing UP. So lest you think a mulched area has nothing there, take a closer look;  you might see some wildflowers.

Picture of Grandma's Rose, with a Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Grandma’s Rose, with a Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Picture of Grandma's Rose, with a Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Grandma’s Rose, with a Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Texas Bluebonnet, budding

Texas Bluebonnet, budding

Texas Hibiscus, blooming

Texas Hibiscus, flower blooms for one day



View of one side of the garden

View of one side of the garden

Salvia in bloom, abuzz with bees

Salvia in bloom, abuzz with bees

Salvia, with Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Salvia, with Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Tending the Fall Habitat Garden (free workshop on 10/11)

OCTOBER 11 – Tending the Fall Habitat Garden

(9:30-11am) The class will cover fall maintenance, seed collection, and suggested plantings. After discussion, participants will be able to practice what they have learned in the garden and help with seed collecting.
Instructor: Judy Walther, Environmental Survey Consulting

Hope to see you there.

You must:

For a description of the full series (October-May) please click on the following link. http://www.nwf.org/South-Central-Region/temp_event_AUS_HabitatTalks.aspx

How Academic Performance Can Be Improved By Connecting Kids to Nature (free talk, 10/5)

How Academic Performance Can Be Improved By Connecting Kids to Nature

Sun, 10/05/2014 – 12:00pm – 1:00pm

Research shows that environment-based learning is an effective means of engaging students in core subject areas such as math and science. Marya Fowler, Senior Education Manager for National Wildlife Federation will show how and why schoolyard habitats and outdoor classrooms help students learn.

Prior to joining NWF in 1999, Marya taught for several years at the secondary level. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Environmental Planning/Landscape Design and worked in the field of landscape design, creating restoration management plans for habitat and wildlife using native plants. As Senior Education Manager for NWF’s South Central Regional Center, Marya focuses on the advancement of NWF’s K-12 school-based programming in the region, including Eco-Schools USA, Schoolyard Habitats and global warming education and literacy, with an emphasis on integrating these programs at the state/school district levels and promoting environmental education as a means to improving student academic performance.


First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, Pubic Affairs Forum, Green Sanctuary Committee, 4700 Grover, Austin, Texas

Impact from volunteering on Saturday

I volunteered for National Public Lands Day. I joined about 100 other people at 6th and Shoal Creek. I chose to pick up trash as I’ve done my tours with mulch, and it is way too heavy for me!

People gathered in a parking lot

Volunteers getting ready to start work

Besides mulching, some crews cleaned up the trail (a recent storm had deposited a lot of gravel and debris along the trail) and cutting back foliage along the trail. The trash group cleaned from Pease Park (15th) down through 2nd St. area. It was a pleasant walk back and it only took a bit over 2 hours to clean as much trash as we could reach without swimming.

People walking along path

Heading to work along Shoal Creek

I picked up a lot of clothes from the riverbed, a laptop computer top, a Seagate harddrive, a ballerina tutu and leotard, a backpack, a can opener, lots of plastic bottles and tons of little plastic wrappers (like from small candies). The biggest piece of trash was a large LAMAR sign (Lamar is a nearby street) which stretched about 6 ft X 1 ft. There definitely was more trash left in the riverbed that we couldn’t reach – mostly embedded up high in trees when the water was high during the last storm.

trash bag and big Lamar sign

Some of the trash I picked up

Here’s what the even organizers had to say:

This year’s event in partnership with Texas Conservation Corps included 38 projects and nearly 1000 volunteers working together to improve parks across the city of Austin and Travis County, tripling our efforts in the last two years.

Saturday’s projects included wildflower seed sowing, trail improvements and repairs, tree mulching, invasive species removal, litter cleanups, a butterfly garden, and more.

Want to continue caring for our parks? Be sure to mark your calendar for It’s My Park Day! on March 7. 2015!

How Wolves Changed Rivers (in Yellowstone)

I so enjoyed watching this four minute video highlighting how the introduction of wolves into Yellowstone in 1995 (a year I drove through Yellowstone, as I moved from California to Michigan for graduate school) not only change the ecosystem but changed the actual physical geography (the flow of rivers). It’s a story of “trophic cascades” in which an introduction to the top of the food chain can have remarkable effects all the way to the bottom.

Free Butterfly Talk on 9/22

Butterflying in a Suburban Yard, presented by Jeff Taylor.  Jeff, a long-time Austin Butterfly Forum club member, has spent many years cultivating a yard friendly to butterflies. He will share his knowledge on nectar plants, caterpillar food plants and backyard photography.

Date: Sept. 22, 2014

Time: 7 PM

Location: Meetings are held in the Zilker Garden Center, 2220 Barton Springs Rd., Austin, TX, 78746 at 7:00 PM on the fourth Monday of each month except December.

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