𓅛 Pumilo

Birds, Wildlife and Gardening

Early spring blooms and Athena the owl at Wildflower Center

March 20, 2021

When they’re offered, I take advantage of late-admission hours to gardens. The light is better for photography in the early evening, and you have a better chance of seeing wildlife. On Thursday our local native-plant botanical garden, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, stayed open late, and I snapped up a reservation for 6-8 pm. As I pulled into the parking lot, I spotted this gorgeous redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis, perhaps) in full bloom.

While our native Texas mountain laurels (Sophora secundiflora) got knocked hard by the Deep Freeze in mid-February and we won’t be enjoying their grape Kool-Aid fragrance this year, other flowering trees are unfazed, like redbud…

…and Mexican buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa). Also Mexican plum, which you’ll see later in this post.

The aqueduct stone was glowing in butterscotch hues as I walked in.

I like the way the aqueduct walls form an entry space and frame the main courtyard garden. Once again, Athena the great horned owl has chosen the high niche planter, stationed under a wheeler’s sotol (upper right), as her nesting spot.

I stopped to look for her with my camera’s telephoto lens. She seemed to be taking a nap.

But then her golden eyes slowly opened to check me out.

The admissions person told me she’s hatched two chicks, but I didn’t see them.

No doubt they were snuggled under her feathers, looking forward to their evening breakfast.

Many of the grasses hadn’t yet been cut back, and a swath of tawny muhly (maybe seep muhly?) looked pretty with yellow-flowering large buttercup (Ranunculus macranthus).

A closeup

More redbuds were at peak bloom near the tower, beautifully pink against a cloudless blue sky.

So pretty!

The picture of spring in Austin this year

A redbud espaliered against a wire trellis was only just starting to bud, so there’ll be more redbuds to enjoy in upcoming days. Large buttercup glows at its feet.

In the central meadow, winter-bleached and tawny grasses still stand tall, but not for long I bet.

A stock-tank pond quietly reflecting the sky caught my eye in the central gardens.

Native wisteria has yet to wake up on the long pergola.

As I reached the family garden I saw a new sandpit where a planting of wheeler’s sotol and hesperaloe had not done well. It’s an excellent play space for a children’s garden.

Golden groundsel (Packera obovata) glowing along a path. That’s a big cistern in the background, collecting water from the roofs of two structures.

New leaves catch the evening light

A lizard skittered across the path, but he stopped to let me take a few photos.

Racing stripes

Dwarf palmetto, giant coneflower leaves coming up, and last season’s grasses in the afternoon light

The earliest Texas bluebonnets were up along a sunny wall in the family garden. A crowd pleaser!

Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) was in bloom too.

But Mexican plum (Prunus mexicana) might be my early-spring favorite, at least when Texas mountain laurel isn’t available.

Its satiny brown bark, fluffy white flowers, and spicy fragrance combine to delight the senses.

Bees love the flowers too, although I didn’t see many this day.

I leaned in and breathed in their perfume.

Heading back across the great lawn and past meadow plants, which hadn’t yet been cut back or burned, the view was still late winter.

But shades of brown and fine textures have their own beauty.

Spring this year is going to look — and smell — different after the Big Freeze. But it’s here and more welcome than ever.

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