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As winter blankets the landscape with its chilly embrace, nature undergoes a subtle yet crucial transformation that sets the stage for the vibrant burst of colors that will grace the spring. Wildflowers, with their delicate beauty and resilience, play a significant role in this seasonal dance, particularly during the process known as winter stratification.

Winter stratification is a natural phenomenon that occurs when seeds experience a period of cold temperatures, typically during winter (in the spring, we’ll tell you how to mimic winter stratification), which triggers changes in their internal structure. This process is essential for many wildflower species, as it helps break dormancy and prepares them for germination when conditions become favorable in the following spring.

Among the myriad of wildflowers that contribute to this intricate dance of nature, the bluebonnet stands out as a symbol of Texas pride and a captivating participant in the winter stratification narrative. 

Here are some fascinating facts about bluebonnets that add to their allure:

Legends and Lore: The bluebonnet carries cultural significance, with legends woven into its petals. One popular legend tells the story of how the flower got its name from a Native American girl who sacrificed her beloved doll to the Great Spirit during a harsh winter, leading to the emergence of these blue flowers in the spring.

Diversity in Color: While blue is the most common color associated with bluebonnets, these wildflowers can also be found in shades of pink, maroon, and white. Each variety adds its unique charm to the Texas landscape.

Symbiosis with Nitrogen-Fixing Bacteria: Bluebonnets have a fascinating relationship with certain soil bacteria that enables them to thrive in nutrient-poor environments. These bacteria help convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form that the plants can use, enhancing their ability to grow in a variety of soils.

As we marvel at the winter stratification process, it’s essential to appreciate the role played by bluebonnets and other wildflowers in this natural spectacle. These resilient blooms not only survive the harsh winter conditions but also bring forth a burst of life and color that symbolizes the rejuvenation of nature as spring unfolds.

Winter stratification of wildflowers, especially the iconic bluebonnet, serves as a reminder of the intricate and awe-inspiring dance of life that unfolds beneath the surface of seemingly dormant landscapes. So, let us embrace the winter symphony and await the enchanting spectacle that these wildflowers will unfurl in the upcoming spring.

TITMICE

Titmouse birds, belonging to the family Paridae, are a delightful and diverse group of small passerines known for their energetic and curious nature (one of our favorites). These birds are characterized by their compact size, typically measuring around 4-7 inches in length, and are recognized for their distinctive crests, often resembling tiny tufts on their heads. One fascinating fact about titmice is their varied vocalizations, ranging from clear whistles to rapid chattering, showcasing their communicative abilities. 

These birds are highly adaptable and can be found in a variety of our habitats, including woodlands, gardens, and urban areas. Titmice are also known to cache food, storing seeds and insects in hidden locations for later consumption. With their playful antics and vibrant personalities, they are fun to watch.

Here’s a tried-and-true recipe from Sue Kersey to spoil our avian friends.

Suet

  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 cup lard
  • 2 cups quick-cook oats
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour

Melt the lard and peanut butter in a microwave or over low heat. Stir in the remaining ingredients and pour into square freezer containers about one-half-inch thick to fit your suet baskets. Store the mixture in the freezer until ready to use.  This makes about 6 suet cakes. You can add nuts or bird seed.

It is fun to make, and our local birds just love it — Sue Kersey

Send us your questions so that we can include them in future columns.

Till next time. Keep your souls and soles in your garden! Remember the True Master Gardener: Jesus said, “I am the vine; my Father is the Gardener.” John 15:1

“In the Garden” is written by daughter-father gardening team Martelle and Bill Luedecke. If you have gardening questions, contact Martelle at 512-769-3179 or luedeckephotography@gmail.com or Bill at 512-577-1463 or bill@texasland.net.