One of the side benefits of gardening is coming into regular and intimate contact with the insect world. Pam at Digging has mentioned the recent influx of ladybugs in our neighborhood. In my yard, this was a passing flux. More enduring has been the presence of Gasteracantha Elipsoides, or the Spineybacked Orbweaver, the spider that has established its tiny but ornate empire in several corners of my garden. Shaped like a crab, with spiky horns, and decorative spots, this spider spins a large ornate web every evening, suspended by whatever stanchions it can find: eaves, porch railings, tree branches. The one over my head at this very moment has woven its web daily in the same corner of my deck for the past 3 months. Though miniature, this spider is quite as beautiful as any flower in bloom, and a welcome companion—especially since, despite its prickly appearance, it is harmless to humans. Thanks to nickspiders.com for the photo; my camera cannot do justice to the closeup.
After 10 years gardening on solid rock in Rollingwood, I moved into a 40's cottage in the North Loop area spring 2007. The little postage stamp yard is black clay and no one had ever dug a single flower bed. After visiting Key West a few years ago, I came back inspired by the little frame cottages, white painted railings, and rustling palm leaves. So the plan is: desert tropical cottage garden.