In Fredericksburg

Recently my husband and I drove to Fredericksburg to scout out gardens.  My mission was to fine appropriate places that a class of prospective Master Gardeners could visit as a group to provide additional information and to observe different garden styles.

fredericksburgThe first stop was the Master Gardeners demonstration garden at the Ag Extension Office.  Although it isn’t the prettiest area, it shows a specific trait that is valuable for Texas gardens.  It does not receive supplemental water – only rain water.  Tough plants, only.

fredericksburg1Mostly native plants and a few others that have acclimated to the region are used.  It looked like there had been little rain recently.

fredericksburg2Mexican Feather Grass and native Redbuds are drought tolerant.

fredericksburg3Some of the plants here are Salvia Greggii, Purple Sage, and Cross Vine.

fredericksburg4The next garden was the Biblical Garden at the United Methodist Church.  It is small but a pretty spot.  Someone has done research to match the names of plants mentioned in the Bible with common names of plants today.

fredericksburg6Since Israel is arid, many plants that survive there also do well here.

fredericksburg7This sign identifies the plant with the yellow flowers in the former picture.

fredericksburg8A Pomegranate tree (Punica granatum) is referenced in Song of Solomon 4:14.

fredericksburg9Palm branches were used in John 12:13 and are common in Palm Sunday services.

fredericksburgaPapyrus (Cyperus papyrus) is seen on the left, and Bulrush (Typhaspp.) on the right.  Exodus 2 relates the well known account of the basket woven to hold baby Moses.  Both of these plants are considered possibilities for that with papyrus being the most likely.  It is also what was used for paper by the early Egyptians.

fredericksburgbAlthough this could actually be Papyrus, it looks a lot like Umbrella Plant (Cyperus alternifolius).

fredericksburgbbTrailing Rosemary is in the foreground and Purple Plumbago is growing under the tree.

fredericksburhNext we visited the Texas Rangers Heritage Museum, which is still a work in progress.  Flowerbeds lined the parking areas and around the pavilion.  But it seems I didn’t get pictures of those.  Guess I was enamored with the sculptures.

fredericksburhhThe plants in the flowerbeds were pretty predictable – Purple Sage, Salvias, and Cactus.  Several plants had died.  It will be interesting to see how this area is developed.

Next post will show more public gardens that we visited.

“Real Gardeners buy at least 10,000 plants over the course of a lifetime without having any idea where they will put them when they get home.”  unknown

Finally…

…rain, rain, rain and a lot of it for this area in August.  Hooray.  Week before last was an inch and over six inches this past week.  Lower temps and water – what a blessing.

finallyTo see raindrops on plants is awesome.  Everything, including this Purple Heart, needed some relief.

finally1And maybe the moisture will chase away the grasshoppers.

finally2…some beads on the Eve’s Necklace tree (Sophora affinis) after a 3 year wait.  Maybe all this extra water will end the choleric leaf condition.

finally3… the Bougainvilla is blooming.  On the advice of a friend, I tried plant food for Camellias to prod the plant to flower.  That filled the branches with healthy looking leaves but no flowers.  Then, by chance, I noticed food specifically for Bougainvillas at a big box store.

It took a couple of weeks before I saw results.  But suddenly, boom, the blooms appeared.

finally4Love the neon color.

finally6…I bought a pepper plant with purple leaves.  A well known horticulturist in Texas stated that he thought we should only have plants with green leaves, as nature intended.  But I decided that I liked the variety of colors available.

finally7No peppers yet but adds interest.

finally5… a small native Rio Grande Copper Lily (Habranthus tubishpathus (L’Her.) Traub) that I planted years ago has started blooming again.  The Mexican Feather Grass had taken over that spot, so it may have been blooming all along.  But I spotted it the other day and was pleased to see that it had survived.

finally8…a Crape Myrtle with black leaves – Black Diamond Red Hot.  They’ve been around for a few years but are new to my yard.  Not sure if they are as hardy as the other Crape Myrtles.

finally9…a fern that can take full sun.  Really.  I’ve tested it.  The friend that I got this from did not know what kind it is.  Internet research hasn’t found one that is an exact match.

The original I received was small.  It has grown and also put out some pups.

finallya…a motivation to always trim back the Autumn Clematis in the winter.  This is what happens when vines are full and get soaked with rain several days in a row.  Fell completely over.

finallybThe concrete holding the trellis just popped right out of the ground.

finallycA few blooms can be seen on the sides.

heatgoeson9In full bloom last year.  Lesson learned.

As a child, time seemed interminable waiting for things like Christmas to come.  Guess as an adult, we still get anxious for some things like rain to happen.

“A recent study has shown that women who carry a little extra weight live longer than men who mention it.”  unknown

Austin’s Zilker

In all the many times we’ve visited Austin, we had never been to Zilker Botanical Gardens.  So in June, the morning after we attended a Gilbert and Sullivan production, we walked through the gardens.

Zilker3Near the entrance from the parking lot is an above ground pond for water plants.

ZilkerI love water lilies but don’t want to bother with the installation, maintenance, and problems with animals that a water feature might involve.

Zilker4Looks like a dill plant, but in water?

Zilker1Very soothing to the soul.

Zilker2

Zilker5Another favorite – Hydrangeas –  cannot be grown here.  Rocky clay soil and extreme dry heat just don’t cut it.

Zilker6Queen of the Nile (Agapanthus) don’t make it through our winters.  Really lovely, though.

Zilker7This might be another variety of Queen of the Nile.

Zilker8Plumbagos (Plumbago auriculate) are from South Africa and do very well here in the summer but must go into a green house for the winter.

Zilker9Hardy Hibiscus (Hibiscus mutabilis), also know as Confederate Rose or Mallow Rose, is a super perennial in our area and evergreen further south.

ZilkeraAlthough Austin is only 125 miles south of us, the weather is much more tropical.  So the plants that grow there don’t have to contend with cold weather, most of the time.

Zilkerb A large section of the park has tropical plants and natives to the area growing in a naturalistic style.

ZilkercSome areas seem like they are in the country rather than the city.

Zilkerd

ZilkereTexas Pink Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata ‘Texas Pink’)

ZilkerfMexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)

ZilkergI like the look of tropical foliage plants but since they are annuals here, I don’t buy them.

ZilkerhPride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) thrives in Austin but doesn’t survive winter here.  So we grow Mexican Bird of Paradise, which has a similar look but not the bright color of the flowers.

Zilkeri

ZilkerjLove the bright red of what I think is a Firecracker Plant or Cigar Plant (Cuphea ignea).

ZilkerkFirecracker Plant or Fountain Plant (Russelia equisetiformis) grows in zone 9 or above.  It’s a nice filler plant.

Zilkerl

ZilkermA Walking Stick on a lamplight globe.

ZilkernI think this is Mexican Heather.

ZilkeroUnknown.

ZilkerpThese gardens looked very Austin, but I personally prefer that botanical gardens be more formal since my own gardens are not.

One note:  there was a large rose garden area, but the bushes were in sad shape and didn’t have many blooms.  I did not think that the roserosette virus had reached Austin yet.  It started in Oklahoma and is in most of North Texas now and is breaking rose lovers hearts.  So far, we have been spared.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”  Archbishop Desmond Tutu

August’s Heat

The last weekend in August is the time for the ‘Hotter Than Hell’ annual bicycle ride in Wichita Falls, Texas.   This event brings out tons of people who torture themselves on a up and down hill course in 100 plus temperatures.  I mean:  who does this?

But then, who lives in this climate?  The answer:  native Texans and many who have come to the sun belt to enjoy the wonderful winters.

augustheat4What else survives the heat?   There are actually quite a few plants that have adapted to extreme heat as well as the native plants.

This Elkhorn (Euphorbia Lactea Forma Cristata) is seven years old.  I like the curly, unpredictable growth habit.  However, it does not survive winter, even here, so it has to be brought in.

augustheat6That’s difficult since it has grown so large.  The spikes on the ridges are extremely sharp.  Last year a tall spike broke off.  No problem, I just planted it and now have another Elkhorn.  The white sap is poisonous, so handle with care.

augustheatIn the back to the right is an ornamental pepper plant, which has struggled this year.  It wilts between waterings, which is about three to four days apart.  It has several smaller plants that came up this year, so I probably should have taken them out of this pot.

The plant in front is Escheverua ‘Blue Curl’ which needs bright, but not direct light.  That requirement applies to most succulent plants.

augustheat2Some things are starting to look ragged at the end of summer.  Like this ten year old Oxalis.  But it’s hanging in there.

augustheat5It’s a challenge to find enough shade in our yard for plants that need it.  Above is Coleus and Purple Heart that get early sun as the sun hovers over the horizon.

augustheat3The potted Petunias have surprised me because they have lasted from spring into August.  I will definitely use some of them again next year.

augustheatbHere is a Moon Flower plant in another shady area and the pot with the new Elkhorn.

augustheataThe flowers of Moon Flower or Jimson Weed (Datura wrightii) are always a delight.

augustheatc

augustheat9The metal pickup on a pole is about five feet tall.  That is a gauge for how tall the Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) has gotten.

augustheat7Rock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala Scheele) is not a consistent bloomer, but I enjoy it when flowers appear.

augustheat8The flowers actually look more like a hibiscus than a rose.

augustheatdJust this year Basham’s Party Pink Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Basham’s Party Pink’)  was designated a Texas Superstar Plant.  I wondered why because we have two that are four years old, and this is the first year for them to bloom.  So I did a little research.  Although the plant label that came with them did not state this information, they do not do well in alkaline soils.  We definitely have that in spades.

augustheateThis year, I’ve poured the water on them and the blooms are gorgeous.

Crape Myrtles do so well in the whole central Texas area that I was surprised to learn that this one has different soil needs.  I certainly won’t dig them up.  But now I know they need extra water.

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center just sent out an article to encourage all the gardeners in Texas who are weary of the sun and hot temps this time of the year.  It pointed out some positives to note:  dried, brown, fried flowers provide seeds for birds and next year’s crops of flowers; act as mulch and insulate the ground from the heat; dried flowers provide beauty in form; and brown is not an ugly color.  That’s a great spin for us all.

“It’s a sure sign of summer if the chair gets up when you do.”  Walter Winchell

Biltmore’s Solarium

This is the final post of our visit to the extraordinary house that George built.  Thanks to those who stuck it out reading them all and to those who dropped by occasionally.

solariumGeorge Vanderbilt did not do anything halfway when building the Biltmore estate.  That meant including a solarium or conservatory for tropical plants on the property.  Victorians were fascinated with the exotic.

solarium1Tropical plants are out of my comfort zone.  But my love of flowers and plants lets me enjoy the beauty of  these even if I don’t know their names.  I’m pretty sure that the orange flowers in this picture are Bromeliads.

The yellow flowers could be Candelabra or Candle Plant.

solarium2It surprised me that the light was so bright inside the solarium.  Tropical to me has always meant plants growing in semi-darkness under large foliage.  But these were thriving in the sunny conditions.

solarium3

solarium4The bright red leaf is Red Anthurium.  The yellow spadix is the true flower.solarium5Crotons I do recognize.  I’ve had one for 11 years in the kitchen.  The tiny white delicate flowers dry out and drop to the floor making a mess.  But probably create new plants in the wild.

solarium6

solarium7That looks like a Geranium in the bird cage.

solarium8Love the look of these wrought iron chairs.  But they were extremely uncomfortable to sit in.  A harpist was playing in this area.  My husband enjoyed that while I wandered among the plants.

solarium9

solariumaYes.  I do recognize orchids but can’t identify which kind they are.

solariumaaTropical Hibiscus are my kind of tropical plants.  I have one that we’ve carried in and out of a shed for cold protection for years.

solariumb

solariumbbI’ve read that there are 28,000 species of orchids; Biltmore did not have all of them.  But there was a nice representation.

solariumc

solariumccStaghorn fern growing on the tree trunk.

solariumd

solariumddCool House sign is a mystery to me.  It was not too hot inside, but definitely not cool.  So it must have a different meaning.

solariumeThis is the image that comes into my head when I think of orchids.  So pretty.

solariumfWith the person in the other room, this shot shows the height of the ceiling.

solariumffThink the pink flowers are Begonias.  I have never successfully kept one alive for any length of time, even inside.

solariumgI love the flower form of these Brazilian Plumes or Flamingo plants.

solariumgg

solariumhCalla Lilies are sometimes sold in some big box stores in our area.  I have given into the temptation before, only to be sorely disappointed.  They simply don’t like our heat or dry air, even inside.

solariumhhLook how small that pot holding the pineapple plant is.

solariumiSuch a beautiful color of Calla Lilies.

solariumiiMore Begonias with what looks like a Purple Heart vine in front of it.

solariumj

solariumjjA carnivorous Pitcher Plant just draws ones eyes to itself.

solariumk

solariumkkIt’s easy to see why people in the 1800’s were interested in these plants from mysterious far away places.  People still are.

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

On Top of Biltmore

On our May trip to Biltmore, we took a small group tour of the rooftop of the house.

topofBilt4As we wait for the tour to begin, we look up at the gargoyles on the outside of the building.

topofBilt0This picture shows the outside of a large circular staircase.

One mind blowing fact:  all the stone work was done on site.

topofBilt01Since George Vanderbilt had made his fortune in railroads, he had tracks built directly to the building site.  The amounts of limestone were massive.  Over time, 287 rail cars brought in almost 10 million pounds of limestone.

topofBilt3The detailed stone work is amazing.

The contract for stone masonry was awarded to a New York firm.  Since stone masons were highly skilled, they were paid $3.50 a day.  Carpenters were paid $2.50 a day and unskilled laborers received $1 a day.

topofBilt5Inside, the people in the picture give perspective to the expansive size of this staircase.

topofBilt6This dome is at the top…

topofBilt7and this is the view looking down.

We climb up to the top fourth floor of this part of the house.

topofBilt8One room contains the architect’s model:  front of house…

topofBilt9and back.  Vanderbilt’s love and fascination of European castles is evident.

topofBiltaThe construction of the largest house in America required expertise and a solid foundation.

topofBiltbAnother room on the fourth floor was a 19th century man cave.

topofBiltcThere was also another sitting room.  How many different places was needed to get away and sit?

topofBiltdThis staircase took us to a cat walk around the room.

topofBiltgWhich led out to the roof.  In this picture is the top of the solarium.

topofBiltggLooking down at the ground, the small kiosk houses the ticket booth to buy special tours.

topofBiltfFrom the front of the house, the long driveway stretches out.  I thinkg about the horse drawn carriages that originally drove this route.

At the far end are staircases to climb up to a viewing area.  At the top of the hill is a tent set up for weddings.  There is probably a road that leads to it.  Parking areas are about a half mile away with buses that bring visitors to the house.

topofBilth

topofBilthhA wooden walkway allows visitors to safely traverse the rooftop.

topofBiltjGeorge Vanderbilt’s initials and family crest in copper are eroding away.

topofBiltjjThis dome is the top of the inside staircase and holds the heavy light fixture.

topofBiltkThe red topped building in the top left of the picture is part of the wall in the garden area.

topofBiltkk

topofBiltlThe details way up high that can’t be seen from the ground are astounding.

topofBiltm

topofBiltmmIt definitely feels like an European estate.

topofBiltn

topofBiltnnThe slate roof tiles are held by a system of steel bars.  Each tile has a wire to hold it.  A worker had to twist each wire.  Wow.

topofBilto

topofBiltooVanderbilt obviously toured many churches and castles in Europe and wanted what he had seen replicated here.

topofBiltpThe sea of green trees and mountains.  What a view.

“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”  Mark Twain

Heat Lovers

The title, Heat Lovers, refers to plants, definitely not me.

heatlovingDesignated a Texas Superstar Plant, the Texas Star Hibiscus, doesn’t look like a hibiscus.

heatloving1It has not been a heavy bloomer for me, but the flowers are unique.

heatlovingfTo me, the only reason to plant Gregg’s Bluemist Flower (Conoclinium Greggii A. Gray) is to attract butterflies.  These are truly covered from late spring to late fall with Viceroys.

The Bluemist has spread into Red Yuccas with sharp spikes.

heatloving2Bluemist flowers are small and not that noticeable or impressive.  The purple flowers to the right are a few larkspurs hanging on.

heatlovingg

heatlovingdOn the porch that provides indirect light, A Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) has outgrown its container.  That should be fun to transplant.

It was a pass along plant, and I’ve started several other pots from this plant.  Color of the flowers is so pretty.

heatlovingeIce plant has been in this pot for years.

heatloving3A Bubba Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis ‘Bubba’) that is a couple of years old has gorgeous blooms.

heatloving4This will grow into a tree with several trunks that arch out from the center.

heatloving5Clammy Weed (Polanisia dodecandra) is a wildflower that came from the same lady who gave me the Crown of Thorns. The seeds are carried by the wind, so it comes up in unexpected places.

heatloving6Rose of Sharon Hibiscus (Hibiscus syriacus) must be watered regularly to bloom.  But it is so worth it.  The other bush with red blooms is Dynamite Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia Indica ‘Dynamite’).  Both of these bushes are about 10 years old..

heatloving7Love Texas Bluebells (Eustoma exaltatum (L.) Salisb. Ex G. Don SSP Russellianum) and Strawberry Gompheras (Gomphrena haageana ‘Strawberry Fields’) and Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea).

heatloving8One of my favorite flowering bushes, Duranta doesn’t begin to bloom until mid July when the temps rev up.

heatlovingaIt is in the verbena family.  The clusters of tiny flowers are breathtaking.

heatloving9Although Duranta does well in our hot, hot summers, it is iffy in cold weather.  Mine is on the east side of the house, so it gets morning sun and no direct northern winds.  A heavy mulch when it starts to get cold protects the roots.  So it’s a great plant if you have just the right place for it.

heatlovingbRecently we bought three new Crape Myrtles from a guy attending a gardening seminar.  He said that they are a new type called ‘Alamo Fire’ Red Crepe Myrtle and will grow to 10 – 12 feet tall.

heatlovingcLove the color of the flowers and that they have been blooming since they were planted.

Right after these pictures were taken, some of the branches were broken off and the flowers eaten.  Jackrabbits, I think.  Grrr!   So I put cages around them to protect them.

“… it looks to me like the upcoming U.S. presidential election will force Americans, to paraphrase the great American writer Gore Vidal, to cast their ballot against the evil of two lessers.”  Ted Woloshyn