Country Lanes

Texas has five distinctive areas:  the Panhandle with extreme cold winters and dry barren landscapes; East Texas with plentiful rainfall and deep woods; Central Texas with tree covered hills and mild weather; West Texas with dry, sandy flat land and little rain; and South Texas with harsh desert conditions, some rocky mountains and flat lands.

We like to consider ourselves as being at the top of the Hill Country or Central Texas.  That’s stretching the truth a little – actually, a lot.  Truthfully, we have some characteristics like West Texas such as the dry climate, but we also have hills and trees and other plants like the Hill Country but colder winters.

All this to explain more about life in Texas than you may have wanted to know.

Countylanes4As we pull out of our gate this time of the year, these small native Redbuds are in our view.  They are small because the county machines chop them down every year or every other year.

Countylanes5Up close the buzzing of the bees is loud.

Countylanes6But they flew away when I approached them, so I didn’t get a picture of them.  I guess it’s a good thing rather than being attacked.

CountylanesFurther down our county road these bushes bloom in the spring.

Countylanes16jpgA botanist friend is willing to identify plants for me from pictures.  He tells me that are seven native plum trees in our area making identification difficult.  But this one is Sand Plum (Prunus gracilis).

Countylanes16jpgHe said it blooms later in the spring than others.  Thanks, Jack, for the info.

Countylanes3Spider web?

Countylanes7When I took this picture, I thought the red on this Ocotillo was berries.  But they look like flowers in this picture; they do bloom in March, so I’m not sure which it is.  Ocotillo is indigenous to the desert southwest in the US.  It is also called Candlewood, Slimwood, Coachwhip, Vine Cactus, Flaming Sword, and Jacob’s Staff.

It grows here because the rocky soil provides good drainage, and the summers are hot.

Countylanes8Little patches of Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) dot the countryside.  It’s near the end of their blooming season.

Countylanes10The Green Milkweed (Asclepias asperula) is abundant in our area.  The larvae of monarch butterflies eat only milkweed providing a necessary nutrient needed to develop.

The silky fluff from the seed was used by pioneers to make candle wicks.  They would card it and then spin it like cotton.

Countylanes11The White Prickly Poppy (Argemone albiflora) or Texas prickly poppy oblviously gets its name from the stems.   Their stems are short now, but most will be a foot and a half tall in the summer time.

Countylanes123jpgThe native Americans used this plant in medicines.  What kind, I don’t know.

Countylanes12Among all the other more prominent wildflowers are a few Wine Cups (Callirhoe involucrata).  They are a hardy, drought tolerant native to Texas and the central US. They are a full sun bloomer with the flowers closing each evening.  The dark color is spectacular.  I would love to see a full patch of them, but that’s rare here in nature.

“May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day.” Native American Proverb

Native Plant Sale

Every spring in April the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has a plant sale.  Friday is members day.  We shop then because the crowd is somewhat smaller and the supplies are plentiful.

LBJjThe eager shoppers line up at least an hour before opening.  Most bring their own wagons to carry home their treasures.  The center has a few carts but recommend that people bring their own.  As they wait, people get acquainted and swap plant advice.

LBJkThe line continues even further past the archway.  The prices of the plants are okay but not fantastic.  The real draw is that only natives are sold.  Believe it or not, it’s difficult to find natives in nurseries.  Local nurseries have some but much less than here.

LBJWhile my husband holds our spot in the line, I wander around enjoying the plants.  The above Columbine is the only native one to Texas.  A solid yellow one had adapted and grows very well here.

LBJl The shape of Wild Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) flowers are unique among Texas natives and is basically a woodland plant.

LBJmThe Cross Vine (Bignonia capreolata) is in full bloom.  I’m told that it’s a very dependable showstopper.  Just love it.

LBJfI really appreciate public parks and gardens that label the trees, shrubs, and other plants.  This one also provides other useful information.

LBJeAlthough I didn’t find a label for this one, I’m pretty sure that it’s California Poppy, also known as the Golden Poppy.

LBJdMore Cross Vine.  I’m got to get me one of these.  Just need something for it to grow on.  And it needs to be big, because they grow and grow up to 50 ft. long.

It blooms from March through May in full sun or part shade and has low water needs. A friend told me that they are evergreen.   Of course, butterflies and hummingbirds love the tubular flowers.

LBJcOthers also enjoy this area of sunny plants in raised beds.

LBJaThis Eve’s Necklace (Styphnolobium affine) is larger than any that I’ve seen.  Mine was planted two years ago and is now two feet tall .  But they can grow as large as 15 to 30 feet tall and can live on limestone slopes.

LBJbThe seeds look just like they’ve been strung on a cord.  I can hear Glenn Miller’s “String of Pearls” in my head.  But the seeds are said to be poisonous.

LBJ6Noontime is not the best time to take pictures.  Even in this partly shaded area, the strong sun is washing out the pictures.

LBJ5Red buckeye (Aesculus pavis var. pavia) blooms from March through May along streams and creeks or in moist woodlands.

LBJ7This is not what I had pictured as Bunch Grass (Nolina texana) from the Lily Family.  But I’m sure the botanists here know.  It grows in rocky soil from Central Texas into Northern Mexico.

LBJ8The sign says it all.

LBJ9A Maidenhair Fern in a natural type setting.

LBJ2Even a fire hydrant is dressed up with Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis).

LBJ1 It’s impossible to live in Texas and not love the native flowers.  They define spring here.  Sure, most are short lived, but boy, do they fill the land with gorgeous beauty.

Thankfully, there are also some summer wildflowers that can endure the heat.

LBJiThe light is diffusing the blossoms on this tree.

LBJhThe Crab Apple (Malus angustifolia) flowers show up a little better here.  Fruit follows the flowers on this Texas native.  The wildlife enjoy the fruit, but it’s messy in a yard.

LBJgA semi-shady nook as a calm retreat.

LBJ4As we walk out the center, the areas around the parking lots are filled with more wildflowers.

LBJ3It’s easy to see why Lady Bird loved Central Texas and the wildflowers.

LBJnThe name Indian Paintbrushes always confuses me.  I guess they look like brushes dipped in paint, but so do other flowers.  Texas Paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) is native to Texas and Oklahoma.

It also is a spring bloomer and grows among grasses and other plants.  Their roots invade the roots of other plants to obtain a portion of their needed nutrients.

This time of the year brings special joy to all who enjoy native plants and especially, flowers.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”  Robert Louis Stevenson

Hippity Hop

Just as we all had relaxed into spring with some rather warm days, the weather forecast predicts a freezing frost for tonight.  Just like the Easter bunny, the temperatures are hopping up and down, again.

Many people have planted bedding plants and their veggie gardens.  I put in a few bedding plants on Saturday but am glad I didn’t finish the task.  Mesquite trees have bloomed; that is supposed to be a full proof sign that freezes are over.  See previous post about Mesquite Legend.

yard2Several natives are blooming, like this Square Bud Primrose (Calylophus berlandieri).  However, these should be okay if it freezes.

yardThe same is true for this Texas Scarlet Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa), which is well established.

yard4This Bridal Wreath Spirea (Spiraea prunifolia) was planted last year, but these are the first blooms since then.  I really don’t want to find out what a freeze will do to it.

yard11The wind is too strong to get a close up picture, so I cut a couple of small sprigs to bring inside.

yard112Lovely for bouquets because the long stems droop over slightly.

The leaves should turn color in the fall to hues of red, orange, and yellow with another round of flowers.  Because our summers are so harsh, I’m not sure that will happen here.

yard3Finally I was able to get a picture of one of the Cardinals that live in the area.  Only possible because of zoom lens because anytime I crack a door, they’re gone.

yard5In bloom already is this mystery bush.   The leaves are different than most of the other flowering shrubs here.  I can’t find a record of its purchase and don’t remember where I bought it.  I really do try to keep up with the receipts,  What can I say?

yard6Another small bush planted last spring from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center plant sale.  I was bowled over when I saw the blooms the other day.

yard7Blue Wild Indigo or Blue False Indigo (Baptisis abstralis) is a flowering bush native to mid-western North American.  The False Blue name means that it has been used as a substitute for the dye producing plant Indigofera tinctoria.   Common names also include rattle weed, rattle bush, and horsefly weed.

yard10Hummingbirds arrived about two weeks ago.  Already they number around 40 or 50.

yard8Maybe they are in a frenzy because they sense a temperature change.  The wind already has a sharp chill.

yard9This picture was taken at a different feeder just after the other one.  Unfortunately, if it freezes, most of these will die.  This has happened before.

Spring can be unpredictable and is proving to be extremely so this year.

“Life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”  Albert Einstein

Flowers at Mayfield Park

This is the last post about our visit to Mayfield Park in Austin.  The back area of the garden is devoted to flowers and is planted and maintained by volunteers.  I suspect they also selected and furnished the flowers.

mayfieldpark46This purple flower really caught my eye.  I don’t know what it is but who love to find out.

mayfieldpark47The color and whole appearance is attractive to me.

mayfieldpark44Then I came across another bed with the same flower in a   brilliant pink color.

mayfieldpark43mayfieldpark42Just wanted to keep snapping pictures of them.

We visited on a Saturday, which, of course, was a busy day.  Lots of photographers were taking pictures of couples, probably engagement pictures.  Others were shooting high school girls; so I figured that were doing graduation pix.  All this to say that I was trying to stay out of their way.  So I didn’t feel that I saw all the different flowers.

mayfieldpark49These sunlit tulips were beautiful.  Makes me wish that it were really possible to grow them here, and that the bulbs would survive like they do in cooler climates.

mayfieldpark41Wonderful peach color.

mayfieldpark51More daffodil types than I have ever seen except in bulb catalogs.

mayfieldpark50An unusual two toned one with a pale peach.

newmayfieldThis appeared to be a new plot.  All the plots of individuals ran together, so it was difficult to know if each plot was small like this one or if this part had just been replaced.  Occasionally, a volunteer’s name was displayed on a raised metal sign.

mayfieldpark53mayfieldpark48See what I mean about all different kinds of daffodils.

mayfieldpark45Someone else liked the peach tulips and had them in their bed.

mayfieldpark40A few Grape Hyacinths poked up among the leaves.

Having volunteers responsible for the garden area certainly helps out the park employees.  Since the flowers are seasonal and not native, I wonder how often they are changed out.

mayfieldpark23One last picture of a peacock.  Their shrill call and physical beauty is part of this park.

Lovely park to visit when one is in Austin.

“I seldom think about my limitations, and they never make me sad.  Perhaps there is just a touch of yearning at times; but it is vague, like a breeze among flowers.”  Helen Keller

Mayfield Park House Grounds

Mayfield Nature Preserve is a 21 acre natural area outside the rock wall of the Mayfield Park.  Inside the wall is a house, a storage building, a large rock patio with three ponds, and an extensive flower garden area.

mayfieldpark28Allison Mayfield acquired the property with the board and batten house in 1909 for a summer and weekend retreat for his family.  His only daughter and her husband moved into the cottage in 1922 and added porches to three sides of the house.

She designed the gardens while her husband oversaw the building of the stone wall, ponds, and other garden features.   A resident gardener worked on the projects for many years.

mayfieldpark27This Wisteria bush next to the house is reminiscent of the early 20th century.

mayfieldpark30A small Redbud tree stands among other, taller trees.

mayfieldpark37At the back edge of the yard is this arch and a patio area before there is a steep drop off to a deep creek bed.

mayfieldpark38Looking over the wall towards the creek area.

mayfieldpark33One of the three ponds in the stone patio area has an arching water feature created by a simple spout pointed upward.

mayfieldpark32The flowers and foliage in the pond resembles an iris, so that made me wonder.  I looked on line, and there are indeed pond water iris.  Learn something everyday.

mayfieldpark31Not sure what the purpose of this structure was.  Looks like a castle turret and a little out of place.

mayfieldpark29Daffodils:  a quintessential sign of early spring.

mayfieldpark26A pretty little simple flower whose name I do not know.

mayfieldpark22Bless her heart, this peafowl has a huge body and a tiny head.  Pretty plain.  She and the other peacocks are descendants of the original ones given to the Gutschs in 1935.

Mary Mayfield Gutsch’s husband died in 1965.   At her death in 1971, she left the home and acreage to the City of Austin to be used as a park.

mayfieldpark24The male sports iridescent colors with…

mayfieldpark25with a gorgeous tail.  What’s fair about that?

The Mayfield Park area can be booked for weddings and other social events.

“Genius and virtue are to be more often found clothed in gray than in peacock bright.”  Van Wyck Brooks

Is It Really Spring?

130 miles south of here it sure looks like spring has arrived.  On Sat. we drove to Austin where Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes were blooming in great abundance along the roadsides.  The state highway department seeded heavily in the Austin area.  The consistently warm weather and some rains in that area has provided green trees and some flowers.

mayfieldpark3As we stepped out of the parking lot at Mayfield Park, a patch of Bluebonnets greeted us.

mayfieldparkThe high pitched “Help Me, Help Me” of the peacocks can be heard throughout the park.  They have free roam and don’t even seem to notice all the people walking around.

mayfieldpark2I wondered if this peacock and the squirrel would react to one another, but they just kept to their own business.   Obviously, their meeting was old hat to them.  Ho, hum, boring.

mayfieldpark4Beside the parking lot was this small Redbud tree.  They are seeded by birds and spring up just about anywhere.

mayfieldpark5These native Giant Spiderworts (Tradescantia gigantea) are so pretty.  Last year I planted one but it didn’t bloom; maybe it will this year.

mayfieldpark8Mine was planted in full sun.  These are partly shaded.

mayfieldpark7First, we walked through the nature area with many different kinds of native trees.  This bunch of plants with the tiny white flowers was eye catching.

mayfieldpark6It’s probably a plant that only grows in shade.  And that, I don’t have.

mayfieldpark9Many of the trees leaned with crooked and twisted shapes.

mayfieldpark10This lavender clusters of flowers were growing on a small tree.

mayfieldpark11Could it be a fruit producing plant?  Loved the butterfly.

mayfieldpark12Growing on the edge of a drop off, this bush or small tree was covered with blooms.

mayfieldpark13I think this is a Rusty Blackhaw (Viburnum rufidulum) which usually grows as an understory tree but can grow in full sun.

mayfieldpark14This unusual tree had the oddest leaves at the end of the branches.

mayfieldpark15Looking up, I wondered if those were the leaves or if it was a fungus that had killed the real leaves.

mayfieldpark16Another mystery.

mayfieldpark17This tree looks like it’s growing out of a rock, but it must be connected to the tree on the left.

mayfieldpark18This city park was a residence at one time.  The whole neighborhood is on the edge of Lake Austin.  This property seems to back up to an inlet of the lake.

mayfieldpark19Coming out of the wooded area, this stand of yuccas are in full bloom.  The ones further north are not even close to blooming yet.  What a difference a few degrees of latitude make.

mayfieldpark20A big area of native wildflowers beside the yuccas.

mayfieldpark21A bed next to the parking lot that also contains native plants.

On my next post, I’ll show the area inside the yard of the house area.

“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

Arid Land

Just when I start feeling that our area is the most bone-dry place in the world, we travel to West Texas to visit my mother.  Now I realize rationally that there are much more barren spots on this planet, but living without rain is a challenge, especially if one loves flowers.

Let’s forget the fact that we’ve lived a great deal of our lives in this environment and that we could possibly move.  But our family is near by, and this is home.  Occasionally, I just need to vent and dream about that perfect climate.

snyder4The town of Snyder is really desolate.  They have been on water rationing for so long that most people have given up trying to have grass or flowers.  As we were leaving town, I spotted this yard.  Cactus does have a beauty all its own.

In the background to the right is a century plant.  Although I don’t know the correct names of most cactus, I think the one in the foreground is a type of Chollo.

snyder6There is definitely a trend in Texas to use native plants that are drought tolerant.  Necessity dictates this.

snyder5snyder3This looks like another type of Chollo with the stubs (pedicels?) of the last year’s blooms.  Cactus flowers are truly beautiful in  the spring.

SnyderAnother reliable Texas native is the Redbud tree.  Their spring color is a welcome sight.  Thankfully, they don’t seem to need much water.

snyder2As the climate here is becoming drier, we must embrace the environmentally friendly natives.  And “that’s a good thing” to quote Martha Stewart.

“I can quit eating chocolate anytime I want.  But I’m not a quitter.”  unknown