On the Wild Side

With our dry, hot summer keeping us mostly inside, the yard is definitely in need of some TLC.  As the mornings are becoming cooler, we must tackle the weeds and trim bushes, etc.

A volunteer plant in this pot is American Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana).  I pulled this plant out of this pot a couple of years ago.  Must not have gotten all the tap root or a bird likes this perch to deposit seeds.

Poke salad, which is not a salad at all, has been eaten by Native Americans, African Americans and Southern people for decades.  But.  That’s a big but.  The plant is  poisonous and can only be consumed after taking precautions.  First, in the spring, only the young leaves and stems without any red in them are safe.  They must be boiled in at least two changes of water.  The big, juicy roots are extremely toxic and not to be eaten at all.

With this information, I wouldn’t even try them.

Chile tepin or Pequin pepper was named the official state native pepper in 1997.  They are  5–8 times hotter than jalapeños on the Scoville scale.  I just grow them for their looks and give the peppers to our son who likes the fire in the mouth taste.

Another volunteer in a pot is this big leafed plant. Just ignore the small weeds.

This is the flower at the top of its long stem.  I have no idea what it is, although I do remember planting some seeds in this pot.  Anyone know what it is?

A Texas native, Texas Kidneywood has grown amok.  It used to be a erect bush and not leaning in all directions.  I don’t know if I should trim it up or not.

Bees and other pollinators don’t seem to care how it looks.

Clammy Weed (Polanisia dodecandra) seeds were given to me by a friend years ago.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving.  Each year the seed pods break open and the wind scatters them.  It’s a North American native that loves our dry, hot summers.

Repeat blooming Irises behave a lot like natives because they’re hardy and can endure whatever weather comes along.  They are tough as nails rhizomes that multiply and have beautiful flowers.

Another gorgeous iris.  Their stems aren’t as tall this time of the year, but they still put on a great show.

A change of scenery.  Last Saturday we attended the annual Fall Landscaping Symposium in San Angelo.  Since this is an AgriLife building, they had to join the San Angelo tradition of displaying painted rams.

A little A & M humor.

The pictures show some of our state symbols, like Bluebonnets, Mocking Birds, Side Oats grass, and cotton.  Prickly pear cactus are the bottom of the legs in the previous picture.

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them is dirt.”  John Muir

A Few Old Standbys

This summer hasn’t been as hot as most, but it’s definitely dry here.  It feels like we’re the only spot in Texas that hasn’t received much rain.  So things are beginning to look bedraggled.

But some things just keep on going.  Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora) has performed for many years in this spot.

And the aroma.  It just perfumes the whole area.

Only drawback to this vine is that it must be cut down to the ground in late fall or winter.  Otherwise it will fall over, trellis and all.

Duranta (Duranta erecta) doesn’t even begin to flower until mid or late August.  Makes for strong anticipation.

The tiny flowers remind me of a nosegay.

Good old pink and white Gauras (Gaura lindheimeri) just keeps on blooming from spring to freeze.

I was watching all the bees zooming from one flower to another, only stopping a second on each one.  You can see one in motion in the picture.

Old fashioned Geraniums bloom all summer.  These came from a friend years ago.  I usually propagate some in late fall when everything goes in the green house.

Sorry, I should have pulled off the spent blooms before taking the picture.

An absolute must for gardeners who want butterflies in their yards.  Blue Mist Flower (Conoclinium coelestinum) guarantees Queen butterflies.

According to the Texas Butterfly Ranch, “The bloom of the mistflower contains a special alkaloid that male Queens ingest, sequester, and later release as an aphrodisiac to attract females.”

Mexican Petunia (Ruellia simplex) has been in this spot at least 15 years.   It spreads by underground rhizomes, so I have to watch carefully to keep it within bounds.

I don’t think it’s even possible to kill this stuff.

There is a hybrid that grows low to the ground and is well behaved.  It doesn’t spread like crazy.

Passion Vine is surprisingly hardy.  If you look closely, you’ll see my nemesis – a native Morning Glory vine that takes over.  It has heart shaped leaves.  I don’t know how fast it grows, but I can’t keep ahead of it, especially when it gets hot.

A few flowers still appear on the Crinums.  Their star time is in late spring.

There’s that vine again.  Bah, humbug.

Every year Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) spreads out a little more.  Now the invasive morning glories are trying to cover it all.  I doubt if I could even find where the vine is growing in the ground.  So I pull it off, trying not to yank out the bushes under it.

Love this hardy bush and the bright red turban-shaped flowers.

“Gardening will break your heart, but each time you fail, you learn something about yourself and the plants you’re trying to nurture.                                                                Gardening will break your heart, but don’t give up. Also, try not to make the same mistakes. Learn from them instead.”                       Dee Nash

Some Like It Hot

Summer is in full swing.  The heat is oppressive and makes it difficult to do gardening chores.  I pity the people who work outside for a living.

Some plants reach their prime in this heat.  Desert Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii)  is one of them.  Guess the word desert makes that obvious.

Naked Ladies (Amaryllis Belladonna) surprise me each year.  The dark color below them is the dried flower heads of Gulf Coast Penstemon.

Grape Hyacinth Bean Vines or Purple Hyacinth (Lablab purpureus) are annuals grown from seeds.  They do well in pots or in the ground.  Just save the seeds in the dried seed pods for next year.

These are great pass-along seeds.  But they can be ordered on-line.

Love, love these large Hardy Hibiscus.  They die back to the ground in the winter.  Their roots survived the extra hard winter in February.  They just keep on giving.  Such beauties.

Look carefully to see the Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly (or maybe a Giant Swallowtail?) on the Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica).

Also, the ever present menace: a grasshopper on a hibiscus petal.  Holes they leave can be seen in leaves and petals all over the yard.

Obviously, the heat doesn’t bother the bees and other pollinators.

I’m guilty of pushing my zone when choosing plants.  This Pride of Barbados or Mexican Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrimais) is listed as Zone 8b.  I’m in Zone 8, so that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.  So far, I’ve grown them in pots to be carried in the winter.  Ones that we’ve planted in the ground haven’t made.

But as you can see, this one looks pretty sad.  So this fall, we’re going to plant it in a protected area and see what happens.

Still a few gorgeous flowers on the Bubba Desert Willows (Chilopsis linearis).  Great ornamental trees.

Thanks for reading my blog.  Hope you have a great summer and can enjoy the outside from a cool spot.

“Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.”   Sam Keen.

Fayetteville Visit

Wherever I go, local plants are a must see.  Recently we were in Fayetteville, AR, for a wedding.  It was, of course, hot and HUMID.  But we did take a short walk on a path behind the hotel.

Fayetteville has an extensive paved bike and walking path.  This part was beside a small stream.

As expected, there were plants that I didn’t recognize.  Lovely clusters of pink flowers.  Because the growth along the water was so thick, it was difficult to determine which stems the flowers were growing on.  I was hesitant to put my hand down into the plants to pull them apart.

Many of the plants along the water were riparian, but it was surprising to see many plants that also do well in our drier area.  Mimosas (Albizia julibrissin) or Persian silk trees grow in our area but probably need extra watering.

Although it’s native to China, the botanical name comes from an Italian nobleman Filippo degli Albizzi, who brought them to Europe in the 1700’s.

These flowers are growing on individual stems from the main stems.  The flowers have a similar look as Black-eyed Susans.

This certainly looks like Desert False Indigo.  Correction.  A reader identified this as Sumac.

This is our Desert False Indigo in early spring. The leaves will fill in to make the plant look more like the one in Fayetteville.

The seed heads on the one in Fayetteville are little different shape.

The dark seed head clusters on ours are longer and thinner.  But surely they are in the same family.

On the other side of the walkway was a tall stone wall.  It was a retainer wall for the  higher ground level of the businesses at street level.

The bell like flowers are so pretty, but I wondered if they were invasive.  So many vines in our area are invasive and difficult to get rid of.  And some of them also have pretty flowers.

In late spring, I spent several hours digging up a vine with purple flowers that had become very well intrenched.  In the process, I had to lose quite a few other plants.

Along that same side of the path was this group of tall asters or sunflowers.  They reminded me of the Swamp Sunflowers in my yard.

But the flowers are very different.

Our Swamp Sunflowers have different flowers and leaves but are on tall stems.

The rehearsal dinner was outdoors.  Although the servers for the meal are messing up the aesthetics with their dishes on the rock wall of the flowerbed, the Hydrangeas still look glorious.

Hydrangeas originate in China, but the French hybridized them into the beauties we see today.  American growers have several varieties with a limelight shade of “mop heads”.

The world is full of amazing plants with specific needs.  Some people in our area do have success with hydrangeas, but they require lots of water, which in turn requires daily attention.

“A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except how to grow in rows.”  Doug Larson

Garden Preferences

What kind of garden makes you smile?  When I see very formal gardens, like those in European castle gardens, I feel intimidated.  Of course, they’re beautiful with perfect, precise lines with lots of clipped topiaries.  But all I can think of is the maintenance and how restricted they make me feel.

The type of garden that makes me happy is one with lots of different types of plants.  I lean towards ones with cluttered flowerbeds – not messy, but full of beautiful plants.  I would consider myself to be an eclectic gardener because I love so many different types of plants.

Natives, like Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus), would definitely have a place in my garden.  First, they are extremely hardy and dependable.  Second, they require less water than many other plants.  Third, the pollinators need them.

Turk’s Cap has such intricate flowers.  Absolutely love them.

A must-have native for me is Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea purpurea).  There are so many others that I could name, like Caryopteris, Columbine, Gaura, Hollyhock, and Zinnias.  Just think of the flowers in your grandmother’s flowerbeds and the memories they evoke.

John Fanick Phlox (Phlox paniculata) is another Texas Native.

I would also throw in some wildflowers.  Iron Weed (Vernonia gigantea) blooms in the hottest part of the summer.  I especially like American Basket Flower and Texas Blue Bells.  The early spring ones like Bluebonnets, Indian Blankets, and Paint Brushes are well known and loved.

Clammy Weed (Iltis Capparaceae) is less known.  They bloom in the summer. The seed pods burst and the wind scatters them all over, so they are surprises the next year, like Larkspurs.

Flowering bushes add a special treat.  Crepe Myrtles add so much color and beauty.


Look at those big, full clusters.  How could anyone not like them?

These Dynamite Crepe Myrtles needed some serious pruning after the freeze.  We cut off lots of dead, thick branches.  But they look gorgeous now.

The color of the flowers used to be a darker red, but they are fuller this year in this lighter color.  Other flowering small trees that I really like are Golden Lead Ball, Rose pf Sharon and Eve’s Necklace.


And I will always have some tropical plants in pots.  That is, as long as we are physically able to haul them into the shed for the winter.  African Bulbine (Bulbine natalensis), with its long stems blowing in the wind are fascinating.  It’s a succulent from South Africa.

Ixora is native to the Philippians and the surrounding area of Asia.

Rhizomes, like this Bearded Iris, will always be an important part of my garden.  Daylilies and Cannas are good old southern staples in warm climates.

Daylilies are tuberous roots.  Love all kinds of daylilies.  They can be tucked into any small empty space.

Let’s not forget bulbs, like Crinums, Daffodils and Giant Spider Lilies.  The choices are endless.

Some plants have sentimental importance to me.  This Kolanchoe was given to me by my mother.  A plant given to me always reminds me of that person.

Kolanchoe is native to Madagascar and parts of western Africa.  It was also the first plant sent into space to the Soviet Salyut 1 space station in 1979.

This has been long, but I hope it brings to mind what you like in a garden.  Just embrace those choices and don’t worry about what is “correct” according to landscapers.

“The philosopher who said that work well done never needs doing over never weeded a garden.”  Ray D. Everson

Here Comes Summer

The mild summer temps have been a wonderful treat.  Just keep wondering how long before the stifling heat is turned on.

Daylilies have kept blooming because of the mild weather.  Pretty sure this one is “Elegant Candy”.  It does look yummy.

Spider Lily finally bloomed.  It looks bedraggled.  Think the grasshoppers attacked it.  Last fall I bought three more from a youth organization.  But they didn’t make it through the winter.

I think the Daylilies are finally done.  Sure have enjoyed them.  “Early Snow” has a pure, crisp look.

Tiger Lilies bloomed this week.  So glad to see that they survived.

Thankfully some things can be expected to last all summer, like these Rose Mosses (Portulaca grandiflora).  They had to be replaced this year for the first time in ages.  The cold winter days killed lots of plants in pots.

Another standby is Oxalis also known as wood sorrel or false shamrock.  Of course, it was in the green house for the winter.  This plant has been in this pot for ages.

The Thornless Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia geroldii) was also in the greenhouse.  I lost the mother plant, which was on the floor.  I’m so glad that I had propagated it.  This smaller pot was on an upper shelf, so it stayed warmer.

I also have a Crown of Thorns with thorns. It’s Euphorbia milii.  So they’re both in the same family.

Purple Cone Flowers (Echinacea purpurea) under a small multi-trunk bush have shot up seeking sunlight.  It just wouldn’t be summer without them.

It’s getting warm enough for Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius) to grow and get ready for flowering.  They will grow another three feet and won’t bloom until the hottest part of August.  Although it certainly isn’t swampy here, they do great in our heat.

Hope your summertime is filled with flowers, family, and fun.

“Wherever life plants you, bloom with grace.”  old French proverb

What’s Normal?

Quick.  Name 5 or 10 ways your life was not normal during 2020.  Here’s my list:  School closings, Masks, Isolation, Restaurant and store closings, Stand six feet apart, No travel, Quarantine, Nasal Swabs testing, Social distancing, Events canceled, No hospital visits, Virtual school and everything else.  I could also add limited supplies, especially paper goods.

Here we are in 2021 and things have continued to be unusual for some of us.  The first half of the year had some of the same restrictions listed above.  Add to that covid vaccinations and strange weather patterns, especially for us in Texas.  The epic freeze that lasted for days will always remain in our minds and in the records.

During July, we’re usually melting under three digit temperatures and piercing sunlight.  Instead, we’re having mild temperatures (in mid to high 80’s and a few 90’s) and humidity.  The areas around us have received heavy rains.  We’ve managed a couple of inches in two weeks, which is still unusual.

So plants, like this Gladiola are blooming way past their normal time.

Many container plants were lost during the unheard of below freezing days. So I replaced the yellow Cannas.  Still like them slightly elevated in the trough.  

Also lost Dusty Miller, but it’s an inexpensive plant that grows quickly.  It’s already grown tall from a small bedding plant.  During most winters here, it survives in a pot.

After the dead branches and trunks were cut off, Basham’s Party Pink Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Basham’s Party Pink’) is showing off.

We’ve had to cut away dead wood from many trees and woody shrubs and lost one large Texas Ash.

Big puffs of soft pink clusters draw one’s eyes up high.

One plant that did not suffer at all was White Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri).  In fact, it’s multiplying so fast that I’m finding clumps all over this flowerbed that need to be dug up.

Not sure if Gaura’s nickname Whirling Butterflies refers to the flowers that twirl around in the wind or the many butterflies that land on it.  It feeds lots of pollinators.

‘Ellen Bosanquet’ Crinum Lilies are bold in their leaf size and flowers.  I like both their buds and unopened flowers.  A good old southern standby, it’s tough as nails.  It really thrives on the east side of the house.

Their opened flowers only last a day or two, but others are opening soon.

The return of this unknown plant surprised me.  I’ve had it about three years and don’t know what it is.  I thought it was a sage, but it doesn’t get tall or woody.  The taller stems reach a little over a foot tall.  It dies down to the ground and returns in early summer, even this past winter.

Two hardy plants:  Blue Fortune Agastache and Marjorie Fair Polyantha shrub rose.  Marjorie Fair rose has clusters of roses on long stems that tend to bend low to the ground.  Both of these plants are great performers.

So, whatever you consider to be normal, I hope you’re having a great summer.

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything the mind of man could invent.”                    Arthur Conan Doyle

Hibiscus and Copy Cats

Tropical Hibiscus are so exotic.  But there are some other types of flowers that have the same features of a true hibiscus.

The flower petals of a Tropical Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) are very thin, almost tissue paper thin.  The pistil is extremely tall.  The red tip of this pistil is the stigma, or female part.   The tiny yellow dots just under it are stamens, the male part of the flower, where the pollen is located.

All Hibiscus and look a-likes have five flower petals.  The flower also has a deeper color in the center of the petals.  This draws pollinators into the flower so they will drop pollen into the ovary to create seeds.

Boy.  I bet you didn’t expect a science lesson.  But this helps us compare parts of copy cat flowers.

This is a Hardy Hibiscus with the same characteristics.  All Hardy Hibiscus are in the mallow family, Malvaceae.

One of the hardiest bushes for our area is Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus).  It is native to China, but has adapted to a drier, hotter climate.

The flowers have an uncanny resemblance to hisbiscus.  But these bushes are woody and can reach a height of 10 feet.

This is another Rose of Sharon.  The difference in flower petal color can only be accounted for by the slight variations in the soil.

I really like the deep red of this Hardy Hibisicus.  This bush came from seeds from a friend years ago.  It disappeared long ago.  Not sure why.

This Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) has purple foliage.  Love the streaks of color in the petals.

Texas Rock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) is a hardy native that has small flowers with a hibiscus look.  It’s a woody perennial that blooms profusely. 

Texas Star Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) has an unusual look with petals separated by a different color.  These are not unique to Texas, and in fact, are not even native, but we grabbed that name.

Another Rose Mallow.  The petals are so thin that they are easily torn by wind.

This view emphases the crinkles in the petals.

This was my most favorite tropical Hibiscus that I’ve ever had.  It grew in a pot for about seven years before it became root bound. Since all tender plants have to be taken inside for the winter, it couldn’t be transplanted into the ground.

Still love its orangey, peachy color.

Tropical hibiscus needs filtered light, not direct sunlight.  But Hardy Hibiscus, Rock Rose, Texas Star Hibiscus, Rose of Sharon, and Rose Mallows need full sun.  It seems that the hotter, the better for them.

Aren’t the uniqueness of different flowers just amazing.

“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.”  Zen Shin

Tall and Bold

Some plants just make a statement crying for attention.

The bright red flowers on the long, arching stems of Texas Red Yucca draws eyes and hummingbirds.  Every time I look at this flowerbed, I regret that I planted these yuccas here.  They should be in a gravel bed standing alone.

This was a novice gardener’s mistake:  crowding them with other plants.

I do like that the Red Cannas echo their color and that the Rose of Sharon bushes provide an interesting backdrop.

One thing that I like about Alliums is that the flower balls are on tall stems.  The color of these are nice and bold.  Unfortunately, alliums have a short life in my yard.

Texas Mahonia does well in the center of a flowerbed.  Its leaves are prickly but don’t reach out to grab you.  It’s especially pretty this time of the year with its berries.

Native American Basket Flower stands taller than most wildflowers.  It grows well in the fields and in the yard.  I don’t always have success starting from seeds, but these have thrived and spread.

Vitex definitely grows tall.  In fact, it’s getting harder to trim it to this size.  Some varieties of Vitex do well as a tree.  Not sure about the two I have.

Falso Indigo (Amorpha fruticosa) is impressive with its swaying trunks.

Golden Lead Ball Tree is a native that has exceeded my expectations.  Each year, I’m surprised by how much it has grown.

The fuzzy pom-poms make it unique.

Crepe Myrtles are usually outstanding small trees in our area..  However, they did not survive the extreme cold of Uri very well.  We’ve had to cut a lot of dead wood off of all of them.  Just glad to see some blooms on this one.

The large leaves is what makes Catalpa trees bold.  Every year the leaves survive better and longer in the summer.  The wind and heat usually takes a toll on them and tears the thin leaves.

Summer gardening means we have to get up early and get outside to work, so we can get back inside, where it’s cool. Then we can look out the windows to enjoy the fruits of our labors.

“Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street…with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.”  unknown

Spiky Plants Plus Some Softer Ones

I’m not a big fan of gardens with only a few colors and shapes.  Variety and surprise is what intrigues me.

The first time I saw Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) in the high desert around Santa Fe, I wanted to try that plant here.  Russian Sage has not disappointed.  Heat and sun make it thrive and spread.

Yes, it does get supplemental water, which boosts growth.  Bees love it.

This year I remembered to plant a couple of Dill plants (Anethum graveolens) to feed Black Swallowtail caterpillars.  They are annuals and the caterpillars usually eat them to the ground.  But oh, what beautiful butterflies are the results.

The flowers of Vitex are spiky, standing upright on the bush.  Vitex’s origins in Mediterranean and western Asia make it a good plant for the Texas climate.

Bees humming and butterflies darting around draws me close to enjoy the sights and sounds.

Daylilies are still blooming.

Flowers are a balm to my soul.

Golden Rod (Solidago sphacelata Golden Fleece) is not the culprit that causes allergies.  Ragweed spreads its pollen by the wind.  But Golden Rod is pollinated by insects.  So Ragweed’s pollen dispersed in the air is what causes the allergy problems.

This is a dwarf Golden Fleece Goldenrod.  When paired with bright Zinnias, they create a great composition.



The bright colored balls of Globe Amaranth contains hundreds of seeds.  At the end of fall, the flowers die, and the seeds are spread by the wind.  I love them and don’t mind that they appear in multiple places each spring.

What a beautiful, soft color.

Agastache is another great pollinator plant.

The flowers on the spikes are a light lavender.

These Ornamental Onions have an unusual shape with their clusters of tiny onions on a tall stem.  We have dug out the plants trying to get rid of the native Bermuda Grass.  Obviously, the grass has deep roots and returns each year.  So we’ve thrown in the towel on this project.

Different sizes and shapes of leaves in a garden also add interest.  Cannas may be common place, but their reliability makes me love them.  Plus, there are a few different flower colors available.

Creating a garden is like decorating a house.  There are many different styles and personal preferences.  I don’t think people should be confined by fads or the opinions of experts.  Just have fun and enjoy your own space.

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people that they don’t like.”  Will Rogers