On the Road…

We’ve been living like moles, shut in our house, like the rest of the country.  This Coronavirus time will go down in history as a unprecedented time of individual isolation and challenges.

But for all Texans, the call of wildflowers is strong this time of the year.  So we grabbed some snacks and continued with the isolation, but in our car.

Heading south into the Hill Country, the fields are full of wildflowers.

From the highway, it was hard to distinguish what the white flowers were.

Up close, it was easy to identify them as White Prickly Poppy (Argemone albifora ‘texana’).  Since it’s so early in the spring, they are short but will grow to about 30″ tall.

Note the prickly leaves.  Before we moved from the city to the country, these were unfamiliar.  But now, they’re one of my favorites.  Even though the pedals are thin and delicate, they withstand strong wind.

The Bluebonnets along the highway grow in tall grass, so that only the flowers are visible.  There are no shoulders along the highways in the Hill Country, which is unusual for Texas.  Therefore, it’s difficult to find a spot to park for picture taking.  Maybe, this is by design because too much foot traffic can damage the flowers.

Anyway, we found a space to park.  As I was stepping carefully around the flowers, these bright Wine Cups (Callirhoë  involucrata) grabbed my attention.

Finally, I was able to get a close-up of the beloved state flower, Texas Bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis).  Although there are several different bluebonnets, these are the most common.

Another favorite in Texas are the Indian Paintbrushes or Texas Paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa).  Their color makes a nice contrast to the Bluebonnets.

Leaving the highway and turning onto a small road, this Texas Redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis) still looks great.  Known for their ability to grow in the worst possible soil, Redbuds are short lived and are just about at the end of their glory time.

Most Texas wildflowers are tiny and low to the grown and unidentifiable to the average person.  These flowers are about 3/4″ wide.

These were less than half of an inch across.

There are lots of yellow flowers that unfortunately look so much alike that I can’t name them.

We spotted an old cemetery off the highway.  These are great places for peaceful reflection, quiet walks, and for seeing some flowers.

Oxford Cemetery has both old and new tombstones.

The older stones have an uniqueness and aging that make them attractive.

Sadly, many older graves are for young infants because their mortality rates were so high in the 1880’s.

It took me awhile to identify these because they are so low to the ground.  Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) is usually much taller.

I love the fact that at some point, someone cared enough and took the time to plant Irises in different places in this cemetery.

As long as people aren’t in groups now, the great outdoors is still available for walks and soul renewal.

“Overnight successes are generally years in the making.  And most progress is made in isolation, far from the public eye.”     Andrew Yang

Spring Beauties

What a difference a little rain and warmth make.  Spring is busting out.

Fresh green in the yard is a delight.

Giant Spiderwort (Tradescantia gigantea) is one of several different varieties available.  Three were planted in 2014.  They do multiply but aren’t agressive.

The bright yellow against the purple takes on an almost neon brightness.

Dutch Iris “Miss Saigon” is a refreshing type of iris.

The blue petals look like a bird in flight.

These were planted in 2016.  They’re labeled as annual but bulbs are faithful to grow and bloom again.  Sixteen bulbs cost $4.94.  Can’t beat that.

A few blooms of Yellow Columbine, Golden Columbine, or Southwestern Yellow Columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha A. Gray) are opening.  The form of these flowers are whimsical and fun.  The foliage is evergreen.  It’s a native, so that’s always good.

A new world each spring brings flowers blooming, birds singing, and sunshine on my back.

“Choose being kind rather than being right, and you’ll be right every time.”            Richard Carlson

Dreams of Spring

So much work to do to prepare the flowerbeds for the arrival of spring.  As we get older, short periods of outdoor work is needed to build up strength and endurance.

Thankfully, there are a few plants that don’t require any backbreaking labor.

Native Coral Honeysuckle, also called Trumpet Honeysuckle or Woodbine (Lonicera Sempervirens L.) is one such vine.

Each individual flower will open up and provide nectar for hummingbirds.

Eventually, this vine will probably outgrow this tripod.  After two years, it’s already extending out.

Coral Honeysuckle is semi-evergreen.  Natives really are the best.  But I constantly get suckered in by other plants at the nursery.

So glad to see that the Pincushion Flowers (Scabiosa caucasica) have returned.  By the end of summer, they were looking pretty pathetic.  There is an annual called Pincushion, but this one is the perennial type.

I love, love bulbs, rhizomes, and corms.  Each year I’m surprised by the different beauties.  The expression “dig, drop, done” is so true.  But every few years, they should be divided.

New growth of perennials, like Shasta Daisy, is such a welcome sight.  The promise of beautiful flowers makes me so happy.

“Can words describe the fragrance of the very breath of spring?”  unknown

Little Dabs of Color

Here at the tiptop of Central Texas, our winters are a little colder and our rainfall more sparse than most of the beloved tourist area that includes Fredericksburg, Austin, and San Antonio.

Although our winter wasn’t particularly cold this year, there were a few freezes.  So everything died back, and the yard has been a drab sight.

The first color that arrived about the middle of January was Texas Flowering Scarlet Quince (Chaenomeles japonica ‘Texas Scarlet’).  Except for the brilliant red flowers that last a few months, the plant is not worthy of much attention.

The Daffodils bloomed in mid February.  These has been in the ground for years.  Such a great return for your money.

New bulbs were planted last fall in a different bed.  These were all purchased at a Master Gardeners’ bulb sale in Tyler.

The one with white pedals and yellow cup or corona  is Abba (Narcissus tazetta).  To their left, yellow pedals with gold cup is Jonquil ‘Golden Dawn’.

On the left, behind the daffodils, is evergreen native Yarrow.  A wonderful spreading plant that sports white flowers.

Truthfully, I can’t tell the different in Daffodils, Narcissus, and Jonquils.

Direct from the internet:  “In general, “daffodil” refers to the large-flowered varieties, “narcissus” to small-flowered and early-blooming types bearing clusters of blossoms, and “jonquil” denotes N. jonquilla, often with fragrant, yellow flowers.”

Confused?  Me, too.

Dutch Hyacinth (Hyancinthus orientalis ‘Blue Festival’) grows low to the ground, about 8 to 10 inches tall.

A pretty little accent, these were purchased six years ago from Old House Gardens.

Great old standby, native Possum Haw produces lots of berries.  The birds don’t eat them until just before they’re ready to drop off.

Another great native – Orange Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) .  The small cupped orange blossoms stand out against the curly gray foliage.

Pollinators also love this bush.

So happy to see some color and spring just on the horizon.

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”   Seneca

Behind the Scenes of a Plantation

Farms, ranches, and plantations require equipment for planting, harvesting, and storing crops.  Some of those items can still be seen at Rosedown Plantation in St. Francesville, LA.

Guests are free to wander around the property.  Around the house, there are plants and fountains.

it’s difficult to know which things have been restored.  This brick doesn’t look old enough to be original.

Further away are the formal gardens.

Then, there are old buildings used to store equipment and vehicles.

Could not find any signs to explain the purpose of the different items.

A purple Salvia and maybe a butterfly bush.

An area of clover makes a soft pathway.

The kitchen building is quite a distance from the main house.  This served two purposes:  eliminate the fire danger to large main house and to avoid heating up the house in the long hot, humid summers.

A brillant red Celosia.  I wonder how well it reseeds.

Surely, the metal grate around the bottom of the house is new.  This allows for airflow under the pier and beam building, but also keeps out wild critters.

The kitchen house would also have been used to store food stuffs.

Beautiful pots of Spider Lilies on porch.

Ta da – the kitchen.  This large cooking fireplace explains why the kitchen is away from the house – fire risk and lots of heat.

Some beauty before a goodbye to the plantation.  Love, love Gomphrenas.

This is the last post about St. Francisville.  Hope you love history as much as I do.

“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”  Maya Angelou

Plantation House

No matter how much we abhor the idea of plantations and slaves, it is a fact of history.  There is no justification for the slave system.  So visiting a plantation in no way condones what happened.

Around the main house is shady.  Considering the heat and humility and no air-conditioning, shade was necessary.

The entry way shows the opulence of the house.  The floors looked like linoleum, but the guide assured us that everything is either original or time specific.

Interest in Greek and Roman decor during the 1800’s in Europe and the U.S. seems strange.  But it was considered classy.

Plantation houses provided upscale living for its time period.

No running water, so this was the method of taking a bath – a metal sitting tub.  Is this where “sitz bath” comes from?  The upstairs window was opened and buckets of water were pulled up by servants using a pulley system.

Look at those thin little towels.  They look like cup towels.

The nursery was used for the youngest children.

The area close to the house had walking paths and some water features and shrubs.

Boxwood hedges edged the paths leading to the fountain and the house.  The flower garden was away from the house where it was sunny.  The small building left of center was for garden supplies.

In the sunlight, many different flowers could be grown.  Some Marigolds remain.

At first, I questioned the use of the rebar stand but learned that it was used way back in the 15th century.  They used high quality cast iron that did not corrode.

Not sure if these are Foxglove, Plumbago, or something else.

The deep color of these Globe Amaranth, also known as Gomphrenas or Bachelor Buttons, are stunning.

Life today with our conveniences is easier and hopefully, our respect for all peoples has improved.  But the daily news proves otherwise.

“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves” ― Abraham Lincoln

Rosedown Plantation

Across the South, there are several plantation houses still standing.  One of the most intact ones left is the 8,000 square foot house at Rosedown Plantation. It was built in 1835 outside of Saint Francisville, Louisiana.

From the front gate, seen here, a long driveway under a canopy of overhanging trees and drooping Spanish moss leads to the stately house.

Can’t you just see Scarlett O’Hara with her parasol and hooped skirt waiting at the front portico to welcome guests that step down from their carriages.

The house and expansive grounds around it are in exceptional condition.  The cotton fields and slaves’ quarters have disappeared, but about 50 acres remain that show the grand scale of this place.

This plantation is well known for its formal gardens.

Couldn’t figure out what kind of small tree this is.  The flowers look like roses, so maybe it’s a small bush beside the tree.

Don’t ya love the modern fire hydrant in that strategic location?

Each section of this large formal garden was surrounded by Boxwood shrubs.  It all seemed rather neglected.  However, it was October.

No indoor plumbing but water to fountains.  How does that work?

At one time, the area probably wasn’t as overgrown and scrubby looking.

Total mystery what this is.  The leaves and flowers look like Begonias.

Love Spider Lilies.

Although it’s difficult to admit and way harder to understand, plantations are a part of the South’s history.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana

Allure of English Countryside

Edith Holden, born in England in 1871, spent many days wandering through fields and lanes.  As an artist, she illustrated and wrote in a journal about what she saw on her walks during the year 1906.  These were for her personal use but were published after her death in 1920.

The Edwardian Era was during the reign of King Edward VII from 1901 to 1910.  Following the Industrial Revolution of the late 1800’s, life was improving for many.  The working classes began to unionize and seek better conditions on the job, and women became more active outside the home.

The book is full of beautiful hand-drawn illustrations as well as a daily accounting of her wanderings in the English countryside.  She writes about specific plants, birds, and animals that she saw each day.

Poems and lines of known writers are hand written throughout the book.  The drawings and writings reflect the lifestyle of an educated women from that time period.

First published in 1984, The Country Diary Garden Notes uses Edith Holden’s illustrations and notes by Richard Gorer.  In her own notes, she doesn’t mention a garden, but maybe the publishers thought this title would attract readers who gardened.

It is organized with her drawings and calendar pages for each month with spaces to write for each day.  Then there are a couple of pages about weather and gardening for that month.

All her illustrations show her love of birds.

Could not find information on the author, Richard Gorer, but he was or is probably an Englishman.

Both of these books drew me in because of their gorgeous drawings and the time and dedication it took to create them.  A pleasant escape into the beauty of nature.

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”  William Shakespeare

Shady and Serene

One of the meeting places for the Southern Gardener Symposium was in an annex building of a stately church.

Grace Episcopal Church in Saint Francisville, LA was completed in 1829.  It was shelled during the Civil War and rebuilt in the 1880’s.

Beside the church, a large cemetery with old gravestones is a quiet place to wander around.

There’s something sobering to be reminded of people who lived so long ago.  History reminds us of the accomplishments of people who came before us.  It also serves as a warning of mistakes not to repeat.  The problems and worries that occupy much of our everyday thoughts and time don’t seem quite so important.

The land in this area is so fertile, but I did not expect ferns growing on tree trunks and branches.

A sense of the past hangs in the air, along with the Spanish moss.

Seriously, how much rainfall is needed for ferns to sprout roots in tree bark?

Old churches make me sentimental and grateful for life and all its opportunities and obligations.

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”   Bill Keane

Southern Garden Symposium

The Southern Garden Symposium met in Saint Francisville, Lousiana, in October, 2019.  Although I knew that gardening conditions are very different there than they are here in Central Texas, it was a chance to see some old southern gardens and hear some interesting speakers.Saint Francisville is a small town with few large meeting venues.  So attendees could choose different sessions held in small buildings in different parts of town.  On the first day, a catered lunch was provided at Afton Villa Gardens.

The antebellum home was destroyed by a fire in 1963.  The gardens remain and are used as a park.

Not sure if this concrete basket is as old as it looks, but it fits perfectly in the setting.

My kind of flower bed – massive plantings with different kinds of flowers.  There are red Zinnas, white Cleome Spider plants (Cleome hassleriana), Marigolds and Pentas.White and Pink Cleome Spider flowers look like sparklers.

Bright Marigolds mixed with Mexican Bush Sage.

English Ivy clinging to the old bricks, more Marigolds, and small purple flowers in the clay pot make a stunning display.

The same flowers were repeated in many beds.  I don’t know if that was intentional or because those flowers were suited for autumn.

Pink Cleome mixed with a wood fern and some kind of shrub.

Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) is what I consider to be a Central Texas plant, but it obviously does well in other types of climates.

It is native to subtropical and tropical conifer forests in central and eastern Mexico.  This area is about the same latitude as Central Texas.

Brazilian Black and Blue Sage, also called Blue Anise Sage (Salvia guaranitica), needs some shade from midday sun.

Gardening book sales are always a hit anytime gardeners congregate.  Purple Plumbago or Cape Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) in pots flanking the statute.

These large old tree with Spanish Moss hanging down just screams “southern garden.”

After lunch, there was plenty of time for wandering.Peaceful setting for wandering and relaxing.

“Southern living:  where the tea is sweet, words are drawn out, days are warm and faith is strong.”  unknown