Lush Costa Rica

While the ice and snow were falling here, we were enjoying the weather of the tropics.  Of course, we had to face the music when we landed at DFW.  After an extra long bus trip to Abilene, we were iced in and had to spend two nights in a motel there.

We traveled to Costa Rica with Bilbrey Tours from Abilene, so our starting and ending points were there.

costarica1The grounds of our first hotel in San Jose, the capital, exhibited the lushness of a warm climate with plenty of rainfall.  I could not resist taking pictures of the beautiful landscaping.  We only over nighted here, so these were taken in early morning conditions.  Even so, the sunlight was strong and the shadows of the buildings, deep.

costarica2Begonias were used in many beds.

costarica3The tropical Ixora thrives here and certainly doesn’t need to be confined to a pot, like mine in Texas.

costarica4It was surprising to see so much Lantana because it survives so well here in dry Texas.  This is probably the New Gold Lantana.

costarica5Here Lil Miss Lantana is mixed in with another flower.  The red blooms may be another Lantana.  I’m not sure.

Many of the beds were in raised concrete that were tiled.  So pretty.

costarica7Not sure what these flowers are.

costarica6I think I should know but don’t.

costarica8Another type of lantana, maybe Lantana Camara, edged with what looks like Alyssum. costaricab

costaricacDeep red Begonias.

costaricaeThis may be Ginger?

costaricafAn open corridor leading from guest rooms to the reception area.

costaricagAgain the white looks like Alyssum and the one with the pink flowers could be Mexican Heather.

costaricahThere were lots of different species of Coleus.

costaricaiWouldn’t it nice to have gardeners who keep everything so trimmed and neat?

costaricajLove Plumbago, although it has to be grown in a container here and carried in for the winter.

costaricak

costaricalThis might be la parola del giorno Lantanta..

costaricanPalm trees with clusters of orchids growing on them.  There are 1,500 different species of orchids in Costa Rica.

costaricamEven though these orchids are growing on a tree, they are not parasites.  They are epiphytes which derives its moisture from the air, rain, and sometimes from debris around it. It does not harm the host at all.

During the trip, we saw many different examples of these.  Epiphytes can be found in the temperate zone.  Examples are mosses, liverworts, lichens, and algae.  They also live in the tropics, like Costa Rica’s environment..  These include ferns, cacti, orchids, and bromeliads.

costaricao

costaricap

costaricaqI don’t know if these small branches are part of the palm tree or are epiphytes.

costaricas

costaricar

costaricatSo delicate and lovely.

costaricau

costaricavA skylight in the reception area.

costaricawThe counter is made of onyx.  Although it looks solid, these are slabs on top of wooden cabinets.  Very nice hotel.

costaricaxAs one would expect, gorgeous arrangements of tropical plants decorate the hotel.

There will be several posts about Costa Rica in the coming days.

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

Easy, Breezy Blooms

Need some blooms inside in the winter?  There are several plants that fit the bill.

kolache2Kalanchoes are a diverse group of succulent plants.  Some are grown for their foliage, but others have gorgeous blooms.

What can be easier than Kalanchoes?  All they need is a little water once a week and some indirect sunlight.  The operative word here is “little” water.

During the winter, they prefer 45 – 65 degrees F  but will survive in the low to mid 70s.  As the weather warms, put them near a sunny window, and they will start to bloom.  Then in summer, they love the outdoors in a semi-shady spot with indirect light.

kolacheOnce you have one Kalanchoe, you can have many more because they root so easily when a stem is broken off and stuck in soil.  Just keep it slightly moist until you see growth.

kolache3Kalanchoe blossfeldiana or Florist’s kalanchoe has succulent leaves with small scalloped edges.

kolache4Snake plant or Mother-in-law’s Tongue or Saint George’s Sword (Sansevieria trifasciata) is a pass-along house plant.  Most people cannot distinguish between the two, but snake plant has green edges, while a Mother-in-laws’s Tongue has yellow edges.  But I can’t see either on this plant, so I don’t know how true this guideline is.

These are usually grown just to have something green growing in the house, but as you can see, this one has bloomed.

kolache5This is the second time it has bloomed.  Both times were within the last year.  It was a complete surprise to me, so I don’t know if it just got old enough or crowded enough to bloom.

I’ve read that they give off oxygen and are good for a bedroom.  Also, one person said it can split a pot with its mass of underground shoots.  They should grow to 3 or 4 feet tall, but a couple of leaves on mine are 4 and a half feet long.

It’s probably time to divide and share.  The most important thing to remember with succulents is not to over water.  Most need a small amount of water once a week or every ten days.

“Have your prayed about it as much as you’ve talked about it?”  Unknown

Trash or Treasure

If  you like to browse through what other people have tossed, have I got the place for you.  Whether you consider discarded items trash or a treasure trove, this is a good wandering through store.

junkstoreD and J’s Good Ole Days store in Brady, Texas, is worth a stop, especially if you want to see the unique and unexpected.  They have it all from vintage clothing to old-time hard candy like sassafras, horehound, licorice, and taffy.

junkstore2Even though it is definitely crowded, there is some organization to the areas.  But who cares because each turn brings something you either haven’t seen in a while or ever.

junkstore3Obviously, this is the medical section.  The mannequin in the dentist chair has her mouth open wide in a scream.

junkstore4Here’s the music corner.  The owners were out on a buying trip the day we went to the store.  The young girl was very helpful.  It is reported that the owners know the history of each item, so we need to go again to hear the stories.

junkstore5There were stacks of plates that were a little too precarious for me to rummage through, but the clerk told us to feel free to lift them off of the shelf.

junkstore6It is definitely not possible to see everything in one visit.  Wandering back through a second time, we noticed totally different things.

junkstore7Two hours of looking and questioning the purpose of some items left our minds in overload.  A second trip would still be enjoyable.  Plus there is a bigger turnover than one would expect.  That day a dealer was spending several hundred dollars.

If you don’t have something like this in your neck of the woods and are interested, there’s always flea markets.  I guess I just like the nostalgia and the expectancy of something out of the ordinary or an item that I just can’t live without.

“A knife wound heals, but a tongue wound festers.”  Turkish adage

Dirt Doctor

Because I love to read and love plants, the perfect gift for me is a book about gardening.  This past Christmas I received two books by Howard Garrett, known in Texas as the Dirt Doctor.

drdoctorThis is a weighty tome that makes one feel like they got their money’s worth.  It’s not a new book but was published in 2003 by the University of Texas press.

His gardening philosophy is organic.  Although I don’t use pesticides, I think that sometimes a good herbicide is called for.  Since the most aggressive plant in our area is native Bermuda and pulling the roots out completely is impossible, then strong measures are needed.  This grass comes from the pastures around us brought in by wind and birds, so that is the only way to get it out of flowerbeds.

dirtdocAnyway, there are many helpful ideas in this book and several of the organic suggestions I will try.

The above page is from the section on flowers.  Flipping through the pictures and information is a good winter activity.

dirtdoctor6

dirtdoctor9There are several formulas listed that were invented by Dr. Dirt for many different garden problems.

dirtdoctor2This is a smaller paperback book, also published in 2003.

dirtdoctor3The format is question and answer.  Categorized sections make it easy to read about topics that interest a reader.

dirtdoctor4Both books that are good resources for Texans plus people in Oklahoma and New Mexico, since they have areas with similar growing conditions.

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, find a different room.”  Michael Dell

Overcast Days

Overcast skies getting you down this winter?  Today the sun is shining bright, the wind is calm, and the temperature mild.  It’s perfect.  But a week ago, the skies were dark, the wind howling like a banshee, and the temperature cold.

For those days when you’re stuck inside and spring is months away, here’s a suggestion.

tulipsWhen you are at the grocery store, pick up an inexpensive bunch of fresh flowers.  Even those at Walmart are usually in good shape.

I first became aware that people had bouquets in their homes when we lived in Holland many years ago.  We lived in an apartment above a clock shop on a main street.  There were flower stands just outside our street door.  They were so reasonably priced that I fell in love with the idea of vases of flowers in my house every day.

This idea was foreign to me since I grew up in West Texas where flowers anywhere was rare.  It just wasn’t part of the culture.

Today, when I have blooming flowers, I cut and bring some inside to enjoy.  It’s such a treat and makes me feel like a real gardener.

tulips2 These floppy tulips (these are supposed to be that way) add some color and reminded me of our days in the Netherlands.

Of course, we cannot raise tulips here in our hot, dry climate and rocky soil.  So I often choose cut flowers at the store that are exotic and unusual for our area.

tulips3

tulips5Of course, if you want to spend more, you can get flowers from a nursery that are even more beautiful.  These were at an event I attended.

tulips4Gorgeous.

Just love bringing nature inside.

“Aside from the garden of Eden, man’s great temptation took place when he first received his seed catalog.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sage or Salvia?

When a plant is called by two different names, it can be confusing.  Since I’ve heard Sage and Salvia applied to the same plants, I got curious to know if there is a difference between the two.  So I decided to investigate.

This post will be considerably longer than most.  But I hope you find my results as fascinating as I did.  Many of you are well versed in this information, so thank you for your indulgence.

salvia8Mealy blue sage, Mealy sage, Mealycup sage, or Blue Salvia is in the Lamiaceae (Mint) Family.  Bees love it.

The botantical name is Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’.   Like other non-scientific types, when I hear the Latin names, I have flashbacks to high school biology that brings shivers down my spine.

But these scientific names is key to understanding the question about sages and salvias.

The plant classification system used today was developed by a Swedish Scientist, Carolus Linnaeus, in the 1700’s.  He put plants into groups based on similarity of form.  The categories for living things are Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Series, Family, Genus,  Species, and Variety.

Only Genus and Species concern us to answer our question about sages and salvias.  These two names are the ones listed for each plant.  The first name is the genus and should be capitalized.  The second name is the species name and is not capitalized.  Sometimes a variety follows the species name to show a slight difference from the classified plant.

The answer to the question:  A sage can be a salvia, but not all sages are salvias.  Let’s see why.

salvia9Salvia is the largest genus of plants in the Lamiacae or mint family with nearly 1,000 species of shrubs, herbaceous, perennials, and annuals.

If a sage is the same as a salvia, it must be in the same salvia genus.  There is no genus for sage.

salvia6This is Texas Sage, also known as Purple Sage, Cenizo, Texas ranger, Texas Barometer bush, Texan Silverleaf, and Silverleaf.  This is the sage that is most associated with the Southwest and is the one referred to by Zane Grey in Riders of the Purple Sage.

This sage is also in the Lamiaceae or Mint Family.  But its botanical name is Leucophyllum frutescens.  So the Purple Sage is not a salvia.  Although it is in the same family, it is not in the same genus.

salvia7Although many of us grow this sage in mid to north Texas, it is not winter hardy and must be cut to the ground if freeze damage occurs.  It does better farther south than my zone 7b area.

salviaOne of the most popular sages the past few years and readily available in most nurseries is Salvia greggii.  They are available in different shades of red – such as Cherry, Navajo Bright Red.  There is even one called Lipstick.

Did you notice the word Salvia in its name?  So this sage is a salvia.

salvia2These are perennials that are drought tolerant and visited frequently by bees and other propagators.  Salvias are hot weather plants with square stems.  Many bloom from spring through first frost.  They do need some water to look their best.

Many salvias are scented, have flowers that grow on tall spikes above the foliage, and are attractive to many pollinators.

salvia3A sage that I love that is not a salvia is Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia).  Its scent when leaves are rubbed is one of its great characteristics.

salvia4Bees love Russian Sage.  It is hardy and has a long blooming season.

salviaaAnother sage that loves our climate is Mexican Sage (Salvia leucantha).  It, too, is a sun lover.

Did you automatically look at the genus name?  I’m training myself to do that.

salviabHummingbirds feast on it.  One of the things I like about it is the velvety look, which is actually tiny hairs that cover it.  These hairs help reduce water loss.

It’s a perennial that must have plenty of sun.  It tends to get leggy and some branches can break if they get too heavy with flowers.  Just trim it as necessary.

salvia azureaThis is Prairie Sage, Pitcher Sage, Azure Sage, Giant blue Sage, or Blue Sage (Salvia azurea)  It’s another good plant for Central Texas and even further west.  Salvia flowers come in shades of blue, red, white, and yellow, although rarely yellow.

The defining characteristic of the genus Salvia is the unusual pollination mechanism.  Salvias have two stamen rather than the four of most flowers.  The covering of each stamen is divided down the center, but connected. salviagraphicWhen a pollinator enters the flower probing for nectar, which is found deep in the flower, this pushes the posterior anther.  This causes the stamens to move up, which then deposits the pollen on the back of the bee or other pollinator.

salviapollinatormechanism3As the pollinator withdraws from the flower, the lever returns the stamen to its former position.   Then when the pollinator goes to another flower, the pollen can only be transferred if the flower’s stigma is bent down in a general location that corresponds to where the pollen was deposited on the pollinator’s body.

salviapollenThis gorgeous photo and the next one by Dave Leiker show the stamen lever mechanism in action.

beepollen2

salvia involucrate 'Hadspen'This Big Mexican Sage or Roseleaf Sage (Salvia involucrate ‘Hadspen’) grows in zones 7 to 11.  Another salvia on my wish list.

Most salvias and sages do well in Texas.  Generally, most salvias need minimal water and soil that drains well.  Also, cutting them back slightly, about a third, in mid summer brings new blooms.

There are even a few tropical salvias and some that survive in colder climates.

So science really is the answer to the question “Is it a sage or a salvia?”.  Both names can apply to the same plant if the genus is salvia.  If the genus is different, it’s only a sage.

Both sages and salvias are terrific plants for most of Texas and many other parts of the US.

Thank you for taking the time to read this far.  You are great to have persevered.  Please leave comments if you have other information about this subject.

Following my usual closing with a quote is a list of different salvias and sages.  Whenever I could find the information, I listed the hardiness zones.  Maybe you’ll find one that you’d like to try.

“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny …’” Issac Asimov

Sages:
Lamiacea Family (mint family) Genus Salvia:

Arizona sage, Desert indigo sage – Salvia arizonica
Zone 5 – 7
Autumn Sage, Cherry sage, Gregg salvia – Salvia greggii
Zone 7 – 9
Belize Sage – Salvia miniata         Zone 10 – 11
Bi Color– Salvia sinaleoensis        Zone 8
Big Mexican Sage, Roseleaf Sage – Salvia infovucrate           Zone 7 – 11
Big red sage, Penstemon sage – Salvia penstemonoides     Zone 6 – 10
Black sage, California black sage – Salvia mellifera                  Zone 6 – 10
Black & Blue Sage, Brazilian Sage, Blue Anise Sage, Majestic Sage – Salvia guaranitica ‘Black & Blue’       Zone 8 – 11
Baby Sage – Salvia microphylla                     Zone 7 – 11
Blue sage – Salvia pachyphylla                      Zone 6 – 9
Blue Shrub Sage – Salvia ballotaeflora          Zone 7 – 11
Bog Sage – Salvia uliginosa                           Zone 6 – 10
California sage, Chia Golden chia – Salvia columbariae          Zone 7 – 10
California white sage, White sage – Salvia apiana   Zone 9 – 10
Canyon sage – Salvia lycioides          Zone 6 – 9
Cedar sage – Salvia roemeriana         Zone 7 – 10
Clary Sage – Salvia viridis                    All US zones
Clary Sage – Salvia horminum               Zone 3 – 10
Clustered sage – Salvia whitehousei                    Texas native Zone unknown
Creeping sage – Salvia sonomensis         Zone 7 – 10
Crimson sage – Salvia henryi A. Gray          Texas native
Death Valley Sage, Woolly sage – Salvia funereal                  Grows near Death Valley
Desert indigo sage, Arizona sage – Salvia arizonica              Zones 6 – 11
Engelmanns sage – Salvia engelmannii        Zone 7 – 9
Fragrant sage, Blue sage, Cleveland sage – Salvia clevelandii Zone 8 – 10
Fushia Sage – Salvia iodantha              Zone 8 – 11
Grey Shrub Sage – Salvia chamedryoides        Zone 7 – 10
Indigo Spires – Salvia ‘indigo spires’              Zone 7 – 11
Isla Hummingbird sage, Pitcher sage, Crimson Sage – Salvia spathacea           Zone 7 – 11
Indigo Spires Sage – Salvia Indigo Spires            Zones 7 – 11
Lanceleaf sage, Mintweed – Salvia reflexa        unknown zones
Lemmon’s sage – Salvia lemmonii                     unknown zones
Lyreleaf sage, Cancer weed – Salvia lyrata L.    unknown zones
*Mealy blue sage, Mealy sage Mealycup sage, Blue Salvia – Salvia farinacea         Zone 7 – 11
*Mexican Bush Sage – Salvia leucantha              Zone 8 – 10
Mountain sage, Royal Sage – Salvia regal          Tropical zones
Munz’s sage San Miguel mountain sage, San Diego Sage – Salvia munzii          Zone 8 – 11
Nettleleaf sage, Nettle-leaved sage, Wild sage – Salvia urticifolia L.           SE US
Pineapple Sage – Salvia elegans              Zone 8 – 11
Pink Little Leaf Sage – Salvis Grahamii        Zone unknown
Pitcher sage, Big blue sage, Azure sage, Giant blue sage, Blue sage, Priarie Sage – Salvia azurea             Zone 4 – 9
Purple sage, Gray ball sage, Dorri sage, Desert sage – Salvia dorrii             Zone 5 – 9
Scarlet Sage, Tropical Sage, Blood sage – Salvia coccinea   Zone 7b – 10b
Scarlet Sage, Red Sage – Salvia splendens      unknown zones
Shrubby blue sage, Blue Shrub Sage, Mejorana – Salvia ballotiflora       unknown zone
San Luis purple sage Purple – Salvia leucophylla  Zone 6a – 10b
Scallopleaf sage – Salvia vaseyi          High desert elevations

Mint Family (Lamiaceae) Sages that are not Salvias:

Bladder Sage, Paperbag bush, Heartleaf Skullcap – Scutellaria Mexicana                       Texas and La. native
Bladder Sage, Mexican bladdersage – Salazaria Mexicana     Zone 8 – 20
Island pitchersage – Lepechinia fragrans      California endangered plant
*Russian Sage – Perovskia atriplicifolia             Zone 4a – 9b

Aster Family (Asteraceae) Sages that are not Salvias

Big sagebrush, Great Basin sagebrush – Artemisia tridentate Zone 4 – 9
Black sagebrush – Artemisia nova A. Nelson           Zone 4 – ?
Beach sagebrush, Beach wormwood, Sand hill sage – Artemisia pycnocephala           Zone 9 – 10
Bud sagebrush, Budsage – Artemisia spinescens   Semi-desert
California sagebrush, Coastal sagebrush – Artemisia californica Zone 7 – 10 coastal
Louisiana Artemisia, Louisiana sage, White sage, Prairie sage, Silver sage, White sagebrush, Louisiana wormwood, Silver wormwood, Louisiana sagewort, Gray sagewort, Cudweed sagewort, Mugwort wormwood – Artemisia ludoviciana            Zone 5 – 10
Prairie sagewort, Prairie Sagebrush, Frienged sage, Pasture sage – Artemisia fridiga             from Mexico to Siberia
Silver sagebrush, Coaltown sagebrush, Dwarf sagebrush, Hoary sagebrush, Silvery sagebrush – Artemisia cana Pursh    Southwest US

Sages in Other Families that are not Salvias

Periennial buckwheat, Wright buckwheat, Wild buckwheat, Bastard sage – Eriogonum wrightii          Zone 5 – 10
Buttonsage, Button-sage – Lantana involucrate       Zone 8a – 11
Jerusalem Sage – Phlomis fruticosa           Zone 7 – 11
Royal penstemon, Royal beardtongue, Sagebrush penstemon, Sagebrushtongue – Penstemon speciosus       Zone 5 – 10
Sagebrush buttercup – Ranunculus glaberrimus Hook.      Western US
Texas sage, Cenizo, Purple sage, Texas ranger, Texas barometer bush, Texas silverleaf, Silverleaf – Leucophyllum frutescens  Zone 8 – 11

Garden Memories, Hopes

When the skies are dreary and the yard is barren, I look for any color, shape, light to lift my spirits.  Although we have not had the rough winter like most of the US, winter cold makes me long for spring.  Guess living most of my life in a dry, hot environment has become part of who I am.

afterfreeze1A few pots of Pansies are still alive – scraggly, but colorful.

afterfreeze2Green from Yellow Columbine sticks out between dead Woodland Fern.  In the spring, I’ll be mumbling about Columbine coming up unwanted in this bed.  Now I’m glad to see something alive.

afterfreeze3Good ole reliable Blue Spruce Stonecrop Sedum keeps on keeping on.

afterfreeze4Underneath these resting Daylily stalks lies the bulbs that will provide new stalks and gorgeous flowers in the spring.  The promise of new life encourages all gardeners.

afterfreeze5Dead Senna branches will need to be cut off to the ground in the spring, but now they provide seeds for birds.

winteryyar3Twirling Hummingbirds make me smile in all seasons.

winteryyard3

winteryyard2Not much rain this fall and winter, so I like the looks of some melting ice on tree branches.

winteryyardThe sunlight made them sparkle like diamonds.

winteryyard4All the Gomphera heads are white now rather than the bright red ones that will bloom in the spring.  Each of these hold about 100 seeds.  They will be so thick that thinning will be required.  I plan to move some to a new bed and to share some.

winteryyard5Pansies just amaze me.  I guess because I’m such a wuss in the cold.

winteryyard8We’ve had several Cardinals in the yard this year.  They are so wary that my attempts at photographing them has not been very successful.

winteryyard9Talk about bringing a bright color to the yard.  I love to watch them from inside a warm house.

“A lie doesn’t become truth, wrong doesn’t become right, and evil doesn’t become good just because it’s accepted by a majority.”  unknown