The Ordinary and the Extraordinary

It’s been about six weeks since our extraordinary cold weather event and nature is recovering.  We did not lose as many plants as I feared, and those in pots in the shed mostly look great.

Everything is leafing out and blooming later than usual, but that’s to be expected.  Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is looking good and loaded with flowers.  All of our efforts to kill the native Bermuda grass in this raised bed has failed.  So I guess it’s there to stay.

Before the flowers open completely, they look almost artificial.

Their thin red petals are perfect for hummingbirds.

Purple Bearded Iris are my favorite color of iris.  These are rebloomers and actually do rebloom often.

Behind these beautiful Irises is a native ‘found’ rose bush.  Martha Gonzales rose was found in San Antonio.  It is considered to be very hardy.  But, alas, it certainly looks dead.

At the bottom of what looks like a dead Martha Gonzales are these leaves and a rose.  I’ve trimmed the bush but am uncertain what to do now.  It’s one of those wait and see times.

Four Nerve Daisies (Tetraneuris scaposa) are all aglow.  This native needs full sun and well-drained soil.  Since we have clay, it’s in a raised bed with amended soil.

Now:  get ready for the Extraordinary-

Last week I saw this stunning plant in a town south of here.  It’s called Parrot Beak Plant (Lotus Berthelotii).  With such bright flower color, of course it’s tropical.

It is so striking and gorgeous that I’m patting myself on the back for not buying one.  I’m trying to stay away from tropical plants that my poor, sweet husband has to carry into the shed.

Also, I read that it needs lots of water and cool weather to bloom.  With summer on the horizon, that’s not going to happen.  So I’ll just enjoy the pictures.

The plants that do well in our area, while some may be considered ordinary, are a blessing and certainly make gardening easier.

“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy plants.  And that’s pretty much the same thing.”  unknown

Sweet, Sweet Spring

Freed from our cocoons at last.  The warmth of the sun, the green buds on the trees, and a few colorful flowers is a blessing.  I’d do cartwheels, if I could.

Native Redbud trees by the side of rural roads in our area signals spring.

Some of them have paler blossoms.

Although you can’t see them in any of my pictures, there are tons of bees on the flowers.

The Redbuds with the darker flowers really pop.

Love them.

In the yard, things are greening up.  One the left is a Mock Orange bush.  To the right is a David Austin rose.

The Maple is forming leaves.  Not sure which variety of maple it is.

First couple of Dutch Iris have flowers.  After that artic freeze, it’s so reassuring when a plant shows signs of surviving.

Last fall I planted some tiny bulbs of Lady Jane Tulips (Tulipa clusiana).  The foliage had appeared this February when that devastating freeze hit.  But now, here the flowers have popped up.

I like their short stems that make them more sturdy in our strong winds.

This is how they look after the sun has risen high in the sky.

Lady Janes are Species Tulips, which means they are native to warmer areas, like the Mediterranean area.  So they do not need a deep cold to survive and should be a perennial.  Of course, time will tell how well they do here.

There are other species tulips, like the Texas Tulip and Tubergens Gem Tulip available at Southern Bulbs company in East Texas.  Usually, they only show the bulbs that are to be planted at that time on their website.

Redbuds only bloom a short time, so it will be time to say good-bye soon.  Enjoyed having you.

As spring wakes up our plants, this year it will be especially important to check out what survived the winter.  If we’re patient enough, maybe we’ll see that some things that look dead actually aren’t.  But if you’re like me, I’m ready to get on with it.

“If you think nobody cares if you are alive, try missing a couple of car payments.”  unknown

Hope for Gardeners

The old expression “Hope springs eternal” definitely defines gardeners’ attitudes.  Now as it warms up and we see a little green outside, our hope for a great spring ratchets up. (I mean ‘ratchets up’ from the old timey meaning, not the hip-hop one.)

Of course, the weeds are alive and well, but some other plants are, too.

Every year I plan to take this Texas Scarlett Quince  (Chaenomeles japonica ‘Texas Scarlet’) out.  Then it flowers for a short time, so it stays to see another day.

Because it is the first thing to bloom, it adds some much needed color.  This year its flowers were delayed due to Uri.  When did weathermen start naming winter storms?

Some Daffodils already had foliage before the storm, so those got zapped and probably won’t bloom this year.

Just appreciate those brave little souls who are flowering.

Only one daffodil in this bed made it.

Native Yarrow (Achillea millefolum) is amazing.  Millifoium means a thousand leaves.  It’s a native evergreen and is as tough as nails.  Plus, it spreads.  The flowers are white clusters on a stem above the foliage.

I wondered if the Amaryllis bulbs would survive.  Here they are standing tall.  The other little plants are either Gulf Coast Penstemon or Gomphrena.  Both are in this bed.

Just planted these Dwarf Candytufts (Iberis sempervines).  After the horrible freeze, cold hardiness is more important than ever.  The label says these are cold hardy down to minus 20.  Wow.

What a bright spot in the early spring garden.  I’ll be watching to see how it performs.

Hope you are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel where you live.  Spring, warm days, sunshine, and flowers will come.

“Let your hope, not your hurts, shape your future.”  Robert H. Schuller

Inhale Deeply and Relax

Now that the sun is shining and the days are warmer here, people want to rush outside and chop off all the dead limbs and leaves frozen by the extreme cold from two weeks ago.

But horticulturists are urging that it’s too early to do that.  It’s possible that another freeze will come later this month.  Leaving the dead parts could help protect the plants if that happens.  So, we should all just chill and not get frantic about what it looks like in our yards.

So all those plants, like this miniature Indian Hawthorne, that looks dead as a door nail might have viable branches and roots.  In a couple of weeks, use the thumbnail test to see if the branches are okay.  Scratch into a limb to see if the wood is soft and alive.

That same Indian Hawthorne last spring.

We have four of these Hawthorne and would be sad to lose them, but sometimes, we just have to accept something and move on.

Native plants, like these Oxeye Daises, fared well and are ready for spring.

It has surprised me how hardy these Gulf Coast Penstemon have been.  They spread fast and now look good after the sub zero weather.

Plants in pots naturally took a bigger hit.  Pretty sure that this Rosemary will need to be replaced.

Greenery from many bulbs were already above ground.  These Dutch Irises may actually still be able to produce blooms this spring because not all of the foliage froze.

Most Iris leaves or fans look healthy.

Nice surprise – a little Hyacinth is already blooming.  Yeah.

Even in a pot, Dianthus proves to be a winner.  Really have come to appreciate these plants.  Their colors are bright and cheery.

Ditch Daylilies looking good.

Pincushion plants have proved to be incredibly hardy.

Wild Foxglove looking good.

Artemesia looks a little sad but should recover.

I was concerned about bulbs that were planted in the fall.  But these Alliums look fine.

A native evergreen Yarrow that will have white flowers looks good as new.

Some trees, on the other hand, look dead.  This Yaupon Holly looks bad.  Time will tell how damaged the roots and trunks were.

Another casualty of being in a container is this Pittsporoum.  It didn’t seem to matter how old the plant was.

Afghan Pines (Pinus eldarica) don’t look so bad.  When we plant for our zone, and the weather suddenly turns much colder than that zone, then plants are at risk.  We consider heat and drought to be the biggest factor of a plant’s survival.

The Live Oak in the background looks bad, but we need to remember that Live Oaks naturally lose their leaves in the spring and new ones appear.

We planted these Oleanders last fall. Poor things.

One of my favorite trees because it is evergreen is Cherry Laurel.  Now the experts say that deciduous trees do better in a deep, deep freeze.  The leaves on the ends of branches died, but the leaves on the inside of the tree are green.  We’ll see if it’s system was weakened.

Rejoice that spring is almost here.

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” -Helen Keller

Gratitude in All Circumstances

Gratitude is a daily attitude.  Wake up thinking about how blessed you are.  We lost electricity for hours for 3 days.  I’m thankful that we had any power and that we had a fireplace to burn wood in the daytime and lots of covers for the night.  We were without water for 6 days.  Bottled water was bought for just such a time.

I’m really sorry for those people who were in much worse conditions.  The poor always suffer more.  Wish I could change that.

Lately there has been lots of ridicule about Texas for not being able to manage the electrical power grid.  This is in defense of the electrical companies.  I am in no way connected to them.  Just did a little research.

First of all, this was probably the weather event of the century.  Last week It was minus one a couple of days with a high still in one digit numbers.  One day this week, it was 80 degrees.  Lows average in the 30’s and highs in the 50’s and 60’s this time of the year.

Secondly, electrical production is different in the south than in the north.  According to the Texas comptroller, for 2020, these are the sources used to produce electricity:  natural gas: 47.4%, coal : 20.3%, wind: 20%, and nuclear: 10.8.

Notice that there is no water on the list.  That’s because Texas doesn’t have the water for hydroelectric power.  We are in drought most of the year.

All power sources have drawbacks.  Even hydroelectric power alters waterways and life cycles of fish, wildlife, and plants.

Solar requires massive blocks of land to produce enough commercially.  One has been proposed about 40 miles away.  It is to cover 3,000 acres.  I don’t know how much electricity it will generate.  Sure, there are miles and miles of vacant land in the Big Bend area.  Then the issue becomes how to transport electricity to populated areas hundreds of miles away.

And there’s the threat of danger from explosions of nuclear power plants.  Burning fossil fuels creates environmental problems.

This was an early snowfall one spring.  Bet this Eastern Meadowlark was as surprised as we were.

Love buttermilk skies.  We cherish the country views.  That’s why we moved here.

Now we come to wind turbines, that many people laud as the perfect power.  For those who have to see them from their property, they are definitely not perfect.  There goes our wide open skies view.

These are massive and humongous eyesores.  The initial cost is high.  They require constant maintenance.  When they no longer work, they still clutter up the landscape because the companies who own them are not required to take them down.

Although the companies won’t admit it, wind turbines do kill birds and create noise pollution.  But the worst part is that they produce intermittent energy and are not reliable.  Many days they stand like beached whales, not turning their blades.  Bottom line:  the government needs to stop giving them tax abatements.

Now, what does all this have to do with gratitude? Surviving the last storm was a gift.  Any day we wake up with good health and have a family that loves us is amazing.  The beauty of the coming spring brings joy.  Just think of all the positives in your life.

Less criticism and more positive comments both in public platforms and personal ones will make life better for all. I’m not trying to be Polly Annie; just don’t like what is happening in our dear country.   Okay.  Now I’m stepping off my soapbox.

“Enjoy the little things.  For one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”  Robert Brault

Deep Freeze and Hearts

The winter storm we have just endured in Texas is one of those for the history books.  I’ve done a little research about temperatures in Texas.  The highest ones in the summer were 120 degrees in Monahans in 1994 and 120 degrees in Seymour in 1936.  That’s no surprise.  But the lowest in Tulia in 1899 and in Seminole in 1933 was minus 23.

But I think our minus 1 might it for this century.  At least, I hope so.

Like most of Texas, we had electric rolling blackouts.  Luckily, we stayed warm with a fireplace and lots of cover.

Only wild creatures would wander out in these temperatures.

The worst part has been no water.  The pipes have been frozen for 6 days.  Even as the snow melts and the temperatures are rising, we still have no water.  My husband has brought in snow to melt in order to flush commodes.

The hardships of winter.  I truly sympathize with northerners who put up with this every year.

Continuing with the Valentine hearts theme, February reminds us what love means.  It is caring more about the other person than yourself.

Am I the only one who loves the smell of Rosemary?  I consider it romantic.  Also, it’s a great herb to use in roasted vegetables.

“The real lover is the man who can thrill you by kissing your forehead or smiling into your eyes or just staring into space.”  Marilyn Monroe

Today the heart shape is widely used as a symbol of love.  Remember exchanging valentines in grade school?  And the teasing?

Heart with sedge.  This Sedge was planted and is not the invasive kind.

“Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.”   Oscar Wilde.

Old fashioned Geranium.

Obviously, this Bleeding Hearts is not in my garden.  Our soil is too alkaline.  I did try one in a pot years ago.  I think our heat got to it.

Anyway, it’s a perfect heart shape.

“Roses are red…”  Nope.  These are steel, made by my niece, who is a welder.  They’re unique and heavy.

Stay warm.  This month is turning out to be a lollapalooza.

“Ninety percent of being married is just shouting ‘what’ from other rooms.”  unknown

Valentines from the Garden

Valentine’s Day has a non-romantic past since it comes from the martyr of Saint Valentine on February 14 in AD 269.  In AD 496 a pope declared that day to be known as Saint Valentine’s Day to honor his death.

The origin of the shape of the heart used as a symbol to denote love and romance is hard to nail down.  It may have come from the shape of a pod of a plant or from Aristotle describing the heart as having three chambers with a small dent in the middle.

Leaves of Sweetheart Hoya ( Hoya kerrii Craib) shaped like hearts in front of a soft Artemisia plant.

 

Buried in snow twice this winter, these Pincushion flowers (Scabiosa caucasica) just keep on blooming.  We’re poised, like most of the country, for another winter blast of extremely low temperatures and maybe ice or snow.

So these plants as well as others, such as tender shoots from bulbs, will freeze again. Life is unpredictable, just like the weather.

Bright red “Strawberry Fields” Gomphrena.

Woodland Fern grows really well in the ground here in a mostly shady area.

Always on the lookout for stones naturally formed like hearts.

Hope your February is filled spending time with those you love.  The isolation makes it hard to achieve that.  But phone calls count.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

“I love you with all my belly.  I would say heart, but my belly is bigger.”  unknown

Romantic Roses

Ahh, February, the month of romance.  I would have chosen a spring month, when roses are blooming.  But, here we are at the latter part of winter.  This is the time to plant roses.  What better gift for a sweetheart than roses?  Maybe, roses and chocolate.

If you buy roses at a florist or grocery store, they will have strong, straight stems and perfectly formed flowers.  They have been breed to sell.  But they won’t have a scent.  So an alternative might be to buy a rose bush and plant it for your sweetie.

This book was written by a lady from Houston.  It focuses on the origin of each particular rose shown, the hybridizer, and significance of the name.

The pictures are fantastic.   Anaïs Ségalas was hybridized by a Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Vibert to honor a French lady poet. A very conventional lady, she wrote “Love, pray, dream, that’s the existence of all women.”  Not very inspiring for females of our time.

Don Juan is probably a rose you recognize.  It was hybridized in Italy and named in the US by Jackson and Perkins.  Named after the seductive legendary lover, it definitely says romance.

A quote about Don Juan, the man:  “Heaven offended, laws violated, girls led astray, families dishonored, relatives outraged, wives ruined, husbands driven to despair.”

Named after a famous German who came to live in Texas in the 1800’s.  He is known for traveling around the Southwest and discovering hundreds of plant species.

Some of the pages in the book are a double spread of a particular rose.  This one is Graham Thomas.  It is a hybridization of Charles Austin and Iceberg.  He was a 20th century gentleman who lived a gentleman’s life.

His friend and rose hybridizer, David Austin,  took him to a field filled with new roses and let Thomas choose which rose would bear his name.

A fun, pretty book.

Now to a very practical book.  Judy Barrett is a lady who has spent a great deal of time growing roses and determining how to be successful doing so.  Because of Texas soils and weather, it can be difficult to grow roses.  The eastern Piney Woods is the only area where it is easy.

The advice is extensive and helpful.

I love the Peace Rose but don’t have one.  Such a sweet look and history.

Old world and antique roses have lovely aromas and are hearty.

Filled with specific hints and information, I highly recommend this book.

“I’d love to have the whole place swimming in roses.”  James Joyce

House Plants

There are some exotic, very pretty, and expensive house plants on the market.  What I have is not that.  Most of mine were pass-a-long plants from friends or garden club sales.

I do much better with succulents because they don’t need as much attention and watering as some other types of plants.  For some reason, I tend to neglect house plants more than those in the yard.

Many succulents are hard to identify.  I don’t know the name of this one.

I have bought a few plants, like this Petra Croton (Codiaeum variegata).  I’ve had it for years.  It looks better when watered frequently.   Not my forte.  It tends to flop over, so there are stakes holding up the larger stems.

When the Croton flowers die, a mess falls to the floor.  The flowers are sticky.

Aluminum Plant (Pilea Cadierei) came from a garden club member.  The leaves have a silvery cast that doesn’t show up in this picture.  It’s in the begonia family.

Our house has tons of light from tall windows.  That’s good for plants if they are put in the right places.  But it’s terrible for pictures.  As I move the plants around trying to find a spot to photograph them, they end up with undesirable backgrounds.

One good trait about succulents is that it’s easy to break off a stem and put into soil to root.

During the winter I root lots of plants for club plant sales and as pass-a-long gifts.  These Angel Wing Begonias are for two different plant sales.

I also use window sills where there is no direct sunlight to root roses.  Just cut a short tender end of a stem, dip in rooting compound, moisten the soil well, create a  sealed terrarium with a clear plastic bag. and wait 6 weeks before opening the plastic bag.

This cutting for an old fashioned rose came from a friend.  A tiny little bush can be seen inside.

As you can see, this one has not been watered enough.  Since this picture was taken, the plant was upgraded to a larger pot and a smaller plant was put into this pot.  The pot was a gift; it’s really pretty, so I constantly replace the plants with smaller ones.

The plant is a Dutchman’s Pipe.  Don’t think that’s the true name – just what I was told.  The mother plant is in the greenhouse and is about 3 ft. tall.  Shoots grow from the plant with new small plants at the tips.

Another unknown succulent from a friend.  The stems just keep growing, so these are snipped off and rooted.

Peanut Cactus (Echinopsis chamaecerus) has never bloomed for me, but the friend who gave it to me says her plant blooms.

This was a hostess gift for those helping with a bridal shower 4 years ago.  This is evidence that succulents can grow in shallow soil.

This cactus was bought at a big box store.  Someone told me that it’s actually two cacti.  The red one was graphed on top of the green one.  In the background is another Dutchman’s Pipe.

More Angel Wing Begonias.  I put plastic pots inside ceramic ones without a hole.  That way, extra water can drain into the larger pot and be poured out.  The larger pots protect the floor and tables where they sit.

A Hoya is pretty blah until it is put in light shade outside.  Then it will bloom when the plant is several years old.

Another garden club plant sale buy.  Sansevieria or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue has been divided two times.  As it multiples, it breaks the  plastic pot inside the ceramic one.

This Jade plant came from a club sale years ago.  Watering succulents can be tricky.  When the fat leaves just start to show signs it is wilting is the right time.

Kalanchoe are an easy plant to grown inside and outside during warmer months.  Just needs filtered light and warm temperatures.  This one has yellow flowers.

Very small pots with no holes can be used for plantings.  Put small pebbles in the bottom and plant in moist soil.  Soil for house plants needs to be very loose with Vermiculite or Perlite and Sorgham Peat Moss added or included in purchased soil.

Water lightly when soil feels dry an inch or so down.

Sweetheart Hoya, also know as Valentine Plant or Sweetheart Wax Plant (Hoya kerri) was bought at a native nursery in west Texas.  The heart leaves are intriguing.

Happy inside gardening.

“According to an ancient Japanese legend, when you cannot sleep at night, it is because you are awake.”

Winter Inside Shopping

What are your favorite indoor winter activities?  Most of us are now spending a lot more time inside because of Covid.  Those who work outside the home are out and about more than us retirees.

Maybe you paint, draw, play the piano.  If you’re a gardener, you probably also browse plant and seed catalogs.  I prefer the hard copy editions, but will also shop online.

I used to consider buying seeds more for those with vegetable gardens.  Of course, I’d planted Zinna seeds – very easy success.  But a few years ago I bought some wildflower seeds from a Texas company – Native American Seed.  Check out https://www.seedsource.com

Boy, was I glad I did.  Since seeds are so much cheaper than buying plants, it is less expensive to try something you’ve never grown before.

This American Basket Flower is a perfect example of that.  It survived equally well out in the field and in the yard.  So water conditions are pretty forgiving with this wildflower.  And it has returned for several years naturally from windblown seeds.  Love it.

See the source image

I have also purchased wildflower seeds from Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg.

Red Corn Poppies are such a beautiful sight in their fields in the spring.  I only tried them in a field and got a few and only one or two have come up each year from seed.  I’m guessing they need more water.  Fredericksburg gets more rainfall than we do.  So I need to try them in the yard.

Most Texas wildflowers seeds need to be sown in October.  But there are lots of flower seeds to plant after the last frost.

See the source image

Recently, I was searching online for some specific seeds and discovered some other companies.  First, I found Blue Love in a Mist at Country Creek LLC.

I’m really excited to try Blue Love in a Mist (Nigella damascena) in my yard.  I know they’re successful south of here.  My hope is that they reseed well.

It’s best to follow the planting instructions on the package.  But a good rule of thumb is that most seeds flowers should not be buried, but lightly pressed into the soil.  The smaller the seed, the less pressure.

Image result for toothache plant

Toothache Plant (Acmella oleracea)

Cerinthe major (flower).jpg

Cerinthe

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Missouri has some interesting choices.  Their seeds are in regular size seed packages and cost about what you’d pay in a local store for that size package.

Blue Cornflower or Bachelor Button Seeds, Blue Cornflower, Bachelor Button Seeds, Centaurea cyanus

Another seed I was searching for was Blue Cornflower.  I found them at Eden Brothers in S. C.  They will send a seed catalog, which I am now perusing.

Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate ‘Cerise Pearls’

I’ve also ordered from Select Seeds.  They specialize in old fashioned flowers as well as newer varieties.  Their catalog is full of gorgeous pictures.

So here we are, dreaming of spring and the gorgeous flowers that are available from seeds.  Can’t wait to plant them and see the results.

Happy seed shopping.

“Whatever you feed, grows.  Faith or Fear.  Worry or Confidence. Doubt or Belief.  It’s your choice what grows.”   unknown