Critters in the Yard

When critters that we love and the ones that we don’t like, enter into our space, it makes life interesting.

Butterflies are my all favorite critter in the yard.  This Queen is feasting on Gregg’s Blue Mist Flower.

Snakes terrify me.  This one scaled a six foot pole.  It went inside the hole of the birdhouse and slithered back out.  Don’t know if it was hoping for bird eggs or just bored.

This is a bluebird house and since we haven’t had any bird birds nest there, it’s just ornamental.

This snake may be harmless, but that doesn’t matter to me.  Makes me cringe.

Occasionally, a wild turkey wanders around the yard.  They are skittish and react to the slightest noise.

Pretty feathers, but it looks like it was designed by a committee.

A small bird kept flying out of this flowerpot on the back porch.  It looked like a Tufted Titmouse but moved too quickly for a photo.

Finally, when I was watering this old Kalanchoe, I spotted the reason.  Twigs had been brought into the pot and sort of a tunnel built to where the eggs were laid.

Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri), a Texas native, draws lots of pollinators.

As the wind sways the tall stems, bees and other pollinators hang on.

Purple Heart (Setcreasea pallida) loves this shaded spot and covers this plot quickly each spring.

Remnants of a spider web can be seen on the top of the wheel.

This ruffled Coleus was recently propagated from a large one.  The stems grow quickly.  Very attractive.

Sizzling

In the middle of August the temperatures are consistently above 100.  So far, the hottest day reached 107 degrees.  So, as the saying goes, “It’s not fit for man or beast outside”, although that’s usually applied to freezing winter days.

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) survives in extreme heat.  It’s twice this size now, but the bright sun washes out pictures, even early in the morning. So I’m using an earlier picture.

Turk’s Cap is a native of southern US and Mexico, so it’s no wonder that it does well here.

Just can’t praise this perennial enough.  Pollinators love it.  It grows in sun or shade.

The flowers are unique and interesting.

This picture of Dynamite Red Crape Myrtles was also taken earlier in the summer.  But, to me, red epitomizes the heat of summer.  The bushes still have some flowers on them.

Dynamite Red Crape Myrtle, a result of Carl Whitcom’s breeding that hybridized it for mildew resistance, cold hardiness and drought.  Also, it falls into the medium size crape myrtle group.  It’s a winner.

The small flowers of Strawberry Gomphrena pop because they’re so bright.

This picture is from the internet, but its details are excellent.   Each flower contains about 100 seeds, so it’s a great re-seeder plant.

This picture was also taken earlier in the summer.  I promise that the weeds and rocks have been cleared out.  The brilliant red of Showbiz Rose makes it a stunner.

Kolanchoe is a dependable bloomer in the heat as long it is not in the direct sun.

Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) likes the heat but not direct sunlight.  Another plus is that the flowers last for months.

The wicked thorns makes it a little difficult to haul the pot indoors for the winter.

Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is a wonderful drought tolerant plant that holds its blooms until the first freeze.

Up close, its aroma is divine.  Just rub your hand along the foliage to carry that scent around for a little while.

Natives are always reliable in this heat.  Insects on the leaves of this Clammy Weed or Red Whisker Clammy Weed (Polanisia dodecandra) has given it a ragged look, but it survives and blooms all summer long.  It is not one of those plants you want to touch because your hands will feel sticky until you can scrub them with soap and water.

South African Bulbine is unconcerned with the heat.  The spiky leaves are actually soft.  The leaves and tall thin stems lose little moisture, so they do really well here.

It’s really quite amazing how many plants, including many others not pictured, can endure this heat.  Of course, they are all getting some extra water in this heat.

“Too hot to change board.  Sin, bad.  Jesus, good.  More details inside.”                       On a church changeable letters board.

Bold Colors

Some landscape designers prefer a small, select group of muted colors to be used throughout the yard.  I can see the serenity of that, but bold, bright colors float my boat.

Texas Bluebell Ice Cream is named after Texas Bluebell native flowers or lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflorurn).  They grow in areas that get some moisture during the summer months.  In a home garden, it’s easy to provide that needed water.

A field of these is inspiring.  The petals are fragile and the centers boldly colored.  A gorgeous native.

Another biggie for Texas gardeners is or should be Milkweed.  ‘Hello Yellow’ Asclepias is probably an annual here, but I wanted to give it a go.

The leaves of Purple Oxalis or Purple Shamrock brings some color to a shady area.  This one has been in the same pot for about ten years.

This Desert Rose has been in this pot for about eight years.  Recently I saw one with brilliant colored flowers on-line, so I ordered some seeds.  I now have three very small Desert Roses growing from those seeds.

So I decided to save the seeds from these flowers.  But there are no seeds.  What?  Now I’m bumfuzzled.  Are there male and female Desert Roses?

Love the flowers.

Many of the plants with brightly colored flowers are in pots because they are tropical and need to be carried inside for winter protection.

Ixora has been in this pot for about ten years and only gets late afternoon sun.

The coral clusters of large corymbs of bright florets are stunningly beautiful and can last four to six weeks.

Corymbs are flat topped flower clusters in which the individual flower stalks grow upward from various points of the main stem to approximately the same height because the pedicels (small stem) of the lower flowers are longer than those of the upper flowers.

Other flowers with this same flower arrangement include Hawthorns.

Isn’t the internet great for finding out information.

Crepe Myrtles are the brightest and prettiest small flowering trees for our area.  My very favorite variety is this ‘Alamo Fire’ Red Crepe Myrtle.

Just look how full the clusters are.

There are three of these  ‘Alamo Fire’ Red Crape Myrtles in our yard.  This is the only one that has prominent yellow stamens.

Whether you opt for mostly green shrubs, pale colored flowers, or bright primary colors, isn’t it wonderful to plan your own space?

“Be decisive.  The road of life is paved with flattened squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.”  Unknown

Summertime

“Summertime and the living is easy.”  I guess that’s true in a certain sense.  If possible, people do tend to get inside during the midday hours.  As a child, there was no air conditioning.  So we were expected to lay down for a nap during the hottest hours.  However, that luxury isn’t available for the ranchers and others who have to be outside all day here.

For the gardeners, summer means that most work has to be done before noon and much more watering is needed.  If you have a lot of plants in containers, it means lots of hand watering.

Fortunately, there are plants that love the sunshine and heat.  This is a hardy Hibsicus that I got at a club plant sale years ago.  It a generous re-seeder.  The flowers are about 4 inches wide.

This year I was able to locate a hardy Hibiscus with larger flowers.  These are 6 to 8 inches in diameter.  I was looking for the ones with dinner plate size flowers but couldn’t find them in red.

These aren’t true red but close.  So far, they’ve bloomed profusely.

Datura or Moon flowers perform well in the heat as long as they aren’t in direct sun.  They open at night and last until just after noon.

Everyone is being encouraged to plant milkweed to help Monarchs survive.  The most common one here is Antelopehorns (Asclepias asperula), which is a native and grows in our fields.  However, I wanted one that is prettier in the yard.  Thankfully this one, Texas Milkweed (Asclepias texana), survived the winter in a pot.

Although Kolache is not winter hardy, it’s a go-to plant for containers in mostly shady areas.  Kolaches grow large and are easy to propagate.  Just break off a stem and stick it into potting soil.  Keep the soil moist, not wet, until it produces roots and begins to grow.  They’re great pass-along plants.

Desert Willows (Chilopsis linearis) are wispy, small accent trees.  The orchid-like flowers are lovely.

The flower colors range from light pink to a darker pink or lavender.

Always a trustworthy perennial summer bloomer, Mexican Petunia (Ruellia simplex) is aggressive, so be prepared with space for it to spread.  A low to the ground variety does not spread, so it’s an option.

In this picture a flower stalk from Red Yucca is draping over the petunias.Dainty flowers that last a day.  What is that white bug?  Only noticed it when the picture was enlarged.

If your summer months are extra hot, hope you can enjoy some cheerful flowers and some cool air conditioning.

“People find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right.”  Dumbledore (Harry Potter book)

Bird Island

Bird Island in Pebble Beach can be viewed from a rocky beach near a parking area.

The island itself looks like solid rock covered in bird guano.  From the shore it’s difficult to distinguish the birds.

Zoom lens reveals individual birds.

Most of birds are cormorants, which feed on sea fish.  Their feathers allow their wings to become saturated so they can dive deep.  On the rock they can be seen with their wings open to dry thme.

Years ago we saw cormorants used by Chinese fishermen.  A string was tied around their neck so they could not swallow.  The fishermen would push one off a small boat and pull them back on to remove the fish the bird had caught in his beak.

Another island a little further out provides a resting spot for sea lions.

Walking down to the sandy beach, a path led us through lots of native vegetation.  The roots holds the soil in place.

The pinkish flowers look cotton candy.

The ground was hard packed, so walking was easy without sinking into the sand.

The constant movement of the ocean could be seen as waves washed up on the rocks.

Small shells were scattered on the sand.

A nice quiet time on the beach before the crowds arrived.

This will be the last post from our time in California.

“…recognize and respect Earth’s beautiful systems of balance, between the presence of animals on land, the fish in the sea, birds in the air, mankind, water, air, and land.  Most importantly there must always be awareness of the actions by people that can disturb this precious balance.”            Margaret Meade

Carmel Valley

Expectations are often disappointed.  We were prepared for mild mid 70’s weather in Carmel.  In reality, it was mostly mid to low 60’s.  Too chilly for us coming from high 90’s.  So we were pleased one day to drive into the valley away from the sea.

The green rolling hills and farms of the valley were a breathe of fresh air away from the crowded area of all the towns bunched around Carmel.

Although we saw these plants on tall stems growing everywhere, no one was able to identify them.  Notice that the hen and chick looking head was green, black,

or red.  Does anyone know their name?

The other plant that I loved were these hibiscus looking flowers on tall stems.

The warmer valley could have been mistaken for parts of New Mexico.

A wide diversity of cacti and succulents added interest to the small town.

A long planting of Lavender and the light purple flowers of Agapanthus or Lily of the Valley on the other side of the fence complemented each other nicely.  They seemed to be thriving all over the areas we visited because of the mild winters.

Don’t know why this fence fascinated me.  No one else seemed interested.

Great plant holder in a boutique/antique store.

This little lady welcomed all the shoppers.

Finally, part of this ubiquitous plant’s flowering color had not faded yet.  Even past its blooming time, it’s an interesting plant.

Loved the open spaces and warmth of the valley.  Just a country girl at heart.

“Social and media should not be used together because it becomes an oxymoron.”  unknown

Carmel by the Sea

The Carmel coastline is rocky with a few sandy beaches.

On one side of a narrow street that follows the curves of the coast are homes.  The lot sizes are small because the land is so costly.  Behind the houses lining the street are other houses built up higher behind them to get an ocean view.

The tiny front yards are designed to give the most bang for their space.

Parking is along the street, so it’s necessary to walk a long way to get to certain destinations.

Closer to the town, a Stanford University marine trial station is on the beach side on a large lot.  Near there was this humongous Bottle Brush bush.

The “brushes” don’t look exactly the same as the ones sold in Texas.  Stunning, aren’t they?

Another bush along this same stretch of land is this stunner.  It was planted several places in town, so it may or may not be a native.

A long swatch of this is probably a native.  This is further from the edge of the shopping areas and seemed to be growing wild.

A chain link fence serves as a barrier to the beach.

On the Stanford University property, we could see sea lions resting on a small sandy beach.

Ice Plant is evidently a good soil erosion prevention plant.  Very few flowers were open, so it must not be their blooming season, or we just missed it.

Then came a walking path along the sea with a low rock fence.

This most unusual looking house sits on a less developed area of the inland side of the road.  What is that patchwork roof made of?  Crazy.

Lovers point is our destination.

Lots of these striking plants all over this area of California.

The water was choppy but paddle boarders, canoers, and surfers enjoyed the 4th of July in the water.  Just hoped they were experienced and knew how to miss the rocks.

The actual point of Lover’s Point has a large pile of rocks.

There are restrooms, a children’s play area, and a restaurant.  Love these hybrid daises.

The underside of the petals are a light purple.

Some of the chubbiest squirrels I’ve ever seen.  Don’t know what the tourists are feeding them.  Lots of different languages could be hear.

The roots of small native plants were tucked under the rocks.  Extremely hardy to endure the environment and the foot traffic.

Since I’ve seen lots of rock piles in Texas, not sure what the draw was.  But here we were.

Couldn’t get acclimated to the cold weather.  But enjoyed the sights.

“Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool or you go out in the ocean.”  Christopher Reeve

Carmel

Carmel proved to be just as pristine and unique as expected.

The downtown shopping area was adorned with flowers in pots and beds everywhere available for planting.

Bougainvilleas were huge, full of blooms and gorgeous.  The mild climate allows every bush and vine to flourish.  The Morning Glory in the foreground is climbing up the building.

Upscale shopping is the name of the game.  Lots of tempting shops.

The succulents on tall stems are everywhere along the coast but I couldn’t find anyone that could give them a name.  The pot to the lower right contains Cigar Plant (Cup0hea ignea).  Should have gotten a closer picture of that.

Landscapers must do a booming business in this town.

The lavender colored flowers are probably Pincushion flowers.

Lovely sentimental bronze statue.  Note the heart in her hand.

All different kinds of architecture.

But the one that surprised me were the Hobbit looking ones.

Probably cost a lot of money to get this roof that looks like a drunk laid the shingles.

Sunglasses in a bush – very Californian.

Another ubiquitous succulent with lovely pink flowers.  Wonder if it’s too hot here to grow that.  But I would need to know its name.

Wondered if this pot is hypertufa.  And how is it attached?

Wandered into a storybook setting.

An outdoor eating area of a restaurant with a fire pit attracts these Western Bluebirds.  No one seemed to be worried that they might land on their plate.

Just doesn’t get any quainter than this.

The source of those mysterious dried flowers that come in florist arrangements.  When dried, Purple Statice Sea Lavender outlasts the fresh flowers by a long shot.

Had a lovely day strolling in and out of shops.  But mostly, the flower caught my attention.

Pretty in Pink

It always surprises me when I realize how many different pink flowers are in the yard.  I guess because pink is one of my least favorite colors for clothes or decorating.

But Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)  bushes are totally lovely and as hardy as plants come.  This was a pass-a-long from a friend. Because new plants come up each year, they have been moved to different locations in our yard and also have been gifted to others.

Don’t ya love gifts that bring pleasure for many years.

The flowers are so stunning that I can’t stop snapping pictures.  Grow in full sun and well draining soil.

The bush in the foreground is a different strand of Althea or Rose of Sharon that was ordered from a catalog.

They don’t even look like they’re in the same family.  It’s called Althea Double Purple.

More hibiscus-like flowers on another Rose of Sharon that is covered with pink goodness.  Definitely not roses, so why that common name?  Who knows. These bushes are about 9 ft. tall.

Texas Rock Roses (Pavonia lasiopetala) grows as an evergreen and is another plant that has a misnomer name.  They only get about two to three feet tall and wide.

Looks like a small hibiscus.  Full sun and a little water makes it a happy camper.

French Hollyhocks (Malva sylvestris) tend to grow up but not wide.  So dainty.

Phlox (Phlox paniculata) has just started to bloom.  Actually, it did not bloom its first year, so I’m anxious to see how it performs.

Annual periwinkles add a bit of color in semi-shade.

Alnwick Rose by David Austin has grown and bloomed better than some of the Austin roses in my yard.

Another David Austin rose Princess Alexandra of Kent was planted this spring.  Even though it’s still a small bush, it has bloomed its head off.

Besides that, it has an impressive name.

‘Ellen Bosanquet’ Crinum Lily is blooming in spite of the fact that the bulbs were disturbed last fall when a new fiber line came into the house right where they have been for years.  Their blooming period is rather short but spectacular.

“Well done is better than well said.”  Benjamin Franklin

Good-bye to Spring

As an unusually long, cool, wet spring comes to an end, we’re all counting our blessings.  This wonderful weather has been wide spread and a real treat.  It’s near the end of June and no really hot temperatures.  Hooray.It’s sad to say good bye to the spectacular show of Shasta Daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum.)

Daisies are one of my favorite flowers.  Emphasis on the word “one”.  A Painted Lady is enjoying a flat landing spot.

Many gorgeous spirals on the Vitex or Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) has brought a sweet fragrance to the back yard.

In the front yard, another Vitex, but it almost seems like a different species.  The blossoms are smaller, a paler color, and not scented.  In front of the Vitex are some Flame Acanthus, which just keep spreading.

In late fall, I cut both Vitex back severely to keep them from becoming large trees because those are not nearly as attractive.

This flowerbed is anchored by the Vitex and a large Desert False Indigo (Amorpha fruticosa). Between the large bush/trees are Cone Flowers and Rock Roses by the sidewalk.

Behind the Cone flowers is a Bridal Wreath Spiraea, a small Crepe Myrtle, and some Mexican Feather Grass.  So this bed is crammed full.

Cone Flowers (Echinacea purpurea) are also waning, although some will hang on through the summer.

Another absolute favorite.

The Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella or Stipa tenuissima) hasn’t totally greened up yet.  This is considered to be invasive but that hasn’t happened in this bed.

The ground cover around the Vitex is Stonecrop Sedum.  It helps keep the native grass out of this bed.

This year I’ve planted Potato Bush (Lycianthes rantonnetti) in a pot so it can be carried inside in winter.  One year I tried it in a flower bed; that winter was particulary harsh and killed it.

The flowers have a similar look as Mexican Petunia.

After the initial first flush, the roses are just now starting to bloom again.  Abraham Darby has David Austin’s trademark inner petals.

A new rose that intrigues me is Scentimental.  It was hybridized by Tom Carruth.

He has created more roses than any other living American.

It’s also called a red and white stripped rose.  So far, I haven’t noticed that the smell is that strong, but still love the uniqueness of it.

“Happiness depends more upon the internal frame of a person’s own mind than on the externals in the world.”  George Washington