How Dry It Is

While the Gulf coast of Texas experienced horrendous flooding, the western and central part of the state were dry and dusty.  Here we’ve had 13 inches of rainfall this year, less than half of the average 27 inches.  We’re drier than even surrounding areas.  I suspect that’s due to the fact than our property is in a valley between two ridges.

Desert Bird of Paradise or Yellow Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii) is so hardy that some consider it invasive.  This has been here for about 11 years, and only two years ago did another one come up in the same flower bed about three feet from the parent plant.

The flower bed has drip line watering, so a voluntary in our hard clay dirt outside of the flower bed doesn’t seem likely.

The thin, narrow leaflets on the compound leaves that resemble Mesquite leaves means that there is little water evaporation, so it’s a great plant for our area.

A desert plant from South Africa, African Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens ‘Orange African Bulbine’), doesn’t mind the heat.  It cannot take cold, so we’ve been lugging two pots of these into a shed each year for more years than I care to remember – probably 11 years.

The flowers aren’t showy but look nice blowing in the wind.

Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora) is a prolific grower.  Also known as Virgin’s Bower and Japanese Clematis, it is such a vigorous plant that it must be cut back each winter.

This year the vine has suffered from chlorosis.  It’s one of those things I think of when I pass by it and forget later.  Just recently I read that the iron should be applied with Sulfur Soil Acidifier.  I bought some today, so there’s no excuse to postpone this task.

Sweet Autumn Clematis lives up to its name.  The sweet smell engulfs anyone near it.

Anyone familiar with Mexican Petunias (Ruellia simplex) knows how invasive they are, but a patch of them is a stunning sight.  All this started from one little cutting I took years ago.

Every spring we dig them up around the edges to stop their spread.  This year I gave up and used several doses of Round Up to keep them contained.

And, oddly, I still like them.  They look great behind a bed of Blue Mist Greggii.

The Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius) have begun their reach for the sky.  In spite of their name, they are drought tolerant and get very little water.

From spring until the middle of September, the plants have this palm tree look.

Then the stems start growing tall and sunflowers appear.

Extremes of weather plays havoc in gardens, but plant lovers just keep propagating, planting, watering, and weeding.  It’s can be frustrating but satisfying and rewarding.

“There is a lot that happens around the world we cannot control.  We cannot stop earthquakes, we cannot prevent droughts, and we cannot prevent all conflict, but when we know where the hungry, the homeless and the sick exist, then we can help.”
Jan SchakowskySave

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Reliable Perennials Perform Over and Over

Cooler mornings and evenings means a few hours to work or relax outside comfortably.

The plants must also appreciate a break from the heat.

This bed of Henry Duelburg Salvia (Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’) is always abuzz with hungry bees.  It is also sold under the name Blue Mealy Cup Sage.

What a wonderful, rewarding perennial.  Every year it blooms and blooms.

It is so hardy that it’s known as the cemetery sage.  For good reason, it was chosen as a Texas Superstar plant.

It’s almost impossible to point the camera and not get a picture of a bee.  I think these are bumble bees since they never bother me.

One last shot.  This salvia, like most, does spread.  But, in this case, I consider that a plus.

It’s also easy to transplant.  I dug some of the Augusta Duelberg (Salvia farinacea ‘Augusta Deulberg’), with white flowers up and put them in this pot.

Some other reliable perennials are Turk’s Cap on the left, Salvia Greggi on the right, and Rose of Sharon in the background.

This year, the orange Ditch Daylilies have made a reblooming curtain call.  My two larger beds of these lilies are all blooming.  Crazy.

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) spreads to a large mass that deserves loud applause.  Hummingbirds and butterflies love it.

Garlic foliage and flowers on tall stems move gracefully in the wind.  Not sure if these are just ornamental or also edible.  Just got them for the flowers.

Only kind of grasshopper I like are those that don’t destroy plants.  Behind this pot are Coral Drift Roses.

Texas Yellow Bells (Tacoma stans) is drought tolerant and grows well in limestone soils.  So it seems perfect for my location.

The problem is that it sometimes freezes and doesn’t return.  The cold hardiness for Yellow Bells is zone 9.  I live in zone 7b.  So this past winter, I cut it to the ground, piled up mulch, and turned a ceramic pot over it.  Hooray.  It made it.  But it has been extremely slow to get any height and flowers this year.  So I guess there will be a repeat performance this winter to protect it.

“Remove one freedom per generation and soon you will have no freedom and no one would have noticed.”  Karl MarxSave

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Gray/Silver Foliage

When I think of my favorite plants, flowers always come to mind.  But there are advantages to more muted plants.

Dusty Miller or Silver Dust (Centaurea Cineraria) originates from an island off of Italy.  It’s an old fashioned plant grown in the thirties, forties, and fifties by rural people.

Silver gray plants provide a shimmer or cool calmness to the landscape.  This one was bought in the spring and has exploded.  Many plants with gray foliage, including Dusty Miller, grow well in full sun.

The individual leaves are not that striking.

But when silver/gray plants are framed by a background of dark green, an interesting contrast occurs.  Sunlight lights up the silver color and makes them a focal point.

Globe mallow or Desert Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) has round, cupped orange flowers in the spring.  But its foliage is also worthy of attention.

Its ruffled leaves have a different form than most gray plants.

Native to the drier regions of North and South America, in the Southwest of the U.S., sheep and goats graze on them.

When purchased, this was labeled Prairie Sage, but I haven’t been able to positively identify it.  It doesn’t bloom, has a tendency to flop down from the middle, and keeps most of its foliage during the winter.

The silver color is attractive but not sure I would recommend it.

This was given to me, unidentified.

Grey Santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus) is aromatic and has a wonderful soft texture.  My only compliant is that it tends to become misshapen.

But I do love the look and touch of it.

My favorite silver/gray plant is Powis Castle Artemisia (Artemisia arborescens x absinthium) because it is soft, hardy, and can grow in sun or filtered sun, although I think it does better in mostly sun.

A versatile plant that fits in most landscapes.  This one is in a pot, but it does well in the ground.

This is not an extensive list of gray plants, just some that I have grown.

“Too many people miss the silver lining because they’re expecting gold.”  Arthur YorinksSave

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City on the Concho

In West Texas, San Angelo is a town with a river, the Concho, which gives it many advantages.  Having a water source in an arid region is huge.  Therefore, the town boasts some green areas.

Although we’ve visited the town numerous times, on a recent overnight trip, we saw some places previously missed.

As we walked toward a Mexican restaurant (what other kind!) in the center of town, we passed the library, which has some large windows that jut out and are trimmed with this tile work around the door.  Always fascinated by symbols chosen to represent reading.

Outside the library is one of San Angelo’s ubiqutous painted sheep.  This one features children’s books.

I recognize pictures that represent Charlotte’s Web, Hank the Cowdog, and Alice in Wonderland.

The statement:  “Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.”

Here’s the favorite of many.

The San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts’ unusual building is constructed of many different materials inside and out.  The inside space features a main two story central area with smaller exhibitions rooms around it.

One current exhibit displays the work of local artist, the late Jimmy Don Cox.  Western paintings and sculptures show his eye for detail.

Another show called ‘Critical Angles’ by Cathy Cunningham Little from San Antonio contains unique art using glass, mirrors, and light.

The small pieces of glass and instructions for placement were mailed by the artist to the museum.  This involved a complicated placement of the materials to achieve the exact light forms.

The only light in the room came from the small lights above each set of glass.

From this angle, you can see some of the glass.  Beautiful.

The serene outside area is nicely done with landscaping and well thought out green space and hardscape.

Love this little girl reading.

The Aermotor Windmill Company in San Angelo still manufactures and constructs the old fashioned windmills that have character and hark back to the settling of the west.  Not like the intrusive giant wind turbines that are taking over our beautiful countryside and destroying land values.  I could go on and on about that.

This succulent ground cover has lots of pretty small flowers.  Looks like a type of ice plant but don’t really know.

A cowboy teaching a kid about rope tying.

Walking down the street from the museum, this horse sculpture made us stop.

The wood in front with the holes is from Cholla Cactus.

Several old buildings along this street have been renovated for businesses.

The next morning we attended a short seminar about Gardening with Natives.  Afterwards we went to a small nursery outside of town that has a demonstration butterfly garden.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  I failed to get an overall shot.  My mind must have been on what was for sale in the nursery.

This is a Blue Potato Bush, Paraguay Nightshade, or Blue Lycianthes (Lycianthes rantonnei) for zone 8b to 11.

Clever idea that is easy.  Just paint some molded forms that are used for garden bed borders.

Behind the caterpillar on the right is an Italian Basil and on the left is Curly Parsley.

Using a wheel barrel for a fairy garden has been on my to do list for a while.  Maybe this will nudge me to get busy.

A strong wind was whipping the flowers on a Morning Glory Bush pretty good.

Bush Morning Glory, Morning Glory Tree, Badoh Negro, Borrachero, or Matacabra (Ipomoea carnea) survives in zones 8b to 11.  Several years ago I had one that lived about three years.  Then it became too tall and cumbersome to move into the shed.  So adios to that.

The star of the show is always Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) because it is so bright that it’s hard to look anywhere else.

Pride of Barbados is a zone 9 tropical evergreen, but in zone 8b, it is a perennial that dies to the ground.  It’s on the Texas Superstar list.

I’ve tried one that froze.  Some people cut them to the ground in early winter, mulch them heavily and cover them, so I’m going to give it another shot.

“A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.”  Hugh DownsSave

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Pops of Color

As summer drags on with no rain, the field grasses are drying, so that’s a drab sight.   Some brightness in the yard is definitely needed.

Old fashioned Geraniums ignore the heat and keep on blooming, but they can’t handle full sun.

I got a start of these several years ago at a club plant sale and have kept several pots since then.  They’re easy to propagate by cutting off a stem and sticking it into soil.  Sometimes I remember to dip the stem in a rooting compound and sometimes I don’t.

Rose Moss(Portulaca grandiflorais) is another good old reliable.  This pot has been on my porch for about six years.  Every spring I question whether or not it survived the winter cold.  Then, just when I’m about to give up, they sprout and bloom.

When I think about how long some of these plants have been in the same pot, it surprises me.  This Oxalis Triangularis or Purple Shamrock (Oxalis regnellii var. triangularis) is probably 11 years old.

Every winter, it goes into the heated shed, so I don’t know if it would recover otherwise. Cold hardiness is zone 7 – 11, but I don’t trust the new 8 zone listed for us.

I think this is Antimima concinna, a type of Ice Plant, that is in the Aizoaceae family.  The Aizoaceae family is huge with over 1800 species and is mostly endemic to Southern Africa.

This has been in this pot so long that I don’t even remember where it came from.  This lovely small flower is another one that will return after a severe winter.

http://www.succulent-plant.com/families/aizoaceae.html is a good source for all these succulents that look so much alike.

Tropical Ixora (Ixora coccinea) grows in most tropical areas but is prominent in Asian tropical countries.  The leaves feel stiff.  The clusters of tangerine colored flowers last a long time on the stems.

Mine is in mostly shade but gets a shot of late afternoon sun.  About 12 years old, this plant is a winner in my book.

Gorgeous.

Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) is truly thorny, so it’s difficult to re-pot.  Mostly, I keep cutting off the long stems and starting new plants for plant sales or passalongs.  The stems need to harden a couple of days before planting.

About six years ago, I got a cutting from a friend.  The flowers last for months and are in a lovely color.  Native to Madagascar, they are tropical.

This spring I found a Thornless Crown of Thorns or Gerold’s Spurge (Euphorbia geroldii) at a nursery near Kerrville.  Whoopee.  It’s great to not dodge the thorns.

It is hardly to 30 degrees and likes semi-shade.  Mine gets morning sun and afternoon shade.  It will bloom just about year round, if brought inside during the winter.

Love it.

Finally, my Bougainvilla (Bougainvillea spectabilis)  is blooming.  Every year, I get impatient for this beauty to strut its stuff.

It needs lots of hot sun, lots of water, and some fertilizer to get it going.  The first time I saw this plant years ago on Turks and Caicos, I was smitten.  Even on those wind swept islands, it bloomed and flourished.

Such a beauty.

Hope some color is brightening your summertime.

“Credit is what keeps you from knowing how far past broke you are.  Debt is slavery of the free.”  unknown

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Heat Lovers

Some plants thrive in this crazy heat and don’t even bloom until July or August when the furnace heat waves hit.

Duranta (Duranta erecta), with its long, draping branches, starts to flower the latter part of July.  In this picture, Duranta is flanked by Bird of Paradise, one old and one coming up from the roots of the original tree.

This particular branch leans over into the grass, making it difficult to mow, so the grass is a little bit tall here.

A sprawling shrub, Duranta has clusters of delicate purple flowers near the ends of the branches.

Named for an 15th century Italian botanist, Castore Durante is native to the Americas.  Why an Italian?  Who knows?

Although Cross Vine (Bignonia capreolata) blooms more in the spring and fall, it certainly survives well in August and blooms occasionally.

The common name Crossvine comes from the cross-shaped pattern seen when the stem is cut.

Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana) comes to its full gorgeous self in July and August.  This patch is about two feet tall.  Native to North America, it is in the mint family.

The individual flowers look like Foxglove, but are much hardier here.  When I bought this at a club plant sale, I was warned that it was aggressive.  That was a few years ago.  It has spread some, but I’m enjoying the forms and color.

My favorite thing about Gray Santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus) is its soft texture.  The common name Lavender Cotton makes no sense to me.  It’s an evergreen mounding ground cover that reaches about two feet tall and three feet wide.  Santolina is native to the Mediterranean area of Europe and Africa.

This picture was taken in early June, so the yellow flowers have since died.  But the overall low growing shrub gets a jolt of growth during the late spring and early summer weather.  The only complaint I have is that when it blooms, the plant seems to get more misshapen.

So glad that these plants and some others do well in this desert-like heat.  This year, so far, we’ve had 13 inches of rain.

“One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.”  A.A. Milne

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What’s That?

Still hot, but it’s August.

Now to the topic:  figuring out mysteries in the garden.

Looking through all my resources and the internet, this one is still an unsolved identification.  It came up in a flowerbed this year.  It’s spindly, about two feet tall but leaning over, sparse leaves with white and pink somewhat aster flowers.

Pretty in a wildflower way.  Anyone know what it is?

A couple of these plants came up in the Wood Fern bed.  I dug them up and potted them before they bloomed.  Then I searched for what they are.  The closest match is Wild Cowpea (Vigna luteola) in the bean family.

According to Wildflowers of Texas, Wild Cowpeas bloom most profusely in the fall months.  Many insects are attracted to its pollen and nectar.

“Strange as it seems” begins a line in ‘Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’.  That is fitting for spring blooming Ditch Lilies to be flowering at the height of summer.

Several flowers on tall stalks have appeared in all three flowerbeds where these daylilies are planted.

Just as pretty as they were in spring.  What is going on?

There is no real mystery about this Foxtail Fern except that I never expected it to get so big.  Have just kept upgrading it to larger pots.  Guess it can be divided when it outgrows the largest pot we can manage to carry to the shed for winter.

This Bamboo Muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa) has a long fox looking tail.  The decision here is whether to cut it off or not.  Sometimes, this Muhly looks like grass that should be mowed.  It is a warm season grass native to Southern Arizona and northern Mexico.

Unlike Bamboo, it is not invasive because it is a clumper and does not seed well.  It is hardy zones 8 – 11.

The question here is should this Crocosmia, which is in the iris family, be moved to a shadier spot.  They are native to the grasslands of southern and eastern Africa.

Most instructions for Crocosmia states that these bulbs should be in full sun.  However, directions for planting in full sun should be questioned here.  As we natives say, Texas sun and full sun are not the same thing.

The few bulbs of Croscosmia I planted a year ago haven’t done much and this is the only one to bloom.  Guess it’s time to experiment with their location.

When you garden, there’s always a question or two about where, how, and what to plant.  Then nature presents other complications and mysteries.

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”          Prov. 16:24Save

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