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)

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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

Crazy, Crazy

Everyone has been expressing their joy that the year 2020 ended.  It was one of the strangest years, impacting us all with isolation.  But 2021 has started out with a weather anomaly.

Snow rarely comes our way.  Yet, here is the second snowstorm in under two weeks.

Not much commentary today, just pictures.

I stepped outside at 7 this morning.  With all the snow in the air, it looks blue.

Four to six inches were predicted.  I think it’s definitely going to happen because soft white, puffy flakes have fallen all day.

I took pictures all through the day.  It lightened up a little.  Yaupon Holly is covered.

Lacy Oak

Cherry Laurel

The giant Live Oak looks small in its white surroundings.

Berries on Yaupon Holly show up nicely with a white background.

Hope you are snuggled down under a nice warm blanket.

“Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.”  Coco Chanel

Fresh Snow & Fresh Start

The last time snow fell here was in January, 2016.  Thursday’s snow was a delightful surprise.  On New Year’s Day we awoke to white as far as the eye could see.

Pictures taken from the front porch include snow outlined branches of the Pisache and Crepe Myrtle trees.

Every year this Red Oak holds on to its leaves longer any other tree we have.

A Chinkapin Oak and a pot of spiky Rosemary make a nice tableau.

To the right is a Privet bush and a Maple.

Now to the backyard.  One of characteristics of Live Oaks is how they spread out wide and the branches dip towards the ground.  Very lovely wearing white.

Cherry Laurel and to the left, climbing roses.

Snow frames a bare Texas Ash and the redwood pergola.

Yaupon Holly and to the right, a Red Oak.

Closer view of bench and Red Oak

1890’s conestoga wagon is a reminder of the harsh life of the settlers headed west.

Thanks to these deer for posing.

Even the native Junipers, aka cedars, look pretty.  The real problem with Junipers is how rapidly they multiple.

Snow covered landscape is so pretty and reminds me of a fresh start this new year.  Good riddance to 2020.  Looking forward to new opportunities and hopefully, an end to isolation.

“The future lies before you, like a field of fallen snow; be careful how you tread it, for every step will show.”  unknown

Winter in Reality

Most years we don’t have any winter weather.  There’s a few days of freezing temperatures, but no precipitation to create a wintery scene.

So sometimes we help Mother Nature along.  This was a time when it was below freezing and we forgot to turn off the sprinkler system in the flower beds.

With the sprinkler head on the other side of this trellis, a different view shows up.

Same flower bed and icicles hang from a birdhouse.

Another time it rained during the night and it was so cold that the moisture froze on plants and branches.  Henry Duelberg Salvia soaked up the water making very thick ice on the small branches.

The ice makes for a dramatic beauty.

I guess people who live where winter is severe and common aren’t as enamored with these scenes as we are.

Ice on a Chinese Pistache looks lacy, especially with the green of a Live Oak framing it in the background.

Shrubs that I can’t identify at this point.  A different Live Oak provides the backdrop.

The Live Oak and shrubs taken from the back porch.

Evergreen Cherry Laurel sags under the weight of ice. In the background, the ridge looks like someone shook some powdered sugar over the trees.

Up close to the Cherry Laurel.

Branches from another Chinese Pistache draping in front of a metal pergola.

A Yaupon Holly.

Texas Kidney Bush (Eysenhardtia texana) gets its name from the fact that Indians and settlers used the beans in the pods as treatment for kidney problems.

A rose hip encased in ice.

Our winter, if we have one, usually occurs in January.  Ice is more common than snow, and it is hazardous to travel on icy roads.  Crews usually cover the highways with sand or tiny gravel.  But the backroads are not treated, so we usually stay home until it melts.

“If I’m walking on thin ice, I might as well dance my way across.”  Mercedes Lackey

Creative, Yet Easy

This a walk along memory lane from a time when we attended home tours.  One of those many canceled events because it is 2020 and the time of the epidemic.

Not sure if these are live plants or not, but they could easily be container plants, like Boxwood that can be trimmed and shaped.  The rounded form and the fancy pots make these stand out.

I like the idea of decorating something you already own.  This sled has a winter theme, but think about other items, like a tricycle.  Even though it can’t be hung, it could welcome guests to your front door.

So easy and yet, attractive.  Let the orange slices dry out before using them.

Just put a pot of Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) in pots and place them among cactus or agaves.  Of course, they are tropical, so they cannot be outside in really cold weather.  But you could use winter hardy violas or pansies in pots.

Or you might even decorate your agaves with gumballs.  They need to be strong enough to bear the extra weight.

Create Christmas trees with sheet music or tear the pages out of an old hymnal.

Decorate kitchen cabinets with purchased wreaths or create your own.  I personally would have chosen a brighter color for the bows.

Cut out Christmas ornaments out of heavy card stock and string them under a picture frame or old window.

This garland is made from folded squares of tissue paper.  Red and green tissue paper would make it more seasonal.  Add a string of lights and voila.

Fill any container with Christmas balls or other decorations hanging on small branches.

Use a baby buggy, wagon, or any other item used to transport whatever.  Fill it with anything Christmasy and you have a unique decoration.

This made me wish I had a old wooden tool box.  But other outside wooden or metal garden items would work.

Bake some gingerbread men and ladies, decorate, and string them together.  A clever hanging garland for anywhere.  Of course, then the remaining cookies can be eaten. However, these may be made of an inedible material.

Just a few borrowed ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”
                                                                                                                       Dr. Seuss

Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas

Usually in December, we attend some Christmas home tours in different towns.  This crazy, crazy year, we have stayed close to home, and most of the tours have been canceled, anyway.

So I’m going to focus on some of my favorite decorations that we’ve seen over the years.

This house was on the tour in Waxahachie in 2015.  The decorations was whimsical and fun.  Plus, they appeared to be expensive.

I wondered if they were special ordered and who would eat all the candy used in the displays.

So many trees – probably about 10 throughout the house.  Each with a theme.  This one was in the kitchen, so there are gingerbread men, candy, and baking utensil ornaments.

My favorite decorations were in the kitchen.

Santa soaking in a bubble bath in a clawfoot bathtub.

This was a large house.  Every nook and cranny was decorated.  It blows my mind to think of the time involved, but I think she had friends to help.

Creative.

 

Upstairs was not open.  Cute, cute idea.

“It was the night before Christmas.  Not a creature was stirring.  No even a mouse.”

 

Decorations continued outside on the wraparound porch.  Love this sign.

Love the draping ivy on this old stove used as a plant stand.  Another clever idea.

This was a fun tour.  Maybe next year.  Aren’t we all saying that about things we missed this year.

“You can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle three things:  a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”  Maya Angelou

Gray with a Hint of Silver

One landscaping trend is to use very few colors.  Some people prefer a very muted palette and consider it calming.  My preference is for lots of color.  But I do like some neutral plants in the mix.

Prairie Sage is a perennial that doesn’t bloom.

The color is an even gray.  The branches are a little brittle but don’t break in the wind.

But even when I used grays, I like to have a little punch near it.

Dusty Miller is an old faithful that has been used for years by our ancestors.

The softness of the foliage makes it a very touchable plant.  It needs full sun but can take some shade part of the day.  Here in Zone 8 it is a perennial, but in lower zones the winter cold kills it.

This Artemisia Powis Castle (Artemisia arborescens ‘Powis Castle’) has been in this container for years.  They tend to be evergreen.

As soft as soft can be and a slight soothing scent.

Planted in the ground, Artemisia just goes crazy.  It has pretty much taken over this flower.  I have to keep trimming it back because part of the bed is planted with roses and other flowering plants.  Growing low to the ground, the branches root and spread.

Texas Purple Sage or  “cenizo” (Leucophyllum frutescens)  is very popular in Central Texas.  It is beautiful when purple blooms appear.  However, that’s only after a rain, which happens seldom here.  It can get thin without enough water.

It is not a sage or a salvia, but is in the figwort family.  A nature to Texas and northern Mexico, it is drought tolerant.  Not my favorite, but somehow I feel obligated to have this native.

Of course, there are other choices for gray in the yard, such as Globe Mallow and Gray Santolina.  Aren’t you glad you get to pick the colors or lack of for your own space?

“Gray hair is a blessing.  Ask any bald man.”  unknown

Simple Small Surprises

Some people think that the big moments – like a once-in-a-lifetime trip, attending an spectacular event, or a wedding with all the bells and whistles – are the most important part of life. Those major events are memorable and photographs can be enjoyed for years.

But the majority of life is made up of life as usual; just earning a living and doing the daily tasks that need to be done.  So, the old saying “take time to smell the roses” is truly excellent advice for enjoying everyday life.

About three months ago, we bought a trailer load of compost.  With everything that has been happening, we just finished distributing it around the flower beds.  So as we slowly finished that and some other projects this week, I noticed some small sweet things that  brightened my day.

The Pincushion (Scabiosa pincushion) flowers stopped blooming when summer heat hit.  The cooler weather has brought a few flowers.

Pincushion Flowers get their name from how the center of the flower looks like pins (stamens) stuck into a cushion.  Pincushions were in common use when more people sewed their clothes.  Some of us old fogies still have them.

Growing low to the ground, a Scentimental rose catches my eye.  I love the stripped petals.

Early in the mornings, flocks of robins spread out in the yard.  Then, the usual residents join them for breakfast.  When I crack the door just a little to get a picture, they all scatter.  Someone must yell, “Hurry, everyone return to your hiding place.”  So they fly into trees and bushes.

This Mockingbird flew to the top of a Chinese Pistache tree.

A couple of pairs of Cardinals live in the bushes but are very shy about getting their picture taken.

It surprised me to see a Gulf Penstemon (Penstemon tenuis) flowering.

Indian Summer Rudbeckia or Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) were planted in September.  They both had flowers.  But a day later, the flowers were gone.  Probably bitten off by a jackrabbit.  So I caged them.  This week I noticed one had a new flower.

This might be Mystic Blue Spirals, but I doubt it because the foliage isn’t shiny.  The plant has been in this pot for years and looks about like this from spring through fall. This group of Reblooming Irises has bloomed off and on since spring.  Not all Reblooming Irises perform this well.  The color is spectacular.

Appreciation and gratitude define how we experience life and react to the good and the difficult parts of life. They also make life infinitely sweeter.

“The best part of life’s journey is who you get to share it with.”  unknown

Fall Color

Yes.  We do have autumn color here in upper Central Texas.  The colors are different than in the eastern US, and they may not last as long, but they are beautiful.  I suspect that the colors don’t last as long because the temperatures stay high longer here.

Red Oaks keep some of their green leaves while others turn orange red.

Once the oak leaves fall on the ground, their color has faded to a light golden brown.

Clusters of orange-red berries drape at the ends of the branches of a Chinese Pistache tree.

The leaves of Eve’s Necklace turned golden yellow.  The seed “necklaces” are still hanging from the branches.

This Katy Road Pink rose bush has really large rose hips.  In Texas, it has retained this name because it was found at that location in Houston.  But, it was later determined that it was a Carefree Beauty rose that was developed by Dr. Buck at Iowa State University.

The size and bright orange red color, as well as the large number on a bush, makes the rose hips stand out.  Carefree Beauty roses do well in our heat and bloom from spring until the first frost.  It was named Earth-Kind® Rose of the year in 2006.

Small Mexican Buckeye trees/shrubs produce their seeds in unique shaped pods.  The seeds themselves are coal black and poisonous, as is the foliage.

In the spring, clusters of small pink flowers adorn the bush.

This small Agastache in the Hyssop family was planted a couple of months ago.  They are supposed to be cold hardy down to 10 degrees.  Heavy mulching for winter is encouraged.

Ever since it was placed in the ground, it has been covered with butterflies.  The temps have dropped in the mornings, but all sorts of butterflies continue to flock to it.  The butterfly in this picture is either Painted Lady or Tawny Emperor.

This Texas Ash is 13 or 14 years old but this is the first year the leaves have turned a deep gold color.

Hope your fall is colorful and calm.  With all the social distancing, being outside to enjoy nature is refreshing and comforting.

“Earth has no words that can convey the holy calm of a soul leaning on Jesus.”   Charles Sturgeon