Beach Vitex

Sometimes it is amazing how well plants perform considering where and when we plant them.  It’s like taking a monkey from a tropical jungle and moving it to the Sahara desert to live.

indigofera2This Beach Vitex (Vitex rotundifolia) is a case in point.  Its natural habitat is a sandy beach where it works as a natural prevention against soil erosion.  Growing low and spreading along the ground allows its roots to hold down more and more sand.

Its foliage does not look at all like the Vitex tree that is popular in Central Texas, and I don’t know why they have the same name.   Of course, I can’t understand how an okapi and a giraffe can be related, either.

indigoferaToo often I trust nurseries, especially locally owned ones to sell products appropriate for their area.  I’m learning to do my own investigation before buying.

This was bought several years ago before I wised up.  There was no label on or in the container.  The personnel told me it was Indigo Fera, but pictures do not bear that out.

indigofera1Here Beach Vitex is surviving in rocky clay soil.  It is so hardy, in fact, that it has become invasive on some US beaches.  There is a Beach Vitex Task Force to prevent its spread in North and South Carolina.

indigofera5It receives very little water in my yard, so it’s drought tolerant.

indigofera3If it gets out of control, which I doubt that it will here, it can be killed with a herbicide.

indigofera7The leaves are thick and leathery, so it seems like an odd meal choice for this grasshopper.   But they don’t seem choosy.

indigofera8The delicately colored flowers seem to disappear before I see most of them.

indigofera9Early morning sunrise casts a golden glow on the flower pods before they open.

indigoferabUsually the pods appear white.

I tend to focus on each plant and its beauty.  But photos can point out flaws in the yard.  Sometimes it is not until I take pictures that I even notice the weeds or grass growing up through plants.  Wearing rose colored glasses?  Anyway, pictures can serve as a reality check.

“The trick is,…to turn your face to the glory hours as they come.  The saddest thing in life is to see them only as they flit away.  They’re always a passing thing.”    Lisa Wingate in The Story Keepers

Tropical Plants

Even though I absolutely cannot stand humidity, the lush greenery and flowers that are the result of all that moisture captivate me.  There is something magical and mysterious about tropical jungles and the plants that grow there.  So I have the desire to grow a few.

tropics6Bougainvillea is available at almost every nursery in Texas.  It actually does very well here because it loves our heat.

It likes to be root bound, which is good because the pots don’t have to be too large to transport inside.

tropics3It’s main requirements are sunshine and water, so if I am faithful to water, it will bloom and bloom.  But there should be good drainage in the pot, so that it does not have standing water.  I water them two or three times a week in the hottest part of the summer.

The fact that Bougainvillea cannot survive cold weather can also be accommodated with inside shelter during the winter.  So it’s is not a crazy choice for Central Texas.

tropics4The vibrant color is what grabs me.

I’ve read that fertilizer specifically made for Hibiscus works well, but I have not tried that.

When we carry the pots inside, we cut back the branches.  This has always been done to prevent being grabbed by the thorns.  As it turns out, it blooms on new growth, so cutting back is a good thing and should be done before spring.

tropics5Just cannot not beat this beauty.

tropicsAnother tropical plant that has been successful for me is Ixora (Ixora coccinea).  This one is about 10 years old and has been in this pot most of that time.

I fertilize it the same as other potted plants, which is not often.  But I do sprinkle timed fertilizer granules in the spring and maybe again in early fall.

tropics1Isn’t the color amazing?

This pot also goes into the shed/greenhouse when the temperatures drop near freezing.  Usually some of the flowers die but the leaves remain throughout the winter.

purchase2Now we get to a really foolish purchase.  I knew when I bought this Fuchsia that it probably would not survive here, but couldn’t resist the chance to try.  It was actually bought at a nursery that normally only sells reliable plants for local areas.  This was an impulse buy, which is hardly ever wise.

purchase3The unusual drooping flowers enticed me.  But if I had done some research, I would have known that temperatures above 80 degrees weaken the plant, and that it cannot tolerate too much sunshine.  I did have it in shade, but then the high temperatures came.

Fuchsia also needs frequent watering and regular fertilizer.  So the likelihood of survival was doomed from the day I bought it.

purchase4Very exotic.

purchase5Alas, it only lasted three months.

As experienced gardeners say:  Learn to love the plants that grow well in your environment.  A lesson that some of us have to learn over and over.

“Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.”  Harold Coffin

Flowers on Long Branches

Some plants love the hottest time of the year here.  And I’m so glad to see them when it seems that nothing could grow in 100+ temperatures with little moisture.

delicatecThis was the way a White Gaura (Gaura lindeimeri) or Butterfly Gaura plant looked last year in the early summer.  Notice how full it is with white flowers on the very tip of the branches.

delicatedPure white delicate flowers constantly swaying.

delicateaAt the other end of that same flower bed was a Pink Gaura.  Both plants were a couple of years old last year.

delicatebPink flowers with pink on the ends of the stamens.

delicate9This year the White Gaura is much smaller and the Pink one has disappeared all together.  But several new Gauras sprang up in different places in that same flowerbed.

delicate8Now they all look like pink and white combinations.

delicate7The pinks are not as dark and the whites have a pink tint.

delicate6All these pictures are the result of me trying to get that perfect shot of a Viceroy butterfly with its wings open.

delicate5It didn’t happen, so I just kept snapping.  With all the pollinators here, there are plenty of good shots for professional photographers in the yard.  Just can’t quite pull it off.

delicate2Another plant that blooms at the end of long branches is Duranta (Duranta erecta ‘Sapphire Showers’).  It is a beautiful jewel.  This one is 8 years old and is very reliable.

delicate3It never blooms before late July or even into August, when the temperatures are consistently high.  The plant dies down with the first frost and sends up new shoots from the woody base the next spring.  The branches’ lengths reach 4 to 5 feet long.

delicateThis little girl and her bunny are 9 years old.  When I bought her at a craft store, I wondered how long she would survive outdoors.  Still looks sweet.

delicate4This is one of my favorite plants (aren’t they all?).  The brilliant purple edged with white is so delicate looking.

Last winter I was concerned that it might not make it.  But it helped that it was already established.  Since Durantas are native to the tropical parts of the Americas, heavy mulch during winter is recommended for cooler zones.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant. “ Robert Louis Stevenson

Kerrville

The “dog days of summer” have finally arrived bringing the stifling heat that causes us to gasp for air.  But that image of a panting dog with his tongue hanging out is not the origin of that saying.

In summer Sirius, the dog star, rises and sets with the sun.  The ancient Romans thought it was a source of heat as well as the sun.  Given the circumstance of the summer’s deadly heat, that sounds logical.  But, of course, it’s the tilt of the earth that brings that good old summertime.

But this post is about the town of Kerrville in central Texas.  We are constantly discovering new places and activities available in the small towns in the hill country.

Kerrville “Texas Hill Country Magazine” spring issue had an article about a nursery south of Kerrville.  One of the attractions of the Natives of Texas Nursery was its history.

It was established by Betty Willingham after 30 years of teaching algebra.  After her death, her husband and another helper who worked along beside her kept it open as a memorial to her and her love of native plants.

Kerrville4The drive out of Kerrville seemed longer than 11 miles.  From Hwy. 16, exit onto a caliche winding road which leads into the narrow valley where the nursery is located.

Kerrville2Potted plants are displayed on terraces with a gravel sloping walkway connecting them.

Kerrville3One encouraging sign to me was they grow successfully in soil that appeared to be even more rocky than mine.

KerrvillekKerrville has several worthwhile museums and an amazing live entertainment theater with two different auditoriums.  We saw “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat” there and were impressed with the quality of the performance.

Mamacita’s Restaurant in the above picture is large for a Mexican food restaurant, even in Texas.  The food is excellent.

Kerrville7The gardens in front of the restaurant were beautifully done.  Several people were snapping photos of this bush with the purple blooms.  But no one could identify it.

Kerrville8It had no scent, had flowers that looked similar to those of Desert Willow, and had multiple branches covered from bottom to top with blossoms.   Another mystery waiting to be solved.

Kerrville9A wide assortment of sun loving plants created a full, lush look.

KerrvilleaThe shady areas made it possible to get pictures but the plants in the sun looked like a bright blurry spot in photos.

KerrvillebThe soft pinks and yellows in these zinnias and Lil Miss Lantanas contrasted with the other brighter reds and oranges.

KerrvilleeEven a stand of Cattail Reeds grew in a shallow stream.

Kerrvillef

Kerrvilleg

KerrvillelHuge rose bushes with draping branches were covered in tiny red roses.

KerrvillemThis was the best shot I could get since the sun was directly overhead.

To those who think there is no culture in the flyover states or in small towns just haven’t given them a chance.

“Behave.  What happens today is on Facebook tomorrow.”  modern adage

That’s Odd

The biggest anomaly this year is the weather.  So far, we’ve only had three days of 100 or 100+ degrees.  It’s August!  That is so odd that everyone talks about the beautiful weather all the time.

Most areas around us have had several rains.  We have not, but there have been many cloudy days.

Nice summer, indeed.

oddSeveral times when I have gone into the shed, a lizard would be in the bottom of a bucket.  He must has have fallen from the ceiling.  I would dump him into the yard, but there he would be again the next day.  I don’t know if it was the same one or not.  If so, he’s a slow learner.

odd2One day from my kitchen window, I saw a 5 to 6 foot snake slithering across the grass and climbing into a tree.  By the time I could react and find my camera, he was already in the higher branches of a small Red Oak.

odd3I could never find his head for a photo.

odd4Just a Bull snake, I think.  I hope.

odd5Why is this scene strange?  Because it reminded me of a green idyllic meadow.  Usually, the grasses are dry like straw.  But here the yellow is wildflowers.  “Cows are in the meadow”… type photo.

odd6The purple Balloon flowers or Chinese Bell Flowers have not bloomed much this year.  Many of the ones that opened were white.  For the past eight years, they have been heavy bloomers.  Don’t know what happened.

odd7This is like one of those pictures where one’s eyes have to adjust and focus by staring to see the image.  The heads of Dill (Anethum graveolens)  are full of seeds.  Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar are supposed to feed on dill, although I have not seen them.

odd8Mowing around a flower bed of Gregg’s Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium greggii) brings on a flurry of rising butterflies swirling around me.  The flowers are small but obviously a favorite of Viceroys.

oddcThe compost heap behind a shed is producing vines.

The blue lid from a barrel is to cover food scraps and discourage racoons who often climb over the wire barrier.  Unfortunately, if they want to move the lid, they can.

odd9There are two different kinds of vines.  Last year we had canteloupe grow here.

oddbA Strawberry Gomphera (Gomphrena haageana) plant found its way here and is blooming.

oddaThis one looks like it is producing yellow summer squash.

I don’t often remember to pour water on the decaying compost.  But when I see the vines, it reminds me to do so.

odddWhy is this mule sniffing or eating a small cedar?  Don’t know.

praying mantisThis Praying Mantis appears to be in the process of molting, which they do several times during their lifetime.

snyderWhat is this plant, you ask.  This photo was taken in West Texas.  Those are actually plastic stems from an artificial plant.  Given the fact that watering is severely rationed, it seems like an interesting solution.

“A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.”    Old cowboy adage

The Lady Wore Red

Chris De Burgh’s “Lady in Red” lyrics include these lines:

“I’ve never seen you looking so lovely as you did tonight.  I’ve never seen you shine so bright.”

A red dress is an attention getter.  Red flowers have that same effect in the garden.

ladyinredEven a common old fashioned plant like Canna Lilies are still striking.  Not only do the bright flowers shine, but the large leaves fill up a space.

They have the added bonus of being low maintenance and easy to grow.  They probably bloom better with a little more water, but mine do fine with less than ideal amounts.  The rhizomes multiply yearly which makes it easy to share the bounty.

ladyinred5Dynamite Crape Myrtles have a deep, deep red color.  For all of central Texas, Crape Myrtles are one of the best flowering small trees around.  They come in so many different colors and are a trustworthy performer.

I’ve read that Dynamites are fast growers.  That has not been my experience.  Granted, the soil here is dense clay with lots of caliche and rocks.

They did not even bloom for the first two years and only had a few flowers the third year.  Just when I was about ready to give up, they were covered with full, gorgeous clusters.

ladyinred6Crimson Pirate Daylily is new this year.  We’ll see how hardy it is in this climate.

ladyinredbThe Texas Star Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) has bloomed several times this year and none last year.  Sometimes plant performance is a conundrum.

ladyinred9The wind whips it around pretty hard.

ladyinredaThe pods for new blooms are clustered behind the one already open.  So far, only one flower at a time blooms.

ladyinred8On a different branch a flower pod awaits its turn.

ladyinredcTurk’s Cap flowers are small but so attractive.  The large, thin leaves look totally unsuitable for our hot summers.  But it’s in full sun and has survived for five years, continues to grow and get larger.

ladyinreddRed Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) have shoots coming up all around the mother plant.  It surprised me to learn that hollyhocks are short lived with only a 2 to 3 year lifespan.  However, they readily reseed.

ladyinredp.jpgFlame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus Nees var. wrightii) looks so unimpressive from a distance with the red washing out in the sun.

ladyinredfUp close each tubular flower seems bold.  Also known as Hummingbird bush, Wright’s desert honeysuckle, Wright acanthus, Mexican flame, and Wright’s Mexican flame.  So it’s no surprise that hummingbirds, butterflies, and other insects flit around it.

ladyinredgAll the new little bushes sprouting in my beds attest to the fact that it reseeds profusely.

ladyinredo.jpgBack in full force, Strawberry Field Gomphera (Gomphrena haageana) has filled out this spot nicely.  Each flower contains about 60 seeds.  That accounts for all the new plants this year.

Gomphrena also makes a good dried flower.  I tried a few last year.  If cut when the color is vivid, the color holds pretty well.

ladyinredr.jpgOne Standing Cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) still has a few blooms but has mostly gone to seed.  It is indigenous to the southeastern US and is a member of the phlox family.

Standing Cypress or Texas plume, Red Texas star, Red gilia has been difficult for me to get established.  I don’t know if that is because it is biennial here or that the seeds are not sprouting.  But it is such a striking plant that I keep trying.

“One of the most breathtaking concepts in all of scripture is the revelation that God knows each of us personally and that we are in His mind both day and night.”  Dr. James Dobson

Rambling Along

Years ago as we were driving on the back roads in Arkansas, a common sight was wooden shacks slowly crumbling away.  Old stoves, sofas, refrigerators, etc. were sitting on the front porches.  Often people were hanging out there, too.

I wondered how anyone could let their property get so rundown.  Now, of course, I realize there are many reasons this could happen – no money for repair, no energy to tackle the job, and no motivation for improvement.

vineoncar7This is not that situation, but similar.  These are wrecked cars parked outside an automobile shop in a small town near us.

vineoncarIt’s obvious that they’ve been here awhile and the parts have not been needed yet.

vineoncar2This Morning Glory Vine lives as long as there is a little rain in the spring.  But summer heat and lack of water will dry it up soon.

vineoncar4Aging has made me realize how easy it is to ignore mundane tasks and get complacent with one’s surroundings.  There is an adage that says if you lay down something in your house, like a stack of newspapers, it becomes common place.  In a few days or a week, you won’t even notice it.

When I started thinking about this, it shook me awake to take a fresh look at what needs to be done in my house and yard.

vineoncar5Cedar is the choice for fence and other posts around here because they last so long.

vineoncar6As I’ve said before, flowers add their own beauty.

vineoncar8To me there’s something poignant about this scene.  Call me sappy, but can anyone wax poetic about these scenes?

Here is my attempt:

MORNING, GLORY

THE VINE
growing, grasping and coiling tendrils, climbing over barriers
IN LIFE
blooming, twisting, and snagging metal, drawn by the Sun.
FOR A SEASON
producing seeds
till withered on the soil

THE SOUL
stretching, clinging and holding to hope, climbing past hindrances
IN GLORY
prevailing, persisting, soaring upward, lifted by the Son
FOREVER
worshiping in awe
bowing before the genesis

ramblingThis is just one reason why I try not to judge others.  Maybe I’m the only one with this experience.  But when I start to criticize someone in my mind, I find that eventually I will notice a similar fault in my own life.

This Morning Glory vine spreads like wildfire.  This hose is used once or twice a week and it grows to cover this hose in between those times.  Sprigs also come up from one end of this flower bed to the other.  I try to be diligent, but…

“Money won’t buy happiness, but it will pay the salaries of a large research staff to study the problem.”
Bill Vaughan.