Hardy and a Surprise

Plants that stand up to weather and time are excellent investments.

This Desert Bird of Paradise or Yellow Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii) is about 11 years old and continues to thrive in its small confined place.

It’s a large shrub with clusters of unusual yellow flowers that attract pollinators.

Duranta (Duranta erecta) has been another survivor.  It’s also about 11 years old.

Although it’s a tropical plant, it can survive here if it’s planted in a place protected from north winds.  So it’s not a shoo-in for our area.

Gregg’s Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium greggii) is the best plant to attract Queen butterflies.  The flowers themselves are unimpressive, but they definitely provide the needed nectar.

If you plant them, they will come.  And stay for the duration until winter.

Always a pleasure to look out the window and see the flurry of activity on these flowers.

Also very hardy is a large variety of weeds that are tenacious.  It’s a constant struggle to keep them out of the flowerbeds.  But that’s to be expected since we live in the middle of pastures.

Pink Surprise Lily or Naked Lady (Lycoris squamigera) was definitely a surprise for me this year.  According to my records, the bulb was planted 4 years ago and has never bloomed before.

At zone 8a, we’re out of its normal range.  The optimum zones are 6a to 7b.  When it was planted, the zone maps put our area at 7b.  Revised maps show we’re in a hotter zone.

I’ve since learned that the best growing conditions include a cold, long winter.  Since we did have colder temperatures and a later spring, I guess that explains why it finally bloomed.  Also, this lily prefers a dry, hot summer.  Voila.  We have that in spades.

The leaves appear first and die; then the naked stem with flowers appear.

Iron Weed (Vernonia noveboracensis) is a native that grows in bar ditches and bloom with some moisture.  They can be gangly growing 3 ft. tall with flowers right at the top of the stem.  Their best feature is the purple color of the flowers.

I got a fistful of seeds from a friend about 4 years ago.  The plants reseed and will spread out.

“Respect old people.  They graduated high school without Google or Wikipedia.”  unknown

In the Good Old Summertime

“In the good old summertime, in the good old summertime.
Strolling through the shady lanes with your baby mine.
You hold her hand, and she holds yours,
and that’s a very good sign.
That she’s your tootsie-wootsie,
in the good old summertime.”

This song comes from the Tin Pan Alley group of New York City music publishers and songwriters that started in 1885 and went through the early 1900’s.  It was originally the name for a specific area in the Flower District of Manhattan.

To me, the good old summertime means what’s happening in my yard because of the heat and lack of rain.

These are the small palm tree looking stalks that forecast the blooming of Swamp Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius).  In spite of the name, they are drought tolerant.  The stalks will reach 7 feet with small sunflowers by the end of August.

Reliable Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus drummondii), a Texas native, continues to flower with their cute little turbans.  It grows well in most parts of the state in sun or shade.

A great plant for our super hot summers.

There are two birds that we can count on every summer:  Hummingbirds and Barn Swallows.  The creation on top of this Hummingbird feeder is the work of Barn Swallows.

Barn Swallows are pretty birds that look for a ledge where they build a nest of mud, grasses, twigs, etc.  The birds stand on these ledges and poop all over whatever is beneath that ledge.  They also return to the same nesting area each year.  This includes their young as adults.  Swooping in low, they almost run into your head.

Because the population had increased so much and nested under our covered front and back patios, there was always a mess on the floor.  So, we hired a carpenter to eliminate the ledges.

Although they are fewer in number this year, they now build nests on the brick walls and anything up high like where this feeder was hanging.

What a mess to clean up.

Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is a perennial bush that stands up to the heat.  It’s pale color isn’t too showy, but the scent of its foliage is wonderful.  The bees also love it.

The perennial Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana) does well in the heat if it’s watered.

Bees flock to its small flowers.

“There is nothing I like better at the end of a hot summer’s day than taking a short walk around the garden. You can smell the heat coming up from the earth to meet the cooler night air.”  Peter Mayle

Summer White

Generally, brightly colored flowers are my first choice for the yard.  However, white ones add sophistication and calm in the garden.

This Moon Flower, Thorn-apple, or Jimsonweed (Datura wrightii Regel) usually produces pure white flowers.  This one has a slight pinkish tinge.  Not sure why.  This is a shady area most of the day with some early morning light.

Please ignore the clutter below the flower.

Datura is a narcotic and if ingested, could be lethal.

This Butterfly plant is in a container.  It seems to have done better in the heat than the ones in a flowerbed.  It could be because I’m more conscientious about watering potted plants because I’m afraid they will dry out quickly.

White Gaura (Oenothera lindheimeri) is a pollinator magnet, plus it looks lovely swaying in the wind.  Note the visitor in the upper right corner of picture.

This Purple Datura actually looks white with a hint of purple along the edges of the petals.  Pictures on the internet show some with a deep purple color.  The Purple Datura originates several places in Asia.

The leaves also differ from the white Datura.

Daturas are annals that have large, prickly seeds that drop to the ground.  If conditions are good, a new plant will grow.  Or the seeds can be saved to start new plants.

Night bloomers, so early morning is the time to see their flowers.

Love the double petals.

Clammy Weed (Polanisia trachysperma) is in the Cleonmaceae family and has the look of the more popular Spider Flower or Cleome.

Seeds from Clammy Weed from a friend who is into natives.  Plant one and have a generous crop next year.

The plant’s height is about a foot tall.  Many consider it a weed, like the name.  And, it is definitely sticky or clammy.

One characteristic of the Southern Crinim Lily is the growth of the bulb to a large size and the multiplication of the bulb.  While it may be difficult to dig up, it’s a great pass-along plant that will be appreciated by the person receiving it.

The flowers tend to droop slightly.

There are conflicting views on the web – what?  Old views say that white clothes are cooler in the heat, while darker ones absorb the heat.  This view was practiced by the rich in the 18th and 19th century.

New views espouse that black is actually cooler because skin is hot in the summer and therefore reflects the heat back to the body from a white garment.

Anyway, white looks cool in the summer.  Just enjoy whichever floats your boat.

“It sometimes strikes me how immensely fortunate I am that each day should take its place in my life, either reddened with the rising and setting sun, or refreshingly cool with deep, dark clouds, or blooming like a white flower in the moonlight.  What untold wealth!”   Rabindranath Tagore

Hibiscus and Lookalikes

Exotic Hibiscus flowers conjure up the romantic South Pacific islands.

Tropical Hibiscus has a special beauty.  The tall pistil is one of its characteristics.

However, they can be a pain to grow in hot, dry central Texas.  This one has been in a pot for years and is probably very root bound.  But, as long as it lives, it will be taken into a heated shed during the winter.  So, I guess it’s worth the trouble.

This is the same plant and is looking a little ragged in this especially dry summer.

Luckily, there are plants with that look that do extremely well here.  They endure the hot summers and some cold times in the winter.  Rose of Sharon or Althea shrubs (Hibiscus syriacus) become very large and are covered with these exquisite flowers.

Bees love them.

Their flower colors range from white to pink to deep lavender.

The bright red center of these flowers are striking.

Rock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) has small hibiscus like flowers.  They grow in dry rocky soils.  The flowers last one day, but with a little water, there will be more the next day.

Hardy Hibiscus is exactly what its name says.  It is a perennial that is tough and has the beauty of a delicate tropical flower.

Texas Star Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) has a more unique look with its two color petals and long finger leaves.  But it still has that tall pistil.

Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) provide the look of hibiscus, with a shorter pistil.  They stack up on a central stalk that branches out.

All of these plants come from the Mallow (Malvaceae) family.  There are 4225 known species.  These are very diverse because included with all these lovely flowers are okra, cotton, and cacao.  Only a botanist could understand the complications of plant orders.

But what I see is that all the flowers in this blog have tall pistils, where the male and female parts provide reproduction.  Also, the flower petals mostly have the same form.

Plus, all add beauty to gardens.  When the temperature is stagnant in the triple digits, hardy plants are a blessing.

“A garden is never so good as it will be next year.” –Thomas Cooper

Shades of Pink

Color in the yard provides a lift to the spirit.  Especially when the summer heat is parching everything.

One characteristic of a Desert Rose (Adenium obesum), is a swollen trunk just above the soil level.

The flowers on this succulent are lovely.  Because it is a desert plant, it must be protected inside during the winter.  Strangely, it does better in filtered light rather than direct sun.

A gift from a bird has multiplied into a small forest of Germanders.  They are in the mint family with clusters of tiny flowers with a touch of pink inside each petal.  This variety grows to be about a foot tall.

Nothing like annual Petunias to bring some pizzazz.

Good old faithful succulent Ice Plant (Aptenia cordifolia) returns every year when the weather warms up.  This one has been in a pot for years.  Because our winter was so cold, it took longer to spring back and bloom.

Basket Flower (Plectocephalus americanus) is native to the southwest.  The buds look like thistles.  But this one isn’t prickly.

By the middle of summer, the buds dry and the flower is almost white.

But the pollinators aren’t picky about the color.

One of my all time favorite flowers is Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea).  The common name seems so wrong since they are pink rather than purple.  It generously reseeds making for some surprising locations of new plants each spring.

The round red flowers are Strawberry Gomphera.

When the sunlight hits coneflowers just right, they glow.

Even without petals, their dome-shape form is so attractive.  Just can’t say enough good things about these wonderful garden charmers.

“A mind is like a parachute.  It doesn’t work if it is not open.”  Frank Zappa

Crape Myrtle Time

The sun is strong and the heat is high, but the Crape Myrtles love it.  Some varieties start blooming in late spring and some in summer.

Three Dynamites were my first Crape Myrtles.  I wanted deep red flowers.

We planted them in a flower bed in a triangular shape in 2006.  They are about 5 and a half feet tall now.  The mature height for this variety is 20 – 30 feet.  This is a reminder that soil type and depth is a factor in any bush or tree growth.

Some of the flowers are red while others tend to be more pink.

This picture also shows what happens if all the little bloom twigs are not cut off at the end of winter.   Crape myrtles bloom on new growth, so this task is important.

This year we were involved in cleaning out my mother’s house to get it ready for the market.  So many late winter, early spring garden chores were neglected.

Here’s how that same bush looks groomed.

Although it’s a good idea to do research before any plant purchase, I often just skip right to the fun part of buying when I see something I like.

These two Basham’s Party Pink Crapemyrtles (Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Basham’s Party Pink’) are a case in point.  As an aside:  Crapemyrtle is sometimes spelled as one word and sometimes as two.  So I’m using whichever was used on each label.

Fortunately, the final height of 30′ to 40′ will work well in our yard.  Online resources about Crapemyrtles make it easy to plan ahead.

Ruffled petal edges add to the charm.

Two Centennial Spirit Crapemyrtle were planted in 2015.  They have struggled to survive and grow.  Most Crapemyrtles have a cold hardy temperature of 10 degrees.  This winter, temps dropped down to 4 and stayed there for several days.  So several plants have taken longer than usual to recover.

My most favorite variety of all is Alamo Fire Red.  All three plants have been healthy, hardy, and growing ever since they were put in the ground.  They even bloomed the first year.

They were bought from a man at a private plant sale in San Antonio.  Strangely, they aren’t listed on the A & M list. They are on a chart from Fanick’s Nursery in San Antonio.  So I don’t know how readily available they are on the general market.

Black Diamond Crapemyrtles feature nearly black leaves.  This was planted in a container in 2016 and put into the ground this year.

Mulch is highly recommended for any plant in our area to conserve moisture loss and to help with the temperature of root systems.  More mulch is obviously needed here.

Crapemyrtles are available in many shades of pink, red, lavender, and white.  They are probably the most spectacular small flowering tree in this area.  Just can’t praise them enough for their beauty and reliability.

“Be like a tree.  Stay grounded.  Connect with your roots.  Turn over a new leaf.  Bend before you break.  Enjoy your unique natural beauty.  Keep growing.”  Joanne Rapits

Fading into Summer

Some spring flowers, especially bulbs, slowly fade away as the heat of summer looms heavy and seems to drop like a blanket.

Stella de Oro Daylily (Hemerocallis Stella D’Oro) is a profusive bloomer with dainty flowers close to the ground.  They have a pretty long blooming period, but give up when high temps arrive.

Ditch Daylilies or Tawny Daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva) also have a long bloom period.  This picture was taken at the height of the spring.

Still, a few hang on.  These are old fashioned lilies that have been around a long time and are as tough as nails.

This common daylily is a different species than the typical hybridized daylilies sold at nurseries.  They may be only available as a passalong plant.

Kindly Light Daylily (Hemerocallis ‘Kindly Light’) is a show stealer.  This spider-look lily was developed in 1949 and is still popular.

Paired with Crimson Pirate Daylily (Hemerocallis ‘Crimson Pirate’), the look is fantastic.

Some nurseries advertise Crimson Pirate as a summer lily.  But here, in Texas, it is a spring one.

Crinim Lily bulbs are huge and multiply often.  They like the heat and can survive in full sun but appreciate some afternoon shade.  These had to be moved out of a flower bed when fiber cable was installed.  I was surprised that they bloomed this year.

Crinim Lilies are old timey Southern passalong bulbs.  They can be found at abandoned houses where they have survived for many years without any care.

Bee Balm, Monarda, Bergamot, or Oswego tea is also at the end of its spring time show.  This picture was snapped a couple of weeks ago.

It’s a hardy perennial that grows 2 to 3 ft. tall and needs staking.  I put a wire cage around them, which works well.

The form of these flowers always makes me think of the Shaggy Dog movie.  Not only are they pretty and bright, pollinators love them.  Bees and hummingbirds visit them often.

With the temperatures into the three digits, early morning is the only time to garden and to actually enjoy the garden.  Hope you can find a time to enjoy being outside, wherever you live.

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”  Prov.12:18

Flowers, Art, and the Bizarre

Santa Fe offers lots of art galleries, flowers in yards and in public places, churches, and totally unexpected venues.

A walk down Canyon Road on a cool evening is a pleasant activity.  There’s plenty to see.  The red orange flowers are Yarrow.

Art galleries abound and have nice displays outside.  Since I know the prices are crazy expensive for the paintings and statutes, I am more interested in the plants, many of which I can’t identify.

The Mexican Feather Grass to the right of the seated Indian statue is an popular stand-by in our area of Texas.

Quirky.

Don’t know which variety of salvia this is, but it’s a beautiful deep purple.  The yellow Columbine looks like butterflies darting around.

Clever Rock, Paper, Scissors sculpture.

Many yards have Hollyhocks, which are lovely and reseed plentifully.

Red Hot Poker plants (Kniphofia reflexas or Kniphofia uvaria) add some pizzazz to this bed.

Like the look of a stone flowerpot.

Love all the bronze sculptures in Santa Fe, especially the ones of children.

Plants can be crammed into the smallest spaces.

We visited a bizarre attraction.  Forgive the blurred picture.  Meow Wolf is a 20,000 square foot experience entertainment business.  One enters different rooms via fire places, refrigerators, closets, etc.

New openings of Meow Wolf in Denver and Las Vegas will be in the near future.  The Santa Fe location generated $9 million last year.  The gift shop and online store gained revenue of over a million dollars.

Lots of neon contributes to the eeriness.  Using mallets, these ‘dinosaur bones’ produced musical tones.

This “ocean” is full of color.

Pressing on a cloth wall triggers more neon.

A jumbled maze of crazy entrances and spaces filled with unique decorations draws visitors into a confusing path with waiting surprises.

The New Mexico state capitol building reflects the adobe buildings of the area and the circular shape represents the Zia sun emblem on the state flag.  It’s very unlike the Texas capitol.

The walls inside the capitol are covered with individual paintings and other art work.  The public is welcome to walk through all the corridors to view the art.

In the center of town, the large old churches are reminders of the mission period in the southwest.  Shown here is The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.

There are three museums on Museum Hill.  The bronze statutes all around Santa Fe reinforce the importance of art to the city.

A fun place to visit, Santa Fe offers many unique sights and experiences.

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”   Winston Churchill

Santa Fe

Santa Fe, NM is a unique city with a recognizable southwestern look.

Heavily influence by both Mexican and Indian cultures, this city has blended them both into a unique style.

Adobe buildings might seem to be the style of choice.  But, in fact, a city ordinance requires that all buildings use both these materials and style.  Flat roof and flat, smooth stucco sides are characteristics of this style.

Many native plants are seen throughout the city.  I think this is Spanish Broom (Spartium junceum).

Santa Fe has been in an extended drought period.  Large lawns are taboo.  Only small accent lawn areas can be found.  In fact, most lot sizes for houses are small.

Another common sight is this type of fence.  I don’t know if that’s because it’s inexpensive or if the style is just popular.

Stone fences, patios, and walkways are ubiquitous.  It’s a readily available material, but not sure about construction costs.  Wonder how old this mailbox is?  Another modern one near the gate is in current use.

Many fences of all types are covered with vines, like this Clematis.

Smoketree or Purple Smoke Bush (Cotinus coggygria) has a mysterious look.  This one has already lost the smoke puffs on the ends of the branches.

Yarrow is a popular accent plant.

Ox Carts from Mexico or Costa Rica are used as decorations.

Flower beds abound.

Art Galleries are a big draw for tourists.  In the early 1900’s Anglo artists moved into the area and were fascinated by the people, the landscape, the arid climate, the colors, and the light.

This followed the earlier artist colonies that had formed in the late 1800’s in nearby Taos.  By the early 1920’s, prominent artists were producing varied styles of art in both places.  Thus began the art scene that continues today.

Sculptures and paintings from traditional to modern are available.

Old doors from Mexico, clay pots, carved wood pieces, jewelry, and other collectables are plentiful.  The only drawback might be the price of a particular item.

In an isolated area with congested traffic downtown, this city is still worth the visit.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”   Thomas Edison

Garden “Bones”

“The “bones” of a garden are the elements that are permanent and that provide its structure: trees, shrubs, arbors, walls, trellises, walkways, and statuary or other sculptural elements. They represent the garden as it appears when the growing season ends, when the color and texture provided by blooming plant material is muted by snow and bare earth.”

The above quote explains what is meant by garden bones.  Click on the link to read more.

In this post, I’m only going to focus on a few living bones:  trees and large shrubs.

When we built the house 13 years ago, this was a pasture.  The only tree was a large Live Oak behind the backyard.

In this picture, the tallest tree is a Bur Oak on the east side of the house.  Eventually, it should shade a window in the morning.  Behind that is a Red Oak and then a Texas Ash, neither of which can be seen in this picture.

To the right in the background is a Cherry Laurel.  To the far right behind the house is an old, old Live Oak.  It’s probably a hundred years old.

In the front yard is a Chinkapin Oak.  There are a couple of trees behind it.

Really wish I knew what this bush is.  It was planted years ago.

During the winter the stems or trunks of this large bush reminds me of a water fountain.

Wind provides lots of motion.

Usually we cut the stems down to the ground in late winter.  Then leaves grow all the way up the stems.  This year that chore did not get done and the stems only have pom poms of leaves on the ends.  Interesting look.

Basham’s Party Pink  (Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Basham’s Party Pink’) is one of the first Crapemyrtles to bloom each year.  It seems to me that white and pink ones always bloom earlier than deeper colored ones.

One of the tallest varieties of Crapemyrtles, Basham’s Party Pink can reach 30 to 40 feet.  This one is six years old.

Flowering trees are a great attribute in a yard, if only for a few weeks or months of the year.

Most of the Goldenball Leadtrees (Leguminosae Fabaceae) I’ve seen are only 8 to 10 feet tall.  But Texas A & M reports that they can reach 25 feet tall and wide.  Oh dear, this one will be extremely crowded if it gets that wide.

Although Desert Bird of Paradise (Erythrostemon gilliesii) is a tropical tree from South America, it has naturalized in Texas.

It’s hardy and many pollinators feast on it.

Vitex or Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus) has become favorite.  A native of China and India, it is naturalized throughout the southern U.S.

I’ve been told they bloom better and look better if pruned to maintain an 8 to 10 foot height.

What’s not to love about these striking flowers?  Plus, they perfume the air.

Generally, I prefer to zoom in on details of flowers.  But good bones are definitely the most important elements of a yard and garden.  As summer is upon us, I’m reminded how wonderful it is to have shade provided by trees in the yard.

“Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them.”   Bill Vaughan