Garden Preferences

What kind of garden makes you smile?  When I see very formal gardens, like those in European castle gardens, I feel intimidated.  Of course, they’re beautiful with perfect, precise lines with lots of clipped topiaries.  But all I can think of is the maintenance and how restricted they make me feel.

The type of garden that makes me happy is one with lots of different types of plants.  I lean towards ones with cluttered flowerbeds – not messy, but full of beautiful plants.  I would consider myself to be an eclectic gardener because I love so many different types of plants.

Natives, like Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus), would definitely have a place in my garden.  First, they are extremely hardy and dependable.  Second, they require less water than many other plants.  Third, the pollinators need them.

Turk’s Cap has such intricate flowers.  Absolutely love them.

A must-have native for me is Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea purpurea).  There are so many others that I could name, like Caryopteris, Columbine, Gaura, Hollyhock, and Zinnias.  Just think of the flowers in your grandmother’s flowerbeds and the memories they evoke.

John Fanick Phlox (Phlox paniculata) is another Texas Native.

I would also throw in some wildflowers.  Iron Weed (Vernonia gigantea) blooms in the hottest part of the summer.  I especially like American Basket Flower and Texas Blue Bells.  The early spring ones like Bluebonnets, Indian Blankets, and Paint Brushes are well known and loved.

Clammy Weed (Iltis Capparaceae) is less known.  They bloom in the summer. The seed pods burst and the wind scatters them all over, so they are surprises the next year, like Larkspurs.

Flowering bushes add a special treat.  Crepe Myrtles add so much color and beauty.

 

Look at those big, full clusters.  How could anyone not like them?

These Dynamite Crepe Myrtles needed some serious pruning after the freeze.  We cut off lots of dead, thick branches.  But they look gorgeous now.

The color of the flowers used to be a darker red, but they are fuller this year in this lighter color.  Other flowering small trees that I really like are Golden Lead Ball, Rose pf Sharon and Eve’s Necklace.

 

And I will always have some tropical plants in pots.  That is, as long as we are physically able to haul them into the shed for the winter.  African Bulbine (Bulbine natalensis), with its long stems blowing in the wind are fascinating.  It’s a succulent from South Africa.

Ixora is native to the Philippians and the surrounding area of Asia.

Rhizomes, like this Bearded Iris, will always be an important part of my garden.  Daylilies and Cannas are good old southern staples in warm climates.

Daylilies are tuberous roots.  Love all kinds of daylilies.  They can be tucked into any small empty space.

Let’s not forget bulbs, like Crinums, Daffodils and Giant Spider Lilies.  The choices are endless.

Some plants have sentimental importance to me.  This Kolanchoe was given to me by my mother.  A plant given to me always reminds me of that person.

Kolanchoe is native to Madagascar and parts of western Africa.  It was also the first plant sent into space to the Soviet Salyut 1 space station in 1979.

This has been long, but I hope it brings to mind what you like in a garden.  Just embrace those choices and don’t worry about what is “correct” according to landscapers.

“The philosopher who said that work well done never needs doing over never weeded a garden.”  Ray D. Everson

Here Comes Summer

The mild summer temps have been a wonderful treat.  Just keep wondering how long before the stifling heat is turned on.

Daylilies have kept blooming because of the mild weather.  Pretty sure this one is “Elegant Candy”.  It does look yummy.

Spider Lily finally bloomed.  It looks bedraggled.  Think the grasshoppers attacked it.  Last fall I bought three more from a youth organization.  But they didn’t make it through the winter.

I think the Daylilies are finally done.  Sure have enjoyed them.  “Early Snow” has a pure, crisp look.

Tiger Lilies bloomed this week.  So glad to see that they survived.

Thankfully some things can be expected to last all summer, like these Rose Mosses (Portulaca grandiflora).  They had to be replaced this year for the first time in ages.  The cold winter days killed lots of plants in pots.

Another standby is Oxalis also known as wood sorrel or false shamrock.  Of course, it was in the green house for the winter.  This plant has been in this pot for ages.

The Thornless Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia geroldii) was also in the greenhouse.  I lost the mother plant, which was on the floor.  I’m so glad that I had propagated it.  This smaller pot was on an upper shelf, so it stayed warmer.

I also have a Crown of Thorns with thorns. It’s Euphorbia milii.  So they’re both in the same family.

Purple Cone Flowers (Echinacea purpurea) under a small multi-trunk bush have shot up seeking sunlight.  It just wouldn’t be summer without them.

It’s getting warm enough for Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius) to grow and get ready for flowering.  They will grow another three feet and won’t bloom until the hottest part of August.  Although it certainly isn’t swampy here, they do great in our heat.

Hope your summertime is filled with flowers, family, and fun.

“Wherever life plants you, bloom with grace.”  old French proverb

What’s Normal?

Quick.  Name 5 or 10 ways your life was not normal during 2020.  Here’s my list:  School closings, Masks, Isolation, Restaurant and store closings, Stand six feet apart, No travel, Quarantine, Nasal Swabs testing, Social distancing, Events canceled, No hospital visits, Virtual school and everything else.  I could also add limited supplies, especially paper goods.

Here we are in 2021 and things have continued to be unusual for some of us.  The first half of the year had some of the same restrictions listed above.  Add to that covid vaccinations and strange weather patterns, especially for us in Texas.  The epic freeze that lasted for days will always remain in our minds and in the records.

During July, we’re usually melting under three digit temperatures and piercing sunlight.  Instead, we’re having mild temperatures (in mid to high 80’s and a few 90’s) and humidity.  The areas around us have received heavy rains.  We’ve managed a couple of inches in two weeks, which is still unusual.

So plants, like this Gladiola are blooming way past their normal time.

Many container plants were lost during the unheard of below freezing days. So I replaced the yellow Cannas.  Still like them slightly elevated in the trough.  

Also lost Dusty Miller, but it’s an inexpensive plant that grows quickly.  It’s already grown tall from a small bedding plant.  During most winters here, it survives in a pot.

After the dead branches and trunks were cut off, Basham’s Party Pink Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Basham’s Party Pink’) is showing off.

We’ve had to cut away dead wood from many trees and woody shrubs and lost one large Texas Ash.

Big puffs of soft pink clusters draw one’s eyes up high.

One plant that did not suffer at all was White Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri).  In fact, it’s multiplying so fast that I’m finding clumps all over this flowerbed that need to be dug up.

Not sure if Gaura’s nickname Whirling Butterflies refers to the flowers that twirl around in the wind or the many butterflies that land on it.  It feeds lots of pollinators.

‘Ellen Bosanquet’ Crinum Lilies are bold in their leaf size and flowers.  I like both their buds and unopened flowers.  A good old southern standby, it’s tough as nails.  It really thrives on the east side of the house.

Their opened flowers only last a day or two, but others are opening soon.

The return of this unknown plant surprised me.  I’ve had it about three years and don’t know what it is.  I thought it was a sage, but it doesn’t get tall or woody.  The taller stems reach a little over a foot tall.  It dies down to the ground and returns in early summer, even this past winter.

Two hardy plants:  Blue Fortune Agastache and Marjorie Fair Polyantha shrub rose.  Marjorie Fair rose has clusters of roses on long stems that tend to bend low to the ground.  Both of these plants are great performers.

So, whatever you consider to be normal, I hope you’re having a great summer.

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything the mind of man could invent.”                    Arthur Conan Doyle

Hibiscus and Copy Cats

Tropical Hibiscus are so exotic.  But there are some other types of flowers that have the same features of a true hibiscus.

The flower petals of a Tropical Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) are very thin, almost tissue paper thin.  The pistil is extremely tall.  The red tip of this pistil is the stigma, or female part.   The tiny yellow dots just under it are stamens, the male part of the flower, where the pollen is located.

All Hibiscus and look a-likes have five flower petals.  The flower also has a deeper color in the center of the petals.  This draws pollinators into the flower so they will drop pollen into the ovary to create seeds.

Boy.  I bet you didn’t expect a science lesson.  But this helps us compare parts of copy cat flowers.

This is a Hardy Hibiscus with the same characteristics.  All Hardy Hibiscus are in the mallow family, Malvaceae.

One of the hardiest bushes for our area is Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus).  It is native to China, but has adapted to a drier, hotter climate.

The flowers have an uncanny resemblance to hisbiscus.  But these bushes are woody and can reach a height of 10 feet.

This is another Rose of Sharon.  The difference in flower petal color can only be accounted for by the slight variations in the soil.

I really like the deep red of this Hardy Hibisicus.  This bush came from seeds from a friend years ago.  It disappeared long ago.  Not sure why.

This Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) has purple foliage.  Love the streaks of color in the petals.

Texas Rock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) is a hardy native that has small flowers with a hibiscus look.  It’s a woody perennial that blooms profusely. 

Texas Star Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) has an unusual look with petals separated by a different color.  These are not unique to Texas, and in fact, are not even native, but we grabbed that name.

Another Rose Mallow.  The petals are so thin that they are easily torn by wind.

This view emphases the crinkles in the petals.

This was my most favorite tropical Hibiscus that I’ve ever had.  It grew in a pot for about seven years before it became root bound. Since all tender plants have to be taken inside for the winter, it couldn’t be transplanted into the ground.

Still love its orangey, peachy color.

Tropical hibiscus needs filtered light, not direct sunlight.  But Hardy Hibiscus, Rock Rose, Texas Star Hibiscus, Rose of Sharon, and Rose Mallows need full sun.  It seems that the hotter, the better for them.

Aren’t the uniqueness of different flowers just amazing.

“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.”  Zen Shin

Tall and Bold

Some plants just make a statement crying for attention.

The bright red flowers on the long, arching stems of Texas Red Yucca draws eyes and hummingbirds.  Every time I look at this flowerbed, I regret that I planted these yuccas here.  They should be in a gravel bed standing alone.

This was a novice gardener’s mistake:  crowding them with other plants.

I do like that the Red Cannas echo their color and that the Rose of Sharon bushes provide an interesting backdrop.

One thing that I like about Alliums is that the flower balls are on tall stems.  The color of these are nice and bold.  Unfortunately, alliums have a short life in my yard.

Texas Mahonia does well in the center of a flowerbed.  Its leaves are prickly but don’t reach out to grab you.  It’s especially pretty this time of the year with its berries.

Native American Basket Flower stands taller than most wildflowers.  It grows well in the fields and in the yard.  I don’t always have success starting from seeds, but these have thrived and spread.

Vitex definitely grows tall.  In fact, it’s getting harder to trim it to this size.  Some varieties of Vitex do well as a tree.  Not sure about the two I have.

Falso Indigo (Amorpha fruticosa) is impressive with its swaying trunks.

Golden Lead Ball Tree is a native that has exceeded my expectations.  Each year, I’m surprised by how much it has grown.

The fuzzy pom-poms make it unique.

Crepe Myrtles are usually outstanding small trees in our area..  However, they did not survive the extreme cold of Uri very well.  We’ve had to cut a lot of dead wood off of all of them.  Just glad to see some blooms on this one.

The large leaves is what makes Catalpa trees bold.  Every year the leaves survive better and longer in the summer.  The wind and heat usually takes a toll on them and tears the thin leaves.

Summer gardening means we have to get up early and get outside to work, so we can get back inside, where it’s cool. Then we can look out the windows to enjoy the fruits of our labors.

“Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street…with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.”  unknown

Spiky Plants Plus Some Softer Ones

I’m not a big fan of gardens with only a few colors and shapes.  Variety and surprise is what intrigues me.

The first time I saw Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) in the high desert around Santa Fe, I wanted to try that plant here.  Russian Sage has not disappointed.  Heat and sun make it thrive and spread.

Yes, it does get supplemental water, which boosts growth.  Bees love it.

This year I remembered to plant a couple of Dill plants (Anethum graveolens) to feed Black Swallowtail caterpillars.  They are annuals and the caterpillars usually eat them to the ground.  But oh, what beautiful butterflies are the results.

The flowers of Vitex are spiky, standing upright on the bush.  Vitex’s origins in Mediterranean and western Asia make it a good plant for the Texas climate.

Bees humming and butterflies darting around draws me close to enjoy the sights and sounds.

Daylilies are still blooming.

Flowers are a balm to my soul.

Golden Rod (Solidago sphacelata Golden Fleece) is not the culprit that causes allergies.  Ragweed spreads its pollen by the wind.  But Golden Rod is pollinated by insects.  So Ragweed’s pollen dispersed in the air is what causes the allergy problems.

This is a dwarf Golden Fleece Goldenrod.  When paired with bright Zinnias, they create a great composition.

 

 

The bright colored balls of Globe Amaranth contains hundreds of seeds.  At the end of fall, the flowers die, and the seeds are spread by the wind.  I love them and don’t mind that they appear in multiple places each spring.

What a beautiful, soft color.

Agastache is another great pollinator plant.

The flowers on the spikes are a light lavender.

These Ornamental Onions have an unusual shape with their clusters of tiny onions on a tall stem.  We have dug out the plants trying to get rid of the native Bermuda Grass.  Obviously, the grass has deep roots and returns each year.  So we’ve thrown in the towel on this project.

Different sizes and shapes of leaves in a garden also add interest.  Cannas may be common place, but their reliability makes me love them.  Plus, there are a few different flower colors available.

Creating a garden is like decorating a house.  There are many different styles and personal preferences.  I don’t think people should be confined by fads or the opinions of experts.  Just have fun and enjoy your own space.

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people that they don’t like.”  Will Rogers

Some Hardy Beauties

One of the garden tasks that I usually avoid is planting annuals.  To me, a few annuals in pots is all that’s needed to bring something different into the garden.  I love the work horses of the garden – the hardy, reliable perennials.

Purple Cone Flowers (Echinacea purpurea) have been returning for years.  They are native to North America and were probably used by the Plains Indians for medicinal purposes.

Plus, pollinators love them because of their shape.  The flat landing strip makes it easy for butterflies and others to land and drink nectar.  The same thing is true for Shasta Daisies (Leucanthemum × superbum).

Plants don’t have to be expensive.  Several years ago I scattered Larkspur seeds and voila, they appear every year in the spring.  They don’t necessarily come up where they were originally planted.  In fact, this flowerbed didn’t exist when I first put out the seeds.  Wherever the wind carries their seeds is where they will germinate.

Some of my plants remind me each year of the friend who gave me the start of a new plants or seeds.

Bulbs are another source of hardy plants because bulbs in the ground don’t freeze and produce each year.  This Pudgie Daylily (Hemerocallis ‘Pudgie’) was ordered from Breck’s.  Since I live in a hot, dry spot, I used to be concerned about ordering from a company based in northern Europe.  But have learned that daylilies do very well here even though they originated in the Far East.

One of the cheapest flowers is also one of the most reliable ones.  The common Zinnia has pretty flowers that return if the seeds aren’t disturbed.  Pollinators visit them frequently.

Hardy Hibiscus have become a favorite because of their size and color.  The morning I took this picture, the humility kept fogging up my lens.

The small purple flowers on the left, French Hollyhocks (Malva Sylvestris Mauritiana), are another gift from a friend.  They can easily be grown from seeds.

New plants appear on the market all the time.  Before I buy, I try to do a little research.  But sometimes, the tag gives you a lot of information.

This Blue Frills Stokes Aster (Stokesia Blue Frills) tag stated that it is hardy down to minus 10 degrees.  It was planted last autumn and truly lived up to that claim.  It made it through our deep freeze.

We all have our favorite places to shop.  I prefer locale nurseries where they are knowledgeable about what grows well in your area.

However, I’ve found that the Lowe’s chain does carry some native plants that do well here.  In fact, they were the first stores to carry Texas Super Star plants.  But that may be changing because I was recently told that the stores are no longer allowed to do their ordering.  A central ordering system will decide on the plants offered.

Wherever I shop, I always ask for local plants.  If they hear it often enough, maybe it will filter up to the bigwigs.

Another pass-a-long that I received years ago is Blue Spruce Stonecrop Sedum (Sedum reflexum).  It multiples like crazy and has yellow blooms in the spring.

This sedum is also easy to dig up and share.

Viette’s Little Suzy Dwarf Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia speciosa ‘Viette’s Little Suzy’) is a modern version of old Black-Eyed Susans.  The flowers are large and lots of stems from one plant.  Can’t help but notice it.

“Friends are “annuals” that need seasonal nurturing to bear blossoms. Family is a “perennial” that comes up year after year, enduring the droughts of absence and neglect.”  unknown

Resilient Plants

Isn’t it amazing how resilient plants are?  They can survive drought, floods, artic cold, blazing sun, suffocating heat, and neglect.

Even with the odd weather this year, our plants look spectacular.

‘Eye Liner’ Lilies are taller and fuller with more blooms than ever.  One bulb was planted in 2019.  They are a cross between Easter Lily and an Asian hybrid.

The stems are straight and sturdy.

Standing above other plants, they’re easy to view from a window.

One last shot.  So happy with these lilies.

Red Yucca blooms provide nectar for hummingbirds.

‘Always Afternoon’ Daylily clump is wider than usual with more flowers.  Planted in 2018, it’s probably time to divide it.

Caryopteris, native to East Asia, does amazingly well here.

Pollinators love them.

Ditch Lilies never fail to brighten up the spring.  They are a little late this year, as is most everything.

I’m on a mission to convince people to give bulbs a chance.  They are one of the most reliable plants you can have.  Most have the added bonus of multiplying.

These were planted in 2006.  The soil is clay, so it’s like they’re planted in cement.  I would love to share but can’t dig them up.

One ‘Inwood’ Daylily bulb was planted in 2017.  Not all daylilies multiply at the same rate.  Some hybrids don’t seem to multiply.

Nepeta Walker’s Low Catmint in is the foreground pot.  It’s new this year and has quickly filled out the pot with foliage and scent.

Hope your garden is blooming and bringing joy.

“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.”  Vincent Van Gogh

Wildflowers with Wow

Wildflowers appeared later than usual this year.  But they must have loved the extra cold winter because they are plentiful and stunningly beautiful.

In a field close to the house, Indian Blankets (Gaillardia pulchella) have exploded.  A native of the U.S., it’s a signature wildflower in much of Texas.

With their unique petal color and shape, they’re easy to recognize.

Plains Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria) is another prominent wildflower in fields and roadsides in the spring.

This is scattered in one section of the field, but I can’t identify it.

The white flowers up by the barn have never been this wide spread before.  The cold and the rain has made everything come to life.

White Milkwort (Polygala alba) is the plant in the previous picture.  They’re rather small and not too impressive until you focus on them.  I guess that’s true of many things in life.

I think this is Navajo Tea (Thelesperma simplicifolium).  On tall, slim stems, they sway back and forth.  No foliage can be seen.  Some places they grow right out of caliche.

The strong colors of Prairie Coneflower or Mexican Hat (Ratibida columnifera) make it a beauty.

This is probably Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) which is a low growing daisy that loves heat, high alkaline soil, and rocky areas.  This daisy doesn’t do well in most landscapes because they get overwatered.

Hidden down low on the grown are tiny little flowers that I can’t find in any of my wildflower books.

Another tiny one with flowers about one half an inch across.

The petals of Prairie Fleabane (Erigeron modestus) look like fringe.

The ubiquitous Prickly Pear Cactus is a bane to farmers and ranchers.  It’s exists in nature only in the western hemisphere.

Sweet William or Prairie Verbena (Verbena bipinnatifida) is a lovely low growing plant.  In drier years, it’s just about the only wildflower that hasn’t been seeded that grows on our land.

Out on the county road, a bouquet of flowers grow on the roadsides.

 

Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) looks like Queen Anne’s Lace but when touched, it leaves a sticky substance on your hand.  If it gets into the garden, it becomes very invasive.

Here, it’s growing among the leaves of a young Redbud tree.

This briar sometimes grows up into oak trees.  The tiny spikes tear up your hands.  Sometimes it causes a rash.

The yellow flowers could be Missouri Primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa).  The black caterpillar has been everywhere this year.  I don’t know what it is, but many people have suffered a severe sting with pain lasting a week.

Prickly Pear can spread into huge clumps and are difficult to eradicate.  Nature provides the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I love wildflowers.  Their abundance this year has turned the countryside into scenic paintings.

If you can identify any of the flowers that I can’t, please tell me in a comment or correct any that I have mislabeled.

“Love is like wildflowers…it’s often found in the most unlikely places.”  unknown

Nature Keeps Us Guessing

Getting close to the end of May and more rain is a welcome surprise.  We’ve had a few hotter days but nothing to complain about.

Lilies are starting to bloom.  Sorry that I can’t remember where I got these and what their name is.

Apricot Fudge Lily is a healthy lily that is faithful to come up in the late spring.

Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) have been in this bed for years. The colors of the flower petals seem to be paler than usual.

On the left is Grey Santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissu) which is so soft to the touch.  It originates in the Mediterranean area, so it loves the heat.  Right at home here.

Graham Thomas Rose is called an heirloom rose but was bred by David Austin in 1983.  It is considered to be one of his most popular roses.  It’s tall and loves summer heat.  Look at the abundance of the petals.

Love the color of this tropical Hibiscus.

Shasta daisies create a nice bright spot in the garden.

Native evergreen Yarrows are great survivors.  They made it through the horrific cold this winter and shine as good as ever.

The fern like foliage contrasts with other garden leaves.

Dianthus have so many good qualities.  The only negative is that deadheading takes a while because they produce so many flowers.  Guess that shouldn’t even be considered a negative.

A true heirloom rose from Antique Rose Emporium.  I don’t know which one it is because I received an unidentified cutting at one of their seminars.  It blooms continuously all through the summer and into the fall.

Thanks for reading.  Your comments are welcome.

Texans don’t call someone pretentious or foolish… they say he’s “all hat and no cattle.”