Rain, Rain, We Love Ya

If you’ve never lived in an area prone to drought, then this post might not mean that much to you.  However, for those of us who do, this is a praise to heavenly rain.

rainpondsMost of our tanks or ponds are full to capacity.  Hooray.  In Texas the ponds that have been dug are called tanks.  Every property out in the country needs several tanks because the hot summer dries them out.  Tanks provide water for cattle and wildlife as well as water for the volunteer fire departments.

Isn’t it gorgeous?

rainponds2This is a larger one.  It is not totally full, which is surprising since it usually gets the runoff from a ridge.  Runoff is vital for lakes and tanks in this area because there isn’t enough rainfall to fill them.

rainponds3Another benefit from the rain is the growth of grasses in the field.  All the wildflowers are icing on the cake.  This tiny little flower is about three fourths an inch across.  They are prevalent on our  land, but I don’t know their name.  Instead of groups of flowers, they pop up two or three together.

rainponds4This small tank was dug specifically for cattle to have access to water when gate to this area is closed.  When this tank is dry, water from a well fills a trough for the cows.

The wind makes it look like the surface of an ocean.

rainponds5I think these are Plains Coreopsis, which usually grow in large groups.

rainponds8The white flowers bent over by the wind are White Milkwort (Polygala alba).  Although they’re small, patches of them are attractive.

rainponds9Spring means Texas Thistle (Cirsium texanum) blooms.

rainpondsaPlains Black-foort Daisies (Melampodium leucanthus) is sometimes called Rock Daisy, for obvious reasons.

rainpondsbIt’s rare for us to have clusters of Indian Paintbrush (Gaillardia pulchella) on our property.   CORRECTION:  This is Indian BLANKET.   Don’t know where my head was when I wrote this.  The botantical name was correct.  Thanks to a reader for catching that.  Anyway, it’s nice to have several patches this year.  These are all growing in spots where grasses don’t grow, so they aren’t taking over pasture land.

rainpondscSure are pretty.

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rainpondseThis yellow flower (might be Four Nerve Daisy) has a really long stem with few leaves.  It has one or two blooms at a time.  The black centers laying on the ground at the end of stems (at lower left in picture) are spent flowers.  Waving in the breeze and growing in caliche, the sight of them reminds me of how sturdy some of these plants are.

rainpondsfgjpgMy favorite wildflower: Prairie Verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida) is called Sweet William around here.  It’s tough as nails, grows in cliche, rocky fields, and in pastures.  When it fills up a field, a sea of dark lavender is stunning.

rainpondshjpgAnother tank that will probably be dry by the end of summer.

rainpondsjpg.This is the same tank as the previous picture.  The wood on this dock was supposed to be a specially treated wood.  But the curling planks have always been a problem.

rainpondslpg.Spring also brings Prickly Pear Cactus blooms.  They are beautiful and their yellow flowers stand out in a field.

rainpondsmpg.Unfortunately, they spread like crazy and can make the land useless.

rainpondsoThe creek crossing before the road rises up toward our house has water.  Haven’t seen that in several years.

rainpondsnMore bright Indian Blankets.

rainpondsrtjpgThe silky fluff from the seed of Green Milkweed (Asclepias viridis) was used by pioneers to make candle wicks.  It was carded and spun like cotton and wool.  Milkweeds play an important role for Monarch butterflies.  They are the only plant used to lay their eggs.  Their caterpillars must have these leaves to eat.  There are several varieties of milkweed.  This is the one that is native here.

The large farms of the mid-west has wiped out most milkweeds, endangering the survival of monarchs.  Anyone who sprays herbicides on milkweeds contributes to the problem.

rainpondsrThe tank closest to our house.  The grass is over a foot tall.

rainpondsqIt was dug a couple of years ago and doesn’t hold water well.  The dead Walnut trees are the result of abuse to the roots while digging the tank.  Sigh.

We’re so grateful for the rains this month – almost 7 inches this May.  Wow.

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”       Henry Ford

Roadside Garden in Costa Rica

During a noon stop at a restaurant, my husband and I decided to skip the meal and eat snack foods.  Three full meals a day were proving to be too much for us.

publicgardenhBeside the restaurant was a road leading up the hill to a gate and a private residence shown in the top left of this photo. On the other side  of the road was a park area.  Walking up the sloped road. workmen were toting huge bags of dirt or compose on their backs up to different areas of the garden.

publicgardencThe garden looked complete, but they were adding additional features.

publicgardennIn front of the garden on the road was the restaurant sign.  English indicated it caters to tour groups.

publicgardeneRed and purple flowers dominated making a bold, exotic garden.

publicgardenaThese looked like extra large Periwinkle flowers.

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publicgarden4Parrot flower.

publicgarden5Ginger, like we’ve seen all over the country.

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publicgarden2Enormous Angle Wing Begonia

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publicgardengMore tile flooring and seating areas were being added.  A covered area with benches provided a comfortable place to get out of the intermittent showers.

publicgardeniThese flowers look like Crown of Thorns, but the foliage is different.

publicgardenlLunch time was much longer than usual, so we stepped inside the restaurant gift shop.  Collette Tours was handling all in-country hotels, attractions, etc.  There were two buses with parallel itineraries, so we saw the other group often.  A 93 old woman from the other group had slipped on the tile floor and fallen in the restaurant.  Their group and ours happened to have a nurse.  Both nurses were on the floor with her as she lay immobile.  An ambulance from a distant town that had a good sized hospital was on its way.  Later, we heard that she had a dislocated shoulder.  She continued on the trip after an overnight hospital stay.

publicgardenoWe went back out to the garden waiting for departure.

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publicgardenfAcross the highway was another pretty landscaped area with a lake and mountains in the background.

publicgardenjThis strange tourist photo board beckoned for a photo.

All the parts of Costa Rica that we saw dripped with lush, green hills or mountains.  There were many gardens that showed great effort and design.

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Oops, Should have…

Generally, I operate under the philosophy of just leaving things alone, and they’ll get better.  Or as the adages say:  “Don’t trouble trouble” and “Leave matters well enough alone.”  This doesn’t work too well for health matters, relationships, or as it turns out, for gardening.

oops6These old fashioned Hollyhocks have been a great filler for the flowerbed in the backyard for several years.  Last year, near the end of the blooming season, the leaves didn’t look healthy.  They were drying up, but, hey, the sun had been merciless, all summer.

oops4But this late spring, when hollyhocks should be green and thriving, the leaves are already drying and the flowers are small.  So after looking on the internet for hollyhock problems, I bought some Selvin for what I thought might be Japanese beetle damage.

oops5Sorry about the blurred picture.

But further reading indicated that Hollyhock rust, which is a fungus brought by rain and air currents, was probably the culprit.  The fungus overwinters with plant debris and can then show up when the new plants emerge in the spring.  Rain and dampness encourages the spread of this disease.  Normally, that is definitely not a problem here.  However, this spring, there have been many days with moisture in the air.

oops7The solution is to destroy all diseased material.  Big no-no is to put it into the compost pile.  So I cut all stems to the ground that didn’t have any flower buds on them.  I bagged these and they will go to the dump.

Then I stripped all leaves off of the other stalks and left only blooming flowers or buds.  I also took a kitchen table knife and scraped all the spots off of the stems.  Wise or not?  Don’t know.

After the flowers disappear, I will cut all stalks flush with the ground.  Everything goes into bags.

Wow, this would have taken less time if I had taken care of the problem last year.

oops8So the pinkish red flowers on tall stalks are the few hollyhocks left.  This bed may will look pretty sparse the rest of the summer.  On the positive side, the hardy Hibiscus bush flowers in the center will showcase their beauty.

oopsLet’s end this post with some pleasant snapshots.  The Larkspurs are just starting to bloom.

oops2They pop up in the most unexpected spots.

oops3The seeds were planted in this bed.  False Foxglove also appeared there this year.  The wind and birds distribute seeds all over.  That’s what makes the wildflowers so prolific and enjoyable.

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

Perennials Reign

Spring is a wonderful gift coming between the dreary months of winter and the dry, charring summertime.  This year’s springtime has been amazing.

During some unpleasant dental work, which made staying in the big city for three days necessary, I couldn’t wait to return home.  Just being at home is comforting.  But being able to enjoy the lush green fields makes me understand the promise of lying down in green pastures in the 23th Psalms.  Plus all the wonderful flowers in the fields and my yard makes home even more alluring.

rosesblooming2This Vinca vine came from a friend.  I was warned that it was invasive.  That normally doesn’t concern me, but it is definitely spreading out.  I plan to watch it and see if it can be controlled.

rosesbloomingbThe Wild Blue Indigo (Baptisia australis) makes its short but spectacular show in early spring.

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rosesbloomingfGiant Spiderwort (Tradescantia gigantea) has obviously taken hold after being planted last spring.

rosesbloominggThis is a Texas native that needs more shade than my yard has, so it will quit blooming when it gets too hot and the sun is too harsh.  But, for now, it’s making a splash.

rosesbloomingjGray Blobe Mallow (Sphaeralcea incana) has grown nicely since last spring’s planting.  It surprised me that it kept its foliage all winter.

springbloomsdThe turkeys have been very active this spring and coming up into the yard or just behind the fence.  Their gobble, gobbles  make me look up to search for them. I was finally able to get a picture.  Boy, are they the nervous type.

rosebloom3Columbine’s (Aquilegia chrysantha)yellow shooting stars flying in the wind.  They are thinner than usual.  I discovered that some creature had dug a deep hole under one of the bushes.  In doing so, the dirt covered up and killed some of the plants.  So I transplanted some from a flowerbed where I didn’t want them to fill in the vacancy.

rosebloom4The yellow of these Kolanche blossoms pop against the blue pot.

rosesblooming5The same three Dianthus clumps bloom every year.  Last year I planted three others hoping to fill in the space.  They did not make it.  I recently read that there is only one variety that will live in our clay soil.  Don’t know how easy those are to find.

specific flowers4Wouldn’t you know, when I did my post on roses recently, there was not a single bud on this Madam Norbert De Velleur climber.  It burst into bloom earlier this week while we were gone.

specific flowers6Buzzing filled the air while I was photographing the lush blooms.

specific flowers7Don’t know the type of bees these are, but they were abundant and active.

At this time of the year, spring flowers make my day.

“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.”
Confucius

Butterfly Garden in Costa Rica

This post continues with the activities at Selvatura Park in the Cloud Forest of Monteverde.  Thanks to all of you who have been faithful to patiently read about this trip.

After walking the hanging bridges path, we visited a butterfly garden.  Once again, thanks to Diane Atchison for her pictures.  Hers are the ones without my copyright.

IMG_3883The butterfly garden is in a structure with strong light.  These yellow flowers look like the Candelabra Bush (Cassia Alata).

butterflyOwl Butterflies (Caligo memnon) have the camouflage of large eyes when the wings are closed, but has a soft coloring when open.

IMG_3913IMG_3888Rotting fruit attracts the owl butterflies, so they can be seen near banana plantations.

butterfly4I think this is an open owl butterfly.  Labeling of pictures on the internet show this one to be an owl, but other pictures show owls with the same wings both open and closed.  Confusing.

butterfly2butterfly3Common Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides)  In nature, they are found in forests and coffee and banana plantations. They eat flower nectar as well as sugar from rotted fruits.

butterfly6Loved these orange ones.

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butterfly9Just emerged from its chrysalis.

butterfly8Crimson Patch (Chlosyne janais) live in both dry and humid areas of Costa Rica.  They frequent open fields and gardens where flowers can be found.

butterflyaPretty sure this is a Passion Vine (Passiflora) flower.

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IMG_3906So fun to see all the colorful butterflies.

“The caterpillar does all the work, but the butterfly gets all publicity.”  George Carlin

Spotlight on Roses

The roses this spring have been exceptionally beautiful.  Every time I look out the window, I am blown over with how gorgeous everything looks.  It’s a miracle what a little rain and cool weather can do for the landscape.

rosesbloomingk Who doesn’t love roses?  In the background are three Knockout Rose bushes.  To the right of those is a climbing rose, which hasn’t bloomed yet.

rosesbloomingiIn the foreground is an Oso Easy Paprika bush with the wonderful peachy, salmon colored flowers.  And it is truly easy.  It just needs a little water, lots of sun, and deadheading in order to produce more blooms.

rosesblooming9That color is indefineable.

rosebloom8In the same long flowerbed are four hybrid rose bushes.  This one is a Grandiflora ‘Double Delight’ hybrid tea rose.  The Double Delight has the strongest and best fragrance of any rose I have.  Highly recommend it.

Behind these roses is a tangerine colored rose from the bush beside it.  That is a Floribunda ‘Tropicana’.

rosebloom9This is a Grandiflora.

roseblooma‘Mr. Lincoln’ is a classic hybrid tea rose with deep red roses and a nice scent.

All of the rose bushes in this long bed are from 8 to 10 years old.

rosesbloominghOn the other side of the house is another rose flowerbed.  This ‘Katy Road’ Rose is usually just a so-so bloomer.

rosesblooming4This year it has gone crazy and has a wonderful aroma.

rosebloom6‘Belinda’s Dream’ has always put on a show blooming over and over from spring until the first frost.  The flowers have a great form with lots of petals.

rosesbloomingdAlso in that bed are a couple of bushes with yellow flowers.

rosesblooming10They are both grandifloras, but that’s all I know.

rosesbloomingeAnd another bush with flowers that have a superb color.  The bush itself has stayed small but is outstanding because its blooms are so pretty.  Sure wish I knew the name of this rose, but that information is long gone.

rosebloom5Here’s the same bush a little later with more flowers.  The Ox Eye daisies beside it have just begun to show their stuff.

rosesblooming8This flower color is one of my favorites.

rosebloomLast fall we finished a new bed in the front yard.  So this spring we planted some drift roses.  These are ‘Coral Drift’ (Rosa ‘meidrifora’).  I chose drift roses because I wanted them to remain short and not spread out too much.

Drift® roses are the result of a cross between ground cover roses and miniature roses.  They work well in containers, at the front of landscape beds, or as a ground cover.  Each bush should grow two to three feet wide and just one and a half feet tall.

rosebloom2So far they’ve been covered with blooms.  The flowers are more complex than knock outs with more petals.  I think these are going to be winners.

It seems that there are roses for just about any spot – as long as it’s sunny.

rosebloom7What a enormous blessings rain and a mild spring bring.  It really is true that April showers bring May flowers, or in this case, April roses.

“As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round.”
Ben Hogan

Blooming Irises and Bridal Wreath Spirea

Over the years I’ve received iris bulbs from family and friends.  These have been the heirloom or old-fashioned kind – great pass along plants.

irisbThey were planted in a field across from our driveway because heirloom irises cannot endure regular watering.  That’s the reason they can be found near old abandoned homesteads and in cemeteries.

iris4So they perform poorly some years depending on the amount and timing of rainfall.

irisdThis year they have bloomed abundantly and have provided many bouquets for the house.  There are probably a 100 bulbs although I haven’t counted them.  Many should be divided, but I can’t seem to muster the energy to do that at the proper time of hot August and September.

iriseThere hasn’t been oodles of rain – just enough at the right times.  A few drops on these petals are from just a misting of rain.

iriscThey hold their own among the weeds and wild grass.  In the past I have attempted to pull weeds from around them, but they come back so quickly that I’ve given up.  I do mow paths around the rows just to make it easier to see them and to cut the flowers.

irisfA few years ago I ordered some reblooming irises to plant in the yard.  These actually need regular water.

In the background of this picture, you can see beyond our actual yard.

iris7Last year I divided those and put some in other flower beds around the house, so now some are visible from windows in every direction.  Makes for a lovely spring view.

iris9If the weather cooperates, they all should rebloom in the fall.

irisaAlthough purple ones are my favorite, the muted shades offer a soft touch.

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iris3It’s amazing that the wind doesn’t beat them to death each year.  Even though the individual blooms don’t last but a few days, there are enough new blooms each day that the show lasts for weeks.

irisThird year was the charm for this Bridal Wreath Spirea (Spiraea prunifolia).  For the first two years, the small smattering of flowers made me doubt the wisdom of buying this plant.

iris2This year every branch was crammed full of gorgeous blossoms.

iris1Spring has been a great surprise this year with fields full of wildflowers and a yard full of flowers.

“What we all knew to be true: what makes you cool in middle school makes you a failure in life.”   Unknown