Bits & Pieces

Life is never static, although it may seem that way during periods of our lives.  The daily ebb and flow of a routine lulls us into thinking that we’re in control of events.  But daily reports of international news remind us that sudden changes can happen to anyone.

Moving my mother into assisted living this past weekend has brought thoughts of the march of time and how important it is to enjoy each moment of life.

autumnThe beauty of nature is a gift from God that prompts me into appreciating my life as well as loved ones and strangers.

The Jackman Clematis vine (Clematis x jackmanii) has rallied with new flowers after the summer heat has mostly passed.

autumn1A new tropical hibiscus was an impulse buy that I don’t regret.  Pink Lemonade Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Pink Lemonade’ ) with ruffled edges on the petals is a beauty.

Of course, it means another pot has to go into the shed this winter.

autumn5As the petals unfurls, there is a subtle change to the appearance of each flower.

autumn2Even though true autumn has not arrived, cooler nights and mornings have revived some plants while others are beginning to change into the rust colors of fall.  Passion Flower Vine (Passiflora alatocaerulea) is perennial here that is a welcome sight in the spring to me and to the caterpillars of such butterflies as the Zebra and the Gulf Fritillary.  It is the only host plant for them, so they can chomp off every leaf of a vine.  It provides both the larvae and the butterflies protection from predators because they receive a toxic compound from the plant.

autumn3Still love the older tropical Hibiscus that I’ve had for years.  The color of the blossoms are lovely.

autumn4On the same day, the plant had the above orangey flower as well as this one that is more yellow.

autumn6The stillness of this dragon fly conveyed a calm and peaceful feeling.  The copper color is appropriate as the season slowly shifts from summer to fall.

autumn7I spotted this rustic cart on a bare patch of soil in someone’s yard.  I appreciated the artistic look and their attempt to improve the looks of their space.

I urge everyone to take a deep breath and just enjoy what you see around you.  The old saying, “Stop and smell the roses.” is still valid.

“Pride is a steamroller.  It’ll clear the path for a while, but sooner or later it’ll shift into reverse, and then…look out.”  The Sea Glass Sisters by Lisa Wingate

San Antonio Botanical Gardens, Part 3

During this last post about my visit to the gardens, we’ll move out of the tropical plant areas into a more xeric zone.santAs we exit the shady area, the uniquely shaped green houses catch my attention.


sant2I think I’ve finally identified a plant that we have in one spot in a field: the Mexican Grass Tree (Dasylirion longissimum).  There are at least a dozen (some sources list up to 17) species of this genus though only 4-6 are regularly seen in cultivation.


sant6Firecracker Plant or Coral Fountain (Russelia equisetiformis) is a sun loving, drought tolerant plant.

sant67jpgZone 9b – 11 makes it another plant that won’t grow here.


sant8jpgThis looks like Kangaroo Paws ( Anigozanthos manglesii) planted with Aloe Vera.  Kangaroo Paws grow in western Australia and are not cold hardy and neither is Aloe Vera.

santa Each solarium is designated for particular types of plants.  This one must be for tropical plants.

santbThese Pink Coral Bell vine (Antigonon leptopus) covers a large fence.  Love the sprays of blooms, but alas, it is sensitive to frost.

It is native to Mexico and can grow up to forty feet.

santcSo pretty.

santdA children’s vegetable garden is sponsored by the local Master Gardeners.  Every Saturday they work with children instructing them and demonstrating the how-tos of planting and caring for the garden.  Talk about dedication.

santeNatchez Blackberry vines.

santeeAiry and lacy Asparagus plants.

santfJust looking at these Persimmons makes my mouth pucker.



santggBeautiful deep red Begonias.


santhhsantjLove the deep red of this Coleus.  I actually searched for this exact color this year but didn’t find it.


santkThis duck kept following our group, but our tour guide warned that it would peck us.  So we stayed clear.

santlAn old farm house built in 1900 by an early German settler had been moved to the back of the Botanical Gardens to preserve it.

santlllWas curious about this plant that had produced these pods.  Anyone know?

Loved the gardens and recommend them to anyone who is in the area.

“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”  unknown

San Antonio Gardens, Part II

The hot summers and mild winters of San Antonio make it possible to grow tropical plants there.

sanaI fell in love with the Potterweeds (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis).  This is a red one.  It is supposed to be drought tolerant and grow like a weed.

sana1While standing in front of this bush for several minutes, I saw several different kinds of butterflies.  I think the one on the left is a Gulf Fritillary and the one on the right, a Common Mestra

sana3This Angelonia or Summer Snapdragon (Angelonia angustifolia) is an annual with upright flower spikes that resemble miniature snapdragons.

Only Angelonia from the Serena series can be grown from seed.

sana4Don’t recognize this plant.

sana5Bat-faced Cuphea (Cuphea llavea) gets it name from the dark area on the tip of the flower.  It takes a good imagination to see a bat face there.sanaccI tried to get a picture that would show the face, but I don’t see it.

They are native to Mexico and Central America and are only perennials in zone 10 and higher.sana6In this part of the garden, there are four square beds that form a large square with walkways in between.  Each square has the large tropical plant that probably stands 8 or 9 feet tall with shorter flowering bushes surrounding it.  The tall plants look like giant cannas, but they are probably something more exotic.  And none of them had flowers.



sana7This Blue Potterweed has a Praying Mantis posing for a picture.

sana8Tall trees provide nice shady nooks.  The lady in red is one of several volunteer Master Gardeners working in the gardens that morning.

sana9Our group is observing huge Crape Myrtles and listening to the extension agent provide information.

sanajEasy to recognize Lantana is a good old reliable in Texas.  This particular one might be ‘Dallas Red’.

The unusual butterfly is an Orange Skipperling.

sanajjHardy Hibiscus do well in our area, also.

sanajjjWish I knew the name – no label.  In the Shrimp Plant family?


sanakkkYellow Jabobinia or Brazilian Plume (Justicia aurea) grows in light to full shade in zones 8b and higher.

sanalFrustrating when botanical gardens don’t have everything labeled.

sanallVariegated Tapioca (Manihot esculenta ‘Variegata’) is an annual except in zone 11 and further south.

sanalllIt is a non-bloomer that loves heat and the sun.

sanamLike the light play through the Elephant Ears, which are native to Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

sanammsanammmThe horticulturist at this botanical gardens must also love Potterweed, since they use it so much.  Here it is with Potato Vine.

A visit to a lush tropical garden is a treat.  Even though it doesn’t translate into useful information for my garden, it’s fun to see what other parts of the world grow.

“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”  Napoleon Bonaparte

San Antonio Botanical Gardens

Last week I was in San Antonio for a two day plant seminar.  On the third day we had a tour of the Botanical Gardens.

sagardens014The gardens opened in 1980, so the trees are mature and the garden is well established.  It has an old world feel to it.

sagardens1This is a Barbados Cherry bush (malpighia emarginata) that has  matured.  Compare it to the puny little one I have in a pot.

sagardens3And there are the red berries I was expecting to see.

sagardens2Little Ruby Alternanthera (Alternanthere ‘Little Ruby’) is a smaller, more compact version of the traditional Joseph’s Coat.  It is perennial in warmer areas and can be grown in full sun or light shade.

sagardens4Bamboo Muhly in the back is cold tolerant to zone 8.  With airy, light frothy branches, it is pretty in the wind.

sagardens8Bamboo Muhly works well next to drought tolerant plants.

sagardens5Everyone’s  favorite:  Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) needs a more tropical climate than we have here.  Since San Antonio is further south,  many tropical plants can survive there.

Caesalphinia pulcherrima means very pretty.  And it is that.

sagardens6Can a plant be more cheerful than this one?  The colors are so bright that it’s visible from a distance.

sagardenscA large group of plants in different size pots made a bold statement.  While I didn’t recognize many of the tropical ones, at the bottom, the light green is a annual potato vine.




sagardensdThe green plant in the center with small red flowers on long stems is Red Potterweed or Pink Snakeweed (Stachytarpheta mutabilis).

sagardensbWith zone envy, I had to remind myself over and over that I am happy with the plants that I can grow.



sagardensRight off the bat, this bush grabbed my attention.  I learned that it is a Blue Potterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis) from South Florida.

sagardens7The thickness of this Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) convinced me that I should cut mine back in the spring and trim it throughout the growing season so it will branch out more.

sagardensekkYellow Jacobinia (Justicia aurea) grows in full shade to light shade and is not cold hardy below zone 8.

sagardensfA really cute little gardener statute.

sagardensgWith a huge tropical plant in the center, this display will lead us further into the tropics.

The plant in the foreground might be Black and Blue Salvia.  Not sure about the yellow flowers id.

The next post will be in the lush part of the gardens.

“This is maturity:  to be able to stick to a job until it’s finished; to do one’s duty without being supervised; to be able to carry money without spending it; and to be able to bear an injustice without wanting to get even.”  unknown


Newbie means that they are new in my yard and some of them are new to me, period.

newbiesA good source of hardy plants is garden club events.  This was bought at a regional meeting where the host club sold plants.  The prices are always reasonable, the plants are reliable, and the cause is good.

Many times I don’t know the plant but I trust the source.  This one was labeled Barbados Cherry (Malpighia glabra), so I expected some red berries.  This has pink berries and flowers that look a lot like Lantana.  It is hardiness zone 8 and 9, so it will have to go in a shed during the winter.

Barbados Cherry are large shrubs, and it will evidently have large red berries.

newbies1Another good source for plants in Central Texas is the Lady Bird Johnson Center.  Texas Kidneywood or Bee Brush (Eysenhardtia texana) is doing well in our alkaline soil.

newbies2It has a slight citrus smell and attracts pollinators.  The Mesquite looking leaves is a sign that it will do well in an arid climate.

newbies7Bought at a garden event, this plant was tagged Germander.  From what I’ve read, it’s an herb that is in the mint family.  It has grown, but doesn’t have much scent and hasn’t flowered.  The jury is still out on it.

newbies4Another garden club event purchase, Mexican Flame Vine (Senecio confusus) is a woody vine that grows up to 10 ft.  Senecio means confused old man which refers to its matted growth if not supported by a trellis or fence.

newbies6Since it is tropical, it has to brought inside here.  So I’m not quite sure how I will work out support for its branches.

newbies8New here means that at last I’ve gotten Lavender to survive.  I’ve tried it a couple of times before.  First, I thought it didn’t need much watering, so it withered.  The next one I watered a little, but rain from a roof flowed into it and drowned it.

These were given to us when we paid for a gardening seminar.  I’ve watered them but the pots drain really well.  So far, so good.

newbies9Oxblood Lily or Schoolhouse Lily (Rhodophiala bifida) is thought to be native to Texas but actually was brought here from Argentina in the early 1800’s.  My blooms were short lived, but so bright that they seem worth it.  Don’t really remember where I got them.

Experimenting in the garden can be fun and challenging.

“Long after this election is over Trump and Hillary will still be rich.  Half of us will be able to claim we ‘won’.  The other half will have 4 years to say that’s why I didn’t vote for ____.’

‘Just remember that we live in a different America than they do.  We have to live, work, and eat with each other in OUR America.  We don’t get to hop on a private jet and fly away from our communities’ problems.  We are what makes this country what it is, not the President.

‘He/she will not stop crime in our neighborhoods.  He won’t stop people from stealing your identity, and she will not stop any one from shooting up our local night clubs.  Hillary will not come teach your child right from wrong, but you can.  Trump will not come to your home and teach your child math, but you can.

‘WE as a UNITED people with sound morals, values, and ethics can make this country whatever we want.

‘Vote for whomever you want, but remember WE are the ones that shape our communities, not them.”     Barbara Janovetz

Oldies but Goodies

One of the pleasures of gardening is the return each year of perennials.  Success with plants is not always the case, so it feels good when it happens.

oldiesOne sure way to achieve success in the garden is to use native plants.  All plants are native somewhere, so planting native always refers to what grows naturally in your neck of the woods.

Clammy Weed (Polanisia dodecandra) is one of those wildflowers that comes up wherever it pleases.  If that doesn’t bother you, then it works.   I like the way the white flowers kind of glow.

oldies8Clammy Weed and Zinnas are easy to please – just a little water and sunshine.

oldies1Rose of Sharon also does well here.  Most of my bushes have the flowers that look like Hibiscus.  These have a rose look.

oldies2One of the best plant that gardeners in central Texas can have are Gregg’s Blue Mist Flowers (Conoclinium greggii).  Just step up close to them and have butterflies darting all around you.oldies3Blue Mists fill in spaces among other plants.  If you like that, you’re good to go.  If not, put them in a contained flower bed.

oldies44Another beauty is Turk’s Cap (malvaviscus drummondii).  It doesn’t look like it would survive Texas sun, but this plant has been in this spot for eight or nine years.  it’s tough.

oldies4The garden is doing well when all kinds of “good” bugs live there.

oldies5Bright red of these turbans always make me smile.

oldies7Behind the Blue Mist, Mexican Petunias (Ruellia brittoniana ‘Purple Showers’) keep expanding.  This is another one that needs to be contained if you have limited space.

This group all came from one cutting that I took nine years ago.  If you see something you like, then ask permission to take a cutting.  If it doesn’t survive, then nothing lost.

oldies6One of my favorites:  Henry Duelberg Salvia (Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’) was planted many years ago.  I bought it long before I knew anything about it.  It is now a Texas Superstar plant.

Many hardly plants are found in cemeteries.  These were growing on a grave when they were discovered, so they were named for the name on the tombstone.

oldies9Ordinary Morning Glory reminds me of old gardens of the early settlers.  There’s a reason they have been around for years and years.  It’s impossible to kill them.

Just a few seeds from a friend and voila, you’ll have flowers forever.  But they are invasive, so beware.

oldiesaRock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) is one of the better behaved natives.  It stays where it is put and is not invasive.

oldiesbPretty little flowers that look more like hibiscus than roses.

oldiescStrawberry Gomphera (Gomphrena haageana ‘Strawberry Fields’) does come up profusely.  But it’s a small plant that looks good poking its head up among other flowers.

Neat and tidy in the garden isn’t my thing.

oldiesgCanyon Creek Abelia (Abelia grandiflora ‘Canyon Creek’) is fighting to keep its place in a bed since Pink Gaura keeps spreading out.

oldiesdThis bush in the back yard is so bright and cheerful.  I have sought to identify it definitively.

Finally, a nursery man had one like it and told me it was a Texas Flowery Senna (Senna corymbosa).  Other names include Flowering Senna, Tree Senna, and Buttercup Bush.

After about six years, it’s about 6 feet tall and wide.  Great plant.

oldiesfSmall green flying bugs or bees flit from flower to flower.  One is on a petal in the upper middle of the picture.

Wildflowers are just weeds.  So pick the pretty ones you love and plant a few seeds.

“One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides.”  W. E. Johns


Water Lilies

The International Water Lily Collection in San Angelo is usually a surprise to people simply because of its location.  In dry West Texas to find the largest group of different lilies in the world is astounding.

It’s all the result of one man who had a fascination that became a dream and a passion.  Ken Landon has traveled the world to collect lilies from the wild in sometimes dangerous places.

lilieseIt all started with one lily that was found locally.  Landon then hybridized that one with another lily to make a hearty beautiful lily:  Texas Dawn, which is the state lily.

lilies001The lilies are in a city park and the ponds are about 15 feet below street level.  As we walk down stairs, we pass by Castor Bean (Ricinus communis) plants, which grow in warm weather climates.

lilies002Walking to the entrance to the ponds is Potato Vine spilling over a rock wall and making a bold statement.  Being below the street level requires terracing and plants that keep down erosion.


liliesdThe rest of the pictures will be eye candy since I can’t identify each lily.

liliescAlthough the ponds are in a city park, the lilies themselves are owned by Landon’s consortium.  Ninety-nine percent of his collection of plants and seeds are stored to protect the species.

liliesbTo make the lilies pop out, a specific dye is used to make the water dark.

lilies034There are six ponds filled with lilies.  Each lily is planted in a barrel and submerged.





lilies4Dragonflies were flitting back and forth over the ponds.  One has settled on the bottom left petal of this flower.


liliesAlthough the forms of the lilies are subtle to my untrained eye, the colors of both the flowers and the pads are lovely.

For anyone living in Texas, this should be on their bucket list.  The Lily Fest is September 24, but crowds will attend.  I prefer having the ponds all to ourselves but on a cooler day than when we were there last Friday.

“People tend to complicate their lives, as if life weren’t complicated enough.”  Anonymous