Heat Lovers

The title, Heat Lovers, refers to plants, definitely not me.

heatlovingDesignated a Texas Superstar Plant, the Texas Star Hibiscus, doesn’t look like a hibiscus.

heatloving1It has not been a heavy bloomer for me, but the flowers are unique.

heatlovingfTo me, the only reason to plant Gregg’s Bluemist Flower (Conoclinium Greggii A. Gray) is to attract butterflies.  These are truly covered from late spring to late fall with Viceroys.

The Bluemist has spread into Red Yuccas with sharp spikes.

heatloving2Bluemist flowers are small and not that noticeable or impressive.  The purple flowers to the right are a few larkspurs hanging on.


heatlovingdOn the porch that provides indirect light, A Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) has outgrown its container.  That should be fun to transplant.

It was a pass along plant, and I’ve started several other pots from this plant.  Color of the flowers is so pretty.

heatlovingeIce plant has been in this pot for years.

heatloving3A Bubba Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis ‘Bubba’) that is a couple of years old has gorgeous blooms.

heatloving4This will grow into a tree with several trunks that arch out from the center.

heatloving5Clammy Weed (Polanisia dodecandra) is a wildflower that came from the same lady who gave me the Crown of Thorns. The seeds are carried by the wind, so it comes up in unexpected places.

heatloving6Rose of Sharon Hibiscus (Hibiscus syriacus) must be watered regularly to bloom.  But it is so worth it.  The other bush with red blooms is Dynamite Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia Indica ‘Dynamite’).  Both of these bushes are about 10 years old..

heatloving7Love Texas Bluebells (Eustoma exaltatum (L.) Salisb. Ex G. Don SSP Russellianum) and Strawberry Gompheras (Gomphrena haageana ‘Strawberry Fields’) and Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea).

heatloving8One of my favorite flowering bushes, Duranta doesn’t begin to bloom until mid July when the temps rev up.

heatlovingaIt is in the verbena family.  The clusters of tiny flowers are breathtaking.

heatloving9Although Duranta does well in our hot, hot summers, it is iffy in cold weather.  Mine is on the east side of the house, so it gets morning sun and no direct northern winds.  A heavy mulch when it starts to get cold protects the roots.  So it’s a great plant if you have just the right place for it.

heatlovingbRecently we bought three new Crape Myrtles from a guy attending a gardening seminar.  He said that they are a new type called ‘Alamo Fire’ Red Crepe Myrtle and will grow to 10 – 12 feet tall.

heatlovingcLove the color of the flowers and that they have been blooming since they were planted.

Right after these pictures were taken, some of the branches were broken off and the flowers eaten.  Jackrabbits, I think.  Grrr!   So I put cages around them to protect them.

“… it looks to me like the upcoming U.S. presidential election will force Americans, to paraphrase the great American writer Gore Vidal, to cast their ballot against the evil of two lessers.”  Ted Woloshyn

Surviving the Heat

The unrelenting sun is taking its toll.  Some things, like the Cone Flowers, are wilting faster than usual.  This is my fault because I haven’t done a good job of watering flowerbeds this year.

I read that the heavy rains in the spring work as a detriment when the inferno of summer comes because our plants are not accustomed to going from wet soil to dry.

surviving1Potted plants, like this Kalanchoe, that have the advantage of mostly shade survive fine.  They don’t mind the heat, just the sun.

surviving9A different Kalanchoe thrives outside in the shade.

surviving7Orange Marmalade Crossandra (Crossandra ‘Orange Marmalade’) or Firecracker Flower has done surprisingly well in mostly shade.  It, too, likes the heat and humidity, but not the sun.  No humidity here, so it must not be absolutely necessary for this plant.

survivingbIt definitely is an attention getter on the front porch.  Looks goods against the pot of Dusty Miller succulent.  This pot goes into the heated shed for the winter.

survivingcThe part of the stem just below the flower is the seed pods.  Each little point contains a seed of roughly the same shape.

survivingThis Desert Rose (Adenium obesumlso) needs winter protection.  Mine only seems to bloom right after it comes out of the shed in early spring.  They are known more for their trunks that are bulbous at the bottom than their flowers.survivingaMore pot plants:  pepper plant and Boston Fern to the back left.  The Woodland Fern on the right is in the ground.

surviving5Out by a shed is a Plumbago with white flowers, a Scented Geranium, a Crepe Myrtle with black leaves and a Mexican Oregano.

surviving6Mexican Oregano (Poliomintha longiflora) with pink tubular flowers.

survivingbbAn Orange Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens) from South Africa in a large pot with Purple Heart behind it.  In its native land, it grows in grasslands with well drained soil.  Further south in Texas, it does well directly in the ground.  Here it is an annual that must be protected in the winter.

survivingccThis rose, The Showbiz Rose, is in a pot because right now I don’t have a place available in a flowerbed.  It is a heavy blooming floribunda.

It was purchased at the nursery at Biltmore.  Really, I should never be allowed to walk through a nursery just to look.

survivingdBut who could resist this beauty?

Now that you’ve seen some of my plants in pots, is it any wonder that my husband dreads the end of fall and the beginning of spring?

surviving3Now to some easy care plants, like this New Gold Lantana.  Basically, put it in the ground and forget about it.

surviving4Mexican Petunias have finally become aggressive after about 10 years.  Easy as pie if you have enough space for them.

survivingeA skittish Cardinal enjoying seeds in the grass.  Usually, they bolt at the slightest movement.

surviving2I was rather late coming to the fad of grasses as yard plants.  But I do like Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella or Stipa tenuissima).  I’ve read that it can be invasive, but so far, that hasn’t been the case here.

“Misers are not fun to live with, but they are great ancestors.”  Tom Snyder

Gardens at Biltmore

The gardens at Biltmore are fabulous, as expected.

gardensThe wooded garden area is huge, and I doubt that we saw all of it.  It is naturalistic in design, but definitely has some order to it.  There are wide paved paths through sunny and shady areas.

Most of the shrubs were unfamiliar to me.

biltmoreflowersBut a few had labels.  This Weigela (Weigela florida) in the honeysuckle family is gorgeous.

gardens2At one spot, there was a glimpse into the more formal gardens.  The wooden arbor seen here is in the center of the gardens that are laid out symmetrically.

gardensdAt the main steps that lead down into the formal gardens, almost the whole garden is in view.  In the far back is the conservatory with tropical plants.  These were popular on large estates during the Victorian age.  Today, they are found in large public gardens.

gardens4A type of Beebalm, maybe.  A reader provided the information that this is a Centaurea.  Glad to know.

gardens5Tall spikes of Gomphrena pop with the shaded wall background.

gardens6Japanese Iris require an acidic soil, so we certainly cannot grow them here.

gardensaaAlmost all of the flowers were planted in generous groupings.

gardensaaaThe white tree in the background at the right caught my attention.

gardensbCloser, it’s still a mystery.

gardensbbAh ha – a Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus).  I’ve only seen ones with orange blossoms in our area.

gardenscLots of different types of Bearded Irises scattered throughout the garden.

gardensccA large rose garden area had all kinds of different varieties.  It was a little too early in the year for them to be in full bloom.


gardenseBehind the wall at the back of the gardens are greenhouses plus a nursery.

biltmoreflowers3Love the contrasting colors.


biltmoreflowers4The Peonies blew me away.

biltmoreflowers6It is just too hot and dry here to grow them.

biltmoreflowers7But, if I could, I’d have a whole yard of them.

biltmoreflowers8Love them all.

gardensgPretty color in the petals but unknown to me.

gardensggThis white plant was very strange and was in two different spots.  I couldn’t tell if they were bulbs that needed to keep their foliage until it all shriveled up or if it was a plant with that color of foliage.

gardenshEuphorbia Lime Green bush.

gardenshhVery striking.

gardensiiThe flower beds along the outside walls were wide and layered.  Very attractive with the wooded garden behind them.  Wonder how they weed?


gardenskkAzaleas that must be young plants.

gardensjjIn one corner of the wall was what looked like a house.  I figured it was a storage area for gardening supplies, but it might have been a house for a gardener at one time.  Behind the lady, who was a gardener putting out bedding plants, and to her right is an arched exit that leads into more wooded garden areas.

“Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity.”  Lindley Karstens

Downstairs at the Biltmore

Tickets to Biltmore include a two day pass that allows one to wander around the grounds and a walk through of the public rooms.  Two days really are needed to see it all.

downstairsAt an additional cost, tickets for guided tours in small groups allow guests a more personal look at life during the time frame of Biltmore.  A tour entitled Upstairs, Downstairs shows the contrast of daily life for the owners and guests and for the staff.

downstairsfA previous post showed the opulence upstairs.  A bit of that continues on the lowest level of the house, especially for the men.  This is a smoking room.

downstairsffThe gun room…

downstairsgprovided another getaway for males.

downstairs1There was also a bowling alley,

downstairs2a swimming pool,

downstairs3and a workout room.

downstairs6The rooms that kept life going at Biltmore were where the servants lived and worked, like the kitchen.


downstairs8The dumb waiter was an efficient method to serve food at the correct temperature.  Downstairs maids would prepare the food and load it.  Then an upstairs maid would gather it and serve it.

downstairs5Also on the lowest level or basement were rooms for food storage, both canned and


downstairsaThe dreaded laundry room.  Just think, all those clothes of guests, linens from the beds, napkins, and on and on had to be washed, dried, and ironed.

downstairsaaNot sure, but the roller on the right was probably a steamer iron for sheets and tablecloths.

downstairsbA drying rack for larger items.

downstairsbbIroning.  I pity the souls who labored here.

downstairscIt seems that George Vanderbilt thought of everything.

downstairsccA room where fresh flowers were arranged – probably daily.

downstairsdVases for flower arrangements.

downstairs9Dining room for the servants.  Our guide said to think Downton Abbey because it was accurate about life on a large estate.

downstairsddA maid’s sleeping quarters.

downstairseAnd another one.

It would be easy to berate the lifestyle of the upper classes in the  1880’s and early 1900’s as being abusive of the lower classes.  The truth is that Vanderbilt brought jobs to the area, built housing for town and field and dairy workers, constructed a church and other buildings in the nearby town of Asheville.

Although I can’t fathom the lives of the either the rich or the poor at that time, it was what it was.  Events of the present day indicate that people still think that life is not fair.

“The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she’s treated.”  Eliza Doolitte from My Fair Lady

Grounds at Biltmore

Although George Vanderbilt bought 128,000 acres, at his death in his 1914, his widow needed operating funds for Biltmore.  She very cleverly negotiated with the US government to buy thousands of acres and to designate that land as a US forest reserve, the Pisgah Forest.  Currently, the estate still owns 8,000 acres but seems much larger with the forest around it.

uppergardensThe grounds surrounding the house are at different levels and several distinct garden areas.

On this side of the house is a vast raised area.  Looking at the house, there is a huge covered arbor.

uppergardens7The family would have walked out this door into the shady arbor.

uppergardens555Presently, numerous benches allow day visitors to sit in a fairly cool spot.

uppergardens88Look at the size of the trunks of the Wisteria vines.

uppergardens9Looking through the side of the staircase going down to another area, one can see a vast level area that is about 40 or 50 feet above the ground.

uppergardens1There are gravel walking paths and a few patches of grass with classical statues.

uppergardens2Notice the garb of an ancient Greek.

The whole platform is approximately one half or more of a football field.  Excellent viewing area off into the distance.

uppergardens4Behind this statue, a lower garden can be seen.

uppergardensaOn the oppose side of flat area is a view of the country side, including the forest in the background.

uppergardens33The roof has intricate designs.  Both inside and out, every area of the house was thought out in depth.  And no expense spared.

uppergardens3Heading back up the stairs from the viewing area..

uppergardens5And then down the stairs away from the arbor courtyard into a garden. Another Wisteria arbor to the right over a pathway leads to other gardens.


uppergardensbbThe vines aren’t as thick over this arbor, so I’m guessing that it was recently trimmed.

The people in the picture are heading into a wooded garden.

uppergardensbAlong the wall under this arbor are water spouts provided a soothing and cooling sound of water splashing.

uppergardenscContinuing straight ahead from the stairs is a rather formal garden layout.

uppergardensccWith more Greek style statues.

uppergardensdWonder if all these statues were imported?

uppergardenseWalking along the gravel made me think of all those ladies that visited in the late 1800’s with their long skirts dragging the ground.  How hot they must have been.

uppergardenseeThere are various types of water irises.

uppergardensgAnd a few waterlilies.


uppergardensffGorgeous water Iris with deep purple.

To see some of the inside of the house, view my previous post.

“Politicans are a lot like longhorns.  You’ve got a point over here and a point over there.  And a whole lot of bull in the middle.”  unknown

The Biltmore

The trip in May included a visit to Biltmore, the largest house in the US.  The house has four acres of floor space with 250 rooms.  There are 33 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, 3 kitchens, and an indoor swimming pool.

The name ‘Biltmore’ comes  from Bildt, the ancestral home in Holland of the Vanderbilts and More, an Anglo-Saxon word for an open, rolling land.

abiltmoreGeorge Washington Vanderbilt III amassed a property of 125,000 acres of land.  The house was completed in 1895 after six years of construction.  If I remember the facts correctly, there were 1,000 men working 10 hours a day six days a week during construction.

biltmoreFrom the grand entryway, one passes by the inside winter garden.  The rooms are huge and stunning.

At the time we were there, a ‘Fashionable Romance’ exhibition was shown in the public rooms.  Costumes from 19 classic films were displayed.  To me, this distracted from the house itself.  Plus, the lighting for the garments made getting photos difficult.

biltmore1The Billiard Room in the bachelor wing was a retreat for male guests.

biltmore3As a young man, Vanderbilt made many trips doing the ‘grand tour’ of Europe.  He became enamored with castles and palaces.  That influence is seen throughout the house.

biltmore2Walls in many rooms are covered with tapestries.  Much of the furniture, rugs, etc. were imported.

biltmore4The Banquet Hall is straight out of a medieval castle.  The 70 foot vaulted ceiling is breath taking.


biltmore6The Breakfast Room offered a more intimate and casual (?) dining space.

biltmore7Around the glass atrium were many living areas.

biltmore8This was the Music Room.

biltmoreaFrom the hall one could step out onto a covered area to view the property.  Everything as far as the eye could see belonged to Vanderbilt.

The raised area further back is a humongous viewing and gathering area to one side of the house.

biltmoreaaThe Tapestry Gallery was a 90 ft. room with many seating groupings.

biltmorebTo accommodate tourists, the furniture was moved to one side of the Gallery.

biltmorebbAlthough I’m sure fresh flower arrangements would have been used when the family lived here, today artificial ones are used.  They’re top quality, though.

biltmorecThe library.



biltmoreddEven the wide hallways contained seating and other decorations.

biltmoreeAll the bedrooms were upstairs.

Mr. Vanderbilt’s bedroom.  In his era, wealthy people each had their own bedroom.  Even guests were provided with a bedroom for the husband and one for the wife.

biltmoreeeThe heavy furniture and dark style of the Victorian Era is especially evident in his room.

biltmorefThe Oak Sitting Room provided a private area for the Vanderbilts for breakfast and setting up agendas for the day.

biltmoreggEdith Vanderbilt’s bedroom.  George married her in 1898, so the house and grounds were already completed before she saw the place.

Her arrival to the estate after the honeymoon was a grand occasion with field hands, dairy workers, and house servants forming a long line to greet her.

biltmoregLess heavy furniture makes her room seem more airy than others.

biltmorehHallway leads to stairs to third floor.

biltmorehhThird floor living room.

biltmoreiThere were several sitting areas for guests.

biltmoreiiGeorge choose not to have sinks in the bathrooms for ladies because he wanted them to be served by maids bringing basin and ewer sets.  Crazy and inconvenient.


biltmorejjSingle beds make sense with only one person to a room.

Gracious living was the name of the game back then.  And George Vanderbilt was an expert at it.

The house has been open to the public since the ’30s and is well worth a visit.  Descendants from their daughter Cornelia still own and manage the estate.

Another post will feature the gardens.

“Contentment is the greatest form of wealth.”  Acharya Nacarjuna

Rising Heat

As temperatures heat up, I appreciate those flowering plants that can survive.  The high so far has been 99 which means we haven’t gotten into the crazy time, yet.

summerheat7This Pink Guara (Onagraceae Gaura lindheimeri) has gotten out of hand.  It is spreading rapidly now.  It was well behaved for about six years.  But it still looks so pretty swaying in the wind.  It will bloom continuously until the first freeze.

summerheat8And all kind of pollinators enjoy it.

summerheat6This long stem was bent low as this butterfly, maybe a migrating Monarch, hung on.

summerheat9The Crinums from the Amaryllidaceae family are blooming now but won’t last long.  They probably should be divided.  However, the bulbs are huge.  So I’m not quite sure how to accomplish that in the heavy clay without tearing them up.

summerheataVery few Gladiolas have bloomed this year.  The bulbs have been in the ground for years.  I divided a few in the spring, which is the wrong time of the year for that and too late for them to bloom this year.

summerheatbAhh, the tropical Hibiscus flowers are glowing.

summerheatcThis plant is about eight years old.  I love it.

summerheat2For years, we’ve had Barn Swallows nesting on a small ledge around both the front and back porches.  They make a horrible mess on the furniture and the front wooden floor and back concrete.  So this year, we paid a hefty fee to have the HardiPlank extended to eliminate the ledge edge.

The creative Swallows, who normally build mud nests on the ledge, made an entirely different kind of nest out of mud.

summerheat1We have been washing down all nests before they are complete or before eggs have been laid.  Hopefully, this will be our last year to battle them.

summerheatThe stems that look like palm trees are getting taller.  They are Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius) will reach up high and bloom in late August.

Everyone who sees them at this stage are fascinated by their form.

summerheatdThis year I discovered Soprano Lilac Spoon Daisies (Osteospermum ‘Osjaseclipur’).  It is a hybrid from the Osteospermum family that includes asters and daisies.summerheat4It’s easy to see how it got the spoon name.

summerheateThe petals may widen out on the tips as the plant or the flowers mature.  We’ll see.  It’s not winter hardy.

summerheat5As I was hand watering, at my feet was a Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) – probably looking for a puddling place.

summerheatfThis is a scented Geranium or Pelargonium ‘velvet rose’.  It is in full sun until late afternoon.  Such a lovely flower with leaves that have a mild rose smell.

Hope your summer is enhanced by flowers.

“Have the maturity to know that sometimes silence is more powerful than having the last word.”  Thema Davis